Number Crunching – Who should you hire and why?

Did we meet our financial targets?

Is cash flow positive?

What do we tell the investors?”

“What is the budget?”

“Did we get top revenue?” 

“Are the customers paying on time?”

“What about the competition?” 

“What about the future?

 

Finance is a vast profession with many nuances and specialties. During my work with small-to-mid sized companies, I get many questions that indicate that clients need help with the “numbers” and they also need to know what each function does.

My role in helping my client starts with an assessment of their firm’s present/future state financial needs, and an education about financial titles. During an engagement, the client and I look at what materials they have, evaluate opportunities for immediate efficiency improvement, and look for ways to make number crunching easy.

A firm’s leader wants to get the numbers quickly so she can interpret and assess what is going on with the business.  In some cases, present systems have incremental runway; but firms may need IT upgrades and more talent.

“I want/need a CFO!”

The Chief Financial Officer heads corporate finance, cash flow, banking, accounting, the treasurer, internal control, external reporting, annual report development, and capital investment. They typically have an advanced degree (MBA, Masters in finance, accounting, economics) and they may have a professional licensed designation.

In most cases the CEO and the CFO are glued at the hip.  Common catch phrases include: “did the CFO run the numbers?”  and “what did the bean counter say?” These phrases didn’t become clichés for nothing.  CFOs are not cheap.  They are an administrative cost of business and good ones are worth their weight in gold!

 

Get a Bookkeeper!

With today’s technologies, it is not always necessary to have a degreed person perform data input. Almost every industry has a software package that you can buy off- the- shelf. There are finance packages for, doctors, providers, salons, saloons, roofing, interior design, and construction.  Professional associations are good sources of information for accounting software for small businesses.

 

Engage an accountant!

A college graduate with an accounting degree from an accredited college or university has the skills and theory appropriate for most accounting needs. Many larger companies hire youngsters with plans of developing them into managers as they mature. An accountant understands the standards of financial statements, variance analysis, GAAP and maybe IFRS.  They are adept at inputting and extracting figures into an IT system to support the reporting process. These folks are the engineers of the numbers – they know what types of accounts should be booked where and why based on sound principles. They also understand internal control processes (Sarbanes/Oxley) and help with official public filings.

 

Pick a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)!

A CPA has a license within the United States; they have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination and have completed specified educational and experience requirements.  CPAs must complete continuing education credits to be current; states may require incremental testing. CPAs are the only professionals with the ability to provide a professional opinion regarding the veracity of a firm’s financial statement.  Almost all companies engage a firm to manage completion of key financial documents if they are filed with a government agency.

 

Want a Controller!

A controller is an experienced manager and is the gatekeeper to the money.  They have a command of accounting (they may have been a CPA). Typically they have supervisory experience and they handle: budgeting, forecasting, financial planning, and investment decisions.   In smaller companies and organizations, the roles of controller and CFO may be combined.

 

So whom do you want to call?

Well, I would like you to call me because I love working with entrepreneurs to strategize about how they 1) get more revenue and 2) grow their businesses. (I also like demystifying finance.) I am a strong proponent for forcing my client to own their financials! Never delegate your financials to a third party without your oversight.

That said, every circumstance is different, and my role as a strategist, modeler and consultant is to help my client, you, pick the most opportunistic alternative given circumstances.

Bringing in full time help is a big investment in money and talent. Not every organization needs a full-time CFO, CPA or controller now.  Getting precise, timely financial data is job #1 for a business leader.  Once you get your numbers then the real work begins.

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