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A message to CEOs: When a CFO joins or leaves your company, it’s an ideal time to conduct a Business Process Review

by Paul Ursich

A CFO entry or exit event, especially when it comes to mid-sized companies, is often an opportune time to conduct a Business Process Review.

When a mid-sized company decides to bring on a CFO, it’s an indication of an important company life cycle shift.  Making the investment into this critical CFO role is a major one. It’s the perfect time to conduct a Business Process Review to provide valuable insight into this new hire. An immediate and independent review can drastically accelerate mission-critical deliverables, particularly if this is a new role for the company or hire.

In terms of an outgoing CFO, depending on the duration of the role, the change can at times be even more tumultuous – often in ways that were not foreseen. Often times, the CFO has been the one who has owned crucial relationships with outside vendors, such as accountants, banks, and even legal. The existing CFO often has access to important business information that may not have been disseminated throughout the organization. So in our view, when a CFO departs, it’s a good time to level set. It’s crucial to review processes that have been in place– in some cases for a number of years.

If the CFO has been in place for a long time – say 20 or more years, it may be time to evaluate how they are doing things and what technology they are using. As we evaluate this situation in particular, we find that nine times out of ten, there’s a better technology that can be leveraged in order to accomplish many of the things that the CFO has been doing day-to-day.

The Business Process Review helps identify the most mission-critical functions that the CEO needs in a CFO. In some cases, there may not be a need for a high salary CFO resource. There are many scenarios where Wiss has applied a short-term solution like our part-time CFO support, combined with a qualified staff accountant who can handle the day-to-day tasks. So it really comes down to evaluating what the client actually needs from the very broad expertise that we have and crafting the optimal solution for the client. But it all begins with the Business Process Review.

In terms of getting started with the Business Process Review, we first conduct a conversation with the CEO and current CFO (if in place) as well as other key staff involved from an accounting standpoint. We call this the Organizational Assessment. We look at the people, roles, and responsibilities, the processes and the technology.

We then make recommendations to the business owner about how they should focus the hiring criteria for that CFO. Or again, break up parts of what that individual was doing and temporarily outsource it to our team of experts to create instant efficiency and provide on-the-job insights into the inner workings of the department.  This gives us great perspective into the process and technology side.

We then take a critical look at the accounting system, especially if it hasn’t been updated for many years. Many older accounting systems no longer support the need for streamlined processes and reports.  We may make specific recommendations for new accounting software as well as how the staff should be organizing from an accounting and finance perspective.

To sum it up, in the event that you, as the CEO, decide to hire a CFO or if the current CFO departs, I’d suggest this as an ideal time to “take a breath” and reevaluate your people, process and tools in the finance and accounting department.  Taking the time now to make a comprehensive evaluation could very well mean the difference in the success of your next CFO and the increased likelihood to reach your next business lifecycle aspirations.

advisory, Business Process Review, CFO, Paul Ursich

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