Tag Archives | leader

Adding Value as a Financial Leader

Adding Value as a Financial LeaderThe role of the CFO or financial leader of an organization used to be termed as a “numbers cruncher”. For many reasons, The Strategic CFO has been working tirelessly to coach, consult, and mentor CFOs, Controllers, and others in the finance and accounting function to go from being a number crunchers to a value-adding financial leader. In addition, the role has naturally evolved to go beyond finance. McKinsey reports that 41% of the CFO’s role isn’t even in finance and accounting. As a result, adding value as a financial leader has dramatically changed.

Adding value as a financial leader goes beyond accounting and finance. The CEO needs a wingman – someone to guide them, provide strategy, and back up with a financial plan. To learn how to be a wingman, click here to access our How to be a Wingman guide.

Adding Value as a Financial Leader

We define “value”, in regards to adding value as a financial leader. But, how does one add value? They are a steward of both financial and non-financial performance. They are also responsible for partnering with other business, supporting business strategy, and sustaining value-adding strategies. In other words, adding value as a financial leader simply means supporting the organization (specifically the CEO) to do what they do best – cast the vision for the company.

Value-Adding Financial Function

In order for the finance function to be value-adding, the function (AKA the CFO) needs to have buy-in from the organization’s leadership. This buy-in allows that financial leader to oversee HR, IT, tax, finance and accounting. The finance and accounting function must support these departments or areas of business in order for it to be value-adding.

If the CFO of an organization is what we call a CFnO, then nothing will ever get done and no value will come out of that role. However, if the CFO provides data and analysis to allow the CEO to take a calculated risk, then that role will be value-adding

The Changing Role of the CFO

With technology advancements, more regulations, and additional complexity, the role of a CFO is completely different from 20 years ago… Even 5 years ago.

How Does a CFO Add Value?

Adding Value as a Financial LeaderThe three legs of an organization include sales, operations, and accounting. If one of those legs is falling short or is more successful than the other leg, then the stool risks tipping over. How does a CFO add value? A CFO adds value by understanding on each of those legs equally.

A financial leader or wingman needs to go beyond the accounting and finance function. To learn how to be a wingman, download our How to be a Wingman guide.
  A good CFO truly understands the operations side of the business.

Convert Accounting From a Cost Center to a Profit Center

Accounting is often seen as a cost center. That’s not a new thought or revelation. But the accounting department has the opportunity to convert itself from a cost center to a profit center under the direction of the right financial leader. How do you make this change? You focus on your margins, working capital and cash flow. As an accounting department, you do not have the ability to make sales. However, you do have the ability to identify waste, or better ways of buying insurance, or signing leases, reduce overhead, increase profit margins, and work to bring more down to the bottom line. In a McKinsey Special Collection, they outline that,

Valuing such initiatives often requires nuanced thinking. Although some transformations include radical changes, most create significant improvements on the margin of existing operations. That requires an understanding of the organization’s marginal economics—that is, the costs and benefits of producing one additional unit of product or service. When managers have a clear understanding of the marginal value of improving each of the activities that contribute to performance, they have the potential to redirect an entire transformation.

Streamlining Operations

Look at efficiencies in the operation. Understand the measure of throughput if you manufacture something, look at labor hours and efficiency if you provide services. Your monthly dashboards as CFO should include accounting and financial measures, but also operations metrics.

Customer Service

Working to respond to customers quicker and with more satisfactory answers should be a priority of the company. One indicator that I manage in my business is customer turnover. It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new customer. Therefore, streamline your customer service processes. This can include getting more responsive tracking software, hiring better or more representatives, training every employee to respond to customers.

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

It is common to have a collections department if you are a larger organization. But if you are smaller the collections effort often lies with the sales people who have the relationship with the customer, and sometimes the collections effort is done by someone in accounting.  It really should be the person with the client relationship.  Either way, make sure someone is following up with collections.  You would be surprised how many times I have walked into a business and one side of the business thinks the other is following up on collections, when in reality no one is.

