Season Four of The CFO Incubator was launched by David Marr, the CFO for The Woolworths Group.
David described to the attendees his ”relatively non-standard path to CFO” which commenced in the Big 4 and progressed into roles with Goodman Fielder, Southcorp Limited and Australian Pharmaceutical Industries, in Australia and Tesco PLC in the UK.
Using his career as a reference point, David explained how finance professionals should seek to develop themselves professionally by being open to opportunities and taking risks to expand their career experience and become a more rounded professional. For David, these opportunities took the form of non-traditional roles outside of the Finance function and overseas.
David describes himself as being “old school” and believes in doing what you say you’re going to do; treating others as you would like to be treated; doing the basics well; being proud of what you present and making sure you give it your “best crack”. There is no magic formula. He believes that you get into a job and work hard, understanding that “performance is your best asset” and if you do that, then opportunities will present themselves.
He explained to the group that when you become a CFO, it’s not possible to skill yourself up in all core areas of finance and that if you haven’t being exposed to certain functions you need to make sure you have the right team around you in those areas. Having the right level of expertise for the right role and finding the best talent, as well as the right cultural fit is crucial when hiring. One of the toughest lessons David has learnt has been not making changes fast enough when “you know in your heart” they are not the right person for your team.
He advised that you can structure your role as CFO to be across everything but there is only so much you can cover, so make sure you have the right team. It’s easy to get lost in the detail and there is only so much stress you can take. You need to prioritise your workload and what you “dive deep into”.
David is a huge advocate of having mentors and although his have always been “informal” he encourages mentoring and looks at this for his high potential people internally.
In summary, David’s 3 key pieces of advice to anyone aspiring to become a CFO are:
- Do the basics well – do what you say you are going to do and make sure it’s your best effort.
- Don’t be too “prescriptive” and feel like there is only one way for your career path – back yourself if you get tapped on the shoulder, be open to have the chat and take a risk.
- Get the right team around you – ensure you have the right level of expertise in each role and act on it early if you don’t.
We are grateful to David for sharing his candid perspectives and career advice to our CFOI participants.
If you would like to find out more about our CFO Incubator program, please visit our CFO Incubator page.