What to Look for in a CFO

Matt Shelly
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The chief financial officer of a company holds one of the most important accounting positions in the organization. This executive is in charge of not only managing the company's purse strings but also ensuring that data produced by the many departments of the company is reliable and used effectively by the ownership or management team when it comes time to allocate funds or make cuts. The chief financial officer often wears many hats over the course of a day, and finding the right person to fill this position in your company can have a marked impact on the organization's success.


Accounting skills and education are part of the two most important traits a chief financial officer should possess. Many in this position have years of experience as accountants or auditors. Others possess advanced degrees and certifications within the field of accountancy. The other half of a chief financial officer's skill set should consist of leadership skills. The ability to lead within an organization is a requirement at the executive level, and anyone applying for this position should have a demonstrated record of success in management and administrative duties. This includes managing at both the team and organizational level.


An accounting executive should also demonstrate considerable communication and presentation skills. Chief financial officers are often called upon to help create presentations that may greatly influence potential investors, partners, and clients. They also regularly host meetings to both analyze data created by the many accountants and auditors of the company and to determine how to act on that information. This may mean cutting funds in some departments and reallocating resources to help meet the needs of the company. Skill in communications can help smooth transitions when such reallocation occurs, and the ability to make solid presentations makes it far easier to share information across departments.


Because a chief financial officer performs many different duties over the course of a day, a broad background in both leadership and accounting is often preferred. The prime applicant for the position of accounting executive should have both work experience that shows this background as well as signs of community involvement that showcase willingness to lead on many levels. Leadership as part of community activities or volunteer work demonstrates a sense of caring and discipline that can help set some candidates ahead of the pack.


Executives face a different set of challenges than regular accountants or auditors. When your company is ready to seek a new or first-time chief financial officer, it helps to understand how evaluating education, experience, leadership traits, and communications skills can help you find the right candidate. A solid chief financial officer can help lead your company to even greater success in the future and make the right decisions to ensure prosperity on many levels.


(Photo courtesy of Zuzzuillo / freedigitalphotos.net)


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