Finance & Operations

Managing the Transition for a New CFO

July 16, 2010

Deloitte just published a great whitepaper, “Taking the Reins: Managing CFO Transitions.”

As a Boston venture capital firm that provides recruiting support and strategic consulting services to our expansion stage portfolio companies, we are often asked to recruit or help coach new CFOs.

While Deloitte cites a failure rate of 40% for executive transitions within the first 18 months of hire, this newly released whitepaper has some helpful tips specifically for CFOs to help smooth what can often be a tough transition.

First, get to know the business. Often this means listening, rather than jumping in and making change for the sake of change. Understand the business model, the culture, manage up effectively, build relationships across the executive team and mind the gaps (you most likely will find that you will need to build some skills that you haven’t relied upon before).

Second, choose what to do. Build a 180-day plan and, most importantly, choose what not to do. Set benchmarks and focus. Establish a longer term vision and communicate it.

Third, make a difference. After the honeymoon (which can be very short), it’s all about execution and taking the finance organization to the next level. Align your best talent with the most important initiatives, learn to delegate and adopt proven best practice processes (don’t re-invent the wheel). Increase teaming, transparency and accountability.

Across all three of these major phases of transition, it is crucial for CFOs to effectively balance and manage time, talent and relationships.  A first-time CFO may need mentoring to figure out this balance as they step into the role for the first time. Even an experienced CFO, however, will need to fine-tune their skills in balancing this triangle (time, talent, relationship) as they transition into a new situation.

Check out the whitepaper for more helpful tips!