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A Non-Exhaustive List of Reasons Why You Won’t Cut It as a CFO

statue of figure holding up a crown

If any of the qualities listed below sound familiar, don’t even bother.

TL;DR Are you an annoying person without any friends who can’t strategize your way out of a paper bag? If so, the coveted CFO position is — and will likely remain — out of your reach.

So, you think you’re ready to be a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)? Before you start fantasizing about that corner office and the fancy title, let’s get one thing straight: being a CFO is not as easy as you think. In fact, there are plenty of reasons why you probably won’t make it as a CFO (yet). Put down that financial calculator and dive into the harsh reality of why you are not ready to be a CFO.

1. You Have a Crappy Network

You won’t become a CFO if you don’t have the right connections. If your idea of networking is adding your colleagues on LinkedIn and calling it a day, you’re in for a rude awakening. A CFO needs to know the right people and have a network that extends far beyond their office cubicle. Build your network by maintaining connections with former classmates and colleagues. Don’t burn bridges because you never know who may provide the introduction to your next great career move or will take your call requesting expert guidance on human resources or tax issues.

Successful CFOs are out there rubbing elbows with industry leaders, attending conferences and building relationships that can open doors when it matters most. If your social calendar consists of Netflix marathons and the occasional happy hour with your coworkers, it’s time to step up your game. Pro-tip: Your couch won’t recommend you for a promotion.

Create a personal “board of directors” of trusted colleagues, business advisors, mentors and friends who understand your moral compass and know you well. You will be faced with difficult (and sometimes uncomfortable) decisions that may test your integrity. Use your personal board of directors to your benefit.

2. You’re Not Smart Enough

Sure, you might be a whiz when it comes to crunching numbers, but being a CFO requires more than just a knack for accounting. If you’re the type of accountant who can’t see beyond the balance sheet, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

CFOs need to understand the overall business. That means being well-versed in financial planning and analysis (FP&A), treasury management, investor relations and more. It’s not enough to be an accounting and numbers guru; you need to be a strategic thinker who can guide the company toward financial success. A CFO is brave enough to butt in when an initiative is going sideways to offer specific, actionable solutions. Know the business, industry, the markets your business serves, your customers, employees, the risks, and maybe then we’ll talk.

3. No One Likes You

If your coworkers can’t stand you, you’re not going to make it to the top. Being a CFO requires dealing with office politics and potentially conflicting directions from leadership. If you can’t navigate those treacherous waters, you’re sunk. Outstanding CFOs love to communicate with employees and customers.
Successful CFOs have mentors who can guide them through the political minefield and help them make the right decisions. If you’re flying solo and people underneath you aren’t clamoring to work with you, it’s time to reevaluate your approach.

4. You’re a Pro at the Blame Game

If you’re the type of person who always finds someone else to blame for your shortcomings, you’re not CFO material. CFOs work with management, make difficult choices and take responsibility for their actions and decisions, even when things go south. If your first instinct is to point fingers, maybe aim them at a different job application. People with public accounting backgrounds are often so “risk adverse” that they aren’t willing to experiment to drive change. A CFO is comfortable with taking managed risks, learning from mistakes and evolving as a leader.

Being a CFO means being laser-focused on what the company needs for the future. It’s about working tirelessly to ensure the financial health and growth of the organization. If you’re lazy or easily distracted, you’re not cut out for the role.

5. You’re Incapable of Delegating

Big shocker, you can’t do everything. CFOs need to delegate tasks and trust their team to get the job done. Hire smart people with energy who want to be the best in their position.

Hiring a great controller or financial planning analyst who excels at using financial tools and data analytics can be a game-changer. It allows the CFO to focus on the big picture and strategic decisions rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of day-to-day financial operations.

The Art of Being a CFO

Now that we’ve shattered your CFO dreams, let’s talk about what it takes to be successful in this role. Being a CFO is more art than science. It’s about operating in the gray areas, setting priorities and making the right choices. Often, CFOs are operating with a deficit of time, money and resources. They must set priorities and communicate effectively.

A CFO must also be comfortable knowing that the unknown is lurking out there, ready to pounce. To generate confidence in your CFO abilities in the C-suite and the board room, show that you can calmly, confidently and quickly evaluate issues and create solutions.

CFOs are strategic thinkers who can assess risk and read the future to prepare for major challenges. Not only must the CFO be looking forward, they must also be taking a 360-degree view — not unlike a spin on the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland. They benchmark the company against competitors, think ahead and create the infrastructure needed to stay ahead of the game.

If you:
· Have killer networking skills
· Practice strategic wizardry
· Are an office politics Jedi
· Consider yourself a responsibility junkie and
· Delight in being a delegation ninja

Then, congratulations, you’re on the path to becoming a CFO!

But if you are:
· A lousy networker
· An accounting robot
· The office outcast
· A blame shifter or
· A control freak

Then you have some work to do! Have you considered meditation?

To sum it up: Being a CFO is not just about numbers; it’s about networking, politics, leadership, communications, negotiations and strategic thinking. If you’re still determined to chase that CFO dream, start building your network, expanding your skills and working on your leadership abilities. Good luck!

Authored by:

Jim Eckstaedt, CPA, BlytheTeam Consultant, Blythe Global Advisors
Accounting and finance professional with over 30 years’ experience in public and private corporate environments, including as CFO of three public companies. Extensive experience in managing accounting, treasury, legal, risk management, tax, financial planning and mergers and acquisitions.

With contributions from:

Marc Blythe, CPA, CGMA, Founder & President, Blythe Global Advisors
Ken Tudhope, CPA, CMA, MBA, BlytheTeam Consultant, Blythe Global Advisors