Meet the Expert:

Chris Cooper, CFO Centre (WA)

This month meet Chris Cooper of the CFO Centre WA, a member of our Industry Expert panel, and discover how differentiating your value offering can help you unstick potential customers from their current supplier.

Thanks for joining us Chris—can you tell us, what exactly is a CFO, and how did you become one?

CFO stands for Chief Financial Officer and is often the key role in partnering the CEO or business owner. Key areas that CFO focuses on including driving business growth, securing funding and working capital, business systems development and delivering on the financial side of strategy.

I became a CFO after several years of being an auditor, a Finance Manager and a Financial Controller for medium to large businesses. A CFO typical has 10-15 years financial experience in addition to an accounting qualification.

You recently presented a workshop to our members on Value Offering Design and Differentiation—what advantages are there specifically for SME’s by rethinking their value offering using the concepts and tools you demonstrate?

In my experience with SME’s and larger businesses I see more of a focus on the technical or functional aspects of a product and service and whilst these aspects can qualify you in or out, they rarely language the problem that the customer is trying to solve or the emotional value that customers are looking for such as reducing anxiety, personal reward and positive engagement. In other words the emotional hooks are typically subsidiary to selling functional value.

Why is it important to engage customers emotionally as well as functionally?

Functional values such as saving time, making money, quality, reducing effort and cost are important but from a customer’s perspective they don’t easily unhook a customer from their existing supplier or other resource allocation choices. A value proposition needs to be framed from the customers perspective, be empathic (without being patronising) to engage, attract and unstick customers from their current choice of supplier.

How important is it to differentiate your products and services from the competition?

Its always beneficial to have a capability that affords your business the ability to claim that it provides a product or service differently however what is more important is to have a capability that addresses needs that are unmet by your industry and / or that are sought after by your target customers. This is an even more important strategic cornerstone for SME businesses that aspire to scale and grow.

Can you provide practical examples of how your concepts and tools have assisted your clients?

A local hose and fittings supplier was tendering against much larger competition for work with Rio Tinto. Their products and services were of the highest quality however their thinking was somewhat constrained by focusing on their relatively high price point; meaning they felt they could not win the tender without significant margin erosion. I identified an opportunity to differentiate their value by quantifying downtime reductions ahead of price. Rio then used their approach to evaluate the competition and they won them the tender. The outcome was achieved through shifting how they conceived of their value offering and point of difference.

How do your public and private workshops assist SME’s to grow their revenue, profit and cashflow?

The workshops are visually orientated and are about having owners, MDs and their teams to work on their business throughout their duration so that they overcome positioning concerns and emerge with confidence and clarity about their value proposition.
Two outcomes that SME’s recognise is that

  1. a value proposition is fundamentally a STRATEGY and NOT A SLOGAN and
  2. a customer centric rather than competitor centric approach is a critical step to driving revenue and increasing market share.

An SME can spend many years and wasted effort competing on factors that don’t matter that much to their target customers.

How does your product and service strategy expertise assist your role as a Chief Financial Officer for the CFO Centre?

The CFO Centre provides part time Chief Financial Officers to SME’s, which provides owners the opportunity to leverage the benefit of an experienced business growth expert to help manage finances and drive financial performance and growth.
The value proposition and differentiation design concepts I deliver are a very different offering to that of a CFO and allow me to really get under the bonnet of a business model and advise SME owners on their product and service strategy whilst my financial skills ensure that there is an equally strong focus on revenue, profit and cashflow growth.

To receive more information on Chris' value offering presentation, please contact

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