Guiding and Growing CFO Talent

October 5, 2022 Lydia Adams

cfo working with VP on talent development plan

Accounting, finance, strategy, and operations; modern CFOs should master all these business elements. It's a lot of responsibility, and it might be overwhelming for a lot of people. But fear not! Jack McCullough, who has a lot of experience in the CFO role, is here to help you with all of it, and as a bonus, you'll learn more about talent development.

Jack is the Founder and President of the CFO Leadership Council, a professional association dedicated to CFOs. He is also a keynote speaker, contributor to Forbes.Com, and author of the Secrets of Rockstar CFOs, and The Psychopathic CEO: An Executive Survival Guide book.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy and ultimately get results, with your host Megan Weis let's jump right in.

Megan: Today my guest is Jack McCullough with the vision of providing world-class professional development programs and networking events for chief financial officers. Jack founded the CFO Leadership Council in 2006. Under his leadership, the organization achieved national recognition. Formerly Jack was the director of KPMG's global innovation center, where he worked with early-stage investors, entrepreneurs, CFOs, and other members of the venture community.

Prior to KPMG, he served as a CFO for 26 startups, raising more than $200 million in capital. In addition, Jack is the visionary behind the MIT Sloan CFO Summit, which has been recognized as the world's most influential conference for financial leaders. As a former chief financial officer, entrepreneur, and recognized expert on financial matters, Jack can empathize with challenges that corporate leaders face in growing today's businesses. In addition to developing a venture capital course for Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan MBA candidates, he has been interviewed by Bloomberg, CNN, Fox Business Network, and quoted by The Wall Street Journal, CFO Magazine, Treasury and Risk Management, The Boston Business Journal, and Business Finance Magazine.

Jack holds an undergraduate degree from Suffolk University and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. He was a great Dome Award recipient from MIT in 2018.

Jack, thank you so much for joining us on today's episode.

Jack McCullough: Oh, thanks, Megan. I'm really excited by the opportunity and been looking forward to talking to you for a while.

Megan: A former chief financial officer, entrepreneur, and recognized expert on financial matters. You are currently the founder and president of the CFO Leadership Council and a two-time author. Today we're going to hear about your experience, your organization, and your books, and like you I've been looking forward to this conversation for quite some time. Let's get started.

Jack: Sounds great.

Megan: First, like always let's start with you and your story as to how you got to where you are today.

Jack: Okay. Sure and I could go back to the early part of my career, but that's a long, long time ago. Like a lot of people in my path, I did graduate college in the 1980s. I worked in one of the big public accounting firms, Peat, Marwick & Mitchell, which today is known as KPMG. Then I had a path accounting manager controller and a CFO. About 16 years ago, I was a CFO and I was with a small company and just wanted to establish a peer network of other CFOs, which is why I started the CFO Leadership Council.

It was a great move. When you're a CFO often you are the only CFO or financial executive in your company and it can get lonely quickly. Really just the idea of creating a peer network of local CFOs led me to start what's now known as the CFO Leadership Council. I had no vision that it would be my job 16 years later, but it is and I'm loving doing it.

Megan: 16 years ago. What technology did you use to start that up?

Jack: We did stone tablets, that's how far back then. No, not quite, but bluntly it was just a simple email list. I reached out. I knew a fair amount of local CFOs and I live in the Suburban Boston area, which you perhaps know that it's a big tech area. It's not quite at the Silicon Valley level, but maybe it's in the tier right underneath. There are a lot of software company CFOs in the area and candidly, there was no real technology. I just got in touch with everybody over a good old-fashioned email. My first website was called Website Tonight with GoDaddy. I'm not sure if the product still exists, but the idea was somebody who wasn't very technically astute, could launch a decent-looking website within a few hours.

Megan: As you look back throughout your career, are there stories or career moves that stand out in your mind as turning points?

