Business owners at the early stages of their startup are a jack-of-all-trades, trying to handle every aspect of their business for the simple reasons that they might be under-capitalized or trying to cut cost. When the business starts to grow organically, there arises a need to employ appropriate people for the various roles in the organization. The services of an accountant may be enough to provide support for recording the day-to-day financial transactions in the initial stages. Once the business moves into the growth stage, when the activities of the business are increasing, the need for strategic financial support is felt to consolidate data and provide the company with a strategic road map. This is where a CFO comes in.
The responsibilities of a CFO is no longer limited to financial reporting, audit and compliance, planning treasury and capital structure. It now encompasses the roles of corporate portfolio management, capital allocation, investor relations, performance management to name a few.
A CFO is not just a glorified book-keeper, he plays a number of important roles in a startup that are critical in providing a strong financial foundation for a growing business.
- A CFO is like a steward to the business, working to protect the vital assets of the company, ensuring compliance with financial regulations and communicating value and risk issues to the board and the investors. The CFO will ensure that the business has important financial controls which include management of cash flows, establishing credit policies and implementing procedures to measure and evaluate optimal inventory levels.
- As an operator, a CFO provides a variety of services such as financial planning and analysis, treasury, tax and other finance operations, to ensure the business is efficient and effective financially. An effective CFO handles projects that require significant quantitative and qualitative analysis in order to arrive at an understanding of the options that are available. Developing a company’s annual budget and interacting with the business owner and department managers to ensure that the final product accurately and objectively reflects the real requirements of the business will be the responsibility of the CFO. He might also conduct a thorough analysis of a company’s future capital investment requirements as a first step in securing additional financing.
- CFOs take a seat as the strategist at planning table and help influence the future direction of the company. They are vital in providing financial leadership and aligning business and finance strategy to grow the business. In addition to M&A and capital market financing strategies, they can play an integral role in supporting other long-term investments of the company. . A CFO would also play a key role in any effort to seek investment from the public financial markets or to launch an initial public offering (IPO).
- CFOs as catalysts can stimulate and drive the timely execution of change in the finance function or the enterprise. Using the power of their purse strings, they can selectively drive business improvement initiatives such as improved enterprise cost reduction, procurement, pricing execution and other process improvements and innovations that add value to the company.
Bringing in a skilled and expert personnel onto the board of the business will help give a strategic direction to the business. Outsourcing the financial support for the business will give the owners free time to focus on other aspects.