What would you do if your CFO was gone tomorrow?

Posted on: March 15th, 2018

What if your CFO walked into your office and announced, “I’m leaving tomorrow for another job.”? Or what if they suffered a totally disabling injury or otherwise had to leave the company immediately?

Your first reaction would be sadness, likely followed by feeling like you had just been punched in the stomach. Your CFO is a critical strategic member of your executive team. She leads financial operations, offering guidance and analysis for the entire company.

You might make the decisions, but many things flow directly through the CFO to see if the decision makes sense based on the numbers.

So what you do?

It all starts with having a written plan or at least an outline. The fact is not all employees are committed to your company for life. Things change. Life happens.

Growing companies always need to be thinking about what’s next and asking if they have the bench strength to handle the most crushing of emergencies. The sudden loss of a CFO is such an emergency and needs to be taken care of effectively—with a critical eye toward the future.

Can you answer these questions?

If the CFO left tomorrow, do I have a successor who is trained?

If the CFO left tomorrow, have I taken any time to think about who might fill the role on a temporary basis?

Or am I just waiting for a crisis to strike and then trying to react as best as possible?

We at CFO Strategic Partners are here to help you answer those questions. We are transition specialists, and we have hundreds of examples of how companies have handled departures. Each exit is actually an opportunity to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your financial structure so you’re better positioned for the future.

Job one in a transition is to use our experience to hit the ground running. We immediately start putting out fires that may have popped up with the loss of a strategic leader. Security of accounts. Key relationships. Investor relations. Oversight of Accounting Department. Financial Reporting. Internal Controls. They can all quickly become at risk without the right leader in place, not to mention ensuring the day to day accounting functions remain intact.

Once the urgent issues are taken care of, we have the ability to run diagnostics to figure out hidden pressure points to help the company run more efficiently.

We then use our expertise and strategic vision to come up with a plan that makes sense for the short-term and the long-term.

Our firm has helped companies in a multitude of industries deal with these times of transition—and a transition can mean different things for different companies.

We’ve had assignments where we worked to keep things moving to buy the company sufficient time to hire a full-time CFO. We have also been brought into situations where it’s our job to nurture and develop a CFO.

But what if you don’t have time to make a plan, because you’re facing this situation now? When your CFO departs, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  • What does this mean for the business?
  • What relationships did the CFO own and who do we need to communicate with immediately?
  • What message do we tell our employees so there is not negative buzz or an advantage given to our competitors?

It sounds elementary, but you need to stop, think, and discuss options.

Next, you need to clearly communicate with your employees about next steps and a timetable. Finally, you need to execute in a prudent, deliberate fashion. Picking the next CFO should not be a rushed decision.

Need someone to talk to? At CFO Strategic Partners, we have members of our team who have led companies in the past and those who have dealt with crisis and unexpected loss as CFO. We can help because we’ve seen it all before.

In fact, helping companies through the toughest of times with the issues that keep CEOs up at night is where we shine. Let us help take the burden off and help you make a plan for the future.

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