Jack: Yes, it's hard to say that there was anyone or any two, but I think I've been really fortunate that I've always worked with good people and I've had a good relationship with them. When I look back at my first job out of public accounting, I work for a pre-IPO technology company and I just had a great boss. He was very much a mentor to me. He exposed me to a lot of things at a relatively young age and had a lot of faith in me and he and I are actually still friends to this day. That relationship was certainly a pivotal one in my growth from being an accountant to being a financial leader.

I think along the way getting an MBA was a big deal as well because it's another one of those things that made me not just accounting and finance, but it gave me the whole spectrum and it made me solve problems very differently. Maybe those two things were significant in my development, but as I said, I've just been really fortunate to have worked with some great people over a long career.

Megan: It's always helpful and thanks for your comment about an MBA. It's a lot of money these days and it's difficult to know if that's going to have a payoff. Your answer was interesting.

Jack: Yes, it's a lot of money not only the tuition which I haven't looked at in a while but, in my case, it's two years out of the workforce. You need to plan if you're a middle-class kid, which I was. You need to plan and save and do those things so that you can survive two years with minimal income and not everybody can do it. Luckily there's a ladder with executive MBAs and with technology, you can get MBAs from the comfort of your own home and not have to give up your entire career path for a couple of years.

Megan: Let's talk about your current organization, CFO Leadership Council. What is it exactly that you guys do?

Jack: Sure. We're a professional association for CFOs and also we are open to people who are on the path to becoming a CFO. Physicians like VP, a finance controller and others that seem like they might become good CFOs in a couple of years. Those are our members and we are probably, more than anything I think we're about a community. We do have world-class programs. We have about 250 live events per year and in addition, we have about 25 webinars and a two-day conference, and a lot of stuff.

There's enough a lot of things going on, but by and large, what we are as a community the people who are members of the CFO Leadership Council, they get to know each other, they help each other solve problems and that's really what it's all about.

Megan: You said you started this up as an email list. When did it become apparent to you that this could be a full-time job or a full-time effort?

Jack: Yes, it's interesting Megan, because I was a little bit slow to figure that out, but what happened it became successful in Boston. Then one of our members moved to New York and she reached out to me and asked if I'd consider starting a chapter in New York and I promptly said, no. I said, "If you want to start one I can let you know what I learned, but I just don't really have an interest in doing it." She was a little bit persistent and eventually, we started a program in a chapter in New York and then did the same thing in Philadelphia. It was the exact same scenario where a member relocated to Philadelphia and he asked to start a chapter.

Then we decided to open one up in Washington and Atlanta. All of a sudden I'm a CFO who also has a small business along the East Coast and decided to see if we could grow this thing and make it national. I'm glad I did, but a lot of people apparently smarter than me encouraged me for a couple of years before I finally figured out that they were right and I was wrong.

Megan: Today it's not only national it's in multiple countries, correct?

Jack: Yes, actually we have at least one member in every continent except Antarctica. I'm such a weirdly competitive person. I actually went on LinkedIn to see if there were any CFOs in Antarctica. Oddly enough there aren't. The closest I got there's a couple in Siberia. If I found one in Antarctica, I would've offered them a free membership, just I could boast that we're on every continent.

Megan: That's funny. What are your proudest achievements since founding the CFO Leadership Council?

Jack: Can I give a couple?

Megan: Yes.

Jack: Sure. There's one that I'd say is ongoing and it probably repeats 8 or 10 times a year, but I really love hearing it. It's when a member tells me that he or she got their first CFO job largely because of being a member of the CFO Leadership Council. It might have been something they learned, a skill that they developed, more often than it's not, it's a connection that they made or a job that our members shared. I just love that. When I hear about how a controller can learn and build a network and get a CFO job out of schedule. I like when that happens.

