As a controller, you play a vital role in the organization. An unsung hero and a key player who steers the company through the best and the worst of times, you might be happy in your role. However, you also might be looking for the power and prestige that comes from grabbing the ring and moving into the CFO office.
Following our blog on the five things you should do if you feel it’s in your best interest to pursue a CFO role, we would today like to discuss the things you need to avoid on the path.
Five Don’ts: What to Avoid on the Path from Controller to CFO
Part of our webinar titled Controller to CFO: The Path to Promotion, our esteemed panelist Ted Weitzel, SVP of Finance & Operations at G2, an individual who made the journey from controller to CFO shared the things to embrace and avoid if you want to make the jump.
Mr. Weitzel, whose history includes a variety of controller roles before moving into his current position, offered a variety of tips, and here are just some of the takeaways.
Don’t #1: Stop Explaining Your Decisions Like a Controller
Controllers have challenging roles, but one easy part of the role is the ability to say no. However, when a CFO is presented with an internal sales pitch or proposition, the no has to be backed up. Part of the CFO role is going to be built in your ability to form relationships and establish trust.
In this, Weitzel recommends shifting your thinking from “no” to “no, but…”, explaining with tact why something isn’t part of the strategic plan and how to improve the idea or shift it toward the company strategy.
Don’t #2: Don’t Surround Yourself with People Who Can’t Make Decisions
CFOs are responsible for the finance department—and all the things the department does. But that doesn’t mean you have to be the smartest person in the room. Weitzel feels similarly, noting that “your job is not to be the smartest person in the room, your job is to listen to all the very smart people and help them make decisions.”
But don’t ignore the fact that you have to take charge when you need to. “If you’re going to deal with management by committee and you can’t come to a conclusion, make the call yourself and own your decision both in success or in failure,” he adds.
Don’t #3: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Ethics
As a controller, you might have been the highest person on the totem pole with a CPA license. You adhere to the code of ethics. As a CFO, you may not need to keep this licensure—but you shouldn’t forget the principles and ethics.
“One slip up, and you’ll lose the trust and the stature that you’ve worked so hard to build within the organization,” Weitzel adds. “You must own every decision and recommendation you make whether it is correct or incorrect and you must never bend or break rules to make the company look better than it is. Honesty isn’t just the best policy, it’s the only policy.”
Don’t #4: Don’t Get Stuck
One of the most dangerous mindsets in any business is that of “we’ve always done it this way.” Whether that’s in the personal or professional sense, you can’t stop. Never stop putting yourself or your company in a position that can get stuck. How are you looking to understand the role you have and the role you want? How are you positioning yourself for shore and long-term growth?
Don’t #5: Don’t Be an Island
Finance professionals are generally introverted. Though you may have gained some people and managerial skills in your rise to the controllership, the biggest challenge for aspiring CFOs is going to be the networking, brand building, and connection that goes into building yourself up. Though terms like personal brand and networking may feel dirty and result in cringes from introverts everywhere, even the smallest outreach is a step in the right direction.
Put Yourself in a Position for Growth: Join the Controllers Council
Whether you want to improve your role or move past it, the Controllers Council is here to help. We provide networking, education, and recognition for controllers around the world. Get to know about the benefits of becoming a member here.