Straight Answers to Real Questions
Question: My brothers and I run a successful $35mm furniture manufacturing company in Mississauga. Our VP Finance has been with us for over twenty years and has recently announced that she’d like to retire at the end of the year. When should we start looking for someone to replace her?
Answer: You’re fortunate that you have loads of notice to replace your VP Finance. Most companies don’t have that kind of luxury and find themselves under the gun to find a replacement quickly.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got lots of time to recruit a new VP Finance or you need to find someone yesterday, the fact remains that a proper, well thought out recruitment strategy takes time. And the more steps you skip, the better the chance that you’ll make a less than optimal hire.
To specifically address your situation, let’s look at when you’d like the replacement to start and then work back from there to determine when you should commence the search.
If the incumbent is leaving at the end of the year, I’m going to assume that you’d like her replacement to start on December 1st so that there’s a decent turnover period. Let’s also assume that anyone you hire at this level will probably need (or want) to give four weeks’ notice. That means they’ll need to sign off on your offer by November 1st.
Even if you and your brothers are very organized, it’s going to take quite a bit of time to get through the interviewing and offer tendering process. You should end up interviewing four or five initial candidates. Out of that group you’ll want to invite the two best candidates back for second interviews and then you’ll probably want to bring the finalist candidate back for a third and final meeting before you tender an offer. And once you tender the offer, there may be some back and forth around the terms which will add another week to the process.
But let’s assume that the interview and offer process only (and optimistically) takes a month. Working backwards from when you need your new CFO to hand in their notice, you need to start interviewing by October 1st.
That brings us to how long it takes to pull together a short list. If you do it properly – i.e. retain Osborne Financial Search to conduct the search – the research and recruitment process will take between four to six weeks. Of course you could roll the dice and hope that your LinkedIn job posting and networking efforts produce the right candidate more quickly (and cheaply), but the odds are against it. And if that avenue ends up as a dead end, the time spent pursuing it just gets added to the overall timeline.
Since we were optimistic about how long it will take to get through the interview/offer process, let’s err on the side of caution when we estimate how long it takes to generate a shortlist and say it’ll take two months.
Which means if you start the search on August 1st, and everything goes according to plan, your new VP Finance will start with you on 1 December.
Sometimes you can find a new CFO in less time and often it takes quite a bit more time, but generally speaking, if you’ve got your ducks in a row before you start the search, it should take about four months from the time you pull the trigger to when your new CFO is actually in the chair.