The idea of hiring even a part-time FD may seem to some SMEs a bit OTT—like paying Quentin Tarantino to make a 90-second home page video or booking Wembley Stadium for the company’s five-a-side friendly football match.
But for companies whose ambition is to get into and survive the coveted scale-up phase, hiring a part-time FD makes perfect sense. They know that they’re getting a finance veteran, someone with big business experience, who can provide the guidance they need to grow rapidly and help them to avoid the costly mistakes that so many ambitious SMEs make as they attempt to move into the Big League.
As Colin Mills, the Chairman of the FD Centre, said in his book about scale-ups, “The reality is that there is great value in having someone from the next level if you’re aspiring to get there.”
Companies who hire part-time FDs understand that today’s FDs are capable of delivering far more than bookkeeping or accounting services. They provide advice and analysis and implement practices and processes. They can work with your board of directors and external stakeholders such as your bank or investors. They can also advise you on mergers and acquisitions. Besides strategic analysis, they can provide advisory support on everything finance-related in your business.
Their responsibilities might cover business planning, capital structure, risk management, auditing and reporting, tax planning, capital expenditure, investor communication, R&D investment, working capital management and company budgeting.
Companies that don’t hire FDs are often unaware of the opportunities and profits they’re missing out on. When asked why so many SMEs don’t hire FDs, Matthew Bud, Chairman of the international Financial Executives Networking Group, said business owners are either unaware of their need for a FD or reluctant to spend the money.
“What many entrepreneurs don’t realise is that they’re already spending that money in lost profits and misspending,” he told Inc.
“They’re not seeing the dynamics of the business from an educated financial point of view. You can’t always go with your gut in making financial decisions, which is what a lot of entrepreneurs try to do.”
So, what can you expect from a part-time FD?
Well, the role a part-time FD will play in your company will depend on factors such as the size of your business, your expectations, your industry, and your corporate strategy and business goals. But a good FD will work on your company’s finance strategy and finance operations and manage areas such as compliance, tax planning and legals, outsourcing and banking relationships.
To achieve success in these different roles, a FD will need outstanding hard and soft skills.
If you’re a CEO, the FD will be your strategic partner, providing financial insight and strategy and helping you to improve profitability and cash flow.
A good FD won’t, however, be a ‘Yes’ person, someone who rubber-stamps every initiative without due diligence.
Charles Holley, CFO-in-residence at Deloitte and former Walmart CFO, says good FDs are independent-minded yet supportive of their CEO.
“My CEOs counted on me to be the truth teller, to form my own opinions on important company decisions and to speak up. At the same time, they expected my support for execution.”
Great FDs challenge the business, he says. They point out problems and propose possible solutions to “spark the debate”.
“FDs are in the best position to call attention when the numbers aren’t supporting the strategy. For example, FDs can push the business to change capex priorities when the underlying ROI assumptions are no longer supported by the numbers.”
Besides being a trusted advisor and sounding board, a good FD will help to raise efficiencies, identify opportunities, manage risk management, and manage capital structure.
Since they speak the language of financiers and understand what they are really interested in, FDs can also liaise with financial institutions, investors, and auditors on your behalf.
In other words, a part-time FD/CFO can help you to manage the transition into the scale-up phase more smoothly and ensure you reach your growth targets sooner.
How it works in practice
The FD Centre’s part-time FDs use a proven framework known as the ’12 Boxes’ to identify where the problems are within any business. They use it to review every aspect of your company finance function and identify every problem area.
They will help you to understand your company’s finances; eliminate cash flow problems; identify cost-savings, and improve profits.
They can also help you and your team to understand your main profit drivers; find and arrange funding; identify your Critical Success Factors and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), help you to expand nationally and internationally; and build value to make your business more attractive to investors or buyers.
To discover more about the 12 Boxes, click here.
To discover how an FD Centre part-time FD will help your business, contact us now on 0808 164 8902. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time FDs, click here. You can see how they add rocket fuel to any business here.
To hear what people really think about the FD Centre’s part-time FDs, watch these short videos here.
Uncover strengths and weaknesses
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Got a Big Question?
If you have a burning question for one of our team of FD ask it here, and you’ll get an answer within 24 hours. Please note the question must be finance-related (sadly they can’t give horse-racing or fashion tips or relationship advice).
 ‘Scale Up: How to Take Your Business to the Next Level Without Losing Control and Running Out of Cash’, Mills, Colin, Brightflame Books, 2016
 ‘Here’s When, Why and How to Hire a CFO (And Yes, You Can Afford It)’, Tabaka, Marla, Inc., www.inc.com, June 27, 2016
 ‘What CEOs want—and need—from their CFOs’, Holley, Charles, Deloitte, www2.deloitte.com
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