Archive | How To Hire a CFO

CFO Recruiters: Creating Value on Both Sides of the Search Process

Interesting conversation yesterday with a top-tier public company CFO. He was musing about the search process and about how UN-informed so many CFO recruiters are when they call with supposed opportunities. Recently he was called about a supposed “confidential” search for a public company. The CFO from this “confidential company” had already announced their departure and the company had already made the necessary public filings. After asking some questions about the opportunity, this CFO quickly figured out who the company was and wondered why the recruiter was being so coy?

Certainly there are times when we CFO recruiters conduct confidential searches and the company name needs to be held in check. However, the recruiter reaching out to this CFO was not helping his cause, or his client’s.Our conversation led to his revelation about the value that different CFO recruiters bring to the search process.

 All things Not Being Equal

The CFO told me what differentiates me from other CFO recruiters when I’ve called him for CFO opportunities in the past is how thoroughly I understand and explain the client’s situation: from details about the CEO and the organization’s capital structure, to market opportunity and the challenges they face. He said few CFO recruitment calls are as informative as the ones he receives from me.

Creating Value on Both Sides of the Equation

It’s executive recruiters’ job to present to a CFO a detailed description of the opportunity in a convincing and truthful manner. If we can’t entice the CFO to the table to meet the CEO, we have failed in our duty; however, it’s not our job to oversell the situation. It’s equally imperative that CFO recruiters present the backgrounds of our CFO candidates to our clients in a similarly thoughtful, thorough manner. This is what I mean by creating value on both sides of the search process.

The importance of this balance to a successful CFO placement is why Arnold Partners doesn’t rely on outside research or junior staff for any part of our search process. We are boutique in our very nature—personally attending to every detail of the search process until it’s complete. The call to a CFO about a client opportunity is probably the most important one; I can’t imagine outsourcing that process. CFOs by their nature are skeptical and analytic and don’t want to be sold. In order to get their attention, we have to present a deep understanding as to why THIS particular client opportunity is tailor-made for them.

The Art of CFO Recruitment

What is not too surprising, we receive many “not interested” responses from CFOs even after this thoughtful process. Generally speaking, most sitting CFOs are not looking for new opportunities. However, birds of a feather stick together, and many CFOs who were not initially interested either come back a few days later for a “tell me a little more phone call.” Or more frequently, they are quick to make a referral. This is the art of recruiting that can’t be carried out by an outsourced or junior person. This intimate knowledge of the client, presented on point to a specifically targeted audience, is how Arnold Partners continue to create value for both our clients and our CFOs.

When you’re ready to hire your next CFO, please contact me at or call 408-205-7373.


On Measuring Value Created by Placed CFOs

My good friend and colleague Nilofer Merchant ( is a strategy consultant, prominent speaker and Ted Talk presenter. She coined the idea of a “walk and talk meeting” which we had last week. During our walk and talk she asked me an intriguing question: how much value has been created in the companies where I placed CFOs? I was a bit taken aback as I had no idea. So back to my office I went and with a little research, I figured that the value created is a staggering $10–$12 Billion in the last eight years. Now that seems like an accomplishment to hang my hat on!

The companies that have gone public have a combined market cap of over $8B.There have been a bunch of M&A transactions that resulted in at least another $2–$4B. Of course, the CFO cannot take full credit for all of this value creation, but certainly it speaks to having placed capable CFOs into winning companies. This is just one angle to consider, but I think it will be a useful metric to track as we move forward.

Another measure of success: creating enterprise value

Many CFOs I speak with talk about creating enterprise value through a number of methods, and revenue growth cures a lot of ills. This is timely because more and more of the CFOs I speak with are out in the field selling their companies goods and services. Just last week I met with a CFO who was headed to Wall Street to meet with a number of CIOs and CFOs of leading investment banks about using their SaaS platform—really a peer to peer sale. This is a good example of the CFO on the front lines of selling.

In another case, one of my placed CFOs said she spends a great deal of her time on negotiating customer contracts. These contracts are multi-level, multi-year service agreements with large corporate and government agencies. She says after the initial sales process is done, it is actually her job to negotiate the final pricing, terms and conditions of the agreements. Certainly this is another example of the CFO driving direct enterprise value.

