business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Yesterday I had the chance not just to deliver the opening keynote at the annual Food Marketing Institute (FMI) Financial Executive and Internal Auditing Conference in Palm Beach, Florida, but also to moderate a panel discussion about The Changing Role of the CFO.

It was somewhat amusing to Mrs. Content Guy that I was speaking at a financial conference being held at the PGA National Resort & Spa - largely because I don’t play golf and am, to put it mildly, math challenged. But I was glad to be there, and not just because it actually was warm. (A week ago I was giving a speech in Buffalo, and had to drive through the snow to get there.)

My panelists were Michael Lockard, CFO at K-VA-T Food Stores, Clay Oliver, CFO at Brookshire Brothers, and Rick Marino, CEO at the Stores Consulting Group, which does a lot of work on the finance side of the retail sector.

Over the years, I haven’t always been generous of spirit when it comes to finance folks, characterizing them as being so focused on money that they often lack a larger strategic vision. (I always tried to avoid the words “bean counters,” though.)

My panel disputed that this is the case today, saying that reality has created a scenario in which CFOs are able to play larger roles within their organizations, working on a much broader portfolio of projects.

At K-VA-T, for example, Lockard said that he even works on the site selection committee; he said that his background in both logistics and IT - he previously worked for Walmart and UPS - has given him the ability to expand his sphere of influence, though he has taken care to make sure that he has earned credibility and is not seen as an interloper.

Lockard also had the money quote (pun intended) with which I want to leave you this morning, saying that while in the old days it often was the CFO’s role to say “No,” today he finds that his role is to say, “Yes, if…” In other words, to embrace change while establishing appropriate guard rails and discipline.

That strikes me as an Eye-Opener.
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