When your business is of the appropriate size to hire a Chief Financial Officer, everything you
read on The Numbers Edge will be part of the institutional knowledge and standard routine for that individual. This is the playbook for what CFOs already know well—and this is just the easy part of the playbook.
Most organizations don’t need a full time CFO until revenue is between $25 million to $75 million depending on the complexity of the business and the talent level of the Controller. The numbers just aren’t big enough on the financial statements to warrant that kind of salary expense. However, nearly all businesses can benefit from the guidance from a part-time CFO, and there are plenty of them in the market.
There are some minimum-scope tasks and responsibilities a CFO should do every month, except for small organizations where these potentially could be done quarterly. I call this the “regular rhythm” for a part-time CFO.
● Look through the financial statements, or in some situations even the transaction list each month. Develop an understanding of “the story” the numbers are telling about the business recently.
● Talk with the bookkeeper or head of accounting. Discuss the financial results. Ask if there are any areas of specific challenge that the bookkeeper has encountered since the last conversation with the CFO.
● Talk with the CEO or management team about the financial results and the latest health of the business. Deliver the CFO perspective and the cliff notes version of the financial situation. Acquire information about the operations of the business that could be impacting the numbers.
These tasks are typically smooth and steady, within a fixed and predictable range of time required each period.
There are many tasks and responsibilities that a CFO could perform outside of the regular rhythm.
● Design and develop a financial statement or management reporting package to be prepared monthly.
● Coach the bookkeeper or head of accounting on best practices in accounting processes and month end close.
● Develop a forecast, and ideally a monthly recurring forecast-update routine.
● Teach others in the organization about the finances of the business, how to understand financial statements, and how to make decisions that improve the financial health of the organization.
● Identify key performance indicators. Design a process for them to be reported and analyzed regularly.
● Manage cash so the current and future balances of cash are understood. If appropriate, implement a short-term weekly cash flow or 13-week cash flow forecast process.
● Manage banking relationships. Lead the process of acquiring or renewing the company’s line of credit.
These tasks are more discretionary than the regular rhythm, and should be performed when the value to the company exceeds the cost.
Implementing all of these things can pack a lot of effort into a short period if completed in a hurry at the beginning of a new relationship. It is recommended that most businesses identify and list the needs, prioritize them, consider the impact of each on the available time of the CFO, and discuss a plan for when each would be accomplished. Many part-time CFOs are paid by the hour, so spreading these initiatives over many months can keep near-term cost lower compared to doing too much at once. I typically recommend a “smooth and steady” approach of constant improvement, but at a reasonable and affordable pace.
At a small, simple business the need for a part-time CFO might only be a few hours a month to look over the financial results, provide some mentorship to the bookkeeper or head of accounting, and confer with the CEO about the financial health of the business. Check out our company’s Virtual CFO
program which works with businesses around the country to provide this light scope of financial oversight each month.
For companies that aren’t ready for a Virtual CFO, we offer a membership program
that builds a relationship between the CEO and one of our experts. This includes a monthly discussion about the business, finances, and accounting processes. We have found that companies with some kind of CFO guidance are significantly more successful than those without it, so our variety of programs are designed to offer support for every size of business at every budget.
Regardless of who you work with, though, the goal should be to maximize success and the business’s ability to fulfill the goals of the business owner. Our team is here to help, but most important is for you, the business owner, to find someone you trust who has the expertise, experience, and ability to provide the finance-oriented support you and your company need.
Start by asking people you trust in business for referrals. Then, just as you would for any person you’re considering adding to your team, prepare questions well in advance to challenge that individual during the interview process so you can get a clear sense of his or her sweet spot compared to any gaps in expertise.
Our online playbook
has some questions and information available for interviewing and hiring accountants.