CFOs as CEOs … Update!!

Over the past year and a half, I’ve penned a couple of posts (CFOs as CEOs and Decade of CFOs) on the trend of CFOs moving into the CEO seat. In  a new article for  CFO ZoneChristopher Langhoff, who conducts financial officer assignments for Russell Reynolds, chimes in on what he is seeing. 

Here are a couple of snippets … but if you’re a CFO aspiring to be a CEO, at some point you might want to read the entire, albeit brief, article:

"We have more and more clients that are coming to us asking for a world class CFO that will likely be ready to be CEO in two to three years … When Sox was in full gear there was a need for a CFO who was a CPA. Now, companies are looking for a strategic CFO, a business partner. There could be a big shift."

In order to be world class, the people who need to know about you must know about you! Is your light shining beyond your corner office? If not, it will make it extremely difficult for your “world class” brand to be known.

Langhoff touched on something else I think is extremely important …

The first quarter also showed a continued, robust turnover of CFOs in the middle market.  "The lifespan of a CFO can be shorter than an NFL career," says Langhoff. As for the rest of the year, Langhoff predicts more turnover. Over the past four months, Russell Reynolds reported a dramatic increase in search activity in the United States, Europe and Asia that spans industries.

That means two things:

1) Your position is NOT safe; and

2) There ARE new opportunities for “world-class” talent!

Are CFOs Missing the Social Networking Boat?

There are lists of CEOs who tweet and CIOs who tweet … but where are the lists of CFOs who are active in any kind of social media? Yes, I do have a CFO list on my Twitter stream, many courtesy of CFOWise. Are there any others?

I was talking with the owner of earlier this week, catching up after the holidays, and inquiring whether his membership was engaging with each other within the various communities. He said not really. In fact, what he was hearing was that they wanted more content. 

Wait. More content? Are CFOs missing the social media boat? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, ah … yes

Whether you tweet or don’t tweet isn’t the issue. The real issue is that not embracing social media is a huge career mistake.

Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, and even MyCFONetwork are merely tools that facilitate the ability to  … talk with people – and – get on the radar screen of people who need to know about you. In case you didn’t know, or you forgot, it is not who you know that matters today, but rather “who knows about you.” 

I read a great article in which this quote appeared …

The only thing avoiding social media does for you is it takes your voice entirely out of the conversation. It doesn’t make you invisible, it makes you mute.

And, it makes you vulnerable.

I spoke with a CFO yesterday who was happily employed one day and shown the door the next. He was caught completely unaware, and was completely unprepared for a job loss and a job search. His digital footprint is non-existent. That means, 

–he has two huge obstacles to overcome … age bias and unemployment; and

–his search must ramp up from ground zero. 

He is in his mid-50’s and, understandably, very worried. He doesn’t have the luxury of a strong online and offline network, visibility among his target market, and the credibility of a dense digital footprint. What he does have is an uphill battle.

Look for Part 2 … Getting IN the Boat … coming up next. 

CFOs as CEOs

After Business Times Online posted an article on the rise of CFOs into CEO positions, one of my Linked In colleagues, a recruiter who works with private equity clients, asked for my thoughts on the topic. 

In preparation for my keynote at the Prophix User Conference back in April I did extensive research on this topic. While the article points to the recession as the driver, my belief is that it is a trend not likely to abate once we hit the other side of the recession. So, here are my thoughts …

–Strategic Leaders vs. Bean Counters

I believe the opportunity arose about the time that CFOs began making the transition from bean counter to strategic leader with a seat at the executive table. The hottest CFO prospects today are those with the ability to predict financial trends and who bring an operational background (particularly when they also hold a CPA and and an MBA). From a career perspective, two of the smartest things a CFO can do today are gain operational experience and claim a seat at the executive table.

–Proven Operational Contributions

There is a difference between experience and contributions … and this is particularly true of a CFO with his sights set on a CEO position. In fact, as companies continue to tighten their belts, you may even see a decrease in the role of the Chief Operating Officer, since the accomplished operational CFO can handle both roles.

