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  • Debbie Schwake

Keeping More Than the Books: Understanding the CFO

Updated: Feb 27, 2021

Perspectives in Persona Development: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

In marketing, personas are the key element to understanding the motivations of your buyer, whether alone or as part of the buying committee.

Let's dig deeper into the key motivations of the CFO.

As a CFO, you are responsible for the financial actions of a company. When it comes to money, you call the shots. But the duties encapsulate more than just the overarching theme of money, so let’s break down the specifics.

A CFO should:

Manage expenses.

It’s imperative to understand spending in relation to revenue growth. This, alongside your employee expenses strategy, may seem like a good way to keep general costs down on the surface. But you need clear visibility of the big picture to make this happen. CFO’s are deeply educated and experienced in how to keep spending from becoming unpredictable, and instead use it as a lever for growth.

Contain risk.

Risks can arise in many shapes and forms, such as the lack of internal controls, cybersecurity threats, and social enterprise, to name a few. In the last decade, the number and types of risks that can impact a company have skyrocketed. A CFO’s job entails identifying said risk, assessing it, managing it, and eventually integrating it into the company’s strategy.

Enable profitable growth.

Being responsible for a company’s profitable growth involves having your finger on the pulse of new developments in the business industry. It also involves making bold moves and integrating new technology into the growth plan, something that can potentially benefit the entire organization down the line.

Related to managing the company’s finances, the CFO must lead the due diligence process for huge undertakings like mergers and acquisitions. In so many cases, an acquisition puts a company’s assets to work to exponentially increase earnings and stakeholder value.

Plan for the future.

Instead of focusing on past performances of the company, a CFO should focus on the present and future. Studying the company’s business operations as a whole alongside market development should give a CFO a good idea on the right steps to take as time goes on.

As a CFO, you not only play a critical role in shaping a company’s strategy, but their future as well. By continuing to help your organization grow financially, you’re doing far more than simply fulfilling what’s been written in the job description. Think broadly, be proactive, and in turn, you will undoubtedly move your business forward.

The CFO’s Persona

As you look at the vast financial responsibility of the holder of the company’s assets, it’s clear that you must speak to the CFO in financial terms. Trained to be skeptical of the numbers, make sure you can back up your cost benefit analysis with data. And expect resistance. The CFO can see the financial burdens of the company like no other, and paying down debt and increasing cash run in direct opposition to spending on new shiny objects.

Take this person seriously because the nature of their day-to-day work is serious. And never make the mistake of pretending to understand the stress of their job. Acknowledge, yes, but until you have been in this role, the CFO is sure you’ll never understand. The pressure is immense.

Finally, never ever try to get the CFO’s attention during month-end, quarter-end, year-end, or (gasp) during the annual audit. It is during those times they are trying desperately to tidy up the messes made by the rest of the company because, quite frankly, they don’t have a “figure this out later” file.


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