How to handle the first 100 days in the CFO hotseat

Just like political figures, the first 100 days in the job are crucial for an incoming CFO.

So, CFO Magazine’s Nina Hendy asked CFOs across a range of industry sectors what their advice is for their finance colleagues who might be planning a role change in 2022.

Here’s what they told us:

Xuehui Chiu, CFO, SAP A/NZ

“The first thing to do in any new job is to do a valuation of your “inheritance”, but never be burdened by it.  Do not bother yourself with the legacies of the past but focus on what you, as the new CFO plan to do for the future with your inheritance of people, process and systems in the light of the organisation’s culture and business environment. To understand your inheritance, you will need to observe, engage, and align. Invest time in observing the current norms, active engagement with your teams to hear their career trajectories and aspirations and stakeholders to hear their concerns and motivations, , and finally always align on the common goals. Talk not only to the people themselves but also to their circle of trust and influence. Set up one-on-one meetings with direct reports, peers and key stakeholders within the first month.”

Tony Achie, Finance Director | West HQ

“You’re only as good as your team so, assess their competency, experience, role fit, etc. As the book “Good to Great” says, “have the right people on the bus in the right seats.”

Also, get to know your responsibilities, including deadlines and reporting requirements. And stay focused and efficient set a clear agenda (keys projects, finance strategy, etc.)

And lastly, never forget to smile, stay calm and appreciate the team (diarise their birthdays, know their personality, ambitions, family, etc).

Rexine Jones, CFO | Hansen Yuncken

“The first 100 days needs a personal aspect. You need to consider whose foundation you lay for yourself, and how you embed your path within the company. The value of the broad nature of a CFO means you are establishing your longevity through the business, and these early days are really about embedding your time as the CFO in the company. This calls for prioritising current and longer term planning for purpose and people.”

Carla Webb-Sear, CFO | Enero Group

“Given the climate of COVID-19 this meant my first 100 days were almost all virtual, so when planning my calls I needed to be much more intentional and allow myself the opportunity to observe and learn, as well as share more about my perspectives and build trust and excitement around changes. I did this by reminding myself that I was balancing being vulnerable so people got to know me, being consistent so people understood my motivations and also knowing I was still on a learning curve to better understand how we could drive a portfolio of businesses to deliver value.”

Ashley Davies, CFO | Slyp

“In my first 90 days I made a point to meet everyone of our employees one-to-one. Within this you can make the human connections and understand some of the challenges employees face day-to-day. Once you have a grounding in all 3 of these any CFO/ leader is in a better position to engage, debate and make decisions around business strategy, resource allocation and execution for both the short, mid, and long-term.”

Leanne Allen, CFO | Commercial & General

“Have you ever been asked to write a 100 day plan for an organisation that you haven’t started working for yet? I did. Corporate goals need to be supported by people and culture.  Get to know the individuals, listen, support and empower them and the corporate goals will be achieved.”

Geoff Buchanan, CA, GAICD, BCompt, interim CFO | Austal Limited

“I believe it’s critical to demonstrate early an ability to master the role and build credibility with the Finance team, CEO and Board within the first 100 days. Identifying opportunities to deliver commercial value early on, and then leading the delivery of tangible benefits from these opportunities is key to building this credibility.

Kerryn Divall, General Manager, Finance & Corporate Services | The Tax Institute

“Listen more than you speak and ask a lot of questions. Assess the situation whether it is realignment, transformation or sustaining success and don’t assume you have all the answers otherwise you will alienate people. Use the time to build relationships and understand the business and build credibility.”

Marc Pizzichetta, CFO | Equip

“First and foremost, start building relationships with your team and key stakeholders, and work hard on making those connections. Once trust has been established it allows you to assess people, process and systems and determine which areas require focus, whether it be strategic, risk or process improvements. 

“Set up a regular communication cadence with the CEO, both formally and informally, to make sure you understand the challenges and opportunities facing the organisation.

“Finally, get a good grasp of the revenue and cost drivers of the business, so that you can measure historical performance and, more importantly, projected future outcomes.”

Matt Games, CFO | Findex

“Invest time in developing a deeper understanding of the business. Meet with key stakeholders from different levels, hear what they have to say, what they’re passionate about and what they’re looking for from you. Then overlay your own knowledge and views on those conversations to optimise your approach and maximise your impact.”

 Zac Hayes, CFO | Navorina Aged Care

“The best advice is to gain a core understanding of the vision, mission and path the CEO and board see for the organisation. I like to see how a company operates before I start recommending changes for financial impact, especially bottom-line suggestions. Aged care taught me that it’s about so much more than financial metrics when making a successful and profitable organisation.”

 Alex Ferguson, CFO | Evolt

“Creating a defined and strategic plan and sticking to it is crucial during the first 100 days, when you add change, disruption and evolution into the business mix it is easy to be pulled in multiple directions.

It’s also important to focus on key areas such as stakeholder engagement and relationships, process and role audits and data integrity are critical elements to foster in the first 100 days, which set the tone for yourself and the company moving forward. Creating and adding value to each process, interaction and engagement is mission critical and stands any CFO in good stead.”

 Mandy Drake, CFO | SelfWealth

Listen. Speak with the CEO, executive team, direct reports to find out what the opportunities are and where/how you can help. Visit business locations/departments to understand end-to-end systems and processes. See what’s going on and meet the teams. Review cash, financial reporting accuracy, balance sheet, HYE/YE reports, audit reports. Meet with key stakeholders – bank, auditors, lawyers, Insurance brokers etc. Review finance organisation structure and roles. Evaluate team. Assess what you would change and improve. Follow your instincts!

James Solomons, Global CFO | Xref (ASX:XF1)

“Meet as many in the business as possible. Listen, listen and then listen some more.

Do a tech stack review & a process review

Remove any frustrating roadblocks for people in your team and remove roadblocks for other divisions that are slowing them down

Review the business strategy and understand where you can make an impact. And self assess any new skills you need to acquire to be successful in this role

Plan for days 101-200 and then 201 to 365.”