INTERVIEW BY ANDREW ZEZAS
Irv Rothman, President and CEO of Hewlett-Packard Financial Services Company, in Berkeley Heights, NJ, has spent four decades in the leasing and financial services industry. A former CFO (of AT&T Capital), Mr. Rothman has been involved in virtually every organizational stage, from start-ups to turnarounds, to buying and selling companies. He’s also the author of Out-Executing the Competition, (John Wiley and Sons). Andrew Zezas, Publisher of CFO Studio magazine and host of CFO Studio On-Camera, spoke with him.
(ANDREW ZEZAS) Irv, tell me a little bit about the book. Why did you write it? Who’s going to benefit from it?
IRV ROTHMAN: I have had rather a broad and varied career, and I’ve learned a lot of lessons. I felt that sharing those lessons would be helpful to people with all kinds of aspirations — in their career and life. I am also donating the royalties to a charity called Room to Read, which is an international foundation, founded by former Microsoft executive John Wood, which promotes children’s literacy in disadvantaged countries.
You’ve gone from CFO of one impressive company to CEO for another impressive company. A lot of finance executives aspire to be CEO. How natural is that transition?
ROTHMAN: The CFO today is engaged in the creation of strategy, and in the creation of M&A work to ensure a complementary fit with that strategy. The CFO typically leads a large group of people, so there are many attributes of a CEO that a CFO is able to practice.
So, share with me how your actions differ in those two roles.
ROTHMAN: When you’re the CFO, your job is to essentially to gather all the data, and to tee up the CEO’s decision for him or her. When you’re the CEO, you’ve actually got to make the decision, and you’re not always in command of perfect information. The buck stops with the CFO if there are dramatic inaccuracies or if there’s a bad forecast, but the CEO is the guy who makes the decision.