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Changing the CFO's Mindset


June 23, 2020     3 minute read

If the changes we experienced in 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that we cannot predict the future, but we must be prepared for it. More specifically, we must be ready to adapt to it. As trite as it may sound, being flexible and open to change is the key to success in both our personal and professional lives.

Any CFO working today will tell you the tides of business, and finance in particular, are turning. And as a recent McKinsey survey points out, the pace of change in the CFO role is shockingly fast: Compared to the results from two years ago, there are now six “discrete roles” reporting to the CFO versus four, the average previously reported back in 2017. Responsibilities like risk management, accounting and controlling, corporate strategy and regulatory compliance have remained a staple of the job, but the two newcomers to the list—board engagement and digital transformation—are fast becoming key areas that the CFO must address and push forward.

While balancing the books and maintaining regulatory compliance aren’t necessarily things of the past—these will always be part of the job—they don’t have the mission critical status they once did. Modern CFOs are expected to be more than mere number-crunchers and are increasingly tasked with spearheading strategic initiatives, digitization and generating revenue. This is a big shift from “business as usual,” and like any other large-scale change, it’s something that will take time, patience and support to sustain.

To help finance execs understand how this shift impacts their efforts to manage functions like facilities management (FM), here are a few things to keep in mind:

Let Industry Benchmarks Be Your Guide

It’s no secret that data is crucial to making informed business decisions. For the CFO seeking to drive value for their organization, their focus should be to use accurate, real-time data and performance metrics to spark growth. One way to do that is to evaluate industry benchmarks—how will you grow and scale if you don’t know how you stack up against the competition? CFOs should be constantly evaluating their cost metrics and how they compare with others in the industry.

Be Ready to Pivot on a Dime

Any leader needs to be prepared to lead through a crisis, but CFOs play an especially integral role in their organization’s ability to recover when things don’t go according to plan. Because when disaster strikes, the first person employees look to for guidance is their CEO, who in turn relies heavily on their CFO to provide them with answers to questions like:

  • Can we weather a financial storm of this scale?
  • How will this event impact our operations over the next six, 12, 24 months and beyond?
  • What adjustments need to be made now to ensure our organization is profitable in the future?

Adopting a flexible, change-oriented approach will allow the CFO to pivot from their daily duties to tackle things like financial modeling and forecasting—tasks that produce the insights CEOs need to chart a path forward.

Cut Costs Strategically

It’s important for CFOs to be cognizant of where value truly lies within their organization, and even deeper within their FM programs, and to be judicious about where they make cuts versus where they invest. Though it can be tempting to trim the lowest hanging fruit when cutting the budget (for many, this means payroll or facilities), there are better ways to reduce operational costs strategically through data analysis and predictive modeling.

The most successful CFOs are not only masters of their craft, they’re resilient and flexible in the face of change. As we navigate everything from digital disruption to public health crises, we should all consider adopting a more adaptive mindset. 

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