A 99-Day Plan for the New Finance Executive

Several surveys conducted over the last few years indicate that there is pent-up demand in the workforce with people dissatisfied with their current roles. As the global economy continues to rebound from a deep recession, opportunities to take on new challenges will appear.

 
Whether you are moving to another division in your current firm or you are taking on a new role at another company, you will need a strategy to hit the ground running. Here are some of the tasks that should fill your first days.
 
Understand, Formulate, Implement
Whether you are outlining a 99-day plan, a 90-day plan or a 100-day plan, the basic outline is the same. Spend the first third of those days seeking to understand, listen, confirm and ask probing questions in order for you to determine what strategically and tactically needs to happen. For the second third of your plan, focus on formulating your strategy and confirming it with your sponsors, your peers and your team. Finally, in the last third, begin to implement your strategy.
 
Understand: Confirm how value is created
Joining at any level and any leadership position requires that you understand how value is created at your firm. How does the company make money?
 
Assuming you joined from an outside firm, it is likely that you have a general sense of what the company does. After all, as part of the interview process, a review of the company’s website, 10k, press releases, and a few analyst reports would have been in order. But there is nothing like being able to see how the company really works from the inside out.
 
The key question to ask is: "How does the company create shareholder value and what is the best way for my group to support that mission?"
 
Understand: Get to know your stakeholders
Surveys indicate that when CFOs reflect on roles they have played, the one thing they wished they had done is spend more time with their peer group in the first 99 days.
 
During your first day, set meetings with the following groups of people (in descending order of priority):
 
  • Business Unit Heads
  • CEO
  • Finance Staff
  • Executive Committee
  • Board of Directors
  • Investors/Analysts
 
You need the support of your peers in order to implement the strategic changes you are likely to make. Spend some time proactively understanding what their pain points are, who you can rely on, and what the various personality types are.
 
Getting to know the CEO and how your vision integrates with his vision and working style is next on the list. As equally important as understanding your boss is understanding your own team. People (more so than process and technology) largely dictate the success or failure of an organization.
 
Take inventory of who your stars are and where you have weaknesses on your staff. Gauge whether the weaknesses are correctable or not, and begin to counsel out those individuals that aren’t a fit for your new team.
 
Understand: Different expectations
Surveys indicate that the CEO expects the CFO to (order of importance):
 
  • Be an active member of senior management team
  • Contribute to company’s performance
  • Ensure efficiency of finance organization
  • Strengthen core team

 

On the other, when polled using the same questions, finance staff responded with the opposite priority list. This is an important distinction regarding expectations that should be one input into your strategy.

 
Formulate: Clear and simple communications
As you formulate your strategy and seek to confirm your plan in the second month, remember to communicate simply and clearly. Backing up insights with hard facts is great, but PowerPoint presentations filled with tables of numbers rarely impress. Place a high level of importance on making your leadership messages clear and simple to understand.
 
Implement: Ruthless execution of quick wWins

As you transition into your third and final month of your plan, you are likely to have formulated your strategy and have begun to implement key provisions. If you’ve identified any quick wins, use this time to ruthlessly execute those and celebrate your victories.

 
About the Author
Jonathan Collins writes the blog CFO Newsletter, where this article first appeared. He is a senior manager for KPMG China in Hong Kong. Combining a passion for finance and accounting, an enthusiasm for business improvement and deep experience in technology, Jonathan specializes in turnaround and improvement efforts for CFOs and CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected].

 

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