Free guides and webcasts

The first 90 days: A CFO’s 21-step plan for success

Everything new CFOs need to think about during their first 90 days, which is covered in this essential guide.

Being a new CFO can be thrilling and empowering—but sometimes a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time in a senior leadership role. 

With our 90-day checklist in hand, you’ll know what to expect so you can prepare yourself to handle everything from the intricacies of your financials to your first board meeting. 

With a clear vision, strong relationships, and the right technology, you can make a substantial impact in your first 90 days and set the stage for long-term success.

Here’s a summary of the points in your checklist.

1. Prepare before your first day

2. Define your top CFO priorities for the first 90 Days

3. Seek external guidance and support

4. Define what success looks like

5. Meet with your finance team right away

6. Understand your finance team’s relationship with other departments

7. Align financial goals with the CEO’s vision

8. Build a picture of your company’s current financial health

9. Understand and improve your company’s accounting practices

10. Review your financial reporting

11. Audit issues

12. Review budgets to align with strategic objectives

13. Understand your key financial metrics with benchmarking

14. Meet important external stakeholders

15. Get involved with strategic planning

16. Build your long-term vision and plan

17. Get input and buy-in on your vision

18. Make an impact at your first board meeting

19. Understand potential CFO challenges and roadblocks

20. Don’t try to tackle everything at once

21. Tap into the power of tech

Final thoughts: Place confidence in yourself and why you were hired

1. Prepare before your first day

Embarking on a new job journey offers a unique opportunity to lay a strong foundation before stepping into your official role.

Proactively gaining a deep understanding of your new company can significantly enhance your readiness and ensure a smoother transition.

It’ll help you create a comprehensive strategy to prepare you for success in your new role. You’ll want a sense of belonging and understanding from day one. 

Start early to gain context and understanding

Before day one, research your company’s history, mission, and values to begin engaging with your new role.

This foundational knowledge will help you understand what your business stands for and set the stage for effective integration.

Delve deeper into company insights

Review essential documents, such as financial statements, reports, and other company documents. Early insights into your company’s processes could reveal areas for potential improvement.

Engage in company culture

Participate in company events like town hall meetings, team-building activities, and informal gatherings to meet other employees and absorb the company culture.

Transform your finances with our free Modern Finance Report.

Discover the power of data collaboration and stay ahead of the game.

Click now to download

2. Define your top CFO priorities for the first 90 Days

There will be a lot on your to-do list and in your inbox, so we suggest focusing on these 3 areas. 

Understand your financial performance and challenges

You’ll want to deeply understand your organization’s financial performance and identify any challenges you must address. Look at: 

  • Analyzing financial statements, budgets, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your company’s financial health.
  • Identifying areas of strength and weakness to form the basis for future strategies.
  • Determining any operational or strategic challenges that may impact financial performance.

Build vital relationships

Building solid relationships from the start is essential if you want a successful tenure as a CFO.

Aim to: 

  • Improve your understanding of the company’s culture, values, and priorities.
  • Collaborate with other executives and stakeholders to develop a vision for your company’s financial future.
  • Prioritize building a strong relationship with the CEO and foster effective communication and collaboration.
  • Meet with your direct reports and critical finance team members to establish open lines of communication and gain a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Develop a long-term vision and plan

The business might expect you to map out a long-term financial vision and plan, so spend some of your first 90 days creating a great one.

Make sure you: 

  • Improve your understanding of the company’s culture, values, and priorities.
  • Collaborate with other executives and stakeholders to develop a vision for your company’s financial future.
  • Prioritize building a strong relationship with the CEO and foster effective communication and collaboration.
  • Meet with your direct reports and critical finance team members to establish open lines of communication and gain a deeper understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

Develop a long-term vision and plan

The business might expect you to map out a long-term financial vision and plan, so spend some of your first 90 days creating a great one.

Make sure you: 

  • Collaborate with the CEO to understand their vision for the organization and align your financial strategies accordingly.
  • Work together to develop a comprehensive long-term financial plan that aligns with the organization’s strategic priorities.
  • Outline vital financial objectives, initiatives, and performance metrics to guide decision-making and measure progress.
  • Continuously evaluate and refine the long-term plan based on evolving business needs and market conditions.

You may have your priorities, but it’s vital to set them upfront and use them to communicate with your team and across the business. 

