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.

C-Tweeting for CFOs

I love the micro-blogging platform of Twitter.  While my CFOs have been slow to adopt this technology, those of you who do will be seen as much more cutting-edge. Whether your tweets are external with other thought leaders, customers or clients, suppliers, and competitors or internal with senior staff and employees, being an early adopter can differentiate and distinguish you from the competition. 

Because of my strong opinions about the benefits of Twitter, the topic was included in my keynote presentation at Prophix. Here’s an excerpt:

But seriously, even in a small company, executives can be cut off from their most important constituencies, such as employees and customers. Corporate leaders can use Web 2.0 tools, like Twitter, not only to communicate but also to learn from employees, suppliers, customers, competitors, and the public. Many corporations spend large sums to determine how they are viewed. Plugging into the blogosphere or listening to feedback on Twitter … offers a more effective and cost-efficient customer relationship management strategy.

And upon my return, I stumbled across this great article from a CEO who tweets. Read it, and then get active in the twit-o-sphere!