To CPA … or Not?

It’s tough love time. 

A coaching session with one of my clients around what skill sets he might need as he moves towards his dream of being a CFO got me thinking about the old “to CPA or not” dilemma some Chief Financial Officers (and wannabes) face.  Some companies require it; some companies prefer it; and other companies don’t care. If a company falls into the first category, it’s unlikely a candidate addressing the unfairness of that requirement will change anyone’s mind. 

Here’s the thing. It’s not about you.

If you’re car shopping and what you really want is a sleek Jaguar with all the bells and whistles (my personal dream); but the car salesman says, you know, what I think would work better for you is this model right out of the Flintstones era complete with manual steering and running shoes to protect your feet … would you buy? I’m guessing the answer is no. 

Now I’m not at all implying there is that big of a gap between a CPA and a non-CPA … and no offense is intended. I’m exaggerating to make this point. You know what you want and it’s unlikely you’re going to plop your bag of money down to buy what the salesman wants to sell you rather than what you want to buy.

That means, you have two viable options …

–Get a CPA. An operational CFO with both a CPA and an MBA is a very high-value target. If you’re goal is to play in the public company space, it might make sense to get the credential.

–Get visible to your target market. If you don’t have a CPA and have no desire to get one, that’s fine. There are still plenty of opportunities available to you, too. And to the right audience, you are still a high-value target. Stop spending time targeting companies who require a CPA and get focused on who needs what you have and is willing to plop down a bag of cash to get it.

While complaining about the unfairness of the requirement is certainly an option, it’s unlikely to change anything. A much better strategy is to play from your strengths to the right audience.

Operational CFOs

For the past couple of years, I’ve suggested that CFOs with a proven track record and deep understanding of operations would be the most in demand and valuable CFO candidates of the future. Is the current financial crisis driving that train … even faster? If so, it is potentially great news for strategic CFOs with a solid business understanding of how operational functions interplay with the numbers. It is also potentially devastating for CFOs who have positioned themselves as primarily numbers guys.

A snippet from a recent article at, “Future Tense” …

Some finance departments are beginning to incorporate methods such as scenario modeling, sensitivity analysis, and contingency planning to help CFOs think through a wide-ranging set of potential situations, thus avoiding a monocular view of what's ahead. They are refreshing forecasts more frequently, homing in on a handful of measures that have a financial effect on the company (so-called driver-based forecasting), and doing more to provide synchronous information flow between finance and operations.

Today might be a great day to have lunch with the COO!