How I Got My First CFO Role

By Andy Burrows

This is the story of how I got my first CFO role (actually, my title was Finance Director, but in those days in the UK, CFO was a rare job title).

My hope is that my story may inspire you as a Finance professional and would give you some pointers for your own development.

How did it come about?

To sum it up, first of all, I was working as Head of Finance in a small division of Barclays. And half of the business unit was being sold to Travelex. It was essentially the bit that serviced the travel money for the retail branch network. So, Travelex were buying the operation and then there was an outsourced service agreement for Travelex to supply the Barclays branches after the transfer.

Most of the staff were transferring to the new Travelex division – Travelex Currency Services – including me and my Finance team. Travelex were bringing in a new Managing Director. But my boss, the Finance Director, had got another job somewhere else, so he wasn’t moving over.

So, the question...

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Storytelling in Finance - It's Not As Difficult As You Think!

By Andy Burrows

We hear quite a bit about storytelling in Finance these days. And it can seem like quite an intimidating concept for accountants.

“I got into accounting because I’m a numbers person! Now you’re telling me I have to be a novelist too!!!?”

So my aim here is to take some of that fear away for you and make it easier.

Because my belief is that storytelling is not such a new thing, as it sometimes seems.

It’s something that accountants do already, and have always done, but it simply needs developing because we don’t tend to do it very well.

Storytelling is in our blood

What do I mean?

Well, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of the word ‘accountant’ as someone who is employed to help the directors give an account of the owner’s assets and the success of the owner’s business.

An account, another word for which is… a story.

Accountants are trained, really, to tell the story (give an account) of how the...

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Finance Needs to Rethink Its Understanding of "The Business"

By Andy Burrows

It’s horribly dismissive, as well as being terribly cliché and old hat, to call us “bean counters” for working in the Finance department. Mere “number crunchers!”

Some go even further. One Marketing Director once tried to put us in our place by telling us that we in Finance were “just an overhead”. Apparently, Sales and Marketing brought in money, and everyone else, including Finance, just spent it. It seemed a source of some bitterness that he could work so hard bringing money in only to see it frittered away on our over-inflated salaries!

And so, why would anyone think to involve us in strategic discussion, let alone tell us about a new product before they launch it (thus avoiding the accounting mayhem we normally have to deal with!)?

And as a result, we’re made to feel like outsiders. We really want to be involved and valued, but instead feel shut out.

But, you see, sometimes we don’t help ourselves....

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Why You Need (To Be) A Purpose-Driven CFO

By Andy Burrows

Generalisations About Finance

As I reflect on my 25+ years of working in the Finance departments of a variety of businesses, the common feeling I get is that of busyness.

Finance is a very busy function to work in. There are always deadlines. Monthly reporting. Quarterly forecasting. Annual budgeting and medium term planning. If there’s a big project, Finance is in the thick of it, called in at short notice to “pull the numbers together”. We are always firefighting. Transactions gone astray. New products to code that no-one told us about. New suppliers that need to be paid before we knew they even existed. The pace is frenetic.

And in the midst of that busyness, we forget why we do what we do.

And while investors, owners and shareholders rely on the CFO to lead the business with the CEO, by and large we’re not actually very good leaders.

We think we’re strategic thinkers, but we’re not.

I don’t say that lightly. But the...

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To be a high performer in Finance you need to avoid these 4 mistakes

By Andy Burrows

I wonder if this is you?

  • You feel like you’re one of the people who works the hardest in the Finance department;
  • You feel like you’re very busy all that time, and you hardly ever have time to take breaks or holidays;
  • And yet people don’t seem to appreciate your work, they don’t talk about you as a high performer;
  • But they’re pretty quick to point out your errors and mistakes;
  • No-one is mentioning promotion opportunities to you, but other people seem to get the fast track;
  • You’re either stressed and at risk of burnout, or you’ve given up trying to impress people.

Well, have no fear! I am here to put a few ideas in front of you that may just hold the answers you’ve been looking for!

No guarantees! You may indeed be in a situation where you’ve been asked to do the impossible, and you genuinely have too much work on your plate.