Want to get more tools that can help you become more profitable, streamline operations, and collect A/R quicker? You can access that and so much more in the SCFO Lab. Click here to learn more. 

Be the trusted advisor your CEO needs and access the How to be a Wingman guide.

Adding Value as a Financial Leader

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What It Takes To Be A Successful Leader

What It Takes To Be A Successful LeaderNo matter the engagement, having leadership involved in our work is vital. Over the years, some very talented people have defined leadership. Great authors and business coaches have also defined leadership. I did a quick Google search on the definition of “leadership” and here is what I found:

the action of leading a group of people or an organization
“different styles of leadership”
Synonyms: guidance, direction, control, management, superintendence, supervision; organization, government
“firm leadership”

the state or position of being a leader
“the leadership of the party”
Synonyms: directorship, governorship, governance, administration, captaincy, control, ascendancy, supremacy, rule, command, power, dominion, influence
“the leadership of the Coalition”

Talented Leadership is critical for a company to succeed, because without it, there is chaos, mismanagement, and no direction. I have also read some good books that discuss or mention leadership. One of my favorites is “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.

Now, I have my own life experiences that have helped me define my version of leadership. I can share with you what has worked and what has not worked in the last 28 years of my career. I can also tell you about the different leaders I have dealt with in many organizations – both huge publicly traded multi-national companies and small private companies. What is interesting is that the leadership roles that worked in huge companies and small companies share the same characteristics.  This has helped me define what it takes to be a successful leader.

Failed Leadership

What is clear is that there are things that do not work and destroy leadership. Leading out of fear surely does not work. In addition, leading with threats does not work. A leader that does not communicate is sure to fail. I have seen my share of failed leadership and leaders that were failures. It is amazing how these individuals made it to the top of these organizations. They usually operated by:

  • Threatening those below
  • Operating with a big stick
  • Greed: Looking out only for personal gain
  • Horrible communicators
  • Did not trust many, or anyone at all
  • Short term thinkers
  • Created silos in the organization
  • Had favorites that they worked with
  • Felt empowered by the title they carried

The above characteristics simply do not work.  The failed leaders that I have dealt with have many of the above characteristics or behaviors.

Want to add value to your company as the financial leader? Click here to access our 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

What A True Leader Wants 

A true leader wants to know that he has a strong team behind him. A leader wants to know that there is no doubt that those that follow him will follow him over a cliff. In addition, a leader wants his team to trust their judgment, but at the same time, his team has enough confidence to respectfully challenge an idea or concept if they truly believe it is flawed. A leader also wants his team to have excellent communication both up and down the chain of command. A leader also must have a right hand person. This is someone who is talented and can step in just in case something happens to the leader. A leader wants to be successful because that is his nature, but he also knows he cannot do it alone.

What It Takes To Be A Successful Leader

Over my lifetime, I have seen several successful leaders in the business world.  Here are a couple examples that stand out.

Example 1

Paul was the owner of a large equipment distributor here in Texas. I met this business owner because we used some of his construction equipment. I got to meet several people that worked for him. The business owner and CEO grew his company from a small $2 million company to a business that was well over $100 million in revenue. He went from less than 10 employee to close to 200. His employees loved him, and he had a well run business that was very successful. I watched him, and I made a mental note of what made this leader different from other executives I encountered.

