Look for a diversified skill set when choosing a CFO

By Paul Ursich

Today’s CFOs need a firm grounding in accounting, financial reporting and tax planning as a starting point. They also need an understanding of computer software systems, a good working relationship with your company’s IT department and the ability to develop company strategies. An effective CFO must also be a smart manager and a team builder who can engage your controller and accounting department.

This combination can be difficult to find, but here are the specific skills to look for when hiring a CFO.

Financial reporting
Your CFO must be able to generate and analyze financial reports and present them to a variety of internal and external audiences. Responsibilities involve everything from producing budgets and spot-on monthly or quarterly forecasts to updating bankers and equity owners on company performance and projections.

Professional services liaison
The CFO is your day-to-day contact with key professional service providers. Whether it’s applying for lines of credit, directing the tax compliance efforts of your accountants or writing and reviewing contracts, today’s CFO must be able to articulate the goals of your company to its most trusted outside advisers and work with them toward fulfillment.

Tax planning
Keeping up with ever-changing U.S. tax law is a constant challenge, and one that’s of critical importance to your company’s bottom line. That means that your CFO must stay abreast of tax policy and on top of details including everything from addressing compliance issues in your industry to making sure tax credits are earned for research and development and other corporate activities.

Health care advisory services
Your CFO must be able to work closely with your HR department to help present a health care plan that’s as fiscally responsible as it is responsive to the needs of your workforce, all while satisfying new federal mandates.

Pricing support
This area of financial responsibilities makes your CFO a key player in establishing pricing that will meet expected gross margins and help your company maintain fiscal order. Today’s CFO must closely collaborate with departments throughout your organization.

Accounting software consultation
This system — whether server or cloud-based — touches virtually every corner of your business, from sales and inventory to raw materials purchase, labor costs, taxes and financials. Getting a first-time system or upgrading from obsolete software can be a year-long process, and your CFO should be part of the team. As a result, it’s important to have a CFO with the collaborative drive to work with all departments to research system needs and who is computer-savvy enough to work comfortably with your IT staff to implement and use your new accounting software system.

If you hire the right person for a complex job, you’ll gain peace of mind that the right decisions are being made to address finances and boost your company’s forward momentum.

Paul Ursich is director of advisory services at Wiss & Co. LLP. Reach him at pursich@wiss.visioncreativegroup.com.

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