In my last post I described how I discovered the benefits of being and using a contract CFO. In this post I’ll dig a little deeper into why companies should consider a contract CFO. The CFO role is perfect for freelancing. All companies need the CFO role, but not many companies need and can afford a full-time CFO. I won’t try to put guidelines around when a company needs a full-time CFO because it depends on size, stage, funding needs, industry, etc.
Many smaller companies struggle at one of two extremes. On one hand, some do without critical CFO-level expertise because they can’t afford an experienced full-time CFO. On the other hand, some companies overpay for CFOs who do CFO-level tasks in some of their time and lower-level tasks for the rest.
Consider the Freelance Model
Let's look a little closer at the part-time or freelance model. What are the services needed to build a company? Product development, engineering, manufacturing process, sales, marketing, HR, accounting, logistics, procurement, and the list goes on.
Companies are accustomed to outsourcing some of the services they need. Only the biggest companies like Walmart have their own fleet of trucks and drivers. Most companies use freight companies to move their product. It's an essential service, but it's not a full-time job for most companies.
Only the biggest tech companies like Google and Facebook build data centers full of their own servers. Even Netflix uses Amazon’s AWS servers. Only the biggest companies have lawyers on staff. The rest use law firms.
If a small company hires a CXO or VP for every area of the business, it will become top-heavy and topple.
Identify Core Skills
It depends on the type of business, but usually product development and sales/marketing are the most critical skills that demand a start-up founding team’s 100% focus. Until it has a viable product and customers to sell it to, there's not a lot for anyone else to do.
The challenge is that businesses need expertise in other areas from the beginning. They need to make sure the business is structured properly and the numbers make sense. For structure, the start-up would hire a law firm, not a full-time lawyer. For the numbers, the start-up can hire a contract CFO.
Find a Contract CFO
There are many solo freelancers and CFO services firms out there. Referrals are always the best way to find people to help, but you can also use LinkedIn, Google, and other online tools.
Many CPA firms offer CFO services, and some of them might be a great option. In my experience, accounting firms are focused on tax and assurance services and typically lack the operating experience and time to be able to effectively provide CFO services.
Hopefully this post opens business leaders' eyes to the possibility of getting financial expertise at an affordable cost.
Question: What benefits have you seen from hiring a contract CFO?