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.” 

Be Branded

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.

Be Different

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!

Be Visible

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.

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Managing the Medical Device Tax


CFO Studio Magazine, 4th Quarter 2012
By Emmalee MacDonald, Senior Tax Manager at EisnerAmper LLP & Michael Hadjiloucas, Partner at EisnerAmper LLP

How to prepare for the new sales tax, effective January 1, 2013

One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is an excise tax on sales of medical devices. This tax becomes effective January 1, 2013, and will be imposed upon the manufacturer, producer, or importer of the medical devices.

The tax will be charged at a rate of 2.3 percent of the sales price, and the IRS has issued proposed regulations (IRC 4191) to identify which medical devices will be subject to tax and which are exempt.


Per the announced regulations, a medical device includes any device defined in the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act that is intended for humans. This section explains that the term “device” means an instrument, apparatus, implement, machine, contrivance, implant, in vitro reagent, or other similar or related article used for health-care purposes.

The trigger for the tax is the passage of title from the manufacturer to the purchaser. The sales price subject to tax includes charges for packaging as well as charges incident to plac­ing the device in a condition to be packed and ready for shipment.

Specifically excluded from the sales price are:

  • Manufacturer’s excise tax.
  • Cost of transportation, delivery, insurance, installation.
  • Discounts, rebates, and similar allowances actually granted to the purchaser.
  • Local advertising charges.
  • Charges for warranty paid at the purchaser’s option.

If a rebate is offered, the tax must be levied on the original sales price, unless the rebate has been made prior to the close of the pe­riod for which the return is due. If a rebate is subsequently allowed for a device on which tax has already been paid, the manufacturer is entitled to a credit or refund.


Tax-free sales include sales for use in further manufacture, export, or by purchaser for export by a second purchaser. In order to qualify for the exemption, registration must first be completed with the IRS on Form 637.

In addition, IRC Section 4191 specifically exempts eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, and any other medical devices that are generally purchased by the general public at retail for individual use.

In order to qualify for the retail exemption the device must be regularly available for purchase and use by individual consumers who are not medical professionals, which is determined by reviewing whether:

  • Consumers who are not medical profes­sionals can purchase the device through retail businesses that also sell items other than medical devices, including drug stores, supermarkets, and similar vendors;
  • Consumers who are not medical profession­als can safely and effectively use the device for its intended medical purposes with minimal or no training from a medical professional; and
  • The device is classified by the FDA under Subpart D of 21 CFR Part 890 (Physical Medicine Devices).
  • It also must have a design that demon­strates that it is not primarily intended for use in a medical institution or office, or by medi­cal professionals. This can be determined by reviewing whether:
  • The device generally must be implanted, in­serted, operated, or otherwise administered by a medical professional;
  • The cost to acquire, maintain, and/or use the device requires a large initial investment and/or ongoing expenditure that is not affordable for the average consumer;
  • The device is a Class III device under the FDA system of classification;
  • The device is classified by the FDA under certain parts or subparts of 21 CFR; or
  • The device qualifies as durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and sup­plies for which payment is available exclu­sively on a rental basis.

The regulations provide a safe-harbor provision for qualification under the retail exemption, for medical devices listed on the FDA’s IVD Home Use Lab Tests (over-the-counter tests) database at http://www. cf IVD/Search.cfm. This also includes those described as “OTC” or over-the-counter de­vices in the relevant FDA classification regu­lation heading, or in the FDA’s product code name, the FDA’s device classification name, or the “classification name” field in the FDA’s device registration and listing database.

Devices that qualify as durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies, for which payment is available on a purchase basis under Medicare Part B payment rules, are also included under this provision.

The regulations provide that veterinary devices are specifically exempted. “Research Use Only” devices are exempt to the extent that they are not listed with the FDA pursuant to FDA requirements. A device would be listed if it had other purposes than research and/or had been introduced into commercial distribution.

In addition, devices subject to “Investigational Device Exemptions” are not subject to the tax.

Observations and Recommendations

The principal area on which commentators have sought additional guidance is with respect to the retail exemption. Unfortunate­ly, the proposed regulations did not provide the clarity that many interested parties had been seeking.

While the safe harbor is fairly straight-forward and exempts most over-the-counter items, more scrutiny is required in order to determine whether or not other types of medical devices qualify for the exemp­tion. Therefore, it is advisable that taxpayers review their product lists prior to year-end in order to ensure they have identified which of their devices are subject to the tax and which may qualify for an exemption.

If any products qualify for an exemption, it is important that the correct forms be com­pleted to ensure the exemption is properly claimed and supportable.

