Be a Problem Solver

I follow the Recruiter Uncensored blog, and a recent post “Pay Attention to Bad Press,”  although targeted to recruiters, contains valuable information for job search candidates.

Companies are hiring CFOs and other senior executives to solve problems … not because they are trying to fill an empty corner office with a lovely view and a name plate on the door. Companies with problems who find themselves the recipient of some bad press … may be perfect targets for you … if you bring evidence that you know how to take away their pain. 

Value is in the eyes of the beholder. Offering a marketable value proposition proving you can take away pain while delivering quantifiable impacts, make you quite valuable. 

CFO: Master of Measurement

Another CFO blogger I follow, (they’ve been busy this week) writes at CorpFinCafe. Over the past few weeks, Jeff has been writing about Jeremy Hope’s book, “Reinventing the CFO.” This week, he covered the “CFO as Master of Measurement.” 

Many of these same principles that you, as the senior finance leader in your organization, implement and measure in running your company can … and should … be adapted to your marketable value proposition (MVP) and marketing collateral. Jeff cites these (from the book) as examples of fulfilling the Master of Measurement role:

–Measure to learn and improve

–Choose the right measures

–See measurement as patterns, trends, and abnormalities

–Provide external reality checks

–Use a range of measures to inform a dialogue about management performance

From a marketing perspective, there is little, if any, value in contributions that can’t be measured. Reducing costs, driving profitability, strengthening financial operations, reducing risk, enhancing shareholder value, turning around a failing organization … these are vague generalities. How many finance executives do you know who aren’t using at least some of those terms? 

Those words, without quantification, delegate candidates to commodity status … one of many who all say the same thing, sound like, and therefore look alike. What will differentiate you and propel you to the front of the pack are two things. Why you did what you did and what the measurable and/or long–term impact was as a result.

What is Different About These CFOs?

Tough economy these days. Why is it my clients keep calling me bursting with good news? Lucky? Maybe.  They are talented and savvy … that’s a given. Something, however, is very different.

One client called to tell me that within a week of setting up his Linked In profile with the documents we created together and following our coaching/strategizing session, he was already one of the top 3 candidates for a CXO position that perfectly matched his expertise, experience, and niche. In fact, the Founder of the company and the recruiter both thought he had tailored his profile and resume to the position.

He had not. What he did do, though, was drill down into his branded marketable value proposition (MVP), and then clearly convey that MVP across all of his marketing collateral to the exact target market who would need what he brings to the table.

When you understand what you have that a company is willing to pay for, and then get your message in front of them … the result is often more perfect matches. Sweet!

Then yesterday I received a message from another client. Less than four weeks after creating his branded digital footprint, he received his first, unsolicited, inquiry.

Neither of these clients is in active job search mode. Rather, they recognized the instability of the current job market and decided to proactively begin positioning themselves for that next opportunity. As passive (employed but open to hearing about new opportunities), they have very strong appeal and the ability to say “no thanks, but keep me in mind for future opportunities.” What a luxury.

The job market is tough today. Competition is stiff. There are too many candidates vying for every position … the last number I heard was four candidates for every available position. However, judging from the turnover rate of CFOs, there is still high demand for top talent. When you are clear about the value you bring to a prospective company and then put that compelling message out to your target market, you ramp up your success rate … often times much more quickly.

What Difference Does 3% Make?

According to Peter Weddle, keynote speaker at the CMA annual conference last month, quite a bit. Robyn Greenspan, Editor-in-Chief at ExecuNet, offers this quote from Weddle in its most recent newsletter … 

While 2001 sparked a jobless recovery, the current recession is actually eliminating jobs. Where there were once 1.7 job seekers for every open position, now four candidates compete for the same role.

The advantage for job seekers lies in the 3% separating them from everyone else. Weddle asserts that we are all just 3% different from each other, and those who identify, strengthen and express that small portion can become the A-players who are in demand in any economy. "Find the 3% that makes you special, your best self.”

It may not be easy to find that 3% difference, but it is well worth the effort to do so. Unless and until you identify and clearly convey your branded marketable value proposition (MVP), you are playing in the very crowded field of commodity.

Raise EBITDA … Raise Salary

There is a must-read article on regarding a recent survey done by FEI on finance executive salary.

It is important for CFOs and future CFOs to recognize how their performance will be measured as it relates to salary; and then, have a clear and compelling marketable value proposition (MVP) around those contributions. 

Would you rather be in the group of finance executives whose salaries remain flat … or, the group who wins both a raise and a bonus?

