In today’s fast moving environment, CFOs are expected to be exceptional usiness leaders with strong financial and risk management skills. Boards and CEOs expect CFOs to deliver on all cylinders—finance and risk management, business intelligence, strategic thought leadership and the ability to deliver concise communication about the business and financial strategies with the Board, shareholders and other stakeholders.
Technology and mobility have created an environment in which there is an unlimited amount of information available to organizations—customer data, operational driver metrics, competitive intelligence and strategic information–all of which can further heir competitive advantage. Given the increasing speed of business, there are many quick judgments a CEO has to make based on this information on any given day. There is no replacement for having a strong executive partner in a CFO who has a broad lens and the business intuition to provide a view or a platform for debate–as opposed to a financial view that is morenarrow in scope.
At Sprouts, over the last couple of years these judgments have included M&A decisions, changes in capital structure, determination of pace of growth, sales and merchandising strategies, near-term and long-term capital allocation decisions, new public company board selection and perhaps most important—decisions about our team.
A key factor in being able to serve as a partner to the CEO in making these decisions is having an in-depth understanding of the business. As an example, while it’s not unusual for CFOs to review and approve plans for new real estate, I hold myself accountable for actually visiting each of our proposed store sites. I find that spending time with the CEO and other senior Sprouts executives on real estate tours allows us to discuss strategy, visit competition and get a better sense of our customer, particularly in new markets. Further, time in the field provides opportunities for informal discussion about all aspects of our business –more time than we would ever be able to carve out while sitting in the office. This type of hands-on engagement in the business provides invaluable context that helps me make more informed financial decisions, provide input into strategic and operational matters and communicate clearly and concisely with shareholders and other stakeholders.