Building an Effective Board-CFO Relationship

Inside Americas Boardrooms

The CFO is one of the key figures interacting with the board of directors, second only to the CEO and possibly the general counsel/corporate secretary. The CFO owns most of the financial data relevant to the board; and, in turn, any publicly filed financial report is typically signed off by the audit committee. The CFO and the board often share an important relationship built on trust.

In this episode, Tony Crudele, former CFO of Tractor Supply Company and current Lead Director of Hibbett Sports, Inc., speaks from both sides of the table. He shares his views on what CFOs should expect from boards and what boards should expect from CFOs. Open dialogue is critical, but there's also a fine line to respect:

''You don't want to be in conflict with the CEO and his vision,'' explains Crudele, ''but at the same time, you want to be very practical and relevant about the company's position and whether you have the appropriate capital allocation that will support the strategic vision.''

Crudele also explains how serving on a board broadened his abilities as a CFO, particularly when he was unburdened by the details and forced to examine issues from a 30,000-foot view.

[Being a board member] really stretches the CFO in the way he looks at a business... You go in and you have less access to data-and you really have to manage at even a higher level than you manage at your own company... When I look back, I think that was the greatest advantage. Now, you are forced to deal with strategic issues, and it broadens your way of thinking.
Tony Crudele, Lead Director of Hibbett Sports, Inc.
Crudele also discusses the time commitment challenge of serving as both a CFO and outside director. Finally, he places himself in the CEO's shoes and explains what kind of provisions he would place on the CFO as he or she considers serving on a board.