If you typed into an internet search engine the words ‘outside financial sounding board’, you would end up with a list of organisations using terms such as Outsourced FD; Finance Director; outsourced financial advisor. But what do those terms really mean, what are those roles and is that what your business needs? Can these people really help you? All reasonable questions that you may ask yourself.
This is an area that I’ve helped people and organisations with over several years and I’ve developed what I consider to be clear thoughts and ideas on what I think an outside financial sounding board role should look like, and the key areas that it should cover.
One thing above all else is that this role should be adaptable to each scenario presented. This means that one-size does not fit all and the approach should be tailored accordingly. It should provide the service that your business – and you, as the business owner – actually need at a particular time. It should also be for the right period of time – not for a minimum period, or a one-off, but to meet the needs of the business.
What does your business actually need? Is it an experienced Finance Director from a corporate background or is it an outsourcing agency? Is it somebody you used to work with or somebody recommended by a colleague or contact?
The answer is, of course, that it depends on your circumstances; however, more often than not, a lot of businesses when they are going through some form of transitional, require that outside financial sounding board. They don’t always know exactly who or what they need, but they know they need someone to help them with the forecasts that they are preparing for the bank; the financial modelling for that new project; someone to interpret what their numbers say. Experience has taught me that it should be someone who can wear many different hats (metaphorically speaking!). Someone who has the ability to understand and interpret numbers, has experience in the sorts of funding available and how to approach raising that funding. It’s also someone who understands tax and the interaction with numbers, who understands what the outside world reads into your financial performance.
Growing businesses will almost always need to increase their finance team’s ability or even capacity. Small businesses don’t start out with a FD or even a Financial Controller. As they grow, they look to recruit individuals into these roles, as they need them; however, there will be a time where it is not financially viable to employ a full-time FD, but there is a need for an outside sounding board – someone to help with the financial side of the business during that transitional stage. This should, in the main, be a short-term need until a full-time equivalent is ultimately recruited, but a need nonetheless.
If your business is in need of some form of outside sounding board, spend some time thinking about what that role is and the length of time you need that assistance for, before appointing someone. Understand what you want from that role and the type of skills needed. That person should be someone who listens to you and understands the needs of the business, can be part of your team and is above all, delivers that key advice.
Below are the key attributes I believe should be provided within an outsourced senior finance role:
- Understands the business and is able to articulate the challenges that it’s facing
- Have the appropriate level of financial knowledge and understanding
- Be adaptable to the needs of the business and have the ability to wear lots of different hats when circumstance dictate
- Be timely with advice and delivery. Have the time to immerse themselves within the business – and to understand what makes it work
- Be prepared to question and to be that financial sounding board
Inspire works with many clients to provide that trusted advice, experience and expertise as part of our FD on Demand service. We know and understand the demands that business owners face and take the time to work with you, to listen and to provide the very best business advice, geared solely towards your business’ success, growth and efficiency.
To find out more about, please get in touch with the team at Inspire.