Read more: The top 14 finance trends in 2024: Everything CFOs need to know

3. Seek external guidance and support

Finding an external mentor specializing in executive leadership and finance could be helpful.

This mentor can offer a fresh perspective and tailored insights into a CFO role’s unique challenges and opportunities.

They can guide you in effectively building and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders—an essential skill for any CFO.

Expand your professional network

Actively connect with other CFOs and financial leaders in similar industries.

These connections can be a rich source of best practices, current industry trends, and shared challenges. Networking with peers offers a broader understanding of the financial landscape and introduces you to diverse approaches and solutions.

Refine your leadership style

Ask for tips in developing a leadership style that resonates with your team and aligns with your company’s culture.

A mentor can help you navigate complex leadership challenges and adapt your style to meet the evolving demands of your role. Effective leadership is pivotal in managing a successful finance department.

Use your network as a sounding board

Use your network to test and refine your strategic ideas and plans.

Discussing your initiatives with experienced peers ensures that your strategies are robust, innovative, and aligned with industry standards. This feedback loop is vital for making informed decisions that drive business growth.

4. Define what success looks like

Ultimately, success in the first 90 days will depend on your company’s goals and objectives and your strategic focus as a CFO.

Here are some suggestions for goals that can help act as your north star—make sure you add some relevant metrics. 

  • Developing a financial plan that aligns with the company’s strategic objectives and ensures financial stability and growth.
  • Establishing adequate financial controls and processes to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.
  • Building strong relationships with key stakeholders, such as investors, lenders, and the board of directors.
  • Developing a high-performing finance team aligned with your company’s goals and objectives.
  • Implementing digital transformation initiatives that prime your business for growth, improving operational efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Communicating effectively with the CEO and other business leaders to ensure financial insights and recommendations are factored into their decision-making.

5. Meet with your finance team right away

As you assume your new role as CFO, it is crucial to establish a solid foundation with your finance team from the start.

Immediate, personal meetings with team members are essential for building relationships and understanding the team’s current dynamics, challenges, and opportunities.

This initial interaction sets the stage for effective communication, collaboration, and strategic planning.

Schedule individual meetings

Organize one-on-one introductions with each team member to familiarize yourself with their roles, responsibilities, and insights.

This personalized approach helps build rapport and trust, which is vital for future interactions.

Assess financial processes

During these meetings, delve into the specifics of existing financial processes and systems. Ask targeted questions to uncover strengths and areas needing improvement, ensuring you fully grasp the operational landscape.

Evaluate team dynamics

Observe and understand how team members interact with each other. This understanding will help you identify opportunities to enhance team collaboration and communication.

Set strategic priorities

Based on your assessments, determine where to prioritize initiatives and allocate resources to maximize efficiency and impact.

Establish expectations and culture

Communicate your expectations for performance, communication, and collaboration. Work on fostering a culture of accountability and teamwork, essential for driving your finance team’s success.

CFO 3.0 – Digital transformation beyond financial management

CFOs are playing a key role in digital transformation. Learn how you can move from a 'historian' to a 'visionary' within your business.

Download your free guide
2,508 readers have downloaded this guide

6. Understand your finance team’s relationship with other departments

As a CFO, gaining insight into how other departments view and interact with your finance team is critical for identifying improvement opportunities and areas for effective collaboration.

This understanding is essential for enhancing departmental relationships and ensuring the finance team is aligned with the broader organizational goals.

Initiate department head meetings

Schedule meetings with heads of other departments to introduce yourself and discuss their perspectives and concerns.

This step is crucial for building relationships and understanding interdepartmental dynamics comprehensively.

Review historical interactions

Analyze past interactions between your finance team and other departments.

Look for patterns that suggest areas of tension or misunderstanding, which can provide valuable insights into where improvements are needed.

Identify improvement areas

From these meetings and reviews, identify specific areas where communication and collaboration with other departments can be enhanced.

Prioritize these areas based on their impact on overall business operations.

Develop communication strategies

Improve the clarity and relevance of communications between your finance department and the wider business.

Ensure that all financial information shared is contextually appropriate and targeted to meet the needs of different departments, thereby building trust and credibility.

Create a strategic improvement plan

Devise a detailed plan to improve your finance department’s reputation and relationships with other departments.

Include specific initiatives, actions, and timelines to resolve identified tensions and misunderstandings.