Other measures of CFO success

What other ways could we measure the success of a CFO? I think the longevity of employment is important. Another positive stat for my work is that at least six CFOs I have placed survived CEO transitions; this serves as a good testament as well.

While we are proud of creating real dollar increased value, we are equally proud of our long-term relationships with all of our investor, CEO and CFO partners that we have been building from day one. The core value we offer our partners is the ability to tap into an ever-growing pool of talent and resources, and find winning CFOs to help build enterprise value.

If you are interested in exploring the issue of value creation further, or if you are ready to find your next CFO and build value for your organization, email me at


Arnold Partners CFO Placements Help Push Silicon Valley IPOs to 55 since Q1

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal (10/30/15), Silicon Valley has had 55 companies IPO since Q1 2014. Arnold Partners placed 10% of the CFOs in those companies, creating over $7B in market capitalization. While only half of the 55 companies are trading above their IPO price, all but one of the Arnold Partner client companies are above their IPO price, with two being significantly above. We are helping to form lasting value creation with the top technology and life-science companies in the Valley and throughout the country.

If you are seeking a CFO in this market, Arnold Partners is ready to help you attract a world-class leader to help drive value no matter your capital strategy or location in the U.S.

The really remarkable thing is that only 55 Valley-based companies went public in the last 21 months. If you take out the biotech blast, that cuts the number to 31.

The Value of the Right CFO—for Every Financing Event

Our observations over the course of the last few years is that finding a CFO who can help chart the course of his or her company in a collaborative way with the CEO and Board is the most valuable addition a growing company and can make a huge impact—no matter the course the company takes. IPOs are rare and may be really important steps in growing a company. But as seen in this most recent data, a CFO who can help the CEO manage the Street post-IPO is even more important. The only way to do this is by having a highly predictable business model where expectations can be managed, met and exceeded. Most emerging tech companies are highly unpredictable! The best CFOs are able to put all the business metrics in place well before any IPO talk, so that the transition to life as a newborn public company is a smooth one.

Many of the CEOs we meet with are thinking that an IPO is the next big event in their company’s trajectory. Most of those companies do not go public. That said, having a stalwart CFO in place in a growing private company is a smart investment. The best CFOs are also instrumental in positioning their companies for every conceivable financing event: M&A, growth capital, strategic partnerships, debt financing, etc.

Trouble Ahead in the IPO Market? I Think Not.

The gist of the SVBJ article was that the slowing of the IPO market and the fact that only half of the companies that went public are above their opening day price is a signal for trouble ahead. I disagree. The majority of companies we have been meeting, all over the country, have growing top-line revenue and positive outlooks for the coming year. Focus on growth and getting predictable about that growth and good things will follow.

Arnold Partners CFO Placements: 100 % Success Rate

With 100% placement success rate, we are proud of all of our CFO placements, and happy to have a spot on the roster of recent technology IPOs. More important is our measure of lasting results. The CFOs we have placed over the last 10 years have an incredible tenure in the companies they have joined. So if you are looking for a great technology or life-science CFO, no matter your stage, industry, or location, we are ready to help. Shoot me an email at or call 408-205-7373.


A Great CFO Hire on Paper vs. a Great CFO Hire: A Tale of Two Clients

I had a client last year that kept falling in love with candidates he could not attract to his company. There was nothing wrong with his company; in fact, I think it will prove to be very successful. However, it was earlier stage than some CFOs want to get involved with. The CEO is a compelling, passionate, smart guy and frankly I think he could sell anything to anyone. But CFOs are a different breed. They do not like to be sold. They think more like engineers—the numbers drive their decision making.


Meet Mr. Amazing: A Great CFO Hire?

This client was easy to work with—he was communicative, open, and we really got some great talent to the finish line. But it was just not closing. There were some internal delays. The candidate who was considered perfect wasn’t so perfect after a long health delay. So along comes a CFO that the CEO considered the “most amazing candidate of all time!” This candidate looked great on paper and was coming off of a big win in the industry. He was known to the Board and it was thought he would bring an air of success, credibility and celebrity to the company. Now you can guess, my client was ready to hire; there was some fatigue on his part. And hire he did against some objections from me, but mine was a lone voice in the crowd. He hired this most amazing candidate start to finish in about a week.

