Can a Fractional CFO Return to Corporate?

Last week I posted a Q&A with Todd Serulneck on his decision to take a career path as a fractional CFO. At the end of our conversation, he flipped the table and asked me a futuristic question.

Is it possible to move back into a corporate role
after several years as a fractional CFO?

It is a great question, and I’m sure he isn’t alone in wondering whether it can be done and how challenging such a move would be. Here are a few of my thoughts.

Yes, I believe it is possible.

When you bring problem-solving value to the table, anything is possible for a company who needs your skill set … which today, includes soft skills. If anything, communication, relationship management, work ethic, creative problem-solving skills may even be enhanced during time as a “business-builder.”

What can happen with a fractional CFO is akin to those of a consultant … you don’t always get to see the results of your actions. Therefore, it is critically important that you …

Keep track of your measurable wins.

Words like “improving,” “increasing,” “decreasing,” and “reducing” are meaningless without context. This challenge isn’t exclusive to fractional CFOs. In fact, it is widespread among corporate CFO candidates. Keeping track of metrics matters, and using them in personal marketing documents matters greatly.In fact, it is almost impossible to compete without them.

While your financial acumen got you to the CFO seat, it is your ability to solve problems and deliver value that is most appealing to a prospective company who is facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles, dismal growth, and/or declining profits.

Don’t lose your sweet spot.

Companies rarely hire “jack-of-all-trades, masters-of-none,” these days. Rather, they are focused on specific skill sets and experience that a CFO brings and which it needs. Even as a fractional CFO, it is important to play from your strengths.

As paradoxical as it may seem, operating from your sweet spot and taking advantage of the ripple effect that niched positioning affords only improves a candidate’s compelling value proposition.

Be visible.

Whether building a book of business or conducting a job search, it is incumbent upon each CFO to create and maintain visibility among his targeted audience. That visibility and resulting relationships could be the difference between an easier – or – more challenging move back to corporate.

Let me know if I can 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, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at

When Seeking a CFO Position …

… it isn’t necessarily over when you think it seems to be over.

What I mean is that there a couple of factors at play that, despite not being selected initially for a job you want, could mean the position may come into play again in the near future.

Take for example, the story about Louisville University being forced to restart its CFO search. One week before he was supposed to begin, the newly-named CFO decided not to take the job. A strong runner-up candidate, who took the extra steps to stay on the search team’s radar while reiterating his interest in the position, could be the obvious choice following a less than positive – not to mention expensive – hiring decision by the company.

The other factor is the incredibly high executive fail rate within 18 months of hire. Depending on who is doing the survey, that statistic is anywhere from 40% to 70%, with 5% failing spectacularly. While those stats can be mind numbing and frightening, the flip side is that they also present a second potential opportunity for a position with a company that is (or was) on your “crème de la crème” list. But, it requires nurturing those relationships with key decision-makers within that company so you are top of mind if/when things with its new CFO hire begin to spiral.

And finally, your position – unless it is your last before retirement – really only means you are currently not in active job search mode. In a perfect world and with good career management habits solidly in place, it would also mean that you are, always, in passive job search mode as you anticipate a smooth transition into your next dream position. Passive job search mode means you are executing two key strategies constantly and consistently … fostering a network (as opposed to growing a rolodex) and building your visibility among your targeted companies. Being pursued for your next opportunity puts you in a much greater position of power when it comes time to negotiate your compensation package.

It is the last day of January … how is your job search going?


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, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at

Are We Losing the Ability to Right Write?

Yes, I did that intentionally, and it was incredibly painful to do so. But the question remains … are we? Which begs another question … does it matter?

Many years ago, a 5th grade English teacher told me that she instructed her class to write an essay. Half the class turned in a “text” version (u r c-ing an xample rite here). She also told me that outside of spelling class, incorrectly spelled words did not matter. I remember being completely shocked at the time, but I am even more shocked as I see what passes for “English” on social media.

I can almost – almost – look the other way on Facebook. Almost. As someone who makes a living writing, it is very challenging. However, seeing the complete inability to use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure on Linkedin, a professional network and the digital home for many executives, is distressing and worrisome.

