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Every Company Needs A CFO

Apr 16, 2009

 Companies without a Chief Financial Officer are at a competitive disadvantage.  It's not unusual for small to mid-sized firms to have sophisticated operations and complex cost and financial challenges like large companies.  This often means that the CEO or the owner of the business needs the expertise of a senior financial executive.

As an owner or CEO of a company, have you ever wondered how to solve the problems you're facing?  Have you ever spoken with another owner and come to the conclusion that what you really need is the advice of a CFO . . . but knew that you either didn't need a CFO on a full-time basis or couldn't afford the cost of a full-time CFO?  Did you then decide to give up on finding the advice that you need?

You are not alone.  And, you are perhaps doing what many owners do - You try to figure it out yourself.  Let's be honest. Are you really the right person to do that?  Do you have the background or expertise to prepare accurate and useful financial statements, or even truly understand them?  And is your digging into these areas even a good use of your time?  As the owner, you need to be the visionary, focusing on the future-and you are the one who should be spending more time with your customers. 

Using your time to develop financial information or analyzing your cash balance and future needs is something that someone else should be doing.  What you need is the assistance of a high level financial professional.  Outsourcing this function is a cost effective alternative to hiring another employee because it avoids the cost of a full-time salary, payroll taxes, and fringe benefits. A contract CFO is a very affordable means to obtain that higher level of expertise and add significant value to your business.         

ADVANTAGES OF OUTSOURCING CFO's

Better financial information for key decision-making.  It's a fact:  most small to mid-sized businesses either don't prepare financial statements, or they are not reliable.  Another fact:  you simply cannot make important business decisions while relying on bad, inaccurate, or incomplete information.  If you have found yourself frustrated with the lack of information from your bookkeeper or controller, chances are the information they are giving you is of questionable value.  You cannot effectively run a business in that situation.

More time to spend with customers.  To be competitive, you need to spend most of your time with current and prospective customers.  Particularly today, you need to be with your customers as much as possible.  Just as you are trying to get new customers, your competitors are trying to meet with your customers.  You simply need to be spending the majority of your time with them.

More money from the bank and from vendors.  Bankers and vendors are more sophisticated and less forgiving than ever.  With the current financial situation affecting all businesses, creditors will refuse to lend money to anyone other than the safest and most reliable companies.  And they will require regular and reliable financial statements. The financial statements must look professional, follow accepted accounting principles, and highlight the company's key ratios. A CFO working with you on a part-time basis can improve your company's external "image" and assist you with opening doors to banks and obtaining better vendor terms.

Other advantages to having an outsourced CFO include:

  • A sounding board for the owner in making key decisions
  • Fewer cash flow surprises
  • Better trained accounting staff
  • A theft deterrent
  • Better documentation and controls
  • Fewer surprises relating to tax payments
  • Solutions to company problems

SOME THINGS TO CONSIDER 

A CFO is a proactive professional that has a pervasive knowledge of information important for the owner to properly run the company.  This includes handling not only financial matters but also addressing HR, operations, sales and marketing, IT, and other issues needed to help the company succeed.

A common misconception is that a CPA can take the place of a CFO.  The simple reality is that a CPA cannot do the work a CFO does because each has a different set of skills.  As noted above, a CFO has a broad range of experience in financial and non-financial areas.  The CPA and the CFO should work very closely together, but neither has the ability to step into the other's shoes.

So, when you are looking to outsource the CFO position, you need to look for a professional with 25-plus years of experience.  You should be sure that the CFO is supported by a national organization that has the resources to be able to give your CFO the support that may be needed.  In finding someone with this experience level and support, it is highly unlikely that a problem or issue will come up that can't be resolved. 

Avoid signing contracts.  If an organization is not confident and competent enough to perform these services based on a hand-shake, consider walking away. 

You should be comfortable that the fee fits comfortably within your budget.  Ask that there be a monthly "ceiling" for the fees to be paid; there should never be any surprise on fees.

Finally, be sure that you are comfortable with the CFO.  With a high level of trust between the owner and the CFO, the company will be in a better position to meet the challenges that it faces.

Companies without CFO's can gain a significant competitive advantage and improve profitability by outsourcing a CFO on an as-needed basis.  These days, it's a wise investment, and can fit within the budget of most companies.

Please feel free to give me a call with any comments, questions or suggestions that you may have. My office number is 813-994-0416 and my cell phone number is 786-281-4527.

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