Real Advice for Transitioning Into Finance Leadership

Finance

Are you on the path to becoming a CFO? Then, you’re going to love our most recent episode of Collectiv Conversations with Melissa Hurrington, the CFO and VP of Operations at Premier Claims.

I was thrilled to chat with Melissa because of our similar crazy career paths…we both started in accounting roles and later became CFOs. Yet, we took very different steps to get there.

In this episode, we chatted about ways to make the transition to a leadership career in finance, what the experience was like, and how CFOs can continue to succeed in 2023 and beyond.

Please enjoy some of the most important insights from our conversation.

Why Transition Into a Finance Leadership Role?

Before making the transition from an accounting role to a finance leadership role, it’s important to assess why you want to make this career pivot.

Melissa found that she wanted to build relationships with coworkers outside of the cubicle and hone her analytical skills. While working in food and beverage for a large music venue, she found that she enjoyed analyzing why certain products sold better than others at each show. Melissa took these newfound skills into a forward-thinking finance position.

Your “why” might look very different from Melissa’s, but you can definitely learn from her experience as you’re figuring out the best path forward. You need to take the time to identify your “why” when making this major career change and focus on it throughout the process.

Improving Communication Skills

One of the biggest challenges for anyone changing their role is improving communication skills. If you’re making the move to a finance leadership role like me and Melissa, you have to learn how to effectively communicate financial analysis and insights to the C-suite to make an impact.

Unfortunately, many people don’t learn these skills early on in their careers and have to learn them on the job. Here are some of Melissa’s tips for leveling up your communication skills.

1. Be observant.

Identify others in your organization who are excellent storytellers and watch them in action. Identify what makes them good communicators and how you can implement these skills in your own presentations. If possible, look for a mentor to provide feedback to help you improve.

2. Be authentic.

When working on your communication skills, it’s very important to remain true to yourself. Your audience will know when you aren’t being authentic, so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

3. Be concise.

Professionals these days are juggling busy schedules and plenty of distractions throughout the workday, so grabbing your audience’s attention is a major challenge. Keep your presentations concise and accessible and avoid using confusing jargon.

My best recommendation is to use the STAR method (situation, task, action, response) to structure your presentations and keep them on track.

Transitioning To Leadership

One of the biggest turning points in Melissa’s career was not only moving from accounting to finance but later moving into a management position.

If you’ve been a high-performing team member for years, switching to a management role might feel jarring. Melissa found that she struggled with not feeling needed in the same way she had previously. She also found it difficult to delegate tasks and wanted to avoid overwhelming her team members.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember just how important your leadership role is. You’re providing invaluable guidance and support for your team—you’ll need to empower them to solve problems and nab career wins on their own.

CFO Predictions For 2023

Melissa and I also discussed our predictions for CFOs and the finance space moving into the new year. Here were her top three predictions.

  • CFOs will be more visible within their organizations. The finance team will provide crucial strategy and operations guidance for the entire organization.
  • CFOs will continue to implement automation. As technology continues to improve, CFOs and their teams will look for ways to automate repetitive tasks or even replace certain roles.
  • Dynamic budgeting will become more important. With global markets moving at such a rapid pace, keeping a static budget for the entire year is not always viable. Dynamic budgeting strategies will become more common, and we’ll likely see more technology to support them.

Whether you’re contemplating a future career change or you’re already on your way to a CFO title, being authentic and adaptable is crucial.

We love bringing you insights from industry leaders in each Collectiv Conversations episode. Watch new episodes as soon as they release by subscribing to Collectiv’s YouTube channel.

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Chris Ortega is a Fractional CFO, strategic advisor, and finance influencer with over 17 years of experience in public accounting, corporate accounting, finance, FP&A, and leadership. As the CEO of Fresh FP&A, he helps businesses transform and scale their finance organization.

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