Justin Leigh from focus4growth joins the GrowCFO Show to discuss the CFO’s role in supporting profitable business growth. We look at the Psychology, skills and systems needed to drive that growth and why the CFO is well placed to drive the business change that is needed.
About Justin Leigh
Justin’s background is working in large corporations including 3M. He has worked in sales, sales leadership and business leadership.
He set up his own company 3 years ago, specialising in providing training coaching & consultancy to unlock growth potential in businesses
Over his career Justin has worked alongside a number of CFOs. He sees the CFO role as vital to delivering profitable business growth. The key role of the CFO in this context is to help map out strategies for growth programmes, and provide resources from the finance team to undertake more detailed business modelling.
Why is profitable business growth so important?
Thats actually quite simple. Delivering extra profitable revenue can make a huge Impact on the p&l. It can be a game changer, and is the easiest way to remove other obstacles & issues in the business. Growth unlocks all sorts of opportunities.
Executing profitable business growth isn’t quite that simple though. It takes planning and focussed execution. Lots of analysis of plans and seeking out opportunities is where it always starts, with one key question. How do I over deliver revenue growth?
role of CFO in this analysis is key, but the role of the CFO is so broad that focus on programmes that drive the top line can be overlooked.
How does the CFO support profitable business growth?
Revenue comes from a portfolio of products, but not all products are equal. Some will be more profitable than others. Growth by itself is not sufficient. First there’s a need to identify the most profitable parts of the portfolio. Then address product & portfolio mix, developing the most profitable parts of portfolio.
The CFO helps with high level strategy, his team supporting with the detailed analysis. Understanding product and customer profitability isn’t always straightforward.
The CFO has a big change role during implementation. The budget is a very effective way of driving the change. ZBB can be used to make sure the right areas are emphasised, and budget is taken away from less profitable bits of the business. The budget drives a change management approach.
What stops the CFO getting involved?
Volume of work is often the biggest obstacle. The CFO gets involved in a broad range of initiatives and is often overloaded. Big tech projects don’t help, the CFO is increasingly getting involved in these.
Aside from this, Justin believes the biggest issue to overcome is restrictive beliefs. “We tried that before” is a common thing that needs to be overcome. You need psychology to be right. To break through and unlock the opportunities. You need to change the perspective of what is possible.
The 3 Step process to profitable business growth
Justin teaches a 3 stage process.
A growth mindset is vitally important. The business team rarely meets just to discuss growth and how each function contributes to it. In workshops Justin will challenge each member of the business team with the same question. How does your role contribute to growth in the organisation?
Once psychology and mindset are sorted only then can you move on to step 2 and consider what skills are lacking. Usually its about relationship building and becoming provider of choice. Its rarely about pitching. CFO and finance has a role here. Finance need to build models to support deals. The CFO might be involved in meetings with clients. The clients finance people might work with his own team to help structure deals and consider how to make it affordable. Finance needs more customer facing skills.
Moving from functional head to business leader
Justin’s experience is that outstanding individual contributors get promoted. But there’s a big step between delivering by yourself to delivering through a team. The challenge is learning to lead, and get more out of the team.
He has a book recommendation:
Daniel Goldman’s book “The New Leaders” talks about foundations of emotional intelligence & 6 styles of leadership. Mastering all 6 is tricky but 2 or 3 can make a big difference. Justin has his personal favourite 3.
- visionary style – set the vision for the organisation and cascades this down through the organisation
- democratic style – talk to individuals about how they fit into the vision. This style often brings out insights what will work & what won’t.
- coaching style – encouraging others to step up.
Knowing when to use which style is crucial.
The need for mentoring and coaching
Justin believes it is important to have a mentor, and recognises the need for leadership coaching. Mentor should ideally be a CFO outside the business. We discussed mentoring in a previous episode of the GrowCFO Show
You should give yourself more exposure to other functions in order to learn more about the world outside finance. To make the leap to CFO you must really understand other areas of the business. Technical and engineering, supply chain, manufacturing & production.
The leap from head of finance to CFO is a huge challenge. The GrowCFO future CFO programme and cohorts are a big help for you if you are aiming to make that leap.
Justin Leigh published author
Justin has been writing a book and its in the final stages of being published. “Inspire Influence Sell” is expected to be released in early November 2020. The subtitle,”mastering the psychology, skills & systems of the worlds best sales teams” says it all. Justin lifts material from his own experiences and those he has coached to provide a very practical guide to driving profitable revenue growth.
Justin’s Contact details