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I became CFO. And now, what to do?

CFO meeting

 

Introduction

Taking on the role of chief financial officer (CFO) is a significant milestone, marking the beginning of a journey filled with obstacles and opportunities. The first year is particularly important as it provides the foundation for your tenure and impacts the company's financial health and strategic direction. The purpose of this "Checklist" is to provide comprehensive guidance, guiding new CFOs through the critical steps of understanding, optimizing, driving and progressing their work. With a structured approach, a CFO can efficiently navigate the complexities of their role, ensuring that they not only meet shareholder expectations, but also exceed their expectations. This guide will detail each step clearly, providing practical guidance, relevant actions and strategic insights to help you make informed decisions and lead your business to sustainable financial success.


The first 30 days at the company - (Atmosphere)

Getting to know the company

The first 30 days will be challenging as you will have to quickly learn how the organization works, the main leaders, the operational and commercial process, the organizational culture, the capacity of your team, products, services, political forces and many other situations that, in some way, they will influence your future decisions.

Review the most recent financial statements

It is important to understand the company's current financial situation. Carry out an analysis of balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, explanatory notes and auditors' reports. Look for trends, anomalies, and key performance indicators to highlight your company's financial health. Also seek to learn about auxiliary reports that top managers use to make decisions and analyze the company.

Identify key revenue streams, key expenses and profitability trends

Divide the company's revenues to identify which products, services or business units are most profitable. Analyze expense reports to understand where the company is overinvesting and identify areas that can be improved.

Meet with finance, accounting, treasury and audit teams

Establish cooperative relationships with your finance team. Understanding your processes and challenges will provide better insight into your company's financial operations.

Understand financial reporting timelines, tools, and systems

This ensures that you meet deadlines and use the appropriate tools to optimize financial operations.

Review any outstanding financial audits or regulatory issues

Plan for any pending audits or regulatory concerns. Taking a proactive attitude can prevent future problems and demonstrate your commitment to compliance.

Engage with external stakeholders such as bankers and investors

Develop relationships with key stakeholders early on. Your support is crucial to ensuring the financial stability and sustained growth of the organization.

Understand all ongoing M&A activities or major financial projects

Stay up to date with any important mergers, acquisitions or projects. Understanding these actions will help you adjust financial strategies to your company's goals.

Familiarize yourself with the company's corporate governance structure

Understanding the governance structure contributes to understanding the decision-making processes and the distribution of financial responsibilities.

Understand budgeting and forecasting processes

Evaluate how the company sets its budgets and plans its financial future. This knowledge is essential for efficient financial planning.

Review capital commitments for the coming year and consider the availability of free cash flow

Assess the company's capital commitments and ensure there is sufficient cash flow to meet these obligations without compromising medium-term financial stability. Understand your credit limits, investment needs, dividends, etc.

Verify that current CAPEX plans meet strategic objectives and growth priorities

Check whether investment budgets are in line with the organization's strategic goals. This ensures that investments are supporting long-term growth.

Review staffing plans for the current budget cycle and ensure they are aligned with strategic objectives

Ensure that hiring plans support the company's strategic objectives. This includes reviewing hiring budgets and strategically adapting new roles.

Evaluate all initiatives to reduce costs or update systems.

Identify and evaluate all ongoing or planned cost optimization initiatives. System upgrades can increase productivity and reduce costs.

Engage with internal stakeholders to understand their financial needs

Understand the financial needs of different departments to ensure their needs are met and aligned with overall company goals.

Understand the company’s culture, values, and financial decision-making process

Immerse yourself in company culture to align financial strategies with company values and decision-making processes.

Review any outstanding tax issues or regulatory issues

Address any tax issues or regulatory assessments that may affect the company's financial position.

Understand working capital management and any liquidity difficulties

Evaluate the company's working capital management strategies to ensure the necessary liquidity for operations. Assess the company's debt profile, capital structure and financial arrangements.

Assess the company's debt profile, capital structure and financial covenants

Analyze the company's debt and capital structure to understand financial leverage and compliance with financial covenants.

Work together with audit companies and credit rating agencies.

Establish relationships with auditing firms and credit rating agencies to ensure transparency and maintain good credit ratings.

 

From 30 to 90 days: Start optimizing

Bank Negotiation
 

Develop a financial vision and strategy suited to the organization’s objectives

Create a financial vision for the company's overall goals. This involves defining strategic financial goals and creating a roadmap to achieve them.

