Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a presentation given by Mark Stull, the CFO and VP of Corporate Development at Liberty Hardware Manufacturing Corporation, a Masco company. The presentation was entitled, “Functional Excellence to Strategic Business Partner: The Transformation Challenge for CFOs and their Teams.”
I’ve known Mark for about a year and have witnessed his visionary and consensus-building style first hand. I knew I was in for an inspiring and thought-provoking presentation. But what struck me most about Mark’s presentation, aside from the well-placed football analogies, was the story about his desire and ability to transform his role of controller into innovator.
Case in point, his favorite business book, Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work by Robert Austin, and Lee Devin has nothing to do with financial calculations and everything to do with a “research-based framework for engineering ingenuity and innovation.”
In his presentation, Mark talked about how their focus on the order fill rate is designed to “delight the customer,” and how, armed with the right information, they have developed a “should cost model,” telling their manufacturers how much an item should cost to produce and allowing them to design to cost.
In many of these areas, Mark and his Liberty team have become so successful, they are now offering these types of services to other companies in the Masco family.
Mark closed his presentation, recounting a conversation he had with his CEO, in which they identified the key characteristics of a transformative CFO:
- Has an in-depth knowledge of the business, including the value proposition and the inner workings of sales and marketing.
- Brings solutions to the table – not just reports.
- Sets a vision of what could be, by being aspirational and making the finance department a catalyst for competitive advantage.
- Has a balanced view of the business environment, including being optimistic and realistic and specific reasons why in each case.
- Articulates and understands that the financials are an outcome of running the business, not an end in themselves.
What key characteristics of a transformative CFO would you add to Mark’s list?
And if you’d like to see Mark’s presentation deck, just contact me and I’ll send it to you.