How to Become a CFO: Responsibilities, Qualifications, and Career Tips

Ready to take that leap into one of the hottest roles in the boardroom? No matter your industry, opportunities abound for aspiring chief financial officers. This fast-paced, forward-thinking, and well-paid position will challenge and thrill you every single day.

We’ve got the ultimate guide on how to become a CFO right here.

Like all executive positions, becoming a CFO requires a commitment to the long-haul and careful planning along the way. We’ll help you figure out where you stand and what you need to do to accelerate your path forward while avoiding common pitfalls by making smart choices about your education and career experience. 

By the time you’re through, you’ll have the foundations for your strategy to secure that coveted executive position. Let’s get started!

CFOs Are in Demand: A Sunny, Competitive Career

If you’re envisioning your future as a CFO, make it a bright one.  

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial managers at every level have experienced a 16 percent growth rate in their job outlook since 2018, with that rate projected to stay steady through 2028. That’s four times the national average of similar careers, such as sales managers (5 percent) or even other executive roles (6 percent).

What does a highly skilled executive like the CFO earn? According to Indeed, the average salary is $138,374 per year (plus benefits). However, it’s possible to earn closer to $200,000 per year if you’re located in an area like New York City, where demand for CFOs is particularly high.

What Is a CFO? Responsibilities and Role

A CFO is the senior financial manager responsible for overseeing and managing the financial actions of a company. Like a treasurer or financial controller, CFOs often manage an organization’s finance or accounting departments.

However, unlike a controller, the CFO makes decisions that have an impact on the overall direction of the company. For example, a controller may review financial statements to audit them for accuracy and adherence to regulatory compliance. In contrast, the CFO reviews those same financial statements to analyze them before making recommendations to improve the company’s financial performance.

Nonetheless, you’ll sometimes see a CFO referred to as a top-level financial controller, where their primary responsibility lies in overseeing all cash flow and financial planning in an organization. 

The Duties of a CFO

As a CFO, you’ll wear many different hats throughout the day. Expect to:

  • Lead, direct, and manage the organization’s finance or accounting teams.
  • Advise the CEO or other executive members on the financial implications of business plans or current events.
  • Review formal finance, H.R., or IT-related financial procedures to enforce policies or internal controls.
  • Manage or oversee independent auditors.
  • Plan, execute and oversee upgrades to financial systems, processes, or technologies.
  • Relate with investors or shareholders to gain a deeper understanding of their needs and expectations.
  • Provide data-driven analyses and recommendations related to the financial goals of a company.

Who Does a CFO Manage?

Traditionally, the CFO heads the finance or accounting department. Here, you may manage a range of professionals, including:

  • Accountants
  • Controllers
  • Tax professionals
  • Analysts
  • Human resources
  • Investor relations specialists

However, any financial hierarchy within a company will fall under your leadership. In general, if any planning or analysis requires the input of an expert on the financial impacts, you can expect to be tapped for your advice.

The Skills & Qualifications of a CFO

Get ready to showcase your flexibility, adaptability, and willingness to be proactive in supporting sustainable growth. The CFO is one of the fastest evolving positions at the executive level thanks to rapidly advancing technology and shifting expectations about the way we do business.

But technology isn’t the only arena in which you’ll need to demonstrate competence. You’ll need a range of hard and soft skills to navigate your position effectively. You can break those skills down into four distinct categories:

1. Leadership and management skills. Almost everything you do as a CFO involves some form of leadership. Whether it’s managing a team to implement new financial infrastructure or getting other executives on board with a plan, understanding leadership fundamentals is crucial to success. 

2. Accounting skills. CFOs are expected to demonstrate technical expertise in accounting and financial topics. Additionally, you’ll need to have a solid grasp on abstract subjects that have concrete impacts in the business world, such as the time value of money.

3. Data skills. According to Deloitte, businesses increasingly expect CFOs to handle business and financial analytics, using it to make highly data-driven decisions. At least 18 percent of CEOs who responded to their survey believed those responsibilities belonged solely to CFOs.

