Financial Roles 101 Constructing Your Financial Dream Team
The various financial roles of a company can be confusing to some and overwhelming to others, especially for those just starting out in business. You may be asking yourself—What exactly is the difference between an accountant and a CFO? Aren’t they the same thing because both deal with money? And the answer is a resounding … No.
While the positions needed will vary greatly depending on the size and structure of a company, it’s important to understand how they build upon each other, particularly as the company prepares for growth. To that end, I thought it was time for a quick review.
Net Result: Transactional data entry
A bookkeeper represents the foundational building block of any business. If we were using construction terms, the bookkeeper is the concrete that needs to remain sturdy and level in order for the rest of the building to stand. Bookkeepers are responsible for recording financial transactions (sales, receipts, bill paying, financial coding) that occur on a day-to-day basis. This is the person who enters data and keeps records correct and up to date. A bookkeeper balances ledgers and ensures invoices are paid on time and the exchange of money is logged correctly. This attention to detail is vital for the successful growth of a company at every stage of development.
Net Result: Manages accounts, invoices, and financial statements
Similar to a bookkeeper, an accountant also deals with financial data and numbers. The difference, however, is often found in the level of trained experience. An accountant, as the title suggests, will have a degree in accounting. While the bookkeeper logs transactions, the accountant is in charge of balancing each company account. In smaller companies and startups, it is possible for the accountant to also be the bookkeeper, but as the company grows and evolves, it is important to separate these roles.
To continue with the construction analogy, the accountant would be the outer support structure of the building. An accountant looks closely at financial statements to make sure they stay accurate and up to date each month. They review data presented by the bookkeeper and analyze profits and losses within the company. They also may do taxes.
You may be wondering then if an accountant is the same as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). While both deal with financial data, a CPA is an accountant who has met certain state licensing requirements. Think of it this way—while all CPAs are accountants, not all accountants are CPAs.
Net Result: Controls cash flow
We have the bottom support and the strong outer walls, so what’s next? Now comes the controller, who “controls” and oversees all financial accounting within a company. Think of the controller as the manager or direct supervisor of the bookkeeping and accounting departments. The controller can be thought of as the internal walls of the building that make sure the ground floor and outer walls maintain their connection and are able to keep standing and communicating efficiently. A controller generally oversees payroll, ledgers, cash flow, and financial statements.
You may be questioning why you would need to have a bookkeeper, an accountant, and a controller all within the same company. And, in some respects, you would be right. Smaller companies do not need each of these roles in place. However, as the company grows, it’s important to have a clear separation of duties and of financial checks and balances within an organization. The controller is there to double check the work of both the bookkeeper and the accountant and to provide a report of past and future spending to the CFO or owners of the company.
Net Result: Future strategic growth
Our construction is nearly complete. Next comes the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) or “roof” of the finance department. The CFO is part of the executive board of a company and has direct interaction with the controller. One of the primary differences between the CFO and other financial roles is that a CFO has business leadership acumen. With a strategic mindset, the CFO has the ability to extrapolate data to formulate a financial roadmap for the future of the business, including projections of company growth, opportunities, and risks.
The CFO understands the company’s strengths and weaknesses and knows how to use that information for these projections. For some companies, the CFO may be the owner (or one of the owners). For others, the CFO is a third party specifically hired to help an existing company navigate its financial future.
As a company grows from concept to seed to established, so does its financial needs. Make sure you start with a strong foundation, then build your walls to help support the roof. It’s important to remember that separating financial responsibilities helps provide a system of checks and balances. Then, the CFO can help ensure that the future of the company remains on solid ground.
Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
Over the past few years, we have learned that we are entirely more adaptable than we ever thought possible. We’ve learned that we can not only survive, but actually thrive in extreme disruption. And much of that adaptation and success is based on the ability to work remotely.
Today, remote work has become a priority for most employees … in some respect. In fact, in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, 75% of workers said they wanted to work at least part of the time remotely, and 34% said they would quit a company that didn’t allow remote work. And those who work in finance or accounting departments are no exception to these numbers.