7. Align financial goals with the CEO’s vision

One of your primary tasks is ensuring that your financial strategies perfectly align with the CEO’s vision and long-term objectives.

Establishing a clear and consistent dialogue with your CEO is essential for aligning your department’s goals with those of the broader organization and effectively supporting strategic initiatives.

Schedule strategic meetings

Organize regular meetings with the CEO to align on their priorities and goals.

Come prepared with specific questions that help clarify their vision and identify how your finance department can best support these objectives.

Review and align strategic plans

After discussions with your CEO, revisit your department’s strategic plans and initiatives to ensure they align with the CEO’s long-term strategy.

Identify key areas where financial resources must be allocated to support big-picture goals.

Analyze the competitive landscape

Gain a thorough understanding of the competitive landscape to better align financial strategies with how the CEO’s vision positions the company in the market.

This will also help you to identify potential financial risks and opportunities swiftly.

Review investor communications

Examine past investor presentations to understand how the CEO communicates their vision to external stakeholders.

Use this insight to tailor your financial information, ensuring it is clear and effectively supports the communicated strategy.

Read more: Understand your CEO’s vision and long-term strategy

8. Build a picture of your company’s current financial health

Gaining a comprehensive grasp of your company’s financial health is crucial.

This understanding must encompass vital financial metrics such as revenue, expenses, profits, and cash flow.

Mastery of these figures empowers you to steer the company effectively and helps you communicate your financial acumen confidently with internal and external stakeholders.

Assess key financial metrics

Dive deep into your company’s financial statements to understand the full scope of revenue, expenses, profits, and cash flow.

This high-level overview is critical for identifying potential areas for improvement and ensuring a robust financial footing.

Understand your current cash flow

Examine your cash flow to identify any issues, such as cash shortages, which could be symptomatic of inefficiencies like slow collections or excessive inventory levels.

Financial management software can detect patterns and trends in cash inflows and outflows, informing a comprehensive plan to improve cash flow management.

Strategies include enhancing your cash conversion cycle, negotiating better supplier payment terms, or accelerating customer collections.

Identify improvement opportunities

Use your understanding of the financial metrics and cash flow analysis to pinpoint areas where costs can be reduced, revenue can be increased, and cash flow can be optimized.

These insights are essential for informed investment decision-making, financing options, and risk management.

Communicate financial insights

Clearly articulate your company’s financial performance, including detailed discussions on risks, opportunities, and cash flow status to stakeholders such as investors and board members.

Demonstrating precise control and understanding of these elements builds credibility and trust.

Develop financial strategies

Based on your comprehensive review, develop and refine financial strategies that align with your organization’s overall goals and market position.

Ensure your in-depth analysis informs these strategies of financial data, including detailed cash flow insights.

9. Understand and improve your company’s accounting practices

As a CFO, it is essential to continually assess and enhance your company’s accounting practices to ensure they adhere to the highest standards of compliance and efficiency.

Regularly reviewing these practices helps maintain compliance with evolving accounting standards and improve your company’s overall financial management.

Review your current accounting policies

Examine your existing accounting policies and procedures to ensure they are up-to-date and aligned with the latest industry standards and regulatory requirements.

This review is crucial for identifying gaps in compliance or areas needing enhancement.

Implement process improvements

Identify opportunities to streamline accounting processes, including automating specific tasks to reduce errors and improve data quality.

Consider integrating advanced financial management software to make these improvements, ensuring greater accuracy and efficiency.

Strengthen internal controls

Focus on enhancing internal controls to prevent potential issues before they arise.

This includes ensuring proper segregation of duties among staff to reduce risks of errors or fraud and implementing robust fraud prevention measures.

Keep informed of industry updates

Stay informed about the latest accounting updates and standards within your industry.

Ensure your business is prepared to adapt to these changes swiftly, which is vital for maintaining ongoing compliance and operational readiness.

Continuous improvement and training

Promote ongoing training and education on the latest accounting practices and technologies to develop a culture of continuous improvement within your finance team.

This proactive approach keeps your team sharp and enhances your financial operations’ overall resilience and agility.

Read more: Build a picture of your company’s current financial health

10. Review your financial reporting

A CFO must ensure accurate, complete, and well-presented financial reporting.

Your financial statements need to be error-free, consistent, and structured to meet the precise needs of your stakeholders.

Effective financial reporting enhances transparency and builds trust, directly impacting how your business decisions are perceived internally and externally.

