The Modern CFO 90 Day Plan for Success

Written by Jason Mountford
May 3, 2023

First off, congratulations on your new role as CFO! 

As you dive in, it’s important to remember that the job is no longer just about crunching numbers or balancing budgets. These days, the CFO is a strategic partner to the CEO – the Robin to their Batman, if you will, both working together to protect the company’s finances.

You’re raring to get started in the new role and you want to ensure you get off to the best start possible. We get it!

To make that happen, simply follow the steps laid out in this guide as best you can, and you’ll hit the ground running.

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Understanding the Changing Role of Today’s CFO

To start, let’s look how the role of CFO is changing – something highly relevant to how you tackle your first 90 days.

In the old days, we’d usually think of the CFO as a behind-the-scenes accountant, focused primarily on cost-cutting measures or – more frustratingly for staff – denying new initiatives that didn’t fit in a strict budget. 

But the times, they are a-changin’:

Today, CFOs are critical in driving growth and innovation and boosting profitability. This necessitates a shift from traditional accounting practices and a focus on in-depth, data-based planning that has a positive impact on the bottom line.

One key priority for today’s CFO is to focus on cash flow management. With tight margins and uncertain economic conditions, organizations must have a clear view of their current cash position and an accurate projection of future liquidity needs.

The most efficient way of achieving both is through automation. Automation creates the ability for real-time insight into cash position, so there’s no need to collate data from across bank portals, risking manual error.

It also makes improved forecasting techniques like scenario planning much, much easier. Scenario planning helps identify risks before they become problems, as well as opportunities like idle cash that could be reinvested in the company.

But cash flow automation is just one piece of the modern CFO picture – it needs to be supported by analytics tools that provide insight into customer behavior and corresponding advice on pricing strategies and inventory levels.

All this may seem overwhelming, and we get it – as a brand new CFO, the last thing you want to do is irritate the whole company by adopting technology that takes months to implement. It’s true – older treasury management systems really did take this long, with an average implementation time of 9 months! 

As a new CFO, you need software that can be implemented quickly while providing everything you need to be effective in that role. Trovata provides cash management automation without much internal disruption. It was this lack of disruption and fast, real-time insight into cash flow that led CrowdStrike’s treasury team to hop on board the Trovata train.

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First 30 Days – Building Relationships

So you get how the role of CFO is changing, and how this might inform your opening strategy. But what should you actually do in your first 90 days?

To make things simple, let’s break those 90 days down into periods of 30 days. During your first 30 days, your priority should be to meet everyone. Ok, it may not be possible to meet everyone if the department has lots of people, but you’ll certainly want to connect with your direct reports.

Meet with each on an individual basis. Get to know their goals and interests. After you’ve spent some solo time with each, set up a group meeting. Invite key stakeholders as well and encourage everyone to speak freely. Now’s their time to bring any issues – any issues at all – to the table. Make it clear you’ll be available outside formal occasions, should they want to tell you something privately.

If you haven’t yet, plan to spend at least a full day with the CEO. The CEO-CFO relationship is probably the most important in the company, especially given the new, dynamic role of the CFO. Ask her or him what the previous CFO did right. Why did that person leave? What does the CEO expect of you? 

You may have already had some of these discussions through the recruiting process, and if so, then now is the time to build on them.

Next, since you’ll be developing their budgets, you should also meet with department heads. Fostering these relationships will help you create realistic budgets they’re happy with – a better alternative to dropping a budget devised without their input into their lap each year.  

Look outside the company, too – connect with external partners like bankers, auditors, and vendors. Are there other CFOs you can connect with in the industry to compare notes with?

Finally, spend time with employees outside of finance. Though others might not expect the CFO to do it, now’s a good time to go on sales calls and learn about the business on the most granular level. 

For the first few weeks, your goal is to be like a sponge and absorb everything: opinions, wishes for the company’s future, etc. There’s no need to take heavy action yet. Direct reports, key stakeholders, and even the rank-and-file will have great insight into the company’s financial situation – insight you’ll be using to start devising your plan.

Be a team player, listen to feedback, and communicate openly and honestly. Begin to understand the company’s culture – putting in the effort now will show you’re dedicated to the company’s long-term success, and guarantee buy-in when you do start to execute your vision.

Key Takeaway: As a CFO, it’s essential to build strong relationships with your team and get to know them on an individual level. This covers not just your immediate team, but the company at large. Spend some time getting into the nitty-gritty of the business, like sales to really understand how it operates and what its values are.

Day 30 to 60 – Assess the Situation

Now that you’ve gotten to know everyone, you can begin with your assessment of the company’s situation, both internally and externally. This will cover the next 30 days.

