How to Win the Packaging And Positioning Game
CFO Studio Magazine, 4th Quarter 2012
By Cindy Kraft, the CFO Coach
Very few CFO positions are ever posted online, and when they are, they are usually the bottom-of-the-barrel opportunities. So how can you win the packaging and positioning game and score that next great opportunity? Just as your marketing team strategizes on marketing your company, product, and/or service, you need to begin thinking about “product you.”
How will you fit within a company’s culture? It’s the 64-million-dollar hiring question. And sadly, poor culture fit happens more often than you would think.
A Psychology Today blog post reported: “According to the Harvard Business Review, 2 out of 5 new CEOs fail in their first 18 months on the job.”
Are these failures all due to poor culture fit? Absolutely not. But the article goes on to say, “It appears that the major reason for the failure has nothing to do with competence, or knowledge, or experience, but rather with hubris and ego and a leadership style out of touch with modern times.”
Those are issues that can speak directly to culture fit.
So how do you showcase that you’re a good fit with your target audience? By being branded. A strong and compelling, authentic brand sends a crystal-clear message to your audience of who you are and how you have been effective. Branding makes it easier for a company to view you through the lens of its culture and assess — upfront — whether you’re a potential fit, a good fit, or a great fit.
And here’s the real secret: When you’re a top-three candidate, your ability to do the job has already been confirmed. The only two remaining questions on the table are “culture fit” and “likability.” With a strong brand, you have already answered the first of those two questions.
If you look like the competition, you blend in with the competition. Instead, be a purple cow and stand out — and away from — your peers.
Often in creating marketing documents, CFOs will list responsibilities held. Things they’ve done. Their career progression, often beginning in public accounting. Ho hum. Your competition can probably all say those same, or very similar, things.
It’s football season, so let me use a football analogy to make my point. If you put both teams in the same uniform and stuff them all in one of the 10-yard end zones, they will all look alike. You can’t discern defensive players from offensive players. So chances are at least 50/50 that you will pick the wrong player from the wrong team for your defense or offense.
However, when you put them in their respective colors and put names and numbers on their jerseys, individuals begin to stand out from the other team and even from their teammates.
Put your unique name and your unique number (strong brand) on your marketing documents and stand apart from the crowd.
And remember, it’s not what you did, it’s how you delivered. It’s not what responsibilities you held, it’s about positive impacts that made the company more profitable, more efficient, and facilitated growth. It’s not about your career climb, it’s about how you solve problems.
Problem-solver = value = in demand!
Even if you don’t have an intentional brand, you have a default brand. Appearing on job boards paints you as a desperate job-seeker who probably is or will soon be unemployed.
Where should you be visible? First and foremost on LinkedIn, with a complete, compelling, and branded profile. Why?
- LinkedIn is the web 2.0 version of the old corporate bio.
- It’s the very best place to be noticed by recruiters (one of my clients had three great-fitting opportunities come his way in his first four days of having his profile updated).
- To not be on LinkedIn is to send the message: Do not bother and do not disturb.
Show up where people from your target audience are also showing up. What are they reading? What are their hobbies? Do they have a cause they support? Have a visible presence wherever they are.
Today’s strategies for winning new opportunities aren’t rocket science, but they are different. To win the new game, you must know the new rules.
A “pull strategy” (attracting recruiters and opportunities) will work infinitely better than a “push strategy” (sending your résumé out to every posted position) when you clearly market your ability to solve problems. And when you are gainfully employed and therefore highly valued as a passive-and-worthy-of-being-poached candidate.
I’ve Landed, Now What?
CFO Studio Magazine, 3rd Quarter 2012
By Cindy Kraft, the CFO-Coach
You made it! You’ve landed in the CFO role of a plum company. You’ve got the corner office with a magnificent view. Now, you can finally kick back and rest on your laurels, right?
Not if you want to: a) stay in the position awhile; or b) keep your career on an upward progression. Matt Bud, chairman of the financial executives networking group (FENG), often quips, “you’re only ever between searches.” That is sage advice. The moment you adopt the mindset that your search is just some future event, you might find that you are actually only one short step away from being completely caught off guard.
Take for example the CFO at the movie producer/distributor new regency. He was terminated after three months in that role but had 13 years with the company; and he is the fourth CFO the company has had in four months. Can you do anything to ensure that you don’t meet the same fate as the new regency CFO? Not really. But there are certainly things you can do to be effective in your new role and still be prepared for a shorter-than-expected stint.
Let’s look at five proactive steps you can take to enhance your career after landing:
1 | Build trust with ALL the players. Trust is established over time, by saying what you’ll do and then actually doing it, constantly acting in a manner that is consistent with your spoken words.
So build trust with all the players, from your team, to the board, to the shareholders and/or investors, to the third parties with whom you interact, and with your customers or clients. Every person within each of those groups might hold that next great opportunity in the palm of his or her hand, so being authentically branded as a trustworthy CFO will only solidify, and add credibility to, your reputation. You are who you say you are.
2 | Make a difference. It isn’t what you do in this new role that will matter. It is how you impact and how that impact leaves the company better than when you stepped into the role.
A new credential, greater responsibility, and a bigger team are all the “what,” things you do or you have. Identifying problems and eradicating them; eliminating or mitigating risk; fixing broken processes; and slashing costs set up the “how.” Those are the tangible impacts. Value!
Being a difference-maker, a problem-solver, is key to your salary and bonus conversations in your current position, but it is oft en also key to your being hunted for that next — dream — opportunity.
3 | Be known. An old cliche reminds us that if you don’t stand for something you’ll fall for anything. There is a lot of truth in that statement, particularly when it comes to your positioning as a CFO who is “different and unique” from his or her peers.
A CFO recently asked the question: “how do I move forward now that I’ve been fired for being ethical?” Well, his first step might be to turn his strong stand for something — his high value around ethical behavior — into the foundation of his personal brand. There might be other CEOs and companies out there that don’t want his strong stand on ethics, but I would venture a guess there are also many that do.
Since strong brand positioning precedes you, whether you are walking into the office of the CEO, the boardroom, or the office of a potential new client, your visible reputation matters. So …
4 | Stay visible. The new definition of networking is: Who knows about you? It really doesn’t matter in today’s economy who you know or if you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn, unless they know about you.
Spend a few minutes deciding, in light of your three- to five-year goals, who you need to know and who needs to know about you in order to make those goals a reality. And then, work toward raising your visibility among those internal and external prospects on a regular and consistent basis.
5 | Don’t burn bridges, no matter how much you might want to. The CFO who was fired for being ethical probably can’t do much to prevent the burning of bridges. Others took care of that for him. However, when you choose to sit in the driver’s seat of your career, you have a much better opportunity to choose how best to structure your exit strategies so that you aren’t leaving burned-out bridges everywhere you’ve been.
Swallowing pride, anger, hurt, and injustice doesn’t come easily to any of us. Carrying it around is dangerous to our careers and our health. At a recent networking event, a gentleman approached me and immediately launched into his sob story about how he was a victim at his last company. Not only did he point fingers at everyone else, but his diatribe went on for 20 minutes before I tried to escape — only to be followed and subjected to another 10 minutes of his story.
Whether his feelings are justified or not, he not only burned bridges, he continues to set fire to himself and his career every single day. Do the opposite of human nature: Work through the anger, forgive, forget, and move on — because that befuddles and intrigues other people.
Congratulations on landing! Now, get busy doing the things you need to do to position yourself for that next great opportunity!