I guess the other one is back at the beginning of COVID. You perhaps are familiar with the PPP Loan Program. I don't want to criticize the government because they were trying to get the money out quickly while they were basically writing the law the cliché of building a plane and flying it at the same time applied here. There was an awful lot of confusion about it. We have this tool, we call it CFO connect where the members can reach out to each other and share knowledge and ask questions and that type of stuff. At the beginning of PPP, this felt like life and death for a lot of companies. The members were just-- it was phenomenal. They were helping each other because no one really knew anything. Even their attorneys couldn't do it. Just the sheer volume of people helping each other. Even like the first couple who got PPP funds, which initially was taking two or three weeks some of them called me up and said, "Hey, I got my money. Can I do a webinar for your community, and I can tell them what I've learned the last three weeks and see if it helps somebody?" That's powerful. That's a real community because you got to wonder what's the rational reason for doing that. What's in it for them other than to be nice and to help out their fellow members? They didn't ask for any money for it or anything like that. I was just really proud that our members had each other's backs that way. I thought it was a great thing.

Megan: That is a great example of how important networks can be. As you look back on your own career how has having a community helped you?

Jack: It's been critical for me. Again, I guess going back to the founding of this, I was relatively new in the CFO job I was at. It's a little bit difficult to come to your boss and say, "I don't really understand this." That doesn't seem like a good way to keep your job for very longer go to the board of directors or something like that.

I think just having a trusted peer network where you can bounce ideas and solve problems together, I think is so powerful. Now, of course, if you work for a very large company there might be divisional CFOs, but I always worked for Venture Back Tech Companies. I was really the only CFO or financial leader within the company. Having that network to bounce ideas and get wisdom was just absolutely fantastic.

Megan: As someone who now has extensive experience, not only as a CFO but also as a guide to other CFOs, what do you wish you would've known earlier in your career?

Jack: I think I would like to have approached the job with more of a strategic mindset and would've taken more of a cross-functional approach to the business. Because I think early I looked at a company only through the finance and accounting lens. I wish I'd put on the strategic hat a little bit earlier in my career.

I will say that the CFOs of today are a lot more strategic than they were 10, or 20 years ago. I've even said that-- my first CFO job was in the late 90s'. I think if the pandemic hit around then, most of the CFOs wouldn't have been really as useful in helping their company survive because the focus was backward-looking rather than forward-looking. Today they're strategic thinkers, they're problem solvers, and they understand the whole business. Other than maybe the president and one or two other people, they were the critical reason that a lot of companies survived.

Megan: That's interesting. I was going to ask you, how you've seen the role of a CFO evolve in the last decade. Maybe you answered it, maybe you have a bit more to share.

Jack: It's definitely. I suppose finance and accounting expertise will always be a critical part of the CFO role, but it's not enough to do the CFO job. If you're a really good finance and accounting person, you'll plateau at the controller level or maybe VP of accounting or something like that, no knock on that at all. They're important jobs and by the way, they pay really well. If you want to be a CFO, you do need to think of it as cross-functional. You do need to solve problems. Some of the best advice I got was a CFO named Judy Romano. She once told me she doesn't think of herself as a financial executive. She thinks of herself as a cross-functional executive who happens to be a financial expert.

I know the distinction's subtle, but it's a great way to think of your role as a CFO that, you have this financial expertise, you're probably the only one on the leadership team who does, but don't limit yourself that way, get out and understand the entire business. Back in the day, CFOs were largely accountants. Today there more CFOs hold MBAs than CPAs. That was unthinkable even 10 or 15 years ago.

Megan: I'm just curious, are you seeing CFOs come up through nontraditional routes, because I've seen engineers, I've had marketing, I've had people with marketing backgrounds on this show? It's interesting to me.

Jack: It used to be 90% of CFOs were public accounting controllers and maybe some other roles along the way, but it usually was finance, accounting, but you're right. I know engineers are really good CFOs. A lot of attorneys are CFOs these days that's happening more and more.

Even there's always been a small number of investment bankers who've gone and usually, they're brought in to take a company public, but I'm seeing more and more of that. It's no longer a one size fits all thing. If you have good leadership skills, a good financial and analytic mind, and whatnot, you can be a successful CFO. I compared a friend of mine, she's a really good CFO. Are you a football fan by chance, Megan?

Megan: I know a little bit about it.