But, from what I’ve seen in my 25-year+ career in Finance, there are a few thoughts...

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9 simple things you can start doing TODAY to accelerate your CFO-readiness

By Andy Burrows

In this article I want to show that getting yourself ready to be a business-leading CFO one day is something that should start much much earlier than you think.

When people talk about leadership and business acumen in the context of what you need to be a CFO, you may think that implies you need almost grey hairs.

We picture leaders being the old, wise and mature people. It must have taken them years to learn to be leaders.

Business acumen, too, sounds like something you get from years of experience.

And my worry is that those misconceptions put off young Finance professionals from working intentionally on things that will help them to be CFO-ready.

Two of my own experiences should show that you don’t have to wait to start learning CFO skills.

First, I was appointed as a Finance Director at the age of 29. I’ve written about that elsewhere. So, you don’t need to be older to learn CFO skills and behaviours.

Second, one of the most memorable courses I...

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The development journey of an aspiring CFO

By Andy Burrows

Recently, I asked a question on LinkedIn and to Supercharged Finance mailing list subscribers. It went like this:

If I was to say to you that I want to help you get CFO-ready, what are the top 3 things you think you would struggle with (and therefore need the most help with)?

If you want to submit your own answer to that question, I’m always interested in what people think. So, do let me know via the comments.

The responses received so far have been quite revealing, in two ways:

First, it shows what people think you need to be ready for a CFO role. And some of the things mentioned actually surprised me.

Second, it helps me in designing CFO Readiness Builder (my upcoming development program for aspiring CFOs) to focus on high priority areas.

Now, just because people think certain things are needed to be a CFO, doesn’t mean they actually are absolutely needed as pre-requisites for CFO selection. Perception isn’t always reality. And some...

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The biggest failure of my Finance career – and 4 lessons you can learn from it

By Andy Burrows

I had one of those lightbulb moments a few months ago. The sort that kind of catches your breath. Because in the space of a few seconds, something really helpful becomes clear to you that you never even considered before. And yet it was hiding there in plain sight. I could have seen it at any stage if I’d simply chosen a different perspective.

I’ll obviously come on to what that was in a minute. But first, I need to tell you a story.

It’s the story of my early Finance career.

I promise I’ll be brief. And it does have a point that will be relevant to you, especially if you have ambitions to progress into senior roles in Finance. I don’t (often) talk about myself just for the sake of it! So, please bear with me.

My success

You see, when I was 29 years and 5 months old, I got my first Finance Director job.

That’s a mere four years after I qualified as a chartered accountant and started putting the letters ACA after my name. And it was...

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Four things your Finance team should stop to help the business more

By Andy Burrows

I’ve worked as a senior leader in many Finance teams. And over the years I’ve noticed several things that we do that really hamper our effectiveness.

‘Effectiveness’ can be defined as the extent to which we’re achieving our mission.

I’ll come to that mission more specifically at the end of this article. But for now, let’s just take it in general terms that we exist in the business to help the business. We don’t do anything for its own sake, just to satisfy ourselves as accountants. We don’t produce reports just to be able to admire a nice report. We don’t do analysis just so that we can admire a financial model that balances. All the things we do should help the business.

And so, I want to talk about things I’ve come to see as unhelpful. Some of them we take for granted. We just do them, we accept that they exist and we perpetuate them. Some of them almost have the status of sacred cows that we...

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Don’t tell me you haven’t got time – 5 steps to getting more (important) things done

By Andy Burrows

One of the first things I teach my coaching clients is personal effectiveness.

Personal effectiveness – if you want a rough informal definition – is the ability to get important things done.

A big part of that is what has been called “time management”. I’ll come back to why I think that terminology is unhelpful in a minute.

But first, the reason I teach this first is because of the number of people who would drop out of coaching groups because they “weren’t getting time to make use of the learning and coaching opportunities”. In order to help people get the career benefits, and to help them to improve their impact in their workplace, I had to first enable them to open up time to learn and change.

And on top of that I would hear people saying they didn’t have time to join  my coaching group to get the CFO skills, the business-focused Finance skills, to level up their impact in their business and...

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