How Do You Differentiate Potential CFO Partner Firms?
One of the biggest challenges mid-sized businesses face when searching for a CFO partner is differentiating between providers of CFO services. The idea of working with a CFO partner has become increasingly popular among mid-sized firms. As a result, there are many more companies and consultants out there who are offering these kinds of services.
However, the fact is not all CFO partners are the same — far from it. Different professionals have different expertise and offer different levels of quality and value. This can make it challenging to determine which CFO partner would be the best fit for your business.
“They All Sound the Same”
Executives have told us that it’s difficult to determine how one CFO partner is different from and better than all the others who also claim to provide outstanding service and high-level financial expertise. One executive we spoke with said, “They all sound the same” while another put it even more bluntly: “They all over-promise and under-deliver.”
If you’re like most business owners and CEOs, you’re extremely busy running your company. You probably don’t have time to try to evaluate the claims of all the different providers and differentiate between them. But before engaging a CFO partner, you do need to perform due diligence to ensure that you choose one who provides the level of service and expertise necessary to ensure a successful engagement.
To help you perform due diligence, here are some key areas you should investigate in order to differentiate a potential CFO partner from others:
Experience & Expertise
- Does the firm feature formerly seated enterprise CFOs with real-world experience?
- Does the CFO partner have experience at a wide range of different types of companies, from start-ups to large corporations?
- Does the firm have a reputation for exceptionally strong financial and operational expertise?
- Does the firm have experience working with businesses in the same industry and the same size range as yours?
- Does the CFO partner have experience working on the specific solutions (such as financial modeling or M&A) that you need help with?
- Is the firm client-value centric? In other words, do they focus on delivering client-defined target value that’s tangible, intangible, future and personal?
- Are processes in place to empower clients to monitor, manage and message engagement progress toward target outcomes?
- Does the firm make references and case studies available as proof of their ability to deliver a high level of satisfaction and value to clients?
- Does the CFO deliver the correct solutions that meet best-practice benchmarks for solutions from professional financial services firms? These include a focus on management decision making, clear reporting, the long term and the big picture with an eye toward uncovering opportunities and empowerment of the executive team.
- Does the CFO partner combine deep expertise in accounting standards with innovative thinking?
- Does the firm offer a flexible service delivery model that includes options for a project CFO, part-time CFO or interim CFO?
- Are senior partners hands-on in working with clients or do they delegate most work to junior staff?
Culture & Fit
- Is there potential for a good fit between the CFO and your company?
- Does the professional you’re considering have experience in a wide variety of different types of company settings and cultures?
- Is the firm willing to engage in a pilot project in order to help build a business case for the engagement?
- Is the firm willing to provide a discovery or benchmark comparison to demonstrate the CFO partner’s work style and potential fit within your organization?
One of the biggest challenges businesses face when searching for a CFO partner is differentiating between the different providers of CFO services. Not all CFO partners are the same — far from it. Different professionals have different expertise and offer different levels of quality and value. This can make it challenging to determine which CFO partner would be the best fit for your business.
Arthur F. Rothberg, Managing Director, CFO Edge, LLC
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