How to Become an Entrepreneurial CFO

Organisations that employ a CFO with entrepreneurial thinking can make a huge difference to their future prospects.

This year in particular, the CFO has had to steer its organisation through fiscally rough waters. For many, this has been unchartered territory.

More than ever, the CFO role remains one of the highest-ranking executives in a company. Their main responsibility includes handling finances, financial forecasting and financial risk management. But thinking outside the box can yield strong results for those CFOs brave enough to step outside of their comfort zone. In fact, taking a more entrepreneurial approach to the role of CFO can change the trajectory for an organisation.

Here are 11 ways to become a more entrepreneurial CFO

1. Think like a startup

Adopt ‘start-up thinking’ and introduce that into your role. While there is no silver bullet on how to achieve this, understanding that innovation is a team sport and that great ideas can come from anywhere is an excellent first step for CFOs to step out of their comfort zone.

This means encouraging employees across the organisation to share innovative ideas, no matter how large or small. Giving them the support to share their ideas and implementing the best ones can transform an organisation.

2. Show grit

Having the ability to keep working through roadblocks, even when others think you should give up. This level of determination is what it takes to be successful entrepreneur.

3. Be flexible

Let go of rigid structures, thinking and approaching in exchange for greater flexibility. This means validating concepts presented by others and considering other ways to work, such as adopting more flexible working beyond this year’s pandemic. 

4. Adopt digital solutions

Being open to digital transformation and looking for tools and apps that streamline business systems is crucial.

Not only can digital transformation within an organisation save money and enable your business to better service clients, it can free up your teams for more client-facing work.

5. Open communication

Accessing necessary information about a company to keep teams on the same page can be a big turnaround from the more traditional style of leadership where information is hoarded and protected from others.

Transparent digital communication could involve setting up an online forum, or adopting a tool such as Slack, where teams can be grouped by topic and looped into all communication. Whichever approach you choose, it can have a big impact.

6. Innovate

Staying still isn’t an option for the entrepreneurial CFO. Looking for ways to constantly innovate and approach new ideas within the business means you’re on the path of constant improvement.    

7. Read the data

Knowing how to collate and read the data that exists within your organisation will provide CFOs with the answers they’re seeking on how to grow and evolve over time.

Data is everywhere – from geographical location from online purchases to average in-store dwell times, so making sure you’re using that information to drive business decisions is key.

8. Don’t grow too fast

Make hay while the sun shines is great, but if you’re growing too fast, cracks can start to show. One landmark study found that 74 per cent of high growth startups fail due to premature scaling. Fast growth can also have a detrimental impact on larger organisations, too.

If growth is on the cards, make sure you’ve got the structure and systems in place to support the growth.

9. Lead slower

Business is moving faster than ever, but great leadership doesn’t mean you have to speed up. Slowing down to take time to focus on the important things and recognising the value in the people in your organisation and taking them on the journey is an important skill.

This includes taking the time to make big decisions and not being rushed by other departments into adopting new ideas.

10. Know your metrics

Understanding the health metrics of your organisation and making necessary corrections if there are issues in these metrics is crucial.

Otherwise known as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), these could include sales revenue, gross margin, monthly recurring revenue and net promotor score.

11. Experiment safely

Startups love to experiment. The key is to do this in a safe environment and accept that failure is a possibility.

Consider empowering a team to test that idea they bought to you last year and setting a suitable budget. Constant communication and strong leadership could open up new possibilities for your organisation.