7 Habits of Highly Effective Chief Financial Officers

man typing on computer with his workbook open. Pen is in his left hand whilst typing

Colin Mills – Founder & CEO, The FD Centre Limited (

So, to be a highly effective CFO in your business, you have to be up to date on all the latest accounting standards, be really up to speed on the latest developments in tax legislation and spend long hours in your office reviewing reconciliations and signing off VAT returns. That’s right, isn’t it?


Our experience over ten years suggests that highly effective CFOs need a rather different set of skills to be effective and “make a difference” in the businesses they work for. With over 100 FDs providing CFO services to a number of SME’s each on a part-time basis, we understand what it takes to be a great CFO!

Here are the top 7 Habits for effective CFOs:-

1. Competence
2. “Bean Growers” not “Bean Counters”
3. Build a team outside the business as well as in it
4. Manage up as well as down
5. Communication is everything
6. Passionate
7. Sharpening the Saw


There’s no getting away from it that an Accounting qualification and experience gained being a real-life CFO counts for a lot. CFOs will be judged initially on how well they keep the score, solve financial problems in the business, and direct management attention to the things that matter financially. Although it starts here, this is not where it stops! Other key habits are:-

Bean Growing, not Bean Counting

Highly effective CFOs should come with Business, Commercial and Strategic skills that are super strong. Super financial skills are merely a prerequisite.

Team Orientation

Teamwork is key for the modern-day CFO. As well as the ability to build their own team, highly effective CFOs must be able to work effectively with the management team of the business and develop relationships outside the business to provide a strong network of support professionals.

People Skills

“Soft skills” are the hard skills these days. Managing down, across, and most importantly up to MDs and business owners is key. Being a great CFO and doing the CFO “stuff” is not sufficient in adding real value to the business. People need to be brought with you.


The way you communicate and get your point across is critical to making a difference. Influence and persuasion skills are massively important to be highly effective.


Yes “passionate”. High energy levels and having some fun is an important factor in effectiveness. What CFOs do is a serious business, but it doesn’t have to be dour, and nobody likes a bore!

Sharpening the Saw

Keeping fresh and finding time to keep up to date is vital in this fast-moving world. This relates to all the effectiveness habits, not just technical skills!

CFOs who want to make a difference in their businesses should work on these habits to become highly effective. Those that can master all these skills will find themselves in very high demand!

Hire a superstar part-time CFO

To help you increase cash, profit and valuation and free you up from the burden of day-to-day operations.