Jack: Anyways, so she was worried about, can she go from a good CFO to a great CFO without an accounting background? I probably make too many sports analogies, but I said, "Look at Joe Montana. He did not have a big strong arm. What he had was great leadership skills, and the ability to perform well when the stakes were highest. He made smart decisions. He threw the ball accurately and he was innovative enough. He could scramble for the first down or just buy time for the team to get open." I think the analogy is similar. You don't have to have every one of those skills. You can be missing one or two, but Montana and a lot of people still think to this day that maybe he was the greatest quarterback ever, but his arm was very average by NFL standards. I told her she could be the Joe Montana of CFOs.

Megan: I like that.

Jack: Which she liked hearing. If you're a football fan, you couldn't care less, but as it turns out she was.

Megan: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing modern financial leaders today?

Jack: There's one that it's frustrating because it's really about the talent and we've been talking about a shortage of talent for 10 years. It actually got worse during the global pandemic. I think we ought to just set the expectation that there is going to be a shortage of talent probably forever, regardless of economic conditions and whatnot. It's not only the scarcity it's the battles of work from home versus returning to the office. For the first time in history, I think there are five generations in the workforce as generation Z begins to emerge and stake out its claim. A lot of baby boomers aren't retiring on schedule. Leadership and managing talent is a great challenge for CFOs.

Then the other one is economic volatility. Of all the things that CFOs really don't like, it's a lack of predictability. Their comfort zone is when they can predict they have good visibility into the sales pipeline, into the supply chain, into economic conditions, and everything else. We don't have that anymore. We don't have it in the short run, the medium run, or another one run. Eventually, we'll probably get that back, but it's very difficult to deal with that like inflation seems like it's real. I always joke when people say, "What can you tell us about dealing with inflation?" I always say, "Jesus, it's too bad. My parents aren't around. You could ask them because they dealt with it their entire life, but it's new to me too."

Megan: That's very interesting. On, LinkedIn, you recently asked CFOs if they think there's going to be a recession. What was the response to that question? Curious I guess.

Jack: Sure. The most common response was that people believe that there will be one in 2022 and the second most common, it happens to be my own opinion as well, is that we're actually already in one right now. Recessions by their nature, you don't know when they've started until after they've started. It's like two-quarters of shrinking economic growth, but there weren't many people who thought that there wasn't going to be a recession this year. There were a few and maybe they're right. The consensus of CFOs, which is super powerful was that they either were in one or we'll be in one shortly.

Megan: Why do you feel CFOs often have better insights into these types of things than economists?

Jack: I wouldn't say one CFO has better insights into the economy than one economist but it's a wisdom of crowds type of thing where if you get a diverse group of CFOs, and by diverse I mean different industries, different company sizes, different objectives, and if you get 100 of them and you ask them to give their assessment on economic conditions, they're going to get it right because they know their own companies better than anybody. Their cumulative knowledge is more powerful than any economist could really come up with. I just think they know the financial and economic aspects of their own businesses more than anyone on the planet. Collectively, there's just a lot of wisdom in there that we need to listen to.

Megan: Let's switch gears now and let's talk about your books. Let's start with Secrets of Rockstar CFOs. You've talked with more than 40 of the world's best CFOs for that book. What was the most prominent trait that you found that these CFOs shared?

Jack: It's actually a tie because there were two that every CFO mentioned to me. The first one, we've spoken about a little bit, which is strategic thinking. It might be a little bit overused but it's nevertheless, it's overused because it's true but the CFO is truly the strategic partner to the CEO. They're the sounding board. They're the ones that are going to challenge him or her when they're making decisions. The CFO is the person that the CEO goes to talk to. You know the expression of the emperor has no clothes? If that's the case, it's usually the CFO who's responsible for saying that. Strategic thinking is a big, big one.

The other one that, again, everyone mentioned was ethical leadership. I think, for the most part, CFOs, it's table stakes that they're ethical but they're not talking about simply doing their own jobs ethically but it's creating a culture where ethics are valued and important, and people live by an ethical code that they follow. CFOs, along with, probably, senior human resources people, they're expected to be the most honest and ethical people in the company. They set the example for the rest of us. I'd say those are the big two, Megan.

