Behind Hard Numbers — The Softer Side of Financial Strategy

Written by Carol Coughlin. Posted in Financial Strategy

Historically, CFOs and finance staff have operated independently from other business teams. From behind their green visors – and with nary a word – came the YES or NO that determined the fate each organizational initiative.

After all, the finance team’s job was to interact with the numbers, not the natives.

Not so today. No matter how informative the numbers might be, organizations need their CFOs to come out from behind the spreadsheet and demonstrate superior customer service skills.

In fact, today’s CFOs must be highly skilled collaborators who take on the role of strategic partner rather than a solo player.

Here’s where having a CFO with strong soft skills can make a difference for your organization:

  1. A CFO who collaborates with the executive team has a deeper understanding of the business as a whole. She knows how the organization operates and makes money and is, therefore, able to make her presentations of financial plans, projections and results highly relevant.
  2. A CFO who collaborates with the marketing and sales team can assist the executive team in determining the best use of marketing dollars, as well as the most effective pricing strategies and ways of leveraging strategic alliances. She will also understand the potential ROI of strong branding and will support initiatives that build awareness and customer loyalty. Additionally, she’ll be able to help the sales team identify those prospects that will be profitable customers.
  3. A CFO who collaborates with the IT team is better equipped to determine which technological solutions will have the strongest ROI.
  4. Finally, a CFO who is entrenched in the organization’s vision, goals and operations thanks to her collaborative relationship with all critical business functions is able to offer more valuable input and insightful guidance during collaborations between the organization and its strategic partners.

A CFO who understands her role beyond the numbers is an invaluable asset to any organization. Business owners seeking to bring on a CFO (full-time or outsourced) are wise to look beyond the numbers as well. But while excellence in soft skills like collaboration is imperative, it is also a rare trait in many financial types. Make sure to ask for evidence of soft skills in action or be prepared for a hard knock.

Carol Coughlin

Carol Coughlin founded BottomLine Growth Strategies, Inc., in 2006 as a way for small and medium-sized businesses to access the same high-level financial and operational expertise that gives large companies a distinct advantage. Using her own extensive corporate experience and willingness to sit in the hot seat as a catalyst, Carol helps BottomLine Growth clients climb to the summit of their success.
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