Ensure accuracy and completeness

Verify that all financial statements are accurate and complete and include the necessary disclosures.

Use financial management software for fast and reliable data reconciliation, ensuring your financial data is clean and trustworthy.

Timeliness of financial statements

Implement strict deadlines for each step of the financial reporting process.

This discipline ensures that your books are closed on schedule, financial statements are prepared and reviewed timely, and all regulatory reporting requirements are met without delay.

Stakeholder communication and needs

Regularly communicate with your board of directors, investors, lenders, and other key stakeholders to understand their specific reporting requirements and expectations.

Tailor your financial statements to meet these needs, presenting the information in a manner that is both meaningful and useful to them.

Continuously improve your reporting processes

Continuously seek ways to improve your financial reporting processes.

If you are still relying on manual spreadsheets, consider implementing automation technologies to speed up the closing of books and enhance the overall efficiency of your financial operations.

Feedback and adaptation

Gather feedback from stakeholders on the utility and clarity of financial reports and adjust practices accordingly.

This feedback loop is essential for ongoing improvement and alignment with stakeholder expectations.

Sage Ai

Discover how you can use Sage Ai to make smarter, faster decisions, get a dynamic, real-time view of your business performance, and gain access to actionable insights.

Learn more about Sage Ai

11. Audit issues

Independent audits are vital for any CFO, providing crucial insights into a company’s financial standing.

By carefully reviewing past audits, you can quickly identify strengths and weaknesses in your financial operations, ensuring that your company meets and exceeds legal and regulatory requirements.

Analyze audit outcomes

Examine the findings from independent audits to gain an accurate picture of your company’s financial health.

This analysis helps you understand where you excel and which areas require immediate attention.

Improve internal controls and reporting

Use the insights from the audits to pinpoint where your internal controls or financial reporting processes might be lacking.

Strengthening these areas is crucial for maintaining compliance and enhancing the reliability of your financial data.

Address audit concerns

Promptly address any issues or concerns highlighted by the auditors.

Assign responsibility to appropriate team members and establish clear timelines for resolving each identified problem to ensure accountability and effectiveness.

Develop compliance strategies

Based on the audit results, develop and implement strategies to better comply with legal and regulatory standards.

This proactive approach helps mitigate risks with a culture of transparency and integrity.

Regularly review and adapt

Continually revisit and refine your approaches based on the outcomes of periodic audits.

This ongoing review process ensures that your financial practices remain robust and responsive to changes in regulations and business conditions.

12. Review budgets to align with strategic objectives

Reviewing your budget is essential for aligning your financial management with the strategic objectives of the upcoming year.

This process involves a detailed analysis of revenue projections, expense estimates, capital expenditures, and investment plans.

A thorough understanding of these elements ensures that your financial goals and priorities are set and achievable.

Analyze financial projections

Focus on the details of your revenue and expense projections, along with planned capital expenditures or investments.

Ensure that these align with your organization’s strategic objectives to support growth and operational efficiency.

Identify areas for adjustment

During the budget review, identify areas where adjustments might be necessary.

This might involve reducing expenses, increasing revenue, or reallocating resources to support your strategic initiatives better.

Develop an action plan

Create a detailed action plan to address the identified areas for improvement.

Define clear responsibilities and set timelines for each action item, ensuring all tasks are assigned and accounted for.

Use technology

Use technology to enhance the budget review process.

Automated reporting tools, forecasting models, predictive analysis, expense tracking systems, and performance dashboards can provide deeper insights and support more accurate and efficient financial planning.

Conduct regular reviews

Schedule regular budget reviews to ensure your financial operations align with your strategic goals.

These periodic checks help to keep your financial objectives on track and allow for timely adjustments in response to changing economic conditions or business needs.

Read more:

13. Understand your key financial metrics with benchmarking

Understanding your key financial metrics is crucial, but benchmarking significantly enhances their value in a comparative context.

In your first 90 days as a CFO, benchmarking your finance department’s performance against industry peers is an invaluable exercise.

This process identifies strengths and weaknesses and aligns your financial operations with industry standards.

Select critical metrics for benchmarking

Determine which financial metrics are critical for assessing your department’s performance, such as finance cost, staff productivity, and finance cycle time.

Choose those that align closely with your company’s strategic goals and objectives.

Identify comparable peer organizations

Look for peer organizations similar in size, industry, and complexity.