Start externally, with market trends and the current industry landscape. Understand the company’s products by trying them out yourself. Learn how they speak to customers’ pain points by talking to customers on those sales calls you tag along on. Try out your competitor’s products, too.

Beyond this type of first-hand investigation, getting a better handle on market trends involves analyzing cash flow statements and building models that project future performance based on past results. Look at historic actuals and how they compare with budgets. Was there high variance? If so, what caused it?

Evaluate key performance indicators like customer acquisition costs and retention rates. Perhaps there are areas where churn is high, and customer acquisition costs for that specific channel aren’t worth the ROI. Does the company have a strong risk mitigation strategy?

Performing a thorough analysis of budgets, actuals, and KPIs will reveal areas that need to be improved, and help you develop goals.

Next, you’ll want to evaluate the treasury department itself. 

Is this the team that will get the company where it needs to go? Are there any skill gaps that necessitate hires? Is everyone suited to their role? This is the chance to identify strengths and weaknesses and move people around accordingly.

What technology does the department have? Is their software up to date, or is there room for improvement? Programs like QuickBooks might be alright at what they do, but will they help you meet the kind of transformative objectives enabled by rich data insight and analytics? Maybe ERPs aren’t integrated with the primary treasury software – a bigger problem than it may at first seem, as it can result in inaccurate cash positioning and inefficient payment processing.

Technology isn’t only about making life easier for those in your department, though it does do that – it also helps drive a competitive advantage. If you have real-time cash insight and your competitors don’t, you’ll be miles ahead of them. As CFO, you’re in an excellent position to drive some of these changes, helping the organization cut costs and greatly boost efficiency.

Based on your own assessment, and the issues brought to the table by those in the department, write out the issues in order of priority. What needs to be solved urgently? Determining this will help you secure early, easy wins.

Key Takeaway: New CFOs need to conduct a thorough assessment of internal resources – including staff and technology – as well as the external market situation. A complete assessment will help determine what strategies the company should take to grow, cut costs, and streamline processes.

Day 60 to 90 – Secure Early Wins

As a new CFO, we know you’re eager to prove your worth beyond just being a friendly face around the office! Securing early wins helps establish your credibility as someone who’s going to take the company in the right direction and get stuff done.

Here are just a few ideas to secure early wins as a new CFO:

1) Get an Overview of Your Cash Flow Position

Establishing your cash flow position is a necessary first step and an easy win in itself. A clear view of current and future liquidity provides a baseline for measuring progress, as well as a springboard for determining what the company’s short- and long-term goals should be.

In other words, determining cash flow can reveal more areas to achieve early wins, so don’t ignore it.

2) Tackle Obvious Goals

Look for low-hanging fruit – problems that can be solved quickly and easily. Perhaps it’s about time some contracts are renegotiated to secure better prices. Maybe there are redundant processes that are eating into the treasury department’s time.

One of the most obvious areas in this regard is manual data entry and reconciliation, both of which can be streamlined through automation – automation eliminates the need to gather data or correct errors.

Automation also helps prevent duplicate payments and ensures financial reporting is more timely and accurate.

Working with the finance team to improve financial reporting is a crucial step in boosting stakeholder confidence, and automation is one of the clearest ways to streamline existing functions and achieve early wins.

3) Create Strategies Around Risk Mitigation & Compliance

Ensuring compliance isn’t one of the most exciting tasks of a CFO, but it has to be done!

Guarantee appropriate controls are in place to protect against fraud, money laundering, and other transaction risks. It falls on you to ensure both local and international compliance and to keep up with ever-changing regulations. 

Key Takeaway: Hit the ground running in your first 90 days as CFO by establishing solid relationships, assessing the situation, and securing early wins. Look for ways to boost the efficiency of your team and gain deeper insights with automation and AI that will boost your bottom line.

Stay Ahead of the Curve with Cash Management Automation & AI 

As a CFO, making data-backed decisions is crucial. However, the sheer volume of data available can be overwhelming. The only way to gather it all in a way that’s open to analysis is with technology.

Many finance professionals – too many, we think – are stuck relying on outdated spreadsheets, which will never give them real-time insight into cash flow. This doesn’t have to be the case.

Trovata offers a powerful solution for CFOs who want to take control of their cash flow management processes without sacrificing accuracy or speed – actually, you’ll boost both!

Trovata allows you to aggregate data from across all corporate bank accounts into one central platform – a single source of truth. Cash flow forecasts are generated automatically and, through machine learning, become more accurate over time.

On top of that, Trovata’s AI tool—the first of its kind—can help get instant answers to the cash flow questions that matter.

With Trovata’s automated cash flow solutions and AI at your fingertips, you no longer need to manually entering data into spreadsheets every day like it’s Groundhog Day.

Let Trovata do all the heavy lifting so that you can focus more energy on higher-value tasks. Book a demo today.

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