As the Founder and President of The CFO Leadership Council, Jack McCullough has created a global organization to empower senior financial executives through innovative professional development programs and unparalleled peer networking. Under his leadership, the Council has been recognized as the premier organization for strategic and financial leadership.
As a thought leader, CEO, CFO, board member, public speaker and author, Jack fully understands the challenges that corporate leaders face. Having been a successful executive across an eclectic mix of businesses, he has a wealth of experience to bring to the table. Today, Jack strives to share his knowledge, practical and academic experience with a wider audience by giving keynotes, coaching sessions, and interviews.
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Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to ValiantCEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Jack McCullough: I am the president of the CFO Leadership Council, an organization I started in 2006 when I was a chief financial officer.
Our mission then, as it is today, is to empower CFOs, through world class professional development programs and unmatched peer networking. We have a global community of almost 2,000 financial leaders.
2021 and 2022 threw a lot of curve balls into business on a global scale. Based on the experience gleaned in the past couple years, how can businesses thrive in 2023? What lessons have you learned?
Jack McCullough: Yes, it has been a roller coaster. I would say that successful organizations are the ones that stay focused on their mission and be fast and flexible when things change. It seems like we are living in an era of relentless volatility, so the ability to adapt quickly is what will separate the winners from the losers.
The other thing – is simply to take care of the team. You cannot overcommunicate with your employees and make sure they understand and are inspired by your mission and goals. As I talk to executives, even during an economic slowdown the greatest challenge they face is around recruiting and retention.
The pandemic seems to keep on disrupting the economy, what should businesses focus on in 2023? What advice would you share?
Jack McCullough: I would say take advantage of the opportunities that an economic crisis creates. Maybe now is the time to buy a competitor or two, when such an overture may be welcome (or not, I suppose). Global expansion may be easier than it was a few years ago in some instances.
History has taught us that the companies that survive crises (think of the great depression) are those who form a bold vision and execute against it. The ones that roll into a fetal ball position in the hope of just surviving are only ensuring a slow death for their companies. Think Big!
How has the pandemic changed your industry and how have you adapted?
Jack McCullough: Prior to the pandemic, we were a live events business. And, suddenly we could not have live events every more, so we had to pivot to a virtual and content model. It was not a change we would have made voluntarily, but we did what we had to do to survive, and have emerged a strong, healthier, and more versatile organization than prior.
What advice do you wish you received when the pandemic started and what do you intend on improving in 2023?
Jack McCullough: I actually received a lot of great advice that helped me not only save the business but also reposition it so that it is now stronger than it has ever been. So, I really have no complaints about advice not being received.
We are a member organization for very busy senior executives. In 2023 and beyond, we need to continue to fulfill our mission of Empowering CFOs and bringing them timely and relevant content to best lead the organizations they lead.
Online business surged higher than ever, B2B, B2C, online shopping, virtual meetings, remote work, Zoom medical consultations, what are your expectations for 2023?
Jack McCullough: I would be shocked if this did not continue in 2023 and beyond. For younger people, this is simply what they are used to and what they want. And, even older people recognize the convenience that modern technologies offer. My dad had an annual physical over Zoom for the first time when he was 90, and really loved the convenience of it.
By the way, work from home is here to stay. Employees like flexibility, and employers like productivity. While I don’t see most companies having a 100% WFH policy, it is now part of our fabric and how we do business in the economy. As a business leader, you need to embrace this and recognize it for the competitive advantage that it is.
How many hours a day do you spend in front of a screen?
Jack McCullough: “All of them” would seem to be only a mild exaggeration.
I never thought to count them, but with everyone working from home, I am in on Zoom calls or working at my desk for a large portion of my work day. But we do have chapters in 30 cities across North America, and I visit them all once per year. It’s good to have in-person contact with your team and your customers.
The majority of executives use stories to persuade and communicate in the workplace. Can you share with our readers examples of how you implement that in your business to communicate effectively with your team?
Jack McCullough: I have found that acknowledging your vulnerability and being your true authentic self is the best communication style. Employees are not expecting you to be Superman or Wonder Woman. But they do want to know that you understand their wants and needs, and have the vision and passion for the executive on your business model.
It’s difficult to do that if you come across as a superhero rather than a real person sharing the same experiences as them.
Business is all about overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for growth. What do you see as the real challenge right now?
Jack McCullough: As we plan for 2023, the greatest challenges I see are what I call T and T: Talent and Technology. Technology and Talent if you prefer. A well-executed digital strategy can reduce costs, create operational efficiencies, enhance employee collaboration, and give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Where else can you invest and get these results?
And, really, it all comes down to the team. If you have a great team around you, anything is possible.
In 2023, what are you most interested in learning about? Crypto, NFTs, online marketing, or any other skill sets? Please share your motivations.
Jack McCullough: I am actually in a back-to-the-basics mode right now. Chasing the flavor of the month is fruitless, but understanding your business and marketplace, connecting with your customers, and taking care of your employees will always be a winning formula.
A record 4.4 million Americans left their jobs in September in 2021, accelerating a trend that has become known as the Great Resignation. 47% of people plan to leave their job during 2022. Most are leaving because of their boss or their company culture. 82% of people feel unheard, undervalued and misunderstood in the workplace. Do you think leaders see the data and think “that’s not me – I’m not that boss they don’t want to work for? What changes do you think need to happen?
Jack McCullough: Undoubtedly, that is exactly how many readers think.
We live in a workforce that is more diverse than any in history. Not only racially, but with multiple generations come different motivations. If possible, leaders should connect with the team on a 1:1 basis to understand what drives them and offer them an understanding of who they are as a person. If you make that kind of authentic connection, people won’t leave you.
One of my friends is a very successful CFO. She told me 11 people who reported to her have gone on to become CFOs themselves. She hated if one of her team left her for more money, but if they left for an exciting challenge or promotion, she was fully supportive. In fact, when controllers on her team were ready for a CFO job, she would actively help them find one. Who would not want to work for somebody like her?
On a lighter note, if you had the ability to pick any business superpower, what would it be and how would you put it into practice?
Jack McCullough: Is the ability to see the future too obvious? In business, companies spend uncountable hours trying to see around corners. Imagine what you could accomplish if you knew the future.
What does “success” in 2023 mean to you? It could be on a personal or business level, please share your vision.
Jack McCullough: I think 2020 was about simply surviving, 2021 stabilizing. 2022 and now 2023, are all about growth and finding creative new ways to fulfill our mission of empowering CFOs.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Jack McCullough for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Jack McCullough or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin Page
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