Remote CFO

The term Virtual CFO is now heard fairly regularly. Is that an accurate description? Allow me explain.

What is Virtual?

Virtual is the appearance of being something though not actually what it appears to be. To understand this better, think of the term virtual reality. We hear that used in games and training systems. For example, a flight simulator creates a virtual reality experience of flying, but we all know we are not really flying. How, let’s think about what we mean by a Virtual CFO. This person is certainly not an illusion. It may sound like nit-picking, but what we are really referring to is someone who is not necessary on site when performing the CFO functions. But, that only makes them a Remote CFO, not virtual. Indulge me for a moment while I explain why I think that mindset matters.

Business is Reality

Even if your company is in the virtual reality business, the business is actually very much real. I’m afraid the term Virtual CFO tends to makes us forget the CFO is very much a real person, even if they are not on site. They may be interacting exclusively remotely via the digital world, but that does not make them any less real. So, what is the point?

We need to keep in mind that a Remote CFO is an integral part of a business, and since they are a real person they also need to be interacted with as such. This brings to mind another danger of thinking of this person as virtual.

Relationships Matter

In order to get the most out of a CFO it is important that a company’s management interacts with them. Yes, much of that interaction may be via email or some other digital means, but that in no way eliminates the need to have conversations either on the phone or in person. In fact, unless distance makes it extremely difficult, I highly recommend that you have periodic face-to-face meetings with your CFO. They may be a Part-time CFO, but that does not eliminate the importance of the role they are filling. Not only do you need to get their feedback, they also need yours. Each party needs to understand what the other is thinking and what they expect.

Along that line, if you are considering hiring a Part-time CFO, I highly recommend you have an extensive conversation with whoever you are considering before you enter into this arrangement. This will help provide clarity as to how the relationship will work, what each can expect of the other, and how disagreements will be resolved. Let me give you an example from the perspective of a Part-time CFO. Whether I am onsite or operating remotely, one of the things that matters to me greatly is integrity. If in the process of talking to a prospective client I sense that I might be asked to do something that violates my values, then I would stop the conversation there and the company can find someone else. The company may also have certain non-negotiable requirements that can be a deal breaker. Now, even if there seems to be a good match, the relationship should be monitored on a regular basis. Things change, and we sometimes find that what at first was a good match and may have been for a while, as specific needs of a company change the arrangement may no longer be a good one.

Don’t Let this Scare You

Okay, even if you want to refer to a Remote CFO as a Virtual CFO, just be certain to approach this with an open mind and be clear as to your expectations. Remember, since this person is almost certainly operating on part-time basis, it is essential that there be clarity as to your expectations. If the potential part-time CFO is already providing services to others that will make it impossible to be present when you need them then this might not work. But, if you are clear as to your needs and expectations and communicate these clearly, there is no reason why this cannot work very well and save you a lot of money at the same time. For some more thoughts on the benefits of utilizing a part-time CFO see the article Does a Part-time CFO Makes Sense?

What about your company. Could you use a part-time CFO who may operate on site, remotely, or a little of both? AimCFO would love to talk to you about your needs.

If you want to know more, contact AimCFO – Contact

As always, your comments are welcomed.


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