Making your first Interim CFO role a success – Margaret White

Margaret White, a seasoned finance leader in the health industry in New Zealand, recently transitioned to her first interim CFO role after an extensive career. With her deep expertise in finance, strategic planning, and governance, Margaret excelled in her role, bringing insight and value to the organisation. This case study highlights her journey into the interim CFO role, the challenges and successes she experienced, and her advice for others in similar positions.

Known for her business acumen and ability to foster effective partnerships, Margaret sought a new challenge in her career. The role of interim CFO presented the perfect opportunity to immerse herself in a new organisation and apply her leadership skills to a fresh set of challenges.

Margaret was attracted to the position after engaging with the CEO and outgoing CFO, who outlined the company’s vision and values, as well as the scope of the role. This alignment with her personal and professional values made the decision to take on the role an easy one.

Upon joining the organisation during the early stages of its ten-year transformation journey, Margaret found herself at the forefront of strategic change initiatives. Her role required navigating a fast-paced and challenging environment, collaborating closely with the CEO, and leading significant work programs. As a result, her initial six-month contract was extended to ensure continuity and seamless delivery of priority projects.

Margaret’s career equipped her well for the varied demands of the Interim CFO position. The key skills she deems critical for her success are:

  • Stakeholder management – the ability to form trusted relationships quickly. This starts with open communication, transparency, and a willingness to ask questions. Adopting a “no surprises” approach, ensuring the CEO and Board are aware of pending commercial, cashflow or compliance issues. Be proactive – ready to propose solutions.
  • Ability to learn quickly – grasp operational and commercial context and apply this to decision-making. Calmly assimilate complex situations, understand the problem, and take decisive action.
  • Well-developed strategic awareness and execution leadership – understanding of the organisation’s vision, strategy and roadmap is essential for prioritising focus and service delivery. Balancing commercial imperative with organisational values. Remain aware and agile to strategic changes and context.
  • Ability to lead multiple projects concurrently – planning, coordination, and execution. Make prompt decisions to tackle capacity or capability gaps. Adjust priorities as needed while maintaining composure and approachability.
  • Commercial mindset and drive for value – approaching all decision-making, including work allocation, with a commercial or value-add mindset is pivotal and establishes the tone for the executive team.
  • Positive leadership – sincere and collaborative interaction with the Finance leadership team has been critical to Margaret’s success as Interim CFO. Encouraging engagement, removing obstacles, and recognising contribution and accomplishments have been key, together with a readiness to assist when needed.

Margaret’s experience in the Interim CFO role has broadened her perspective on future career opportunities. She is eager to pursue similar roles in organisations that align with her values and purpose. Her advice for businesses considering an interim CFO is to view it as an opportunity to gain fresh perspective and insights.

For finance professionals considering the interim CFO path, Margaret’s advice is to trust in your abilities and embrace the challenge. Emphasising the opportunity to add value, gain new skills and experience diverse company cultures.

Hunter Campbell’s recruitment team played a crucial role in Margaret’s successful transition, offering valuable candidate induction and interview preparation resources. Margaret highly recommends them for anyone considering a similar career move.

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