For many controllers, this is the spot you want to be in. A comfortable, stable job that gets respect and pays well. But for others—especially those who clicked on this article—there’s another job title you’re looking to take on. A slightly more diverse role, a somewhat more strategy role, and ultimately, a role that needs a different mentality, according to many who have made the jump.
Knowing this, if you were to make the jump, you wouldn’t be alone. CFOs have to come from somewhere, and where better to start than the controllership? This was a topic for discussion at a recent Controllers Council webcast featuring our esteemed panelist Ted Weitzel, SVP Finance & Operations, G2, and former Controller, who shared his tips for personal and professional growth.
Five Things Every Controller Aspiring for the CFO Role Needs to Do
Though Mr. Weitzel offered a variety of insights throughout the webcast, one thing that stood out in this event was his time spent explaining the “do’s and don’ts” for any aspiring controller looking to take on the role. Whether that means developing a new skillset or finding how to get from the block and tackle world of closing books to the strategic role of the CFO, you’re going to need to find out what’s next.
Do #1: Say Yes
As a controller, you’re responsible for the finance and accounting in the business. As a CFO, you’re going to be working with new people and acting as a trusted business partner. You’re going to need to understand how each function operates so that you can assist them in making strategic decisions.
Building relationships and in turn developing trust is critical long-term professional growth. Be ready to take on tasks and responsibilities others might not want to do.
Do #2: Develop Your Presentation Skills
Controllers are known for their financial prowess and accounting acumen. But the CFO is going to spend a lot more time in the boardroom. This means presentations. Not only will you be presenting information to people who are equally competent in the financial sphere as you—private equity, bankers, and the like—you’ll also be speaking with people who have no idea what happens in the finance world.
“Know your audience and adjust appropriately,” says Weitzel. Learn even more about presentation skills in our article on developing an effective relationship with the Audit Committee.
Do #3: Dress, Act, and Speak Like a C-Level Executive
Depending on whether you’re East Coast suave or West Coast casual, you’re going to need to dress the part. Being able to gain the trust of internal and external stakeholders requires you to know the room and adapt to the needs.
Do # 4: Learn How to Move from Counting Beans to Growing Them
Even if the controller has long since moved away from the role of bean counter into new hybrid roles, he or she will still need to act even more strategically and focus on value creation in the future. “The CFO needs to be a significant part of growing the beans, in addition to counting them,” says Weitzel. You’re not just reporting, you’re guiding, strategizing, and ultimately taking the company in a direction that it needs to grow.
Do #5: Recruit, Grow, and Trust Your Finance and Accounting Team
Your CFO brought you on for a reason—he or she needed someone worthy of trust, someone that wasn’t in need of micromanagement, and someone who could provide an at-a-glance look. Your role thrives on pulling the right levers to get the machine working, but as a CFO, you’re hiring people to operate and maintain this accounting machine.
“You cannot be a successful CFO if you’re in the weeds on month-end close, financial reporting, or bogged down in the day-to-day functions of finance and accounting,” says Weitzel. “I think this is the most important [tip for aspiring CFOs].”
Watch the Entire Controller to CFO Webcast On Demand
If you’re in the market for a CFO role, there’s a whole lot more to know. 2020 should be the key year on your portfolio—after all, you’ve led your company through crises and challenges. Ready to learn more? Get the highlights from our Twitter profile, stay tuned for the 5 things you should avoid, and watch the webcast on demand to get all the insights.