CFO Branding

When I was certified as a Personal Brand Strategist almost 5 years ago, “branding” was relatively new. In fact, it was pretty much unheard of in the Executive Finance market, and CFOs who called me were not interested in hearing about it. Three years later, it became a term about which my clients were open to learning more. Fast-forward  to today, and it is the most asked-about service.

There remains, however, much confusion, and even reticence, on the part of Finance Executives to truly embrace the power of branding. Candidates who have branded visibility have a huge advantage over those who don’t. And the power of branding is only going to intensify, which is evident from what companies are doing.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted this link about KPMG. Here’s the opening text …

The Canada division of KPMG is using a job-simulation tool to assess managerial candidates in its tax, audit, and advisory practice areas, and will soon use it in campus recruiting. As much as it is about finding the best person, the company says it’s about branding and trying to engage passive candidates, not bore with them with a long test that leaves them scratching their heads, wondering if they’re giving the right answer to a question they don’t know why they’re being asked.

Companies increasingly recognize that finding prospects who fit with the culture they have created is critically important to 1) hiring the right people who can hit the ground running, and 2) reducing sky-rocketing recruiting costs, particularly around making wrong hiring decisions.

And recently, a great article by Dan Hanyzewski, Managing Partner of West Shore Partners, appeared on Recruiting Trends. It opens with this …

“He or she had the greatest credentials and experience and were perfect for the job,” only to be miserably disappointed that they were a total failure in the environment they were hired into.

and goes on to say this …

To say that making sure you have the right cultural fit is important is probably an understatement. 

By understanding your authentic brand – being utterly honest about what you do well and why, and where it is you can thrive and contribute … rather than embracing the spaghetti strategy – you can begin knocking out the competition and positioning yourself at the front of the prospect line. Why? Because you are making it easy for a company to feel confident they are getting exactly what they need and want!

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6 thoughts on “CFO Branding”

  1. Good morning Cindy,

    By virtue of what I do, I speak with CFOs every day. When I speak with a new CFO and talk about their career, I always ask a variant of this question:

    “What makes you stand out from your CFO peers?”

    The sad thing is, too many CFO cannot answer this question off the top of their head.

    If a CFO who is looking for a new opportunity cannot identify what makes them stand out, how can a prospective employer figure it out?

    Samuel Dergel, CPA, CA, CPC
    Dergel CFO Search & Consulting

    • “If a CFO who is looking for a new opportunity cannot identify what makes them stand out, how can a prospective employer figure it out?”

      So true, Samuel! And the answer is they can’t and they won’t.

      I love the Purple Cow concept (thanks Seth Godin). You don’t want to look like every one of your competition … you want to stand out and stand alone in front of the right target audience. That might sound scary, but the right, branded marketable value proposition to the right target audience is very powerful positioning.

  2. ::waving hello::
    Great post, Cindy! I find most of my CFO clients are extremely resistant to step outside what I would characterize as a rigid, extremely conservative perspective in marketing themselves, so selling them on the necessity of branding continues to be a challenge. Do you have any suggestions for how we might get them to open up and see how it can benefit them in their job searches?

    • I believe it’s a matter of education, Rene. But as I said in my post, that is now my most asked-for service.

  3. Great post Cindy,

    To continue on Sam’s post, I have met many CFO’s and business people. I will often ask them what makes them different from all of their competitors. I usually receive silence as a response or a muddled reply that does not instill confidence.

    I find that it is difficult for people to self assess one’s unique differentiating characteristics. I often have them conduct a “Features, Benefits – So what? Analysis”. I have them list all the facts about themselves. I try to get them to include everything such as education, accomplishments, if they are married, have children, speak other languages, business accomplishments etc.

    Then for each personal feature, I have them list at least one main benefit to their employer or client.

    Lastly, for each feature/benefit, I have them ask the question, “So what? Why should they care?” Here they need to put themselves in the shoes of the employer or client and try to understand why their benefits would be a benefit for others.

    Overall this can be a tough exercise however once completed, it becomes much easier to the individual to articulate their differentiating characteristics to their potential employer or client.

    • I totally agree about the difficulty of people self-assessing. That’s why I use a 360-assessment, MJ. It allows a self-assessment as well as a true 360 external assessment, which allows authenticity to shine through their marketing message.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting!


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