CFO’s today face a number of evolving challenges. They are not only the financial steward and governance executive for the company, but are increasingly the CEO’s strategic confidant. Even the best CFO’s don’t have all the answers and need inputs to help them make well informed decisions. High quality inputs can often come from other CFO’s that have faced similar decision making and may be able to provide guidance.
In this writing we’ll briefly cover a few considerations that are worth taking into account pertaining to networking between CFOs.
CFO’s don’t always have the time to learn about a new sector or technology before deciding on a course of action. Other business leaders and CFO’s with experience in those sectors or with those technologies can help the CFO accelerate their understanding of what they need to know in order to move forward. Consider networking with CFO’s that bring about access to markets and skills that you presently don’t have.
Choosing your Vendors
As a CFO, you’ll need to decide between technology vendors, banks, attorneys, audit firms, etc.. and you’ll want insights and recommendations from your peers to help you decide which vendor is better suited for your organization. Otherwise, you’ll be forming a decision based only on what the vendor tells you. Choosing the right external partners can be critical to helping you execute your road map. You should constantly be evaluating vendors or curating opinions from your network in the event you need to shuffle them around.
Career Opportunities for You
Often times a CFO will get a phone call about an opportunity, but it’s not the right one for them or the timing is off. However, it could be the right opportunity for you. Or you might be the CFO doing the referring. Either way, it puts you in a position to either gain by helping someone else or to be on the receiving end of that opportunity. In building this type of network, it helps to put forth a thoughtful effort in referring opportunity to others first so that you can build the kind of goodwill that will return dividends to you in the future.
Talent to Help You Build Your Organization
When you take on a new role, you’re going to have bring on new talent eventually and the quality of that talent is often critical to driving success in your organization. Human capital is still the catalyst for growth and having access to free talent through your network can be a strong asset for you. We’ve often seen some CFO’s that are not able to grant internal promotions to high achieving talent locally and that are willing to refer them to their peers at other companies to continue to nurture their professional growth.
You may approach a time in your career where board seat opportunities could be of strong interest. However, most board seat opportunities are acquired through a professional network that has been built for years. Among that network, are other CFO’s that may be in a position to refer you to opportunities they either lack the qualifications for or interest in. This requires you to take a forward thinking approach in your networking today with an eye towards your future.
Working Capital Sources
As CFO, you’re going to need to raise capital, whether it’s in the form of equity or debt, and you’ll want a network of willing market participants to listen to your pitch. Not to mention that choosing the best terms and partners requires options and an understanding of the marketplace. A great way to avoid pitfalls and to leverage existing experience in this area is to draw upon recommendations from other CFOs. What are their terms?, where did they get their capital from? What worked in their presentation and what didn’t? How long did it take to secure the capital? Etc..
As you can see, there are a number of reasons why networking with other CFO’s can be advantageous in helping to move you further along in your own career. What’s important to remember however, is to always strive to help others without expectation and to give more into the system than you get out of it to keep those relationships yielding positive results for you.