When is an interim CFO necessary?

Imagine you run a family-owned business that has been on a steady upward trajectory for the past decade. You’re not a tech darling, but your revenues are high and you are starting to think about expansion. That’s great news, right? Well, it might not be all smiles on your finance team, and your CFO (if you even have one) could be under more strain than ever.

Periods of rapid growth present immense opportunity, but also huge difficulties. A majority of CFO’s believe that the most pressing strategic challenge they face is learning how to achieve sustainable growth. Balancing short and long-term growth against investor pressures is a particularly tricky tightrope to walk, and it can take an expert CFO to do it gracefully.

In you are experiencing fast growth, it could make sense to hire an interim CFO with the domain expertise to keep you on track. But that’s far from the only case where an interim CFO can help.

In fact, it’s usually the case that you need an interim CFO when things are going poorly and you need someone to quickly execute a new game plan to get you back on track. You also might want an interim CFO if your old CFO left and you need to plug someone in fast to ensure a smooth transition, or your company is pivoting and you need someone with expertise in the new area of interest, or you are going through a merger and you need a CFO who has navigated one in the past. Whatever the reason, having a highly qualified interim CFO can give you the peace of mind that your financial operations are in good hands during turbulent times.

What to look for in an interim CFO

Obviously, a good interim CFO needs to also have all the qualities any regular CFO would possess. A quality CFO is an expert at things like cost management, de-risking, understanding and optimizing the cash position of the company, and compliance. They need to have proven they can quickly clean up old accounting errors, catch new ones before they happen, and do everything possible to maximize operational efficiency. They should also, at a minimum, conduct a value creation audit to assess operational improvements and put a plan in place to manage performance.

A good CFO will check all those boxes, but a great interim CFO goes even further. Here are some questions to keep in mind when looking for the best possible interim CFO.

Are they a subject matter expert? 

Most firms that want to hire an interim CFO have big problems they need to be solved yesterday. Therefore, the right CFO will need to have solved similar problems in the past, or at least have proven they are capable of tackling your unique challenges. For instance, if your company uses a SaaS business model, you probably want a tech-savvy CFO who has experience using cloud-based tools. Otherwise, it will just take too much time to get them up to speed.

Do they have good interpersonal skills? 

Nowadays, a CFO is instrumental in big picture decision-making at the company. This means your interim CFO will need to be good at leading people and, if necessary, navigating office politics. In a fast-paced and tense situation, there are always going to be competing voices and strongly held opinions. A great CFO will be able to hear out all parties and work through issues without unnecessarily angering the current stakeholders.

Can they be objective? 

Interim CFOs might be entering a chaotic situation where existing stakeholders have strongly held opinions on how to move forward. While collaboration is of course important, you also want a CFO who brings a fresh set of eyes, calmly assesses the situation, and makes an informed decision without being unduly influenced by either their emotions or the current team members. They should be able to formulate a plan for success that they believe in based on their wisdom and their principles.


Why a freelance interim CFO might be right for your company

There are many benefits to hiring a freelance interim CFO. By exploring freelance applicants, you dramatically increase the pool of candidates you can attract. The freelance economy is huge and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the majority of all workers will be freelance in less than eight years. By exploring freelance options, and especially virtual freelance options, you are no longer beholden to folks who live within an hour’s drive of your headquarters.

Also, you can save money. Outsourcing an interim CFO is likely to save 60% in costs when compared with hiring one full time. This is due to things like faster and cheaper onboarding and the fact that you would not need to provide benefits. Furthermore, a great freelancer is going to be well versed in all the cloud computing tools that the modern CFO needs to use to succeed. Nearly 50% of all accounting is already done in the cloud, so you want someone who is comfortable operating in that world.

Another good reason to consider freelancers is that platforms such as Paro make it so easy to find great candidates.

How Paro can match you up with the interim CFO of your dreams

Paro makes it simple to find an interim CFO that fits your unique company needs. We only accept the top 2% of finance professionals into our network, so you know that everyone on our site is of the highest quality Paro’s easy-to-use interface makes it simple to search, read profiles, and ask questions, all on the site. By the time you are ready to interview the candidate in person, you will have a great idea of who they are and how their past experiences can help your finance team become maximally efficient.  

So, if you are in need of an interim CFO, that’s no reason to panic. There are plenty of great candidates available. It’s just a matter of finding the interim CFO that best fits the unique needs of your company. We are here to help.