As CFO at a tech startup, your job is to plan, implement, manage, and control all financial-related activities of the company. This contains responsibility for accounting, finance, forecasting, strategic planning, legal, negotiations, relationships, and compliances. You are not involved in any of the product building, design, system administration, support, HR, or sales. However, all these parts are equally important for bringing value and revenue to your company.
You already know the ‘Code of Finance’, you are good with numbers, and you are on top of your game. Now it’s time to learn the Code of Developers, Designers, Sales, Metrics, Sysadmins, etc. You see, if you don’t genuinely understand how others code things in your company, then you won’t be able to excel at your job. You have to know the tech behind the tech. Become a coder of all departments.
It’s simple, connect with others across teams as much as possible. They are your pool of knowledge; you just have to start fishing. Learn from them, ask them to teach you about their work, and try to understand where their decisions are coming from. The more you know about what they do and why, the better you will be able to understand the story behind numbers on your balance sheet.
Review and Rewind
How does the design of our products affect revenue? How does support influent upgrade cancellations? How come expenses go up when our site has downtime? Team leads don’t think about income; they think about managing teams or improving products. Instead of throwing budgets at them, share your vision instead and understand theirs. Once you get that, then you can discuss appropriate changes to improve financial outcome.
Never Stop Learning
Don’t cut the server expenses budget if it’s going through the roof. Instead, let developers explain what value, for example, the AWS cloud is to the business. Let them show you their most important piece of code. From there you can then start optimizing and exploring ways to decrease monthly costs.
Never stop learning and always rewind back to finance.
The philosophy I’ve just explained doesn’t come naturally for most CFO’s. They have an MBA background and are head deep in just numbers and operations. They know what the numbers mean but not always where they come from, as opposed to CEO’s and COO’s who already firmly believe in this philosophy since day one.
As the finance person, you’re the key player of these musketeers. Without your hard work, the business will eventually die, one way or another.
Open your mind, be curious about every layer within the company, embrace the different codes, and aim to become a stellar CFO: Coder & Financial Officer :)