No doubt this past year was a rough one for the economy, but for the business press it was a goldmine — of material. From Wall Street to Washington to Wasilla (where Sarah Palin's quickly penned memoir no doubt doubled Alaska's GDP) there was a surfeit of material to cover, and CFO was there for every twist, turn, rise, and fall.
We kicked off 2009 by offering some advice that, unfortunately, remained useful throughout the entire year. In "How to Talk about Layoffs," we described how to deliver the bad news about job cuts in a way that does the least damage to morale — and perhaps even improves it.
We also offered advice about another form of pain very much in the news in 2009: bankruptcy. In "World Turned Upside Down," we explained the insolvency zone, a murky legal landscape in which creditors' and shareholders' rights are at odds, and we described how companies can navigate this difficult terrain.
One major challenge throughout 2009 (and no doubt in 2010) was the intense difficulty companies had producing accurate forecasts. The tips provided in "Imperfect Futures" should help.
There was good news in 2009: the preceding 12-18 months have made CFOs much more visible and, frankly, much wiser. We addressed the ways in which the Great Recession has tested the mettle of CFOs in "Hard Lessons," and we considered the implications of those hard lessons on CFOs' collective stature in "Are You 'Strategic'?"
Throughout the year we also offered advice and insights on noncrisis issues. In March we debuted a new column on leadership by exploring how CFOs can progress to "The Next Stage" of their careers, and in "You Oughta Plea in Pictures," we described how CFOs can dazzle the executive team by putting spreadsheets aside in favor of more visual ways to express their ideas. Our annual look at working capital described how companies are focused on producing "Cleaner (Balance) Sheets," and another popular annual project, our look at the progress women are making in the senior ranks of corporate finance, found that the "Power Struggle" appears to have reached stasis, at least for now.
We are always on the lookout for CFOs with particularly interesting stories to tell, and among those we covered in 2009 two stand out. Former HealthSouth CFO Aaron Beam, brought down in a legendary corporate scandal, explained why "I Should Have Said No.," and in "What We Do Is Life or Death.," Defense Logistics Agency CFO J. Anthony Poleo described the role that financial acumen plays in supporting American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
We ended the year by taking a look at the long battle over health reform and its implications for a major corporate expense. We found CFOs largely unenthusiastic about reform efforts, and asked whether this attitude represents healthy skepticism or a potential missed opportunity to shape reform in ways that could benefit Corporate America.