Skip to Main Content

blogpost

CFOs for hire: The next trend in temporary help?

04.04.17

The increasing use of temporary and contract employees at many levels continues to infiltrate the corporate world. Does this growth translate to the executive suite? In particular, the domain of the CFO?

Companies use freelance and contract-for-hire positions all the time. Increasingly, contract employees are a go-to solution for companies not wanting, or able to, increase payrolls. In 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that contingent or contract workers make up more than 40% of the U.S. workforce.

Seventy-six percent of organizations use contingent labor to enhance their workforce and close talent gaps, according to Adecco’s recent report, “The Definitive Guide to Building a Better Workforce.” Big or small, these companies hire outside help for a variety of reasons: to supplement busier times, for special time-sensitive projects, to help contain FTE benefit costs, among others.

What about senior level positions like your CFO? It may sound crazy, since the CFO holds one of the most critical roles in a company’s overall operations, growth and evolution. Nevertheless, it could be the best temporary hire you can make.

Temp Job: CFOs Wanted

The CFO is a key business partner in advising and collaborating with the CEO and developing a long-term strategy for the organization. So why would you hire a contractor to fill this most-important role?

Growth. If your firm has grown since you created your finance department, or your controller isn’t ready or suited for a promotion, bringing on an interim CFO can be a natural next step in your company’s evolution, without having to make a long-term commitment. It can allow you to take the time and fully understand what you need from the role — and what kind of person is the best fit for your company’s future.

“Some companies have a greater need for experience and education yet do not require the full-time role or expense of hiring someone in-house,” said Rachel L. Anevski, M.A.O.B., PHR, SHRM-CP and president and CEO of Matters of Management, LLC. “The benefits here are cost containment and flexibility. You scale up as necessary.” There are also, according to Anevski, down sides. “They don't get to see the whole picture and they are not valued all the time as part of the executive team due to their part time or external status.”

If your company is looking for greater financial skill or advice to expand into a new market, or turn around an underperforming division, you may want to bring on an outsourced CFO with a specific set of objectives and timeline in mind. You can bring someone onboard to develop growth strategies, make course corrections, bring in new financing, and update operational processes, without necessarily needing to keep those skills in the organization once they finish their assignment. Your company benefits from this very specific skill set without the expense of having a talented but expensive resource on your permanent payroll.

Departure.  The best laid succession plans often go astray. If that’s the case when your CFO departs, your organization may need to outsource the CFO function to fill the gap. When your company loses the leader of company-wide financial functions, you may need to find someone who can come in with those skills and get right to work. While they may need guidance and support on specifics to your company, they should be able to adapt quickly and keep financial operations running smoothly. Articulating short-term goals and setting deadlines for naming a new CFO can help lay the foundation for a successful engagement.

Cost savings. If your company is the right size to have a part time CFO, it can be less expensive than bringing on a full-time in-house CFO. Depending on your operational and financial rhythms, you may need the CFO role full time in parts of the year, and not in others. Initially, an interim CFO can bring a new perspective from a professional who is coming in with fresh eyes and experience outside of your company.

After the immediate need or initial crisis passes, you can review your options. Once the temporary CFO’s agreement expires, you can bring someone new in depending on your needs, or keep the contract CFO in place by extending their assignment.

The decision and its ramifications

Making the decision between hiring someone full-time or bringing in temporary contract help can be difficult. Although it oversimplifies the decision a bit, a good rule of thumb is: the more strategic the role will be, the more important it is that you have a long-term person in the job. CFOs can have a wide range of duties, including, but not limited to:

  • Financial risk management, including planning and record-keeping
  • Management of compliance and regulatory requirements
  • Creating and monitoring reliable control systems
  • Debt and equity financing
  • Financial reporting to the Board of Directors

If the focus is primarily overseeing the financial functions of the organization and/or developing a skilled finance department, you can rely — at least initially — on a CFO for hire. Working with a skilled placement firm or professional can help you find the right match for your company. You should contact one of the many companies nationwide that specialize in temporary CFO assignments. They can help you find the right fit for your specific needs.

Regardless of what you choose to do, your decision will have an impact on the financial health of your organization — from avoiding finance department dissatisfaction or turnover to capitalizing on new market opportunities. Getting outside advice or a more objective view may be an important part of making the right choice for your company.

Further reading on the executive suite: Crisis Averted: Six Steps to Take if Your CEO Leaves Abruptly

Related Services

Consulting

So you want to be a chief financial officer?

Whether you are looking to transition into a new role for your current company or head out into the job market, taking your financial skills to the next level is within your reach. As a controller, you already have a number of skills that will serve as a foundation for the role of CFO. Putting it all together is the next step.

Chances are, you’ve already been responsible for the accounting, budgeting, cash-flow management, and all the financial data coming in and out of your organization. If it’s numbers related, you’ve got it covered – and you’re on time, all the time, when reports and analytics are due.

But you also know that becoming a CFO requires an additional set of skills – not just the technical skills you’ve honed over the years, but additional leadership and strategic financial skills. So, how do you know if you’re doing what you can to take your financial career to the next level? Consider these seven keys to transition success:

  1. Prepare to be a leader. Whereas your focus was once on the day-to-day operations, carrying out directives from the CFO and/or CEO, as a CFO you are now in a position to create financial and operational strategies that drive growth for the organization. According to a 2014 survey released by ACCA Global entitled “Tomorrow’s Finance Enterprise” leadership skills were identified as the most important future CFO management skills. Focus on the long-term and to be able to articulate your ideas and vision to other executives in the company. Try and get assigned to specific projects that allow you to be involved in the initial planning and decision making stages to demonstrate your vision to others.”
     
