Celebrating CFO results: how do you stack up?

07/05/2024 15:30:00 +0800


Last week The CFO Boardroom Community got together for our end-of-financial-year In The Boardroom Mastermind and CFO Boardroom Community Awards events.

The CFO Boardroom Community Awards recognise the contributions that our CFOs make to their people, businesses, and communities. Established in 2020, we have hosted through The CFO Boardroom Program 12 full day mastermind events, 56 online mid-quarter catch-ups and many more spontaneous sessions to host guest experts and cover specific topics of interest. We honoured the 32 CFOs who have joined the program with special recognition of the 3 CFOs who have been there since the beginning, and the several others that are in their 3rd year with us!

It is a real privilege to have supported these individuals and the community as a whole through some of the toughest times the CFO role has faced: we've supported our CFOs through the very real business and personal challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the resulting talent crunch, and more recently the enduring effects of the challenging economic climate. Our CFOs have shown that growth is possible during tough times and quite frankly, I've been overwhelmed and humbled by their achievements.

Key Achievements of the Day

Each quarter our Community gets together in-person for a day. While the theme and focus of every day is different, over the year's we've noticed their core benefit: a space for our CFOs to slow down, be vulnerable and share their inner challenges and desires with each other. In doing so, together they walk away solving big ticket business problems and feel confident and energised. It's really quite special.

We have a group that meets in Sydney, and for those outside Sydney, we get together in another major city (next one's Adelaide!). At the end of every session, I ask them 2 questions:

1. What was the best part of the day?
2. What was your biggest insight from the day?

I thought I'd give you a sneak peak into the responses they shared last week:

For those eyeing the CFO position, a robust educational foundation in finance, accounting, business, or a related field is crucial. This base provides the technical skills and knowledge necessary to navigate the complexities of financial management and strategic decision-making in a corporate environment.

Do you need an Advanced Degree?
Beginning with an undergraduate degree in finance or accounting sets the stage, but pursuing an advanced degree like an MBA or a master's degree in finance can significantly deepen understanding of strategic financial planning, financial statements, and executive leadership. Such degrees offer a curriculum rich in opportunities to build business acumen and essential skills for managing financial risks and making strategic decisions.

However they are not essential, and they are often more valuable when undertaken later in your career than straight after a bachelor's degree, when the student has little real world experience to contextualise what they are learning.

Internships and Practical Experience
Practical experience through internships in finance departments provides hands-on experience with financial operations, cash flow management, and regulatory compliance. These opportunities are a great way to practise applying academic learning to real-world scenarios, developing a strong foundation in financial reporting, and observing effective financial management strategies.

Key Insight #2: Launch of the CFO Boardroom Book Club

Inspired by the suggestion of one of our community members, we formalised our practice of giving each CFO a new leadership book every quarter into a book club. This required everyone to not only read the book but then contribute to the discussion where we could take our individual thinking and make it better by hearing and learning from the other perspectives in the room.

To be honest, I'm always mindful of giving our community 'homework' because I'm conscious they have a huge workload, but I was happy to give this suggestion a go because (a) it was suggested by one of our community members themselves and (b) it aligned with many of their individual growth goals to read more.

The book under discussion last week was The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga.

A few of the takeaways were:

- while we are brought up to believe thinking about our own life is selfish, "Living your own life is key."
- it's about how you perceive things - cause & effect. But you can't get caught up in yourself - be a viewer of life and focus on what you can control.
- the similarities between the parent/child relationship - the parent being responsible for enabling their child to do something, and the child being responsible for the execution of it - and how that can translate into the work context.


Everyone agreed the session was a resounding success and they all agreed there was more to think about specifically with respect to generational differences and how we break down and work within the organisational heirarchy. In fact one person even said, 'the whole world needs to read this book!'.

Key Insight #3: The Journey Beyond Playmaker

Although my work with CFOs started before then, since we started the CFO Boardroom in 2020 we have been diligent in observing and monitoring the results our CFOs have achieved alongside their growth. We have identified through our analysis of this data a clear trend and shift that happens between the phases of the CFO of the Future journey: Advisor and Partner and between Partner and Playmaker.

But one of the questions I'm often asked is, 'Alena, what happens after Playmaker? What happens if I feel I've accomplished everything and am a Playmaker? I feel like I've still got so much to offer.'

Because we now have CFOs that are on the active journey to CEO (as identified by their organisations) or have been promoted into the top seat already, we also have been able to see what happens beyond Partner.

It was great to share that with our community last week and articulate for them that moving to Playmaker was the key to enabling them to deliver value to their organisations to the tune of 5-6 figures (i.e. in the tens - to hundreds - of thousands of dollars).

Our CFOs were excited to learn the shift once at Playmaker was really about the CFOs need to create space to generate even greater wealth for the business centres around the CFO bringing the skill of Investor Intelligence into the executive and board conversation. After covering the shift and business impact of the final step from CFO into the top job, it was only natural that our conversation morphed into a session on the Voice of Investor.

The brain juices certainly got flowing at this stage with the possibility of bringing this intelligence and value to their CEOs and Boards!

CFO Boardroom Awards and Community Dinner

We concluded the day with our CFO Boardroom Awards and community dinner at the elegant Rockpool Bar and Grill in Sydney. We celebrated the six CFOs who received this year's awards (including the 2 in absentia), acknowledging their growth and their contributions to their businesses.

If you're keen to know what's possible, here is a summary of some of the achievements we recognised that night:

- Relationships: the ability to build strong, collaborative relationships with their CEOs and executive teams, positioning themselves as trusted advisors and problem solvers. Their ability to communicate effectively, manage risks, and deliver strategic priorities has increased their CEOs' confidence in their leadership, allowing CEOs to focus on their core responsibilities, knowing their finance function is in capable hands.
- Measures of performance and KPIs: improved financial data and reporting models, stronger financial control, and better team morale and wellbeing. CFOs have driven significant financial KPIs, such as Return on Working Capital (ROWC), Gross Margin, and EBITDA margin, demonstrating the program's effectiveness in enhancing both operational and financial performance.
- Personal effectiveness: enhanced strategic development and execution with greater confidence, through the implementation of high-performance habits, and fostered a culture of ideas generation and excellence within their organisations. They have implemented critical initiatives such as Lead Indicators and Business Dashboards, contributing to better visibility and data-driven decision-making. This confidence and strategic mindset have led to tangible improvements in their leadership and decision-making capabilities.
This day, intentionally held around 30 June, is my favourite day of The CFO Boardroom Program calendar. I wholeheartedly believe that CFOs can change the world and each time we bring together the smartest financial brains, commercial minds, and social hearts I see it.

If you were in the room with us last Tuesday...

What challenge would you have asked to solve for?
What book would you recommend for the next book club?
What's the biggest achievement you would have been recognised for at Awards evening?

Love to hear your thoughts...

Author: Alena Bennett

Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people.
She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on [email protected].
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 ⓒ 2023




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