Question: What is the best way to negotiate the work commitment with a CEO?

My manager, the CFO of a 300 employee company, has resigned recently. I was invited by our President/ CEO for a candid conversation.

He explained to me that he would prefer someone internal to take over the CFO role. He wants to take our company public within one year. Then he explained to me what it will take to be the CFO, of such a company.

In short, he suggested that I will need to be on call 24x7. He also expects all deliverables to be turned around as quickly as they can be, no matter when the request is sent (weekends, holidays, etc).

Although, I was initially inclined to passover the promotion, I am wondering if this is an opportunity to negotiate a role commitment. I will appreciate if some of the career experts can comment on how to handle such discussions.

Categories: CareerLeadership









9 Expert answers





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62 answers

As for your question about it being an opportunity, I'm afraid I may not be of that much help because my experience with this scenario (and yes I've seen it before) is found in these observations and questions.

1. What are the consequences of turning it down?

That's one of the first questions to be clear about, because if 'no' is not an option then 'yes' is not a choice.

2. What is your experience of this person being open to things going anyway but his when it comes to what he perceives as roles and responsibilities/ work commitment?

To put it another way, how open have you seen him be to negotiations about something contrary to what he wants?

As for negotiating with him, he's already laid out his expectations. It may be that his expectations are part of why the previous CFO left. Personally, when someone says what he said about what he wants, he usually wants that, and although he might appear to bend out of need or expedience, sooner or later the other shoe drops and  that expectation will show itself and/ or he'll demand it.

My last question for you is:

-Other than the ego boost and pay grade increase that accompanies this job, what calls you to consider this role?
-Does this have some passionate ring for you?
-How congruent is it with what you already love to do?

Lastly in making a decision on this one...

What values of yours, are important to stay true to when looking at this one?

Good luck with it.

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67 answers

It seems to me that the CEO has been very clear in regard to  what is required of the person occupying the CFO position.  Whereas it's flattering that he has identified you as the one he would like to consider for the job, the fact remains that to succeed in his eyes will require that you are prepared to devote yourself to the position and the company as he has outlined.  With a plan to go public within the year this can only add added work that someone in the CFO position would need to accomplish.

If you know that you will not take the job unless you can negotiate your role commitment, then you have nothing to lose as it seems that you are hesitant and perhaps even unwilling to accept a position that requires what the CEO has described.  I would only encourage you to evaluate the opportunity that this could represent for your career before closing this door.  At the same time I respect that your ideal life has a greater sense of balance between your work and the remainder of your world.

Good luck to you in whatever path your take.  Evidently you have the skills needed to do the CFO job ... either with your current company or another down the road.

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27 answers

Resolve internal factors (your short/long term goals, values, needs, etc.), and your decision will become clear.
It can be tricky to work this out on your own, lots of considerations here.

Give a call if you'd like to talk this through.

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21 answers

As always, these things are complicated but the advice and comments you have been given above are valid.

In my experience, if the company is going to attempt to go public in one year, your CEO's warnings are real and realistic. I wouldn't try to negotiate out of the commitments he's asking for - it won't work, at any level - and if this is not for you, best tell him now.

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3 answers

You've gotten some great advice in the responses offered. Here are a couple of my thoughts for you to consider.

In your next conversation with him, I would ask
"What makes it important to you to promote someone internally?"
I might also ask his perception about your ability to fulfill on the role.
Is it just the sense of commitment he feels might be a barrier to your success?
What support is he willing to provide in terms of strengthening your team (finance/accounting)?
When "fire drills" happen, will you have the opportunity to negotiate due dates based on an evaluation of all other priorities (including your personal priorities)?

I think the answers to these questions will tell you if you're being set up to succeed in this role.

The evaluation process you must go through then is one of self reflection.
What are the benefits of this new role - all of them, not just the obvious ones
What are the sacrifices you'll be making - dig deep, ask that questions from multiple angles, (e.g., spouse, children, friends, others with whom you have relationships)
After weighing the pros and cons, do the benefits align with your personal goals and values?

The biggest question to ask yourself is - do YOU want it?

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13 answers

I hear your question to be what do you need to know to negotiate whether you want to take this role or not.
You have to negotiate with several different entities.

First: What do you need to know about the role?
(1)  Inform your choice: Talk to 2-3 CFOs who have taken a company public. what resources did they have, what budget, support, hire/fire authority, etc.  Do your due diligence. (2) use this info to formulate your "conditions of satisfaction" for taking the job.