Four months have passed and the most amazing candidate of all time has quit. The IPO has been delayed. The commute was too far. When the going got tough, the one with all the credentials on paper got going—right out the door. The CEO and the Board’s judgment became clouded when they got caught up in a moment of euphoria, and they rushed the process at the end. The right hire is in the wings and there will be no replacement search necessary, but now the client has a different type of credibility gap to fill.

Mr. Carve-out Wasn’t Carved Out for the Job

A recent client was a very different tale. He was extremely decisive and thought he knew what he wanted before he engaged us. He had one CFO candidate identified that we carved out of the standard fee. My client met with a total of three candidates in our process and decided Mr. Carve-out was right. We made him a fair and market offer but he said no. Mr. Carve-out was also was coming off a big win and I believe he is really looking to be a CEO not a CFO. This was not the right hire and I was relieved that he turned us down. It could have been a repeat of the client story above. Had the “most amazing candidate of all time” resigned prior to our making the offer to Mr. Carve-out, I would have been even more strongly against that hire.

Enter Ms. Moneyball

Ms. Moneyball is what the Board member who introduced me to the search called her. She is hungry and has all the skills and stats, but is not a proven commodity. Like Matt Duffy vs. Pablo Sandoval. (Look how that is turning out!) The offer we made to her was the same as to Mr. Carve-out, so the Moneyball analogy does not completely fit. I would not have my client hire a woman for the job for less than what he was going to pay a man. The key point is that she is the right hire for their stage and will actually do the work that “the most amazing” and “Mr. Carve-out” would probably want to hire staff to do. She is an “A” player in terms of the skills and experience we were looking for; she just did not have the CFO title. If and when the times get tough, she will fight through them. She is smart and driven and will work very hard to ensure the company success. This search was completed in 40 days start to finish.

Lessons Learned

Don’t be fooled by a big reputation. Skills, smarts and potential are more important and a rigorous process should not be rushed. Clients take note: I will be more forceful in my advising in these situations in the future. If you would like to share your own stories or to discuss hiring strategies, please contact me, Dave Arnold, at:


CFO Recruiting in The Cloud? Works like a Dream.

techThe realization I had last fall about the typical executive search process being outmoded was a real thunderhead because it struck me like a bolt of lightning. Working in the vacuum of weekly Excel spreadsheet updates for clients felt so 90s! One client challenged me to find a better way to convey information about candidates and the search pipeline. As luck would have it, I received an email solicitation from a Cloud-based SaaS company offering a new recruiting technology specifically tailored for the executive search industry, and within a week I was signed up. Not just a handy tool to make the search process run more smoothly, this tool has completely transformed how we at Arnold Partners deliver our services to our clients.

Given that all of our clients are in the technology industry, it made sense for Arnold Partners to adopt an advanced, technology-centric approach to our recruiting process. By using the services from Clockwork Recruiting, our entire process is managed in the Cloud ─ from pre-search to closing. The system enables complete transparency for our clients so they can see the efforts going into the pipeline and next steps with candidates in process. In addition, the reporting capabilities are swift and to the point.

By leveraging the Clockwork research services we are also able to jumpstart our searches by populating the project with potential candidates, right from the get go.  We then combine this research with our existing database of established relationships in the CFO community. (Note, we do not have anyone contacting potential candidates other than myself, which is a central tenant of our pledge to clients.) This one-two punch has led to even faster delivery of qualified candidates for our clients.

Shared CFO search online workplace gives 24/7 access to all information

The Clockwork system allows for all information about the search and specific candidates to be housed in a location which is both secure and accessible from any computing device 24/7.  This makes for a great user-interface. Also, if a candidate is coming in for an interview, clients do not have to scramble to find an email with our assessment notes and resume ─ it is all in one secure spot. As we populate the records with more and more data, a very clear picture emerges, enabling us to presenting information to a search committee or Board of Directors in a clean, professional, customized manner.

