Get the most out of your CFO: Encourage him or her to explore beyond the bean counting to identify profit growth opportunities for the business.
You can’t judge a CFO by his or her title. The Chief Financial Officer job description varies greatly from company to company. In our experience, the best CFOs have expanded well beyond traditional accounting and balance sheet management and taken on new roles. Here are three:
No. 1: The CFO as Chief Opportunity Officer
Successful CFOs build a team of analysts, typically found in the financial planning and analysis (“FP&A”) function, which builds a solid fact base around the company’s businesses and its markets. Good CFOs use this fact base as their primary tool to facilitate strategic conversations with the rest of the management team—including the CEO, Head of Sales, Head of Operations, and business unit leaders. They consistently identify profit growth opportunities and partner with the rest of the management team to develop execution plans to drive those profit improvements into the P&L.
No. 2: The CFO as Chief Investment Officer
In this role, the CFO provides financial tools and analysis to evaluate various investment opportunities, whether they are capital investments “bubbled up” from the business or acquisition opportunities in the marketplace. The CFO is in a unique position to provide useful context and compare one investment opportunity vs. another to ensure the highest return.
No. 3: The CFO as Chief Metrics Officer
The CFO can deliver the critical data that’s empowers management and staff to make better day-to-day business decisions. Providing the right metrics and soliciting a conversation around how the various parts of the business can influence those metrics, can drive better business performance.
Do these new roles mean that the CFO can abandon the typical bean-counter role? No, but the CFO can certainly delegate those responsibilities—including accounting, compliance, balance sheet management, and the treasury function—to a capable deputy. Doing so will enable the CFO to spend more time and energy being a partner to the management team and driving value in the business.
KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree. @karlstark