Rolling the Dice on a CFO Hire


Straight Answers to Real Questions

Question: I’m the CEO of a family owned, $50mm electrical contractor in Scarborough. Our CFO decided to move on unexpectedly and we’ve been conducting a search to replace him over the past two months. I’ve tapped into my network and have seen a number of potential candidates, some of which were okay and some of which were obviously not suitable for the job. I haven’t felt strongly enough about any of them to pull the trigger. Until now.

I had someone referred to me a couple of weeks ago who could be what we’re looking for. He’s a CPA with lots of experience as a VP Finance and better yet, his last job was CFO of a flooring contractor which is a pretty good fit for us in terms of the issues we commonly run across. This person, let’s call him Joe, has been unemployed for the last four months, which works for us because he can start right away. The fly in the ointment is that he lives in Oakville. He maintains that he’s okay with the commute but I have my doubts as I figure that’s at least an hour to an hour and a half each way. What do you think?

Answer: There are a couple of factors at play here for both you and Joe. If Joe’s been unemployed for four months, that’s actually not a lot of time to be on the market at this level. I’m a little surprised that he’s willing to contemplate a three hour round trip commute at this stage of his job search. I’ll assume he’s a marketable candidate since you seem to be pretty keen on him which means that sooner or later he’s probably going to pop up on some head-hunter’s radar at some point down the road. Even if he’s not looking for a new job two or three years from now, after that much time making that long of a commute, I suspect Joe’s going to find any good CFO opportunity that’s much closer to home very compelling no matter how much he enjoys working for you.

The other factor has to do with how you’ve conducted your search. While networking is easier and cheaper than engaging a head-hunter (me, of course), and conducting a proper search, this approach almost never results in a good selection of qualified candidates. More often than not, it results in one (if you’re lucky) decent candidate and if that candidate isn’t perfect for one reason or another (such as geography in this case), you’re stuck with having to roll the dice a bit when you hire them.

I maintain that the CFO position in any company and especially an owner-managed company is far too important to roll the dice. You’re going to pay for a thorough search, but if you hire a good recruiter, you’ll have the luxury of choosing the optimal fit from a field of very good, qualified candidates.

If you think you may be in the market for top financial talent in the next few months, call me direct or email me, for a no obligation consultation.

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