Post-Election Advice for CFOs: Keep Calm and Carry On

Lessons learned from Donald Trump's presidential campaign can help CFOs respond to the election's impact on their organizations.
Kristine BrandsDecember 1, 2016
Post-Election Advice for CFOs: Keep Calm and Carry On

The close presidential election that resulted in Donald Trump’s unexpected victory over Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8 has plunged the country into uncertainty over the new administration. While uncertainty is the new normal for business, the 2016 election has unsettled many and created new challenges for finance executives. However, lessons learned from Trump’s campaign can help CFOs respond to the election results’ impact on their organizations in the next few weeks and months.

post-election advice

Kristine Brands

Steer the Corporate Ship. Trump’s campaign sailed to victory by focusing on its message and strategy. The campaign generated a lot of turmoil, criticism, and drama that could have distracted its mission. Don’t allow uncertainty to disrupt your organization. Stick with the fundamentals, play conservative ball, and don’t get jumpy. It should be business as usual until you have clear signals that you should change course. Keep a tight grip on the helm and a weather eye on the horizon until the policy winds shift.

Be Wary of the What the Media is Saying. Media and pollsters underestimated Trump’s appeal, which contributed to the shock and surprise of many voters. The media is already speculating about Trump’s agenda, policies, and priorities. Be wary of rushing to judgment and action based on what you are watching and reading. It is too early to base your company’s strategy on conjecture without more information. Until there are specifics, rely on your proven resources and processes for decision making. Watch, wait, and see because making decisions based on guesses is like playing roulette.

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Unify Your Organization. The election results have generated strong emotions within organizations ranging from elation and celebration, to shock, anger, and fear. Trump gained his followers’ trust by listening to them and then promoted unity in his election night speech to reach out to his opponents. You need to do the same in your organization. Foster an environment of open communication by listening to your employees and stakeholders about their concerns and reassure them that you value their ideas and contributions. Host the conversations to let them know that your organization is a safe space for everyone. To move forward, focus on building a strong team that leverages diversity of thought and promotes inclusiveness. Disillusionment is counterproductive and will inhibit your organization’s growth and success.

Get Ready to Hit the Ground Running. The Trump transition team hit the ground running. As Trump’s policies come into focus, create ad hoc teams to address and respond to new policies and economic developments. For example, corporate tax and financial regulatory compliance reforms were key campaign themes that may benefit your organization. Prepare a plan to identify and prioritize the impact of the issues on your organization; the experts and resources necessary to research them; and the protocols to develop processes, policies, and procedures to facilitate implementation.

Rewrite the Rules. Trump rewrote the rules to win the election. Take a fresh and hard look at your organization by looking at it through a different lens. Is your organization doing things because that’s the way they have always been done before or because that’s the best way? Toss the sacred cows, strive for adding value, focus on best practices, stress continuous improvement, and take the competition seriously. Embrace innovation and technology and reengineer processes to strengthen your organization for the future. Be agile.

The More it Changes, the More it’s the Same. Remember that the more things change, the more they stay the same. CFOs are the financial conscience and compass of their organizations. Your organization needs you to keep calm and carry on.

Kristine Brands is an associate professor in the College of Business and Economics, Regis University in Colorado Springs, Colo. She is also a member of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants Board of Regents.

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