Are You a CFO with the Goal of Being CEO?

I have thought for years that the Chief Financial Officer was a natural fit to step into the role of Chief Executive Officer, even before the expansion of the Finance Chief’s responsibilities. And while I still believe the facts support my perspective, the statistics of those finance leaders “actually” stepping into the top position at a company are quite low.

However, for those CFOs who have the CEO seat in their sights, Crist Kolder’s president says

“For about 80% of the CFO searches we’re doing, our clients are specifying that they want someone who can be a CEO successor someday.”

Regardless of whether your goal is your first CFO role, a new CFO position with more responsibility, a CFO position that leads to a CEO role, or our first Chief Executive Officer role, there are 3 things that are critically important to positioning yourself for any of those roles.

A cohesive message of being a leader who solves problems

Whether you are positioning yourself for an internal or external move, your ability to solve problems and deliver impacts matters … greatly. There are limited CFO and CEO opportunities in the marketplace. Separate yourself from the competition, who largely focus on duties and responsibilities, by concentrating on the challenge you faced, the potential risk or consequence of doing nothing, and the action(s) you took to resolve the issue and position the company to achieve its objective.

I have heard Finance Chiefs say … “if I can only get in front of someone, I can close the deal.” That’s great. But you need the opportunity to get in front of a decision maker. Your value message must be cohesive and flow throughout every written marketing document, including a Linkedin profile, as well as verbal messaging.

There is also a mistaken belief by internal candidates that they do not need to work as hard as external candidates. That is a flawed perspective. If anything, the internal candidate needs to be even more visible and vocal about his or her contributions. You might think the people who need to know do know, but your job is to make sure they know rather than assume they know.

Proven and recognizable soft skills

I talked about this in my previous blog post – In Demand CFOs – but it is worth repeating. You did not get to be a Chief Financial Officer because you do not have finance skills. But it might very well be the case that you miss out on a really great opportunity without proven soft skills.

A cone of influence

The truth is you need to know people who know people. Job boards are seductive, and ineffective. Recruiters want the perfect-fitting candidate and they don’t have a monopoly on the market. Your network is the best source of leads and referrals to those great opportunities you are seeking.

When you are looking for that first position – whether it is as a CFO or CEO – someone who knows you and can vouch for your ability to do the job just might be the influential lynchpin that gets you in the door.

A strong network cannot be understated for any executive candidate.

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



CPA CFOs … the Continuing Saga

There is no hot button in the finance space like the CPA-non-CPA credential controversy for CFOs. Not intending to add fuel to the fire, but merely to point out a few recent articles that may – or may not – shed light on the credentialing trend.

Demand for CPAs is climbing
Demand for CPAs is climbing

According to an education organization, CPAs are in demand. In fact, the demand is actually on the rise. If more companies are hiring more CPAs on their finance teams and there is a succession plan in place, the pool is ripe for grooming those CPAs for future CFO roles. And, internal hires ARE on the rise.

A recent article in the Vancouver Sun said this …

CFOs often have access to the largest amount of information about the inner workings of a corporation. They are responsible for both budgeting and regulatory matters related to company finances; they are also under ever-increasing scrutiny due to tighter regulations and greater focus on good governance.

Maybe it’s just my small mind, but with the ongoing, and always increasing, strangulation coming out of government, it just seems to me that companies will continue to view CPA CFOs as a necessity.

While the CFO skill set is broadening, particularly from a strategy perspective, this rather interesting article was posted on today … “Why Strategy Plays Second Fiddle For Finance Chiefs.”  Perhaps this excerpt sums it up the best: “It’s [the CFO role] a unique dilemma.”

While I personally believe the CPA CFOs are still top-targeted talent, it’s a bigger issue for the candidate. It’s about being the right CFO in the right company doing the right things that fit with your skills sets, passions, and interests while adding value to the organization … irrespective of the credential.

I’m presenting the pre-conference forum at the CFO Corporate Finance Excellence Conference in Dallas this weekend. If you are one of my readers and you will be at the conference, please track me down and say hello!