What Every CFO for Startups Should Be Able to Do

Posted by Deepshikha Shukla

Many startups avoid bringing on a CFO because they don’t realize they need one. In fact, some business owners think CFOs are only for huge mega-companies. But startups can grow faster if they have someone on board who knows their financial goals and can help map out a plan to achieve them. A CFO can play a critical role in strategic decision making to help startups prepare for the future and optimize their processes.

The basics: A CFO is a highly experienced professional who can not only effectively manage your business’ finances, but can also be the financial spokesperson of your company. CFOs can build new investor and customer relations, and establish core financial processes and reporting requirements, creating a path to growth for your startup.

One important factor when considering bringing on a CFO is the timing. Taking too long to hire a CFO will not leave enough time for them to understand your business before fundraising or IPO activity begins.

Without prior knowledge of a CFO’s role and responsibilities, it might be difficult for startup founders to understand how hiring a CFO can help them grow. Therefore, here we’ve listed all the things that CFOs should be able to do at your business.

Tax Planning and Compliance Adherence

CFOs are trusted advisors who help businesses maintain compliance with the latest rules and regulations. Your CFO will be in charge of preserving compliance with government policies for your business during every transaction and funding round, and can provide guidance during tax planning periods.

Building a Scalable Infrastructure

A CFO can help a startup build a quickly-evolving environment that will support the business as it grows. CFOs can build a scalable financial system from payment processing and payroll to cost analysis projections.

Generate Data-Driven Insights

A CFO can oversee data collection such as accounting, consumer behavior and much more to generate the data-driven insights that businesses need for making informed decisions. They identify which business activities drove changes, such as inventory turnover and sales, to track how the company is doing and to identify actionable insights.

Your CFO should be able to ensure and assess the quality of the financial and operational data drawn from various sources. Maintaining data quality can help you define a data analysis-based strategy for your go-to-market plans.

Fundraising

A CFO can play a vital role in raising funds for your business. They are involved in preparing and pitching financial projections to potential investors and convincing them on the reliability of these projections.

Financial Planning

The more data-driven your startup is, the more likely it is that you will foresee opportunities and anticipate errors in advance. When a startup decides to go public or to merge with another firm, the CFO can develop and implement strategies to deal with rough financial periods and sudden growth to ensure a smooth transition.

Risk Assessment

The CFO helps senior management members consider operational and financial issues and weigh the potential risks before implementing new technology solutions. They assess, manage and organize processes to avoid procurement or operational risks, such as late payment, misplaced inventory or misuse of corporate assets.

Trusted Reporting

Business reports are prime tools that can help startups in their everyday decision-making processes. A startup is more likely to thrive when the reports are thorough, accurate and convert the accounting information into meaningful insights. CFOs can help startups set their budgets by providing monthly management reporting, key performance indicator (KPI) reporting, tax reporting and investor reporting.

The CFO analyzes and interprets the financial data contained in the reports to identify the next steps and how to implement them. Thus, it helps early-stage businesses be prepared to attract investors with accurate financial reporting.

Right Forecasting

CFOs can develop financial forecasts by capturing cash flow information and analyzing customer payment patterns. They ensure that the business has sufficient resources to meet their business goals and best utilize the opportunities.

Minimize Overhead Costs

CFOs ensure that your limited cash resources are deployed effectively and in line with the company's strategic objectives. A CFO can manage your expenditures on workforce and technologies and monitor the factors that affect success.

Formulate and Execute Company Strategy

A CFO helps you formulate pricing or product policy based on the company strategy, competitive conditions and market environment. They assist businesses in long-term planning, scenario analysis, international expansion, acquisition decisions and many other higher-level decisions. Your CFO can create a financially viable strategy to help you achieve the long-term financial goals of your startup.

Develop a Sales Compensation Plan

An effective sales compensation strategy should motivate the sales team to hit targets aligned with the company's interests. A CFO regularly reviews the sales compensation policy and ensures its effectiveness concerning sales quotas, commission rates and performance incentives.

Improve Business Processes

CFOs can improve various business processes, including the month-end reporting timeline, credit and collections process, client onboarding, reducing lead time to revenue and increasing lead generation. They can also help you analyze and update marketing strategies to maximize the ROI of your marketing expenses.

Strategic Capital Allocation

A CFO can help you make decisions on where the company's funds should be allocated based on how the business works, the value proposition to clients, cost drivers and market or competitive landscape. They can also help you spend that money wisely to achieve sustainable and efficient growth.

Effective Cash Flow Management

Typically, CFOs have years of experience in cash flow management activities due to their work in multiple roles within the finance function, such as treasury, audit, financial planning and business analytics. They are often experts in relevant finance and accounting issues, such as financial regulation, international accounting or capital structure. Many also have advanced accounting degrees or experience at auditing firms.

Beyond the usual certifications and experiences associated with the role, a CFO is typically well versed in budgeting, forecasting, financial reporting and monitoring expenditures and costs. A highly skilled CFO can bring experience and insight to help startups scale effectively to meet a changing business’ demands.

If you want the benefits of a CFO but don't have the bandwidth or resources to hire one in-house, consider working with an outsourced CFO, who can provide you with the services you need for the number of hours you require them. This can end up saving you money and time in the long run while still meeting all of your goals.

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