A CFO with talent and imagination can become a vital strategic partner for the CEO and a leader in the C-suite, but not without assembling a top team to help carry the load.
"It would be a shame if that CFO's talent was spent closing the books," says Jack McCullough, president of the CFO Leadership Council and author of the upcoming book "Secrets of Rockstar CFOs." "So hire a world-class CAO, VP of finance, controller and others. Empower them and they will empower you."
But how does a CFO find and hold onto the next stars of corporate finance, especially in an economy in which workers and young executives prize mobility and move on quickly?
It's a war for talent out there, McCullough admits. "It's not winnable without a strong partnership with the CHRO, and a fun, intellectually challenging and rewarding environment."
There are five keys to the game:
1. Engage and involve employees. "If you're getting a new ERP system, make sure the whole team is involved in the decision-making process. If they own it, they’ll make it work," he says.
Give them the authority to make their own decisions, too, which builds valuable skills and leadership capacity.
2. Plan for succession. Successful CFOs are constantly training their employees to be versatile and capable enough to withstand the loss of any one member of the team.
"Elite CFOs actually help to train their seconds-in-command to become a CFO with their next job, even if that opportunity is with another company," McCullough says.
3. Take a long view. When you hire for the short-term to plug holes, McCullough says, you may end up with members of the team who don't have the skill sets to flourish as the company evolves in a few years.
"Think three years out, and hire the team that you will need then, not today," he advises. "They may not have the skills today, but find the people with the aptitude, the intellectual curiosity, and the passion and the work ethic to build that team."
4. Be an active participant. Get personally involved in the entire recruiting-and-hiring process, including doing interviews.
"It's flattering to the candidate and will help the close rate," McCullough says. "Young professionals have many, many career options, so you need to stick out from the crowd."
5. Hire people smarter than you. "There's a saying: A players hire A+ players. B players hire C players," McCullough says. "In my experience this is true more often than not. Once you have a few great players on your team, recruiting and retaining are very easy, because talent attracts talent."
Do these things and, as CFO, you will have fulfilled your charge as one of the leaders of the company.
"The average tenure of a CFO is less than five years according to some sources," McCullough says. "It’s imperative that the company be in great shape when your time to move on has arrived."