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Preparing to be a Virtual CFO

Rick Solomon

Rick Solomon

Guest Post by Rick Solomon, a CPA and the CEO of RAN ONE Americas. He is also an inspiring and motivational presenter who challenges thousands of CPAs and other professional advisors to expand their view of themselves and the value they bring to their clients. This is the second in our series on the Virtual CFO.

Accountants have an extraordinarily rich opportunity to grow revenue by offering virtual CFO services. It’s one of the most natural, organic ways to grow an accounting practice. Most clients have little if any understanding of the financial side of their business, including how to use their accounting information to improve business results.

The CFO role is a natural for accountants and in my experience those who offer these services are finding a great deal of receptivity among many of their clients. It’s also a great differentiator in attracting new clients. The only question is, what internal changes must an accounting firm undergo to better serve their clients by providing virtual CFO services, and growing their profits as a result?

The first internal change that is required has to do with mindset. It requires stepping back and rethinking our role and relationship with clients. Think about it. Most business owners have a huge unmet need when it comes to CFO type thinking. Many of them are not aware of this need because they don’t know what it is, or that it might be available to them from their accountant. The required mindset shift means that rather than seeing the traditional accounting reports we deliver as the end product, we must view them a starting point for virtual CFO services.

Cloud icon representing a virtual CFO

It helps profits and efficiency quite a bit when the technology we use to produce financial reports provides the information we need to successfully engage in the virtual CFO role without extra effort. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you could just give this financial information to the client and they will know what to do with it. They might if they have an accounting degree, but they probably don’t. Your role is to decipher the financial data, a foreign language to most clients, and turn it into usable information that can impact their business.

If you want to get the best possible results from your virtual CFO services, you need a game plan. Start by identifying the skills needed to play the CFO role. Accountants probably have 80% to 90% of the knowledge needed to be superb CFOs. Typically there’s a bit of a learning curve, or at least the need to brush up on a few things. Some reading to better understand the CFO role could be worthwhile.

One of the keys to the successful virtual CFO role is having an expanded view of things that your client is probably unaware of. For example, it would be helpful to access industry benchmarks to compare client results to others in their industry. This can provide a wealth of information, such as identifying areas where improvements can be made. Additional virtual CFO services might include such things as monthly financial review meetings to discuss results of operations with suggestions for improvement; Cash flow forecasting, Ratio analysis, budgeting, and so on.

In deciding who in the firm will be playing this role, keep in mind it is a great professional development opportunity for much of your professional staff. For accounting professionals who are skilled at producing financial reports, the next natural area of growth would be to learn what that information tells us and how it can be used to help clients improve their business. As they grow, your firm grows.

Which brings us to the next important skill – communication. I firmly believe that to be successful, a professional must not only master their technical skills, but must also develop their communication skills. We need the ability to effectively communicate complex technical information in simple, understandable ways. We must establish a comfortable, trusting relationship with clients if we are to be an effective virtual CFO. We also need the skills to effectively communicate with clients about the value of virtual CFO services in a way that motivates them to engage and pay.

The bottom line is simple. There’s no downside to stepping into the virtual CFO role. It can be a very big win for clients, your team, and your firm. What are you waiting for?

Check out our next Virtual CFO seminar.

 

Read more about Accountants

 

1 comment

Kirsten Barrie
19 June 2013 #

Thank you for this article Rick! I agree that businesses are just now learning how a virtual CFO can help them. They didn’t go into business to try to be an accountant, so having someone that did can be a great asset to the expansion of their company. A great team plus the technology of Xero finally creates a winning game!

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