While our new remote or hybrid workforce has been around for two years now, it is no longer about logistical prowess to achieve social distancing in a global pandemic. Rather, it’s about the reprioritization among us all that includes increased flexibility and enhanced employee experiences. And while these are incredible benefits for candidates and employees, CFOs and other leaders aren’t lacking in advantages either – namely, a massive widening of the talent pool.
In the same survey, 35% of finance and accounting leaders said they expanded their searches geographically to find the right candidates. Having employees across time zones also leads to the ancillary benefits of nearly automatically increasing the organization’s customer service, while helping with work-life balance at the same time. Consider an employee on the east coast who no longer has to solve a problem at 7:00 pm because they have a west-coast colleague who can easily take care of it within business hours.
Realizing our remote world is not going anywhere, CFOs are now considering how to revamp their recruiting and retention strategies around it. It’s no secret that competition is fierce. To successfully recruit top talent and keep them, they need to have structured strategies that have been adjusted to our new realities.
Recruiting When recruiting for finance or accounting positions, there are, of course, the “typical” qualifications and skills needed – certain degrees and designations, attention to detail, accuracy, confidentiality, ambition, embracing continuous learning, and problem-solving skills. That’s not changing. But now, more recruiting efforts are shifting to look not merely at the skills for the specific position or the necessary education and certifications, but the skills needed to work in a remote environment successfully.
To work remotely, CFOs need to look for candidates who can exhibit discipline, initiative, and the following abilities to:
be a self-starter,
work well without supervision, and
work well under pressure.
Additionally, by the very nature of remote work, they need to have more advanced technological skills or, at a minimum, be willing to learn them quickly.
Retention So much of retention is based on organizational culture – whether we are in-office or remote. And the flip side of the flexibility advantage that remote work provides to employees is isolation, especially when some employees are in the office and others are not. Remote workers could feel less appreciated or valued, or think that they will be passed over for opportunities since they are not directly in front of their leaders. They can also start to feel detached from their work and those with whom they work.
To ensure the organization has a people-first culture, these fears (real or perceived) must be minimized. Leaders should ensure remote workers are getting the time and attention needed – that they are acknowledged, promoted when justified, and provided equal opportunities to training, continuous learning, and resources, including access to the financial tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Proactively sharing information, providing peer mentoring or coaching, and focusing on clear, timely communication, with opportunities for feedback are other helpful ways to keep them involved. Essentially, it comes down to the human connection, even when you aren’t physically together. Remember, technology is great, but alone, it will not build a culture your employees won’t want to leave.
Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to using the right strategies to keep your company running efficiently. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
We’ve been inundated with various headlines regarding the Great Resignation. And while they all have different perspectives, one commonality exists – the value placed on employee experience. Employees are making it very clear that while money is important, it isn’t everything. They want to be valued and appreciated, and find meaning in their work and in those with whom they collaborate.
According to a recent Gallup survey, the percentage of engaged workers declined in 2021 for the first year in more than a decade, in large part because organizations have forgotten about the basics. “Among the engagement elements Gallup measures, the greatest declines were in clarity of expectations, having the right materials and equipment, and the opportunity for workers to do what they do best. These elements are foundational to employee engagement.”
For employers, prioritizing the employee experience has arguably never been as important as it is right now.
What Exactly is Employee Experience?
Think of the employee experience as a journey that includes every interaction and observation during an employee’s lifecycle with your company — from recruitment and onboarding to development and retention to exit. It encompasses all that they encounter and observe during that lifecycle, including their role, workspace, leader, team, and company culture. At their foundation, employee experiences should be aligned with the company’s purpose, values, and mission, and have the full support of leadership at every level.
Why Should You Care?
I don’t know of any leader who would object to decreased absenteeism, low turnover rates, or increased productivity. And these are all very valid reasons that every leader should care about employee experience. In fact, it should be given the same time, attention, and resources as launching a new product or service.
An enhanced employee experience results in increased engagement, a stronger company culture and brand, growth, and better customer service. Think of it this way – your employees are on the frontlines of customer experience, helping to build and represent your brand. And whether they have a positive or negative experience at work each day will invariably impact these crucial relationships, and by extension, your company.