4. Strategy skills. The CFO is responsible for laying the financial foundation to help a company reach its goals. Expect others to turn to you when it comes time to find that uncontested market space that makes competitive and financial sense. 

Deloitte identifies four key skill sets that CFOs must possess. They are:

  • Steward: Protects vital assets, closes the books correctly, ensures compliance.
  • Operator: Emphasizes efficiency and effectiveness in the organization’s finances. 
  • Strategist: Develops long-term plans to improve the company’s financial performance.
  • Catalyst: Drives business improvement initiatives to keep the company competitive.]

The Most Common Degrees for CFOs

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to become a CFO. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the most common are finance, public accounting, economics, public administration, and business administration.

A master’s degree – usually in one of those same fields – also comes highly preferred due to the level of management you’ll demonstrate every day. Common master’s degrees include:

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master of Science in Accounting
  • Master of Public Administration
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Analysts
  • Master of Accounting for Financial Managers

Getting an MBA Is a Very Smart Move

Strongly consider getting an MBA along the way. According to Russell Reynolds Associates, 62 percent of all CFOs hold advanced degrees, with the vast majority opting for an MBA. (Plus, executives possessing one can expect a pay bump by as much as 16 percent, according to research by Wayne State University in Detroit.)

However, an MBA is valuable because it increases the breadth of your business knowledge. Imagine trying to understand why a product is underperforming but having no grasp on whether it’s the product itself or the result of a failed marketing campaign.

Or, imagine leading a company restructuring to reduce overhead and improve cost-effectiveness, but proposing a recommendation that inadvertently cuts the company’s most valuable talent.

Both scenarios could break the company and end your career super-fast.

As a financial executive, your decisions and recommendations directly impact the course and wellbeing of the company. An MBA will help you expand your perspective to contextualize your decisions within the organization better.

Today, many different types of MBAs exist. Traditional MBAs can provide more hands-on guidance, while an online MBA is great for self-motivated people who want to work while they go to school. We’ve covered the advantages of each to help you determine which path is right for you. 

Here’s a list of just a few of the elite-level CFOs who have earned an MBA:

Consider an EMBA

MBAs are expected in the boardroom now. So, taking your education a step further can set you apart. An Executive MBA (EMBA) is specifically designed for mid-career professionals and entrepreneurs who want to keep working full-time while developing more advanced skills.

An EMBA curriculum is slightly different from a traditional MBA in that it emphasizes leadership and strategy skills in the context of a corporation. At the same time, you’ll still learn everything that you would in an MBA curriculum; an EMBA is explicitly geared towards professionals seeking an executive position. 

Do You Need to Become a CPA?

Technically no, but many CFOs started out as CPAs. The position requires a solid understanding of accounting, so it will give you an advantage. However, according to organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry, the percentage of CFOs who are also CPAs has fallen over the past decade. In 2014, some 46 percent of CFOs were certified public accountants. In 2019, that number had dropped to 36 percent.

A CFA Can Become a CFO

A chartered financial analyst shares some of the technical expertise of a CPA, but a CPA typically has a much stronger grasp on accounting, taxes, audits, and other skills a CFO needs. That said, if you’re a CFA, you’ll stand the best chance at becoming a CFO by pairing your current degrees and certifications with an MBA. To take this route, look for an MBA program with a strong emphasis on accounting fundamentals to gain the technical skills you’ll need.

The CFO Career Path

If serving as a CFO is on your professional bucket list, be prepared for the long-haul. According to one interview with a CFO, potential prospects typically have around 10 years of related background and experience before seeking the position. If you’re laying out your career planning early in your professional development, you can take steps to accelerate your trajectory – such as picking out a business school with a proven track record in helping students achieve their career goals faster.

How to Become a CFO

Attaining the top position in the financial role takes careful preparation. Whether you’re just starting or are looking to advance your career, here are a few tips to help you out.

