Congratulations on your new role as a CFO!
It’s an exciting time to be a CFO and part of the historical transformation of the entire finance function. Many modern Chief Financial Officers like you are set to drive that transformation as Chief Growth Officers.
“To excel in their new roles and increase their organizational impact, CFOs should consider taking on three industry innovations simultaneously: automation, analytics, and agility, or an “AAA+ transformation agenda,” says Krish Subramanian, CEO, Chargebee.
More than ever, CFOs are increasingly expected to ensure their firm’s financial stability, rethink value measurement and focus on improving operational efficiency to steer them through economic headwinds. In this article, we share a checklist for your first 90 days to help you build a strong finance team, streamline your finance operations (FinOps), and drive sustainable growth for your business.
New CFO: Roles and Responsibilities
According to a recent PYMNTS survey, the CFOs’ top of mind includes strategies for faster access to working capital, better ability to manage their cash cycles, and more actionable insights to improve the organization’s finances. As the economic guardian of the company, you will be reporting directly to the CEO. You will oversee budgets and expenses, ensure accurate financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and head tax filings and regulatory compliance. Additionally, you’ll be the face of the business when raising funds, making strategic acquisitions, and managing investor relations.
Mike Beach, CFO at Chargebee, highlights these four critical levers of The Modern SaaS CFO’s Playbook, which will come in handy when you’re planning your 90-day checklist:
- Adopting a cross-functional view of the business
- Setting up people and processes to support a global expansion
- Leveraging budgets and data forecasting to identify growth opportunities
- Being proactive about fundraising
In a nutshell, the entire financial well-being of the company lies in your hands. You cannot tread lightly. You need to go into this new phase with a sure-footed step of conviction.
So, let’s start and make your first 90 days as a new Chief Financial Officer a success!
First 30 Days: Test the Waters
The first 30 days are crucial in establishing a solid foundation. Take this time to assess the company’s current financial state, build cross-functional relationships and identify any gaps or inefficiencies hindering growth.
“I encourage CFOs, at the start, to necessarily try not to accomplish that much, but to learn, ask questions, get to know the finance accounting team, meet cross-functional teams like the sales, engineering, and customer support teams, and build alliances with board members to understand the business as best you can. In the long run, you’ll be extremely well served for having gone through that educational process in your initial days.” – Jack McCullough, founder and president of the CFO Leadership Council and author of Secrets of Rock Star CFOs (source)
Develop a Holistic Understanding of the Business and its Culture
Rather than making any process changes in the first 30 days, finance leaders at a new organization need to build relationships with the finance team and other cross-functional teams. According to Jennifer Piepszak, CFO of JPMorgan Chase, it’s essential to understand the company’s culture and values early on in your tenure. It will help you build relationships and make decisions aligned with the company’s values. For example, 1on1s with the sales team, customer support, and success team will help you know their goals and challenges and give you an end-to-end view of the company’s processes, from customer conversations to back-office operations. Additionally, these initial conversations give you a chance to bond over the small things, demonstrate your expertise and show how you can add value to their work.
Build Strong Partnerships with the C-Suite and External Stakeholders
According to research by Accenture, 86% of CFOs have increased the frequency and scope of collaboration across the C-suite. It’s almost impossible to find the growth levers of the business alone. Partnering with C-suite and other leaders lets you understand the business better. A constant dialogue with the leadership will help you get a clear idea of various business functions, for example, which customer segment is churning or the ROI of different marketing campaigns, ultimately helping you better plan the company’s financials.
“The tone at the top plays a key role in ensuring how well the finance function influences other departments and processes,” – Mike Beach, CFO, Chargebee.
Review Existing Financial Processes
In your first month, focus on understanding the current financial workflows comprehensively and identify any red flags that need urgent attention. It involves everything from reviewing the current financial tech stack to budgeting and overseeing compliance, accounts receivables, payables, and payroll procedures. For example, if your finance team struggles with sourcing revenue forecasting data from multiple sources, fixing it should be your top priority. Accurate revenue forecasts form the backbone of realistic financial plans and dictate future valuations, expenses, investments, and funding. Suppose your team doesn’t have the correct numbers or manually consolidates them without a single source of truth. In that case, you’d have an unreliable financial plan and projections directly affecting your company’s growth.
As a starting point, cover these essential yet most crucial areas to assess the financial health and unit economics of the company:
- Are there any revenue leakages or cash flow discrepancies?
- Are all the tax laws and compliance regulations met?
- Is there any financial risk to the company related to audits, cybersecurity, etc.?
- Is the finance team equipped with a robust tech stack for accurate Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)
Next 30 Days: Craft the Finance Function‘s Blueprint for Success
The second month of your tenure is a critical period in which you begin to develop a finance strategy. While your first 30 days were about observation and listening, your next 30 days should be about analysis and action.
