Congratulations! You made it! You’ve just been appointed chief financial officer (CFO). You are the right-hand-man of the CEO and a trusted advisor to your fellow executives and the board of directors. So don’t screw up! Let’s talk about a few things you might do that could shoot yourself in the foot if you act too soon before having all the facts:

1. Advocate for change

You just got here! While you may have been hired to change the company, you need to assess the situation first. Understanding the past and how the organization got to where it is today is a necessary first step before you begin imposing your own ideas.

First, you should be talking to as many different people as you can from both within your own department and across the organization. There is never a better opportunity than when you first arrive to meet with others and learn about what is working well and not so well. Listen well.

2. Assume all is well

At the same time as we aren’t instigating change, nor are we accepting of the status quo. We bring new experience and new expertise to the organization. We may have ideas about how things could better function. So, as we are going about improving our understanding of how things work around here, we should also be quietly identifying opportunities for improvement. Keep them to yourself for now.

One of your first priorities will be to ensure and/or establish credible financial reporting as this is the primary responsibility of the finance function. You won’t become a trusted advisor if you can’t deliver on your reporting obligations. Symptoms of possible challenges include:

  • It’s taking your department more than 10 days to close the books
  • Once published, the financial results are surprising to important stakeholders
  • Decision making is not predicated on a review of financial results

3. Assuming you’ve got the right team

You’re first priority has got to be to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your own team, at a department and individual level. Are you capable of fulfilling the mandate of finance? It’s an important first question that you must answer because your success will ultimately hinge on having the right people in place to support you.

We’ve used a competency assessment framework successfully for helping CFOs make this determination. Competency assessment helps a CFO identify the competencies required for them to be successful and then sets out a plan for acquiring or developing those competencies through either recruitment and/or training.

To learn more about what to do once you get hired as CFO, take our course Your First 100 days as CFO or Competency Assessment in the Office of the CFO.

While - as Blair even says - this course may be considered fairly high level, it's a great overview and very clearly and succinctly delivered. As a CFO myself, I found it a wonderful refresher/reminder on key things I need to be considering as I step into a new organization. Thanks, Blair! - Ed Schaffer (CFO at Rimini Street, Inc.)

I'm becoming a big fan of Blair Cook! Interesting, specific, relevant information for CFOs or other financial leaders in business presented in an engaging manner. Well done! - Monte Smith, CMA (Controller at Gerding Companies, Inc)