Megan: Just curious. Do you feel the CFO is more of a right-hand man to the CEO than even a COO?

Jack: I would say, yes. The relationship is a critical one. In fact, I don't know if you've noticed, but there are actually fewer and fewer COOs these days. At one point, every single company in the Fortune 500 had a COO. If they didn't it's because the person might have just retired or whatnot. CFOs have grown and taken on a lot of responsibilities that used to fall to the COO. There was a study, I think, three years ago, and it was by one of the big consulting firms. Forgive me, I forget which one offhand. It was Accenture, I think.

They actually studied executive dynamics and they concluded that the relationship between the CEO and the CFO is the most important. This doesn't mean that they have to be golfing buddies or their families need to hang out together on the weekends, or anything like that but just if they're on the same page, they trust each other, they get along well, they support each other. That's a critical thing. If you don't have that, which doesn't mean the CFO has to be a yes man or a yes woman, but if you don't have that where they're on the same page, supporting each other, it can get ugly in a hurry is what they concluded, more than any other relationship.

Megan: From your research, what would you say is the key to success as a CFO?

Jack: The key to success, I'd say, understanding the business. Do you know the expression, "Walking the floor."? Of course.

Megan: Yes, absolutely.

Jack: Sometimes I share that with young people, they have no idea what I'm talking about because what's manufacturing? It's really taking the time to understand the business beyond just the lens of being a financial person. In fact, did you ever see the movie, The Intern, with Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro?

Megan: I did, yes.

Jack: You might remember in the opening scene, the characters weren't identified yet, so you didn't know what her role would be in the company but Anne Hathaway was on the customer support desk and she was calling, I think, the customer. There were bridesmaids' dresses that were lost or something along those lines. Anne got that. To prepare for the role, she was the president of the company, but again, as a viewer, you didn't necessarily know that at the beginning.

Anne got that. She actually shadowed several executives to figure out how they approach their job. I've heard, although I don't know for sure that she actually studied the CEO of Spanx doing something like that, that she would spend half a day every week on the customer support line just understanding the business and its customers. CFOs, maybe you should do something like that. Interact with the customers pretty regularly. I would say that would probably be a pretty big thing.

The other thing, that a lot of people don't necessarily associate with CFOs, but high emotional intelligence. It's true for all executives, including CFOs but I've met very few successful CFOs that didn't have a high emotional IQ.

Megan: That's great advice about spending some time on the customer support line because there probably is no better way to know the business and the customers and what it is they want than to spend a few hours on those phones.

Jack: Yes, absolutely. One of the CFOs I interviewed shared that when she got a new CFO job, one of the first things she would do is actually to call the CFOs at the five or six largest customers. She didn't fancy herself doing any selling, simply relationship building and understanding the dynamic and what the customer's needs were. That's a pretty easy thing to do. Call them up once a quarter.

At the start of COVID, it was probably great to have those relationships in place too when we were all wondering what was going to happen next.

Megan: You also wrote The Psychopathic CEO: An Executive Survival Guide. That almost sounds like a joke but this is actually a real problem. First of all, let's talk about the problem. How prevalent is it that CEOs are psychopathic?

Jack: It's interesting because there is a difference of opinion on the data or whatnot. It's impossible to get an exact number and have everybody agree on it. That said, the consensus seems to be about 15% of American CEOs are psychopaths. What's interesting is that that's basically the same percentage as the prison population. I know a guy. He works for this state government and amongst other things, he audits prisons. When I was doing this research, I told them, "If you go and visit a prison and do your audit work and you interact with prisoners, and then later that night, you go to an executive meeting with a bunch of CEOs, you're probably dealing with a similar number of psychopaths in each event."

It is a little scary when you think about it in those terms. Psychopaths have many qualities that are very useful for being a CEO in the modern business world. They're not necessarily qualities that you'd want in your next-door neighbor or something like that but there's a reason that so many of them achieve success.

