How I Landed My First CFO Gig at 27

Technical skills are just a starting point.

After graduating college and earning my CPA, I spent two and a half years in public accounting. In this time I worked at three different firms, only to realize that I did not enjoy public accounting. Seeing as I had no real marketable skills and my employment track record was questionable at best, I needed to figure out something fast.

At the time my CPA buddies and I often joked about being a chief financial officer. After all, weren’t we smarter than the CFOs we met when doing audits for business clients? Determined to prove that theory, I started applying for CFO jobs. To my surprise, I received a call back from one of my applications. It was from a business owner whose company was in a bind. His entire management team had left, and he needed someone to attempt to pull his company back together.

We talked over the phone for a bit and then he asked me and my wife to join him and his wife for dinner. We met for dinner as planned, and, by the time it was over, I had the job. He never quizzed me on any aspects of my technical knowledge. He didn’t ask why I had had three jobs in two and a half years after graduating college. The fact that it took me six and a half years to obtain my bachlror’s degree was never mentioned. My evaluation was based merely on personal chemistry and my interpersonal skills.

Similar to entrepreneurship, being a CFO takes a unique set of skills. Technical skills are a starting point. However, using those skills to add value and deliver messages in the proper manner to a wide variety of end users is another matter. Now, after 14 years of being in the CFO staffing and services business, I realize that most financial professionals do not have the skills necessary to be a CFO. Those skills include: strategic planning, forecasting, financing, risk management, and more.

For those looking to make the transition to CFO, join me on May 16 for the first session of the Michigan Association of CPAs sponsored CFO Mastermind Series. In “Making the Transition to CFO,” you will learn the skills necessary for CPAs and controllers to become effective CFOs. This session is designed to help accountants let go of the details, focus on the big picture, and become visionaries for their organizations. It is also a great program for CPAs looking to add CFO services as part of their offering. I will share insights learned from my first CFO position to help those looking to become CFOs. For more information and to register, visit