6 Ways for Executives to Elevate Their Careers

Congratulations, you have made it to the C-Suite. You landed your dream job that acknowledges your past professional accomplishments and provides lucrative financial rewards. After celebrating your new milestone, the furthest thing from your mind is to plan the next phase of your career strategy. However, in a dynamic job market, it’s critical that you are continually planning the next move so that in 3 to 5 years you can continue to grow.

By being proactive, and not reactive, in your career strategy will put you and your family in a position of strength and stability, whereas being reactive will mean that you’re acting from a position of weakness which puts you and your family at risk.   Being proactive entails looking for opportunities to strengthen your skills, visibility, and relationships and that’s what this blog is about.

I recently caught up with Lead5 advisory board member Bob Collins who has 3 decades of executive leadership in human resources, including leading staffing at top international brands.  He shared with me 6 ways to ensure that you are always operating from a position of strength as you continually navigate your executive career.

1. Understand that the 6-month mark is important. As an executive, your first 6 months in your job will require pouring a 100% plus of your energy into your role and ensuring that your first year in the position is a success.   Past the 6-month mark, it’s time to widen your lens and invest at least 5% of your energy into your career. At each anniversary date, you should increase this time investment and broaden your focus. Initially, this could mean additional training or education.   It could also mean taking on speaking engagements and networking to exchange knowledge with other executives in your field.   Importantly, these activities not only will help you deliver results for your current firm, but they will also keep your skills relevant and sharp in the marketplace. It will also allow you to build and strengthen your network of colleagues and expand your visibility to those who could play a vital role in your organizational advancement.

2. Always have a long-term career strategy. You should be continually defining, refining, and working your long-term career strategy.   What is the vision of your ideal role?   Are you an industry-specific executive or is there a new industry you’d like to pursue?   This career plan will help guide the choices you make in your career development and prevent you from becoming complacent or stagnant. Just as successful leaders believe that every business plan must have a viable talent plan that describes how the plan is to be implemented, a thoughtful career strategy needs to have a business plan on how to achieve the stated objectives with the required skills to execute it. The time to determine your skill gaps is now before the next phase of career strategy unfolds.

3. Be marketable even if you’re not in the marketplace. This starts with taking on challenges that align with your career plan.   For example, if you’re a CFO with a Fortune 500 firm and you aspire to become a Fortune 100 CFO, a good place to start is networking with Fortune 100 CFOs and doing a gap analysis between your skills and theirs.   Obviously, it will take time to close any gaps and that’s why this career plan is a long-term – not short-term – strategy.    Being marketable also entails continually optimizing your CV, sharing expertise with those who need it, and sharing thought leadership either by speaking engagements or written publications.  Strive to become the person people in your field want to know because of the success you are creating for your company.  Also, cultivate your desire to learn and stay on the cutting edge of your field so that you are consistently advancing the profession in the most critical areas.

4. Develop a continual networking strategy. With your current career demands, it’s not feasible to network with every contact that you have.   But you can take a look at your most important contacts and segment them.   Who are the contacts you should be reaching out to once a month for lunch or simply exchanging emails?   Who are the contacts you should reach out to once a quarter?  What you don’t want to do is wait until you need them and then start reaching out to contacts you haven’t communicated with for years.    Lead5 is a service that provides executives with key executive contacts.   Lead5 also informs its members when important hires like CEOs are made.   That’s a good time for you to do some outreach, sending a short note to a newly appointed CEO, congratulating him/her and mentioning that one day you’d love to share how you can help.

5. Don’t be complacent. The average tenure for a C-suite executive is 3-5 years at the same company. While things could be going extremely well for you now, recognize that all companies have downturns, leadership shifts, and ownership changes.   While it’s your duty to pour your energy into making your firm a success, don’t neglect yourself in the process.   The most successful executive always carves out time to invest in themselves.   As I mentioned above, this benefits your current firm and it keeps you relevant in the marketplace.

