New CFO 90-Day Plan: Your Playbook

Bringing on a new CFO is an exciting period of transformation in any company. Big picture goals will involve learning your new company, developing a working relationship with your new boss and staff, and understanding which elements of the company culture can be improved – alongside which should remain consistent.

The following represents a CFO’s 90-day plan for success with general guidelines and best practices to consider. If you cover all these bases within the first three months at a new company, you’ll have a solid foundation to build from throughout the rest of your tenure.

Start by Assessing the Finance Function

The role of the CFO involves value creation and strategy. As the C-suite’s financial custodian, expectations are often high to revolutionize financial management from the outset. But as those who work in finance know, it’s rarely that simple.

Research indicates that nearly 10% of CFOs at top companies leave their role within one year, and more than 50% will leave within five years. There’s a lot of pressure coming from the top, and CFOs need to take a thorough accounting of what they have to work with.

The new CFO checklist should begin with an audit of the finance function’s performance and existing priorities. It’s crucial to get an objective look at performance to understand strengths, shortcomings, and opportunities, both relative to historical performance as well as to industry peers. Next steps will involve defining concrete goals, so this due diligence is an essential first step.

Perform Due Diligence as Part of Your CFO 90-Day Plan

Think of the first 90 days as a planning process where the new CFO can learn, prioritize, and start setting goals for the future. It’s not necessarily about making changes quickly; it’s about creating a vision for what the long-term role of the finance function will be.

This step involves laying the basic groundwork for the CFO 90-day plan. You should get details into expectations and responsibilities across all the primary groups you may be interacting with:

  • Board members
  • Investors
  • C-suite executives
  • Lower level team members
  • Third-party vendors and auditors

This step is all about forming relationships and getting insight into what direction the company is currently headed.

Be ready to hit the ground running here and get familiar with the type of financials the company uses. Assessing both historic trends and predictive forecasting will be necessary to determine long-term goals, as well as for establishing familiarity with the company’s existing tools and processes. Plus, it gives the CFO a chance to identify potential issues in finance processes and get auditors involved, if necessary.

Create a 90-Day Plan With Small, Actionable Goals

With the initial steps covered, CFOs can begin looking towards actionable improvements that will drive results in the company. These could involve identifying bottlenecks in communication and clarifying reporting lines to boost collaboration among teams, or implementing new solutions to address outdated IT infrastructure.

While something like an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) deployment is out of scope for a 90-day window, there are other solutions that can be implemented more easily. For example, Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) tools, cited by nearly two-thirds (63%) of CFO survey respondents as a top priority for improvement among core finance functions, is achievable within a smaller window.

Such solutions leveraged in tandem with automated accounts receivable and payable solutions can improve monitoring capabilities, system visibility, and a CFO’s overall understanding of top priorities like cash flow management.

Don’t Make Big Changes Too Quickly

As a best practice for a first 90-day onboarding plan for CFOs, avoid tackling too much too early. It’s best to spend your first 90 days researching the company and identifying a small set of priorities to focus on in the first few months.

Don’t worry, those 90 days will go by quickly! And while a new CFO might feel pressure to move the needle as quickly as possible, a slow, methodical approach will work better long-term.

This is particularly important for finance team management, something that will be a top priority during the rollout of a new CFO agenda. Be wary of making any significant staffing changes within the first 90 days. It’s better to take some time to understand the team’s existing knowledge and skill sets before attempting any restructuring. If staffing changes end up being necessary, your CFO development plan can account for this after the first three months.

Keep perspective in mind, here. The best CFOs work with and alongside their teams to implement changes. It’s a balance of demonstrating leadership while also respecting those who have worked to establish finance processes at the company. Naturally, soft skills will be important in this phase (and throughout your tenure beyond the 90-day mark).

What Is a CFO Plan? Your Guiding Star for Success

Balancing priorities and acting as a control tower for improvement is the best path towards value creation in the CFO role. A CFO plan outlines achievable steps that any CFO can make to reach this point. The first 90 days are the ideal time to establish this vision and your new role as a strategic activist for your company’s financial future, and backed by the right playbook behind you, you’ll have no problem implementing long-term improvements that set your new company up for success.

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