CFO career journey

The first 100 days as CFO

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We believe there are some critical areas to address in the first 100 days as a CFO, to make the best impact:

1. Expect the unexpected

The role you signed up for might not be the one that was sold at interview. You may find that the reality of the issues facing you is of a different magnitude and nature than described. It is important to do your due diligence to understand the function of the role and begin to identify the key issues that are to be inherited prior to commencement.

2. Act promptly

The presupposition of change which often follows the appointment of a new CFO is something to capitalize on. There is a clear distinction between starting the role in a crisis situation and in one that is more stable. Where a turnaround situation is required, there is a certain expectation that significant change will be made early on. In a stable environment where the business is already performing well, you should establish the reasons for this and what the “next big thing” is to deliver on.

3. Ask the stupid questions

There are advantages and disadvantages of being appointed internally or externally. An existing knowledge of the business, ability to leverage existing networks and inherent knowledge of systems, people and processes are some of the advantages of an internal appointment. However, the advantages of an external placement include no previous history to impair initial credibility, the ability to more easily “command the change” and the opportunity to ask the stupid questions. An external appointment is the platform to ask the straightforward questions which can throw light on fundamental issues previously overlooked.

4. Make friends and influence people

Considering the wide spectrum of CFO stakeholders, it is important to prioritize those relationships which are critical for investment during the first 100 days – and to get to know their expectations of you. Obviously you need to understand what the CEOs and senior management expect of you. You may also want to consider getting out and about in the organization – particularly in one that is multi-location – and meeting with senior finance and commercial managers.

5. Get your team behind you

Spend time up front in understanding your teams’ issues, responsibilities and competencies. Identify who you can rely on to support you with the detail, so you can focus on the bigger picture.

6. Make your mark

It is imperative that you put your individual stamp onto the strategy of the organization. How a CFO establishes credibility is heavily influenced by the circumstances of appointment. An external recruit will need to focus on immersing themselves in the business and rapidly understanding how it makes money. If joining from another sector, you will want to quickly become familiar with the sector-specific terminology and reporting measures. The focus of an internal hire to establish credibility will be to build your external network and profile with shareholders, analysts and fund managers.

This article was excerpted from The DNA of the CFO.