CFO Contingency Plan

Or, Redundancy-Proofing. Or, Career Survival Plan. Whatever the name, the result is the same … ensuring that in these tough, very competitive times you don’t find yourself on the street before you start looking for your next position.

As the lead Finance Executive, you would never run your company on the haphazard basis most people, not just Chief Financial Officers, run their careers. With your company, you have systems and measurements in place, a 3-to-5-year plan, and shorter goals you work towards on a daily or weekly basis.

It’s like steering the Titanic. Slow and steady makes the turn. But if you’re inches from the iceberg (unemployment), it is impossible to do the things you need to do in order to avert disaster.

There is little corporate loyalty today. As the CFO or Senior Finance Executive, the bottom line on the P&L statement stops with you. The moment the Board is unhappy, the CEO starts leaning harder, credit / cash issues continue, or the diminished staff is less and less productive and more and more whiney, the bottom line is impacted and it is your neck that has the potential to move closer and closer to the chopping block.

–Do you have any contingency plan in place in the event you do lose your job?

–Have you reached out to anyone in your network in the last year?

–Will your personal marketing documents be ready should someone ask for them?

–Are you visible to your target audience?

–Have you even identified your target audience?

–Do you know and can you articulate your value proposition?

Several months ago I was engaged by a client who worked himself out of his last position. He told me when we started that his goal was to be employed in 2 months, but until his call to me he had done nothing else. He is in a tough industry and now wore the stigma of “unemployment.” Before we could work together, I was forced to disabuse him of that unrealistic expectation. That false expectation served no good purpose for either of us. It’s been 5 months and he has had no less than 6 potential opportunities for at least 4 of those months. However, while no one will tell him definitively “no,” each one of them is continuing to string him along while taking their sweet time getting to “yes.”

The corporate decision to hire is agonizingly slow for many candidates. And that agony is exacerbated if there was no contingency plan in place and the job loss was unexpected. Desperation forces candidates to make choices and decisions they would not otherwise make if they were executing a solid contingency plan. Remember, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

I Never Saw It Coming

These words from the Lemonade Movement, a video about making lemonade out of the lemons dealt to you when you find yourself  among the ranks of the unemployed, really struck a chord with me … “I never saw it coming.” It's a familiar refrain since few ever do see it (the pink slip) coming until they are escorted to the curb.

If you are wishing and hoping (isn’t that a song?) or trusting and believing that your job is safe and secure, you are choosing to embrace a false sense of security. Every CFO is only as safe as a satisfied board, a congenial CEO, and a healthy bottom line. Do you “really” know whether you have the support of your Board, or is your relationship purely superficial based on board room conversations? Does your vision align with the CEO’s or are you constantly butting heads? Are you playing it too safe or are you being too risky for the shareholders? Is the bottom line healthy “enough”?

Make a career survival plan and then work your plan. You don’t ever have to say “yes” to a move, but wouldn’t it be great to be respond to a great opportunity rather than be forced to react to a pink-slip? Don’t let the words, “I never saw it coming” be prophetic. After all, in the words of Douglas MacArthur, “There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity.”

FBSoP is NOT a Good Career Strategy

A gentleman who requested my article, “5 Easy Ways to Beef Up Your Linked In Profile,” wrote to let me know that he appreciated the recommendations in the article. 

But …

He also went on to say that although he knew he should be spending time completing his Linked In profile and cultivating his digital footprint, he was a busy man with a family and already struggling to balance his time. For now, for today, it is just not the most important thing in his life.

Isn’t that true for most of us? So much to do, so little time. I think it’s especially true when we hold a high value of family. And since that is one of my values, I understand and respect the desire to make time with family a priority.

That said, the only one who is vested in your career is you. Your career, which brings home the paycheck, is what allows you to care and provide for the family you value. 

So if you take nothing else away from anything else I ever write or have written, please understand this. If you get into the habit of spending 15 minutes a day proactively working on your career … while you are still gainfully employed … it will go a long way towards ensuring you will not be sitting on the curb desperately wondering how you are going to provide for the family you value.

You are finance leaders who create and execute the 3 to 5-year financial plans that navigate your company to the next level. Now, more than ever before, it is important to create and execute a career survival plan that identifies where you want to go, what you need to have in place to get there, and when you want to make that next move. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (FBSoP) strategy isn’t good enough for your company, and it makes no sense to relegate your career to that strategy either. Not today. And not if you want to be perceived as a high-value target.

Think Like a Recruiter

I had lunch with Doug Franklin, a local recruiter, last week. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I love getting into the minds of recruiters … how do they think, what makes them tick, and more importantly, how do the operate. Doug is a class act and was a wealth of information as he generously allowed me to pick his brain. Here’s some of what we discussed.

Since I work with CFOs, many of whom have been reticent to adopt social media … particularly anything outside of Linked In, I asked specifically about his recruiting methods and those of his colleagues.  Doug’s primary direct sourcing strategy is Linked In. His colleagues use Linked In AND other social media websites as their primary strategies to direct source candidates. (Notice the absence of job boards?)

That led to our discussion around passive versus unemployed candidates. Doug has been unemployed in the past and has a compassionate side for those who find themselves in that situation. However, here’s what he said …

Clients don’t pay us to present candidates they themselves can find in job board databases.

WOW! If there was ever a compelling reason for executives to create and execute a career survival plan that includes fully embracing the power of building a visible online presence, that statement is it. Doug went on to say that he will sometimes include unemployed candidates as part of his slate of candidates, but never more than 25% because … that is not who clients are paying him to find.

Candidates have the most power when they are inside looking out. While nothing changes about a candidate’s skill set, experience, or record of contributions once he’s on the outside looking in with a big severance package in his pocket; the reality is, his marketability still takes a huge hit.

With the slow down of hiring, and according to Doug excruciatingly slow hiring decisions  as companies are willing to wait for the “right” candidate not just “a” candidate, executing a career survival plan on an ongoing basis and long before you need it, is critical to securing positioning as that “valuable” passive candidate that companies want and are willing to pay recruiters big bucks to get.

In my next post, I'll be providing my thoughts on why CFOs should embrace a social media strategy beyond Linked In … and including Facebook.

CFOs are … worried!

I read an article this morning about CFOs … on one hand cautiously optimistic about the economy and on the other, worried about their companies.

It made me wonder. If CFOs ARE worried about their companies, are they also worried about their jobs? And if they ARE worried about their jobs, are they doing anything about it?

Now, more than ever before, a career survival plan is a necessity. Just like finance executives create 3 to 5-year plans for their companies, they need a 3 to 5-year plan for their career. Being proactive is the difference between reacting in desperation and responding from a position of power to the right opportunities on your terms and within your time frame.