Improve cash flow culture by prioritizing cash flow management at all levels of the organization

Emphasize cash flow management across the organization. Propose practices for healthy cash flow.

Identify the main financial KPIs and how to achieve them

Determine the critical KPIs that will measure the organization's financial performance. Develop strategies to achieve these KPIs.

Analyze the efficiency of currently available financial systems and tools

Analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of available financial systems and tools. Update or replace outdated or inefficient systems.

Discuss gaps in financial reporting, compliance or legal submissions.

Identify and fill any gaps in financial reporting or compliance to ensure the organization meets all regulatory requirements.

Identify the company's risk profile and understand the main financial risks.

Analyze the financial dangers faced by the company and create tactics to minimize these dangers.

Create strategies for financial risk management and contingency planning

Create comprehensive risk management and contingency plans to protect the organization's financial health.

Initiate long-term financial planning, taking into account growth and capital needs

Start planning for the long term, focusing on growth strategies and capital needs to sustain that growth

Check for skills gaps in finance staff and consider hiring or training

Recognize any skills gaps in the finance team and address them through hiring or training programs.

Work together with departments on their needs and long-term financial plans

Collaborate across departments to understand and support your long-term financial plans and needs.

Produce a communication plan for stakeholders about financial performance

Create a plan to periodically communicate financial progress to stakeholders, ensuring clarity and trust.

Create a culture of constant learning within the finance team

Motivate the finance team to constantly learn and improve to keep skills up to date.

Organize investor relations events or financial conferences

Hold regular events to keep investors and other stakeholders informed about the company's performance and financial plans.

Keep in mind scenarios of economic downturn or major changes in the market

Prepare for possible economic crises or significant changes in the market by developing emergency plans.

Participate in the audit committee on risk management priorities

Work closely with the audit committee to address risk management priorities and strategies.

Take advantage of advances in digital technology to improve financial processes.

Use the latest digital technologies to simplify and optimize financial processes, increasing efficiency.

Refine strategies based on feedback and financial performance

Refine and adapt financial strategies according to performance data and stakeholder feedback.

 

From 91 to 180 days: Drive

Paved Road
 

Start applying the financial strategies developed in the first 90 days

Start implementing your planned financial strategies and initiatives within the first 90 days.

Track the progress of each strategic action to assess its impact

Monitor the implementation of strategies and evaluate their efficiency and impact on the organization's financial health.

Ensure financial activities comply with regulatory standards

Maintain compliance with all relevant regulatory parameters to avoid legal and financial sanctions.

Monitor the financial risk scenario and adapt strategies appropriately

Constantly evaluate the financial market and create strategies to deal with new risks.

Implement recommended changes or improvements to the tax strategy

Make necessary changes to the company's tax strategy to optimize tax liabilities and compliance.

Refine the company's budgeting process and ensure alignment with objectives

Adjust and improve the budgeting process to ensure its alignment with the company's strategic objectives.

Set clear budgets for different departments and monitor them regularly

Establish and oversee departmental budgets to ensure they are met and aligned with overall company goals.

Develop a detailed financial forecast for the next fiscal year

Create comprehensive financial forecasts to guide planning and decision-making for the upcoming fiscal year.

Allocate financial resources to highly relevant projects and initiatives

Direct financial resources to projects and initiatives that are a high priority for the company's growth.

Evaluate potential investment opportunities to align with strategy

Evaluate investment opportunities to ensure they are aligned with the company's strategic goals.

Implement recommended risk management tools or hedging strategies

Adopt risk management tools and hedging strategies to protect the company against financial risks.

Provide updates to the board and stakeholders on financial strategy progress

Regularly update the board and stakeholders on the progress of financial strategies and initiatives.

Engage deeply with external stakeholders such as investors and analysts

Maintain strong relationships with external stakeholders to foster trust and support.

Explore possible partnerships or strategic collaborations.

Investigate opportunities for partnerships or strategic collaborations that could improve the company's financial position.

Address any team challenges or conflicts to achieve a cohesive finance function

Resolve any internal conflicts or challenges to ensure a cohesive and effective finance team.

Conduct training sessions for finance teams on new tools or software

Provide training on new financial tools and software to ensure staff are proficient and effective.

Provide leadership training and mentoring to people with potential

Provide leadership training and mentoring programs to develop the next generation of financial managers.