Use resources like industry associations, conferences, and networking opportunities to identify these peers and gather relevant data.

Gather and analyze data

Collect financial data from these organizations using surveys, public financial reports, and other sources.

Focus on the most recent data available.

Analyze this data to understand how your department compares efficiency and effectiveness.

Identify performance gaps

From the data analysis, pinpoint areas where your department excels and lags behind peers.

Identify the root causes of any significant gaps in performance and use these insights to prioritize improvement initiatives.

Develop a performance improvement plan

Create a comprehensive plan to enhance your finance department’s performance based on the benchmarking analysis. Include specific initiatives and timelines to address identified weaknesses.

Ensure this plan aligns with your company’s strategic objectives and communicate it effectively to your finance team and other relevant stakeholders.

Continuous improvement and monitoring

Establish a system for ongoing monitoring and re-evaluation of performance against benchmarks.

This continuous improvement approach ensures that your finance department remains competitive and adapts to changes in industry standards and best practices.

14. Meet important external stakeholders

Building solid relationships with external stakeholders such as investors, customers, and suppliers is essential for a CFO.

These interactions help create a robust network of support and collaboration and provide insights into potential financial risks and opportunities.

You can establish trust and credibility by engaging openly and listening actively, which are crucial for long-term success.

Initiate conversations

Reach out and schedule meetings with key investors, customers, and suppliers.

These initial conversations are vital for setting the tone of your relationship and understanding each party’s expectations and concerns.

Build trust and credibility

Focus on building relationships based on transparency and reliability.

Show genuine interest in their perspectives and proactively communicate your vision and how it aligns with their interests.

Identify collaboration opportunities

Look for areas where you can collaborate to achieve mutual benefits during discussions.

Whether it’s improving supply chain efficiency with suppliers, enhancing product offerings for customers, or discussing growth strategies with investors, identify ways to work together that will strengthen your business ties.

Gather and use feedback

Be open to feedback from these stakeholders and use it constructively to improve your strategies and operations.

Listening to external input is crucial for spotting unseen risks and opportunities.

Develop actionable plans

Develop actionable plans to address any identified issues or opportunities based on the insights gained from these meetings.

Ensure these plans are integrated with your company’s overall strategy and communicate them to stakeholders to show progress and dedication to mutual goals.

15. Get involved with strategic planning

As a CFO, your expertise in financial matters makes you a key player in strategic planning.

By the 90-day mark, it is essential to participate actively in these sessions, ensuring that financial insights directly influence the setting of broader strategic business objectives.

This involvement guarantees that financial capabilities and constraints are fully integrated into the strategic planning.

Initiate strategic planning sessions

If strategic planning sessions are not already a regular part of your company’s process, take the initiative to introduce them.

Encouraging these discussions from the start helps effectively incorporate financial realities and goals into the broader strategy.

Develop financial models

Build or update financial models to project your company’s future under various scenarios.

These models provide a clearer picture of potential outcomes, aiding you and your colleagues in making well-informed decisions about the company’s strategic direction.

Analyze your capital structure

Conduct a thorough analysis of your current capital structure to determine if it aligns with your long-term goals.

Consider key financial strategies such as taking on more debt, issuing equity to fund growth, or evaluating your leverage levels.

Employ scenario analysis

Use scenario analysis to understand how various situations could impact your company’s financial health and ability to meet strategic objectives.

Include analysis of potential opportunities, such as entering new markets, and threats, like economic downturns or supply chain disruptions.

Communicate and collaborate

Ensure that strategic planning sessions communicate financial analysis and modeling insights clearly.

Collaborate closely with other leaders to align financial strategies with business objectives, enhancing the effectiveness of your strategic plans.

Sage Intacct vs QuickBooks

Sage Intacct vs QuickBooks? Move to the cloud with Sage Intacct without sacrificing functionality and fuel your continued growth.

Talk to our experts

16. Build your long-term vision and plan

In your crucial first 90 days as CFO, you will devote much of your effort to gathering information and assessing your company’s financial situation.

This foundational work is vital as you sketch out a long-term financial strategy that aligns with discussions with the CEO and the organization’s overarching goals.

Whether it takes fewer or more than 90 days, the objective remains to crystallize this vision into a documented, actionable plan.

Assess your current financial state

Spend your initial days collecting detailed financial data and understanding the company’s existing financial health.

This assessment forms the basis for all strategic financial planning.

