What is Your Status?

During job search coaching sessions with clients, we always talk about the importance of Linkedin as a critical piece of a balanced search strategy. What is vital to remember, though, is that merely “building” a compelling profile is only the first step when your goal is to create visibility and attract opportunities.

When I did a search using “CFO” today, I got 443,837 results. That … is a lot of Finance Chiefs! Clearly key words are important to your profile, but I would also suggest that using the status update bar is a gold nugget strategy most Chief Finance Officers do not fully utilize.

Look at this stat on the impact of posting a status update …

One status update can occupy up to 80% of the feed screen, pretty impressive real estate. With the right kind of LinkedIn status updates, you can make a huge difference in the amount of visibility and attention that you receive.

I recognize that my CFOs are busy people. Most are barely engaged on Linkedin and a big fear is that using any social media requires an inordinate amount of time and energy. My philosophy is that consistency and constancy really rule the day; meaning, be constantly consistent in utilizing the status update bar howeverthat fits into your schedule. If posting once a week is something to which you can commit, then be constantly consistent about your weekly posting.

In social media, “build it and they will come” just does not apply … because there are always new players coming to the table. By strategically using the status update function, you can separate yourself from the competition with updates that showcase your thought leadership and your branded positioning.

If you want to boost your visibility on Linkedin, give me a call. I would be delighted to help you!


Copyright CFO-Coach 2018


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

The CPA and Other Finance Credentials

Does a CPA matter? What about a CMA? Or, the relatively new CCFO? Do any of them make you a better Finance Chief? That … is the age-old question and continuing debate. New year … same debate. See my 2010 and 2012 blog posts.

On one side of the table are the companies and CFOs who hold credentials. On the other side, are the companies and non-credentialed CFOs. I think the difference today centers on the evolving role of the Chief Financial Officer. With the continuing CFO sprawl (the Chief Financial Officer becoming the Chief Everything Officer or the Chief the-Buck-Stops-Here Officer) and being a strategic leader who sits at the executive table with deep involvement in all aspects of operations … does holding a CPA matter as much?

Having worked exclusively with finance leaders for almost 10 years, I have my own thoughts. And although they are unlikely to influence one side or the other, this seems to be the bottom-line …

What matters most is what your target audience believes they need and therefore wants.

If you are looking to make a move in the upcoming year, it is critically important to identify your target audience. If you don’t have a CPA but you are targeting companies who all “require” a CPA candidate, it is going to be a longer-than-usual, even more frustrating search. It is possible, some of my clients have breached that requirement, but it requires having such compelling problem-solving value that a company is willing to look past their own requirement.

At the risk of being redundant …

— Leverage your branded, problem-solving value.

— Identify who needs what you bring to the table.

— Play in that space.

— Build & nurture a strong network.

It is a new year, and I wish you all the best. If I can help you achieve your career goals in 2018, give me a call. I would be happy to help.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2018



Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.

Lessons from Leaders

One of the most interesting panels at the recent CFO Core Concerns conference was the one offering lessons from some of the country’s most fascinating, and perhaps less known, leaders.

Take Jackie Berry, for instance. She is the CFO / COO of Zorch, a rapidly-growing, tech-enabled, branded merchandise agency. How rapidly growing? How does 20,000% over the last four years sound? And yes, 20,000 – it’s not a typo.

Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious throughout the room. Jackie says the focus on brand protection is a top priority and a key focus, and her company executes a continuous interviewing process. While they are not always hiring, they are very transparent about where Zorch is in the hiring process. The “always interviewing” strategy allows them to bring on top talent within 2-3 weeks when necessary, and a vibrant training & development program follows each new hire.

Another unknown – at least to me – was Ted Vincent, Vice Chair and CFO of FordDirect. He, too, advocates continuous interviewing as “the” way to ensure you have the right people in your network when it comes time to hire. He indicated the “entire executive team needs to be a part of the recruiting process.” I totally agree!

Harold Earley is the EVP and CFO of Foamex Innovations. Another fast-growing and, as the name implies, innovative company. They make foam, which is everywhere, and apparently, Foamex is the industry leader.  Sadly, according to Earley, great finance talent is absent from the Philadelphia area.

The lack of top finance talent statement reminded me of the Duke University / CFO.com study results that indicated 21% of companies are in hiring mode; 16% would like to hire but don’t have the resources to do so; and 9.3% can’t find qualified employees. That 9.3% stat is telling. The question is, how do we bridge the gap?

Branding & Culture Fit

Those seem to be two very hot topics these days! And they are topics that are relevant to Chief Financial Officers and other Finance Leaders.

A few days ago, after reading Fortune’s article, “Is it better to hire for cultural fit over experience,” I posted this in my Linked In CFO Careers group “A strong, compelling, and visible brand takes the question of culture fit completely off the table!” My comment was in response, in part, to these comments from the Fortune article …

“the most qualified candidates often do damage to a firm when they don’t jibe with the firm’s culture.”

