There are times when the opinions of the chief financial officer and chief revenue officer within a business clash.
Companies looking to maximise efficiency may well find themselves asking whether both roles are essential – particularly as executive officers come at a cost – and whether they can be combined.
United by a focus on money management, the primary difference between the CFO and CRO roles is that one is dedicated to making money and the other to saving money.
The CFO spends their day accounting, budgeting, handling risk management and negotiating funding. The CRO focuses on sales, marketing and customer experience, and does not worry so much about how money is being used within the business.
So is it possible to merge the responsibilities of the CFO and CRO?
Theoretically, yes, as both roles require financial acumen and a head for numbers. Yet the problem with combining the two is they come at the task from different angles: while the CRO should have experience in motivating sales performance and driving creativity for immediate effect, the CFO has their eye on the longer term, with a skillset based in planning, future growth and controlling risk.
Bringing the two positions together can have the benefit of cohesion, creating consistency across the business with financial decision-making powered by one person with their fingers in all the relevant pies. But it also carries the risk of a loss of expertise.
As a CFO, I’ve had decades of experience of future-planning. That experience helped me to successfully carry the business I was working with at the time – Foodhub – through a global pandemic, even managing to help it grow during one of the most difficult economic periods on recent record.
My risk mitigation knowledge meant that I knew where to push, where to invest and where to stop. But I also knew where I needed to collaborate with the company’s CRO to build the requisite revenue increase to feed the directional plans created by myself and the chief exec.
Again, in theory, I could have carried out the revenue generation work myself. I’d have done okay, but it would have taken me longer; it would have been harder; and it would have been a lot less successful without the experience and unique understanding that my colleague brought to the role.
Much as I would like to take full credit, the real reason behind the success the business is enjoying now is the collaborative relationship between all of the executive officers and the teams who worked with us.
So how can you help CROs and CFOs to work together?
They are like two sides of the same coin, with conflict almost inevitable. If personalities don’t clash, management styles and goals unavoidably will – especially where there is no clear delineation of responsibility.
Although the two roles share the same ultimate goal, it’s not always possible for the two pathways towards it to converge. And that presents decision-making challenges, among other things.
Having a policy of open communication can help, because at times of growth, the businesses that succeed will have a CRO and CFO who are able to work well together.