Last week I wrote that No Employer wants a Stale CFO. While we can agree that a Stale CFO is not desired, staying Fresh takes hard work. The most important thing for a CFO to do to stay Fresh is to budget.
When I ask CFOs why they do not make staying Fresh a priority, the usual excuse they give is that they don’t have the time, or they cannot get (or are afraid to ask for) approval for the expense.
A CFO needs to budget time and money to ensure that they stay Fresh.
How can a CFO find the time and money?
New CFOs are in the best position to find the time and money when negotiating their new CFO Employment Contract. As part of a new employment agreement, asking for a budgeted amount for conferences and other professional development gives a Chief Financial Officer the flexibility to find relevant learning and networking opportunities to stay fresh and further develop themselves as CFOs and as experts in their industry.
Employed CFOs that have not spent the effort to stay Fresh really need to get out of their rut. If you’ve been CFO with a company for 3 years but haven’t spent the time and money on staying Fresh, convincing your CEO that you need to start spending time and money on this could lead to quizzical looks. You may want to use the argument that you’ve spent all this time applying your previous experience, and now you need to upgrade your skills to better service the organization.
Whether a new or incumbent CFO, you need to believe that staying Fresh adds value to your current employer, and that your employer needs a Fresh CFO to get the best value from you.
Now that you’ve committed to spending time and money on improving and developing yourself, what are your options?
Conferences – Getting out of the office and in front of other people is not only a good change of pace, it can provide you with formal and informal learning opportunities and networking that will can add value to you and your employer immediately. CFO focused events, such as the AICPA CFO Conference or CFO Rising or even specialized CFO Conferences for your industry (e.g. the CFO & Finance Managers Conference by the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers) are excellent opportunities for learning, development and thinking about how you can apply what you’ve learned. I also recommend that you attend Industry conferences that are not finance focused so you can better understand the business and industry you currently serve.
Training – Specific training, either on a new subject or as a refresher, whether in a class room or as a webinar, can certainly allow you to stay fresh. Proformative has excellent webinars on relevant CFO topics on a regular basis, as well as an up to date list of CFO relevant events across the country.
Peer networks – CFOs can learn a lot from their fellow CFOs. Groups such as The CFO Alliance (which has meeting in cities around the USA) as well as local FEI chapters can provide learning and networking opportunities that are worth your time.
Licenses – I tend to see too many inactive CPAs. If you’ve went through the effort to get your CPA in the first place, find a way to get your employer to agree it’s valuable and pay for it. Make this cost a part of your Fresh CFO budget.
Coaching – Athletes do better with a Coach. So will you. Getting a CFO Coach can allow you to have the individualized attention and support you need to be the best CFO you can be. Putting this cost into your budget ensures you will continue to improve.
How much do you budget to stay Fresh?
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John Weiss says
Great post Samuel. I try to budget around $7,500/year for conferences and training. And while I don’t have a CFO coach, I do try to keep in contact with 1-2 mentor’s on a semi-regular basis to bounce things off of.
Samuel Dergel says
Excellent way to stay Fresh John!
Which was the most valuable recent event that you went to?
david k waltz says
On your list conferences and peer networks are probably the ones I do most. I also do a lot of reading and research – whitepapers, websites, etc.
One thing I do not mentioned in this post is blogging and other social media activity. Forcing oneself to organize thoughts coherently and to bring in different strands of information and points of view also helps to keep things “Fresh”.
Samuel Dergel says
I do agree that blogging and social media activity is important for CFOs. The fact is that most CFOs do not blog, and their social media activity, if they have any, is limited to ‘safe’ places like LinkedIn and Proformative.
You and a handful of other Senior Financial executives are blogging. Last week’s news of a certain CFO who was dismissed because of his social media activity will be another reason for most CFOs to stay away from taking a public stance. While unfortunate, the good news is that CFOs that want to stand out, stay Fresh and build value to themselves and their employers can easily do so by being active on social media.
Thanks as always for your insights.
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