6. Don’t neglect development opportunities within your current firm. Executives too often believe that to get ahead that they must switch firms.   While that is sometimes the case, remember that your current firm appointed you for a reason.   While you’re helping your current firm achieve its mission, make a point to find allies who champion your long-term career vision (assuming that this vision is aligned with the company vision, of course).  This will open up doors at your current firm that help you proactively achieve your career plan.

Key Takeaways:

As an executive, if you’re not continually proactive in your career approach, then you’re in a reactive state which puts you in a position of weakness.

How do you shift into this proactive state and position of strength?   As detailed above, look for opportunities that improve your skills, visibility, and relationships.  These three things will keep you highly marketable as you continue to evolve on your leadership path.

 Use Lead5 to uncover hidden executive opportunities and gain the intel required to land your next prominent role.   Lead5 has been the executives trusted partner for 5 years.   

Try it for 14 days today. 

 

 

5 Skills a PE-Backed CFO Must Master

As the private equity model continues to build momentum, more executives from public companies are being approached to join PE-backed companies.   At Lead5, CFOs are increasingly telling us that they are considering making the jump into the PE-backed world, and they want to understand if they are a good fit before making the move.   In this blog, I’m going to share with you the 5 skills that PE-backed CFOs must master to be successful in this challenging and lucrative operating environment.   These insights are from my recent conversation with Dave Justus, a veteran PE-backed CFO, and also a Lead5 advisory board member.

1. Focus on building value in addition to the traditional blocking and tackling roles. Examples are experience in building teams, systems, and processes that allow businesses to effectively scale.  For PE-Backed CFOs, strong financial chops are table stakes.   The real key is possessing solid leadership that allows you to build value in a time and resource-constrained operating environment.

2. Bring a strategic mindset, especially to resource allocation discussions.  In the PE-backed model, you will be the driving force in delivering the ROI that your investors seek.  Finance executives are uniquely positioned to have the best data and insights about resource allocation decisions and recommendations.

3. Have an ownership mindset.  Founders have a unique perspective and passion that can be embraced.   It’s your job to tap into that passion and inspire your teams to ‘play up’ to that level.  Owners are entrepreneurial by nature, and you should be, as well.   This means rolling up your sleeves and getting important work done that may fall outside your functional area.

4. Be the type of team player that makes the rest of the team better.  Identify weaknesses and problem areas and focus your efforts on strengthening those spots.   Outline a clear vision to your team and a path on how to get there.   Know when your team needs a healthy push vs. when it’s time to take your foot off the gas.    Eliminate roadblocks and foster healthy, pro-active communication.

5. Work hard and have fun with a purpose.   Being a PE-backed CFO will challenge you in ways that traditional CFOs roles won’t.   It’s important to clarify your motivation before you even begin on this path.  Once you’ve clarified your personal focus, you’ll need to demonstrate through your work ethic that you are committed to success.   This will trickle down to everyone in your organization.   While the financial exits of these deals are lucrative to the point of being legendary, you are going to burn out if you don’t have a sincere higher purpose in mind.  There are going to be periods of high stress.   It’s during these times that you have to embrace the challenge and learn how to have fun!   The teams you lead will feed off your positive attitude, and together, you’ll be on solid footing on a path towards success.

Most PE-backed executive jobs are unlisted.  Use Lead5 to uncover hidden PE-backed executive opportunities and gain the intel required to land your next prominent role.   Lead5 has been the executives trusted partner for 5 years.  

Try it for 14 days today.

 

The Private Equity Industry Is Booming: What Does This Mean for You?

Over the last decade, the private equity industry has sky-rocketed as cheap debt from low interest rates has provided fuel to the leverage model along with more investors realizing the remarkably favorable risk-reward ratio of a well-managed PE-backed backed deal.   As the private equity model continues to build momentum, more executives from public companies are being approached to join PE-backed companies.   Have you been approached by a PE-backed firm?   If so, I’m going to share some PE industry insights from Dave Justus, a veteran PE-backed CFO, and also a Lead5 advisory board member.  I’ll close with 4 key attributes that successful private equity executives must have to thrive under this ownership structure.