Paul’s Leadership Characteristics

These are some of Paul’s characteristics as a leader:

  • Compassionate: He had a big heart, but he knew exactly when someone was trying to take advantage of that
  • Accountable: He held his employees accountable
  • He hired very talented people, paid above market and delegated
  • He had his employees help him set the goals and got them to buy in to them
  • Caring: Different from compassionate… He truly cared about his employees, from the receptionist to the CFO and COO
  • Disciplined: Early riser, stuck to his business plan, had good social habits, never broke rules
  • Excellent communicator
  • Zero tolerance for unethical behavior
  • Humble: Although he was personally worth millions, he never forgot where he came from and he treated everyone with equal respect.
  • His goal was not to fill his own pocket with cash, but to share with others and allow the team as a whole to benefit from success
  • He knew what he did not know; this led his to have the right strategic advisors and executives; he trusted his executives
  • He never uses the words, “my” and “me;” instead, he uses “us” and “our”
  • Transparent: If it is good news or bad news, then you will hear it… No hidden agendas

Example 2

Hugo was a leader from early in his career.  After working for a travel company in his early years, his entrepreneurship led him to start his business on his own. He started in travel, then expanded and ultimately had a very successful construction company. In the later years of his life, you would never know that Hugo was worth millions. He was humble, but he knew how to build teams.  He led by example, and was often found literally getting his hands dirty in a construction business.  Hugo loved success, and he enjoyed a nice lifestyle. But he never forgot his roots.

Hugo’s Leadership Characteristics

He had the following leadership characteristics:

  • Humility
  • Discipline: He was as straight as an arrow and all those around him were also
  • Compassionate: He literally spent much of his wealth helping needy children
  • He was an incredible communicator
  • Zero tolerance for unethical behavior
  • Accountability: He made sure his employees knew where they stood at the end of every month
  • He never uses the words, “my” and “me”… He frequently uses the words “us” and “ours”

You will note several characteristics that the two aforementioned leaders had in common.

Example 3

Now, it is my turn. I am leading a consulting firm with talented people. I know I cannot grow this firm alone, and I need great people to do it. But I also know nothing is done with short-term thinking. The work we do for our clients are always keeping in mind the best interest of the client and the long term relationship. If there is ever any doubt about billable hours, then the client is not getting those hours billed. I must never forget where I came from and where I was just a few years ago. In our firm, we are all very transparent. We speak our mind, but we have professional respect to each other. Communication is the key-stone in our firm. We are treated equally no matter what the title. Our success will be shared with all employees; this is not my firm, it is our firm.

My Definition of Leadership

So how do I define leadership? It is the action of leading a team of individuals that you relay on, that you trust and respect. The team you lead believes in you because you have always been ethical in business and socially. It is a team that you have open communication with and that you never feel you are above. The team you lead believes in you so much they will follow you off of a ledge. That is leadership. If you want to learn how to be a more effective financial leader, click here to access the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs whitepaper.

what it takes to be a successful leader
what it takes to be a successful leader

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Spot a Zombie Company

Last week, I talked with several lenders, investors, and entrepreneurs. One of the topics that kept coming up was their client’s problems wasn’t cash – even though their clients tried to convince them of it. While cash was an issue that needed to be addressed, the problem instead lies in the leadership. A few weeks ago, we discussed how zombie employees are destroying your company. But those zombie employees have developed a zombie culture! Here’s how to spot a zombie company and identify if you are one of them.

spot a zombie companyHow to Spot a Zombie Company

In any type of therapy group, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Identification is crucial if you want to change. Therefore, we are walking through how to spot a zombie company. As it is so prevalent in our business society, it’s becoming more and more difficult to disguise.

Stay ahead of the curve and download our 3 Most Powerful Tools for free! Don’t sit back and watch your company spiral into a zombie company

#1 Status… And You Know It

Have you ever seen a company that boast it’s #1 and everyone around knows it? These companies get to the top, become prideful, and then eventually, they are overrun by zombie employees. If every single person in your company says the exact same thing, then you’re in big trouble. In order to be successful, you need people to go against the grain. That’s how innovation happens.

Enron, for example, was Fortune Magazine’s “America’s Most Innovative Company.” But nearing the collapse of their empire, innovation came to a halt as the executives became more greedy and created a culture of secrecy. They knew they were #1. So, the executives challenged anyone trying to innovate or make changes to the company. Both employers and employees lost sight of the mission and vision of their company. As a result, both parties caused (or would have caused) the death of the company.

