The Controllers Council recently announced our new Meet the Controller/CFO interview series. The new corporate finance Interview Series includes Financial Controllers, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs), and related executive titles with a focus on career advice, roles, and responsibilities, and ultimately “secrets to success”.
What have some of our latest participants shared about their keys to success? Take a look below:
1. Curiosity and Clearly Communicated Processes
“Curiosity. Clearly communicated processes. A good, dependable team and a drive to constantly be looking for ways to improve our processes and our communication tools. That’s been the pillars of my work. I talked a little bit about this earlier, but genuine curiosity about how the company works, who does what, who needs what information, what isn’t working, what is working, how do we augment what’s working well and how do we fix what isn’t working well. Non-profits are by nature scrappy in a lot of cases. Even though we’re a very well-known and respectable performing arts company, we’re still a nonprofit.”
Ashley Pena, Finance Director for the New York Philharmonic
2. Think of Yourself as a Leader
“I’ll say really a significant key to my success has been to not really think of myself as a CFO, but really just as a leader with the financial expertise that, he also really taught me, he said, “You want to make others sort of extensions of your role.” And so you go into an organization, you look across organization, you want to make a thousand other little mini-CFOs, you want to get people to act and think like the office of the CFO. And you do that through leadership, you do that through influence.
And so one of the things is a lot really not letting my peers or others think of me in any limited box, just as a CFO and taking on opportunities to contribute beyond the traditional roles of the CFO, raising your hand for projects and just making sure you come to meetings and just you really engage in your business and particularly where you’re in settings with others to not just walk in with your CFO app, but just really be a leader. Come in there and contribute at every way you can and not just from a financial perspective and prove that the role is not limited to financial and data aggregation, but that those components are truly, they’re just the backbone of that role.”
John Bozin, CFO of Armanino Strategic Finance Outsourcing (SFO), and CFOO specialist
3. Be Consistent
“For me, just throughout my career I’ve learned that for the most part when it comes to just the skill set of people, there’s not a huge difference in terms of someone’s ability to do the job. It’s more about their ability to actually lead and to actually work with varying different people. For me, what makes my career successful or has led to success in my career is the ability to always deliver what I say I’m going to deliver, be consistent with everyone. I know office politics plays a lot in just about every company and every company I’ve worked for has had the same issues, but kind of staying above the fray and really just focusing on treating everyone as individuals and really being fair and being transparent, that has really led me to where I’m at today and hopefully to where I want to go in the future.”
Lensford McKenzie, Financial Controller at Americas at Argus Media.
4. Find Supporters
“I always start with the keys to success really start with supporters. No one in the C-suite made it there by themselves just because they were so good and so much smarter and work so much harder. I think those things are true about a lot of people who do work very well in their career, but they’ve all had somebody who supported them. Could be in the form of a mentor, but I think a mentorship is just kind of a tip of the iceberg. It’s really somebody who was invested in their career, which is what I call a supporter, who really helped them navigate their career, their company, their opportunities. They were the sounding board; they were the ones that put them up for various new roles and things of that nature.”
Shannon Nash, CFO at Wing, an Alphabet Company
5. Continue Your Education
“From a key to success perspective, I would say table stakes would be accounting and finance proficiency. I think making sure, as a professional, you come with a deep understanding, as evidenced by your academic career and additional certifications, that you fully understand the construction of the balance sheet, the construction of the P and L, how information flows into the financial statements to inform business opportunities and business results.”
Mike Polaha, SVP Finance at BlackLine
6. Be Intellectually Curious
“Maybe some of the diversity in my background is key to the success in a lot of ways. I think the same things that drove me to the field are keys to the success. I think you must be intellectually curious. You must have a good foundation in statistics, and probability, and math, and a comfort with numbers, but it’s also being able to really communicate the numbers.”
Glenn Hopper, CFO of Sandline Global, a legal tech company
7. Be Proactive
“I think you ask people about working with me, I’m proactive. I tend to look down the road nine months ahead of time, 12 months and really let people know, like, “Look, I see something that could be a challenge now. If we don’t deal with it now, we’re going to pay the price nine months later.”
Brandt Kucharski, Chief Accounting Officer of Ethos Life (former CAO of Grubhub)
Looking to learn more about career success? Controllers Council is a national community and platform of Controllers, Accounting and Finance professionals focused on accounting best practices, information and resources, recognition, and networking. Membership has many features and benefits to propel your career and expertise, and to be an active participant in our exciting community. Discuss topics like today’s job market and more in our forum. Become a member today.
Participate in Our Controller/CFO – Interview Series
We would like to thank our participants for sharing their valuable career advice so far. For more information about the Interview Series, or if you’re interested in participating please visit https://controllerscouncil.org/controller-cfo-interview-series/