Three to get ready (for next week and beyond)

You might not be an executive. You might not have users.  You might not be a CFO. However, if you’re looking for ideas, inspiration and strategies for staying on a path to success then this trio is for you:

“Escaping the Executive Bubble” by Kate O’Sullivan (CFO Magazine, 1 February 2010).

“There are a whole bunch of natural filters in an organization,” Roberto explains. “It’s not because people are necessarily hiding things, but as information moves through the hierarchy of a company, it gets packaged, streamlined, and analyzed.” As a result, the “news” that arrives at the CFO’s desk has usually been cleaned and polished. And distorted.

“Opinion: Love Your Users” by Frank Hayes (ComputerWorld, 22 March 2010).

Yes, users also burn up a lot of our time with password resets, downloaded malware and simple dumbness. We could cheerfully strangle them for things like that.

But some users, at least, have eyes, ears and brains that can be IT’s first line of defense against problems that we wouldn’t spot ourselves until it was too late.

“We Fail Fast, Learn, and Move On. An interview with Steven Neil, CFO of Diamond Foods Inc.” by David M. Katz (CFO Magazine, 1 April 1 2010).

We got our supply-chain folks involved, studied our approach, and identified what my kids call the “duh” factor. The way we had been loading the truck facilitated the operations of our warehouse rather than our customer’s warehouse. So we changed how we packed the truck to align with the layout of the customer’s warehouse.

Get it?

Opinion: Love your users

March 22, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Safety in numbers

“Imperfect Futures” by Alix Stuart (CFO Magazine, 15 July 2009). What’s most interesting is how much of the science of forecasting is actually becoming more of an art. If extra time isn’t a luxury then jump to page 2 and read the section titled “Risk-Spotting” and continue right on through “Predictions: E Pluribus Unum”.

For those of you who might not have corporate type resources the take away here is that you should ask questions of your customers, of your suppliers and of your peers. Always keep your ears and eyes open. While 100% of the information might not be available 100% of the time the idea is to collect as much as you can before making a decision. Trying to do it all on your own is a level of risk that can and should be avoided.

Shortsighting the shortsighted

This was pulled from the March 2009 issue of CFO Mag (

Don’t Be Shortsighted

I agree that focusing on improving revenue is the surest way to maintain viability during tough times (“And in This Corner, the Price-Fighter,” December 2008). Let a third-party expert cut your expenses on a true gain-sharing model. Our expense-reduction business is up significantly, but companies should continuously be reviewing expenses for opportunities to cut costs. So much focus on cutting travel expenses and head count is shortsighted at best.

Patrick Driscoll
Expense Reduction Analysts
Northbrook, Illinois

With all due respect to Mr. Driscoll, it’s statements such as these that give the beancounters a bad name. Yes, expenses should be continuously reviewed. However, the primary objective should be to maximize value to the guest (i.e., customer).  A savings today that loses customers tomorrow is no savings at all.

If you can’t lead yourself who can you lead?

“Leadership: The Next Stage” by Kate O’Sullivan (CFO Magazine, March 1, 2009). Says the article’s sub-headline: Want to ascend to a true leadership role? Be prepared to let go of what you’re good at.

Also be sure to check the self-assessment test that accompanies the article. In fact, take the test first so the insights gained from the article don’t sway your answers.