Controller to CFO: How to Make the Career Jump

by Joe Reardon

Have you ever wondered how to make your way into that CFO chair? Most internally promoted CFOs come directly from a controller role, while those hired from outside the organization tend to have already been CFOs elsewhere. Regardless of how you plan to reach that position, there are a few important elements to understand about the differences between these two positions.

The Role of a CFO (and How It’s Different Than a Controller)

I was a CFO before starting my executive search career and had been a controller prior to that, so I know from personal experience the title is not the only change. One of the most challenging things about the transition is the shift from “numbers guy” to member of the strategic leadership team. A CFO has a lot more to consider than making sure everything is in line financially.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need a solid handle on the numbers, just that you’ll also need to develop a deeper understanding of the business as a whole.

Requirements to Being a Successful CFO

Along with the necessary finance and accounting experience you’ll need as a CFO, you’ll also need to build the following:

  1. Collaborative leadership skills
  2. Relationship building skills
  3. Subject matter expertise
  4. Empathy and humility
  5. Communication skills

To learn more details of what should be in your career toolbox as you work your way up to CFO, read the rest of this blog, originally posted on St. Thomas’ Opus Magnum Blog.

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