Amman Boughan has a wealth of experience as a finance and business leader, having won the Northern Finance Director of the Year Award for Innovation last year during his tenure at Harrogate lighting manufacturer, Lights4fun Limited.
Now CFO at PreventX, the UK's largest provider of remote sexual health testing, how did Amman deal with the move, how has his approach to the first 100 days evolved, and what advice does he have for those stepping up from other finance roles?
Whether you're a seasoned CFO or first-time finance director, one of your first tasks is to dig more deeply into the decision to bring in a new CFO. Understanding this can help you navigate the early days more successfully as you build relationships with your new team.
Reflecting on your experiences to date, could you share how you structure your approach to your first 100 days at a new business?
I don’t stick to a timeline rigidly, but my approach has evolved over time as I've gained experience. I segment it into three main phases, with the first three weeks or so focused on building key relationships and understanding the maturity of the finance function.
An important part of that relationship-building during the first few weeks includes really digging into the motivation for the change. If bringing in a new CFO was a proactive change, you need to understand what the expectations are and what they need to happen that isn't being done. Alternatively, if you were brought in to replace like-for-like, you need to know what that means too.
Over the next 40 days or so, the second phase is about getting up to speed with the cadence of the business, how it’s performing and how decisions get made, and then the final 30-40 days are more focused on setting the direction for the future.
There are always going to be different priorities crop up when you join that will take up your time. But having some kind of structured plan with room for flexibility for your first 100 days helps keep you disciplined in covering all the core areas you need to.
Your First 100 Days as a CFO
Is there anything you’ve learned throughout your different CFO roles that might not be as obvious to a first-time CFO, but you’ve found is important to manage early on?
One thing I’d say is to really understand the makeup of your team, not just what each person does. You might have inherited a great team, but what skillsets did the CFO before you have – and what are yours? For example, if you have a commercially minded financial controller and you’re a commercial CFO, you might find you need to make adjustments elsewhere to have less of a forward-looking vantage point and more focus on controls and processes.
If that’s the case, you won’t be able to step away from the day-to-day operations of the finance team enough to do the job you’ve been brought in to do until you make those changes. It's integral – especially if it's your first CFO role – that you find the confidence early on to be bold in addressing imbalances if there are any, or you won’t be able to have the impact you want to.
For someone looking to move into the role for the first time, what have you found to be the biggest differences between other positions in finance and the CFO role?
As a CFO, your perspective becomes broader and more holistic. You’ve got a lot of cross-functional considerations outside of finance – from supply chain management to commercial strategy to cyber concerns – and, with that, there are a lot more colleagues around the table who you’ll be working more closely with.
I find myself filling white space depending on the business priorities at that time and the scope, breadth and depth of the senior team, supporting where needed – and that will change a lot from business to business.
The specific differences you’ll notice will depend on the kind of role you’re transitioning into it from. If you’ve been in a financial controller type role, then transitioning will be more about how those numbers can influence decisions... whereas if you’ve been in an financial planning and analysis (FP&A) role, you might find there are a lot of considerations around risk management that haven’t played a large part in your roles previously.
I try to spend time talking through my decision-making processes with my team so they see that vantage point of a CFO themselves and can ask, for example, why I've concluded that investing in a certain area is the right thing to do, when you wouldn’t necessarily make that decision from the numerical argument alone.
Giving the people in your finance team, such as your financial controller, that type of exposure that can really help them develop.