If it is the latter, what do you need to be doing TODAY to ensure you are well-positioned for that outcome?

Why Employees Are Like Napkins

In a recent article entitled “Why Employees Are Like Napkins,” Jeff Higgins, Executive Vice President of Client Services, North America for Infohrm, and former CFO of Klune Industries, responds to a question about layoffs with this comment:

Employees are usually seen as period expenses. They're the same as a napkin. They're less than a chair, because if you bought a bunch of chairs, they are capital equipment. Computers rate far higher than people in accounting systems.


Are you a napkin? Disposable and easily replaced? You might be if you don’t have a branded and compelling marketable value proposition, a clear message, and visibility among your target market. Without these things, sadly, you may just be a commodity, one of many. Much like a paper napkin in the napkin holders at a fast food restaurant. As soon as you use up one, you toss it in the trash and grab another one. 

It’s not easy to move beyond napkin positioning, but career longevity depends on it. Especially today.

How Long Will Your Job Search Take?

Well, that depends! The average time according to Mary Ann Milbourn in a recent OC Register post, even in this crazy economy, is about four months. My sense is that it can take much, much longer. However, a branded marketable value proposition (MVP) and a solid search strategy (whether or not you are currently unemployed) can significantly shorten your search time. 

Google Alerts keep me informed of news on CFOs, Chief Financial Officers, and Financial Executives every day, and I can tell you that there are folks leaving and folks being hired. The need is still there!

John Challenger of Challenger, Gray, and Christmas is quoted in Milbourn's post, "Job hunt may not take as long as you think," as saying, “Those who merely sit on the Internet all day, surfing job boards, are missing 80% of the job openings.” 

If that is your primary search strategy, you could be sitting for quite a long time. 

What is Your Soundtrack Playing?

It is hard for many people right now. All the gloom and doom coming from the news media 24/7 is taking a bad situation and making it exponentially worse!

Life is about choices. You can choose to obsess about things over which you have no control, like how awful the financial markets are right now; or you can choose to focus on those things which you can control, like managing your career.  Unless you are successfully self–employed, everyone is either in a job search or between searches. What you do and how you do it will be the difference between finding yourself regularly in an active search – or – enjoying the luxury of constantly being between searches.

If the soundtrack playing in your head has been negative: “I desperately need a job” or “I don’t have a job” or “I’ll never find a job” or even untrue: “I have a job so I’m safe,” maybe it’s time for a new soundtrack and a fresh perspective.

The old soundtrack would tell you to spend the majority of your time perusing posted positions on the job boards. The new soundtrack will tell you to focus on networking … meeting people who need to know about you and can introduce you to people who can help you.

The old soundtrack will tell you that your resume is not the problem even though you aren’t getting the kinds of results you want and deserve. The new soundtrack will tell you that understanding and articulating your marketable value proposition will make you a more compelling and competitive candidate.

The old soundtrack would tell you to shotgun your resume to everyone for every thing. The new soundtrack will tell you to focus your efforts on a smaller, more targeted market.

The old soundtrack would tell you to rest on your laurels after all, you’ve landed and this new job isn’t going anywhere soon. The new soundtrack will tell you to work diligently on building an online visible presence so you can choose when you leave and where you go.

If you wake up today planning to do the same things you did yesterday while expecting different results, perhaps it really is time to adopt a different perspective and play a new soundtrack in order to actually get better results. 


Back in March of 2007, I authored an article on CFO career trends. Here’s an exerpt:

CPA CFOs are the candidates of the future. A CPA CFO with operational experience will offer a compelling value proposition.

The catalyst for “Who Needs a COO,” in was Starbuck’s elimination of the COO role and the filling of that role by the CFO. And, according to this article, other companies are following suit as CFOs with technical qualifications, absent from most COO backgrounds, are challenged to partner with the CEO in driving profitability.

I’m updating my previous statement … CPA/CFOs with a solid record of operational contributions offer a compelling value proposition.


Dr. Sullivan calls it “Speed Interviewing,” based on the speed dating concept, but whatever it’s called, from a candidate's perspective it is the skill of stripping down a marketable value proposition to its most succinct and compelling delivery.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink talks about the concept of “thin slicing,” taking an activity and breaking it down into micro segments.

I alluded to this concept in a former post on Twit Pitches. The Internet is changing the way we communicate … and that includes the way you will need to sell yourself to a target audience. If you really only had about 20 words to deliver your value prop, what would you say?

Dr. Sullivan’s article is certainly an interesting, and perhaps scary, read.