1. Choose Your Degrees Wisely

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree. Most likely, you’ll also need an advanced degree to carry you forward. Pay special attention to degrees and programs that give you a solid grasp in accounting plus other financial skills. 

Your competition probably has an MBA, but remember that not all MBAs are created equal. Check out the differences between an online MBA and an advanced EMBA right here. 

2. Gain Broad Financial Experience

Actively choose jobs that broaden your financial experience. In addition to accounting, consider positions that demonstrate budgeting, analysis, risk management, investing, and more. The more well-rounded you are, the stronger candidate you become.

You can do this in a variety of jobs, or you can work your way through one company. If the former, it’s wise to stay in the same industry to deepen that experience as well. Many people also pursue a CPA license for this purpose.

3. Take on Roles that Expand Your Skillset

You’ll need to know more than just finances. Look for opportunities to widen your customer service experience, business and operational expertise, technological literacy, and leadership skills.

4. Join a career network.

Career networks can put you in touch with the right people when you’re ready to become a CFO. Join one sooner than later to begin forming connections. Consider the presence of network opportunities when you pursue your MBA or advanced degree. Some programs have career networks which you can leverage while you study.

5. Pursue Board-Readiness Training

Done everything above? Think about sharpening yourself with a board-readiness program. Deloitte recommends that professionals seeking an executive position attend board-specific training to develop a deeper understanding of what’s expected of you in the C-suite.

Summary: How to Become a Great CFO

The Chief Financial Officer is a staple in the board room, playing a vital role in keeping the company compliant and profitable. Yet, the route to achieving that coveted role can seem confusing, leading many people to feel as though it remains just out of reach. 

With the right preparation and strategy, you can absolutely become a CFO. We’ve outlined what it takes to become one, the skills you will need, and provided some pointers in the steps you can take right now no matter where you are in your career. 

Happy advancing!

becoming a CFO. Read the case study now

The Smart Way to Recruit for your Company

Smartly is on a mission to connect learning and skill attainment to positive career outcomes for candidates.

Our Mission:

The team behind Smartly set out to alter the status quo in higher and professional education. We realized there was a larger issue at hand that needed to be addressed – it’s common for students to spend upwards of and often over $100,000 on a graduate degree without clear career advancement. On the other end of the spectrum, employers are at a loss on how to reach out and acquire talented candidates. Our career network, Smartly Talent, makes the process of hiring and vetting more streamlined and efficient for our partners – leading companies and organizations. We are on a mission to connect learning and skill attainment to positive career outcomes for our candidates.

Sign up. Once you have signed up and been accepted into Smartly Talent, you will be able to quickly view and connect with our candidates. You’ll be able to put in Preferences to find candidates that match your openings. Plus, our machine learning algorithms also suggest suitable profiles to you. We’re using technology to connect companies to talent, and strengthening the workforce with more efficient employment matches. You’ll be: joining a range of companies in our network including:

– Multinational Financial Institutions

– Premier and Boutique Consulting Firms

– VC-Backed Startups

– Publicly Traded Consumer Packaged Goods Companies

– Global PE Funds

– Digital Marketing Agencies

– Market Research Firms

…and more…

Our Candidates. In Smartly Talent, you will find high-caliber candidates looking for new opportunities. They have studied at elite universities and achieved results at innovative companies. These candidates join our career network, Smartly Talent, when they are admitted into one of our learning programs – world’s first, elite free MBA (2-10 years of work experience), executive MBA (10+ years of experience), and the Smartly Business Certificate (0-2 years of experience). 

Browse Top Talent: In the “Browse” view, you can filter candidates by office location, role, years of experience, and keywords. When you see a candidate that you are interested in, you can Invite to Connect and send a message to the candidate letting them know what position(s) you are recruiting for. You can also just Like a candidate to request a connection without sending a message. We also give you the option to Share a candidate with a teammate via email or Pass on a candidate that you don’t want to connect with at the moment.

smartly browse our candidatesFeatured Candidates: Our matching algorithm and personalized curation are used to suggest candidates that might be of interest to you.

