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Financial Legacy or Collateral Damage…?

November 30th, 2012 Comments off

Considering that the typical senior level Finance engagement has a lifespan of 3-5 years, I’ve always been cognizant of the “legacy” that I would leave when the time came to leave a company. Whether that departure was my decision, or that of others, I’ve always wanted to be able to look back at the results that I posted, or the processes that were implemented, and have a sense of pride for what was accomplished with the team. The last thing that I wanted was to create a situation where others might start taking a position of “what the hell was he thinking with that decision…?” or “that certainly didn’t leave us in a good position moving forward…”. Being the competitive individual I am, the goal has always been to establish a history of performance and change that were of a high enough level that it would be difficult to maintain if my replacement wasn’t on top of their game.

However, there’s a second part of that equation. The financial results, or the processes implemented, need to be of a sustainable nature and not of the short-term kind. They need to balance the needs of long-term growth while satisfying the needs of the shareholders, and ultimately deliver on the Plan that has been committed to. Perhaps this is why there has always been an inherent frustration working in divisional roles where there was a conflict of agendas, distribution of resources, and ultimately, a lack of equal accountability for results. Frustration you ask? For myself, the frustration would come from delivering results, improving on the “legacy” left by previous management, improving operational processes, instilling high levels of accountability with the team….yet not having any of that reflected by other divisions. Having to work in an environment where mediocrity is tolerated on a daily basis.

During my time with a company that developed critical infrastructure product, this was part of my daily tolerance. Driving the performance of our North American operations with the rest of the team and essentially seeing a “hall pass” granted to my colleagues in other regions. Although it was incredibly bothersome, I would ultimately finish my time with that company, my position eliminated in a merger, knowing that I had my foot on the gas all the way until that decision. No coasting and very little that I would have changed. The question we all need to ask ourselves as senior Finance leaders is whether we can really be proud of the work that we have accomplished, both in financial results, as well as the operational disciplines we’ve put into place. If you can look in the mirror and honestly answer the question of whether you’ve established a degree of financial legacy or left a trail of collateral damage.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael