Let's talk business not politics. While most of the pundits don't expect the U.S. government shutdown to last long, there really is no telling. The economics of the situation are just beginning to emerge. The Market has already begun to react. Trade missions have been stopped. Loads of people are furloughed from their paychecks for the time being. Odds are some companies have already slowed down some initiatives to see what the situation is going to do to consumer spending, regulatory approvals and/or government funding.
If there ever were a topic that you could talk over with your CFO, it would be this one. Let me be absolutely clear that the sky is not falling, so no reason to start waving red flags. (Beautifully mixed metaphor!) "We've seen this movie before" is a quote from Steven Wieting, the global chief investment strategist at Citigroup's private bank.
But it is a good time to learn what's on your CFO's mind (and if s/he is starting to have trouble sleeping) while at the same time showing your CFO that you care about what goes on in his/her line of work. After all, it's wise business practice to prepare a strategy in a situation like this.
Here are some questions that come to mind: How could the shutdown influence your company's last quarter business results if it continues? How about the plans for next year? Any scenario where it could affect merit budgets or incentive payouts?
Do some of your own reading first, so you're able to chat about the most current issues. In addition to Mr. Wieting's quote above, here are a few more observations from Thursday evening's New York Times business ezine, DealBook, that I found interesting:
- 'Wall Street remains confident that a deal to avert the default will materialize, according to interviews with senior executives . . ."
- ". . . big banks like Morgan Stanley and Citigroup [who have a different opinion] are still working out contingency plans that involve redoubling efforts to keep clients calm . . ."
- Mr. Wieting from Citigroup got in another great quote " . . . Like seeing a horror movie a second time around, we see the markets 'recoiling' far less."
- While Laurence D. Fink, chairman and chief executive of BlackRock, tells us, "This is a really serious issue . . . We should be saying we are a principled nation and would never allow a default."
Many CFOs are not wild about the idea of more collaboration with HR, as we found out through Towers Watson's "HR and Finance Partnership Opportunities" report. However, many will appreciate the personal interest you show in the current challenges they face and their choice of problem solving approach. And you'll certainly learn a lot about the business from the CFO, since the complex impact of the shutdown will be unique to every set of business plans.
Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and Principal of re:Think Consulting. She'll join Ann Bares and Dan Walter of the Compensation Cafe to speak the unspoken -- Everything You Do (in Compensation) Is Communication -- in an upcoming book. Margaret brings deep expertise in compensation, career development and communications to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, she was a Principal with Towers Watson. Margaret earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University, Bloomington. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.