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Tales from the front lines in CFO and controller recruiting—what’s expected these days

A CFO who is good at financial integrity management but struggles with assessing situations and being visionary won’t be a CFO for very long. I see CFOs facing this challenge in companies of all sizes, from Fortune 500 companies to startups.

In my role on the RoseRyan management team, which includes interviewing candidates, and as a CFO consultant at various companies, I get the chance to interface frequently with other CFOs and recruiters. It’s a great way to stay on top of trends in senior finance roles. CFOs who take a strategic approach to the position have been in demand for awhile now at the largest of companies, and now smaller and medium companies are following suit. And controllers, another key role in finance organizations, are expanding the skills they need as well.

Starting at the top

During a recent FEI event in San Francisco that focused on the state of the market for Fortune 500 CFOs, executive search recruiters revealed that, not surprisingly, these companies take a different approach to recruiting CFOs than smaller companies. Many of them, in fact, recruit from within. Today’s recruiters spend more of their time assessing talent than finding it. This makes sense, because today more than ever, CFOs need to be strategic and analytical.

And CFOs aren’t the only ones getting held to a new standard. Controllers need to acquire these skills, too. Basic accounting has become so automated that the art of being a good controller has changed from just closing the books to understanding and interpreting the information at hand and navigating through lots of different situations.

In many cases, controllers and CFOs need to gather new information to help with their decision making. Technical skills are in great demand—but “technical” in this instance means the ability to gather and interpret new data from various databases and other sources. Needless to say, great communication skills are essential for anyone wanting to secure a senior finance role. To build a well-rounded and influential finance team in any organization, such capabilities are a necessity.

The takeaway for smaller companies

Fortune 500 companies that recruit from within focus on placing CFOs who have a proven ability to build relationships. This isn’t usually an inherent skill—it can take a number of years to achieve. They also look for a CFO’s understanding of the internal machinations of the organization, and they want a good cultural fit. These are all areas that smaller companies should consider, too. I find that a lack of cultural and emotional alignment is the biggest reason CFOs fail in companies, which is why recruiters take those elements into account up front.

The trend of CFOs becoming more strategic and analytical is well cemented in recruiters’ handbooks. The need for controllers to be strategic and analytical may not be as widely known, but it’s also becoming a trend. In my view, this trend will accelerate over the next few years. RoseRyan is already taking into account these skills and how the market has moved in our recruiting activities. Candidates need to have technical, strategic, analytical and soft skills to get hired, as our clients smartly demand these in today’s market. This demand is only going to increase.

Looking for a change? Do you have the mix of skills to fit in with the RoseRyan dream team and the fast-growing finance teams around the San Francisco Bay Area? If so, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always on the lookout for top talent—full-time and part-time. Contact Michelle Hickam at mhickam@roseryan.com.

Stephen Ambler is a director at RoseRyan, where he oversees the CFO practice area and handles client CFO requests. He has over 30 years of experience helping a wide range of companies with their financing needs. His interim CFO stints at RoseRyan have included a social media company and the management of the financial integration process at a company acquired by Oracle. He previously held the CFO position for 13 years at NASDAQ-listed companies.

 

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A defined culture and a clear strategy: How the two are a “winning” combo

Here’s a tip about growth (we have many up our sleeves): The smartest strategy ever won’t work if the company’s employees are unclear about the execution plan and don’t hum as a team.

At some companies, particularly those bound to crash and burn, senior management and employees operate on divergent paths, not completely understanding one another or what’s going on. They’re muddled by a disconnected culture.

More than 20 years in this business, we’re experiencing the opposite at RoseRyan, united by a defined culture that’s earning its fair share of accolades. We are enormously pleased to have received a spate of fabulous honors that recognize our awesome, distinctive culture, our mix of talented people and our innovative spirit. Wahoo!

 

Recognized as a high-trust, high-performing workplace

RoseRyan has recently received a new national distinction—we’ve been certified as a Great Place to Work® based on anonymous surveys by our employees. The folks behind the Great Place to Work certification come up with the annual Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For®” list every year.

Employees rated us highly for management credibility and integrity, high levels of respect and a warm sense of camaraderie, and they are proud to say they work for RoseRyan. They also feel extra effort and great work are recognized.

 

Scored a spot on the “Top 100 Workplace” list for the second year

The Bay Area News Group has once again included us on their Top 100 Workplaces list. The list is based solely on what our folks say about our leadership, direction and execution.

Our consultants raved in particular about how they know our strategy, understand how we get things done efficiently and how senior managers have a grip on what is really happening at our firm. We have a long-term strategy in place, and everyone is well informed. We’re forthcoming about our plans and keep our employees informed through regular all hands meetings, virtual chats and casual get-togethers.

 

Founder Kathy Ryan noted as an innovator

RoseRyan founder and CEO Kathy Ryan received honorable mention for CPA.com’s Innovative Practitioners 2016 Award thanks to our in-house developed software application that manages our scheduling, timesheets, skill sets and more behind the scenes. This award recognizes innovations in process, services or technology implementation in accounting firms. Our Dream Team System (DTS) has been spearheaded by Matt Lentzner, who heads our IT efforts.

 

RoseRyan tops equity list for women

For the second year in a row, we ranked high on a national equity leadership list for the accounting sector. Each year the Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance and American Women’s Society of CPAs recognize firms with high proportions of women partners and principals in the accounting field. Our executive team is composed entirely of women: Kathy and vice presidents Maureen Ryan and Pat Voll—a rarity in the industry.

 

Why our culture sets us apart

Since she founded the firm in 1993, Kathy’s mission has been to gather a diverse and really smart, talented group of finance aces who provide outstanding work every time. We hire people based on experience, brains and how well they align with our values. Our emphasis on diversity and working with amazing people are both aspects of our culture.

Grounded by four core values (to be Trustworthy, to Excel, to Advocate, and to be a great Team player), RoseRyan’s winning culture is something that is reinforced and nurtured over the years by a special internal team creating special programs. It doesn’t “just happen” but is the culmination of lots of internally orchestrated effort. Our values are our center of gravity, how we get things done, and how we interact with each other and clients. It’s teamwork and open communications all the way.

Our culture is also one of the main reasons we’re able to attract and keep top people in this time of a war for talent. They like a place that is exceptionally friendly, flexible to their needs on employment arrangements, and is supportive and teamwork oriented. Not many companies are truly this way. It’s quite a feat to create this kind of company in today’s hypercompetitive world.

Like what you see here? If you think you’d fit right in with the RoseRyan culture and you have the right stuff, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always on the lookout for top talent—full-time and part-time. Contact Michelle Hickam at mhickam@roseryan.com.

For more about our winning culture, read all about how it developed, in a recent Accounting Today column by RoseRyan Vice President Pat Voll.

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Going from good to great: How to be an amazing consultant

Have you ever thought about becoming a consultant? It’s a lot different than being an employee, and that’s what the consultants at RoseRyan love about their role: Our finance pros have joined us for many reasons, with flexibility and variety in engagements being top faves.

Consultants who are great at what they do have the skills required and the experience to match what their clients need, and they have a whole bunch of other must-have abilities that don’t quite fit on the résumé. The following traits are just some the attributes that turn a “good” consultant into a great, in-demand consultant:

1. They get it done. Ultimately clients hire consultants for results—to do the things they can’t do with their current resources. The more ways a consultant can help out, the more valuable a consultant is. The best consultants are always looking for solutions and efficiencies, and they do what’s necessary to finish a project or fix a problem. In some cases this may involve making copies at 7 p.m. to get a report together. There’s no better-than-you attitude here when job-number one is to make the client happy. They do what’s required and follow through to make sure it happens.

2. They add value. Consultants who shine consistently go beyond what’s asked of them. They listen carefully to the client and find ways to make the client’s life easier. A client expects a consultant to be an expert and bring in fresh ideas—but the client may not always know the exact right questions to ask. The best consultants have a sense for what each client needs.

3. They are leaders. You can be a leader without being the one in charge, and great consultants fit the bill. One way to look at leadership is people who take action instead of waiting to be told what to do. They’re effective observers who have the power of persuasion to make smart recommendations when they make sense.

The consultants who understand what the client wants and then makes it happen are the ones who get asked for by name the next time around (we love when that happens!). If a meeting needs to be called, they call it. If tasks need to be divvied out, they do it. No micromanaging needed. Not only do they step back and see the bigger picture, they figure out what must get done and then gather the resources to do it.

