Robert Frost once said, "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."
The same might be said of the recession, which is beginning to feel not so much Great as Endless. But life does indeed go on, and in this issue we turn our attention to several responsibilities that senior finance executives must confront no matter what the economy may (or may not) be doing.
One is to continually develop the skills and capabilities of their finance staffers — even, as senior editor Alix Stuart points out, when the job market would appear to have ushered in a truce in the war for talent. Not only are companies continuing to train up-and-comers, but they are doing it in new and exciting ways that keep costs low and get better results (see "Blazing Their Own Trails").
If managing the people you work with every day is, for the most part, rewarding, dealing with another constituency — shareholders — can be anything but. Activist shareholders have been steadily ratcheting up the pressure on a host of issues for years now, and with a more sympathetic SEC on their side they may be poised for further gains. But to what degree do they speak for the majority of shareholders? And how much grease should CFOs lavish on these squeaky wheels if their pet issues don't particularly resonate with the broader shareholder base? We tally the votes in "Who's in Charge Here?".
New York bureau chief David M. Katz conducted a different sort of tally this month, with the help of Georgia Tech professor of accounting Charles Mulford. They examined a small group of companies that have kept capital expenditures fairly high while also maintaining impressive free cash flow performance. That's no easy feat, even in good times. What do they know that you might benefit from? Find out by reading "Captains of Capex." And for a different take on how finance can help drive growth strategies by championing a relatively new form of investment rigor, see "Game Changer."
We hope these stories help you manage not only through the present but into the recovery. May it, too, go on. And on.