Second: What do you need to know about your own capacity to lead, influence?
if this is your first IPO, you can't know from here what it will be like, what you will be challenged by.  This role is not what you think it is, regardless of what others tell you.  you need support to develop yourself. Include a budget for a leadership coach -- this role is both functional AND influential.  

Third: What do you need to know about your relationship with the CEO?
Is it sufficient? Is it empowering?  Can it stand the heat? the demands? the setbacks?
Your relationship -- the amount of trust, transparency, support -- will make or break this experience.  As you "interview" for the job, have the kind of probing, challenging conversations now that you suspect (and I suspect) you will be having as you position the IPO.   Whatever you can or can't talk about now will indicate what is present and what is missing. If you feel you can't get a "straight" answer now, if you  sense CEO holding back, that will be the boundaries of your relationship going forward Unless You Change it.  Probe deeply: why an internal person, why 24/7, what's their IPO experience?

Fourth: What do you need to know about your support structure outside of work?
Do the gut check.  Am I up for this?  (See Libby's answer for these.)

An IPO can be a shiny object -- don't grab it without being intentional and thinking about your long-term goals and your present needs.

Weave all of these "negotiations" together and choose.  Best!

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10 answers

Congratulations! You obviously are doing a very good job right now to be considered for such a key role in the company. There's lots of sage advice here so I wont repeat what others have said. I would ask you just one question, do you want the job? If you only want it if you can negotiate some of the demands, then it's not this job you want. Any company looking to go for an IPO will require the kind of commitment your CEO is asking for. Maybe he is framing it to be way over the top, but he is being direct about his expectations. He has given you the opportunity to think about it. There is no job at the C-level that is a walk-in-the-park. If that's the level you hope to be part of, and its a company you enjoy working for; if its a company whose values you share, and if you believe you can provide substantive help in getting the company - and its people - to successfully reach higher and broader, then its worth the risk. Obviously, your CEO thinks you can. Whatever your decision, good luck. BTW, I think that even asking the question says a great deal about you - and I'll take a risk and say, in addition to your skills, you are likely the right person for the job.Whether you want it or not is a separate issue.   If I can help, don't hesitate to call.

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6 answers

You have received excellent feedback on reviewing your own personal values and goals.  If you have already gone through this process, it is time to ask yourself, “What are the expectations that are in alignment and out of alignment with my values/goals?”  This is the starting point to developing your conversation/negotiations with the current CEO.  Be sure to carefully plan out your conversation/negotiations so you are prepared.  Keep in mind the important rules of successful negotiation:

• Have a clear vision of what you want
• Let the other person (in this case the CEO) talk first (make sure you understand exactly what they want)
• Practice active, open-minded listening.  Listening to learn.
• Rephrase to clarify what they have said, for example, “If I understand you correctly, your expectations are….”
• Identify what is important to the current CEO and move from that vantage point
• Ask open ended questions such as, “What are the possibilities (advantages and disadvantages) of proceeding this way….”
• Assure the CEO you are confident and competent you can do this job
• Discuss realistic expectations.  For example, No human can work 24/7 on a regular basis.  We may be able to do it for a while, but if it is long term, we will become less effective, lose our edge and begin making poor decisions.  (There may be fears and concerns on the CEO’s part and they may be putting extremely high expectations in place due to being let down in the past.)
• Be patient and do not rush the conversation or decisions
• The big picture goal is “win-win”
• Expect a positive outcome

I hope this is helpful.  I encourage you to stay true to yourself.  Once you complete negotiations and if the role is still not a fit and in alignment with who you are as a leader, then walk away.  

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15 answers

Congratulations on being selected by the President/CEO as being, in his eyes, qualified to fill the position.

However, your comments above about initially turning down the opportunity is troubling to me. I'm thinking that there are some reasons, in your mind, for thinking about declining the promotion.  I have always looked for opportunities of increased levels of responsibility, and subsequently worked to be able to handle he positions. If you feel you are qualified for the position, if you are willing to meet all requirements of the position, and if you are willing to put for 110% toward meeting the job requirements, then why would you not jump at the opportunity.

If your confidence level is less than that required to do the job, then you need to really reflect on taking on the opportunity, given the requirements -- 24/7, etc. -- you have to meet. Are you willing to do the job?

Next, I would suggest asking yourself what it is you want to negotiate, then comparing it with the requirements outlined above by the President/CEO. I would question whether I would want to negotiate reducing the job requirements, given they came for the CEO. He may be thinking a person from within would be more qualified and willing to meet all requirements.

You have some sound advice throughout these responses. I hope my comments, while maybe appearing negative, help in your thinking.

Good luck with the decision-making process and, if you take the position, best of luck and give it all you can.

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