“Cultural fit is incredibly important on a candidate’s abilities to use his skills,” says Nancy Rothbard, an associate professor of management at The Wharton School. “You have a positive effect through skills, but culture completely cancels that out.”

Cultural fit can cover a variety of characteristics, but ultimately, Rothbard and others say, the question hiring managers should be looking to answer is, does this candidate’s values align with those of the company ….”

Culture fit is THE most difficult piece of the hiring process. And while most articles speak to a company getting it right, I think it is equally important for candidates to get it right. I doubt any senior executive really wants to make a wrong decision and end up in job search mode almost immediately.

George Bradt quoted Kevin Kelly, CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, in his post about interview questions at Forbes.com …

“40 percent of senior executives leave organizations or are fired or pushed out within 18 months. It’s not because they’re dumb; it’s because a lot of times culturally they may not fit in with the organization or it’s not clearly articulated to them as they joined.” [emphasis mine]

Forty percentfired or pushed out within 18 months! I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be calling the shots than the one being fired at by someone else.

Enter branding, which speaks directly to culture fit. In fact, a strong brand attracts the right kind of opportunities while sending those that are a poor fit running in the opposite direction.

I believe that by the time you make it to the “Top 3”, there are really only two remaining questions on the table. Are you a fit for the company’s culture and do they like you. When you are well-branded – and visible – the culture fit question has already been answered … for both the candidate and the company, giving you a huge advantage over the other two candidates.

Branded Differentiation & Value

Whenever I come across the same theme multiple times within a short amount of time, I feel the need to write a blog post. That happened yesterday.

First, the Fractional CFO blogged about “differentiation.” Now his post was focused on differentiation within retailers … Bed, Bath, and Beyond and Linens n’ Things; Best Buy and Circuit City; Home Depot and Hechinger’s … but there's a definite pattern. Only one lives on.

“Without a strong differentiation from competitors, a business is much more vulnerable and therefore more likely to suffer from pricing pressures, loss of market share, and eventual failure.”

The word “candidate” could just as easily be inserted in place of “business” in the above quote. 

Then, my good friend and C-Suite Colleague Deb Dib summed up branded value in this tweet …

How good hires happen: 

Brand+value = interview 

Brand+value+ROI = short list 

Brand+value+ROI+chemistry = fit = hired! 

A visible, branded, and differentiated ROI is the key to standing out from the competition while offering something of value that a company is more than happy to pay to get. Whether you live on as a high-value CFO target, get bested by the competition, or disappear in the masses … is a choice.

The Buzz is Audible

I've noticed some increasing buzz in the corporate finance space. Opportunities that seemed to be flat-lining over the past year have a pulse again. CFOs who spent the last 12-15 months hunkered down in positions they hated are now cracking the door to see what other options might be available. How do I know? My phone is ringing constantly.

While hiring is definitely lagging … and recent stats indicate that pre-recession staffing levels probably won’t return for another couple of years … it’s a great time to be a senior finance leader. 

A high-value, socially well-connected Chief Financial Officer, who may now or in the future want to move, should pay attention to the buzz. 

–Network. The best time to network is when you don’t need to network. You don’t need anything and are in a position to give and help others. Ramp it up. With the ease of online networking, devoting 15 minutes a day to the effort can make a huge difference.

–Get Visible. If you’re brilliant but no one knows about it, does it matter? If you aren’t marketing yourself, it’s unlikely anyone else will be doing so. 

–Be Prepared. The best opportunities come when you’re not looking. Unfortunately, not looking also means you can be caught unprepared. Putting a resume together in a day is a very different process than drilling down to find your branded value proposition and creating a marketing document and online presence that positions you to play from your strengths, passions, and values. 

The Rise of Personal Branding

Personal branding is not a fad. It’s trending north. You can get in the game, or not. You certainly have that choice. However, you would be wise to choose carefully!

A couple of Fast Company expert bloggers summed it up quite nicely in the article “Brand or Die: The Downfall of the Institution and the Rise of the Personal Brand.” The entire article is worth the read, but here are some key points along with my commentary.

–You can become an “internal evangelist” and a thought leader for your industry – all while working for someone else. This buzz about you in turn raises your profile and credibility, which then gives rise to the notion that no longer will you be an employee with limited options.

If no one knows your brilliant, does it matter? CFOs, finance executives, and other finance rising stars tend to put nose to the grindstone and do their work rather than creating buzz about their contributions and the short and long-term impacts to the company. If you don’t talk about it, it’s likely no one else will either. And if no one is talking about how brilliant you are, you aren’t in the driver’s seat of your career.

–This label [Independent Executive] applies to someone who takes their knowledge from previous employment and sets out to create their own destiny, lifestyle, and income on their own terms. This philosophy takes personal branding to the next level, because it is not just important for the professional or the entrepreneur, but it is now very important for employees who are happy to work in someone else’s environment but who want to be recognized, both financially and emotionally, for their very real contributions.

Research shows that executives who are socially well-connected typically make more money, are less likely to lose their jobs for poor performance, and transition quicker if they do lose their jobs. (Source: “33 Million People in the Room”). 

