Try searching the web for “what makes a CFO successful” and you’ll find the articles on the subject all cover the same, tired ground. The necessary characteristics include becoming a master of analytics, having an obsession about everything ROI-related, focusing a majority of attention on cash generation, assessing risk over and over, and maintaining interdepartmental communications. All of these are important aspects of a CFO’s job; there is no argument there. But these characteristics do not offer a holistic view of what it means to be the head of finance.
Very few of the articles that a Google search turns up mention the importance of hiring and developing talent, for example, or ensuring that when a CFO is called upon to take the helm as chief executive officer (which is not uncommon) he or she better have a competent replacement ready. Even fewer articles touch on the need to know a businesses inside and out, which affects a CFO’s ability to comprehensively present financial information to some of the most important people he or she has to deal with — external stakeholders and boards of directors. And not one article mentions the significance of building relationships with other departments, like human resources.
Not a single article captures the basics of how to become a successful CFO, let alone an effective leader. And even the best article offers little advice to those who are new to the role. Which leads to the focus of this review: a new book called The Successful CFO.
Although The Successful CFO may be more useful for those who are new to the role of finance chief rather than to those who have been CFOs for years, its “pearls of wisdom,” as author Tony Tripodo refers to them, are great reminders of what makes CFOs, finance departments, and the organizations they are part of successful. The “pearls” include inspirational quotes, personal success stories, and fundamental pieces of advice about the expanded role of the CFO.
For example, if a bank is considering taking control of a company because it has defaulted on a loan, it helps if the CFO has a close relationship with someone at the bank. A good relationship may buy the company time. Or when a potential hire asks for a larger salary than is typically offered by the company for the position, but the CFO thinks they would be an invaluable asset to the team, a good relationship with HR may enable the CFO to acquire the candidate at a higher-than-normal salary.
Each of the book’s five focus areas has a dedicated chapter. These areas — some applicable to the specific role of finance chief (such as translating financial information and managing the balance sheet), and others, more so for leaders and executives in general (building relationships, learning the business, and hiring and developing talent) — are applicable to publicly and privately owned companies, as well as for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
Tripodo also includes a chapter, “Be Careful with These Activities,” where he provides insight into the areas of deal-making, investor relations, and handling auditors. In it, Tripodo warns against the “adrenaline rush” of mergers and acquisitions; investor relations road shows that “exceed the amount of time prudent or necessary … to these activities;” and, regarding audit committees, devoting “too much … effort [to] trying to persuade the auditors to the company’s way of thinking.”
The Successful CFO’s author, Anthony Tripodo, is the executive vice president of Helix ESG, an offshore energy service company headquartered in Houston, Texas. Throughout his 35-year finance career, Tripodo has sat on multiple audit, compensation, compliance, and governance committees. Tripodo was also named “CFO of the Year” by the Houston Business Journal in 2014 for navigating Helix through the financial crisis of 2008. His extensive experience is felt through the personal stories he shares in The Successful CFO and lends an air of authenticity to his advice.
But don’t expect a comprehensive manual to being a CFO. Tripodo’s book is more about the right “approach” and “mindset” to being a CFO than it is about metrics and best practices. The book can be finished in a day — a matter of hours really. That makes The Successful CFO’s $24.99 price tag appear on the expensive side; however, given the lack of articles on this subject online, any fledgling finance manager would benefit from reading it.
The Successful CFO can be found on Amazon.com
Title: The Successful CFO — Key Areas the CFO Must Master
Author: Tony Tripado
Publisher: Di Angelo Publications
Kerry Maruna is the digital content manager at Argyle Executive Forum and review editor for CFO—An Argyle Company. For review inquiries, please email [email protected].