Smartly Featured Candidates

Track Your Candidates: In your Tracker, your interactions with candidates are centralized. You’ll be able to see candidates you’ve connected with, your pending connections, and candidates passed on.

Save for Later: You can use our newly introduced “Save for Later” feature to revisit candidate profiles when you’re ready to make a decision.

Invite to Connect: When you’re ready to move forward with a candidate, you can use our “Invite to Connect” feature to start the interview process.

Hire!: Your first hire is free while we’re still in beta! So sign up or head back to Smartly Talent today to browse our candidates!

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Hire for Potential – Smartly Talent

As your business grows, how can you hire with the same mentality as your upper management?

As companies scale, upper management begins to focus more on business operations and the macro management of the organization. Recruiting decisions shift to hiring managers and recruiters. As a recruiter, you aim to hire candidates that uphold the company’s values and culture. Before you reach out to candidates, everyone on the hiring team should have a clear sense of your company’s core values and markers you’re looking for during the interviewing process. Now the question becomes, how can you hire with the same mentality as your upper management?

Ask behavioral interview questions

Technical questions are an important part of any interview process but it’s important to remember that they are only one piece of the puzzle. Asking behavioral questions during an interview is a great way to test emotional intelligence, temperament, and the candidate’s stress response. The unconventional nature of behavioral questions tests candidates’ authenticity and problem-solving skills

Look beyond the resume

The difference between skill and competency is hard to gauge by quickly scanning a CV. It’s especially hard to vet candidates early in their careers based on resume alone. Inc. Magazine argues,  “excellent candidates are being overlooked, not because they lack ability, but because they have a blank resume.” For inexperienced candidates, it’s important to look at aptitude and whether they could learn the necessary skills, and then quiz their skills and competencies. You want to hire for the future–you want to hire people that are not afraid to take initiative and have great work ethic. Sometimes the best candidate is not the one who has the most relevant experience but the one with the most potential. Here are two suggestions to consider. First, you can ask candidates to solve a problem during the interview or submit a writing sample with 24 hours. Second, to gauge passion, you can ask candidates to speak about any personal projects that they may have started or are working on.

Hire for the “IT” factor

Soft skills and non-technical skills can be hard to quantify. Understanding how a person works with others or their leadership potential isn’t something that any resume or even quick interview will uncover. But, these skills are important to the “IT” factor. Google believes that “Technical ability will only carry you so far. Employers also want to see a skill that can’t be taught.” That’s why asking behavioral interview questions are so important. Behavioral interview questions help identify intangible skills.Teamwork, communication, work ethic, adaptability, problem-solving, and intellectual humility are some of the important qualities to look for when hiring and vetting candidates. As you make your next hire, keep asking yourself–does this candidate have the “IT” factor to be successful at your company? 

We know that building your team can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why we designed Smartly Talent, our hiring platform where you can efficiently browse and connect with high caliber candidates for your open positions. We have amazing software engineers, data scientists, marketing managers, account executives, product managers and more who are active in our career network and are taking advantage of our learning platform to gain the business skills they need to get ahead in their careers.

Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates today! And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free.

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4 Proven Methods to Retain Your Company’s Top Talent

A few tips to ensure that you’re doing your part to keep your company’s “All-Star” talent around for the long haul.

While attracting top talent requires diligence, retaining them poses another challenge for young startups and large companies alike. Cultivating and nurturing talent is essential to the success of an organization, as high performing employees directly impact your business. This function is something that cannot be automated; companies that support and encourage educational development, professional growth, and overall satisfaction of their employees tend to see lower employee turnover rates. Here are a few ways to ensure that you are doing your part to keep your “All-Stars” around.

Encourage Mentorship

One of the most valuable assets for a young startup is time. Having standard operating procedures and training modules in place allows new hires to better understand the day to day requirements of the role. Having mentors with experience at an organization can help new hires with onboarding and understanding the organization better. Mentors who are currently in roles that new hires want to take on in the future can provide valuable advice on how to accelerate their personal and professional development.

