What Makes a Great CFO?

“CFO’s don’t bring in money – we force others to bring in money. We then complain that it is not enough and force them to go back out and get some more. When we get money, we hate to part with it and we arm wrestle with those in the organization who think money grows on trees. This is pretty much what we do – should anyone ask at a cocktail party where we try to get others to buy our drinks.”

I’m going to keep the author of that quote anonymous, because I understand that their words have been taken as #TRUTH by too many people. But I think we need to set the record straight.

A great CFO is a financial strategist. Do not ask them to balance your checkbook.

A great CFO can manage people on a financial team, but they may not like doing it or do it well. Make sure you don’t really need both a CFO consultant and an accounting department manager. Feel free to call them a VP, if you like, but unless they are also your financial strategist, please do not ruin their resume for any future job by entitling them CFO.

A great CFO can get you connected to sources of money, and manage those relationships better than you can. It’s like they’re native speakers of the language of cash while you listened to that set of tapes you bought at the library sale. If you trust them, butt out until they invite you.

And the greatest CFO is the one who works with you in that seamless way that feels like you’re on the same team, serving the same great long term vision.

And, of course, feel free to buy them a drink. Especially if you accidentally asked about that error in your checkbook.

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