Megan: What qualities are those?

Jack: It's interesting because in some of them, the human quality isn't good but you can understand how it shows up in successful leadership. One of the main qualities that CEOs possess is just a lack of empathy. They don't care about anyone but themselves. I'm not saying this is a nice quality. What that does is it does empower them to make unemotional decisions. Every decision is analytical and free of emotion. That's a good way to make decisions in the business world.

Another one, a lot of them have superficial charm. Again, maybe that can be grating if you know them but in the short run, that shows up his charisma. People like to follow leaders who have a lot of charisma. Again, they have the phrase that clinicians often use is a grandiose sense of self-worth, which I would just call arrogance, but whatever. Again, that's confidence. They're manipulative but people are manipulative. If you like them, maybe you just see them as persuasive. Lot of these qualities, when you think about what you'd want in a CEO, you'd probably want somebody who can make unemotional decisions, who's a great leader with charisma, has a lot of self-confidence, and all of these other traits and, sadly, CEOs do have these in space.

Megan: As you said, a lot of CEOs probably possess these qualities or similar qualities. How can people know if they are truly working for a psychopath?

Jack: That's a great question, Megan. It is one of those things that you'll never truly know. A lot of the qualities that I mentioned earlier, if they just seem to have a lack of empathy, don't care about other people, if they're manipulative, if they lie a lot, that's actually a good thing. Even things like people who drive 90 miles an hour, sort of recklessness, that might be a sign that there's a potential psychopath, but it is pretty difficult to recognize a lot of the qualities because if they're a CEO, they're smart enough to become a CEO. They're probably pretty good at hiding these qualities from other people. There's actually a list. There's the clinical list. Then there's the list of these things that I've seen the type of stuff. They do have some tells. Like a lot of times, they'll quote great thinkers to justify their positions.

They use foreign phrases a lot, particularly for some reason Latin seems to be one, to justify positions if they don't have a strong argument. They'll quote a foreign phrase to make themselves seem smarter. Some of them can be a little bit lazy, so they don't put in the effort to learn the business, but they rely on a lot of buzzwords and cliches. It's difficult for sure to know it. If you think about these things and a lot of them just don't have any sense of humor. One by one, you can't say this person's a psychopath because of this. Maybe your jokes just aren't that funny, but if they have five or six of these qualities, maybe I'll start thinking about, "Hey, am I working for a psychopath and what does that mean?"

Megan: What does that mean? What is the key to surviving as a CFO when you work under a psychopathic CEO?

Jack: It's a great question because again, with 15% of CEOs psychopaths, if the average American I think has something like 11 jobs during the course of their career.

Megan: Good chance you'll work for one.

Jack: Pardon me? Oh yes. There's a really good chance, but it's not all bad. For example, a lot of people have argued very persuasively that Steve Jobs was a psychopath.

Megan: I could say that.

Jack: If you knew Steve Jobs was a psychopath, would you work for him?

Megan: No, probably not willingly.

Jack: I would just because I think it would be fascinating even for a couple of years, but I don't know if he was a psychopath or just a strange dude. I'm not qualified to diagnose that. I am a business person, not a medical one. You'd have to say he was an example of a very successful CEO who was potentially a psychopath. By the way, he had a great relationship with the CFO. I think what it is if you think the person's a psychopath, which again, the psychopath doesn't mean evil. They're sort of lacking some things. They don't care about other people and whatnot, but they might behave appropriately.

If you can get them to focus on the things they're really good at. Get that analytical mind going, and utilize their charisma while making sure that they're not making decisions because of a lack of empathy for other people. Hopefully, they aren't stealing because a lot of them are dishonest. It can be a working relationship.

On the other hand, Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos, again, a lot of people think she was a psychopath, but she was an evil psychopath. You certainly would not want to work for her but talk about somebody with a lack of empathy. She developed like a blood test kit that fundamentally didn't work and she didn't care. She didn't really try to fix it as much as she should have. There were two results. People would take blood tests who were sick, but they'd get negative results, which might prevent them from getting the healthcare that they needed for a while, and then the other way around people who were perfectly healthy would show up as having a disease that they didn't have. That would cause a lot of stress and strain and ruin lives until they got a further diagnosis, but she simply didn't care. She kept selling the product and raising money.

