Archive for October 29th, 2009

I played cards with a table of CFOs recently. I learned a lot.


CFO Cards

Coffee, cards and secret codes



The cards were a part of an exercise of the CFO Roundtable, a monthly gathering of CFOs that I co-facilitate with Bruce Kidd.  An interesting view from the financial side of the table.

We were at WalkerInformation, playing their Face Value card game, a business decision simulator.  I learned two things.

1 – When you think you have won you may be losing.

2 –  CFOs keep score in different ways.

The game did a good job of simulating the real world.  You revealing a changing set of criteria.  You would draw cards with symbols that represented customers for your business, and make “keep or hold” decisions based on what you thought you knew.  Sort of a business poker with theoretical customers.  With each round more data was revealed, and the decisions made in past rounds was called into question.  Just like real life.

By the end of the game, I was feeling smug.  I knew that I had the winning hand for my table.  I was showing my braniac financial powers.  This was good.  I had gathered a hand full of ersatz clients that all were loyal and highly profitable.   Good stuff.  Then, the facilitator asked that the table vote on the hand that they would want for the future.

What?  I had played to have a hand for the present.  Profitable.  Productive.  The rules had just changed again.  %@%$@!

The table voted, and I knew I had lost.  The CFOs clearly saw that another’s hand had more growth potential.  Mine was a mature set of customers, filled with current productivity but no room for growth.  Another CFO held cards indicating  small payback this year, but had potential to be be a big payback in the future.  I pretended that I knew that all along, but I was mad.   Mad at myself for being so one-dimensional, and mad at the game for clarifying my error.


CFO Cards group

The CFOs hold all the cards

So, I learned a lesson.  We have hunkered down and gone into defensive “protect business” mode, yet now is the time to start moving into growth mode.  I have heard that the economy is done contracting.  We need to start taking risks again, and selecting customers that will grow, not just be stable.

All of our human capital decisions need to align with the strategy.  We need to be hiring high performers and paying them well.

And that will be a competitive advantage, and will make the CFOs happy….




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