A critical component of any negotiation is a solid financial understanding of the performance of the business before and after the contemplated relationship. While this knowledge is critical, the individual accountable for ensuring the financial health of the company is rarely involved in the actual negotiations. One reason is that negotiating deals is not a common occurrence for most companies and as a result is not a competency that is routinely cultivated. Another is that a company’s Chief Financial Officer has numerous and varied responsibilities. Beyond the traditional responsibilities for basic accounting, reporting, planning, and financing activities, the CFO often has investor relations, information technology, human resources and other administrative responsibilities as well. In small to mid-sized organizations where accounting staffs are usually lean, this is typically more than a full-time job. What does a CFO do then, when the company is contemplating a major project (and a huge workload increase) in an area that the CFO might not have a lot of experience like an acquisition, ERP system implementation, or a capital raise?
One unsavory option might be to prepare for egregious amounts of overtime to personally assist with the analytics necessary to support the project. Another might be to hire a temporary analyst to assist in the project but with oversight by the CFO. An increasingly popular alternative is for CFOs to “clone themselves” and hire a contract CFO to manage the entire project or to oversee other responsibilities while the CFO assists with the project. A great idea perhaps, but where do you find one of these clones? Sometimes board members or members of the management team know people in their network who do this kind of work. Recruiters often are working with CFOs who are “in transition” between jobs and might want to take on a temporary assignment. Increasingly though, CFOs are finding help from firms that employ “on-demand” CFOs who not only have the requisite skills and competencies but can be engaged immediately.
The Consultant CFO: Why One Plus One Equals Three
These “contract CFOs” are often expensive, with hourly rates ranging from $200 – $400 per hour but, as Doug Mitchell, a partner with CSuite Financial Partners, says, “I’ve never seen a CFO get fired for getting a major project done on time, even if he’s spent money to do it! I have however, seen many CFOs lose their jobs because they DIDN’T get the project done.”
In a similar vein, investment banker Rick Chance, Managing Director, Consumer Markets with KPMG Corporate Finance, says, “Quality and timely execution by the finance team during a purchase, sale or financing is often the difference between the success and failure of the project.”
In addition to ensuring that the project gets done, companies often find that “one plus one equals three” in that having a second, experienced CFO on board, even briefly, can give the sitting CFO a consultative partner to help them validate or modify company processes and activities and to recommend solutions unrelated to the project.
As CSuite Financial’s Mitchell explains: “I have used a CFO consultant when I have been a seated CFO and have found that having a partner whose work output and advice I could trust was invaluable to me during an acquisition intensive period for my company.”
One example of when a contract CFO might be employed in a “non-clone role” is post acquisition, when there are many technical activities to perform such as implementing GAAP accounting, calculating the working capital adjustment, and developing forecasts and budget models and methodologies. Many companies put a tremendous amount of effort into developing their 100-day plan for post-closing but then fail to track performance and implementation against plan. They may have even included KPIs with which to track their progress. The root cause of this failure to follow through is often due to the CFO being stretched in many directions post-closing. A temporary CFO is a brilliant approach to managing this critical phase of integration.
Understanding the financial implications of a successful implementation in any negotiation is critical to knowing what one can give and cannot give in a negotiation. Decisions on the “Wants/Does not Want” and “Can/Cannot Give” components of the Negotiating Matrix must be based on the financial implications of the contemplated deal or transaction. Ensuring your best financial resources are supporting the development of this data is absolutely critical to a successful outcome. Too many companies with limited financial support resources prioritize daily work over strategic initiatives and as a result never realize the intended value of a strategic negotiation. Both are important, and successful companies know how to best deploy their valued internal resources on the most critical of projects and augment with interim executive support when appropriate.
The above article was authored by Gene Blaho, a partner with CSuite Financial Partners. He is a CPA (inactive) and holds an MBA from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA. He has been the seated CFO seven times and has worked on numerous M&A, financing and system implementation projects. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information.
CSuite Financial Partners is a rapidly growing national, financial executive services firm that provides financial management executives to companies of all sizes and in every industry throughout the United States. The firm’s partners and executive-level resources are CPAs and MBAs who served on the frontlines; possess on average twenty-five years of senior-level strategic and operational finance experience. Whether a company is in need of strong, visionary financial leadership, or in need of highly competent tactical support on a departmental basis, the firm’s clients turn to CSuite Financial Partners to satisfy all their financial-talent needs.