For those products on which the tax must be charged, manufacturers should evaluate their pricing structures to determine whether it is appropriate to adjust prices to compensate for the tax. Observers, however, have noted that it is unlikely that most companies will be able to pass the cost of the tax on to their customers.

Some companies have already forecasted a large charge to their expected earnings due to the fact that they anticipate the need to absorb the cost, which is what many critics of the tax had feared. There has been concern that if companies are forced to absorb the cost of the tax it will eventually hinder inno­vation as there will be less reinvestment into research and development. Job loss within the industry has also been a primary criticism of those who oppose the tax.

Companies with taxable devices should also familiarize themselves or contact their tax advisors regarding IRS Form 720, which is the form on which the excise tax is reported. Lastly, if the company is not already registered to electronically remit tax to the IRS, it may be required to register.

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A CFO Can Make or Break Planning


CFO Studio Magazine, 4th Quarter 2012
By Aldonna Ambler, The Growth Strategist

Here’s a technique to test if your company should just update its tactical plan or do real strategic planning: Convene the ex­ecutives and ask, “Could we triple gross revenue while only doubling operating costs?” Posing what we call the Triple/Double Option™ generates some great questions and insights. The discussion surfaces the full range of growth goals and ambition within the leadership team.

Most executives assume that the question means “triple quickly,” and the discussion will raise any concerns about ineffective or insufficient systems, limited produc­tion capacity or quality control, etc. That’s important information to hear and address through stepped-up tactical planning focused on operational improvements. The primary strategic question would be about pacing. How fast or slowly should those operational improvements be made?

Real strategic planning is clearly needed when you pose the Triple/Double Option™ and it cues the executive team to express:

  • questions about whether the market is now saturated or is changing too fast;
  • worry about industry consolidation;
  • confusion about why customers aren’t recommending the company to others;
  • frustration that the sales cycle is growing while the closing rate is shrinking;
  • disagreement with or no excitement about existing strategy, priorities, plans;
  • lack of confidence in leadership;
  • pessimism that the company can lift up off of a stubborn plateau; and/or
  • concerns about the company’s capacity to attract bright, talented employees.

CFO’s Role in Tactical Planning

A CFO typically leads the process of resource analysis and has the most access to impor­tant information. When it comes to tactical planning, even the most autocratic CEO in a family-owned, mid-sized company wants the CFO to help with resource allocation. The CFO figures out what the company can afford, if outside financing will be needed and possible, how much gross profit will be necessary, when the company will need to relocate, the timing for equity deals, departmental budgets, etc. The CFO’s most strategic contribution to tactical planning is suggesting the optimal pacing for planned improvements.

CFO’s Valuable Contribution To Strategic Planning

When real strategic planning is indicated, a capable CFO can serve as an important sounding board and advisor for other mem­bers of the executive team.

Effective CFOs help executives consider expanded options, approaches like acquisi­tions, private investors, an IPO, or franchising to lift off a stubborn plateau, compete more effectively, penetrate a new market, develop exciting products, or pick up speed. Feasibility analysis and determining optimum pacing for those strategies come soon enough.

Recently, we helped a client retain the ser­vices of an interim CFO. This client was expe­riencing behavioral symptoms (blaming, silos, passive-aggressive communication, and avoid­ance) that would sabotage any strategic plan. We used our Synthesis™ approach to strategic planning that features a teambuilding process running parallel to the strategic planning sessions. The Controller of this family-owned business was an in-law who contributed to the continuation of dysfunctional behavior. The interim CFO’s objective questions, capacity to imagine success, and expansive thinking helped the company envision growth and think how to leverage their strengths.

Optimizing, open-minded CFOs, unfor­tunately, are still not the norm. Too often, CFOs play the role of “naysayer” during strategic planning. The marketing VP starts to talk about new products or markets and the CFO is the first person to say why the company shouldn’t even consider expansion. The Chief Information Officer shares the observation that the company will need to “go to the cloud” to serve clients better and the wet-blanket CFO asks about cost too soon. Or the CFO becomes condescending when the HR director suggests more career advancement opportunities or new com­pensation formulas. Usually such pessimism develops when:

  • CFOs are really Controllers and not trained to think strategically;
  • their informed advice is discounted too often;
  • they are overburdened with too much day-to-day accounting, or
  • the CEO/CFO relationships push the CFOs into the negative role.

A company clearly increases its growth potential when the CFO addresses the causes of any negativity before the next round of planning. Having a bright, open-minded, optimizing, constructive CFO is a competi­tive advantage for any company.

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