Treading a Pathway for future CFO’s

This week saw the 2nd gathering of a networking group of talented up-and-coming accountants at Farrow Jamieson’s offices – ‘Pathway to CFO’. This was an initiative of mine to try and give developing commercial accountants the benefit of the experiences of existing CFO’s in terms of career development in working your way up to a CFO role in the future.

The guest CFO’s on this occasion were Craig Peirce from Property for Industry and Vivek Singh from PharmacyBrands. Both NZX listed businesses providing both CFO’s plenty of commercial exposure and stories to share with the audience.

Below is a breakdown of the key learnings from the session – I think these are excellent guidelines for developing managers in any sector, not just accounting. There was a big element of consistency between Craig and Vivek (as well as humbleness) in terms of how they got into their current roles.

Be good at what you do – Work hard at being good at what you do as you are not going to succeed without being exceptionally good at your trade.

Be patient –The right opportunity may not be immediately obvious or out there right now. Work hard at gaining those skills that you know you will need to make the jump up to the next level and the opportunities will no doubt arise in time.

Network, network, network - Get to know people – swap business cards, connect on social media, have coffees, lunches, drinks – be interested in people and their businesses. Attend industry and professional body events. You may not get instant job offers but the value of having a large network of people that you can pick the phone up to is invaluable. The wider your network, the more opportunities will inevitably arise if you combine this with being exceptionally good at your job.

Identify those areas that you need to upskill in to jump to the next level – and make this clear to your boss and all in your business. It might be tax, IFRS, staff management or any number of things – if you know you do not have exposure in an area that may hold you back from developing your career then do all you can to get this exposure.

Have a sense of humour. Both Craig and Vivek demonstrated this and it enables you to connect comfortably with people. It has to be appropriate humour of course!

Be prepared to take risks – if you never took risks you wouldn’t leave the house each day. Jump at the opportunity to work on projects, look at secondments, mentor and train staff, present to the board and senior management if given the opportunity. It may be daunting at the time – but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone will give you experience and exposure you wouldn’t otherwise have got – and who knows where that will lead?

Be prepared to contract between jobs. The right job may take sometime to come along. Contract opportunities can very easily develop into permanent arrangements if you are good at what you do and the company doesn’t want to let you go. It will also give you exposure to new industries, people, systems… everything. Don’t be afraid to take 2-3 contracts between jobs if need be – it’s better than taking the wrong permanent job.

A good dose of luck! I’m going to play devil’s advocate here as I think this may have been Vivek and Craig being somewhat humble in my opinion.  I think to a large extent you make your own luck. If you combine the factors of being exceptionally good at your job, up skilling in areas that need developing, have the patience, ambition and talent to jump to the next level and have a good network of contacts then you are far more likely to find yourself in those ‘lucky’ positions when opportunities arise.