Who Are a CFO’s Unexpected Allies in the Business?

09/08/2023 06:56:21 +0000

I was hosting a small gathering, a housewarming of sorts recently and it struck me, the village of friends we have created here in our new home on the Central Coast is such a mixed bag. This particular bunch were all parents from our daughter's soccer team and you honestly could not have picked a more diverse group of people. Backgrounds, careers and values - all wildly different.


What had brought us together were the common goals of encouraging our girls to play sports, actively contributing to our community and enjoying a good chat on chilly winter mornings. The connections we created are important enough to have encouraged us to buy a home in this area rather than another we had originally been considering.

Creating meaningful relationships that have the power to add value is one of the biggest life hacks there is. In my first book, Meaning Matters, I talk about the importance of a powerbase: having the right team around just leads to success.

It made me think about some research I collaborated on that was recently featured in The Australian, all about making unlikely business partnerships around the boardroom table, so of course, that's what I felt inspired to talk about this week.

Is your Powerbase Pie complete? Or do you have a few empty segments?

The CFO and CMO - a match made in heaven

I talk a lot about the challenges facing the CFOs, if you've read any of my work you know my thoughts on how CFOs have some of the biggest workloads in the C-Suite, and they don't always have the support they need from CEOs to add the sort of value that's possible.

It turns out, CMOs can often be in a similar place. And, interestingly enough - even though you think a partnership between CFOs and CMOs is an unlikely one, it's actually a match made in heaven.

Why? The role of the CMO and CFO are both extremely data-driven, they both have clear growth goals and this commonality can be used for collaboration, and for a powerful finance business partner alliance.

But how do we get CFOs and CMOs working together?

CMOs have all the right data to drive sales and performance - what a dream partnership. Interestingly, both parties are often at risk of being undervalued and underutilised by CEOs.

But it's not a finance business partnership that's without its challenges. Unfortunately, there are some concerning figures that reveal just how stretched these relationships can be.

What the stats tell us

A recent global study by Transmission revealed that only 36% of CFOs have complete confidence in their CMOs' decision-making regarding marketing budgets.

And that's not all.

  • 69% of CFOs consider brand marketing as an expense rather than a revenue driver.
  • 67% of CMOs struggle to prove their brand's commercial value to the board.

And this is where the research comes in.

When James Dixon of Atomic 212° approached me to get data to understand CFOs perspectives on marketing and the role of a CMO, it was a no-brainer. I'd seen the positive impact a solid partnership could have, and I am a huge advocate for partnerships that elevate CFOs. After our initial conversation, together we decided to survey 15 leading CFOs in the Australian market.

It turns out, that things weren't quite so dire in our sample; but it was still far from ideal.

  • Only one CFO ranked marketing as 'very significant' in achieving their FY24 priorities.
  • Marketing was ranked the third most likely department to have an important role in delivering these priorities.
  • Only one CFO ranked marketing as 'very significant' in achieving their FY24 priorities.

Are you utilising your CMO's understanding of your customer base in the most productive way?

And this just isn't good enough. A strong partnership between a CFO and CMO is an incredibly powerful asset to an organisation looking for data-driven growth. In fact, I see the CFO and CMO as powerful unexpected allies, both steadfast in the pursuit of growth and predictability of performance.

When I see this partnership work, marketing is a genuine performance lever that has the potential to reduce the uncertainty that's so rife in today's commercial climate.

CFOs of the future need to see marketing as significant, and CMOs need to start looking at CFO as business partners, rather than just numbers people.

But most importantly, I think there's much more potential around the boardroom table for unexpected allies.

Where might you go to find your allies?

It's time to explore what other partnerships can drive value

As CFO coaching is both my passion and what I do every day, all of this got me thinking... who else at the executive table can CFOs partner up with to yield better results?

As we all know, when CFOs have allies around the table, they are more likely to facilitate better conversations and therefore, increase the value they provide to their organisations - this is the role of a CFO.

I honestly believe that there are a bunch of options for unlikely bedfellow relationships just waiting to be capitalised on. And knowing how important these relationships are should be Leadership Training for Finance 101.

Different perspectives add immense value

Back to our little gathering of soccer parents, one of the things that struck me on the day was how differently each friend was seeing our new home.

The tradies were checking out the build, the home organiser was advising on drop zones and storage functionality and the career educator was simply full of praise for our choice of purchase. Everyone viewed the value of our home through their own experiences, all perspectives were both constructive and profoundly valuable.

Such a small group of people with so many different skills. And most importantly - so much combined value. I encourage you to all look around your boardroom table with this in mind.

Who could you partner with to increase the value you deliver?
What CFO challenges could your CMO assist you with?
What unexpected partnerships have served your organisation's needs in the past?

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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It's time for women in finance to find power in their purpose!

 ⓒ 2023




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We acknowledge the Darkinjung people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work and pay our respects to the Elders both past, present & emerging.