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5 Ways to Turn Your CFO’s Hate to Love

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Imagine your typical CFO and CPO as a couple on Facebook. What do you think would their relationship status be?

In my role at Sievo, I get to meet many leadership teams, and I find surprising similarities in boardroom dynamics. In Facebook terms, I would describe the typical relationship between a CFO and a CPO as “it’s complicated,” although I’ve come across some true “hate-hate” relationships, too.

To put a positive spin on things, an emotionally charged relationship comes with some powerful energy to work with. No CFO-CPO relationship is completely unrepairable. It can take considerable time and effort, but it is all worth it.

Spring is here. Love is in the air. A bit of relationship counseling can go a long way to turn hate into love, and transform a complicated relationship into an effective partnership. 

How Do You Know If Your CFO Hates You?

An awkward silence, not being invited to a key meeting, a frustrated comment about using too much procurement lingo — these are all subtle signs that your CFO could hate you.

Hate may be a strong word to use, but it is a much better starting point than being dismissed. After all, a strong dislike is most of the time rooted from an unexpressed disappointment toward something of utter significance. That’s right: It is because they find you important.

But why does being important lead to hate?

Well, at least in this relationship, it’s about the money. You promise savings, but your CFO only sees costs. You talk about adding value and your CFO finds the P&L showing increased spending.

But more than money, in a more profound sense, the dysfunction about lack of trust and bad communication. In the end, you are both on the same team with the organization’s best interest in mind, but for some reason you don’t understand each other. This is when things get complicated.

Typical causes for CFO-CPO hate:

  • Lack of common language and terminology when discussing savings
  • Measuring contracted rather than realized savings
  • Focusing on proactive savings projects without considering external factors

In any relationship, it is easy to find the blame in your partner. You should believe that your partner shares your best interests, and that both of you share the common goal. If you really want to be the procurement hero you dream to be, it’s time to take the initiative and win over your CFO’s heart.

Turn Your CFO’s Hate to Love

  1. Base your actions on hard facts and reliable data. The true way to a CFO’s heart is through the numbers. Make sure your spend data is clean, accurate and trusted.
  2. Share your data transparently. Give your CFO access to your spend and savings reports, and better yet, build an executive dashboard he or she can use.
  3. Shift your perspective to the big picture. Don’t present savings programs from the view of procurement but show how they impact the bottom line.
  4. Translate procurement lingo into finance. Use the same terminology finance uses in P&L accounts and make sure your timelines match financial planning cycles.
  5. Communicate often and do it in person. Be open. Share your plans, dreams and voice out your worries honestly. Don’t build your relationships on PowerPoint — do it in person.

These are some ways you can build common ground, create a shared perspective and start building trust in your relationship. But this is not always an easy journey and should not be taken on unprepared. Having a good heads-up is the best weapon on hand.

Introducing Procurement Loves Finance

At Sievo, we think a lot about the relationship between finance and procurement.

So, with that in mind, we recently wrote a book on the subject. We’d like to help by sharing what we know to achieve new levels of success in your organization.

Procurement Loves Finance is a book based on decades of experience consulting leading global businesses and developing software to help these key business functions collaborate.

This week, we’re offering exclusive early access to Procurement Loves Finance to all Spend Matters readers.

Share the book with your CFO. Start your journey to a more loving relationship. It might be complicated at first, but it doesn’t have to end that way.

Matti Sillanpää is the CEO and co-founder of Sievo.

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