2. CFO = Miracle Worker
The role of the CFO is more valued today than ever before. That can be both a blessing and a curse. Watch out for that job where they “want you to ‘walk on water’, which happens more and more in tough job markets,” says OptiMarket’s Mays. “You have to be realistic.” Also beware the job whose description is so general that you really don’t know what to expect.
Beware, too, the CEO who sees you as something less than a partner. “Does that CEO want a strategic counterpart,” says JVP’s Carus, “or are they looking to offload work? Are they open to advice and different ways of seeing,” or are they looking for someone to “put the financial puzzle together for them?”
Then there’s the bait-and-switch. A few months before Ron Rubin took his current job at Tatum CFO Partners, he interviewed for what he believed would be a position as a COO. When the HR director began talking instead about the CFO position, saying that the company needed someone “to pull them out of the hole” and to raise funds, Rubin made a fast exit. A follow-up call from the CEO confirmed that the job was to help raise venture capital — and as a consultant, not an officer of the company. (The company, adds Rubin, “has very recently filed for bankruptcy.”)
Sometimes even the floor plan provides a clue — particularly the proximity of the CFO’s office to that of the boss. Why? Greer has a theory: “The distance from the CEO’s office is inversely proportional to the organizational perception of the importance of the job.”
At a former employer, Greer actually took it as a personal challenge to help the accounting department grow in stature, but other CFOs may want a bit more support and trust from their fellow employees. At the start of Greer’s campaign, the department was generally looked at as “the people that say ‘no’,” he says. “You get to feel that you’re wearing a target around the office.” (Or perhaps it’s just a brightly colored grindstone. That’s the impression of many overworked CFOs who’d like to “Take This Job and Split It.”)
3. D&O Exclusions
Before a CFO signs on with a public company, checking for directors’ and officers’ insurance is standard. But even when Robert Schleizer finds at least $2 million in coverage (he prefers $5 million), not all D&O plans will do.
Schleizer, who’s also a partner with Tatum, is particularly wary of D&O plans that carry a lot of exclusions — like those at one former client, which he learned about only after he was the CFO and a board member. Past litigation between the company founder and a majority shareholder, he explains, meant that the insurer for the new plan would not cover future disputes and actions of the board if litigation involved shareholders with more than 30 percent ownership.