 

From 181 to 365 days: Evolve

Financial meeting
 

Conduct an analysis of financial performance over the last six months.

Analyze the company's financial performance over the last six months to identify trends and areas for improvement.

Reflect on the successes and challenges of the first half of the year.

Consider what worked well and what difficulties were encountered to improve future strategies.

Start formulating goals and priorities for the coming year.

Establish goals and priorities for the next year based on performance presented and future expectations.

Refine long-term financial plans based on past performance and lessons learned.

Adjust long-term financial plans to incorporate lessons from past performance.

Assess the company's capital structure and the availability of financing for the future.

Assess the financial structure to ensure it supports future growth and financial stability.

Evaluate the company's dividend distribution policy in relation to future financing needs.

Check the dividend policy to ensure it is in line with the company's financing needs and strategic goals.

Analyze the financial viability, payback period and financial return on planned CAPEX expenditures

Analyze planned capital expenditures to ensure they are economically viable and provide a good return on investment.

Analyze and review employee compensation structures, bonus plans or benefits packages

Ensure that compensation and benefits are competitive and aligned with the organization's performance and financial goals.

Establish benchmarks to measure financial success in the coming year

Set clear indicators to measure financial success and track progress throughout the year.

Ensure that the company's financial strategy is aligned with sustainability goals.

Align financial strategies with sustainability objectives to achieve long-term environmental and social goals

Consider areas where technology can further optimize financial operations

Create and implement technological solutions that can improve financial operations and efficiency.

Identify areas of success and possible improvements in financial processes.

Highlight successful financial processes and identify areas that can be improved.

Prepare for possible changes in the market or industry

Develop strategies to deal with possible changes in the market or sector scenario.

Develop strategies to avoid possible economic downturns

Plan for economic downturns by developing strategies to maintain financial stability during difficult times.

Explore and implement innovative financial tools or strategies

Stay ahead of the trend by exploring and applying new financial tools and strategies.

Organize periodic review meetings with key stakeholders

Establish a routine of periodic review meetings with stakeholders to ensure continued alignment and progress.

Promote deeper relationships with external stakeholders and financial institutions.

Create and maintain strong relationships with stakeholders and financial institutions to support the company's financial goals.

Assess the financial impact and viability of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives

Assess the financial impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to ensure they are viable and aligned with company values.

Consider long-term succession planning for key finance functions.

Plan for the future by developing succession plans for the company's key financial functions.

Identify and prepare potential successors for future leadership.

Identify high-potential employees and prepare them for future leadership roles through training and mentoring.


Conclusion

The first year as CFO is a transformative time that requires a delicate balance of analysis, strategy and execution. By fully understanding your company's financial picture, optimizing processes, driving strategic initiatives, and continually evolving based on feedback and performance, you can lay a solid foundation for long-term success. This comprehensive checklist serves as a valuable tool for navigating the complexities of the CFO role, ensuring you address critical areas and make informed decisions. Building strong relationships, fostering a culture of continuous improvement, and maintaining a proactive approach to financial management will not only improve your company's financial performance, but also position you as a trusted leader. By reflecting on milestones reached and lessons learned, you will be better equipped to lead your organization into a prosperous future. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step - start your first year with confidence and purpose, and the rest will follow.


Common Questions When Becoming a CFO

1. What is important for a CFO in the first 30 days?

The main goals are to understand the company's financial health, establish relevant relationships and acquire familiarity with financial processes and tools.

2. How can a CFO foster a cash flow culture?

Prioritizing cash flow management at all levels of the company, implementing efficient cash flow practices and emphasizing the importance of liquidity.

3. What are the key financial KPIs a CFO should focus on?

The most popular KPIs include revenue growth, profit margins, return on investment (ROI), cash flow and debt ratio.

4. How should the CFO deal with economic problems?

Developing contingency plans, maintaining healthy cash reserves and maintaining flexibility to adjust tactics as needed.

5. Why is stakeholder communication relevant to a CFO?

Regular communication promotes trust, ensures transparency, and aligns stakeholders with the organization's financial goals and performance.


Bibliography

  1. Bragg, Steven M. The New CFO Financial Leadership Manual. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.

  2. Higgins, Robert C. Analysis for Financial Management. McGraw-Hill Education, 2012.


If you need to implement these processes in your company, we can help you!


Luis Valini




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