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CFOs Are Feeling the Heat


Turnover among chief financial officers is way up, according to a survey by Liberum Research of all public North American companies. Last year more than 2,300 CFO positions churned, a 23% rise from 2005. And at businesses with at least $1 billion in revenues, churn rose 50% in 2006's first half, another Liberum study shows. Average tenure? It dropped to 30 months in 2006, about half as long as five years ago. "Stress is off the charts, and CFOs are dealing with it by bailing out," says Cynthia Jamison, head of CFO services at Atlanta-based Tatum, an executive consulting firm. Jamison cites anxieties about tighter SEC filing deadlines, tougher proxy disclosure rules, globalization's demands, and fear of increased liability.

In classifieds in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Economist, the Treasury Dept. is recruiting banking executives to work in Baghdad. The agency asks for at least 10 years' experience, offering $110,363 to $154,600 for a one-year stint. Randy Jayne, an executive recruiter at Heidrick & Struggles, says such private-sector bankers may make at least $350,000, so Treasury needs to tap "people's sense of patriotism and government service." The ads have drawn more than 50 responses for work that includes structuring financial systems and preventing terrorist funding. One perk is free war risk insurance, though Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Larry McDonald told Congress on Oct. 16 that department employees in Iraq "have suffered no casualties."

Some 20 years after "This Is Not Your Father's..." was a hallmark of Oldsmobile ads, Canadian Club is putting that spin in reverse. The whisky's new campaign slogan: "Damn Right Your Dad Drank It." Marty Orzio, creative chief at ad shop Energy BBDO, says the first ad in the campaign aims to get men 25 to 40 to identify with their fathers' lives back in the 1960s. The provocative headline, "Your Mom wasn't your Dad's first," is supposed to celebrate the moment "when a son realizes his Dad is a regular guy," he says. Rory Finlay, chief marketing officer of Beam Global Spirits & Wine, the brand's owner, says the ads will appear in magazines like Rolling Stone that probably never saw an ad for the whisky—and in bars. Canadian Club sells about 3 million cases yearly, with 1.3 million sold domestically.

It may be time for the barista to cut them off. Publishers are hooked on books about Starbucks (SBUX). For Temple University historian Bryant Simon, the fascination is linked to "expressive branding," whereby a latte sipper's identity is bound up with the brand. How many books can the market support? Here's a quintuple grande.

The Subject Is Starbucks

Starbucked: A Double Tall Tale of Caffeine, Commerce, and Culture

By Taylor Clark (Little, Brown, November, 2007).

A business journalist tracks the company's success--and critics. Does Starbucks exploit coffee farmers abroad? Crush unionizing attempts at home?

How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else

By Michael Gates Gill (Gotham, September, 2007).

A downsized adman becomes a barista and (breathlessly) learns life lessons.

Grande Expectations: A Year in the Life of Starbucks' Stock

By Karen Blumenthal (Crown Business, April, 2007).

The workings of the stock market as revealed in trades of the company's shares.

It's Not About the Coffee: Leadership Principles from a Life at Starbucks

By Howard Behar (Portfolio, January, 2008).

Ten rules to follow, though one is "Think Independently."

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary

By Joseph A. Michelli (McGraw-Hill, November, 2006).

More business lessons, this time by a psychologist and radio show host. To help decide who is management material, companies often administer personality tests. But Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, says a cognitive test he helped develop is a better predictor.

Peterson and research colleagues from Harvard University, the University of Hawaii, and Montreal's McGill University have adapted to a business setting tests normally used by neuropsychologists to assess damage to the prefrontal cortex, the brain's "executive." The result is a 90-minute computerized exam they sell through their company, ExamCorp, for $100 to $350 per employee.

The test, which gauges memory, plus decision-making speed and other skills, was given to 800 managers. And the results of a study of 80 of those professionals, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in August, show that managers who get top performance ratings at work typically do well on the exam. Peterson asserts that the exam can outpredict the traditional corporate tests, many of which "are 50 years old."

Fans of NBC's hit sitcom The Office can soon interact with bobblehead versions of Dwight, Pam, and boss Michael, played on the show by Steve Carell: They're all in the Office video game due Oct. 30. Produced by Dallas-based MumboJumbo, it has players racing to fetch coffee, copy documents, and finish other tasks, with sound drawn from the series. MumboJumbo aims to appeal both to the "casual," or easy-to-play, game market (estimated by JupiterResearch to reach $810 million by 2008) and Office devotees. It will sell the $29.99 game in Europe, too—excluding Britain, home of the original show.


Video Game Avenger
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