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New CFO assignment: Your guide to the 100 first days

The expectations on today’s CFO’s are high. It is a very broad role with a major impact on both earnings and the people in the organisation. There are many people in the new company who will want your attention, at the same time that you are busy getting to know the new corporate culture and your new colleagues.

With the help of the list below, you can be certain to not miss any important areas in the first period, regardless whether you take office in a permanent position or as an interim CFO.

Maximise the value for the owners

In a for-profit company, your given primary goal is to maximise the value for the owners; that is why you are there. To succeed in this, you must ensure that the company sets the right direction for the future, that the processes are streamlined and that all of the stakeholders are on board. We will therefore look at three main areas, all of which fall under your role as the CFO:

  1. Internal and external relationships
  2. Understanding and developing the business model
  3. Review processes and procedures for operational management

You will not have time to work through all of the points below; rather, view it as a general list to prioritise from. Your priorities will depend a lot on the situation and circumstances. In some cases, it will initially be about fighting fires and solving pressing problems that you inherited from your predecessor. The time of the year when you begin also determines where the company’s focus will be.

Regardless of the situation, you have a unique opportunity to bring about a change when you are new at the company. Use the list as help and do your best! 

Internal and external relationships

The CFO role is an important hub in the company, and as the spider in the web, a CFO has to have a grasp of his or her stakeholders, both to be able to address questions and to be able to signal business events with a strong impact on the company. It is also important to know who is to have information about what. Create direct information channels for what is important for the company.

Establish relationships with the management group

  • the employees in general.
  • major customers and suppliers who are critical to the business.
  • the banks.
  • the auditors.
  • the investors. Determine and root an approach to investor relations. Document comments from important investors.

Understanding and developing the business model

Business model, history and future

  • Gain insight and understanding of the company’s business model. 
  • Obtain an overall understanding of the company’s background/history and future. Where does the company come from and where is it heading? What is the business direction a few years out?
  • Understand what drives value in the company’s business. What key figures are relevant to measure? Key figures are important to see trends and how you succeed in achieving subtargets on the way towards the larger aggregated goals. What does the company measure today? Is any important factor missing in the measurement?
  • Understand the industry-specific tax situation, today and in the future Are any major changes for your industry impending in the near future?
  • Understand industry-specific laws and rules.
  • Evaluate internal control systems, documentation and procedures for regulatory compliance.
  • Understand and evaluate the requirements set on financial statements.
  • Meet managers from various parts of the company. Begin evaluating the efficiency of the financial flows. Familiarise yourself with the way of working, the culture, the vision, the strengths, the weaknesses, the opportunities, the risks.
  • Analyse and evaluate the internal quality work.

Investments

  • Evaluate decision criteria for the assessment of projects or acquisitions.
  • Understand the investment process.

Management

  • Participate actively in management meetings and support the other managers.
  • Evaluate various alternatives for the number of employees in the accounting function. What works best inhouse vs. Outsourced? What strengths do you have internally? What competencies would you need to strengthen? Begin recruitment or outsource certain roles/resources.
  • Evaluate the optimal size for other departments you have insight into. Discuss with managers of the respective departments.
  • Review any bonus programmes so that the incentives strengthen desired behaviours among the employees.
  • Think about what expansion possibilities exist and begin preparing a plan. Where do you see the company in five years?

Review processes and procedures for operational management

Budget/forecast

  • Obtain understanding for the existing process.
  • Identify budget owners for various parts of the operations.
  • Clarify when necessary what kind of data the budget owners are expected to contribute and how.
  • Review internal deadlines so that they are reasonable in terms of when the company is expected to deliver the budget/forecast.
  • Complete and root with the management group.
  • Evaluate and revise the process.

Purchases and expenses

  • Look for general patterns that indicate vulnerability or risks in the purchasing situation.
  • Conduct a review of the prevailing general terms in the purchases. Are you accepting excessively short payment deadlines?
  • Review the process from purchasing to payment.
  • Evaluate internal control procedures and ensure that there is a clear division of responsibility for all aspects of internal and external business. Do you have the right system support for the purchases? Do you need a pre-system for the business system?
  • Gain access to and evaluate running contracts at least for the major cost items, renegotiate improved terms with large suppliers.

Account closing and reporting

  • Map and evaluate existing processes for monthly and quarterly account closing. Can they be streamlined?

Tax and regulatory compliance

  • Go through how VAT is booked and reported. Is it correctly done?
  • Review to ensure that taxes are planned optimally.
  • Review the tax consequences for current business decisions. How do various alternatives affect the company’s tax situation?
  • Familiarise yourself with the company’s policy for foreign currencies.

Audit

  • Review the company’s audit process. Can it be streamlined? A digital solution where the auditors can log into the business system themselves?
  • Study reports from audits done and carry out improvements when necessary.

Bank

  • Review the company’s bank procedures. How are supplier payments made today? Is it possible to make it more efficient, such as by sending payment files to the bank? Review it for both domestic and international payments. What does the currency exposure look like? Is there an advantage to acquiring currency accounts?
  • Review the liquidity and investment strategy. Can you allow a lower liquidity to get better return on the assets?

Business risks

  • Identify and document business risks and allocate a manager for the respective area.
  • Follow up the work and document progress and new identified risks.
  • Consider putting together a working group to address business risks.

Bookkeeping and reporting

  • Evaluate the existing bookkeeping or business system. Is it digital and automated to the furthest possible extent? Can you take out reports yourself when necessary? Does the system have a direct connection to the bank for continuously updated figures? 
  • Review the possibilities of improvements in the liquidity management. What ties up capital today? Review payment dates for both the customer and supplier side. How does the company work with stock and its tied-up capital? Does the purchasing and delivery function work optimally to ensure effective capital tied-up by stock?
  • Review the accounting of projects. Is the company in need of project reporting? Is the accounting plan synchronised with it? Are reports in place for the follow-up of the projects? Ensure in the organisation that all costs linked to a project are captured.
  • Review how the current accounting plan is used.
  • Review and possibly improve and develop report packages for management.
  • Review possibilities to automate/digitalise the reporting.
  • Review the reporting to the market if the company is listed.

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