When it comes to corporate roles, those of the CEO and the accountant couldn’t be further apart. The CEO thinks big: grow the business, wow the market, motivate employees to do their best. The accountant thinks small: record transactions, run payroll, close out the books at the end of the period.
Both ways of thinking have their place. Think too small, says the CEO, and we’ll squash innovation and lose market position. Think too big, says the accountant, and we could overreach and pay the consequences on the way down.
Sometimes, these two ways of thinking co-exist in a harmonious way that strikes a balance between business competitiveness and fiscal prudence. Other times – not so much.
Tensions often arise when a company starts to experience significant growth pressure. As a small, tightly knit company unit – before the growth, that is – roles tend to be defined and personalities well established. Operations – and opportunities – exist on a small enough scale that differences between CEO-thinking and accountant-thinking have little if any significant impact.
But when companies start growing, gaps can emerge. How much do we spend on expansion? Do we really need a factory in Cincinnati? You want to spend how much on a new engineer?
Here, it is important to be clear regarding the definitions of corporate roles. What can be said about the CEO holds equally true for VPs, seconds-in-command, and the sales team. In place of the accountant, it is equally valid to talk about the controller, the treasurer, or even bookkeeper. The point is that when growth opportunities present themselves there is often a disconnect between the business types and the financial types.
Enter the CFO. The CFO is as equally concerned with sound financial stewardship as with business viability and competitive advantage. The CFO, in other words, can act as the bridge between the business and financial sides of the company.
The problem is that for many companies on the cusp – those just starting to grow – hiring a CFO with an executive-level salary is beyond their means. This is where the lean CFO – working on a part time basis – adds exceptional value. Working on a part-time basis but over the course of a long term relationship, such a CFO brings years of experience to bear on both the business and financial decisions an organization makes as it seeks to navigate the challenges on the road to growth and success. The result is sound business strategy built on a solid financial foundation.