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The CFO is the center of the wheel, taking businesses to where they want to be.

5 mins to read
The CFO is the center of the wheel, taking businesses to where they want to be.

Dave Boorman, the Phocas CFO, has always had a broad interpretation of his role. This perspective has been shaped by the companies he has worked for and the type of work he has done.

He has been part of several transformation turnarounds, together with helping a business massively improve its efficiency to readying another for sale. He also worked for a leading telco, that was number one in the market but recognized that it would be under attack unless it changed, so he worked on and delivered a new growth strategy.

“I am fortunate that all my CFO roles have been about strategic growth or turnaround solutions. It has been challenging but necessary work,” explains Dave.

By applying his skills to new challenges and maintaining direct contact with the board(s) and management, Dave has never felt boxed in as a number cruncher or operating in the back office.

As CFOs manage more parts of the business (current statistics show finance in 2024 look after 6 parts of the business compared to 4 in 2016) they are being asked to act as strategic finance advisers, a style of working which Dave has embodied for years.

To help new CFOs, Dave believes it’s worthwhile for them to consider that the CFO is at the center of a wheel, surrounded by technology, marketing, sales, customer operations, compliance, legal and other functions.

“The number of accountabilities that CFOs have is wide. Now it’s strategic forecasting, supplier management, sales, marketing and investor relations. It's banking as well as human resources and property. It's also risk management and financial modeling with information technology and data management.

“The CFO is in the middle, holding the business together. You must know what the left and right hand are doing and make sure they’re aligned,” says Dave.

This is where CFO roles are headed in most organizations.

“In some companies, finance teams were expected to do the accounting, tax and balance the books while management ran the business. That isn’t really the job any longer,” advises Dave.

So how has Dave been able to understand a business, relate to all the management, and make a difference? Dave believes it takes time to build up trust.

“In all my CFO jobs, for the first few months I have often just listened. Making quick decisions is great for businesses, but not if you're an incoming CFO with important responsibilities. You need to get to know the key stakeholders, understand how the business operates and then start to determine what drives the business as well as understand what the business needs from a CFO - because it can vary greatly,” he says.

All businesses are at different stages, so CFO roles are varied, which is exciting for the profession.

“The CFO can do many things, but you need to support the business where it needs to go. This results in different activities, thought processes and priorities,” explains Dave.

To understand what is required, dissecting the strategy and having board discussions are essential. Everyone needs to agree on their goals, and then the CFO works with business leaders to determine the numbers, investments, growth profile, and decisions needed. Constructing a big picture helps determine the necessary actions.

“Getting all this thinking done allows you to lay some building blocks. To get to the position the board is after in the next 3 to 5 years, the management team makes it happen. If you break this down, you never do everything at once. It becomes a sequence of achievements that adds up to the result.

People have a plan to work against, and the CFO has to put in place a budget and various forecasts, considering what all the leaders require in terms of headcount, inventory and infrastructure to reach the agreed goals. If you're always breaking it down into what drives performance, it's much easier to get things done for everyone.” says Dave.

Dave finds satisfaction in working at Phocas due to the environment in which the business operates. Phocas has a strategy, and the company is executing it.

“The strategy doesn't change, but you will make small adjustments along the way. You need mechanisms to do that as a group.

Operations, marketing, and sales must be lined up with channels and activities. If they’re not, gaps will occur. That’s why the CFO is at the center, ensuring things work collectively.

The CFO role is unique in that it spans the whole business and if we see divergence then we are expected to bring it back on track. That's why being at the center is so important,” adds Dave.

So how does Dave manage all the actuals and budgets and information? His team uses the Phocas Financial Planning & Analysis and BI platform because he believes it’s essential to join up financials, planning and analytics.

“There's a lot of data out there, and you can get dragged into a lot of data conversations. And what's the right truth? I've seen it so many times where everyone has different versions of the truth.

But cashflow doesn’t lie – so you start with the financials because that is the ultimate measure of the business’s health. If you're looking at the same data together to make decisions that drive cash, profit or revenue and plan on that basis, you will end up in the right place. When planning and actuals are connected and the analysis that's prepared from these results is all in the same tool as they are in Phocas, you can be confident in your decisions because everyone is making them from the same data set,” says Dave.

“The Phocas platform also helps you to drill down into what’s happening. That's often the challenge, to get to the root cause of a trend, be it a positive or negative. Understanding what's going on quickly is important. Speed is essential with the breadth of CFO responsibilities, the pace of business change, and a focus on results especially when economic times are tough. People want faster decisions across the wide range of CFO accountabilities. Without the performance data at your fingertips, you just can't do it and lose out as a result,” he says.

Dave advocates for everyone in a business having access to performance figures because it gets everyone on the same page and helps everyone focus on the same priorities.

“Everyone knows how they’re travelling against those priorities and if you tell everyone on a regular basis how you're doing, they are energized. When people know what's going well in the business and what needs to be worked on, then everyone's clear. No one wastes time. There’s no dispute about what's working or where people should focus this month or the next for example.

Sharing results gives people the permission not to waste time on stuff that doesn't matter. And they can focus their efforts on things that do. Sharing performance gives teams a lot of clarity and it makes the whole place more efficient,” says Dave.

Dave has been fortunate to have experienced great mentors throughout his career, and now mentors others himself. His advice to a fledgling CFO is: “Don't panic”. It’s easy to worry about everything because the board, CEO and all the people in the business rely on the CFO. Not everything is going to go perfectly, so ‘breathe’ and keep focusing on the few things that matter.

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Written by Katrina Walter
Katrina Walter

Katrina is a professional writer with experience in business and tech. She explains how data can work for business people without all the tech jargon. She is always on the look out for new ways data is being used by business people to know more and be sustainable.

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