This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Atlanta Steering Committee member Judy Romano here. To learn more about Judy and her involvement with The Atlanta CFO Leadership Council, check out her LinkedIn profile here!

The Atlanta CFO Leadership Council was launched in January 2015 with a very successful Networking event in Buckhead. The CFO Leadership Council provides great networking opportunity with peers and also offers an educational forum for senior financial executives.

CFO Council Atlanta“Habits of Highly Successful CFOs”. We had a great turn out at the Buckhead Club despite the bitter cold.

Our panel included:

  • Brian Beckwith, CEO, Formation Capital
  • Scott Dorfman, CEO, Innotrac Corporation
  • Bruce Duner, CFO, Bomgar Corporation
  • Sean Barry, CEO, Bridgevine
  • Christine St.Clare, Board Member, Fibrocell Science and Polymer Group

Here is a sample of some of the questions discussed by the Panel:

  • What make a CFO successful in his/her role? – The panel members agreed that role clarity is key; the CFO should be forward looking (understanding the past is critical but impacting the future is what is expected from the CFO). He/she should also take calculated risks. A strong and trusted relationship with the CEO is essential as the CEO views the CFO as his co-pilot; expects the CFO to help steer the business. In these situations the CFO many times finds her/himself acting more like a COO. In my most recent role in Europe with McKesson I had a similar role, which I enjoyed immensely. The successful CFO is also viewed as a strategic partner to the CEO. If/when the company is going through major changes and/or transition (going public, acquired by a PE firm, being taken private, etc) the role of the CFO is critical. It is understood that the CFO knows how to get the technical part of the job done, what sets a good CFO apart from a great CFO is his ability to work very closely with the CEO and other key stakeholders as they make decisions shaping the future of the business.
  • Importance of Communication style – Different communication style is required depending on who the CFO is communicating with. If the company is owned by a PE firm, transparent communication style is expected. The panel agreed that open, candid and frequent communication is a must with leadership to avoid surprises and also to address issues as they arise. Brian Beckwith, CEO Formation Capital used the phrase “Flex Communication Style” is the best – different style for the different audiences. The CFO should also be confident when sharing information with his audience. Brian Beckwith reminded the audience of one pitfall that some CFOs might fall in – not being concise, i.e. sharing TMI – Too Much Information. When communicating CFOs should be short and to the point mostly when the audience is the Board, Investors, Peers or employees.
  • Building a strong team – The panel urged CFOs to build a very strong team; know what you don’t know and surround you with a team who can “cover” your weaknesses. Sean Barry, CEO of Bridgevine Inc. recommended that CFOs should be allowed to build their own team and make their own decisions about the team. Good documentation of all processes was also recommended. “Hire smarter people than yourself” resonated amongst the panelists.
  • How can the CFO impact the culture of the company? – Successful CFOs should encourage openness; support the vision of the company and lead by example; should create a fact based company culture and drive accountability based upon meaningful and measurable KPIs. Incentives should be aligned to the long-term success of the company (70% company objective and 30% individual objective achievement was recommended).

There were many other valuable points discussed; the above was intended as a high level summary of the discussion.

In March we have a networking event coming up around March Madness and in April (16th) we will focus the panel discussion on “Building High Performance Teams”.

I look forward to seeing some of you in the Greater Atlanta area at one of these upcoming events!

[Editors Note: A huge thanks to Judy for writing such an excellent piece!]

Photos and More Information

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