Formulate a long-term plan

As insights accumulate, start shaping a long-term financial plan.

Consider the company’s long-term goals—like IPOs, mergers, acquisitions, or growth targets—and how the finance function can best support these objectives.

Document your vision

Once your long-term strategy begins to take shape, document it concisely.

A one-page vision statement supported by detailed financial data can make your plan easier to communicate and implement.

Align with broader company goals

Ensure your financial plan complements the CEO’s existing or developing company-wide vision.

This alignment ensures coherence and unity in organizational objectives.

Communicate concisely

Keep your documented plan clear and actionable.

Avoid getting lost in minutiae; focus on tangible steps and clear goals to guide your team and the company toward financial success.

Review and refine

Review your long-term plan thoroughly to ensure it captures all critical elements needed to achieve the set goals.

Be prepared to refine this plan as more data becomes available or business conditions evolve.

17. Get input and buy-in on your vision

The next step is to communicate this vision effectively and garner support from key stakeholders.

Here are actionable steps to ensure your vision is understood and embraced across your organization.

Articulate your vision clearly

Communicate your vision and how it aligns with your organization’s strategic objectives.

Be explicit about your priorities and goals, and set clear expectations for how each team member can contribute to achieving these goals.

Foster open communication

Encourage a culture of open and honest communication.

Seek feedback from your team, board members, investors, and key stakeholders. This feedback is essential to ensure your vision meets their expectations and needs.

Address concerns and adjust

Be responsive to any concerns or questions that stakeholders may have about your vision.

Show openness to feedback and be willing to make adjustments. This adaptability helps build a strong coalition of support.

Develop and share a detailed plan

Create a detailed action plan to turn your vision into reality.

This plan should incorporate stakeholder feedback where appropriate and outline clear objectives, key milestones, and resource allocations.

Communicate progress and challenges

Keep the business informed about your progress toward implementing your vision.

Celebrate successes openly and address challenges transparently.

Regular updates are crucial to maintaining stakeholder engagement and support.

Evaluate and iterate

Regularly evaluate the progress towards your vision and be prepared to iterate on your strategies as needed.

Continuous improvement based on ongoing feedback and changing conditions will help keep your vision relevant and supported.

18. Make an impact at your first board meeting

As a new CFO, your first board meeting is a critical opportunity to establish credibility and build trust with the board members—key allies in achieving your strategic goals.

Here’s how to ensure you make a strong impression and lay the foundation for effective collaboration.

Prepare thoroughly

Before the meeting, meticulously review the agenda, board materials, and other relevant documents.

Understand the issues and prepare insightful questions and comments demonstrating your readiness and understanding.

Build personal connections

Take the opportunity to introduce yourself personally to each board member and other key executives before the meeting starts.

Establishing a rapport can greatly influence how your contributions are perceived and help build collaborative relationships.

Be concise and focused

When presenting, focus on the key issues and communicate concisely.

Avoid unnecessary details or technical jargon.

Clearly outline actionable recommendations, using your business and industry knowledge to highlight understanding of problems and opportunities.

Communicate with clarity and honesty

Maintain transparency in your communications, especially when discussing challenges or sensitive issues.

Provide clear strategies for addressing these issues and be prepared to discuss their implications thoroughly.

Engage and follow up

Actively engage during the meeting by listening attentively and responding thoughtfully to questions.

Following the meeting, reach out to board members to address any further questions or to provide additional information, reinforcing your commitment to open communication and teamwork.

Evaluate feedback

After the meeting, reflect on the feedback and interactions to identify areas for improvement.

This continuous self-evaluation will help you refine your approach for future meetings and further establish your role within the board.

19. Understand potential CFO challenges and roadblocks

As a new CFO in the first 90 days, you’ll be lucky if everything is plain sailing.

Here are some specific challenges you’ll come across and tips on how to overcome them. 

Understanding your business culture

Adjusting to your new company’s culture and dynamics is not always easy.

To navigate this, investing that time in learning about the company’s history, values, and operations will be invaluable.

However, interacting with a broad range of employees will provide the insight you won’t be able to get from marketing materials and internal communication. 

Managing change

CFOs often need to implement changes to improve financial business health, which usually leads to resistance.

It is essential to communicate the rationale behind the changes and take feedback from disgruntled people or teams to involve them in the process. 

