After nearly a decade of placing financial professionals and leaders, I’ve had the unique vantage point of seeing a fairly clear delineation between functional accounting, finance roles and strategic ones.
People looking for their careers to transcend in public accounting ask us all the time what it takes to become a CFO; what they’re really asking is how can they see their work influence, impact, and drive strategy and business decisions.
Companies come to us looking for our assistance in filling Controller, Vice President of Finance, Accounting Director, CFO, and various other financial reporting and analysis based roles; often it’s necessary for us to drill into the details of the role and how it funnels into an organizational strategy to determine if it's more functional or strategic in nature.
So, what does it take to be CFO? How can accounting and financial professionals elevate their game to someday obtain a strategic financial role, and what specific skills must they develop beyond technical knowledge?
And how can companies seeking to hire a key financial role ensure they’re not either asking a strong line cook to be the executive chef at a James Beard Award-winning restaurant, or forcing Rembrandt to color within the lines of a children’s coloring book? Doing either – effectively under or over scoping the roles and thereby hiring the wrong level person – will likely result in turning over the position.
Fresh MBAs and young CPAs with public accounting experience would like to think the most technically proficient, smartest person in the room will be CFO, and of course, everyone think’s they’re the smartest when they’re young! But the truth is the best, most effective financial executives I’ve worked with possess a confluence of finely honed soft skills and business acumen on top of strong technical experience, which becomes the lens through which they lead their businesses forward. So, do you have what it takes to be CFO?