This post may sound like an ad for Clockwork, but that is not my intention. Using this platform levels the playing field and makes Arnold Partners an even stronger competitor to larger executive search firms.  As my advisor Howard Bain pointed out to me at our last meeting, he was very frustrated with a large search firm he was working with on a CEO search. He said the biggest frustration was lack of visibility to the search progress. That will never be a concern with Arnold Partners ─ we are all about delivering our services in a transparent and easy-to-use manner.  As we kick off another busy year, we are moving forward confidently with this improved process to help our clients succeed in finding outstanding CFOs and Audit Chairs.

Take a look at the future of executive recruiting

Link to see what the new shared online workspace looks like. Or contact me at dave@arnoldpartners or 408-205-7373.


Reinventing Your Brand For CFOs

reinventI had breakfast with a fellow sole proprietor professional service provider yesterday. He was down in the dumps because his specialty (M&A Advisory) in a certain industry sector is out of favor in today’s economy. For a half an hour he mused on what used to be and how he used to provide great management advice to this sector. Finally I had enough and stopped him. Loathing and self-pity is really a waste of time. It struck me like lightning what this guy needed to do: he needed to reinvent his brand.

Just as I recently posited in a brief post on LinkedIn about how large recruiting firms are spinning the new hot industry sectors, this is what he needed to do. Case in point: In the early 2000s when the Clean Tech industry came into favor, a team of recruiters at a large retained search firm working in the Semiconductor industry re-branded themselves to take advantage of this market shift. Overnight these same recruiters became the industry leaders for the C-suite in Clean Tech. Guess what ─ these same recruiters are now repositioning themselves once again as the industry leaders in the “Internet of Things”and “Industrial Internet.” Why? Clean Tech is dead and Semiconductors have not returned. These recruiters are doing this with purpose and they are arming themselves with knowledge in these new industries, so I am not criticizing this strategy, I am applauding their moves. The white papers, thought forums and seminars they are creating are helping to build this fledgling industry. This idea of rebranding brings up two thoughts relative to my own retained search clients and CFO candidates.

Arnold Partners: Building on Strengths to Expand Services

The Arnold Partners philosophy has and continues to be a focus on the role of the CFO. We continue to find top talent in a wide variety of industries. In the last six months we have found CFOs for the following industries: SaaS, Enterprise Software, Connected Home Technology, Specialty Chemical, Biotechnology, Medical Device and Gaming. That is about as wide a mix as I can imagine. What is common to these searches is that they all needed strategic CFOs with different skill sets that were right for a certain stage of company. But here is the spin: In speaking with the investors of these companies, I mentioned that I was expanding my brand to include Audit Chair Search. Without missing a beat, EVERY investor told me this was an excellent idea and that they would be happy to work with me when the time came to look for an independent Audit Chairperson for their Board of Directors. We just completed an Audit Chair search for a hot pre-IPO SaaS company and we are now engaged on the Connected Home Technology client. So this spin is not a wholesale change of who Arnold Partners is. It is an iteration and a leveraging of our many years of hard work in building relationships in the CFO community.

CFO Candidates: Take Stock with a Personal Inventory

As a CFO you have the most malleable skill set in the C-suite. If you are a marketing professional or an engineer it is more difficult to change industries. But as a CFO (or aspiring CFO) you have an opportunity to take your core skills and apply them to a wide variety of industries. However, in terms of branding yourself and managing your own personal brand, I highly recommend that you take a personal inventory. What have you added to your skills and experience in the last year? What have you seen in your industry sector that is positive in terms of growth? Are you in a dying industry? What steps do you need to take to get into a hotter sector? All of us professionals need to manage our own brand and we owe it to ourselves and our constituencies to take inventory, perform a gap analysis and do something about it.

My Colleague: Got the Kick in the Butt He Needed

So my breakfast buddy reached out to me later in the day. He said I motivated him to get in gear and he was voraciously reading material about a new industry sector into which he feels he can parley his deep M&A advisory experience. He started to do research into the industry leaders and found one of his old mentors in a key leadership position. Talk about epiphany. What are you doing to manage your brand? Is it time to reinvent or at least iterate?

If you need a CFO or an Audit Chairperson, or have your own story about rebranding yourself, let’s talk. Contact me at or call 408-205-7373.