Tips From CFO Pros: Key Considerations For Your CFO Search

Tips From CFO Pros: Key Considerations For Your CFO Search

Driving business results and financial strategies to increase shareholder value, executing the company’s vision, and making informed, timely decisions are all major components of a CFO role.

We set out to gather information on how different CFOs build out trusted teams, what they consider their most significant role to be, and the most important traits to look for in your future CFO executive search.

Matt Hoar, CFO, Flow Water

What is the most important role of a CFO?

A good CFO brings a risk focused viewpoint to the leadership team and understands the layers of risks that are inherent in every important deal. From a decision making perspective, the most high impact CFO’s help the leadership team strike a balance between risk and reward, which will hopefully lead to timely and optimal decision making.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

As a cross-functional leader, the CFO must have enhanced listening skills. Being able to fully understand senior managements’ perspective allows the CFO to assess situational risk and to participate meaningfully in a balanced decision making process.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

Building a proficient finance team is critical to a CFO's success, whether the team is small or large. The key is to find staff that believe in the company’s vision and ideally share the same organizational values. Recruitment is a continuous process; even though you may be satisfied with your staff. In a perfect world there should always be room on your team for A+ players that want to be a part of it.

Steve Spooner, CFO, Mitel

What is the most important role of a CFO?

A great CFO needs to be the trusted business partner to the CEO. As the only other executive who has visibility into all aspects of the business, he/she can be an effective sounding board - the financial strategist, who drives the business instead of just reporting it. The CFO needs to ask the tough questions, such as: (i) Is our strategy the best route to create shareholder value? (ii) Vision without execution is just a dream, so have we got the talent, tools, financial resources and clear accountability to successfully implement our plans? (iii) You can’t manage what you don’t measure, so do we have the right key metrics in place to act as the early warning mechanism as we execute?

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

Unquestionable integrity. The CFO deals with the board, the executive team, the staff, customers, partners, vendors, lenders, analysts and investors. If at any time, any of these constituents doubt the integrity of the CFO, it can have far reaching implications for the CFO, and for the company. Tone from the top, as set by the CFO, must leave no doubt as to the values the CFO represents.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

Passion – because those who are passionate will not accept the status quo and always push themselves…and the company to do better

Resilience – because Finance roles can be stressful, with long hours and lumpy demands (M&A, IPO’s,) and Finance leaders often must defend or implement unpopular decisions

A business mindset – I look for business people with financial expertise, not just accountants. Staff need to have a curiosity about the business, get to know it and think and act like business owners.

Communications skills – the best financial skillset can’t make up for the inability to effectively communicate

Integrity – see most important trait for a CFO

Susan Richards, CFO, Numbercrunch

What is the most important role of a CFO?

The CFO is the co-pilot to the CEO and is charged with bringing a financial perspective to all leadership team discussions. A strong CFO will apply control and efficiency to growth initiatives and will be able to question without judgement and collaborate well with other members of the leadership team.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

Logic - is logic a trait? Confidence. Pair those with a collaborative intention (with an ego that is in check) and I think you have a strong performer that the leadership team can work cohesively with.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

I look to align personalities to roles. When the authentic nature of a person is aligned with the role they are performing it can be amazing. This can be a real challenge to identify through just an interview, though.

Wynand Stassen, CFO, Embotics

What is the most important role of a CFO?

The CFO’s role is frequently described in the context of explicit responsibility for financial stewardship and operations. However, the value that a CFO brings to the leadership team must extend beyond delivering timely, accurate, and relevant reports of historical performance and the preservation of assets. Firstly, it should include strategic navigation, which involves meaningful analysis of data, critical assessment of the likely results of a given action or inaction, and applying sound judgement in order to set the future direction of the company. Secondly, it should include risk management, which involves the identification of the various risks the business faces (or is likely to face), and to manage these risks by taking actions to either minimize, avoid, transfer, or accept them. Lastly, the CFO should serve as a catalyst to drive the tactical behaviours necessary to accomplish the strategic goals of the company.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

The most important traits for a CFO to have include: Judgement, flexibility, and perspective.

Important leadership decisions require judgement because we frequently find ourselves in situations where we have limited information and there are no right or wrong answers. It is critical for a CFO to possess good judgement so that the leadership team and stakeholders can have confidence in his or her decisions, especially on important matters.

Secondly, flexibility is an important trait for a CFO to have, as we often find ourselves in changing situations where we are required to balance competing demands, change perspectives, and adjust physical and mental resources. Having the flexibility to respond in sufficient time and magnitude will significantly influence success or failure.