Promote a Learning Culture

Forbes believes that “establishing learning and development processes, and routine coaching practices, helps ensure people are acquiring new knowledge and skill to keep up with the intensified ‘mitosis.’” Give candidates space and ability to explore and learn new ideas. A great example is companies investing in B2B online learning platform subscriptions for their employees. This gives employees the ability to learn and hone skills that can aid them in the current role and promote their professional development.

Give and receive feedback

In his book “The Hard Things about Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz explains “that the reason employees leave a company is due to lack of guidance, misaligned expectations, and questionable feedback they receive. Often times when employees resign, they are leaving their managers and not the company.” Constructive criticism and valuable feedback help show that an employee’s work has a meaningful impact and areas upon which they can improve. When giving feedback specificity, observations based on facts, and encouragement on how to improve moving forward are crucial. This helps build trust and relationships between managers and their employees. Impactful feedback is critical for employees to grow and succeed which then impacts the company as a whole.

Reward and Retain

Working at startups can be risky and equate to long hours, but rewarding your hardest working employees can help provide a balance or a sense of fairness. According to research done by FastCompany, employees who feel tired and burnt out are 31% more likely to look for a new job than those who have a great work-life balance. For smaller startups, organizing weekly lunch outings and happy hours are a quick easy way to reward employees after a hectic week or project. Asking your “A Player” employees for product input and feedback is a great way to let them know their ideas matter. It also helps when the upper management at a company is vocal about the impact that each and every employee has on the company’s vision and direction. Townhall meetings that congratulate and spotlight team members and groups based on their accomplishments is another way to ensure that employees are rewarded for their hard work. For Series A and B startups employees, perks are often rewarded based on performance and meeting goals. Some examples include bonuses, onsite gym and spa facilities, and lounge areas with games and snacks.

We know that building your team can be challenging and time-consuming. That’s why, we designed Smartly Talent, our hiring platform in which you can efficiently browse and connect with high caliber candidates for your open positions.

Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates today! And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free.

Head Back to Smartly Talent

Guide to Setting Up Recruiting at a Startup by Smartly Talent

When short on time, how do you efficiently source, interview, and track talent?

It’s difficult for early stage startups to find talent when they need it. In fact, startups are often hiring for a role a month after they needed the person for the role. The last thing there is time for is hiring, but there comes a point when new talent is needed to scale. When short on time, where do you start to source talent? And once you have a list of candidates, what are you using to interview and track processes? When you are looking to fill more than one position, it’s time to start building your recruiting processes out.

The first step should be getting an affordable and functional Applicant Tracking System (ATS). A simple ATS is key to maintaining a talent pipeline, keeping track of candidates’ interview progress, and their offer status. Otherwise, you may lose track of people and resumes, or worse, forget about a candidate and give an applicant a bad experience. This is because an ATS helps you keep track of candidates so they stay in the loop about their interview status and feedback. Here are a few great options as you pick your ATS:

Product: Price:Notable Feature:
GoogleHireFrom $2400 to $12,000 per yearIntegrates easily with G Suite apps
Greenhouse$6600 per yearTailored Interview Kits for every candidate and position
Lever$4000 per year
*Price goes up as employee size goes up
Create individual and full job sites and landing pages
WorkableFrom $600 to $4800 per yearBuilt in social media recruitment

We recommend GoogleHire because of its ability to integrate easily into existing Google Suite software and its price point. As a startup that uses Google’s productivity suite, we find value in being able to find, track, schedule, and message candidates in one platform. You can easily have your team collaborate in hiring decisions as well.

Google Hire ATS
Our choice for an easy and affordable ATS is Google Hire!

This is the first in a series of articles about setting up recruiting at your startup! 

At Smartly, we know that scaling your team is challenging and time consuming. That’s why we built Smartly, where you can efficiently browse, vet, and interview high caliber candidates for your open positions. And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free. Sign up or head back to Smartly Talent to browse our candidates!