With a strong personal brand, CFOs can take control of their careers and foster powerful positioning with the choice of where to move and when, along with getting desired compensation.

–In the past, an unhappy employee had limited choices …. Now, in the new “Branded Economy”, you are all allowed to play the role you want in building your brand and building your value. If you don’t take control, you will risk becoming irrelevant and relegated to the position of a cog in someone else’s wheel.

“You risk becoming irrelevant and relegated to the position of a cog in someone else’s wheel” … that’s a pretty powerful statement! 

Are you a strategic Chief Financial Officer who has earned a seat at the table in your own right with a team that is following you because they share your vision and they want to? Or, are you the CEO’s right-hand man with a dysfunctional and unproductive finance team who work for a paycheck? Are you in the driver’s seat of your career or the passenger’s seat of an freewheeling taxi driver (no offense intended)?

–You have the choice to BRAND OR DIE. 

Die might be a little dramatic … however, extinction is an absolute possibility! 

Color Outside the Lines

Listen here … 

I swear it was my elementary school teachers who unleashed the rebel in me. They were always telling me what I “couldn’t” do rather than fostering my inner passions. And coloring outside the lines is a great metaphor for authentic personal branding … because our personal and professional lives intertwine, whether we want them to or not.

Two opposite examples come immediately to mind, and probably should never be used in the same sentence, but … Tiger Woods and Tim Tebow.

Tiger Woods tried to color inside the lines. He kept his personal and professional lives separate and apart, thinking (or possibly hoping) that no one would ever be the wiser. His brand (which was really nothing more than a facade) was clean cut, family-oriented, and wildly successful … good guys CAN finish first. It was also a complete farce. When you act one way to an adoring public and completely opposite behind closed doors, it is only a matter of time until the truth bleeds over the lines. Our personal and professional lives do overlap, and no amount of effort to keep the colors from crossing the lines will work forever. Particularly not in the Internet era.

Tim Tebow is the epitome of an authentic personal brand. Much has been written about him, both his athletic prowess and faith on the field and his leadership and faith off the field. He is who he is, like him or hate him, he is the real deal. Because he is the same person on the field as he is off the field, his lines are so blurred you can’t tell where personal ends and professional begins.

We’ve seen more than our share of brand damage to finance executives in the past few years. Those headlines seem to be almost daily, but certainly weekly. The colors seeped through closely guarded lines and for some, caused irreparable damage not only to the individual but to many companies.

Where do you fall? Do you color inside the lines … working diligently to keep your personal life from detracting from a professional facade? Or, do you blur the lines and embrace the power of authentic branding … recognizing that how you are hardwired has contributed to your successes both in and outside of your career?

The High Cost of Taking the Wrong Position

Brad Remillard, a 25-year executive recruiter, authored a blog post about the high cost of making a bad hire. It is definitely expensive.

It also made me wonder if you, Mr. CFO Search Candidate, have given thought to the high cost of accepting the wrong position. 

Failure is an option

Taking the wrong position or taking the right position at the wrong company is a recipe for failure. A sound reason for making sure you are very clear about what you have to offer and to whom!

That is precisely why I am such a fan of branding. When you understand your authentic value (brand) and the market you serve (target), decision-making is much easier. You attract the “right” opportunities and repel those that are not a good fit.

Sadly, failure …

Sticks like glue, 

And, you have to explain it. 

Do you really want that mess as the lead in under Employment History on your resume? This job market is tough enough without adding a conversation around a bad decision that led to 1) no contributions and/or 2) leaving shortly after you’re hired. 

Dissatisfaction leads to job search mode … again

Job searching is not fun. It’s hard work, filled with rejection, undermining confidence, and can even lead to desperation. Desperation can lead to repeating the same cycle of choosing the wrong position and/or the wrong company, again.

Passive candidates who are open to hearing about new opportunities HOLD THE MOST POWER. It may not be right, especially given the current market, but it is true. Making great decisions about where you go and when is a smart, long-term career management strategy.

CFOs … Linked In … and, Branding

Chris Muccio’s latest blog post, “Five Ways to Exhibit Your Brand on Linked In” is a good read for every CFO. And it should be a good read since the book Chris recently co-authored, “42 Rules for 24 Hour Success on LinkedIn,” reached best-seller status on Amazon. Congrats, Chris!!

But I digress.

In his blog, Chris says this …

To be upfront, branding is not my expertise.

… and so, I’m kicking open the door to add my two cents to his post. 

Branding is NOT who you think you are. Branding IS the perception of you held by others. If, for example, you are a CFO and believe yourself to be a visionary leader but your staff, peers, and bosses view you as a detailed, bean counter … what are you really?

So while I do believe doing a self-analysis as Chris suggests (expertise, 3 adjectives) is necessary, without the input of others who know you and interact with you, your data is incomplete.

You can get a complimentary 360 assessment at ReachCC. Tell them the CFO-Coach sent you!