Minimum Viable Back Office

TIME TO GROW UP

As an outsourced CFO, I don’t accept all the work I am offered. Thinking through all the work I no longer take, the top of the list would be working with companies that call me because the investors or their Board told them to.

Consider what your investors are signaling to you: Time to grow up! What they are signaling to you is that you need a Minimally Viable Back Office.

THE EARLY STAGE BACK OFFICE

Early Stage CEOs, here is what you really need. This is what your Board wants, and this is what they expect your CFO to do.

  • Find a solid accountant to prepare your financial statements mostly according to USGAAP and to pay your bills 
  • Find a reliable, local, tax accountant to prepare your state, local and federal tax returns
  • Find a freelance FP&A resource to update, manage and build your models
  • Use a Professional Employment Organization (PEO) or freelance HR consultant to help you hire, fire, and administer benefits 
  • Find a commercial attorney to manage the basic go-fetch questions that arise over the course of conducting business so your very expensive corporate attorney focuses on corporate governance and related risk
  • Find a remote or local resource for a few hours a week to keep the CEO away from tasks that are not befitting their rank and pay grade

 Your CFO should manage and lead all these business responsibilities and not execute all these things themself. If done well, these roles will be filled by people who are skilled in these roles and are happy with the work that is offered, which generally would not be full-time.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE EARLY STAGE CFO

The Early Stage CFO will build you a minimally viable back office on a part time (or less than part time) basis until such time as the demands of the business require something more. You should expect that this CFO will not overwork the task at hand, and will judiciously spend time on strategy and execution. Companies in the early stage are often product-obsessed, and just don’t need the level of company building and sophistication a later stage CFO brings.

You can find an All-In-One CFO, one who will keep your books and run your payroll and manage your models, and send you board decks once a quarter with the standard finance statements in them. This is a thing. However, do not confuse this service with the role of a CFO. A CFO is a C-Suite Executive that commands CXO compensation to solve problems befitting an Officer of the Corporation. As Shakespeare wrote, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

The absolute truth is that your investors and other stakeholders constantly signal what they expect from CEOs and other executives. The Early Stage CEO may be in a learning stage as to how to interpret these. A skilled Early Stage CFO will help you decode these signals and act accordingly; at the very least, get your Minimally Viable Back Office up and running so you can end-run that signal.