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Smartly Tips to Reduce Bias During the Hiring Process

Here are a few tips to help you better evaluate candidates and improve your hiring practices.

Harvard Business Review cites that “fair hiring methods increase the level of productivity and innovation at your organization, and can even improve employee retention rates.” At Smartly, we believe that all candidates deserve a fair chance at being considered for roles they’re qualified for. Some common hiring biases include: age, disability, nationality, race, color, religion, and gender. Our hiring engine allows employers to evaluate candidates based on a candidate profile, which is designed to showcase: experience, skillset, and potential. In an effort to reduce unconscious bias, we give employers the ability to browse profiles without pictures or names. Check it out in Smartly Talent (log back in).

Smartly Feature to Reduce Bias
Access this setting in the “Preferences” section of Smartly Talent

Here are a few other ways you can reduce bias in your hiring process:

  • Implement a blind CV policy that omits name, gender, and nationality from candidates’ profiles. This helps ensure that a candidate is judged on their merits and achievements.
  • Establish a uniform vetting and interview process. Standardize questions, by using a uniform script. This helps ensure that candidates of all background are asked the same screening questions.
  • When asking personality and behavioral questions, be sure to ask questions that are gender neutral and test temperament required to excel in the role and a team setting.
  • Also, having multiple interviewers at each stage ensures a diversity of perspectives when it comes time to evaluate a candidate post-interview.

We hope these tips help you better evaluate our candidates and improve your hiring practices! Head back to Smartly to browse our candidates!

And, while we are in beta, your first hire is free!

Head Back to Smartly Talent

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Quantic

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly to teach all incoming MBA students business fundamentals.

Today, we’re proud to announce that Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business adopts Smartly, a new mobile learning platform, to teach all incoming MBA students fundamentals of Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance

Washington, D.C.: Pedago, a new innovative mobile learning solutions provider to educational institutions, companies and individuals, announced today that its flagship platform Smartly has been adopted by Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business to teach key subjects, including Accounting, Statistics, Economics and Finance, to the incoming MBA Class of 2018 before students even arrive on the Georgetown campus.

McDonough selected Smartly after extensive evaluation by faculty and existing students. McDonough recruits outstanding students from around the world, regardless of whether they have studied business as undergraduates. Selected preparation courses are designed to allow McDonough to provide the proper foundation for all of students so they hit the ground running when they begin their opening term with Structure of Global Industries and Financial Reporting Fundamentals courses.

“Smartly is a next-generation approach to online and mobile learning,” Prashant Malaviya, Senior Associate Dean, MBA Programs at McDonough, said, “and we are delighted to be able to offer our foundational courses to incoming students in this format.”

Students will be able to access Smartly’s MBA Preparation Program through a McDonough-branded web-portal and mobile app that provide access to a curated list of six courses that prime students in key areas needed to succeed in the internationally recognized MBA program. Faculty receive access to an extensive reporting tool that allows them to track student progress and better identify patterns associated with the class as a whole.

“We’re excited to have this new relationship with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The business school is known for its excellent faculty and smart students, and it’s a validation for Smartly,” said Pedago co-founder Tom Adams. “And as we’re also based in D.C., we’re hoping this evolves into a broad partnership.”

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business
Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the premier destination for global business education, provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in the service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs prepare students to be “global ready” by providing a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a worldwide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or custom programs. Learn more at http://msb.georgetown.edu. Follow McDonough on Twitter: @msbgu.

About Pedago LLC and its platform Smartly
Pedago revolutionizes online education with interactive courses and lessons that make learning effective and fast. Co-founded by Tom Adams, Alexie Harper, and Ori Ratner in 2013, Pedago is on a mission to reinvent online and mobile learning. Inspired by a desire to bring Active Learning practices to an educational technology sector dominated by passive video lectures, Pedago makes learning dramatically faster and more effective with highly interactive lessons available on any device. Pedago is based in Washington, D.C. Pedago’s first platform is Smartly, a learning platform that is transforming business education. Developed in partnership with experts from leading business schools, Smartly offers a broad range of carefully-crafted business courses, designed to make learning fast, convenient, and effective.