Additionally, as we discussed in At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed, the employees who did not join the Great Resignation are burnt out and often feel underappreciated. These employees, who have more leverage than ever before, could still choose to leave in search of something better, and that often means a better employee experience. However, if their leaders are proactive and look at this instead as an opportunity to enhance employee experience before it’s too late, those employees are more likely to stay. Simply, companies who place value on employee experience have a significant competitive advantage over others who don’t.
True leaders know they are as only as strong as the team they build around them. To that end, hiring not only the most qualified, but also the most compatible C-Suite executives with whom to strategize and collaborate on the future of the company is invaluable.
Recruiting the right person at this level differs significantly from recruiting at other levels. He or she must possess the requisite qualifications and also the requisite experience to be enabled to make significant decisions quickly. Moreover, he or she must have the ability to handle incredible amounts of responsibilities, and function well, if not thrive, under pressure. This person’s presence will impact other employees, the company culture, and the company itself. And a bad hire at this level can lead to enormous disruptions, including damaging morale, decreasing productivity, and adversely affecting the company culture.
Finding the Best Talent Doesn’t Come without Challenges
Recruiting top-level employees presents its own unique set of challenges that aren’t generally encountered at other levels. These challenges should be kept in mind as the recruiting process begins. First, you will likely face competition. These employees are in demand, usually having the ability to choose where they want to work and name their terms.
Additionally, C-Suite employees in general are not actively looking for a new job. In most instances, they are already employed. However, individuals at this level are always looking for new opportunities, so don’t let their current employment stop you. The workforce is different today. Long gone are the days of people retiring from a company after thirty years of service. This person may be ready for a change in his or her career, and that change could be your offer.
Tips to Help Secure the Right C-Suite Fit
Set Goals. Ask yourself the following: What are you looking for? What is negotiable? What is not? What input have you received from your board of directors or even other employees? You should have the answers firmly decided upon before moving forward, and be clear about them during the interview process. It is equally as important to understand with clarity who you do not want to hire. What characteristics do they have? Transparency from the start is essential in this process.
Draft the Right Job Description. Don’t just resurrect an old job description or write what you “think” you need. Engage in due diligence to find out what your competitors are searching for, what candidates are putting out there (if anything), and then set benchmarks and make the description appealing based on the information you learn. This document should never merely be about a title and responsibilities. It should reflect the company’s culture and clearly demonstrate where this person will make the largest impact and how.
Realize Expectations. C-Suite candidates will have certain expectations, often resulting in increased costs. They may request their own office, own parking spot, and certain other benefits. Ask yourself what you are prepared for and can handle financially before you engage in discussions.
Vet carefully, but do not delay. It’s important to get to know this person – not just their qualifications and experience, but their values and who they are at their core. Utilize behavioral interview questions and emotional intelligence quizzes. Have frequent follow ups and thoroughly check references. However, all of this is said with a caveat. Remember this individual is likely in high-demand, and one of your competitors could move in and make them an offer if you delay too long.
Consider promoting someone from within. You should always consider moving someone up from within. Benefits of this decision include being good for overall morale, motivating employees, and increasing retention. Yet, while it is ideal to promote from within, you must ensure he or she is ready for the type of responsibility and demands the C-Suite brings with it.
Hiring at this level requires forward-thinking analysis. It calls for significant preparation far before any job description is drafted or interview occurs. For example, you want to ensure that you’ve created a culture that reflects the company’s mission, objectives, values, and long-term vision. Without proper alignment, you risk attracting the wrong type of candidate for your company.
Often, the first (if not, one of the first) C-Suite executives hired is the Chief Financial Officer. Generally speaking, the owner or CEO excels at strategy or operations, but does not possess the knowledge needed for financial decisions. He or she needs someone who thoroughly understands all financial aspects of the company and can then guide it the right direction. Outsourcing this function is another available option.
With the significant investment of time, money, effort, and energy the recruiting and onboarding of your new C-Suite employee will be, you want to ensure longevity with the right fit. Barker Associates has extensive experience working as an outsourced CFO and assisting companies in determining their needs for this position. If you would like to discuss these services, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.
