Podcast: What it’s like to be CFO

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

A new position with more responsibility can seem daunting, but those more intimidating opportunities are often the ones that are most worth it.

Kyle_Bickhart“If you’re not a little terrified, that means you’re not challenging yourself,” said Kyle Bickhart, CPA and CFO of the Ohio Society of CPAs.

Bickhart joined us on the most recent episode of the State of Business podcast and talked about what it’s like to be CFO of OSCPA, what he’s learned so far and advice he has for those who have CFO aspirations.

Before Bickhart came to OSCPA he spent time in public accounting and more extensively in business and industry, specifically in retail at L Brands. There he held various roles and was responsible for financial reporting, SEC reporting and different accounting policy work. After serving on the Columbus North Market Development Authority Board he began to look for other nonprofit opportunities. He heard about an opening at OSCPA and he said the opportunities of the position intrigued him

“We really have a story that needed to be told,” he said. “There were a lot of great ideas that needed to be operationalized. I thought with my background of business from a for profit business, I could apply some of those things I learned here at the society.”

For many professionals, CFO is a long-term career goal, and Bickhart said at first the idea of it seemed surreal.

“At first, I thought, ‘Can I be the CFO?’” he said. “But you should always try to do the next thing and I was really excited about it.”

Now a few years into the role, Bickhart said he’s continually learning to evolve, both because of his role and because that’s what the profession demands.

“You need to be able to embrace change,” he said. “The CFO role probably isn’t what it was 15 years ago, five years ago, six months ago. It’s constantly changing.”

He also warned about avoiding the perception as the “No” CFO. Sometimes there are expectations that the finance department will “rain on everyone’s parade” when it comes to new ideas or projects. Bickhart said despite the CFO’s responsibility for the financial accountability of the organization, there are opportunities to change a “no” to a “yes.”

“You have to be responsible when it comes to expense management and making sure that you’re not spending money where you shouldn’t, but you have to find ways to strategically invest,” he said. “I think that’s one of the things that even early in your career you should learn: consider how you can find little areas that help the business.”

Bickhart encouraged those with their hearts set on the CFO position to remain flexible and open to new collaboration with other members of the team.

“If you’re up for that CFO job you probably already have the technical ability to do it,” he said. “Think about how to partner with different departments and different parts of the organization to move forward. Finance is a leader, not the necessary evil.”

Listen to the episode here.

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