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Blog Feature
Justin Woods

By: Justin Woods on May 28th, 2024

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The CFO's Predicament and Pathway to Innovation

Executive Edge & Leadership

With the days of 'business as usual' behind us, the role of an executive has changed. In an enlightening conversation with David Zerfoss, Master Chair at Vistage Worldwide and former President of Husqvarna Professional Products North America, David unveiled the intricate dance between strategy, growth, and continuous learning in fueling sustainable innovation. 

David advises executives in this space to recalibrate their roles, prioritizing innovation alongside operational efficiency. The pathway to innovation is paved with the following strategies: 

  • Set the Vision: The combination of a CEO's visionary leadership with a CFO's financial prowess is pivotal. Together, they must craft a clear vision that emphasizes the importance of innovation in achieving long-term success. 
  • Foster Cross-Functional Collaboration: Dave's tenure at Husqvarna North America underscores the significance of breaking down departmental silos. Collaborative endeavors between traditionally disparate units often serve as breeding grounds for innovative solutions. 
  • A Commitment to Continuous Learning and Improvement: Stagnation is the antithesis of innovation. Executives must wholeheartedly commit to lifelong learning, continuously seeking to enhance their understanding of industry trends and emergent technologies. 


Nurturing Innovation in Turbulent Times

As president of Husqvarna Professional Products North America, David navigated a tumultuous period fraught with industry changes and internal shifts. His leadership moments required not just innovative thinking, but a paradigm shift in the organization's approach to problem-solving. These experiences underscored several critical insights: 

Adapting to Industry Shifts: In an era characterized by environmental consciousness and technological advancement, staying ahead of industry shifts necessitates an adaptive and innovative spirit. 

Looking Beyond the Industry: Sometimes, the greatest inspirations for innovation come from outside one's immediate sphere. Regular forays into unexplored territory can yield surprising solutions. 

David's insights underscore an often-overlooked aspect of organizational growth and innovation. According to David, "You can't scale your organization when folks are tied up 60% of their time in transactional work, they are not focused on strategy and innovation," which highlights a critical juncture for many leaders. This observation serves as a stark reminder that to foster a culture where innovation thrives, there must be a strategic shift away from the mundane to more creative and strategic endeavors. 


Sustaining the Innovation Engine

Maintaining a pace of innovation that propels a company toward success is no small feat. David’s observations attest to the importance of incorporating the well-being of your team into your innovation strategy. His assertion, "If there isn’t curiosity at every level in your company, you're on the road to irrelevancy," encapsulates the essence of innovation. It's a clarion call for cultivating curiosity, emphasizing how it lays the groundwork for staying competitive in an ever-evolving market. Businesses can achieve sustainability by: 

Prioritizing the Mental Health of Employees: A workforce that is mentally and emotionally healthy is poised to deliver their best work. Companies that prioritize mental wellness witness a ripple effect in the form of increased creative output and adaptability. 

Creating a Culture of Learning and Reflection: Innovation is not a department; it's a company-wide ethos. Encouraging continuous learning and providing platforms for sharing insights fosters a fertile environment for innovation to thrive. 

The Importance of Networking and External Inspiration: Engaging with peers, both within and outside the healthcare sector, offers a wealth of fresh perspectives and insights. These external networks can serve as catalysts for new ways of thinking. 

The dialogue with David was not just an exercise in theoretical possibility but a pragmatic roadmap for executives to infuse their organizations with the vital spirit of innovation. By committing to a strategic vision, fostering a culture of learning and mental health, and keeping an eye on the broader landscape, organizations can translate the innovative fire that fueled the early days of the pandemic into a sustainable engine for long-term success. 

Thank you to David for joining me in a wonderful conversation. If you’d like to hear more from David, check out our Executive Edge Session: Driving a Culture of Innovation.

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About Justin Woods

Justin Wood has over 19 years of technology industry experience, most notably a technology startup that sold to Google. As the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at PMMC since 2020, Justin has been instrumental in reinforcing PMMC's position as a leader in revenue cycle management solutions for healthcare organizations. His strategic vision focuses on leveraging emerging technologies, insights, services, and financial opportunities to optimize revenue cycle processes for our clients. His leadership is crucial to driving PMMC’s commitment to enhancing the healthcare industry's financial health and performance. Mr. Wood's educational background is in Finance and Computer Science, and he holds a BSBA from the University of Central Florida. He completed Stanford's Executive Leadership program and holds several technology certificates from MIT. He is involved in the community and an active member of HFMA Charlotte and The First Tee Greater Charlotte.