Does your growing company need a Chief Financial Officer? Have you reached a point at which your top-line revenues are surging, your tax requirements are becoming complex, or you’re about to undergo a required audit? Some small businesses don’t stay small for long, and when your CEO can no longer single-handedly stay on top of a growing list of financial responsibilities and leadership burdens, it’s time to bring a specialist on board. Modern CFOs, especially for smaller and more agile companies, don’t usually stay within the financial realm. Instead, they wear multiple hats and often partner with CEOs on strategic planning, resource allocation, and even staffing and management for departments like HR and IT. So as you choose a candidate who can step into this role and thrive, you’ll need to look for traits and credentials like the ones listed below.
Don’t just look for leadership skills. Anyone can be a corporate leader, or at the very least, anyone can see a potential corporate leader when they look in the mirror. But you don’t need a candidate with potential; you need one with a proven track record. Look for a candidate who has held onto a leadership role for a significant period and maintained the respect of both board members and employees during challenging times. Ask your candidate to talk openly about past leadership failures. If he or she can’t list any, keep looking.
Specific Industry Experience
If your company distributes consumer electronics or manufactures food and beverages, find a CFO who has held this role for at least one similar business. Each business model comes with its own quirks and its own target market, and your candidate should have some experience with the unique position of this company and its product.
An Accounting Background
You can hire a financial pro who doesn’t necessarily hold a CPA, as long as this person can handle the challenges of a rapidly evolving regulatory environment. But if you limit your search to CPAs only, you’ll reduce some of the risk involved in the process. CPAs are well positioned to manage complex tax and reporting issues.
Your business may or may not be ready to go public, but if this is one of your long-term goals, start preparing now. Hire a CFO who can write, speak, listen, and make clear presentations of complex information to board members and potential private investors. Again, don’t just hire a candidate with potential; choose someone with skills that have been tested and proven.