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Tips to Be a Good Financial Officer

by Ralph Heibutzki, studioD

Chief financial officers and peers in related fields, such as accounting, do more than serve as budgetary gatekeepers. Although that aspect is important, financial officers handle multiple roles, including those of consultant, investment adviser and strategic planner. Learning how to serve different populations' needs and work collaboratively is also important, since the financial officer is often expected to assist senior management in promoting a company's long-term growth and profitability.

Accept Challenges

As transactions and regulatory requirements grow more complex, a financial officer must step outside his traditional role. In many cases, CFOs shoulder additional management and planning responsibilities. They might require working on projects with attorneys, auditors, corporate board members and senior executives, according to "CFO Magazine." One example is the audit process, in which CFOs resolve disputes between auditors and corporate comptrollers. The more adaptable your skills, the more appealing you become to a company.

Develop Communication Skills

Communicating complex ideas to various constituencies is an important skill for any financial officer to cultivate. A finance professional who feels uncomfortable reaching out to investors, employees and other stakeholders at a company will never win confidence in his leadership. Key messages may also be conveyed improperly. As participants in a global marketplace, strong CFOs realize that nations communicate differently, and take those issues into account in helping a company devise long-term strategy.

Learn the Culture

Every business operates differently, a fact that companies expect CFOs to consider in launching new initiatives and programs. An incoming financial officer must study the organization's norms, or corporate culture, and determine how he fits in with its goals and expectations. A long-range vision is essential for success, too, since employees often resist change. If a particular risk doesn't pay off, the officer must make whatever changes are needed to ensure the next project's success.

Stay Organized

Financial officers need a keen organizational sense to succeed. To help companies meet legal requirements, CFOs must always monitor relevant data and supervise employees who handle financial reporting and budgeting. Many of these tasks are often specific to a particular industry, or organization, as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes. Government financial managers must be experts in appropriations and budgeting issues, for example. The resulting information helps to develop business activity reports and financial statements, and to revise them when needed.

Strive for Integrity

While companies put a premium on results and efficiency, integrity remains more important for employees. One indication of those attitudes comes from a survey of 570 white-collar employees by Right Management Consultants, as "CFO" magazine reported in January 2003. Twenty-four percent of those polled saw honesty as a corporate leader's most important trait, while 16 percent cited integrity, morals and ethics. Financial officers who model these traits are more likely to win over workers than those who don't.

About the Author

Ralph Heibutzki's articles have appeared in the "All Music Guide," "Goldmine," "Guitar Player" and "Vintage Guitar." He is also the author of "Unfinished Business: The Life & Times Of Danny Gatton," and holds a journalism degree from Michigan State University.

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