CFOs and other leaders have been forced to adapt to challenging and fast-moving circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tom Hood, CPA/CITP, CGMA, the executive vice president of business growth and engagement for the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, reflects on what finance leaders have learned in the past year and previews two of his sessions at the upcoming AICPA & CIMA CFO Conference.
What you’ll learn from this episode:
- Why CFOs have gone through a “role stretch” because of the pandemic.
- What the French phrase mise en place has to do with leadership in 2021.
- The ways Hood employs social media in his professional life.
- What he means when he advocates “using the tools and not letting the tools use you.”
- Information on Hood’s sessions at the CFO Conference and ENGAGE 2021.
- Updates on IRS adjusted amounts for three tax credits and two U.S. Small Business Administration relief programs, the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program and the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Play the episode below or read the edited transcript:
To comment on this episode or to suggest an idea for another episode, contact Neil Amato, a JofA senior editor, at Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com.
Neil Amato: There’s hope on the horizon related to moving past the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s still plenty of economic damage to assess, to adjust to, and plan for. CFOs are often counted on for navigating that uncertainty, and a CPA who is in touch with the CFO community, to say the least, is Tom Hood, who is a speaker at the upcoming AICPA & CIMA CFO Conference. Tom is the executive vice president for business growth and engagement at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.
Tom, welcome back to the podcast, your first since becoming my colleague, and tell the listeners what have the past 16 months taught finance professionals?
Tom Hood: Well, first, Neil, it’s great to be here with you and call you a colleague now. I’ve known you for quite a while in my old role. So, it is cool to be here with the Association. So, what have they learned in the past 16 months? I want to start by saying, “a lot.” And I know many of them are probably a bit weary from the constant government relief programs, having to help their businesses reforecast and reproject under all that uncertainty. So, they’ve learned how to work in a remote environment, which they mostly never did much before. They’ve learned how to move up the value chain. They’ve become value partners, because of the CEO relying on them so much to help them say, “What’s our cash flow forecast?” “Are we going to make our bank loans?” “What’s the business going to look like as we come through this pandemic?” And then as it wore on, it became even more crucial. So I think that probably would be No. 2. I think No. 3 would be they learned that technology done well can really accelerate the strategy of them moving through this and really figuring out how to make their finance function work super, super effectively.
Amato: For CFOs, VPs of finance, FP&A directors, you mentioned the remote working, but what have had to learn, maybe about themselves or about business — what’s new on that front?
Hood: So, a lot, right, because they had to learn how to lead remote teams. It’s different in a remote environment, right, how you coordinate with them. I think the other one which kind of ties to technology and the leadership piece, though, Neil, is the notion of what we call quick close. What we call closing the books — it used to take us three weeks to close books when I was in a CFO role back in the ’80s. Obviously, with cloud and all the technologies, they’re all working to shorten that close to almost zero. They’re trying to close them every day. But the best of the best companies are closing them within three or four days. What does that mean? Well, if I can close my books in three days instead of three weeks, that means I’ve got a lot more time as a CFO to use my business skills to help analyze that data, to help advise the business. So, that’s probably the No. 1 thing that we would say from that standpoint.
And then, I think in that same realm is the notion of teaching your team to be able to do the same things you are. In other words, you need to count on your team more as you shorten that close and you start taking on new roles and responsibilities. And then, they did.
So what this turned out to be, Neil, is what we call a role stretch. Suddenly, CFOs found themselves reaching for the CEO, helping them run the business and making it survive and thrive. And when they didn’t have their team upskilled enough, or they didn’t have the technology done well, then that team was struggling with the closing of the books function, the stewardship function, which is equally important. That’s a thing that they’ve all identified with, and then that led to, “Oh my goodness, I’ve been doing this digital transformation, but my team hasn’t kept up with the skill sets they need,” because it’s a different set of skill sets.
That’s some of the things we’re going to talk about in the session called Mise En Place: Setting the Table for the Future. How do we reconcile that idea?
Amato: I’m glad you used the French because I couldn’t do it. Thank you for pronouncing the name of your session correctly. Again, the CFO Conference is May 5–7 online. One of your other sessions is on, I guess, a skill that some CFOs have had to stretch to learn, and that’s on leveraging the power of social media. Did the gap between those who understood that power before the pandemic widen as a result of the pandemic?
Hood: So, it’s funny, you use that term “widening the gap.” Because I think the gap is widening in a whole bunch of areas from this whole pandemic, right? The acceleration of trends that led to all the business transformations and things like that, and then this idea of social media.
If anything, social media got even worse because of the political environment and the social environment that we’re in. So, all of the sudden, social media is a bad word. It was always not a great word for CFOs; now it’s even worse. It’s like, “I don’t want to touch it.” So, I think to your point, the gap widened and the popularity or the controversy around it grew. I will say that if you’re doing it for those purposes, then you should stay away from it, because I don’t do that kind of thing.
I use it for learning, connecting, and helping me do my job better. It allows you to connect to so many people, which is social capital. It’s one of the major capitals talked about in the integrated reporting [framework]. The social capital of our business and of yourself.
Elon Musk kind of set the world on fire when he started tweeting about his Tesla company. The SEC actually, I think, sanctioned him because he was starting to give forward-looking — so, there’s a line, especially for a public-company CFO, to watch. For most of us, it’s a powerful way to keep your learning faster than the rate of change, to make connections that are relevant, And in this environment, CFOs should be connecting to customers and their suppliers and finding out what’s going on, and social media is one of the best ways to do that.
Amato: Anything to add in closing?
Hood: Well, I think what we’re going to do in that social media session is — we’re not trying to push it on anyone. We’re going to try to get the wisdom of the crowd and try to talk about what they’re using and what are the most popular tools.
For me, it’s LinkedIn and Twitter. I’m more personal on Facebook. But I do put some stuff out there, too. And, most importantly, it’s this idea of using the tools and not letting the tools use you. That’s what we’re going to teach in our social CFO session. I hope a bunch of you in the audience will join us. Connect with me on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, it’s @tomhood. Again, we’re going to show you what’s going on. And, it’s all virtual. But we’re going to give you practical tips. Again, the most powerful learning tools there are, are part of the social technology stack.
Amato: Tom, thank you very much. Those of you interested in the CFO Conference can see and hear Tom online next week.
Hood: Looking forward to it. Thank you, Neil.
Amato: As mentioned, Tom Hood is presenting at next week’s CFO Conference. He also is a presenter at ENGAGE 2021 in July. In the show notes for this episode, we’ll link to the pages for those respective conferences. You can also find and follow Tom on your own. He’s regularly on LinkedIn Live, conversing with experts on accounting, business, technology, culture — you name it. Tom has been on Twitter since 2008; he’s @TomHood on that platform, and he is definitely worth a follow there.
In other news, the U.S. Small Business Administration made announcements regarding two aid programs and their application windows. First, the portal for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program is accepting applications. That portal was shut down earlier in April because of technical issues. The SBA released an SVOG user guide for those still learning about the application process.
The SBA also announced the application timeline for its Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Registration begins on Friday, April 30, and applications will be accepted starting on Monday, May 3, at noon Eastern time. The SBA advised eligible entities to familiarize themselves with the application process in advance. That fund is making available $28.6 billion for eligible entities whose business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And, finally, the Journal of Accountancy’s Sally Schreiber has the details of the IRS issuing adjusted amounts for the child tax credit, the earned income tax credit, and the premium tax credit for 2021.
You can find the links to that article and the other SBA news mentioned in the show notes for this episode or by visiting journalofaccountancy.com. I’m Neil Amato with the JofA. Thanks for listening to the Journal of Accountancy podcast.