Watch our on-demand webinar, where we have gathered insights from Chargebee’s FinOps wizards to help you build financial operations that can withstand the test of time: How do you evolve your financial processes to grow 2X every year?
Upgrade to an Automated Finance Tech Stack
According to Deloitte’s latest CFO Signals survey, 79% of CFOs said their organizations plan to embed more automation/digital transformation into operations. To set up the finance function for success, you need to pivot to meaningful automation that eliminates inconsistencies, plugs revenue leaks, and saves precious time, so that the finance team can focus on driving strategic initiatives such as global expansion, experimenting with pricing, and more. For example, shifting from a manual collection process to an integrated billing plus receivables software that automates your entire AR workflow will help your team to plan, prioritize, and collect revenue faster.
As a new-age CFO, preparing for challenging times is also your job. Investing in adaptable technology supporting an agile finance function is essential to achieve this. While many people associate CFOs with cost-cutting, strategic CFOs understand the importance of investing in automation.
“Deloitte’s latest CFO Signals survey reveals that the challenging economic environment throughout 2022 has impacted CFOs’ assessments of global economies and their planning concerning strategy, capital, operations, and talent for 2023. Still, CFOs don’t appear to be pulling back on new business investments, the introduction of new services or products, or their use of automation and digital technologies.”— Steve Gallucci, national managing partner, U.S. CFO Program, Deloitte LLP, and global leader, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
By championing automation that can break down data silos and improve communication and collaboration, CFOs can position their organization for long-term success.
For example, juggling multiple global subscription plans and varied pricing models can quickly become chaotic and time-consuming if you’re leading the finance function at a subscription business. It can lead to your team spending valuable hours on repetitive tasks rather than strategic planning. That’s where an adaptive revenue management software like Chargebee can help you succeed by empowering you to rapidly change, evolve, and adapt how you manage recurring revenue. Chargebee’s suite of revenue management products is built to boost the operational efficiency of finance teams by automating:
- End-to-end billing operations
- Payment recovery and collections workflow
- GAAP & IFRS Compliance, and also local tax rules for every country, state, and city
- Accounting integrations with Xero, QuickBooks, NetSuite, and more
Focus on Robust Reporting Processes
As Edwards Deming puts it, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” As a modern CFO, you must back your decisions with meaningful data. And a robust reporting engine is your best friend. Review the current reporting processes and identify areas for improvement to get access to the business’s financial data, capital market trends, and other industry-specific metrics. To scale your subscription business efficiently, ensure a single source of truth for metrics such as customer lifetime value, churn, and average revenue per customer, using them to experiment with pricing, perform financial analysis, and forecast revenue. For example, Chargebee’s subscription analytics platform, RevenueStory, gives you a 360° business visibility that you can leverage to identify key performance indicators that drive revenue, subscriptions, signups, activations, and churn, based on which you can make strategic business decisions.
“With Chargebee, our weekly reporting is faster, saving me 20% time just for that. And reconciling MRR monthly to what’s in our financials — all of it is done in 50% less time than what it would have taken to do regularly before.”
Debbie Barrafato, Chief Financial Officer, Rise Vision (Read the full story here)
Develop a Culture of Learning and Growth within the Finance Team
As a leader, you should build a team of forward-thinking finance professionals. While you shouldn’t be in a hurry to make any changes in the existing team structure, take this time to assess every individual’s knowledge, responsibilities, and skill set. It would also be beneficial to learn the KPIs for the team and readjust any if needed. In addition to assessing the finance team’s performance, make time to understand the perception of the existing finance within the organization and develop a new vision for the finance team by identifying innovation and business partnership areas.
Mastering the Last 30 Days: Refining the Blueprint
The last leg of your 90-day plan should be about weaving your observations and learnings into a long-term actionable plan. As you implement this plan, focus on continually refining and adjusting it based on real-world industry trends and consumer behavior.
Ensure the big picture never gets out of focus. To drive incremental results for the company, you must master operational excellence and strive for end-to-end revenue visibility uncovering risks and opportunities.
Watch our on-demand webinar: The Strategic CFO: Modern Tooling to Scale
Beyond the 90-day Checklist: Building a Resilient and Agile Finance Function for the Future
Business experts regard transitions as periods of opportunity, a chance to start afresh and make needed organizational changes. Your first 90 days in a new role will determine whether you succeed or fail. Therefore, making the most of these initial weeks and months is essential to establish a solid foundation, demonstrating your skills, and proving your worth.
“In today’s hyper-competitive market, we are lost if we aren’t equipped with the right tools. I would prefer a system like Chargebee any day as it helps with everything from invoicing and taxes to payment collection and reconciliation.” – Edouard Celier, CFO, Sendinblue.
Are you ready to check out how Chargebee can help you bring more agility to your finance operations? Get in touch with us, and we’ll take it forward from there.