A week or so ago, I saw a comment by a CEO of a small company. Perhaps this person was educated in a school where text talk in essay writing was okay and spelling did not matter. I took a snapshot of the comment, but cannot bear to post the graphic. Suffice it to say, there was no punctuation, not even periods to end sentences, and therefore, no initial caps to begin new sentences. It was 8 lines of text containing, I think, 5 sentences – but I cannot be sure. This from a person with a title of Chief Executive Officer.

Now, the CFOs with whom I deal are typically 45+ and, like me for the most part, hold the belief that the English rules of punctuation, grammar, and spelling apply, even if we don’t always get the latter correct. And I believe that those in positions to hire C-suite executives care, at least for now, about their executive team’s ability to write coherently, logically, and legibly.

I would caution people that everything on social media that is posted by you can be found by others, and that your digital footprint has the ability to make or break your candidacy for certain positions. If you cannot, or chose not to, write a legible post or comment on Linkedin, why ever might one believe you could or would be able to do so in a senior leadership role where communication skills are so vitally important?

So I am curious what you think … does it matter in this day and age whether or not we can write right?

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


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, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at



The Problem with Cussing

Or, perhaps better stated, the consequences of throwing out cuss words in a public arena. And while this is my perspective, it’s not just my perspective.

Choose Your Words Carefully
Choose Your Words Carefully

Last week a friend of mine mentioned that he attended several business conferences that week and in all but one of them, the speaker dropped the F-bomb.

Yes, you read that correctly. Business conferenceS. Subject matter expertS. F-bombS. I hope you are as disturbed by that as I am. Is this the new –low– standard in public speaking at business conferences? I hope not!

Some thoughts from a branding perspective …

Is your vocabulary really that limited?

The English language is rich and robust and there are endless words from which we can choose to paint pictures and convey passion. Even angry or zealous passion.

My response when I hear foul language, especially uttered publicly, is that person obviously has a very limited vocabulary. Perhaps he (or she) believes the use of such language makes him appear to be more vehement in his position, but it’s actually the opposite. It makes him appear crude.

Will the audience remember anything else?

Usually in the course of a presentation, it is the “story” that is remembered. The crafting of a well-delivered tale usually puts the audience on the edge of their seats.

However, my guess is the shock of hearing the F-bomb dropped would erase even the best spun story and become the one thing that stuck in the minds of the audience. Probably not what the speaker intended the audience to remember, but that is -in this case- exactly the subject being discussed by my friend and his colleagues.

Could “cuss-man” or “trash-mouth” follow him forever?

In a word, yes. The next time that person’s name is mentioned as a possible speaker, someone is sure to say … isn’t he the guy (or gal) who unleashed a stream of profanity (because you know how those stories grow) at the “such and such conference”?

Personally, this is extremely disappointing to me. If using cuss words to make points during a business / professional conference is the new -low- standard in public speaking, I guess I won’t be doing much of it in the future.

What are your thoughts? Is it ever acceptable to drop the F-bomb or otherwise use crude language while presenting? Feel free to leave your comments here or, if you are a CFO, join our CFO-exclusive community on Linkedin and post your comments there.

Linkedin Endorsements vs. Recommendations

What was Linkedin thinking when it gave control of our brands to others through the endorsements feature? I have to say, I’m not a fan. And I believe the endorsement function also cheapens the overall Linkedin brand.

A recent article in Forbes says …

“To endorse someone on LinkedIn, all you need to do is click a box and you’re done. No thinking involved.”

and I totally concur … no thinking involved.

People who don’t know me and who have never worked with me are giving me endorsements for skills they assume I have. So far, and thankfully, they have been pretty accurate.

Linkedin Skills

However, the ease and thoughtlessness with which endorsements can be given means others, and sometimes others who don’t know you, are now driving your brand. And from a branding perspective, that makes the endorsement detrimental if it is off-brand.

And it sometimes seems like a “tit for tat” kind of deal … folks who want endorsements are eager to give endorsements in order to – hopefully – get endorsements.

