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The CFO Is Not A Scorekeeper…

March 19th, 2013

I was reading a recent blog post by Cindy Kraft, who is one of the leading CFO coaches out there and is very active in helping CFO’s manage their careers and improve their online profiles. One of the comments that had been posted to her blog defined the role of the CFO as that of the “corporate scorekeeper”. Cindy had not suggested this was the role of the CFO, and I know from following her over the years, that she does not share that view of the role of CFO. Personally, I can’t think of a bigger disservice to an organization than just assuming the role of a scorekeeper. This is essentially a non-value add position that leads to the role being an expense, and not an investment as I have always promoted.

So what is the role of the CFO? That’s not entirely an easy question to answer and will depend on the type of organization that you have been hired into. In general, you are assuming the role as the primary strategic partner for the CEO and essentially quantify the anticipated results of the strategies he has mapped out with the rest of the Executive team. You are responsible for the broader back office operations and ensuring that the plan to monetize those strategies becomes a reality. You are responsible for identifying, and mitigating, any of the operational risks that might potentially derail that plan. You are responsible for working closely with your Sales teams, Product teams, and other key functional areas in the execution of the plan and making sure they have the proper resources to deliver, as well as instilling the proper level of accountability. You are responsible for distributing the appropriate levels of information to the Executive team so that they can make informed decisions and fine tune their activities to deliver on the plan.

Scorekeeper? Hardly. The role of scorekeeper is to sit in the booth, or in this case an office, and regurgitate system generated reports and add some token level of commentary. The role of the scorekeeper is ensuring that the debits and credits are properly recorded so the auditors are happy in the end. There is no lever pulling, no collaboration with other departments, nor is there any type of influence on the operational aspects of the business. This couldn’t be farther from the CFO role. The scorekeeper is the necessary expense you have to have to conduct the game. The CFO is an investment that is made with the expectation of receiving a return for that investment…bottom line.

The expectation that I have always placed on myself, and promised to any company I have worked with, is that I will deliver a significant return on the investment made in me. We’re not talking about a 20% or 30% ROI, but a multiple of what my total compensation package is for a company. That return will also come in number of different manners. From a topline perspective it will mean working closely with the Sales department to improve the actual sales figures, as well as the processes that drive the revenue engine. Additional ROI is achieved through tight management of the entire costing structure. Whether labor efficiencies, raw material inputs, quality, or inventory management, these are all key elements that have to be actively managed…not just recorded and reported. Further return is achieved in the ongoing management of operating expenses. Here there is a need to determine the proper balance to support the expectations of the Executive team and executing on the strategic plan. This will involve benchmarking to internal history, peers in the industry, as well as ensuring that existing partners are still representing the best interests of the company.

So you still believe the CFO is the scorekeeper of the company? You might want to rethink that position…

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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