If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there. – Lewis Carroll
Customer experience (CX)
has been a hot topic for the last several years.
Companies have invested in teams to analyze data, customer service issues,
survey results, and they’ve utilized sophisticated tools such as the Net
Promoter Score (NPS) to understand how likely the customer is to share their
experience and promote the company.
Companies have increased
their budgets and resources to understand the habits, needs and desires of customers to create the perfect
journey and ultimate experience for those they serve but, despite all their
efforts, some companies are still falling short, which means lost revenue,
customer churn, and retention issues with their employees.
CX is the sum of all
interactions. According to a 2018 survey by Gartner, nearly 90% of businesses
compete on customer experience alone. Whether your company is transactional or
subscription-based the competition is fierce and if you want to attract, retain
and grow your customer base you have to lead with the end in mind and design
the ultimate experience.
Employee Experience EX
The exclusive focus on the
customer alone has not resulted in the business outcomes companies desire. Perhaps
the focus should be on something a little closer to home…the Employee Experience (EX). After all,
without employees you can’t serve customers, so maybe the old adage “customer
first” should take a back seat for organizations that truly desire to be
transformative in the market place.
Social media and platforms
like Glassdoor and Indeed have created complete transparency so that organizations
can no longer hide from the real-time employee workplace reviews. In this
competitive market, where skilled talent can be scarce,
companies cannot ignore the need to make the Employee Experience a priority.
Like CX, EX is the sum of every day to day
interaction the employee has from the first contact to last. It’s every
touchpoint they have with recruiters, HR, their boss and peers, the software
they use, the processes they must follow; each touchpoint is specific and
The Employee Experience is
a full spectrum of all their experiences and
a well-designed EX should empower employees with the tools and know-how to
serve customers successfully, provide employees control over their professional
growth and development, and create an atmosphere for positive and healthy
collaboration in a well-designed workplace. When EX strategy is developed and correctly
implemented the end result will be happy employees with a commitment to the
company and their job.
According to a 2016 report
by Deloitte University
Press, organizational culture and employee engagement was a top
priority in 2017 and is still a top focus. The report noted that nearly 80% of
executives rated employee experience very important or important, yet only 22%
felt that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee
experience. Of those same responders, more than half were either not ready or
only somewhat ready to address the challenge.
In lieu of a true
strategy that focuses on understanding and implementing modern actionable solutions
to promote a positive EX, employers are using perks like casual Friday, free
ice cream and an occasional “bring your pet to work day” to solve the problem. Companies
use these perks in an attempt to build a great culture without any actual
thought to what creates a great culture.
Jacob Morgan, the author of
The Employee Experience Advantage, analyzed over 252 global organizations to
understand the attributes that promote EX and drive employee engagement. The
top 3 companies that excel in this area are no surprise: Facebook, Google, and
Apple. We’ve all heard about some of the amazing perks these companies offer, but according to Morgan, leadership in these
organizations has focused on the bigger picture to yield positive results. They
focused in areas that really matter to
employees: culture, technology, and physical space.
Culture is a nebulous word and people define culture in a variety of ways. Morgan describes culture as a side effect of
working for an organization. Are your employees frustrated and burnt out? Do
they have a voice and an opportunity to present ideas or provide feedback
without fear of backlash? Is there role clarity and a clearly defined path for
growth? If you’ve heard negative chatter,
you likely have a culture problem impacting the EX, which will ultimately
impact the engagement level of your employees and your customers.
Employees should have
access to technology that supports their function. Technology should be a help
not a hindrance to employees. They should be able to work successfully and with
ease with the help of technology, but sadly, many companies have convoluted
systems that don’t sync, resulting in
errors, rework and duplication, all of which are time-consuming, costly and put
not only the employee experience at risk but your company as well. Leaders who
fail to stay current with new technology and upgrade the employee experience
through exposure to more advanced technology risk losing those employees to
companies who do make such investments.
