7 Key Considerations When Building Your Finance Team (Start w/ #4)
While there may be no universal answer to the question “When it is the right time any given company needs to hire a Chief Financial Officer”, the truth remains that businesses of all sizes can benefit from the guidance a CFO can bring to the table. From startups to large corporations, these professionals combine financial expertise with growth strategies to help companies maximize their profits (or minimize losses), deploy capital, manage cash flow, and so much more. What’s more, a CFO consultant can be hired on an interim or part-time basis, making this a viable solution for startups and small businesses that need to build a finance function but don’t necessarily have the funds to onboard a full-time, permanent employee at this point in time.
We sat down with David Antokal, Principal at Brooklyn Equity and CFO Consultant, to talk about how having a finance professional on your team can better position your company for success. As a Nomad Financial CFO consultant, David has worked with companies like Momofuko Milk Bar, Getaway House, and Cohero Health providing both high-level strategy and straight-forward financial support. David has successfully built and exited his own company and now spends the core of his time investing and consulting growth-oriented companies. Here are some of the takeaways from our conversation with David Antokal on how decision-makers should view their finance functions.
When Building the Finance Function
1. Enter with the Right Mindset
Unfortunately, many founders and business owners have misguided and preconceived notions about their company’s finance hires, seeing them as a major cost center that is essentially a sunk cost. In reality, making the right decisions in terms of who you hire to help with your company’s finance & accounting will generate long-term growth that pays for itself and more. It can help you identify ways to strategically scale, as well as more likely to raise the funds you need to do so. Furthermore, the right finance professionals can find ways to increase a company’s profitability, establish key performance indicators, manage growth, and more. All of these roles and functions can determine where your company sinks or floats, so it’s important to see finance costs not as a sunk cost, but as a serious investment—because that’s exactly what it is.
2. Match Titles to Experience (inflation is never fun!)
For many startups, beginning by hiring a full-time CFO is a logical decision, but that might not be the best use of their limited resources. Senior level finance personnel are very expensive when you package salary and benefits, and even more so when you include equity. Another thing to consider is the mismatched between titles and responsibilities, as many senior level managers will get bored if they are stuck doing basic operational bookkeeping. For many early-stage companies, there usually isn’t enough high-level work to keep these finance professionals occupied. And you certainly don’t want to hire a junior-level person who doesn’t have the experience making high-level decisions and expect them to lead your entire finance function. Luckily, there are solutions out there that can help you fill that gap. Many companies working with limited capital can leverage part-time or outsourced finance & accounting teams to get them to that next stage. Instead of forcing a mismatch, they’ll fill the gap until you are ready for to bring on an in-house team.
3. You Get What You Pay For
When it comes to your financial ROI, you truly do get what you pay for. When you consult with a CFO, you’re not hiring a “bean counter.” You’re getting someone who knows the ins and outs of scaling, fundraising, maximizing growth, managing investor relations, and so much more. With this in mind, if you think you can get away with simply hiring a bookkeeper or basic accountant because your business is in its early stages, you may want to re-think this assumption. You may be better served hiring a part-time or interim CFO consultant than you would bringing in even a full-time bookkeeper or accountant at this point, especially when you consider your average bookkeeper isn’t going to know everything required to be fully GAAP compliant.
4. It’s Worth Doing Right the First Time
Consider, for example, that many bookkeepers will not know accrual accounting. Therefore, when it comes time to seek VC funds down the road and you’re asked for your accrual accounting numbers, you’re most likely going to need to shell out the money to have this information transitioned. This can be a substantial cost. In fact, depending on the size of your business, you could easily end up spending tens of thousands of dollars to have this done, when it could have been done from the beginning if you had hired the right person to handle your finances. Simply put, when it comes to handling your company’s finances, going cheap isn’t going to get you very far if you want your business to grow and scale successfully.
5. Expectations for an Experienced CFO
A CFO is, in many ways, a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to building your business finance function. Specifically, a CFO can provide:
- insights to help you see your company’s finances from a new perspective
- extensive experience to help your business overcome financial challenges
- accounting and other services without the cost of hiring a permanent, full-time employee
For startup founders, you can be concerned about how you can afford this kind of financial professional. If you’re not ready to hire full time, your ability to hire a part-time or interim CFO consultant means you get to enjoy the many benefits and services one of these professionals has to offer while paying a fraction of the cost.
6. Structure Your Reporting
Perhaps one of the most important and useful functions of a strong finance function is the build out of financial reporting, starting with a review or implementation of a chart of accounts. This is not just for a business as a whole, but also for individual departments or segments as needed. This includes establishing and maintaining your financial statements (a balance sheet, statement of cash flows, and income statement) so you can gain greater insight into where their money is going and how it’s coming in.
As you get larger, your CFO (or whoever runs the finance function) will need to utilize enterprise resource planning (ERP) to help streamline, automate, and manage many aspects of a growing business. Working off this information and reporting, a CFO will be able to make recommendations and help founders develop strategies to achieve financial goals and improve overall cash management within the company
7. Projections and Models
Where you are still in the early stages of seeking funding or an established business, your finance team will assist in researching and creating financial projection reports. While these will be scrutinized heavily by investors, meaning you want to make sure you have confidence in these numbers, this is also how you will make smart decisions in operating your businesses. You should be able to defend any models and projections that your finance team comes up with, ensuring you’ve put thought into the numbers. So when your numbers are off from actual forecasts, you can explain why that is the case.
The decisions you make regarding your company’s finances early on will affect your growth and success down the road. If you want to have more than your standard “bean counter” handling your books, you need to look beyond hiring a bookkeeper or accountant, and more towards working with a CFO who will have your best interests in mind.