The New CFO 90 Day Plan: How to be a Successful CFO

The first 90 days is a critical time for any CFO taking on a new role.  While the new CFO typically wants to hit the ground running, there are many challenges to take on during the transition process.In this article, we discuss how to craft the new CFO 90 day plan with a CFO development plan, CFO advice, CFO required skills all focused on how to be a successful CFO.

Initial changes for new CFOs include learning a new organization, working with a new boss, managing a new team, and implementing change in an existing culture. If you are a new CFO looking for advice on a successful first 90 days, read on.

Interacting with the Board and Investors in the CFO’s First 90 Days

Depending on the type of company and role, interacting with the Board and investors may or may not be possible. At a minimum,, the new CFO should have contact with the head of the audit committee. In addition, CFO soft skills can prove to be crucial, especially during the first 90 days. A key opportunity in small, private companies is meeting with board members during the interview process. This gives the incoming CFO an opportunity to understand board member expectations and issues that need to be addressed. This can be valuable input to use when developing the 90 day plan.

CFO Tips: Gaining Confidence in the Financials

Integrity as the new CFO is critical. The CFO must get comfortable with the financials quickly, whether it’s a public or private company.  That means getting auditors involved if the CFO suspects issues. A successful CFO must be confident in the results being produced. This includes the historic actuals as well as forward-looking forecasts.

If the new CFO finds issues in the financials, the recommended approach in CFO best practices is to reveal these quickly.  Being transparent with the board and CEO is critical to the new CFOs 90 day plan for success. This can be painful, but it’s critical to be transparent about issues that are uncovered. If they aren’t flagged early on, they can come back to bite the CFO in many ways.

How Important Is Industry Expertise for the New CFO?

CFO skills and abilities are usually transferable across industries. But some industries do have nuances a CFO needs to understand – e.g., Biotech, Government, Defense, CPG, High Technology. This is especially true for CFO required skills in revenue forecasting. Industry experience can be helpful in understanding how the sales pipeline evolves and how the pipeline is performing. The new CFO 90 day plan involves digging in and truly understanding the sales process and sales forecast.

In the hiring process, CEOs are looking for general CFO skills and competencies, as well as industry expertise. So if you’re applying for a CFO position, it helps to tailor your resume to highlight skills that would apply to a target company. Worst case, your resume can be more generalized and the cover letter and emails can be tailored to highlight specific experience. Look for ways to transfer existing CFO skills and abilities into your new role.

CFO Tips: Assessing and Managing a New Team as the New CFO

The new CFO should get to know the Finance team in the interview process and continue the assessment of it as part of the new CFO 90 day plan. A common recommendation for CFO best practices is to keep the existing team in place during the transition period. If you’re a new CFO, that means leveraging the team’s knowledge and assessing their responsibility and skills. Don’t make changes in the team until after 90 days. Be open-minded, learn, and assess the situation.

If you have to make changes, try to ensure a smooth transition in staff. If there’s a toxic situation, become a shield for the team while you’re enacting change. As the new CFO, you can feel a lot of pressure to get things done quickly. Go slowly and take time developing your new CFO 90 day plan. Take time to assess the existing talent and situation. Make the team part of the change process, and demonstrate leadership to set yourself up to be a successful CFO.

CFO Tips: Making Changes at the Right Pace

Onboarding starts before the new CFO starts the job. Initial interviews provide an opportunity for due diligence. After an offer is received, that’s an opportunity for deeper due diligence – this should allow the new CFO to start assessing the situation and crafting their new CFO 90 day plan.

While setting priorities as a new CFO, get a sense of the organization’s capacity and appetite for change. Identify 3 top CFO priorities. Take lots of notes. Interview the Finance team and the executive team. Get input from all perspectives. Don’t jump to make changes too quickly without understanding the full impact. These steps should be implemented in the new CFO checklist as part of the new CFO 90 day plan.

How to be a Successful CFO: How Should the New CFO’s First 90 Days Be Remembered?

Results are key to be a successful CFO. The new CFO must identify 3 top CFO priorities as part of the new CFO checklist, show results quickly, and get a win – all in the new CFO 90 day plan for success. Getting aligned with the CEO and the board is also important in the first 90 days. Gaining confidence from key stakeholders is critical.

As a new CFO, keep your messages to management simple. Highlight accomplishments. Earn credibility. One of your top goals and CFO priorities should be a P&L item. Find a way to pay for yourself – through increased revenue or enacting new cost controls. This builds trust with the CEO.

How FP&A Software Can Help

These are some useful tips for CFOs in transition who are building the new CFO 90 day plan, as well as those thinking about making a change in the future or those looking to become a first-time CFO. Assessing the Finance staff, processes, and systems that are in place is clearly critical in CFO best practices and during the first 90 days to be a successful CFO.

When it comes to financial systems and CFO software tools, embarking on an ERP system replacement can be a long, expensive project that often disrupts the business. New CFOs will have a better chance of getting a “quick win” by identifying Finance processes that are currently supported by spreadsheets and email, and can quickly be improved by implementing a purpose-built FP&A software application.

Prime candidates for quick improvement can include travel and expense management, purchasing, budgeting, planning, forecasting, and financial and management reporting. Today’s modern, cloud-based applications for processes such as these can be deployed quickly, typically in 3 months or less.

Planful has worked with many companies to help them improve their planning, consolidation, and reporting processes by replacing spreadsheets and email, or legacy applications their organizations have outgrown, with a scalable, cloud-based platform that can support future growth. These systems can be deployed quickly, at a fraction of the price of on-premises systems. They can also help organizations automate and accelerate processes such as financial budgeting, quarterly forecasting, financial close and consolidation, and financial and management reporting.

Latest Posts


Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Get Started with Planful

  • LinkedIn
    How much time will you save?
  • LinkedIn
    How will your finance team evolve?
  • LinkedIn
    Where will technology support you?