Lastly, a great employee
experience is dependent upon the physical space in which employees work. Is
your office well lit, clean, free of clutter? Do you participate in initiatives
that support a healthy workplace? Are employees situated in an environment that
supports their tasks? For instance, if call centers are placed next to
employees who must utilize quiet focus to get their job done, then you likely are going to have some unhappy and frustrated
Companies that invest in
the development of a focused EX have seen improved results with attracting and
retaining skilled employees who are passionate about the company and the brand,
and play an active role in the ongoing success of the organization. Employees
want and expect to develop their skills as the company grows and adapts to
market demands. Maintaining stale, obsolete skills is the ultimate morale
Although developing a
focused strategy has not been a priority to organizations, of the 252 global
organizations analyzed by Jacob Morgan, only 15 companies, or 6%, have created
a winning employee experience; companies that don’t focus their strategy are at
risk for both employee and customer churn.
Focusing on long term
solutions means taking the time to engage employees to understand their needs,
wants and expectations and work to align tactics with developing a winning experience.
In the end, you get happy, productive employees who bring tremendous value and
drive positive business outcomes.
Are your business outcomes
meeting your expectations?
Where is your focus, the CX
or the EX?
Have you invested in your
Employee Experience or paid it lip service?
Barker Associates will help you review and understand opportunities to enhance your Employee Experience – the work environment, use of technology and company culture. Together we can design and implement employee experience solutions that yield happy employees and positive results. Contact us today at (904) 394-2913 or by email at here.
My first CFO job was working for a relatively small organization with an administrative assistant who still used a typewriter and refused to have a computer on her desk. She had been with the company since its origination and she knew where everything was located. She had all the contracts, historical Board reports and legal agreements in a file drawer. If you asked her for a document, she could stand up from her desk open one file drawer and hand it to you within 3 minutes tops.
The truth is, in today’s environment, to locate corporate, financial and administrative documents when they are needed can cost organizations unbelievable amounts of money.
Betty did not like me too much when I became CFO, as she thought I was taking a job away from a man. My approach to this and all discrimination I have experienced in my career is to analyze the situation and determine if I could make it better by doing such an awesome job no one could ignore me. If that was not possible, I would have changed my geography.
When she came to some of the first C-level management meetings, she would ask all the men in the room what they wanted to drink and skip over me. I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss who would then follow her out of the room and tell her what I would like. I quickly realized that if I wanted to be successful in this position, I had to figure out how to win Betty over so that I could get to those documents and of course get a cup of coffee at the management meetings.
Who’s Job is it to Manage Corporate Documents?
Times have changed and the days of Betty or any administrative assistant asking if you would like something to drink or logically organizing documents have gone the way of the rotary telephone.
Businesses have, for the most part, eliminated the administrative assistant position as they feel the position is not needed now that professionals have email and all the APPs and tools a computer provides. Even if there is an administrative assistant, the job description generally will not include managing and maintaining corporate documents. I frequently ask when I begin a new job with a company who has this responsibility; C-Level executives of small and large organizations look at me just like I asked them what kind of cheese is on the moon. They have no idea.
Failure to follow a document management process costs your organization in the following ways:
The C-Level executives do not have a clear line of sight to the contract terms they are bound to as they are carrying out their corporate responsibilities. This can lead to losing major customers, noncompliance issues with regulatory bodies and lawsuits that take a tremendous amount of time to litigate.
Creates negative relationships with vendors. I once spoke with a professional who had served as a manufacturer’s rep for an organization for several years. The management of the company changed, and when the manufacturer’s rep came to meet with the new management, they were told: “I looked in the file drawer, there was not a contract, so I am terminating our relationship today.” The manufacturer’s rep had a long-term relationship with the company and its customers in a very closely held industry. Once the new management realized the mistakes they had made, it was too late. Not only did the contract had a 90-day termination notice clause, but the rep was well-loved by many customers. The negative ethical behavior on the part of company management left the rep unwilling to work with that company.
I have seen many a deal fall apart, and the potential investor or buyer walk away, before due diligence is complete. When a company’s documents are distributed in corporate and personal emails, shared corporate drives, personal drives, even the email files of terminated employees, locating them takes valuable time in which the potential buyer can find a lot of other things that interest them, causing them to move on to another deal that is ready to move forward.