“Do you know what it takes to make an ethical decision in the face of a group of people who are willing to go the other direction? It’s one of the most single vulnerable acts of our lives.” – Brené Brown

spot a zombie company

Happy Go Lucky

Happy go lucky is a term that means that people are cheerfully willing to have no concern for the future. Many can easily identify the difference between authentic happiness and fabricated happiness. The later wreaks of inauthenticity and feels gross. When a company culture is always happy, it may be an indicator that it’s a zombie company. In this case, you may find that both employees and employers are:

  • Ignorant of anything bad going on
  • Blindly doing their jobs
  • Hiding something from others
  • Shutting down any negative statement or critique
  • Saying positive things all the time

There’s a huge difference between a company that everyone loves working for and a company where everyone is happy. You cannot expect your employees to be happy every single day. Life happens. So if it seems like life isn’t happening at a company, then it could mean bad news.

They Don’t Change

Zombie companies simply don’t change or allow for change to happen. Because they are so laser-focused on their vision and mission, they neglect the changing world around them. Technology is changed every single day. What worked a month ago may not work today. Remember Borders? It was a popular bookstore. But while Barnes & Noble and Amazon were taking advantage of new technology (Nook, Kindle, etc.) and building an e-commerce platform, Borders did not at first. By the time they did start to change, it was already too late. While there were many other financial issues that needed to be addressed in Borders for it to survive, the key is that zombie companies don’t want to change.

Look around in your community. It’s relatively easy to spot a zombie company as the demand for change is becoming increasingly prevalent. Many leaders get overwhelmed by change, so they simply stop changing. But they are also killing their company. As the financial leader of your company, you must be willing to allow change and create change in your company.

spot a zombie company

They Know Everything

Zombie companies are comprised of “know-it-alls.” Whether it be the employers or the employees, they think they have everything under control, know everything, and don’t want to learn. What do your customers want? If the response is “we know everything already”, start running. Truth is… You don’t know your customers. They are changing every single day. Like I said before, technology is changing constantly. As a result, your customers are too. Businesses aren’t in business without your customers. So you need to be talking with your customers daily.

A couple years ago, news spread eventually but it took time to spread. Now, news spreads like wildfire and at times, it can be very overwhelming. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, online news sources (NY Times, Wall Street Journal, etc.) force feed you content every second of the day. While you may know a lot of things, you don’t know everything. But zombie company’s think they know everything. And that’s a problem.

Challenge each of your team members to question everything you do and why you do it. Call up your customers. Learn how to improve productivity or improve cash flow. Innovate you finance, operations, and sales departments.

Is Your Company a Zombie Company?

The biggest question of the hour… Is your company a zombie company? Have we described you in the above paragraphs? We have good news… You have identified that you have a problem. And there’s a solution to reverse the effects of being overwhelmed by zombies.

Be a Financial Leader

The best way is to be an effective financial leader. At The Strategic CFO, we pride ourselves in developing financial leadership in our clients as we consult with them and coach them. Like we said before, some companies think they have a cash problem or inventory problem or economic problem… But in reality, it starts with the leadership. A fish rots from the head down, so therefore, you as the financial leader need to be a more effective leader, improve profitability, and improve cash flow.

Improve Profitability

You have set your prices, have your costs, and out comes profit. But to not slip back into old habits, you need to think of profitability improvement strategies. Click here to access one of our 3 Best Tools includes our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide. Improve profitability by shaping your prices (and economics) to result in profits.

Improve Cash Flow

We say it frequently because it’s true… Cash is king. As a leader, you need to have your finger on cash at all times. The worst thing (and unfortunately, a common issue) is that the executive team expects cash to be there because they made their sales mark. But if someone is not watching it, it could end badly. Click here to download our 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow whitepaper, along with our other 2 most powerful tools, to learn about cash flow improvement strategies.