Harvey Weinstein, there's another guy. He doesn't think he did anything wrong. How most normal people would look at him and think he's an absolute monster. He just didn't care because it was all about Harvey Weinstein in his own mind.

Megan: Both of these books are available on Amazon, correct? If they want to learn more.

Jack: Yes.

Megan: Lastly, Jack, as a person who runs a group for financial leaders, what is keeping you or your group up at night these days?

Jack: For me, it's probably economic conditions. Like in the past and I've survived a few the dot-com crash and the financial crisis in 2008 and a small recession after that, but they weren't that bad. This one feels like it has the potential to be not only really bad but to last for a while. Bluntly, there aren't many executives in the United States at least, who survived that. Certainly, I haven't. I've survived six-month recessions, not two-year recessions and they weren't that deep. I'm very, very worried about the economic crisis not going away. It does seem like since 2020 we've been in this cycle that we can't just every now and then something bad happens.

I'm just very worried about how we're going to get our way out of this because there are so many different problems. Our so-called leaders in Washington don't seem to be able to agree on how to solve this. You've probably seen that picture of the six Spidermans each one pointing at the other one? It's on Twitter. There's a lot of that. There's no baby formula. In Washington, they blame greedy business people and business people blame excessive regulation coming out of Washington and Republicans blame Democrats and Democrats blame Republicans. Meanwhile, no one's actually trying to solve the problem. That's probably my biggest worry that this one feels different from than past ones. It could be real and it could be long.

Megan: That's scary. In general, it is a scary world we're living in these days for lots of different reasons.

Jack: I'm glad I can end your podcast on an upbeat note.

Megan: I know, but it's true, unfortunately.

Jack: On the other end, I'm optimistic because we're in an era of innovation. We are just really good at solving problems in the United States and other places too.

Megan: That is true.

Jack: As much as I'm worried about it, I know that we're going to overcome this. We always have and I think we always will.

Megan: As human beings, we do cause a lot of problems, but on the other hand we manage to solve almost all of them.

Jack: We do indeed.

Megan: Jack, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Jack: Oh, thanks for having me. It was a pleasure and hope we-- Can I do this again at some point?

Megan: Yes. I really enjoyed speaking with you and hearing about all your experiences and the resulting insights. This has been a very interesting conversation.

Jack: Thank you.

Megan: To all of our listeners, please tune in next week, and until then take care.

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In this episode, we discuss what is the CFO leadership council, the portrait of a modern CFO, secrets of rockstar CFOs, the psychopathic CEO: an executive survival guide, among other exciting topics.

The Portrait of a Modern CFO

Quote Jack McCullough, president-CFO Leadership Council

CFOs must be strategic thinkers and problem solvers who understand the whole business. Finance and accounting expertise will always be a critical part of the CFO role, but it's not enough. If you want to be a modern CFO, you need to think of it as a cross-functional role.

“The CFOs of today are a lot more strategic than they were ten or twenty years ago”

The Most Prominent CFO Trait for Talent Development

Quote most prominent cfo trait for talent development

Jack is the author of Secrets of Rockstar CFOs, the book is based on his interviews with more than forty of the world's best CFOs. The most significant traits they share are strategic thinking and ethical leadership.

“The CFO is truly the strategic partner of the CEO”

Are CEOs Psychopaths?

Quote ceos can be psychopaths

Jake is also the author of The Psychopathic CEO: An Executive Survival Guide. The book uncovers a shocking statistic: about fifteen percent of American CEOs are psychopaths. That is because psychopaths have qualities that are valuable in the business world. Some include a lack of empathy, analytical thinking, charm, and an excessive amount of confidence.

“Psychopaths have many qualities that are useful for being a CEO in modern business”

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