Data inaccuracy and unavailability

Accurate, timely financial data is crucial for your decision-making process.

If your existing financial management system isn’t up to the job, prioritize putting in a more reliable system. 

Compliance issues

As you dig deep into your financial work, you may find regulatory non-compliance a bigger headache than expected.

A CFO may have to work closely with legal and compliance teams to understand issues and plan corrective action. 

Stakeholder management

Building relationships with key stakeholders, both internal and external, is crucial for success.

However, it will be challenging, especially if you’re gifted more with handling numbers than people.

Regular communication and natural transparency will help build trust. 

Work smarter with business management software

Integrate your business processes into one platform. Make informed decisions based on real-time data with complete visibility over your operations, inventory, and finances.

Learn more
lady engineer in engineering garb

20. Don’t try to tackle everything at once

As a CFO, managing your time effectively is crucial because it always seems in short supply.

Prioritizing critical issues is essential to maximize your impact and address your organization’s most pressing needs.

Here are strategic steps to help you focus your efforts where they can make the most significant difference.

Identify pressing needs

Begin by pinpointing your organization’s most immediate needs and challenges.

Assess which areas require your urgent attention and have the potential to influence the company’s performance significantly.

Prioritize key initiatives

Once you’ve identified the critical areas, prioritize initiatives that significantly impact performance.

Focus on these areas to ensure your efforts are efficient and effective.

Delegate and empower

Delegating tasks is crucial to free up your time concentrating on essential issues.

Empower your team members by entrusting them with responsibilities.

Build a strong team dynamic and foster a culture of collaboration to enhance productivity and creativity.

Collaborate across departments

Work closely with other departments to gain a broader perspective on critical issues.

This collaboration can lead to discovering new solutions and strategies that may not have been apparent from a singular departmental viewpoint.

Adapt and communicate changes

Be flexible and ready to adjust your plans as new information emerges or priorities shift.

Communicating effectively about any changes is essential to ensure everyone involved is aligned and working towards the same objectives.

Review and adjust regularly

Review your priorities and strategies regularly to ensure they remain relevant and aligned with the organization’s goals.

Adjust as necessary to stay on track and respond to new challenges.

Read more: CFO playbook: 3 strategies for the financial front line

21. Tap into the power of tech

A CFO isn’t traditionally responsible for creating a digital transformation plan, but your role is evolving, and digital transformation is a critical part of every business operation, including finance. 

Given this, you should involve yourself in any digital transformation strategy, particularly where it impacts financial operations. 

Modern financial consolidation, reporting, and analysis involve automation, and you’ll want to identify the areas where it fits. With the rise of big data, AI, and machine learning, you have more information to draw insight than ever.  

By understanding the value of digital transformation, you can harness data to make more informed decisions, drive strategy, and steer your company toward its goals. 

Here are some ways you could contribute to a digital transformation plan. 

Financial planning

You can help plan investment in digital transformation, balancing the costs and benefits and ensuring your business invests wisely in technology. 

Risk management

As with any significant change, digital transformation brings risks.

Your finance team can identify, assess, and manage some of them. 

Change management

Digital transformation often involves significant changes to business processes.

You can contribute to managing this change. 

Data governance

Digital transformation often involves significant amounts of data.

You can help ensure you manage data appropriately, mitigating possible privacy and security issues. 

Skill development

Digital transformation often requires new skills.

It’s your job to ensure that your finance function has the necessary skills for the digital age, including data analysis and digital literacy. 

Read more: Sage Transform 2024: Top generative AI takeaways to elevate your business

Final thoughts: Place confidence in yourself and why you were hired

The first 90 days as a CFO are crucial for establishing credibility, building relationships, and setting a clear direction for your finance team.

Thoroughly assess your finance function, understand your business’s strategic objectives, and develop a finance strategy aligning with them.  

Building solid relationships with key stakeholders, including the board, business leaders, and employees, will be critical for gaining support and buy-in for your financial strategy.

Of course, using the right technology can also help to drive efficiency and improve the accuracy of financial reporting as part of a digital transformation program. 

Most important, however, is remembering your skills and expertise.

You were hired for the role for a reason, and although the first few months in a new job can be daunting, you are the right person.

Remembering that you’re still new to the role during tough times is vital.

Tapping into that mindset will also help you project self-confidence, which will benefit how you present yourself to others.  

Editor’s note: this article was first published in June 2023 and has been updated for relevance.