Be a More Effective Leader

Zombie companies lack effective leadership. You can create success through financial leadership. That’s what we as a company lives and breathes everyday. Be a more effective leader and access our 3 best tools to start growing your company.

spot a zombie company

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The Role of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

See Also:
How Does a CFO Bring Value to a Company?
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Controller vs CFO
Adding Value as a Financial Leader
Role of a Company Back Office

The Role of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

The role of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) has been changing over the past twenty years. Originally, the role of the CFO revolved around producing and analyzing the financial statements. However, because of the computerization of the accounting function the need for accounting skills in performing the roles and responsibilities of a CFO diminished. Though the job description of a CFO (Chief Financial Officer) remains broad the tasks comprising that function fall into four distinct roles.

The Strategist CFO

The first role of the CFO is to be a strategist to the CEO. The traditional definition of success for a chief financial officer was reporting the numbers, managing the financial function, and being reactive to events as they unfold. But in today’s fast paced business environment, producing financial reports and information is no longer enough.

CFO’s in the twenty-first century must be able to “peak around corners”. Therefore, they must be able to apply critical thinking skills, along with financial acumen, to the long term goals of the organization.

The CFO as a Leader

The second role of the CFO hand in hand with the first one. That is one of a leader implementing the strategies of the company. As a result, it is no longer sufficient for a CFO to sit back and analyze the effort of others. The chief financial officer (CFO) of today must take ownership of the financial results of both the organization and senior management team.

The chief financial officer of today must be responsible for providing leadership to other senior management team members, including the CEO. The CFO’s role can sometimes force them to make the tough calls that others in the organization don’t or can’t make. Occasionally, this can mean the difference between success and failure.

The CFO as a Team Leader

The third role of the CFO is that of a team leader to other employees – both inside and outside of the financial function. Not only will a coach call plays for a team, but they are also responsible for getting the highest results out of the talent on their team.

An aspiring and successful coach will produce superior results by finding the strengths of their team members and obtaining a higher level of performance than the individuals might achieve on their own. The role of the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is to bring together a diverse group of talented individuals to achieve superior financial performance.

The CFO with Third Parties

Last, but not least, the role of the CFO is that of a diplomat to third parties. People outside of the company look to senior management team for inspiration and confidence in the company’s ability to perform. In almost every case the financial viability of the company is vouched for by the CFO.

The CFO’s role becomes that of the “face” of the company’s sustainability to customers, vendors and bankers. Often these third parties look to the CFO for the unvarnished truth regarding the financial viability of the company to deliver on it’s brand promise.

Today’s Role of the CFO

In today’s fast paced environment the role of the CFO is extremely fluid. One day the CFO might be developing a compensation plan for employees. Then the next day taking their bankers on a tour of the facilities. Consequently, to be a successful CFO in the future you must be a more multi-functional executive with financial skills.

To learn other ways to be a add value to your company, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to find out how you can become a more valuable financial leader.

The role of the CFO

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The role of the CFO

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CEO’s Role in a Company

Former Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates

Former Microsoft CEO,
Bill Gates

There is some confusion about just what exactly is the CEO’s role in a company. Some people think it is to be the manager of the organization. Others think it might be to be the face of the company to the public.

CEO’s Role in a Company

Let’s ask the question another way. How does a CEO define success? They define success by any of the following:

The answer is all of the above!

So what is the CEO’s role in a company? To put it succinctly; the role of the CEO is to grow the company profitably! Now many CEO’s might grow a company, but not all of them do it profitably. Often the CEO comes  from a sales or operations background. Consequently, they focus on either sales volume or product quality. Growing sales volume doesn’t require that the sales have to be profitable. Delivering a high quality product does not mean that it may be at a good price!

How does he or she do that? In order to reach their goals they need to surround themselves with a good team. They need to be able to leverage off of everyone’s skills and expertise. To grow a company it takes building an organization that is scalable.