*Image courtesy of Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

The Whole Foods Secret: A Longer Line with Shorter Wait Times

You’re waiting in the check-out line. It’s long. You question: Isn’t a multiple-line system more efficient?

Ask a random group of people about their pet peeves and you’re likely to hear at least one complaint related to waiting in line. No wonder: it can be boring and frustrating, and often seems unnecessary or unfair—think about the last time you waited longer at the supermarket than someone who arrived after you. Nevertheless, we spend quite a lot of time doing it; as much as a year or two of our lives, according to some estimates.

If you’re a business owner, you want to reduce the amount of time your patrons wait in line to a minimum. Like many businesses, you’re probably using a traditional multiple-line system, with several parallel lines that customers have to choose from. If these lines aren’t properly managed and involve a long and unpleasant wait, customers may renege on an intended purchase and even be discouraged from returning to your business. That could mean the loss of a lot of potential revenue.

So, what can you do? You can try a different line system, used by banks, post office branches, and some fast food restaurants: a single line that feeds into multiple cashiers. It’s also been adopted by major supermarket chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. What’s so great about this system?

A key advantage of having one line is that—despite the fact it is longer—the average wait time is often shorter. That’s because the single-line system doesn’t suffer from the inefficiencies that can plague multiple lines. In the multiple-line system, for example, customers may not notice that a checkout counter is open, leading to long delays. In addition, a single-line system seems fairer, since customers who arrive first are always served first.

Of course, there are also potential drawbacks to the single-line system. A single line, for instance, is wrongly perceived by customers as slower simply because it’s longer, which might deter some. And you need enough floor space for the long line you get with this system.

Not sure yet if you should use a single-line system? Figure out the actual wait times at your business before deciding, and learn about other ways to reduce wait times. This is just one small aspect of Quantic’s Operations Management Fundamentals course about how to make any business—large or small—run more efficiently.

To learn more about Operations Management Fundamentals and other ways to make your business more efficient, sign up here

Five Simple Steps to Push Your Application to the Top

In just a few simple steps you can make a huge difference in getting your application noticed when applying for a new job.

As you may have noticed on the Quantic blog, Pedago is currently on the hunt for motivated content developers and back-end engineers to help bring Quantic’s bite-sized, interactive courses to life. Part of my job is to review and prioritize the diverse writing samples and resumes submitted by our eager content developer applicants. In doing so, I’ve noticed that taking just a few simple steps can make a huge difference in getting your application to rise to the top when applying for a new job. While the items on this list may seem obvious, it’s never a bad idea to review the basics so you can focus on being the number one, standout applicant.

  • Proofread your resume. If your job requires “attention to detail,” make sure that’s reflected in your resume; you’ll stand out in a bad way if you misspell the word “meticulous” while listing it as one of your top five traits! What better way to impress your hiring manager (and give them a peek into your future work at the company) than to showcase a resume that is ship-shape and devoid of typos and grammar errors. This absolutely goes for personal websites and your LinkedIn profile as well—if you’ve provided links to an online resume or portfolio, make sure it represents your best work.
  • Read the job posting. Perhaps your future employer is looking for a cover letter; maybe they want you to apply via a special link, or they’ve provided specific instructions for a required skills test. Regardless of the instructions provided, it’s crucial that you demonstrate your interest in the position and ability to understand instructions by following them to a T. It’ll help you make a great first impression!
  • Do your research. Spend a little time on your potential employer’s website. Check out the current employees, do a little digging into the company mission, and try to figure out their main focus as a company. If you’re able to do so for a minimal cost, try out the company’s product! This should be done before you apply—how else will you be able to tell if you really want to apply?
  • Focus on what you bring to the position. Once you’ve taken the time to read the job posting and consider how your skills might be a great fit, and then tell us about it. You can focus on the compensation details once you have a job offer in hand. We know you’re looking for decent pay, fair vacation time, maybe flexible work arrangements, and more. But, you can leave those details until later, once you’ve determined that you’re a good match for the position itself.
  • Be polite, even if you don’t get the job. Employers often have a large pool of candidates for each job posting. You may never know whether you were the second choice or last in line for the position, but you can guarantee that your resume will never get a second chance if you reply to a rejection notice in a negative fashion. Keep it positive, and keep your chances of scoring a position on the next go-around!

