Pros and Cons of Becoming a Part-Time CFO
If you’ve been in this business for a while, you’ve probably worked with entrepreneurs who had amazing business models that flopped because of poor financial decision-making. You’ve also probably seen ordinary, run-of-the-mill businesses that succeeded because they actually listened to the business advice you gave them. Odds are you’re as qualified as anyone to help make important financial business decisions.
ProAdvisor Brad Celmainis is a Chartered Accountant who has over 23 years of post-qualification experience. Celmainis is the president of Brad Celmainis Consulting, a Calgary company dedicated to providing small and medium-sized businesses with a strategic and tactical CFO or controller. He specifically provides services to owner-managed, private businesses with annual revenues up to $75 million.
Like a bookkeeper or accountant, a part-time CFO is someone who provides services on an hourly or contract basis. They handle the job of a CFO, which could be on a full-time basis, but they’re brought in only when needed. This allows smaller businesses, such as startups, access to someone with years of experience without the high annual salary.
“A lot of the time, startups try to do everything on their own,” says Celmainis, who enjoys helping business owners take ownership of their financial decisions. “Startups tend to be built by visionaries and creative types, but they don’t really understand the importance of the finance side.”
Celmainis chose this route after deciding the corporate life wasn’t for him. “I came in to companies, I enacted changes, I did a lot of good things,” says Celmainis. “But, then I found myself almost bored and I’d want to go on to my next challenge.” The last straw came when he worked for a company that wasn’t a good fit at all. After he parted ways with the organization, his wife encouraged him to start his own consulting business and he never looked back.
In running his own incorporated business, Celmainis benefits from taking advantage of tax planning and expense deductions that he otherwise couldn’t have done as an employee. You can actually pay yourself less as an employee of your own business than you would command as an employee in someone else’s company. In owning his own business, he can work with his personal cashflow needs to benefit from various tax breaks. His company is also at the point of scaling, which means it has the potential to become more lucrative.
In his role, Celmainis enjoys more freedom than the average CFO. He gets to pick and choose his priorities and can fire clients if they’re not the right fit.
His key to success is networking. It is a huge part of building his business, which has led to media opportunities. “I used to think that you could hang your shingle out there and the work will follow. It’s not so easy,” says Celmainis. “You have to look at more than just the accounting side of your business; you have to look at your business from a marketing perspective.”
But, the job isn’t for everyone. An accountant needs to demonstrate confidence and distinguish themselves to a potential client. It also took Celmainis some time to figure out his brand. Since then, potential clients have had a better understanding of his value proposition.
Business development and creating a steady stream of business, without turning solid leads away, has always been a challenge for him. The problem with owning a business is it’s easy to work in it, by managing your day-to-day operations, rather than on it, by conducting marketing, development or strategic thinking, he says.
“The thing about consulting is that it really is feast or famine,” says Celmainis, who recently parted ways with a lucrative contract since his client had cash flow issues due to the recent economic slowdown in Alberta. “I know other part-time CFOs can’t handle that since not having a contract in place really stresses them out.”
Currently, he’s re-evaluating his business’ strategy and seeking ways to scale his business. Through his networking efforts, Celmainis has formed strategic alliances with accountants who work on taxes, year-ends and bookkeeping.
While his current business model may be changing, there are two things Celmainis knows for sure: he will be a part-time CFO until he retires and he wishes he made the jump sooner. It might be something you might want to consider too.
Have you considered offering part-time CFO services? Why or why not?