It takes more than hard work to lead an organization. Join us when Kelly Smith, CFO, Replacements, Ltd. reveals his CFO mind-set and shares how clarity of purpose as a finance leader led him to focus on empowering others to better complete the tasks at hand. ¤
Made Possible By
BlackLine Does your finance department remain bogged down in the trenches using spreadsheets to accomplish complex accounting and finance tasks? It’s time to reinvest your people’s time in high-value activities and enter the age of modern finance. Learn more. Visit www.Blackline.com
Driving Change: The Ah-Hah! Moment
SMITH: When I came to Replacements, we were in a very rapidly growing phase of the organization and as I also mentioned earlier, I think my mindset as I came into this new CFO role was that I wanted to be a strategic partner and a real visionary for the organization. But as I came into this role, I began to take on more and more responsibilities and one of those was I became responsible for the IT organization and a major systems redevelopment effort that was going on. I began to have to do more and more. I found myself a couple of years into my tenure year working 70, 80, 90 hours a week trying to do more and more. I remember sitting in my office one day having this realization that if I was going to be a leader, I couldn’t continue doing everything and that I wanted to be a force multiplier in the organization and that meant that I had to stop doing so much and start enabling others to do more.
The following is unedited abstract* from the CFO Thought Leader podcast featuring Kelly Smith, CFO, Replacements Ltd. and Jack Sweeney, co-host of MME Thought Leader.
CFOTL: So, can you share a story of a time in your finance career when you had an ah-hah moment, a moment of strategic insight that led you to drive change within the organization or pointed a new direction perhaps?
SMITH: Sure. I think as I mentioned earlier when I came to Replacements, we were in a very rapidly growing phase of the organization and as I also mentioned earlier, I think my mindset as I came into this new CFO role was that I wanted to be a strategic partner and a real visionary for the organization. But as I came into this role, I began to take on more and more responsibilities and one of those was I became responsible for the IT organization and a major systems redevelopment effort that was going on. I began to have to do more and more. I found myself a couple of years into my tenure year working 70, 80, 90 hours a week trying to do more and more. I remember sitting in my office one day having this realization that if I was going to be a leader, I couldn't continue doing everything and that I wanted to be a force multiplier in the organization and that meant that I had to stop doing so much and start enabling others to do more.
So I remember having a strategic conversation with myself that I had to start backing down how much I work and trust me, I still work 50 and 60 hours a week but I begin to think more about what my role was as a leader and less as a doer and really trying to enable others to do more rather than continue to focus on doing so much myself. That really was a transition point for me from being a middle manager to being an organizational leader.
CFOTL: Any specific steps you took? It wasn't just a matter of looking at the clock. Were there any specific steps you can share with us that you took to correct that, to step into more of that leadership role and less of the doer?
SMITH: Well, I think I began to work more with my staff. I had a personal realization that I needed to enable them more and that the personal effort that I was going to expand was not going to be enough to get everything done. I began to have more face-to-face time with them and work with them to enable them to do more, and having that conversation with them that they could continue to just do more than sales. It certainly wasn't like there was a switch flipped and everything changed. It was a multi-year process for me and for my staff. Some staff changes were necessary as well because the right staff weren't in place for me to make that happen. But overtime, we began a shift in my organization to begin a force multiplier effect is I guess the best way I can say that.
CFOTL: When you look at your team then, were there certain key roles that you have added or enhanced to achieve what you wanted to achieve?
SMITH: Yes, I think so. I think at the time, we didn't have the right leadership in our finance department. I think it has taken a couple of turns over to get the right leadership in our finance department. Part of that was, again, having doers instead of more leadership oriented folks as well as finding the right folks who could not only do just finance but do finance and operational leadership as well, which is something that's required on our small company. We need folks who can do more than just one thing. So the other departments that I'm responsible for as well, we were able to isolate some key folks and promote them which was helpful. The person who was working with me on the IT project is now our CIO for example.
CFOTL: He is getting a finance education.
SMITH: Right, and I got a technical education from him and I think in the long run it's been a very profitable process because now IT and finance are great partners because we have great leadership that we have worked together for almost 20 years.
CFOTL: We're interested in hearing about whether you've been mentored and whether you had a mentor or mentors along the way?
SMITH: Well yes, I mentioned early on, when I left public accounting, I went to a company that sold socks and hosiery and I can tell you that socks and hosiery has never been a passion of mine, but I went there because a mentor of mine from the public accounting firm had gone there and recruited me to go there. He was a great guy and a great leader and a great finance person and I wanted to continue to learn from him and I wanted to hitch my star to his star so I did that and I continued to learn from him for another five years. I worked with him for almost 10 years over the course of the first 10 years of my career, so I'll say that in terms of a mentor that I've had. I would also say that when I was in college, I had an internship and one of the first things I did when I came here was institute an internship program and we've had a number of interns here over the course of my career and I've got two that are coming in over the summer.
It's something that I just strongly believe in that part of my job is to give back to people whether they are my direct reports or younger professionals because that's something that's just really important to me that if I can give back to folks that people gave to me and it's just really important to give back to folks as well.
*Note: This unedited abstract may contain electronic transmission errors, resulting in inaccurate or nonsensical word combinations, or untranslated symbols which cannot be deciphered by our transcription process. This abstract may differ from an edited transcript of the same interview in content, page and line numbers, punctuation and formatting.