Q: What is the role of the CFO?
A: The CFO, Chief Financial Officer, is a company’s top financial executive. The CFO handles backwards-looking controller duties including accurately reporting and tracking historical performance; current financial position including treasury and cash management duties and optimizing the capital structure; and financial strategy and forecasting. From Investopedia, “One thing is certain: a great CFO will usually differ from a good CFO by the way that he or she is able to project the long-term financial picture of the company and by how the company thrives based on his or her analyses.”
Q: What is the difference between a Controller and a CFO?
A: A controller focuses on accounting and the historical or past performance of the company. The controller, an experienced accountant who is often a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), ensures proper documentation and recording of the company’s transactions and the creation of monthly, quarterly, and annual financial statements. The controller answers the questions, How did the company do last year? Last month? Three years ago? The controller also ensures compliance with tax codes and the integrity of the general ledger.
A CFO generally has a strong knowledge of accounting but specializes in finance. CFO analyzes the past performance and looks at the business strategy and operations to takes a forward look at the numbers (or financials). The CFO projects the company’s performance over the next months and years in order to forecast and plan for the company’s future needs. The CFO manages cash flow (treasury function), financing (debt and equity), and investing.
The controller reports to the CFO. The CFO for maintaining the financial health of the company. (Hence the name, Chief Financial Officer.) The CFO determines financing needs and pursues financing, initiates and maintains banking relationships, and pursues equity investment (along with the CEO). In addition to overseeing the financial organization, the CFO also typically manage IT (information technology) and HR (human resources), and often manages Legal (with smaller companies that do not have an in-house General Counsel).
Some companies state that they want a CFO but when you read the job description it is for a Controller. Smaller companies with stable growth and no financing needs can typically go without a CFO. When they need to seek outside investment or pursue an acquisition or obtain myriad financing to support organic growth, they can utilize the services of an interim CFO.
Q: We use an outside CPA firm. Do we need a CFO?
A. Your CPA does your tax returns and does (or can do) your compiled, reviewed or audited financial statements. With reviewed and audited financial statements, the CPA firm MUST be completely separate from your company in order to offer their honest opinion as to the accuracy of your financial statements. It is an ethical and legal requirement. In addition, the CPA will have capabilities much like that of a Controller (see the question above). A(n interim) CFO works in tandem with your CPA firm.
Q: Can we afford an Interim CFO?
A. You use a bookkeeper to handle your day-to-day accounting and a CPA to complete your tax returns and compile your financial statements. When you need to make a strategic financial decision, address cash management issues, pursue financing to grow your business, you…wing it. If you rely on your bookkeeper to make those decisions, you may be like many firms and have to spend significant time and effort unwinding your mistakes. These mistakes can be very costly and adversely impact your bottom line. You can hire a project-based interim CFO to help you with a specific issue (i.e., installing a cash management system, making an acquisition, obtaining financing or investments) for a month or to with ongoing strategic financial decisions for a few days for several months.
Q: Do you work virtually or on-site?
A. Strategic financial advisory can be done remotely (virtually) over the phone. Work that involves re-structuring or initially installing your financial systems must be done on site. Other work that involves various functions and activities may be a combination of on-site and virtual.
Q: There are a number of interim CFOs. How are you different?
A. First, let me say that it’s wonderful that there are a number of interim CFOs out there. Interim CFOs serve a definite need and so this specialty has expanded to fulfill that need. If you look at all the public companies that exist and all private mid-sized and larger companies, they all have CFOs. CFOs are a crucial part of any growing companies management team.
I have over 12 years experience providing full-time and interim CFO, financial and strategic advisory to companies. I have helped companies on the brink of financial distress re-negotiate debt and bring on investors. I have helped small and medium companies obtain over $31 million in financing from debt and equity sources. I have helped companies create and install cash management programs, successfully pursue and integrate acquisitions, and . I am highly results-oriented as you must have laser-like focus on achieving results when coming into situations where a company has an immediate need or is encountering difficulty. I have experience in a wide array of industries including real estate, construction, IT, business services, energy, financial services, and manufacturing. With an undergraduate degree in engineering, I find it relatively easy to understand the underlying product or service in most industries. As an interim CFO, I am part of the team and interaction with the team helps me ramp up quickly.
My focus is on short-term or project-based engagements of 3-months or less and on long-term strategic financial advisory of 6 months or more. I also sit on Strategic Advisory Boards. I listen to what you are saying…and what you are not saying. Most business owners know they have a problem but do not know what the source of the problem is. By listening and asking “why” as often as possible, I’m able to assess the financial situation and your needs from a 100-foot, strategic perspective, craft a plan of action and execute. I can set up and install processes and help you shift from one business model to another…or augment your model. I will document everything (so you have a record for your accounting and financial team), train personnel as needed, assist you with any hiring of accounting, financial, IT or HR personnel, then either move into an advisory role or completely exit your company. My role is to empower you and move on, not to become crucial to your ongoing operations. If you need a full-time CFO, I will help you hire him or her.
Q: How do we engage your services?
A. Call or email me. We have an initial 30-60 minute consultation to discuss your company and its needs.
Q: How much does a consultation cost?
A. The initial consultation is free. Services are billed on an hourly basis based on scope and length of engagement. A written quote and proposal are provided in advance of the actual engagement. If you are interested in speaking with us, fill out the contact form on our Contact page or call us at 404-642-0509 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: We are a micro-enterprise or start-up and don’t have much money.
A. We do offer e-mail based financial advisory for those who need assistance but can’t afford a regular engagement.