Why is Private Equity Booming?

Dave Justus is the former CFO of Avetta and he’s a PE-backed veteran, and Dave also serves on the Lead5 advisory board.   He recently shared these insights on private equity’s emergence.

Mr. Justus says, “Investment by private equity firms (PE) is booming and, in some ways, overtaking public and venture capital as the preferred investment model.  While PE funds are being raised at a record rate, the number of publicly listed companies in the US has dropped by 20% over the past 10 years and by over 50% over the past 20 years.  The attractiveness of being a public company has diminished somewhat in the past decade because of regulatory pressures and costs.”

Mr. Justus continued, “With venture capital (VC) deals, investors were mainly betting on the success of the CEO and management team’s ability to create a sustainable business.  The typical success rate for early stage was around 1 in a 100.  The odds in VC were long, but the returns were very high with a successful exit.  PE on the other hand invests in professionalizing and scaling proven businesses in established markets, without taking much, if any, business plan and market adoption risk.  PE firms typically expect a 3x return on their investment in a 3-to-5-year horizon.  In a nutshell, PE can be a heavy lift operating environment to professionalize and scale the business in an established market, but is much more of a ‘sure bet.’  As a result, there’s a flood of executives looking to get into this space.”

B2B firms have traditionally represented the largest private equity target, but PE-capital continues to pour into IT, B2C, Financial Services, and other industries.   In 2017, over 4000 PE-backed deals occurred, representing an investment value of over $500B.   With deal volumes staying high, more top executives from traditional public companies are being recruited to play key roles in company transformations.

Lead5 Analysis Shows Private Equity Salary Growth

This PE growth is generating higher salaries for qualified executives.   For example, Lead5 compensation analysis has shown an increase in the average base salary for CFO’s of PE backed lower middle market companies over the last 2 years.  The mid-point of base salary has traditionally been roughly $250,000.  With a highly competitive market for proven players with previous PE portfolio company CFO experience, the base salary range has jumped up to $300,000.

What makes a PE-backed executive successful?

 To be a successful executive at a PE-backed firm, you must recognize that the investment horizon for most PE-backed deals is 3-5 years and operate with an appropriate sense of urgency.   You must be comfortable leading in an environment that demands successful financial results on a compacted timeline.   Also, part of the PE-backed ‘playbook’ is cutting out unnecessary expenses so being resourceful with limited resources is paramount to your success.

Here’s a list of executive leadership traits that are critically important in a PE-backed operating model:

1. Bias for action. Within larger public firms, due to the sheer size and some of the ingrown bureaucracy that comprises the company culture, you probably attend (and maybe even lead) some meetings that are customary – where updates are exchanged, and decisions are postponed or never even made.  In the PE-backed company culture, meetings are principally about making important decisions, some of which will change the direction of the firm.   In short, it’s about being decisive and taking action.

2. Entrepreneurial. PE-Backed firms are notorious for ‘stripping out the fat’ and this includes support and administrative staff.   Are you comfortable rolling up your sleeves and doing whatever work that needs to be done?   Successful PE execs find this environment to be both challenging and rewarding.

3. Team Skills/Emotional intelligence. With limited resources, can you rally your team and inspire them to move the firm forward?   First, you have to be able to earn the trust of your subordinates.   Then you have to understand when to hit the pedal and when to give your team a break.   Can you keep the work environment upbeat and positive when the heat is on?

4. Confident Communicator. You’ll be expected to produce results quickly, and you’ll be asked to provide progress updates more frequently than at large public firms.   Do you have the confidence and communication skills to defend what you’re doing?    It’s important to recognize that leadership in a PE-backed firm requires effective communication with not only your subordinates and customers, but also the private equity firm that has an investment stake in your success.

Most PE-backed executive jobs are unlisted.  Use Lead5 to uncover hidden PE-backed executive opportunities and gain the intel required to land your next prominent role.   Lead5 has been the executives trusted partner for 5 years.  

Try it for 14 days today.