Endorsements seem to me to be the antithesis of the recommendations feature, where you approached someone who DOES know you and HAS worked with you and asked them for a recommendation that includes SPECIFIC evidence of your skill sets. To me, that has immense value, particularly for well-branded CFOs.

Is it just me? What do you think?

CFO Differentiation

Some interesting comments have been posted to a recent question on Proformative around how to differentiate oneself from other CFOs competing for the same positions.

It reminds me a little bit of the CPA / non-CPA controversy. You know, if you have one it’s critically important; but if you don’t hold that credential, you can do the job equally as well as someone who does.

These comments, though, boiled down to knowledge vs. impacts. How much  I know trumps the impacts I made. All the education in the world doesn’t matter if it remains merely “head knowledge” rather than translating to actions that deliver impacts.

I loved this statement from Andrew Neitlich, author of Guerilla Marketing for a Bullet-proof Career, made at the Career Thought Leaders conference last week …

“C-A-R (Challenge, Action, Result) stories are your license to brag.” 

Yes they are. So brag away and differentiate yourself from the Chief Financial Officers who are stuck in the rut of knowledge, duties, and responsibilities.

The Resume Evolution

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article entitled “No More Resumes, Say Some Firms.” While the title is a little exaggerated, I can safely say I’m glad I’m not a resume writer! More about that in a moment.

The resume is certainly evolving, but it has been evolving for years. Now though, resumes are going head-to-head with branded visibility via social media … and social media is winning.

What does moving beyond the resume and leveraging social media mean for CFOs? I’m glad you asked.

It might mean the difference between …

— Being found … or not

— Being perceived as embracing change … or not

— Having a Web 2.0 presence … or holding an outdated resume

— Being viewed as someone who understands the text generation … or a dinosaur heading towards extinction

— Creating visibility around subject matter positioning … or being outflanked by a competitor

— Being hunted for great opportunities … or becoming a full-time hunter in a very competitive market

And most importantly … branded visibility via social media could mean …

— Trumping the competition because it is so readily apparent that you fit within a company’s culture.

“We are most interested in what people are like, what they are like to work with, how they think.” Christina Cacioppo

I’ll be covering why branded visibility is so critically important to your executive career in the Proformative webinar scheduled for Friday, January 27 at 11:00 Eastern. If you are a member of the Proformative community, I hope you’ll join us.

P.S. There’s a big difference between a resume writer and a personal brand strategist. You may or may not need a resume one day, but you will absolutely  – always – need to understand, and be able to articulate, your compelling value proposition and market differentiation. That’s an investment with a great ROI.

The Brand is King … for CFOs, too

You probably know that I’m an avid reader, which is how I provide such great information to my Facebook business page and Linked In group. If you’re a CFO and you want to consolidate your reading to stay in the know on career-related information … please consider joining one or both of my groups.

But, I digress.

During my Internet scour, I came across an article on 10 mega business trends to watch for in 2012 and beyond. Now, these are “business” trends but #10 was interesting. And it applies to both your business and your career.

The brand remains king (or queen). Organizations with strong brands will continue to command greater margins, larger market shares, survive economic downturns, and higher market caps. Consequently, organizations must redefine, defend, and continue to position their brands. The brand describes a promise to stakeholders. The brand is more than the collection of products or services offered by the company.  The brand encompasses an emotional value, an aspiration, and the public face of a business strategy.

A strong brand “will continue to command greater margins, larger market shares, survive economic downturns, and higher market caps.” 

Let me put it in career terms. A strong brand will clearly illustrate culture fit (the hardest bar to meet in the hiring process), create competition for you as a passive candidate, survive economic downturns, and position you to get paid what you’re worth.

And now, a shameless self-promotion.

I’m doing a webinar for Proformative on Friday, January 27 at 12:00 Eastern on this very point. So, rather than ‘spill the beans’ here, I invite you to join me on the call and learn why a visible brand is critically important to your executive career. You’ll be glad you did!

Lessons in Branding from Tim Tebow

Whether you love Tim Tebow or hate him, it’s highly unlikely that you haven’t heard his name. You have to admit he …

— is very differentiated from his colleagues,
— more visible than almost all of his counterparts despite his rookie status, and
— stands clearly and firmly for his beliefs.

