In Demand CFOs

An opinion post appearing in the North Bay Business Journal certainly seems to be spot on in identifying the traits of an accomplished CFO. I’ll add my thoughts on two things that I believe are critically important.

<<As the role of the chief financial officer continues to evolve, the most effective CFOs are those who continue to add value beyond the traditional finance function and help deliver strong business results.>>

I doubt this is a surprise to any CFO. After all, today’s CFO has really morphed into a CFOO (Chief Financial Operations Officer) and in some instances, more of a CEO (Chief Everything Officer).

To be a competitive candidate for a finance leader position, the CFO or aspiring CFO must move outside the finance bubble.

Adding value matters. So does being able to effectively communicate how you add value that translates to tangible business impacts. Which leads me to the second point …

<<Other traits of an effective CFO include strong communication skills and the ability to listen attentively.>>

Soft skills are integral to the top-notch CFO. All the finance expertise in the world won’t matter if you cannot communicate with the Board, investors, the rest of the C-suite, clients or customers, bankers, your finance team, and intra-departmental teams as well as build trusted relationships with them in order to achieve corporate objectives.

I wrote this article in March, saying …

Companies understand brilliant Chief Finance Officers bring financial acumen and skills to the table. They also recognize that while industry knowledge can be taught and gained; teaching communication, relationship management, team building, and leadership is a much more difficult, and maybe even impossible, endeavor. 

I believe my comment is still very true today and will be true for the foreseeable future!

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, Credentialed Career Master, 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

Growth Strategies … Business & Career

Sometimes the whole “managing a career” process just seems confusing, baffling, and maybe even unnecessary to CFOs. Today, more than ever, it is definitely necessary, and it does not need to be confusing or baffling. 

Run your career like you run your business. I’ve said that for years, but thanks to “Ready, Set, Grow” in CFO Magazine, let’s frame it in business terms to turn the fog into a crystal-clear 35,000-foot view. Quotes from the article are in italics, followed by my commentary. 

… How can you help them make money or save money?

This is key to your value proposition. Finance skills aside, the bottom line is really … how can make or save a company more than it will cost them to bring you on board? It’s not about responsibilities, credentials, or even education. 

… Focus on “developing products tailored to the specific needs of individual developing markets… Don't provide an American or a German solution to India; they need an Indian solution.”

The latter sentence is, in career terms, what I call the “spaghetti strategy.” Throwing your resume into any black hole and hoping and wishing for a response. Niched positioning to a targeted audience is a much more effective career management and job search strategy. 

You don’t have to be all things to all people … you have to be the right person for the right company.

"Good growth companies," says the Darden School's Hess, "tend to make acquisitions that are small and very strategic …

In proactively managing your career, you aren’t forced to do everything as soon as possible … as opposed to an active job seeker. It’s much easier and much more effective to execute a plan that is strategic and consistent.

… investing in areas that make sense for us, particularly in innovation.

Innovation! Web 2.0 technology. Online visibility. Reputation management. How can you leverage all the great new technology to stand out from other Chief Financial Officers rather than blending in with them?

Having your name on Linked In isn’t the same as having a branded, completed profile. Having a presence on Linked In isn’t the same as “networking” with people who need to know about you. 

Innovation means you already have an online reputation. The question is, will you control the message or be forced to respond to the message?

"The world has got more opportunities than issues right now. We need to make sure our organization looks at the opportunities and doesn't complain about the issues …"

Issues, from a career perspective, involve relying on posted positions. Too few postings for far too many candidates. It’s a frustrating and unfair screen out process. It’s also easy.

Opportunities abound through your online and offline networks and all the great technology available today. However, it’s not easy. So the earlier you get started, the easier a future career transition will be.

And, finally, this from one of my favorite authors/bloggers, Seth Godin

If you only pay attention to the world when you need a new job (your channel is stamps and your message is your resume) you'll spend your day differently than if you are leading a tribe, participating in organizations or giving local speeches all the time.

It’s time to give serious consideration to running your career like you run your business … today, finishing last isn’t a viable option.

Job Search, Advertising, & Personal Branding

Do you record live TV so you can fast-forward through commercials? Or, if you are watching live TV, do you hit the mute button or head to the refrigerator during commercials? 

Conversely, do you seek out blog posts, articles, magazines, web sites, and even products that appeal to your personal / professional interests? 

The former is advertising and it can be intrusive, interruptive, and even annoying. The latter is inbound marketing and it gives the consumer the freedom to choose.

This analogy applies to managing your career. As an active job seeker, you may be intruding, interrupting, and perhaps even annoying prospects. You are, in effect, advertising your wares to potential buyers, who may or may not be buying.

On the other hand, personal branding is about inbound marketing. Pulling the right people to you in their time and on their terms and when they are ready to buy.

“While advertising may be the flashy cog that looks good in media forms, what does it all mean? Your company [or you as a candidate] is much more than a singing fish, talking baby or another gimmick. Sure you can name what companies are associated with the previously mentioned gimmicks. The question is, do you know what these brands really stand for? Advertising can’t answer that question—only good brand building can ….” (Source: PRBreakfastClub)

I spoke with a wannabe CFO recently. There is no question that he is extremely talented. However, he isn’t a sitting Chief Financial Officer nor does he have the coveted CFO title in his background. He can definitely get in the game, but it has proved difficult for him to compete when it comes down to securing one of the top 3 slots and winning the position. 

This is where personal branding can actually give him the edge … even against candidates who are or have been CFOs. Why? Because hiring for culture fit is the most challenging thing for companies. Finance skill sets and perhaps credentials get candidates to the interview. All those being equal, likability and culture fit then become the defining points. A strong personal brand, “what you are known for,” already precedes you to the interview and can make the difference between blending in or getting lost in the competition … or standing far in front of the competition.

Top Finance Concerns

The CFO Rising conference yesterday morning was right up my alley with sessions on Creating Alignment in the C-Suite, A New Dynamic in the Boardroom, and … particularly … Finance Skills for a New Decade. My next few blog posts will talk about what I heard, but I’ll start with some interesting stats that opened the morning.

The CFOs in attendance were polled around critical issues they are facing, and here are some of the results …

–89% felt the worst was over but do not anticipate a turn around anytime soon

–Only 4% felt growth was likely to happen in the next several months

–70% were concerned and VERY concerned (35%) around the cost effectiveness of proposed government regulations

–When asked about the proposed health care legislation, 69% were very concerned about the tax impacts and 62% were very concerned about the quality of care

Conversely, the attendees felt there was some good that came out of the economic downturn … it has forced finance to go back to basics.

–32% said they now had a core business focus

–25% were focused on increasing productivity

–3 out of 4 indicated they would be preserving cash as a hedge against economic uncertainty

–77% indicated their focus would be on organic growth … which means …

–Only 10% indicated M&A was a core business focus