Let’s be honest, we can sometimes stumble here and there and make mistakes when it comes to working with our colleagues and executive leadership. I know I have. We’re not always going to be perfect—we’re humans and we make mistakes. But as professionals, we always strive to be collaborative and problem solvers. When you are working with multiple departments and teams, you’ll often collaborate on projects with chief level executives. So, in this blog, I’m going to share with you three things you need to know about working with your CFO whether you’re in finance or not.
Let’s get into it. What do CFOs really care about?
1. They Need Collaboration and Trust
When it comes to working with a CFO, it’s all about collaboration and trust. Working with a CFO takes a great deal of transparency and accountability since you are more often than not basing your conversation around team metrics and ROI. These metrics and data points need to be delivered with honesty in order to cultivate a strong relationship with your CFO.
According to Vena’s CFO Darrell Cox, when you are collaborating with finance, “knowing your numbers helps bridge the gap and sharing the numbers helps you build the relationship.”
Cultivating a good relationship means aligning collaboration between finance and other teams. This ensures that all teams work together to reach their business goals. When relationships are strong and built on a foundation of trust, your organization is also aligned. When team relationships aren’t built on trust, you can confidently assume that the business goals will not be met since there is misalignment among teams.
2. They Care About the Metrics
You’ll often hear CFOs asking, “What’s the ROI?” The top three things CFOs always have on their radar are expenses, revenue and net income. They also look into lead funnel, conversion rates, new account opportunities, accurate reporting and cost of customer acquisition. These are the kinds of metrics that CFOs care about and have top of mind. It’s important to keep these metrics close by when you are speaking to your CFO. It’s also equally as important, if not more, for different departmental teams to communicate with one another and to share pertinent metrics like these. It’s not necessarily one team's job to chase the other for these metrics. In fact, Darrell suggests, “Everyone needs to be doing their roles and working together as one team. You can’t look at any responsibility on one individual to reach out to the other.”
Darrell also points out that it’s important for teams to align and that things often boil down to the numbers and trust. “There have been situations where teams have been struggling to achieve their objectives with their budget. My role is to get in there and understand all the numbers and if we need to reallocate budget,” he says.
Since numbers and metrics are pertinent to teams, aligning tools that can speed up the process and accuracy of reporting make all the difference. Vena utilizes a dashboard of leading indicators of business performance and if you see that there is an issue with any project, a change can be made relatively quickly. Our dashboards also help teams talk through the numbers and understand the risks.
For a CFO, it’s not just about the numbers, but rather what those numbers represent. A common mistake made in working with CFOs is not having accurate metrics, or worse , manipulated and biased metrics. According to Darrell, financial metrics are a great way to make your case a point to your CFO on a particular project or team goal. Having an honest conversation about metrics helps CFOs feel comfortable and also builds trust. Not all metrics will be positive month over month. But don’t throw away trust by manipulating metrics to look better than they really are. It’s the CFO’s job to help you get your metrics to where they need to be.
3. They Need You To Speak the Same Language
Outside of accurate metrics, trust and team collaboration, it’s really important to speak the same language with your CFO. What we mean by this is ensuring that different teams are all sharing the same view of data. For example, CFOs are focused on growth and cash or growth and profit whereas marketing teams are focused on growth, but they’re not always able to relate it to profit or spend. Once the marketing team is able to tie marketing results to early indicators and late stage results, then marketing and finance are speaking the same language. As Darrell claims, “Communicating in a way that illustrates the results over the activity” is the most important thing to remember when speaking with your CFO.
One last piece of advice from our CFO is that “the only thing for sure about a plan is that it will go wrong.” So plan ahead when you can and learn to be nimble and agile in response to unpredicted changes.
Curious about what the world’s top CFOs have in common? Read our blog.