Over the past two years, many industries have been financially impacted by the Covid-19, in ways nobody could possibly have predicted. However, as in the last financial crisis in 2007-08, the best performing companies looked to improve productivity, which provided the capacity to grow quickly once into the recovery period. These companies were able to outperform their competitors by reducing operating costs much earlier than other players in their market. Despite the unpredictable and staggeringly quick growth of Covid-19 globally, there are ways that CFO’s in many markets have been able to help drive business productivity and keep their teams running effectively and efficiently over the last two years.
Here are some of the best examples of how CFO’s have made a dramatic positive impact on their businesses during the pandemic:
- Stop badly run meetings
Unproductive and inefficient meetings cost businesses millions of dollars in Australia every year. Usually this is a result of the best people in the business spending time on inefficient meetings that take up large amounts of time and do not drive the business forward. By adding back-to-back video-calls into the meeting mix, because of Covid-19 driven remote working and the problem is multiplied. Spending an hour in a unproductive meeting a couple of times a week will quickly rack up wasted costs and reduce revenue-making time. Companies can waste thousands of dollars a week with unnecessary or badly run meetings and it is also demotivating for quality staff to be in an unproductive meeting and often that demotivation will hang over into other activities after the meeting is finished.
A good CFO will analyse meetings and their effectiveness for a business owner and come up with ways of reducing meeting time, making them more effective and efficient and ensuring that only the necessary people attend meetings.
- Strategic Planning
One of the key jobs for a CFO is to produce the businesses’ strategic plan. The compiling of the strategic plan is a complex process requiring the input of most senior managers within the business and the key people on the operational side of the business. The CFO is the perfect person to bring all the departments within the business together and to ensure all views are represented and refine those views into the businesses’ objectives and how those objectives will be achieved. It is often the case within businesses that once the strategy has been signed off, it is stuck in a draw and not looked at again until the same time a year later.
A good CFO will use the strategic plan as a working document and constantly refer to it, to make sure that progress is being made towards achieving the strategic goals of the business. It is essential that a quality CFO constantly revisits the strategic plan during a word changing event like the Covid-19 pandemic, as business circumstances can change on an almost daily basis. It is essential that businesses stay flexible and dynamic, and the CFO should be at the forefront of that flexibility and dynamism. The CFO must ensure that the business is not committed to an outdated plan. The CFO will need to focus on developing plans for the worst-case scenarios as well as plans for moving quickly to escape any difficulties that may hit the business. For example, how will a business adapt to zero international travel for employees, if it operates globally or a slower and more unpredictable supply chain for a manufacturing company or distributor. How will entertainment and catering businesses survive a Covid-19 lockdown. The CFO will be looking at all the possible scenarios and altering the strategic plan to deal with the challenges that change brings.
A CFO will be examining the businesses’ key operating metrics and applying those metrics to changed trading and operating scenarios. From there, the CFO can build models of different financial and operational scenarios that might come about. The obvious questions a CFO would be asking themselves during the Covid-19 pandemic are what the business metrics would look like if the business was to:
- Reduce costs and inventory
- Run marketing campaigns to stimulate demand
- Diversified the revenue opportunities or diversified into other markets
- People & Efficiency
The CFO also needs to focus on the efficiency and output of the businesses’ most important assets, its’ people. Some staff are now back in the office, but many others are still working remotely. This presents an even greater challenges for businesses to get the very best from their staff, with the inevitable disconnect and disruption many people are experiencing in their working day and environment.There is a natural inclination for companies to try and drive their staff harder to do more hours, when they are working remotely, to ensure that they are getting perceived value for money.
The CFO is the ideal person within a business to analyse the output and results from the staff and to encourage feedback from department heads and other team leaders on staff performance and whether individual environments are working for every member of staff and whether staff are being sufficiently supported to deliver what the business needs from them. The CFO should set up systems that will help improve efficiency and effectiveness from all staff and not simply push individuals and teams to work more hours, in difficult times. The CFO can help all staff prioritise tasks by analysing what impact not completing a task will have on the business that day.
The CFO should create a meeting culture within the business that recognises the unique working situations many staff face and focus on meetings being held when teams are at their most fresh and productive. In the pre-Covid-19 days meetings were often best in the mornings, working environments are now very different and meetings need to be carefully planned to obtain the most from all staff. The CFO can drive flexibility in working arrangements for staff, so that employees aren’t dealing with complex problem solving or decision making while managing their family obligations, if working remotely. The CFO is the best person to drive the conversation with a business around emotional support and staff wellbeing for all.
The CFO in 2022 should be the cultural leader in an organisation for self-care amongst all employees, in stressful and difficult times. The CFO can drive a culture where staff do not spend hours in meetings, if they aren’t specifically needed, then they shouldn’t have to attend. Good inter-business communications will ensure all staff will be up to date with meeting results, whether they are attending or not.
The CFO’s role has changed significantly within nearly all businesses since the pandemic. The CFO role is not just about financial and strategic planning, outward stakeholder communications and compliance. The CFO has become the champion of workplace effectiveness and maximising staff output through wellbeing. The CFO is in a perfect position to observe and analyse the best working practices for a business to maximise employee productivity, while being focused on every individual within the organisation and their unique needs, often in a very challenging working environment.