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You might think that the wave of bankruptcies impacting pandemic-stricken America are an unreservedly bad thing. That the dire straits or worse in which many iconic companies—J. Crew, Gold’s Gym, Neiman Marcus, J.C. Penney, Hertz, GNC, Chuck E. Cheese, Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant, California Pizza Kitchen, Lord & Taylor, Men’s Wearhouse—have no silver lining amidst the lost jobs and general immiseration. CFOs of such companies—in particular, you might expect—would not see much to celebrate in the legal acknowledgment that their employers can no longer, you know, finance their continued existences.

This could not be further from the truth. For the enterprising CFO, going through bankruptcy is a priceless learning experience, one that really burnishes the résumé when you seek that next job on the backs of all of those layoffs.

Among their marketable new skills: the ability to produce high-stakes liquidity forecasts, negotiate with lenders and even revamp a company’s whole business model, all while navigating legal proceedings and managing everyday responsibilities such as closing the books…. “My profile had a different angle to it than if somebody had just become CFO in peacetime at a company and then just did that for two years,” said Mr. Tribou. “I became a CFO during wartime….”

“A person can be a much better, well-rounded CFO by virtue of being in a distressed or being in a bankruptcy situation,” Mr. Woessner said. “You oftentimes learn more in a company that’s sinking versus one that’s growing.”

Of course, there are sure to be uncomfortable questions asked during job interviews. Luckily for the COVID-insolvent set, there’s an unassailable answer.

“It’s going to be the number one question asked” in a job interview, said Barry Toren, head of the North American financial officers practice at the recruiting firm Korn Ferry. He said recruiters will want to know why the company went under and whether the CFO could have taken steps to avoid it.

“If it’s due to Covid, then obviously it’s understandable,” Mr. Toren said.

And doesn’t that just make it all worth it?

CFOs Gain Valuable Skills in Bankruptcy’s School of Hard Knocks [WSJ]



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