Job Swapping and Career Development

As a middle market CFO, one aspect of my past experience at large corporations that I miss is the ability to develop talent throughout the accounting and finance team through job swapping and promoting from within.  In fast growing middle market businesses, there is ample opportunity for career development, but it stems from the growth of the company and the need for each person to wear multiple hats.  In larger corporations, you need to rotate people through different positions to diversify their skills, improve operations and prevent boredom.  In middle market companies, it’s not as easy or as necessary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

If there aren’t enough positions within your accounting and finance team to make it happen, consider temporary job swaps with other departments.   Your financial folks might bring a new perspective to the sales or operations divisions and vice versa.  It will promote better teamwork, develop your talent pool and keep people engaged, just like it does at large corporations.

Follow Up on Social Media Metrics

PrintA few weeks ago I posted an entry titled “Do Social Media KPI’s belong on the Management Dashboard?”  As a follow up, I refer to a recent post on the Gooddata blog that highlights six key marketing metrics to track and report.

They list them in the infographic to the left.  A few of the key KPI’s they list include:

  • Engagement: Not just the number of followers or friends, but how much engagement are you getting in terms of the number of shares, likes and comments.
  • Conversion Rate: Not just the number of visitors to your website, but the rate at which the visits are converted to sales.
  • Click Through: Not the number of emails you sent out, but the number that responded to the emails by clicking through to the website.
  • Cost per Customer: Not cost per click or cost per lead but cost per customer, or better yet, cost per dollar of sales.

In addition to picking the correct social media KPI’s, as with all KPI’s, it is important to report them on a consistent basis and track the results over time compared to targets.

Your Company Is Only as Good as Your Writing

HBRAn article from the Harvard Business Review on the importance of good technical writing skills and why it should be a company-wide endeavor.  It even comes with a complete handbook.  No time for all that?  Here’s the shorter version:

  • Know your subject matter & your audience
  • Be clear, concise and well-organized
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Review your work, edit and omit needless words

Win a free registration in Excel University Vol 1 online training – a $399 value

excel_university_logo_100A few weeks ago I blogged about the Microsoft Excel tips I had learned at a meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants.  The presenter at that meeting, Jeff Lenning of Click Consulting, just notified me they have converted the content of Excel University Volume 1 into an interactive, self-paced training format, and it is now available through their online learning management system (LMS).  Click here for details.

The original blog entry was quite popular and generated many comments on the blog and in various LinkedIn discussion groups as well as many clicks through to the Click Consulting website.  As a thank you, Click Consulting has offered me the opportunity to give away one free enrollment in the new Excel University Vol 1 online training, a $399 value (currently on sale for $299).  To enter, simply join the LinkedIn Discussion Group “Middle Market CFO” on or before 7/31/13.  One member of that group will be chosen at random on 8/1/13 and the winner will be announced right there, in the Middle Market CFO discussion group on LinkedIn.  Good luck!

How the CFO Can Become the CEO’s Collaborator in Growth

How the CFO Can Become the CEO’s Collaborator in Growth

Great article by Robert Sher in CFO magazine about how CFO’s at fast growing middle market companies should spend less time on accounting and more time building the leadership infrastructure to allow the firm to scale.  For the full article, click here.

Communicating Financial Info to Non-Financial Folks

Clear communicationMany highly intelligent employees who are skilled and passionate in their area of expertise will glaze over like Jessica Simpson listening to Robert Plant when you try to talk to them about financial information.  The following tips will help you talk about finances so non-financial management and staff will listen and understand.

  • If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now.  It’s just a spring clean for the May queen.  No idea what I’m talking about?  That’s what we sometimes sound like when we are talking financials to non-financial people.  CFO’s are so accustomed to abbreviations like EBITDA and ROI; or to phrases like Working Capital and Discounted Cash Flows; or even to words like Accruals and Amortization, we forget these words sound like gobbledygook to some of our non-financial peers.  Do not assume they will ask for the definition of terms they don’t understand as they may be too embarrassed.  By keeping your jargon in check and stopping to explain the meaning of confusing terms, you will keep them engaged and win their trust.
  • Speaking of trust, build it, ’cause you know sometimes words have two meanings.  Non-financial people are often intimidated by financial discussions and they may feel you are trying to fool them.  Once you have built their trust, they become far more interested and responsive in financial discussions.  Getting to know your audience will help you build their trust.  Go to lunch with them or activities outside of work.  Give them credit for their accomplishments in front of others.  Admit something self-deprecating like your love of Led Zeppelin.  Most importantly, don’t do anything to erode their trust.
  • Numbers are intimidating, but with a word she can get what she came for. Most CFO’s can look at a page of numbers in a detailed financial statement and quickly extract all the important information.  Non-financial people do better with words and, better yet, graphics.  The ability to create easy-to-understand graphics is a skill CFO’s need to master.
  • Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, your message will be better received when you use consistent metrics.  If you are constantly changing the metrics or not reviewing them on a consistent and frequent basis, they may not spend the time to figure out the message.  When they see the same metrics over and over on a routine basis, they become comfortable with them, they learn how to quickly absorb the key information and they will review them as part of their regular routine.

Following these tips may not help you climb the stairway to heaven, but they will make you a more popular CFO.  More importantly, it will help you keep your company’s non-financial employees better informed so they can do their jobs more effectively.  If you want an idea of how nonsensical financial jargon can sound, check out this hilarious random financial phrase generator.  If you like this blog post, please share it with your connections and discussion groups on LinkedIn, or on Twitter or Facebook using the icons below.

Do Social Media KPI’s Belong on the Management Dashboard?

CC Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license

CC Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license

Should you include Social Media KPI’s on your dashboard reporting?  The answer for many consumer-focused middle market companies is increasingly becoming “Yes”.

Social media is growing and evolving at an incredible pace.  While many companies now realize the importance of having a social media strategy, some have been slower to realize the importance of measuring their social media activity and including social media KPI’s in their dashboard reporting alongside things like sales, margins, inventory, cashflow and key financial ratios.  Dashboard reporting is custom tailored to the needs of each organization, so the KPI’s to include will vary.  They could be as simple as the number of visitors and page views on your blog, the number of followers on twitter, or fans on Facebook.  You can track these statistics over time and compare them to goals, or to your competition.  On more detailed reports, you can measure the effectiveness of your campaign showing which efforts were most and least successful and how the social media activity translates to sales.  You can mine demographical information and highlight significant fans and followers or significant mentions, good or bad, that appear throughout the social media world.  And, of course, you can report how much you are spending on your social media strategy and calculate your ROI.

There are middle market companies for whom a social media strategy is not important, so not every company should include social media KPI’s in their dashboard reports.  But if you are a CFO at a company where your social media strategy is key, consider adding social media KPI’s into your dashboard and other reports.

What do you think?