I’m a native of Montreal, so it’s probably no surprise that I’m also a big hockey fan. In fact, hockey is so popular in Canada that it probably seems to those born in the U.S. as if there must be a law requiring Canadians to love hockey. Of course, such a law wouldn’t be necessary because Canadians already think that hockey is one of mankind’s greatest inventions.
And that love for hockey is something that never goes away. In fact, when I turned 40, I laced up hockey skates for the first time since I was a kid. Yes, a few years ago, I joined an adult league here in Northern Virginia, and I think it’s safe to say that I haven’t had so much fun in quite a few hockey seasons.
I’m a utility player, which is just a nice way of saying that I can play whatever position that my team needs to fill for a particular game. And one of the most exciting elements of picking up the game again is that from time to time I get the chance to play goalie. Which – believe it or not – strikes me as being surprisingly similar to the role that a CFO can play in an entrepreneurial company.
I’m not the first to come up with this analogy. The forensic accountant Michael Goldman is a former goalie, and he’s weighed in about how putting on the pads has strong similarities to being a financial executive. It’s a great post, and I’d recommend reading it (http://www.michaelgoldman.com/Why%20the%20Goalie.html). But I wanted to weigh in on a few points that I think are especially relevant to a CFO who works with startups and tech companies.
First, both the goalie and the CFO have a different perspective from all the other players. It’s the long-view perspective of someone who sees all the action but isn’t necessarily in the middle of it. Just as the goalie doesn’t score goals, the CFO doesn’t make sales. However, each one has a unique and valuable skillset that can be key to achieving success.
Additionally, the best goalies and the best CFOs don’t just do whatever has worked in the past or follow a paint-by-numbers process. Instead, they’re flexible and adaptable, in addition to being experienced. They understand that things can change quickly in their world, and they know they need to be able to quickly adapt to that change – for the good of the organization. Of course, CFOs tend to be logical, but just like goalies, the best ones understand the importance of staying a little loose. This is especially true when working with entrepreneurial companies, which often are dealing with a high level of uncertainty.
Ultimately, both a goalie and a CFO can provide both a laser-like focus and a big-picture perspective that tends to be unique on the team. As a contract CFO for tech firms, I already have my pads on, so be sure to let me know if I can lend a glove to help your team achieve its strategic goals.
And in the meantime, it’s hockey playoff time. And for those of us who are fans of the Washington Capitals – my hometown team for the last 25 years – it’s been yet another unfortunately short postseason. Good thing there’s always next year!