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One of life's difficult journeys: Financial Controller to Finance Director.

One of life's difficult journeys: Financial Controller to Finance Director.

over 2 years ago by Josh Stirrett

Light bulb moment

It is said that the simpler the question, the more difficult to answer. From our children asking “why is the sky blue?” or “why is grass green?” and “how big is infinity?” to deeper, more existential, questions posed since the dawn of time, such as, “why are we here?” or “why is there something rather than nothing?”.

We all get asked those ‘simple’ questions in our day-to-day jobs and in my industry, Qualified Finance recruitment, I am regularly challenged to answer the question, “why do some Financial Controllers make it to Finance Director, whilst others don’t”.   Like all life’s simple questions the answer can be alarming complex.

Often the most sensible way to approach such a conundrum is to rule out what we know is not true - “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.   In the case of becoming an FD it is too simple to point to academics or technical accounting ability.  Yes, to ‘make it’ as a successful, business-wide influencer and FD you must possess the academic pedigree, IQ and technical ability to do the job to a certain acceptable level.  But, I ask you this, how many Finance Directors do you know who know more about the minutiae of IFRS 9 than the newly qualified ACA they recruited last month?! I would speculate, not many.

The very nature of the role of the modern Finance Director/CFO has, and continues, to change and evolve.  No longer the mainstay of the ‘Accounts Department’, the role of the modern FD is all-encompassing, integrated, commercially aware, operationally astute and shareholder-orientated. Perhaps it is the latter point that bears most significance for many businesses. 

Whether you are a Limited Company owner-manager, a PE house investing in a turnaround, a PLC board, a Not-For-Profit or Charity organisation you need your #1 in Finance to initiate change, deliver the Target Operating Model and, in turn, drive return on your investment. Aligning your skill set and deliverables with the shareholders' needs seems common sense.  After all, telling the owner of a business you can make them more money seems pretty damned obvious, but often many senior finance professionals overlook the importance of ‘explicitly’ showing how they drive shareholder value.  It is a case of showing the value you will create through that which you have added previously.  Simple. Right?

Not right. How many of us actually take time out away from our desk to think about the long-term strategic vision and our own role in helping shape and deliver it?  How many of us then actually practice the art of communicating this and influencing people’s perceptions of our ability to add and create value through enhanced shareholder returns via top and bottom line improvements?  Fewer than you would imagine.  Those that make it to the promised land of the FD/CFO have moved beyond the realms of IFRS 9 and technical accounting, to a world of cross-functional stakeholder influence, of non-finance interaction, of shareholder value creation and business-wide change and transformation. 

Which brings me on to my next point.  It may be one thing to actually add value across all functions of a business and deliver enhanced ROI to shareholders and owners, but how do you communicate this as part of a job application process, especially when you only have a 2 page CV in which to get your message across?  Simple. You don’t!

Well, you do, but more specifically, you use more than 2 pages (yes, I said it) and you importantly focus on your Emotional Intelligence or EQ, not just your IQ.  If you are an FC still referring to yourself in terms of years’ PQE (post-qualified experience) you need to stop and re-evaluate how and what you think your role is as a senior finance business leader. 

Displaying EQ on a CV is a bit of a slippery-fish-of-a-thing to do. Many of the FDs and CFOs I have met over the past 12 years would usually look to qualify their ability to influence cross-functionally, at Board level in a face-to-face meeting i.e. during an interview.  The problem is, at the FD level, we are in a demand-led market, facing exogenous influences stoking macroeconomic uncertainty, driven by geo-political upheaval as a result of Brexit.  In short, confidence at the top end of the market remains more fragile and the opportunity cost of recruiting the wrong individual at an FD/CFO level, much greater.  Hence the need to be explicit about how you create, and own, the value you create for the business you work for, and how you will do so for the business you are interviewing with. 

Your CV, therefore, must be candid about the relationships you possess, how and why you have leveraged these, and to what impact on the bottom line.  Effectively, don’t tell the person reading your CV simply what you do (responsibilities) or how well you do it (achievements) but tell them, in addition, who you influenced, why, and under what circumstances.

This whoelement of your CV, is critical to communicating the EQ side of your skill set.  Without it, you can simply be seen as a list of Business As Usual responsibilities and not as an individual that truly drives change in an organisation through strength of personality, gravitas, self-belief and strong cross-functional relationships.  So, in a nutshell, you CV must have contextualised, focused content, explicitly demonstrating the relationships you own to create value, in monetary terms, for the shareholders or owners of the business.

Simple.

Right?

 

For more Thought Leadership and insight into the wonderfully opaque world of Qualified Finance recruitment, why not pick up the phone and speak to one of the leading professional recruitment and career consultancy businesses in the region, Resourcery Group.  With a combined 30 years’ experience and extensive network of contacts, we are confident we can add value to your career management, job search and the efficacy of your recruitment processes.  Servicing the North West qualified finance recruitment market, we are interim and permanent specialists who provide a genuinely open and honest service to those willing to keep an open mind.  Why not find out for yourselves at www.resourcerygroup.com or by calling 0151 345 9040.

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