In some cases, CFOs may need to hire permanent help. FleetCor’s Dey, for example, says his major regret about preparing for the company’s IPO was failing to hire a head of financial reporting soon enough. He just filled the position last month, after having racked up plenty of extra hours completing the public offering.
While taking time to establish deadlines and goals and make targeted hires can save time in the long run, so, too, can taking a breather and encouraging your staff to do the same. The latter may sound impossible, even laughable, to a finance chief with a packed schedule, but studies have shown that people can effectively concentrate on one thing for only 90 consecutive minutes. People are also more efficient when they take breaks, says Stevens of Franklin Covey.
Of course, it can be hard for managers to heed that advice. Indeed, Patricia Bedient, CFO of Weyerhaeuser, says she easily could have worked around the clock on the forest-product company’s conversion to a real estate investment trust, a project that progressed in earnest when she became finance chief in 2007 and will end when the company files its first tax return as a REIT this year. However, she says, “for my own well-being, there are certain things I have going on besides what I do as a CFO.”
To squeeze in leisure activities, not to mention time for the two directorships she holds, Bedient blocks off time on her calendar, sometimes many months in advance of an event. Every fall, for example, she sets aside time to plan a camping trip with her 10 siblings and their families for the following summer.
In other words, CFOs have to have a life, too. “You can’t let yourself get totally wrapped up in any one thing for a long period of time or you will burn out,” Bedient says. “You won’t be as effective.” And with so much to do, both for the present and future, being ineffective is clearly not an option.
Sarah Johnson is senior editor for risk & compliance at CFO.