CFO to General Manager in Today’s Business World

Advice from Stuart Pasternak, Toronto Regional Director, CFO Leadership Council

Stuart Pasternak, Toronto Regional Director, The CFO Leadership Council

“Business today faces fierce competition on an international scale and has forced CFOs to become a “Master” in the delivery of the corporate strategy and driving successes.”   
~ Stuart Pasternak, Toronto Regional Director, CFOLC

The role of the Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”) has become increasingly vital to a corporation, making the scope of the job broader and more complex.  How are you dealing with this dynamic change?  Are you a Tactical CFO or a Strategic CFO?  Can you think like a General Manager and look forward, or are you always looking in the rear-view mirror?

As CFOs, we are increasingly being asked to spread our knowledge and experience throughout the corporation and play a crucial role in helping navigate through challenging circumstances and the changing business landscape. We are no longer expected to be number crunchers and financial watchdogs.

Business today faces fierce competition on an international scale, changing and demanding customer base, and with the impact of technology has forced CFOs to become a “Master” in the delivery of the corporate strategy and driving successes.  This requires the CFO to be highly involved in strategic decision making and value creation – the Strategic CFO is someone who thinks like a General Manager with the skill to make sense of diverse business metrics in real-time to ensure that the corporation is going in the right direction and help the Chief Executive Officer (“CEO”) change course.

A Strategic CFO consistently improves their leadership and communication skills, builds world-class finance teams, leverages data capabilities and technologies helping CFOs meet business expectations that deliver more timely and accurate historical and forward-looking information and works closer with the (CEO) than in the past. They are asked to communicate more frequently and in greater detail with the Board of Directors and Shareholders.

CFOs are faced with balancing competing demands on their priorities and time, tasked with continuing to manage traditional financial responsibilities while driving corporate strategy. As a Strategic CFO, consider allocate at least 25% of your time towards developing and driving strategic plans.

The Five Part Playbook to becoming a Strategic CFO

  1. Peer networking to accelerate the learning curve to becoming a Strategic CFO. Regardless of industry, many CFO experiences the same challenges or obstacles that could come your way.  A strong peer network can help you navigate these issues.  Remember “You don’t know what you don’t know,” but others do.
  2. Analyze profit trends, product-line and customer profitability. Understand your products’ customer mix and identify opportunities to improve bottom-line performance. Determine which activities to outsource or bring in house and assess the pros and cons of alternative distribution channels.
  3. Help the CEO determine which business to invest in, harvest or exit. Know where to invest corporate resources for long term sustainable strategic value productively.  How to shift capital resources towards promising opportunities.
  4. Reassess current technologies to provide data, analysis and recommendations to the CEO other strategic decisions. Data is critical in this regard. Data analytics offer the means to shift through millions of data sets to extract the golden nuggets of information. This insight can direct the development of new or enhance products or innovations.
  5. As a Strategic CFO, consider allocating at least 25% of your time towards developing and driving strategic plans.CFOs are faced with balancing competing demands on their priorities and time. Prioritizing strategic planning will ease the task of managing traditional financial responsibilities while simultaneously trying to drive corporate strategy.

“If you want to be a Strategic CFO, get out of your office,
expand your knowledge base, and network, network, network.
Start by attending CFOLC’s 10th annual conference,
CFO Masterclass, May 11 & 12 2020.”
Stuart Pasternak, CFO Masterclass Host Committee

With the emergence of the Strategic CFO, the role of the Chief Operating Officer is being eliminated. So if you want to be a Strategic CFO, get out of your office, expand your knowledge base, talk with your customers and network, network, network. Start by attending the CFO Leadership Council’s 10th annual conference, “CFO Masterclass, “May 11 & 12 2020.

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About The CFO Leadership Council
The CFO Leadership Council offers both live & online programs that feature expert panels and interactive sessions that drive meaningful conversation and leadership development among our membership. Our collection of leadership development resources similar to this article contain pragmatic insights and advice sourced directly from our members and industry experts.  Recordings of CFOLC webcasts are made available to our current CFOLC Premium & Virtual members. CPEs are now offered for our webcasts to current CFOLC members only.  To learn about our membership and connecting with our growing CFOLC community, visit

The CFO Leadership Conference “CFO Masterclass”
The CFO Leadership Council’s 10th annual national conference “CFO Masterclass” is being held May 11-12, 2020 and is designed to be all about the CFO.  It will explore what you need to be a Masterclass CFO in today’s fast-paced disruptive world.  This year includes two full days of programming – roundtable discussions, inspiring keynotes, and expert-led interactive panels crafted to dig deep into key leadership areas.  Sessions include Mastering The New Executive Leader, Mastering Finance’s New Model, Mastering Delivery Of Company Strategy & more.  Network and learn alongside 400+ of your peers across North America. NASBA Certified CPE Offered.  Best discounted prices available now until January 31st.  Reserve your seat today.

MIT CFO Accelerating Growth Through Leadership Executive Program
CFO Week continues with a three-day “CFO Accelerator” program custom-designed by MITSEE for the CFO Leadership Council community.  This advanced learning is ideal for high growth company CFOs looking to enhance your ability to lead your rapidly evolving company.  It will be lead by MIT faculty and other experts on May 15-17, 2019 and held right on the MIT campus.  Seats are extremely limited as the classroom is kept small (44 seats).  This promises to once again be a one-of-a-kind experience for the greater CFO community.

Want to Continue the Conversation?
We’d love to hear from you. Post a comment about your experiences or provide feedback below to continue the discussion about how creative leadership in the current climate.  Or contact Kristin Todd, Vice President of Marketing,

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