For example, the COO of oil and natural gas exploration and production company Anadarko Petroleum Corp. is being replaced by the CFO with much broader responsibilities that include overseeing the company’s exploration, development, production, and mid-stream and marketing operations.

Execunet points to the fact that 2 of the 8 most in demand job functions are operations management and finance.


While many CFOs are not the best networkers, for whatever reasons, those who are reap great benefits. And the value of internal networking cannot be downplayed. Conventional wisdom says that it is easier to move up internally, than externally, in large part because you are “known and have momentum and sponsorship.” If you’ve grabbed your seat at the table, you have the power to ensure you are known and have the momentum to, perhaps, win that coveted leadership position.

CFOs … Don’t Be an Empty Suit

I saw this clever post on the Ryan William’s Agency blog this morning … Getting Your Plastic Foot in the Door. It talks about a marketing campaign targeting CEOs to replace a CFO with outsourced CFO services. 

As a career coach, my take-away was the message I continue to evangelize to my clients … you are the only ones looking out for you. If you don’t manage your career just like you run your company, you might find yourself completely blindsided and run out of town.

I’m not sure there has ever a scarier, or tougher, time for finance executives. With grave concerns around the ability to forecast, manage working capital, and maintaining team morale giving every finance leader grey hair, it’s easy to put your career on the shelf while you lead your company through these very precarious times. However, doing so is at your OWN peril. 

It is critically important for you to know, and for your company to be very aware of, your value proposition. 

–Are you saving them money? How much? How did you do it?

–How have you contributed to long-term positioning and growth? Why was/is it important?

–What initiatives have you launched? What did it mean to the organization … bottom-line and long-term?

Spending regular, consistent time networking (internally and externally) and building your online visibility is akin to wrapping a security blanket around your career. You have the MOST power and positioning while you are still sitting in that corner office with a beautiful view … rather than looking through the glass door from the curb. The severance package might be nice, but when the money runs out so does any security.  

Don’t let an empty Ken suit catch you by surprise! 

CFOs – Do You Have a Career Bailout Mentality?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might have  a bailout mentality …

–Have you given up control of your career to someone else?

–Job searching is nothing more then the stars aligning and that next position magically appearing at the right time?

–Are you walking around with a sense of entitlement, annoyed or even indignant that no one is noticing how brilliant you are?

–Do you believe you are secure in your position so managing your career isn’t something you think about, ever?

–The investment of a couple hours a week (while I’m unemployed) SHOULD be more then enough time on my search.

Now some of these are obviously said tongue-in-cheek, but the reality is these are some tough times and the squeeze is on for everybody – including the C-suite. Never, seriously, NEVER has it been more important to take back control of your career, rather then leaving it to the whim of others. Those others might be the CEO, shareholders, or board of directors. The moment CFOs don’t deliver on projections, their career is in jeopardy. Maybe not right away, but the foundation has cracked. Better to be prepared and not need to be then to be caught totally unprepared and suddenly find yourself spending 8 hours a day searching for a job.

Your highest value and marketability are while you are still employed. You have the most leverage to get what you want in that next position when you still hold a position of power (employment). You can choose what you want and when you want it, rather then being forced to take what’s offered … if and when it is finally offered. 

You might be the greatest thing since sliced bread (most CFOs don’t get to the top of the ladder if they aren’t) and a company may very well need your help, but without a clear visible presence, a compelling MVP, and positioning as the answer to their problems, they may never see your brilliance. 

Don’t wait to be bailed out … be proactive!

Tweets from the Kennedy Recruiting Conference

The Kennedy Recruiting Conference was held in Orlando last week and while I wasn't able to attend, some of the recruiters who tweet kept us updated. Here are some interesting stats tweeted last week:

LinkedIn adds 35,000 new members daily. 41 is average age.

–If MySpace was a country it would have the 11th largest population in the world.

–11% of all all Internet time is spent on MySpace compared to 2% spent on Google.

–36% of CEO's lack confidence in their own company's recruiting department.

–90% of revenue earned by job boards comes from job posting and resume searching. Commodity products. They will go away.

I'll post some other comments, along with my thoughts about the statements, in the next day or two. Stay tuned!