The CFO Playbook

4 Tips for leading your team and advancing your company

7 March 2022   |   13 Minute Read

Today’s CFO needs to be in tune and involved with many parts of their company. That includes being an advisor to the CEO, encouraging stakeholder success, having a vision for the company’s long term success and near term sustainability, as well as being open to innovation, and helping to set a strong culture within the organisation.

Nitesh Sharan is CFO at SoundHound, an organisation that believes every brand should have a voice and every person should be able to interact naturally with the products around them, by simply talking. Nitesh didn’t take the traditional route to being CFO, starting out with a career in consulting, eventually going back to school for a business degree. He brings diverse experience to SoundHound. He works across many different types of industries throughout the world, armed with a desire to grow, try new things, and build a versatile team ready for any challenge.

Nitesh Sharan joined us on the latest episode of The CFO Playbook podcast where he shared why you can’t stay stale and need to continually innovate and update the way your company does business. This ranges in everything from organisational goals and a willingness to utilise new technologies, to being open to who your workforce is, how to encourage their success, and to allow for flexibility in where they accomplish their work.

 

1. Set an example as a leader

Have an attitude of running to the fire and running at challenges.

Never compromise on integrity and character in yourself or your team. You need to have agility to capitalise on opportunities when they come, and you need the tenacity to take it to fruition, no matter what the deliverable is.

“The expectations of what a CFO can bring to the table also have evolved and can evolve because in a lot of ways it is maybe one of the very few, if not the only one on sort of a C-suite that can agnostically look across all the disciplines and say, ‘okay here’s an accountable way, a measurable way, to look at trade-offs, to navigate a world of uncertainty, and make the right choices that we can try to objectively as objectively as we possibly can make a decision.”

Hunger and humility are key traits for you and your team, having a willingness and ability to expand your function and promote growth and prosperity for the business.

 

2. Work in tandem with your team and technology

Leveraging technology and scaling with the right insights at the right time is key to growth.

Encourage a strong cross disciplinary foundation across multiple areas. Keep in mind what is the best intersection between human capabilities and technology, making sure to not silo yourself off from opportunities.

“It’s not one or the other, you really need great technology, and then you need people who can harness that great technology to find the coveted insights. And not necessarily people who have to tick and tie every number before we can make decisions. We all have to be able to navigate uncertainty and make decisions in a timely and effective manner.”

While technology is very important, it won’t solve all of your problems. It really has to be the compounding between humans and technology.

 

3. Change, adapt, and be willing to grow

Priority number one as a CFO is figuring out how you enable and fuel growth.

Part of that is being aware of parts of the company that are growing versus those that are already established. You need to be thoughtful on where to place your bets and invest in resources.

“When you’re a mature company, you actually have to incubate those hypergrowth elements, because the future is constantly evolving, right? You can’t stay stale. We see too many companies who try to hang on the innovator’s dilemma, try to hang on to their old profit pools for too long, and ultimately the world works against them… So you’re always kind of trying to channel the growth, but within an infrastructure where you have to manage the cash flow pools of the past.”

While it is important to appreciate and value what has made the company successful, you need to be open to how things can work differently to continually grow the company to be prosperous.

 

4. Diverse teams lead to success

Hire with the angle of ‘what is it that serves the greater good of the company?’. Make sure that the talent coming in is fully aligned and in service to what you’re all trying to do together.

Be open to having a remote team, that way you are also opening up your hiring pool to any and all talent, no matter where they are. Be open to going deeper with your team, finding out what motivates them and what matters to their career development.

“When I look for teammates to add in, I want them to be hungry and want to grow in their careers, want to expand the function, want to expand the business, but have all the humility in the world to understand there’s a lot of challenges on the way. You can’t do it yourself. You need to ask the questions. We need to have a safe environment where we can grow and prosper together. So those tenants are really important.”

By having a more diverse team with different perspectives you as a CFO can lean on their experiences and knowledge.

 

Be a steward of change and advancement

You need the tenacity to take a project to its fruition. A CFO can help make a company great by being agile. That way, they can capitalise on opportunities when they come about.

Be thoughtful about where you place your bets and where to invest your resources, keeping in mind you need to do whatever is necessary to fuel growth. Success is achieved by encouraging change, being open to diverse perspectives, and embracing the benefits of technology.

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