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Q&A – The Art of Being a CFO

Orange County Business Journal | Peter J. Brennan

Interview with Erika Urbani, VP of Finance, CFO at R.D. Olson Construction

The role of a CFO has evolved significantly, due in part to new technologies, regulations and industry advances. As CFO, my focus is not solely on revenue growth but organic growth. This means a shift in responsibilities from financial reporting, forecasting and budgeting, to leading the company in more strategic ways that ensure the overall success of the business.

Successful CFOs are ‘strategists’ – and our role has expanded to focus on:

Clear the Path. CFOs go beyond keeping operations flowing by ensuring appropriate resource allocation, availability of productivity tools and compliance. This often requires us to revisit company policies and find creative solutions to expedite work. We identify ways to optimize the business – to eliminate a step, a piece of paper, or a signature.

Think Big. Despite day-to-day issues that require our time and attention, supporting organic growth requires us to become strategic partners. Each month I meet with our president to discuss our pipeline of construction projects and we ask ourselves and our teams, “What are our barriers to success and peace of mind?” Once we identify these pain points, we find calculated solutions. For RDOC, the result has been financial stability and strategic growth.

Mentors and Succession. I’m often asked the best path to CFO. The truth is you don’t learn the intricacies of being an accomplished CFO in school. While the strongest CFOs earn multiple degrees, it’s the years of hard-earned and hands-on experience that qualifies them to make gut-based decisions and be successful leaders. Leadership tends to be an overlooked skill, but for a CFO it’s more important than the transactional know-how, because it’s what you don’t see in the data that can bite you. It’s up to us to mentor our up-and-coming CFOs on how to be efficient leaders. Those that master the art of mentorship are not only rewarded with strong teams but hope for the future of their industry and confidence in passing the baton.