CFO corner: Tips for cash flow management & financial success from Terry Conlon
What was the biggest challenge your company faced while you were a controller and how were you able to overcome it with financial leadership?
Improving forecasting, especially cash flow. We significantly improved our DRO by tightening up credit terms and aggressively following up with past due accounts. To do this, I held weekly reviews with subsidiary controllers and sales and account teams. In a number of cases, I would call on customers to eliminate roadblocks to improved receivable performance.
What has made your company stand out and be successful financially?
Financial success is an outcome of doing things right and doing the right thing, not a goal as such. My company was very good at reacting to changes in our customers’ environments (new product introductions, competitor pricing changes, etc.).
What is the most important thing you’ve learned in your position?
The right people, supported by the right kind of technology, always come through for you. As a financial leader, you MUST take their needs (training, time off, developmental opportunities, etc.) into account as a business priority. Also, it’s important to keep lines of communication open so that they know how the company is doing (good or bad) so that they can link their work to the company’s success.
What advice do you have for other CFOs and controllers?
Listen to the company’s people, partner with colleagues in sales, operations, etc. so that you become THE trusted financial advisor. This is something that has to be earned, people can easily see if you’re faking it.
Terry Conlon is President of Conlon & Associates, a management consulting and executive coaching firm in North Carolina. Prior to founding Conlon & Associates in 2009, Conlon served as Controller in charge of North and South American Operations for Vishay Intertechnology and as Controller for Nortel Networks.