Whitefox is a small biofuels company that produces ethanol and other chemicals using innovative membrane technology. It was growing steadily but by 2018 the company was facing many challenges. These included market volatility, regulatory uncertainty, operational inefficiencies and financial constraints. To overcome these obstacles and achieve growth and profitability Whitefox’s CEO, Gillian Harding, contacted The CFO Centre and engaged a part-time CFO who began work in a matter of weeks.
The combination of Gillian’s expertise and the knowledge of her fractional CFO unlocked Whitefox’s potential. They improved its cash flow management and secured new funding, which enabled the team to optimise its production process, reduce its carbon footprint and expand its customer base. As a result, Whitefox increased its installed capacity, reduced its energy and water consumption, achieved net zero emissions and became a leader in its industry. Watch the video to hear how Gillian describes her journey from challenge to freedom.
Whitefox delivers membrane and engineering solutions for industries such as biofuels, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Whitefox develops innovative technologies that enable efficient separations of liquids and gases, reducing energy and water consumption, carbon emissions and production costs. Their proprietary membrane system can de-bottleneck distillation and dehydration processes in bioethanol plants, increasing capacity, product quality and profitability. Whitefox’s membrane solutions have helped bioethanol plants in the US and Europe achieve net zero emissions and become industry leaders. Whitefox delivers solutions that benefit owners, customers and the planet.
From 2006, Whitefox was on a roll, winning big contracts with US clients and expanding its membrane solutions business. But with growth came new challenges. As a UK GreenTech company, they were facing significant questions around how to finance the exports. Gillian remembers how desperately they needed financial expertise on export finance, working capital, and guidance on governance. This was vital to ensure that Whitefox could improve operational resilience and deliver on performance guarantees. The business couldn’t afford a full-time CFO but they needed a high calibre professional to help them address these challenges.
Whitefox needed expert help to overcome the challenges they were facing. That’s when they met Nicholas, their fractional CFO. Nicholas brought a wealth of experience from his previous roles as an FD in larger and listed companies. He knew how to handle finance and governance issues with skill and confidence. Nicholas helped Whitefox deal with the tax implications of working in the US. He also helped them switch to a new accounting system smoothly and efficiently. Gillian was impressed by Nick’s knowledge and professionalism and says he was the perfect partner for their journey.
Gillian explains: I think as a CEO, as you go through the different stages of your business, it can be quite difficult to let go. Day one, you’re doing everything. But you get to the point where you realise, if I continue working like that, this company doesn’t grow. And, I think once you start to realise that, then it’s a question of ‘OK, so what does that mean? What do I need to get? Do I need a Finance Director? Do I need an in-house lawyer? Do I need a COO? And what comes first? Which is the most important aspect of my role that I need to try and pass on to somebody else?’. But, it is difficult when you get to that point of thinking, ‘my next hire needs to be x, but then when they arrive, that’s a challenge, because now I’m going to have to take this bit of my role, and unless I’m prepared to give them ownership or autonomy over that, then that’s not going to work.’ So, you have to be prepared to let that happen properly – provide the guidance, coaching, and support. You need to let that aspect of your role move on to somebody else. For me, once I started that journey of realising that I had to parcel off these bits of my role onto other people, then I yearned for it as quickly as possible. At that point it becomes quite easy. You know there’s no choice here, and I know it’s the right thing to do, and actually, I’m looking forward to getting this new hire on because then, finally, I’ll have more time to think about strategy, direction, growth, and even the cultural aspects.
Pete Turner of The CFO Centre comments that he admired Gillian’s remarkable energy and ambition, but what impressed him the most was her laser clarity in the direction that Whitefox was heading. In Pete’s words, ‘I do what I do, to help ambitious SME business owners climb their Everest’. Pete finds joy in impacting the lives of his clients’ businesses and helping them accomplish their personal ambitions through his team of CFOs. Having worked with Whitefox for over a year, Pete describes the company’s story as one of scale-up and global expansion, experiencing the typical challenges that arise once a company reaches a certain size or level of complexity. Pete’s passion is to deliver exponential value and says ‘It’s about making a big difference and walking on their journey’.
“Now we're in a financially stable position that we can also grow into new markets. I see lots of opportunities, and I think the challenge now is to remain focussed, so that we don't get distracted or tempted to go in too many different directions. I think the role of a CEO is to try and stand above that – make sure that people are asking the right questions, getting the right information, so that collectively as a team we can make the right decisions."
“An important thing I decided to do was to join a group of CEOs from different industries and to meet regularly. We meet once a month and it's an opportunity for us to talk about issues that we may have as CEOs and help each other process those, help us make decisions, and ensure that we're going in the right strategic direction.”
“I think if you’re a creative entrepreneur and you have an idea that you want to develop, don’t be afraid to ask other people to help you. I think a very important lesson to learn earlier on is that you won’t be able to do it on your own. You do need other people, and other people will genuinely want to help you.”
As you have heard, Whitefox is a company that is revolutionising the biofuels industry with its innovative membrane technology. If you are interested in biofuels, you don’t want to miss this opportunity to learn more about Whitefox and how they can help you achieve your goals. Visit Whitefox’s website today and discover how they can transform your production process, reduce your environmental impact and increase your profitability.
If you’d like to explore ways to free up your company for growth, simply get in touch with us for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced part-time CFOs. We’ll connect you with someone who can help you overcome your financial and operational challenges and who has a passion for helping people like you to unlock your full potential. Just fill in the form below and we’ll contact you to schedule a meeting at your convenience.