In short, Tebow is a branding sensation. Let’s take a deeper look at a couple of reasons why.


Different might just be an understatement. He’s far from the typical NFL quarterback, but despite being under the bright, and quite critical, spotlight of every single sports commentator, he was taken as a first round draft pick. The “experts” just shook their heads.

He was 3rd string, then 2nd, and then a starter … turning a losing record into an improbable winning record. He suddenly had “rock star” status … some positive, most negative as the “experts” once again just shook their heads.

Then he started losing and suddenly all those “experts” looked pretty smart. Only to be stunned into “Tebowing” when, against ALL odds, he led the Broncos to a record-breaking OT win against the highly-ranked Steeler defense.

He’s unorthodox, and that difference means he is highly visible. Differentiation in the world of Chief Financial Officers seems to be highly under-rated.


Good, bad, or indifferent, Tebow is the most highly-talked about football player in the National Football League. He just might be the most talked-about person in the country.

Google his last name, and you’ll see 8.3M results. Google Tim Tebow and the results are in the neighborhood of 115M.

If you haven’t measured your Google visibility, now is a great time to do so. What, if anything, is Google saying about you? Quantity is good; quality is much, much better.

Tebow’s great visibility is due in large part to his strong, personal brand.


“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” so says Alexander Hamilton. It’s a great definition of “authentic branding.” A well-defined, strong brand attracts those things that are a good fit and repels those that are not. Authentic branding can also create positive and negative buzz. Certainly that is true of Tebow.

What CFOs need to remember about a strong, visible brand is that it speaks to “fit.” Fit within an organization. Fit within a culture. Fit within an executive team. No one – not the employer and certainly not the candidate – wants to make a bad decision on something so critically important as a career move … and “fit” is the most difficult part of the hiring process.

The power of a well-defined, visible brand is crystal clear in the lightening rod named Tim Tebow.

Don’t Let Your Smartphone Make You Look … Not Smart!

Do you know anyone (except maybe your 2-year old) who doesn’t have a smartphone? Business or personal doesn’t matter … our world is hurtling toward mobile digital gadgets. Apparently, “designer branded smartphones” are the next big thing. Probably not for me … but I digress.

Since I work on a computer almost non-stop, my keyboarding skills are pretty strong. Put me on my iPhone keyboard and I feel like I’m back in typing 101 in junior high school. My fingers intuitively know where the keys are, but I can’t tell you where any of the letters are on the keyboard. Since the iPhone is really “thumbing” rather than “keyboarding,” I’ve sent a few emails and text messages that have made me look … not too smart!

I’ve learned a few lessons, important lessons, that might help you keep your CFO brand intact.

Turn off the auto-correct.

Many, MANY, an embarrassing text / email has resulted from the wizardry of intuitive thinking on smartphones. In fact, there’s an entire website devoted to auto-correct blunders. Google it … many are x-rated which just adds to the embarrassment!

My recommendation is that unless you are an incredibly horrible speller or a phenomenally terrible proof-reader, that you turn off auto-correct. In the grand scheme of things, it will ensure that your smartphone isn’t doing the thinking for you.

Which brings me to point #2.

Proof BEFORE you hit send. 

Whether you use auto-correct or not, proofread before you send. Once you’ve hit send, it’s too late. There are no recalls on smartphones! And the follow-up text or email that corrects words in the previous text or email only further serves to point out your serious blunder.

Brand your email signature.

The standard signature on a smartphone email is “sent from my iPhone” or “sent from my Blackberry.” What a missed opportunity. While you don’t necessarily need the same full-blown email signature line from your regular email account, there are a few really important pieces of information you should include.

Branded tag line
Email Address
Phone Number

And my own personal pet peeve …

Text talk in emails. Please don’t. 

U R not going 2 impress some1 this way.

Text talk is for texting and tweeting, and only texting or tweeting. It is not a professional way to communicate in emails … unless and only if, you are emailing close friends and family. If the recipient of your email isn’t as “text savvy” as you are, the message might be totally lost in the translation.  Sadly, it’s an easy habit to get into and one which is difficult to break.

Unless being a “text king” is part of your brand, spell it out.