#Retail2018: Anyone learnt anything?

Plummeting share prices, profit warnings, C-Suite exits, rising costs, tech/online disruption, and changes in consumer behaviour: just some of challenges many Retail leaders faced last year. Against this backdrop, demand is higher than ever for CFOs (Interim or FTE) with significant change/transformation expertise to help organisations face these challenges.

Norman Broadbent Group saw a 74% increase in demand during H2 2018 for interim CFOs to support retailers. The most common skill-set sought involved: proven turnaround expertise, digital transformation skills, and strong leadership capabilities. In addition, as retailers are investing heavily in technology to capture real time data for business intelligence purposes, Boards need CFOs with ERP expertise.

So how do retailers ensure they make the right Interim appointments at a time of such unprecedented change and challenge? How do they ensure the Interim they engage has the technical and emotional intelligence to help their leadership teams embrace new ways of working, change behaviours, and ‘get radical’ to future-proof the business? At Norman Broadbent we have challenged clients to think more laterally regarding Talent. We argue that, at times of change, the best and most relevant Talent does not necessarily come from with the sector.

Recruiting a seasoned Finance Interim with a proven track record of delivery is critical. Unfortunately, due to market and time pressures, some in the sector rushed to appoint immediately available CFOs and finance leaders who were not seasoned Interim professionals.  As these candidates had typically worked for two or three organisations over a 15 – 25 year career, they had little business transformation experience and little appetite for radical change early in their appointment.

So why do Interims tend to produce better and quicker outcomes in such situations?  In many instances, it’s all about mind-set.  In addition to them having excellent financial/governance experience and strong leadership skills, an Interim Professional tends to have greater exposure to dealing with organisations in distress, and supporting leadership teams on what can be a difficult journey. Typically this involves changes in organisational design, cultural shifts, and a need to get teams to change direction when a new approach is needed. Engaging a highly seasoned Interim Professional who would, in a permanent search, be over-qualified due to their level of expertise, enables clients to take the appropriate time to get the FTE hire right first time. Typically the Interim can deliver some of the business-critical objectives during this period, followed by a detailed and strong handover process.

Several clients we supported in 2018 required a finance leader with significant experience of multiple ERP system implementations. This enabled the business to navigate the pitfalls often accompanied with new system integrations. Typically this reduces the risk of inaccurate monthly reporting and issues with data integrity. This can significantly impact bottom line profits and enable more effective trading.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, or discuss a specific assignment, please do not hesitate to contact Jonathan Stringer, Director – Interim Finance Officers Practice on +44 (0) 20 7484 0036/+44 (0) 7483 015 307 or jonathan.stringer@normanbroadbentinterim.com