While this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the things to keep in mind when applying, it’s a great place to start. What other tips would you add to the list? Happy hunting!

*photo credit: deathtothestockphoto.com

The Blue Ocean Mind

In my third year of running Rosetta Stone as CEO, I opened the book Blue Ocean Strategy, and it was a pivotal moment.

 

Ten years ago, I picked up a copy of Blue Ocean Strategy at an airport bookstore.

At the time, I was in my third year of running Rosetta Stone as CEO and we were enjoying annual growth rates of close to 100%. While still operating out of a converted seed warehouse in rural Harrisonburg, Virginia, I engaged consultants and advisers who invariably asked me: “Who’s your competition? What are your competitor’s strengths? How can you stay ahead or catch up?” or “Do you know how big the language learning industry is today? How fast is it growing? How can you gain market share?” Those weren’t the things we were focused on! We were thinking about how to build an interesting, enduring and delightful company.

We were an emerging company and were…well…a bit odd. Our price point was tenuous (twenty times the cost of rival language learning software). Marketing spend also seemed unsustainably dominant (with sprawling kiosks and crazy-high ad spending), all managed without an integrated media plan. Indeed, we were unfocused in terms of our end markets, offering the same curriculum in 25+ languages to the US Army, Fortune 500 companies, school districts, homeschoolers, and individual consumers. We were a legacy of seemingly illogical decisions (we were told) in need of a strategy to become more competitive.

And yet, we had just become the #1 company in the US language learning industry by revenues overtaking the long established brick-and-mortar based Berlitz. We were profitable, and were one of the fastest growing companies in the nation. We certainly did not feel like we were all wrong—even if we didn’t have it together in all sorts of ways. We were doing well, and enjoying the ride.

Discovering Blue Ocean Strategy was a pivotal moment for me. It provided a framework for what we had been doing and explained why our independent and unusual approach was working. It spurred me to hone our strategic approach as we evolved new innovative offerings and business models. And as colleagues also became familiar with Blue Ocean Strategy, the powerful concepts became part of our common parlance across the company, inspiring product designers to re-think English language training in Asia, while also helping with on-boarding new collaborators who typically wanted to teach us their more reasonable way of focusing on beating the competition.

While not every single Blue Ocean Strategy turned to gold, it was the right framework for designing solutions to age-old problems. Like anything in life, it will not work every time and reality is unpredictable. But it is a wonderful way to approach work and life in general—a license to do what you think is right, and to stop wasting time on stuff that you don’t think is required. It is what explains success such as Tesla, Cirque du Soleil and IKEA—and how they escape the traditional competitive mindset that is so limiting and even exhausting. If you haven’t yet used the Blue Ocean Strategy framework to think about your company and life, please do so! You’ll be happier for it.

As one of our first courses at Pedago, we’ve developed a quick intro to Blue Ocean Strategy via our new platform Smartly. Whether it is your first contact with the framework or more of a refresher, with Smartly, you’ll breeze through it!

And in the process, you’ll get to see what Alexie, Ori and I, and the rest of the Pedago team, have been up to over the past couple of years. We think we’ve come up with a powerful new way to teach using technology, and we hope that it works for you. In the future, we’ll develop many more courses using this platform and technology.

Our solution is designed for the smartphone, and works great on desktop and tablet. And there aren’t any plans for a CD-ROM or any bright box packaging! So get going and escape the red ocean by going to https://smart.ly/blue-ocean-strategy.

May Blue Ocean Strategy become your team’s strategic lingua franca!