Want career growth? Try these tips

Sharing secrets to career success in the C-suite for automotive executives.

Dealerships are complex organizations. Success factors are constantly changing so it’s important that your executive team is nimble and well rounded. They must be adaptable and have strong problem-solving skills; forward thinking and be able to communicate in a strong and concise manner.

Gone are the days that your CFO’s core skills were limited to accounting and tax. These are just table stakes now. To add real value in the retail automotive space your senior financial executive must also have the skills discussed below:

Networking skills: You need be able to build relationships within the organization and externally. This includes having strong ties to other C-suite executives in the automotive space and outside of it too. Best practices often come from outside the industry you are accustomed to. Consider joining boards and attending networking sessions in your local community — the idea here is to surround yourself with great people and to help others succeed. As the old adage goes, you get what you give in life.

IT skills: While you don’t have to know how to code, you need to be able to speak the language. You have to know what terms like data warehouse, SQL and Python programing language mean and how they can be used to improve the efficiently and output of your organization. You can delegate the rest. Very often the CFO also acts as the CTO in the dealership world. Be the leading voice when it comes to technological change. Your group will be better off for it.

Disruption and execution skills: If you prefer to spend your time with external stakeholders you are likely a disruptor. This characteristic involves looking for the latest business trends and constantly benchmarking your company outside your industry. Once you have identified the changes you’d like to make, the CFO must then drive the execution. You must move the “goal posts” and be experienced with the various elements of change management. Change is good and could lead to improved profitability and efficiencies but it must be managed properly so be cautious.

Strategic thinking skills: You are the leading facilitator of strategic thinking within your organization. You are constantly calling meetings, making agendas, taking minutes and following up on action items. This is a key skill set if you are looking to grow your dealer group — you can’t stay still. You are looking for new initiatives and business opportunities. There are plenty of leaders with this skill set in the automotive space — we’re kind of lucky in this regard. Reach out to them and understand how they see the world.

Analytical skills: Those who have chosen this career path are likely Excel gurus. They are comfortable being behind the computer and working models to support their business plans. It’s important. You must document your thoughts and understand how it will impact the different elements of your financial statement. This process creates transparency and visibility. It allows you to break down the various elements of a business plan and assign them to various members of your operations team.

Documentation is key to analysis — you certainly can’t do it on the back of a napkin. You need a formal and rational way to analyze business opportunities to drive success.

As you can see, today’s automotive CFO should possess a number of different skills to be successful. Up-and-comers in the profession should focus on developing these areas — don’t spend your time reading the tax act, you’re better off having dinner with a mentor in another industry.

Maybe go out golfing too, and really get to understand how they drive change. These relationships will be more important to the success of your group and your career than you can ever imagine. Focus on being a networker, technologist, disruptor, executor and analyst. If you do, you will be a success.

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