  2. Embrace technology. 93 percent of the senior financial executives surveyed in a CFO research study reported that the CFO of the future will need a much stronger technology skill set than is currently required for the job. This means the relationship between IT and Finance is intricately linked. The cloud is dramatically changing the way companies are doing business, as records and information reside outside the company’s walls, bringing in new questions about control, security, and potentially, costs. Staying on top of how technology is changing and impacting business operations will be paramount as you look to step into a broader role.
     
  3. Identify trends. According to the ACCA survey, articulating and understanding business value drivers and broader industry trends are listed as the most important areas of business knowledge needed by future CFOs. It’s not enough to keep up with quality control or to make sure the company’s financial reporting is accurate and in compliance. As a CFO, you must have a good understanding of the business issues and conditions underlying the financials and be able to analyze your company’s financial strengths and weaknesses. As a strategic partner to the CEO, you play a critical role in the direction the company will take to capitalize on opportunities needed to remain successful.
     
  4. Delegate tasks. Embrace this idea. Removing yourself from the minute details of the day-to-day allows you to better see the forest for the trees and develop the leadership and strategic skills of a CFO. Surround yourself with people you trust who can focus on the detailed (and very important) aspects of financial systems and processes. By delegating appropriately, you build a strong team that allows you to step more fully into a leadership position within the company. It is still your responsibility to see that tasks and projects are done correctly, so make sure expectations and deadlines are clear from the beginning.
     
  5. Build relationships. Ask questions, observe the interaction between leaders of different parts of your organization, and understand how the team leads—together. Get to know your colleagues and what they do. Be generous with your knowledge and ask questions – a lot of them.
     
  6. Find a mentor. Realize that you will need support. Moving from Controller to CFO is a significant change in responsibility, so find people who have already succeeded at doing the same thing. It’s important to have your own “board of directors” – a team that can help you in various ways, from being a sounding board to offering some tough love, or helping you hash out a challenge. And you will indeed have challenges. As you stretch into your new role or take on new types of assignments, they can feel overwhelming. They [probably] are not. Learn to embrace them and work with your mentor or mentors to handle them more effectively.
     
  7. Allow for growth and learn from your mistakes. No one wants to make mistakes, but you will. Moving into a bigger role always provides for “teachable moments” and growth. This is good! People understand that mistakes are part of the territory, as long as you learn from them and understand how to avoid making the same one again. Set your expectations high while giving yourself a period of time to adjust to your new position. Stay accountable and communicate well — and remember to ask for help when you need it.

Moving into a larger, more strategic role can be an exciting, albeit daunting transition. With thought, preparation and vision, it’s something you can prepare yourself for, and continue to excel at the next level.

Blog
Making the transition from controller to CFO: 7 keys to success

The late science fiction writer (and college professor) Isaac Asimov once said: “I do not fear computers. I fear the lack of them.” Had Asimov worked in higher ed IT management, he might have added: “but above all else, I fear the lack of computer staff.”

Indeed, it can be a challenge for higher education institutions to recruit and retain IT professionals. Private companies often pay more in a good economy, and in certain areas of the nation, open IT positions at colleges and universities outnumber available, qualified IT workers. According to one study from 2016, almost half of higher education IT workers are at risk of leaving the institutions they serve, largely for better opportunities and more supportive workplaces. Understandably, IT leadership fears an uncertain future of vacant roles—yet there are simple tactics that can help you improve the chances of filling open positions.

Emphasize the whole package

You need to leverage your institution’s strengths when recruiting IT talent. A focus on innovation, project leadership, and responsibility for supporting the mission of the institution are important attributes to promote when recruiting. Your institution should sell quality of life, which can be much more attractive than corporate culture. Many candidates are attracted to the energy and activity of college campuses, in addition to the numerous social and recreational outlets colleges provide.

Benefit packages are another strong asset for recruiting top talent. Schools need to ensure potential candidates know the amount of paid leave, retirement, and educational assistance for employees and employee family members. These added perks will pique the interest of many candidates who might otherwise have only looked at salary during the process.

Use the right job title

Some current school vacancies have very specific job titles, such as “Portal Administrator” or “Learning Multimedia Developer.” However, this specificity can limit visibility on popular job posting sites, reducing the number of qualified applicants. Job titles, such as “Web Developer” and “Java Developer,” can yield better search results. Furthermore, some current vacancies include a number or level after the job title (e.g., “System Administrator 2”), which also limits visibility on these sites. By removing these indicators, you can significantly increase the applicant pool.

Focus on service, not just technology

Each year, institutions deploy an increasing number of Software as a Service (SaaS) and hosted applications. As higher education institutions invest more in these applications, they need fewer personnel for day-to-day technology maintenance support. In turn, this allows IT organizations to focus limited resources on services that identify and analyze technology solutions, provide guidance to optimize technology investments, and manage vendor relationships. IT staff with soft skills will become even more valuable to your institution as they engage in more people- and process-centric efforts.

Fill in the future

It may seem like science fiction, but by revising your recruiting and retention tactics, your higher education institution can improve its chances of filling IT positions in a competitive job market. In a future blog, I’ll provide ideas for cultivating staff from your institution via student workers and upcoming graduates. If you’d like to discuss additional staffing tactics, send me an email.

Blog
No science fiction: Tactics for recruiting and retaining higher education IT positions

This site uses cookies to provide you with an improved user experience. By using this site you consent to the use of cookies. Please read our Privacy Policy for more information on the cookies we use and how you can manage them.