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The CFO Agenda
What does it mean to be a CFO? What does it take to be a great one? You might expect answers to these questions to change over time, as more expectations are piled onto the CFO’s desk. But instead, the reverse is true. As CFOs grow in stature and importance, they keep coming back to the same issues that form their agenda. The elements of the CFO Agenda represent a powerful framework for one of the toughest jobs on earth. Year after year, quarter after quarter, they endure.
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Truth is our element.—Ralph Waldo Emerson
All business leaders are paid to have informed opinions. But CFOs are the leaders that others depend on to be the voice of reason. No matter what, CFOs are committed to finding and sharing the truth.
The strongest principal of growth lies in the human choice.—George Eliot
CFOs see firsthand how growth happens in detail, quarter after quarter, year after year, all across the business. Where and how should the company invest more? Where does it make sense to dial back? Smart business leaders know to ask the CFO.
We are never more discontented with others than we are discontented with ourselves.—Henri Frédéric Amiel
Draw a map of all the personal connections that make a business work, and you’ll quickly find that the CFO has a direct link to most of them. From the board and the C-Suite to line-of-business and department leaders, the CFO helps the organization understand what’s possible—and helps make it happen.
A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers.—Plato
Why go with your gut when a decision can be grounded in real data? There is no person better positioned than the CFO to find the right data, transform it into insight, and feed it to decision makers. It’s a role that goes way beyond the numbers – it’s about knowing the business context. That’s where CFOs excel.
Capital is that part of wealth which is devoted to obtaining further wealth.—Alfred Marshall
It’s no revelation that CFOs manage the lifeblood of any organization – capital. But the best CFOs know where to find capital at the right cost, where to put it to its best use in the organization, how to make it deliver the most value, and when to expect results.
The obstacle is the path.—Buddhist proverb
Markets change. Customers change. The world changes. CFOs need to know how to roll with the punches and help their peers see clearly even in a chaotic environment. When you’re staring into a roiling sea of disruption, there’s nobody you’d rather have at your side.
Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.—Anonymous
Fraud. Breaches. Restatements. Class action. If the finance team isn’t ready when crises like these hit, the business will suffer. Whatever the scenario, the CFO has to be ready.
Good order is the foundation of all good things.—Edmund Burke
Think about the infrastructure components supporting your business at this very moment—from technology to talent, real estate to finance systems. CFOs know how to ask the tough questions to help get better results from infrastructure investments. In the end, if the whole isn’t greater than the sum of its parts, then somebody has a lot of explaining to do.
It's better to be the hammer than the anvil.—Emily Dickinson
It’s easy to lose your bearings in the middle of negotiations. But that’s exactly when a command of the facts can make all the difference. For business leaders in need of a cool hand when the heat is on during a transaction, the CFO’s office should be their first stop.
Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes.—Henry David Thoreau
Nobody stays in the same position forever, least of all CFOs. That’s why it’s so important to learn the art of the successful transition, whether coming or going. In finance, legacies are formed in transition. And it’s up to CFOs to make them happen smoothly.
The circulation of confidence is better than the circulation of money.—James Madison
Like it or not, perception matters. So when it comes to giving guidance to the Street, strong fundamentals will only get you so far—the real context for the numbers is your organization’s vision for what happens next. At those moments, the CFO isn’t just the face of the company. The CFO is the company.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.—Gandhi
If there’s any executive leader who understands that business is personal, it is the CFO. It can be the best job in the world—and the most challenging job in the world. When all is said and done, you have to have the courage and confidence to make the toughest calls.