4. They stay out of politics. In finance and accounting, in particular, consultants are expected to be discreet. They may a hear a lot of chatter as they work alongside employees who could be struggling to get past politically sensitive issues. Things may have become messy and the consultants are expected to bring in some calm. The best consultants don’t get sucked in to power struggles and office gossip. They do their job and maintain a professional demeanor.

5. They are chameleons. Consultants who get repeat clients are able to fit into any environment, whether it’s a loosely structured startup or a tightly wound corporate culture. They shed their personal agendas at the door and take in the personalities and makeup of the company before making any recommendations. They become a part of the team and zero in on what makes sense for the client, at that moment.

6. They are life-long learners. Clients are looking for people who are on top of the latest requirements and leanings in the field. They want to bring in early adopters who can show them what to do, and they want to know what other companies like them are up to. Consultants can bring them that expertise only if they set aside time to stay on top of trends and innovations. It makes them better at their job—and it makes them more marketable.

7. They are confident but not cocky. Great consultants have an easy confidence that lets the client know “I got this,” but it never strays into arrogance. Clients want to believe the consultants they’ve brought in to fix a problem know what to do. But clients don’t need a big ego to get in the way.

Consultants who have these seven habits are a special group (we call ours the dream team). They’re experts in their field who are willing to do anything they can for the client. They have above-and-beyond attitudes. And they are all about follow-through, professionalism and thoughtful, quality work.

Think you have what it takes? Check out our latest hiring opportunities, and inquire about a career at RoseRyan by reaching out to our talent manager, Michelle Hickam, at mhickam@roseryan.com.

RoseRyan can keep track of our consultants’ skillsets and whereabouts because of Matt Lentzner, the firm’s IT guru. He manages the evolution of our internally developed DTS system, a sophisticated scheduling, timesheet and skills management application.

Why the consulting life is a lot like gardening

After 14 years of working in the corporate world, I recently decided to switch to the consulting life. I was looking for a change as I wanted more of a work/life balance.

What do I mean? In many corporate cultures, we are expected to work obscene hours that are unpredictable and tough to manage. The stress of round-the-clock work eventually caught up to me, and it got in the way of my personal life. I had little time to spend with my kids and my husband—and forget about getting any free time for me and my favorite hobbies.

At times, I thought, “There must be something better.” Then lo and behold, one day Michelle Hickam, RoseRyan’s talent manager, contacted me through LinkedIn (an important lesson for anyone: always keep your profile updated—you never know who will contact you tomorrow!), and we immediately jived. She shared with me some of the ins and outs of the consulting life.

It turns out consulting is a lot like one of my favorite pastimes, gardening. If you’ve ever contemplated making a switch from the corporate world to the consulting life, consider how your own career and professional development can grow in a whole new direction:

  1. Start off with an open space filled with soil. In other words, be open minded and ready to start over.
  1. Till the soil. Research potential clients and their needs (in RoseRyan’s case, the gurus here share in that work, unlike independent consulting firms where the task may fall on just one person).
  1. Plant the seeds. Let clients know you’re ready and able, and be prepared for what comes your way.
  1. Nurture seeds with water, fertilizer and sun. Consultants have a box of tools at their disposal to take on the variety of challenges and issues that rise when they’re working with clients. It’s rare that there’s just one problem and just one solution.
  1. Enjoy the rewarding blooms. When you’ve done your job right, a healthy relationship has blossomed, the result of successful business partnering and rewarding projects.

Like any beautiful garden, consulting offers a ton of variety. I get to work in different industries such as technology, biotechnology, medical devices, and pharmaceutical, and I gain so many new experiences at each client. There is never a dull moment!

I get a bird’s eye view and insight on various systems and processes while I’m at different client sites, but when you’re an employee at one company, you’re usually exposed to just one system, day in and day out.

Another reason I love consulting is that my skills are always expanding. At the same time, I have more chances to meet new people and expand my circle of business contacts.

I get to enjoy what I do and at the same time have room for my hobbies. So long to the relentless, unpredictable work schedule. Hello, great career with meaningful work and time left over for ME!

Khyati Patel has been a consultant with RoseRyan since April 2014. Previously she worked in hi-tech, retail and consumer goods industries for 14 years in roles related to accounting, internal audit/SOX, and financial planning and analysis. Some of her hobbies include gardening, painting, volunteering, yoga, and reading novels. She resides in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and two sons. Check out the latest positions at RoseRyan here.