As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q4 2015 Issue
By James Emmerson Chief Financial Officer, Huntington Learning Center
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH TALENT, AND ENHANCE WHAT THEY GIVE YOU
Your responsibilities as a chief financial officer are probably much like mine: overseeing day-to-day activities regarding accounting, budgeting, tax management, cash management, banking activities, information technology, telecommunication systems, human resources, payroll, employee benefits, legal matters, risk management, facilities, property management, and purchasing. I think of myself as a well-rounded senior financial manager, but I depend heavily on my team.
When you get to a C-level position — and even before that — it is important to surround yourself with expert business partners, either as part of your internal team or your third-party advisors.
The most important role I have, beyond making sure that the company is performing well in all of the above-noted areas, is ensuring that the strategic posture of the company is aimed at growing our targeted product lines or services so the company can achieve the financial and market-share expectations of the shareholders. That means I need data that is accurate and detailed.
In order to ensure access to the data that allows each of us to perform our role as a CFO, we need current financial and operational information. You cannot project tomorrow if you really don’t know where the company was yesterday or is today.
Hire the best staff that you can and ensure that internal controls and auditing are in place to prevent things going off course.
Managing the Team
You need to be able to sleep at night knowing processes are working as they are supposed to.
• If you are not 100 percent sure that you have the right staff, replace them. To make do instead would cost you more in the long run —much more.
• Encourage your staff to attend webinars, seminars, and conferences. There is also a tremendous amount of valuable information on new products, services, and regulations available on the Internet.
• Challenge your staff to find better, more efficient ways to improve your bottom line. Be sure to reward this behavior accordingly.
The same approach goes for third-party advisors. You need to be 100 percent sure that you are being advised on the best and latest trends in the marketplace. It is great to be loyal to those advisors with whom you may have a long relationship. But don’t be afraid to challenge them by getting competitive bids.
We all know service has a value, but don’t throw away an opportunity to improve the bottom line. Just do your homework and make sure that the lower-priced vendor is not going to cost you by providing poor service or products.
Work with your advisors on programs that will provide financial benefits to both parties if you reach or exceed predetermined milestones.
If you don’t ask for better pricing or service levels, the opportunities will not present themselves. Periodically renegotiate your leases, agreements, and contracts. You should usually end up in a better financial position.
Remember to surround yourself with the best talent available. Challenge them, but also, reward them.