Lastly, it is essential for a CFO to have perspective. The ability to put ourselves in other people’s shoes, understand their beliefs, views, and intentions, and see their point of view underpins our ability to build the types of relationships required to operate successfully at the executive level.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

In addition to judgement, flexibility, and perspective, I look for work ethic and attitude when building out our team. Falling short on hard skills do not cause me much concern, as these can be taught. Soft skills, on the other hand, are much harder, if not impossible, to teach.

Gord Wyse, CFO, Klipfolio

What is the most important role of a CFO?

The most important role a CFO can play on the leadership team is Business Advisor. The CFO is uniquely positioned to see across the whole company, understand the key business drivers and how they impact the company’s financial performance. Transferring that knowledge and providing a framework for the rest of the leadership team to see how their decisions impact the whole business financially is crucial for their success.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

Toss up between strategic thinker, decision maker, problem solver or having tough skin depending on the makeup of the rest of the team. Which leads me to believe being adaptable and knowing when to use which arrow in your quiver may be the most important trait for a CFO to have.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

Ultimately somebody who has the potential in the future to replace me. I am looking for people with a strong work ethic who don’t mind rolling up their sleeves to do journal entries when we are busy and who can equally provide input on strategic issues for the business. You need to be a self-starter and have a continuous drive to learn more. They need to be team players who can build internal relationships across the whole business.

Kelly Evans, CFO, Magenta Capital

What is the most important role of a CFO?

The CFO plays various roles on the leadership team. The roles of financial steward, protecting the company assets, and running the financial function are the two areas that we think of first. Equally important is the role of understanding the business and providing strategic guidance as part of the leaderships team. The CFO can also assume the role on the team to drive and challenge projects, processes and ideas to ensure their ultimate viability and success. An effective CFO is solution-oriented which allows them the ability to collaborate effectively with the all members of the Leadership Team.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

Perspective. A CFO needs to be able to see opportunities and issues from more than one angle. This allows them to proactively assess potential roadblocks and solutions both short term and in the future.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

I look for individuals who have core values that align with the company and the team. Integrity, competence and a good work ethic are important attributes for a team member. A proven track record of good decision making, and consistent high-quality deliverables are also key. It is my experience that working with individuals who have passion and drive, delivers success. And a good sense of humour makes the workplace enjoyable for everyone.

Cory Michalyshyn, CFO, Solink

What is the most important role of a CFO?

I think because of the CFO’s background, generally coming from accounting/finance with an ingrained comfort with numbers, the ideal CFO role is that of the corporate metric czar. The CFO is the person responsible for calculating metrics consistently over time, maintaining their accuracy at every calculation, understanding what variations in those metrics means for the underlying business units, and articulating that meaning to the various users of that information; CEO, VPs, the Board of Directors, Customers, and Shareholders, while that information is still timely and relevant to use to make decisions.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

An ability to understand the big picture and how the various pieces of the business fit together and affect one another, and an ability to drill down into any one of those pieces and understand what story or trend those details are showing you. Those are the two sides to the CFO coin.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

I look for attitude. Any skill set can be learned, but it takes the right attitude to be successful at a startup. At a startup, things are changing so fast, people need to be able to re-invent themselves yearly, if not quarterly, and the right attitude, a willingness to be comfortable with the uncomfortable rate of change, and keep upgrading their skillset, sets our team far apart from competitors.

Tatiana Pranova, CFO, RealDecoy

What is the most important role of a CFO?

In today's world, a CFO must be very fluid and agile. They should be a more strategic partner than just being the head of Finance. It is very important to be a versatile leader. Developing and supporting high performance and great culture is critical today for any leadership team. CEOs and business owners are starting to see the importance of business vision and education in their CFOs.

What is the most important trait of a CFO?

The ability to lead and to think big picture. The leadership traits (manage people, communicate, mentor, influence skills) are what separates a CFO from the other intelligent CPAs, as is the ability to think of the big picture (long term planning, being agile, navigating risk), making your business more resilient. It’s crucial to understand business drivers and underline non-financial information that drive the financials of the company.

What do you look for when you are building out your team?

When I hire a new team member, I look for potential employees who respect others, are dependable, reliable, loyal, open-minded, efficient and willing to learn. Those who are not afraid to roll-up their sleeves and do anything to support the team. Integrity is very important. I enjoy working with people who have a passion for their job — people with strong personality and ambitions.

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