As your business grows, financial management turns into an increasingly delicate task. To stay on top of the books (and stay ahead of problems later), you need a rising degree of financial intelligence.
But you’re also running all other aspects of your business. To focus on more critical duties, and—ideally—take a big step back from the business so that it can start to run itself, getting those time-consuming financial activities off your plate is crucial.
You probably already have a bookkeeper, whether remote or in-office, part-time or full. So, when do you know it’s time to delegate all your financial responsibilities to a Chief Financial Officer (CFO)?
Here, we’ll explore the key differences between a bookkeeper and a CFO to understand which will have the biggest impact on your business according to your needs, right now.
WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE BOOKKEEPER DO?
You probably already have a bookkeeper or use a bookkeeping service, and here we’re going to review what their responsibilities generally include.
A bookkeeper is generally employed by a small-to-medium-sized business to record and track transactions and reconcile accounts, including but not limited to payroll, invoices and expenditures.
That said, a bookkeeper’s role isn’t limited to entering numbers into spreadsheets. Especially if you contract a bookkeeping service, their expertise and knowledge also include leveraging key accounting software to take care of things like:
- Training you or other staff on accounting software
- Cleaning up mistakes and validating accounting data
- And streamlining all bookkeeping tasks
These responsibilities take an enormous weight off a business owner’s shoulders. However, you’ll see that these tasks still require someone to manage the bookkeeper and step in when it comes to more complex to-dos.
Spoiler alert: if it is time to upgrade to a CFO, you’ll have more accounting needs than those listed above.
WHAT DOES THE AVERAGE CFO DO?
As your business grows, managing your finances becomes too complex for a bookkeeper to handle. And without the right pieces in place to keep finances managed well, this can become a strain for future growth, particularly when it comes to investments and strategic planning.
This is your first sign that it might be time to hire a CFO.
But back to basics: a CFO is brought into a business as the bearer of all financial activities. The CFO not only has the knowledge and skills to handle accounting independently, but takes ownership in the success of your business.
Ideally, a CFO ends up becoming a right-hand man or woman for your company, with responsibilities such as:
- Strategic planning to assess the operational and financial impacts of strategic business initiatives
- Annual budgeting and quarterly forecasting, including recommending adjustments, as needed, to properly manage the business
- Operational and financial reviews with actuals vs. budget forecasts and operational efficiency metrics to make better day-to-day and strategic decisions
A CFO will be responsible for everything from general accounting to protecting the financial future of your company, keeping a pulse on how stable your company is at a given time.
Though, as you can imagine, hiring a CFO is a big decision for any business owner and has to be done at the right time.
LET’S TAKE A MOMENT TO TALK OUTSOURCING
We can outsource just about everything these days. With a tap of the smartphone, we can open apps to communicate with freelancers and contractors around the globe who are playing an increasing role in capacity building and scaling for small and medium businesses.
Outsourcing is common, too, with bookkeepers. Whether it’s an independent bookkeeper or a service you contract, working from the cloud gives businesses the financial controls they need without having to hire in-office.
Looking for a bookkeeper online today is easier than ever, too, with multiple certifications you can check for and validate. For example:
- Certified Bookkeepers (National Bookkeepers Association)
- Certified Management Accountants
- Certified Accounts Payable Professionals
- Certified Accounts Payable Associates
- Certified Payroll Professionals
- Tax Certification
But did you know you can outsource your CFO, too? This is most appealing for businesses without a physical office, and for those who are aching to get the help a CFO can offer but still aren’t sure about finding and hiring someone local full-time.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IT’S TIME TO HIRE A CFO?
We’ve talked about the increasing complexity of business finances. So what are some of the triggers that might indicate it’s time to start thinking about hiring a CFO?
If any of the following are true, that will be a big flag that you’ve grown enough to start thinking about hiring this important team member:
- If you have investors interested in supporting your business, they’ll want to see detailed financial statements and financial plans. This is something that almost always requires contracting a CFO, unless you want to be stuck doing all this work yourself.
- If your company revenue has increased significantly or rapidly, it’s wise to look for a CFO to help manage your cash flow. Planning appropriate cash usage is another strategic “must” that a CFO can manage for you.
- And, as your business grows, banks will start insisting on thorough audits of your financial statements when you come looking for loans. These types of audits can include digging into even the most minute details, and can be intimidating—not to mention a major time suck. A CFO would take care of this for you, also ensuring that financial statements are up-to-date without discrepancies before that audit even comes.
- For any company that’s grown significantly beyond “what it once was,” understanding and managing risk becomes more difficult. Hiring a CFO gets you the insights you need for proper risk management, strategizing and protecting you against all the “what ifs” that are likely to occur.
Now that the wheels are turning on the “when” and “why,” the rest is up to your gut. You’ve made business decisions a million times before, and now you have some key considerations on a silver platter. So, what do you need? And what do you want? Do you have the time to handle finances on your own?
If it is time to hire a CFO, this will mean handing all that responsibility off to someone uniquely trained and positioned to not only handle accounting, but the necessary financial strategy to keep your business running successfully.
BONUS: HOW DO YOU HIRE THE RIGHT CFO?
Hiring anyone for your company is a delicate matter. Even the entry-level representatives answering the phones act as the face of your business, so there is no “small” job in your business.
That said, a CFO will act as an especially important player. Looking for talent isn’t as hard as you think, and so if it is time to hire a CFO, start looking now.
And then, pat yourself on the back, because your business has grown so much that you’ve arrived to a major turning point. This will be another day you remember.