When the CFO is Also the CIO

In mid-market companies, the CFO often holds more than one job. How Steve Snodgrass, CFO and CIO at Graniterock, manages the executive juggling act.

At middle-market companies, it’s not that unusual to run across CFOs who hold other positions at the same time. But what actually is entailed with this kind of juggling? How do you successfully manage responsibilities when you’re the CFO and, say, the CIO?

This is the challenge that Steve Snodgrass wrestles with on a daily basis at Graniterock, a 600-person, mid-market construction company based in Watsonville, CA. Initially hired as corporate controller, Snodgrass became CIO in late 2001. Four years later, he also was named CFO and now holds both positions. And the juggling is complex. “I am not just wearing more than one hat,” Snodgrass said in an interview. “During the course of a half hour, my hat can change five times.”

Snodgrass isn’t only responsible for accounting; he also oversees credit collections, workers’ compensation issues, tax planning, risk management, and the range of IT functions — which means he’s usually weighing in on areas where he’s had little formal training. Whereas at a large company, a CFO or CIO might have multiple professionals to bounce ideas off of, that is not the case at most mid-market firms. At Graniterock, for instance, the bulk of the employees are in the construction area, not finance or IT. “You have to be a generalist,” Snodgrass said. “I really see my role as that way.”

Other insights from Snodgrass on how to manage multiple responsibilities:

Know what you don’t know. And ask lots of questions so you get the information you need. “I am responsible for tax planning here. Now, do I know tax law inside and out? No, but I know the questions to ask.”

Build relationships with staff at all levels. Informality is part of the corporate culture. Everyone, including the CEO, sits in cubicles. Snodgrass frequently walks around the offices, checking in with employees, and he doesn’t stand on ceremony.  “If I have a question about a payment, I’ll just go walk over to the person who handles it and ask, rather than asking the controller,” he said.

Fill in the gaps. Like many companies in this economic climate, Graniterock workers’ jobs have grown. “People are doing more and more, and the expectations are really high,” Snodgrass said. “Part of my role is to eliminate some of those frustrations.” So since the manager of his credit collection group has been on medical leave for three months,  Snodgrass checks in frequently with the credit collection staffers. “I want to take their temperature” and make sure things are running smoothly. ”There is no job I do that is beneath me, or above me,” he added.

Stay focused on the big picture. When it comes to IT spending, for instance, Snodgrass says he often distinguishes between what would “be nice to have” versus “what we absolutely have to do.” Said Snodgrass, “The CEO has asked me, ‘How would this benefit the customer?’ And that’s a really useful question. Would it benefit Graniterock customers if [IT workers] have an iPhone 4?’ It might be nice to have one but how would it improve what we do for the customer?”


Article provided by thebuildnetwork.com   © 2013 Mansueto Ventures LLC


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