A CEO’s Thoughts on CFOs and Financial Talent

I have been a Chief Executive of private and public companies for over thirty three years. I am just now starting to get the hang of it. Along the way, I have learned a few things that I wish I had learned earlier in my career.

You can rarely afford the financial talent you need when you need it.

You are always playing “catch up” when it comes to hiring financial talent. Today in the throes of the “new norm”  — a constant recession with high unemployment  — companies have to be lean, nimble and agile, which often means they are unable to hire the kind of financial talent they really need before or when they need it. This is a huge problem.

While you cannot “hire” the appropriate financial talent, you can, in fact, “rent” it. By “rent” it, I mean you can avail yourselves of part-time talent which allows you to forego hiring an entire person. You can buy only as much of what you need when it comes to expensive high level financial talent — senior accountants, controllers, chief financial officers, financial vice presidents.

Companies like vcfo (Austin, Houston, Dallas, Denver and Seattle) are very effective partners in such an endeavor as you can access top level talent in thimbles — paying only for what you actually use  — and thereby stretch your dollars. It is a strategy which recognizes and embraces the lean, nimble and agile realities of the marketplace today.

Today, I find myself advising small business and startup founders and CEOs and venture capitalists who are looking for advice on the nuts and bolts of getting small companies and product driven startups ready to grow  — and oftentimes grow dramatically. I only represent the interests of the CEO even when the venture capitalist is paying for my services.

Really smart CEOs know better than to seek advice from investors or Board members who can fire you if you spook them. Pro tip.

I do this under the banner of The Wisdom of the Campfire, the notion of a campfire at which the institutional memory of a company is passed along, as well as the best practices, wisdom and knowledge garnered over 33 years of running companies.

“It is excellent to learn from experience but it is always cheaper to learn from someone else’s experience.”

This rush to scale is the ideal situation in which to use part time or “rented” talent. In my business career as a CEO, I have had two excellent CFOs  — which covers about 25 years of the 33 years I have been a CEO.

One of those gentlemen, Mike Wilfley, works currently at vcfo. If you were to hire someone like him you would be getting the benefit of years of GAAP accounting knowledge (including very arcane and detailed subjects), US SEC reporting knowledge, intimate knowledge of debt markets, extensive knowledge of corporate governance norms and the nuts and bolts of setting up an effective financial and management information system. Mike knows it all, from embryonic to very large, as we worked together building a significant and successful enterprise. It is not theory, it is real.

You could draw on over a quarter of a century of knowledge on every discipline that runs through a financial shop in both a startup and a middle sized company. This talent would be available at the first minute of the first hour of your relationship and it would be addressable in bite sized units that are only paid for as used.

In operating in today’s challenging environment, the best money you may ever spend in the financial arena may be to hire some seasoned and salty talent on a very cost effective basis.

If I can assist you in any manner relating to the leadership or management of your company, please do not hesitate to call me. I will be glad to assist.

Good luck, God speed and may you enjoy the fruits of your hard labor. You deserve it.

Jeff Minch can be contacted at jminch2011@gmail.com or 512-656-1383