Leadership during economic crisis

Note from the editor

The pandemic has tested CFOs in unprecedented ways. But the way finance leaders have responded to the challenges has made clear the deep well of creativity they're bringing to the task.

When the pandemic shut down the on-site band practices that form the core of the School of Rock’s business model, CFO John Cappadona used his new FP&A team to devise plans that led to an ingenious solution: create value-added virtual classes that are taught by recording artists who suddenly had plenty of time on their hands.

Hilla Sferruzza, CFO of large national builder Meritage Homes, identified the major cost her company had complete control over — future land and development spend — and built her cost-cutting plan around that. "I connected with every one of our sellers and said, 'Hey, we're all in this together. Let’s pull back.'" The result: a much-needed easing in the company's financial commitments.

Earlier this summer, when the lifting of lockdown mandates helped fuel inflation and a historically tight job market, the service industry experienced a dire blow. But Chipotle Mexican Grill was able to avoid losing its talent, CFO Jack Hartung said, because of its early decision to increase its minimum wages to $15 for all crew members. 

With delta and possibly other variants coming, the pandemic remains a potent challenge; the longer the economic toll persists, the greater the number of business casualties. Few companies can withstand month after month of little or no revenue without facing a going-concern opinion or worse: bankruptcy.

But CFOs are finding ways not just to survive, but to retool and thrive. To provide ideas to help you steer your organization through the pandemic, we at CFO Dive have selected a cross section of pieces from our daily newsletter over the past several months. They feature very different stories, but share one characteristic: CFO leadership in action amid an economic crisis. We hope you find the selection useful.

Jane Thier Reporter

A nonprofit CFO's guide to navigating a downturn

Tasked with balancing mission and sustaining revenue, CFOs have relied on difficult decisions and quick thinking to keep their nonprofit organizations afloat.

• Published June 23, 2021

Pivoting from growth to margins

ThoughtSpot's new CFO brings finely honed ideas to the finance team just as the company faces the global downturn.

• Published April 12, 2020

Fast CFO action equipped residential builder to survive downturn

Putting land deals on hiatus, improving cash visibility and understanding buyer concerns has helped the finance chief of Meritage Homes keep the company on an ambitious growth track.

• Published May 31, 2020

Scenario planning helped School of Rock go virtual in 12 days

Just before mandatory shutdowns disrupted its business model, CFO John Cappadona built School of Rock's FP&A function.

• Published June 11, 2020

Chipotle CFO: higher wages preventing staff shortages

The company maintains pricing power, finance chief Jack Hartung says, giving it flexibility to decide when to use that power to either protect margins or make an additional investment in its people.

• Published July 21, 2021

Financial crisis tested CFO's management lessons

The mortgage meltdown was trial by fire for a finance leader who’s only experience to that point was public auditing.

• Published April 26, 2021

Meeting uncertainty with fiscal discipline and operating rhythm

• Published June 24, 2021

Financial leadership during an economic crisis

The pandemic remains a potent challenge; the longer the economic toll persists, the greater the number of business casualties. With few companies being able to withstand month after month of little or no revenue, CFOs are finding ways not just to survive, but to retool and thrive. 

included in this trendline
  • A lesson in fiscal discipline from Chipotle's CFO
  • Verizon CFO welcomed external advice for pandemic scenario planning
  • A CFO's 3-step plan for remaining profitable during COVID-19
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.