Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Finding The Right Fit For An Accountant, Bookkeeper, CFO, Controller or Other Financial Professional For Your Company

Today's Guest Blogger is Shelia Thompson. Shelia is the Director of Recruiting Services with vrecruiting (a vcfo company), which is a full service search firm offering strategic solutions including Professional / Executive Search and Contract Staffing Services in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Seattle ( She has over 15 years experience in executive search, professional placement and providing effective client focused recruiting solutions. She can be reached at sthompson [at] , 512.450.6578.

You need to hire an Accountant…you think?

Accounting and Finance can be an uncertain territory for many start ups. Do you need a Bookkeeper, Staff Accountant, Controller, VP of Finance? What about a CFO? Full time? What level? An accountant is an accountant right? If these are questions that have running through your head – you probably are on the right path to considering how to most effectively leverage the right talent for your stage company.

As an Executive Recruiter who has placed several hundred accounting and finance professionals with all size companies over the years, I can tell you – one size does not fit all. All accountants are not created equal. There are some that have unique industry specific skills that can add immediate value. Do you need someone SOP 97-2, Cap Table Management, Cost Accounting, Intercompany Consolidations, Foreign Currency Conversion…? What about fund raising experience, banking relationships? Are there M&A projects in your future? Accounting software –what is best choice? Policy and Procedure development—anybody can do that right? Well, you get the point. As with any specialized field, hiring the right type and level of accounting and finance professional is key to getting the most bang for your buck. Yes- even for the ones who record and project the “bucks”.

Chances are Accounting classes may have been your least favorite class in college and now you see it as a necessary evil for business. Stop thinking that way and begin thinking strategy and efficiency. There are many options depending on the stage of your company’s development and the growth strategy. While this is not a black and white answer you might consider the following guidelines to manage your green:

  • Prefunding Stage – Getting your ducks in a row from a strategic finance perspective is key. Consider a fractional professional services firm that can give you high level CFO experience for a few hours a week or month seeking the advise of someone who has done this a few times will go along way. Depending on your structure you might also need a fractional bookkeeper-again only a few hours of time will go help when your hire someone who has worked in start up environments before. A bookkeeper from Mom and Pop’s Donut Shop will not have the same skills as someone that has seen a few start ups in their time.

  • Product Development/Pre Revenue Stage – You may need to increase Bookkeeper time or consider Staff Accountant level (to track expenses and manage cost, manage vendor and set up accounting system). A part-time strategic and tactical CFO that will be able to continue financial planning and ideally be the type to roll up their sleeves and be hands on in setting up the correct accounting and finance policies and procedures relevant to your business model to prepare you for the next level.
  • Growth Stage - Now is when you need to hire your full time person, usually a Controller that is more technically savvy that your Bookkeeper or Staff Accountant and potentially has some of the specialized experience relevant to your industry. Software company’s will want to look for hands on SOP -2 experience. If you have multiple locations consolidations experience will be important. Manufacturing environments will need some cost accounting exposure, etc. An ideal Controller will be willing to be hands on, have ability to manage staff that will continue to grow (much of the staff may be at the clerical level first-AP/AR) and have strong business acumen to provide sound financial advice through financial analysis, budgeting and forecasting etc. Companies often will look to a Controller that will grow to VP of Finance that continues to provide internal strategy and offer guidance. Depending on your funding needs and growth plans the right level CFO will come into play here at some point full time. Using a solid part –time CFO can be cost effect for many early stage companies but when you are ready to go get that next round, consider an IPO, acquire competitors you will need to look for an experienced CFO that is savvy in the financial strategies you intend to deploy and add them to your team.

In addition, don’t let titles fool you. The only way to really understand a person’s skill set and where they fit in is by looking at their job duties and accomplishments. Seek that advice of someone who has hired at the level you are seeking in Accounting and Finance before. If you have a great internal IT recruiter that knows Developers like the back of their hand – that is great, but that may not be the best person to tap and understand the financial accounting network. A good finance recruiter can help you narrow down the candidate pool to the top candidates in the market the fit the needs of your organization. I would advise you find a recruiter that not only understands accounting and finance but also the importance of hiring for the future without over-hiring. Screening for soft skills as much as technical accounting skills is imperative. There are some very sharp accounting professionals that thrive on being apart of a team that is targeting growth, do well in non-structured environments and have the communications skills that will allow them to work well with all departments. Then there are those folks that prefer to sit in the corner and crunch numbers all day and don’t like change.

Which do you want on your team?

Have A Great Day.


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