Because this position is critical to a company’s success, it is important that SMBs set the bar high in the recruitment process.
Seek Candidates with Experience
Requiring your prospective CFO to be experienced should go without saying, however, many SMBs tend to promote from within without regard to prior executive financial experience. Serving as a CFO is not the same as simply handling a company’s day-to-day accounting operations. A seasoned CFO is a strategist who not only understands current and advanced accounting practices, but has experience in raising capital and adapting to change – both growth and downsizing. Required experiential qualities should include:
- Relevant experience in industry or transaction type
- Experience in executive leadership positions within SMBs as well as experience in at least one large corporation – which offer better training grounds
- Proven experience in significant growth and downsizing situations
- International experience
- Experience raising capital beyond traditional bank lines of credit
- A general knowledge of current and advanced accounting, legal, and tax planning issues
Require Advanced Interpersonal/Communication Skills
CFOs, like other executive management team leaders, are driven by clarity of purpose. They not only manage the financial operations, but they also serve as strategical leaders whose responsibility it is to carry out the company’s mission. While CFOs serve as a leader in a supportive role, they see the “big picture” and carefully maneuver the company’s resources and assets through it. The ideal CFO will exhibit the following characteristics:
- Exceptional communication skills (written, verbal, and VISUAL)
- A track record of adaptability and effectiveness with a keen eye on efficiency
- A leadership style that encompasses unwavering resolve, compelling modesty and continuous professional development
- Ability to work effectively within a team at both the executive and managerial levels in an organization
Do Not Settle for Less
Growth and sustainability is important to companies of all sizes. SMBs should not skimp on the quality of their financial leaders. Doing so could be to the detriment of the entire business. The ideal CFO will be an experienced business leader with a financial background. He or she will be able to communicate the company’s mission, vision and current standing as well as (if not better than) the CEO himself.
However, budgeting for a full-time CFO may not seem feasible to many SMBs. For those companies, there is still hope! Financial executives are also available on a part-time, interim and/or fractional basis. Enlisting the services of a CFO as a consultant instead of a full-time staff member can still allow a SMB to focus on critical projects and growth strategies. The company therefore benefits from invaluable experience while keeping overhead costs down.
John Ball is a co-founder and the Managing Partner of SeatonHill Partners, LLC. SeatonHill provides mid-market companies with affordable financial executive leadership from their offices in Fort Worth and Dallas. For more information, visit www.SeatonHill.com