Compliance issues are not dealt with on an ongoing basis. As a new CFO at an organization with government contracts, a governmental agency called me to report my organization was out of compliance with the terms of the contract. I pulled the “I am the new kid on the block” card and asked to call them back. It was shocking how long it took to locate the contract after I hung up the phone and even more shocking to learn the terms of the contract to which we had agreed. It was apparent to me that our organization had failed to thoroughly read and understand their contractual obligations. When I appealed to the agency that the terms were not reasonable, the agency basically said, “Well you (meaning the organization) signed the contract and you will be compliant, or we will terminate the contract.” This was not the welcoming present I was looking for.
Who is Your Betty?
If I had a nickel for every time someone sent me a contract they considered final, but was not fully reviewed and executed with all signatures, I would be inviting you to my corporate yacht this weekend. Betty would never have filed an incomplete document in her precious filing system without all the signatures, dates, notary stamps and corporate seals. Honor Betty and her memory, as she now rests in peace in the clouds; put someone you trust in charge of finding and organizing all the corporate documents and maintaining them. Your organization will be better for it.
Barker Associates has the unique ability to work with all sizes of organizations and building infrastructure that matters. Contact us today!
Mindy Barker, Founder & CPA | Jacksonville, FL 32256
(904) 394-2913 or (904) 728-2920 | CFO@MindyBarkerAssociates.com
What kind of question is that … of course you would not purchase a piece of equipment that does not work! Yet you may be doing exactly that if your hiring practices have not grown and evolved to support the growth of your company.
As the founder or CEO of an entrepreneurial growth, or family owned company, an honest evaluation of your hiring practices might highlight if you are investing in employees who do not “work.” In this context, “work” means they are not suited for the current stage of your company, prompting the question, “How did I not see this happening inside my own company?”
Entrepreneurial growth founders and CEOs tend to hire friends and family at the early stages of startup, relying on people who they trust, and with whom they have an existing relationship. This type of employee tends to be fiercely loyal to the founder, willing to put in the hours to help get the startup moving in the right direction. My observation has been the founder has enough day-to-day interaction with all employees to fill in the gaps and correct shortfalls that result from hiring based on relationships versus skills and qualifications.
As your company has evolved, perhaps these types of employees are no longer team players; or possibly your superstar employees have become discouraged as the company has grown and changed, so they are leaving and taking valuable company intelligence with them.
Companies that survive three years in business and realize success in their revenue goals also find that the needs of the organization have changed. Hiring practices require more structure and objective measures, which means additional up front planning when considering a new hire. Here are my recommendations for putting in place that structure and objectivity:
Complete job descriptions for existing and new positions. Since this process has Fair Labor Standards Act (and other regulatory) implications, refer to a source such as the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM: http://bit.ly/1pJUinA), for guidance.
Use the job description to create a job posting, describing the new position and the criteria for candidates to apply.
Make certain you have an organization chart that clearly illustrates everyone’s relationship within the company.
Properly communicate to existing employees you are hiring a key team member and explain the reason for the hire and eligibility requirements for applying for the new position.
Prepare a template of key metrics the employee must have for the position before you identify the first candidate. Metrics such as job skills, education level, and experience should be included.
Reproduce the template for each candidate you interview. Use it to evaluate all candidates during the hiring process to help you stay focused on the essential needs of the organization – rather than letting your emotions get away from you and hiring someone you really like but is not suited for the position.
During the actual interview, the founder/CEO and select team members, trusted advisors or others, should be involved in interviewing candidates using the interview template for that position. Final applicants should be vetted with a background check, confirmation of all certifications, degrees and employment verification, prior to making a formal, written offer to the selected candidate.
If you have suddenly realized that it’s time to implement more formal structure and hire key executive positions for your growing business, contact Mindy Barker & Associates to find out how we can assist with the process. From developing the criteria for key executive positions, to working with firms to source qualified candidates, we will not only lead you through the process, but also leave you with a documented procedure to follow as your company continues to grow.