A scalable organization requires that the CEO delegates responsibility of Sales, Marketing, Operations and Finance. Each function has its’ own definition of their role. For example the Vice President of Sales would be held accountable for reaching sales targets. The VP of Operations would be held responsible for the quality of the goods or service. They might have additional team members included in the management team, such as IT or HR.

So if the CEO’s role is to grow the company profitably, what is the role of a CFO? To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

CEO's role in a company

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CEOs Want a Wingman

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Every Leader Needs a Coach

Every leader needs a coach. This person is someone who has helped you develop your individual skills, knowledge, and ability to better perform your job or given task. But no matter the profession, be it billionaire business owners, world famous athletes to the little league sports player, they are able to pinpoint a particular person who helped and advised them along their journey.

Every Leader Needs a Coach

Check out the following list of great leaders and their Coaches –






























What do CFOs do?

So what’s a CFO to do?  Many of us don’t have the resources to hire a personal coach, so do we have to forego the benefits of having a trusted advisor to guide us?

One solution is to find a coaching program that brings together several like-minded individuals under the guidance of one professional coach.  This approach allows individuals to not only reap the benefits of coaching at a lower cost than one-on-one coaching, but allows for the sharing of ideas among the participants as well.  In a sense, the participants become coaches for each other.

Do you have a personal coach?  If so, is it a one-on-one situation or a group setting?  What benefits have you seen from coaching? If you have been benefitted from coaching, then please leave your comments below.

Furthermore, if you want more information about our Coaching Program, then click here.

If you want to learn more financial leadership skills, then download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

every leader needs a coach

Strategic CFO Lab Member Extra

Access your Flash Report Execution Plan in SCFO Lab. The step-by-step plan to manage your company before your financial statements are prepared.

Click here to access your Execution Plan. Not a Lab Member?

Click here to learn more about SCFO Labs

every leader needs a coach

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UH Entrepreneurship Mentor Program

The University of Houston Wolff School for Entrepreneurship is looking for seasoned, compassionate entrepreneurs to mentor a university student through an experience that has the potential to change both lives. The UH Entrepreneurship Mentor Program has changed lives.

Every year the University of Houston educates 2,000 students in entrepreneurship. From this pool, the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship selects 40 students to participate in a year and a half, lock-step entrepreneurial experience. In addition to six courses spread over the three semesters, the student participates in sixteen programs and experiences that are outside the classroom.  (These are as diverse as spending a week-end with Warren Buffett to traveling to a prison to coach a prisoner in the Prison Entr. Program.)

UH Entrepreneurship Mentor Program

The single most important part of the WCE experience is creating a relationship with a personal mentor. The program provides each student with a personal mentor that not only coaches and advises on the student’s business, but equally significant, helps the student develop a vision for their future and helps identify stepping stones going forward. Most mentors believe they derive more benefit than they deliver from this relationship. (Our students would not agree, and for many of them, these relationships carry on for years after the student gets out in the real world.)

Ideal Mentor

The ideal mentor would be someone who had:

  • Entrepreneurial success and failure
  • A willingness to share their experience and Mentor an undergraduate entrepreneur
  • The capability to understand a student and help them turn their passion into success
  • The time to attend a monthly meeting for two hours (No meetings in summer or over holidays…total of 9 meetings over the year and a half.)
  • Meet informally once a month

If any of you believe that this opportunity might be a fit for your life, please contact: info@StrategicCFO.com

Mentoring is another way you can also be a trusted advisor to your CEO. Learn how you can be the best wingman with our free How to be a Wingman guide!

UH Entrepreneurship Mentor Program

Strategic CFO Lab Member Extra

Access your Projections Execution Plan in SCFO Lab. The step-by-step plan to get ahead of your cash flow.

Click here to access your Execution Plan. Not a Lab Member?

Click here to learn more about SCFO Labs

UH Entrepreneurship Mentor Program

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