Historically, there’s been a misconception between what a CFO is and what the CEO wants their CFO to be. So to gain clarity, our team interviewed several Houston-area CEOs of entrepreneurial companies to find out what they look for in a CFO. Here are their top 5 responses:
What a CEO Wants From Their CFO
1. I want a CFO who understands my business.
CEOs want to know that their CFO truly understands all of the aspects of the business. Most CEOs don’t come from a financial background. As a result, they get excited when they see their CFO get out from behind their desk and walk through the warehouse and sales floor.
2. I want a CFO who will generate ideas to improve the business.
It can be lonely at the top. CEOs are constantly looking for new ways to grow the business profitably. Almost all of them welcome input from their trusted advisors. The CFO often sees things in the details that the CEO can’t see from 30,000 feet. Unfortunately, they are not always quick to communicate new ideas. The CEO looks to the CFO not only to be a sounding board for new ideas, but to bring a fresh perspective to the table.
3. I want a CFO who will present and sell the company’s financial picture to others.
Again, many CEOs come from a background other than finance. They may be great at sales or developing new products, but they look to their CFO to be the financial face of the company. It’s important to them that they can trust their CFO to credibly represent the company’s financial position to others both inside and outside of the company.
4. I want a CFO who will complement me.
A business is like a three legged-stool balanced on the legs of Sales, Operations, and Finance. All three legs are necessary and essential for the company to stand. It’s not important that the CFO be a carbon-copy of the CEO for the company to succeed. On the contrary, it’s key that the strengths of the CFO complement what the CEO brings to the table in order to ensure a balanced company.
5. I want a CFO who will “peek around corners”.
CEOs are great visionaries, but caution is often not a word in their vocabulary. They want to grow 300% and they want it to happen yesterday. They rely on their CFO to not only model and help develop their new ideas, but to see what monsters lurk in the corners. However, while helping the CEO to assess the possible pitfalls of new ventures, the CFO must be careful not to become the CFnO.
If you want coaching to become the CFO your CEO truly desires, consider coming to our Financial Leadership Workshop to learn about The Art of the CFO.