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Who is the Best CFO?

Who is the Best CFO?
Pat Dickson - Tue Jun 12, 2012 @ 07:01AM
Comments: 0
Steve G. Vogel is the best CFO out there.

I've reported directly to Steve more than once. I thank him for what he has taught me. I praise him for how he leads by example. He can be very tough because measurable results are required, but he is unmatched when it comes to building a team, boosting morale, and making sure everyone's efforts are part of the success story.

The last time I worked with Steve, the entire department called him "The Chief." When he left, we missed the morning pep talks he always gave us. We especially missed how we never failed to hit our targets and deadlines when he was calling the plays. It was a great season. We were quite a team! 

The best CFO taught me three things:

1. People Matter: If you need to accomplish a task, you need everyone behind you. Sometimes all it takes is making sure you don't pass a fellow employee in the hall without giving him a smile and a "good morning," or a "hello." When a person feels he matters, everyone else matters to him. Work tasks become a team effort, not an individual crucible.

I remember how we never missed collections targets with Steve at the helm. If any one of us failed, all of us failed. Our Collections Manager was never alone when the going got tough. Everyone in the Finance Department from CFO to Director of Finance, to FP&A Consultant, would become a collector until we were out of the woods. No one was blamed because we knew our Collections Manager was doing the work of five men at any other company. Success was all that mattered, and soon the past due checks were pouring in each day!

2. Contracts Tie Everything Together: As a lawyer I used to be a little bit myopic. If I read a software licensing agreement, I'd just focus on the license, the indemnity, the warranty, and then stop there. I quickly learned that a contract was not properly reviewed until you knew exactly how it tied into the estimate, pricing, goals for recognizing revenue, meeting milestones, planning resources, as well as the customer's precise expectations. When would we be paid in full? Does this document properly reflect all of our FP&A goals? Are we within budgetary constraints? Are we actually able to perform on this contract given the capabilities and limitations of our products and services?

A good in-house lawyer has only partially reviewed a contract if he cannot tell his CFO exactly how it will tie into revenue recognition, the budget, cashflow, and operations. Only when a contract spells out everything for all parties involved, satisfies the customer, and ties all company goals and expectations together, has an attorney done his job.

3. Listen to the Customer: Rule number #1 is pick up the phone. Don't send an email when a customer is not paying an invoice or is not satisfied with service or delivery. On a number of occasions, our team worked diligently on a problem with no success, and in the end, The Chief would call us into his office. We would shut the door, sit down, and say nothing. Steve would call the customer on speaker phone, introduce all of us, and ask how he could help. How do we resolve the problem? After several minutes of listening, he would offer an insightful and often creative solution, and the customer would accept. 

"How did you do that Chief?" We'd ask.

"You guys obviously never called the customer and listened."

"But we sent a lot of emails."

"Exactly. Just pick up the phone next time. It is easier. Now get back to work!"

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