Guest Post: How Your Business Can Benefit from a Fractional CFO
In continuing my series about fractional executives, I really wanted to feature a fractional CFO. Anthony Nitsos is a fractional CFO and founder of SaaS Gurus.
And Anthony Nitsos says…
Did you know that most fractional CFOs do not do finance? It’s true. They really do accounting! This means they are focused on collecting the data from various sources, classifying the data in the accounting system, and producing financial reports, KPIs, and metrics. These are not what your fractional CFO should be focusing on.
Even worse, most of that is still done “by hand” with people typing in data on a computer. That is totally 20th century and where we see a lot of waste in the market — fractional CFOs are doing too much accounting work and not enough finance. Let me say it again, accounting is not finance! Fractional CFOs should be focused on the financial strategy and reducing costs for their clients. Here are a few tips for how a fractional CFO can help you (and what makes SaaS Gurus different).
Not all fractional CFOs are the same.
Your fractional CFO should be focused on giving you custom solutions for your business. For example, I work only with SaaS companies especially those that are venture or angel-backed. The advice I give my clients is specifically tailored to the SaaS industry, whether it’s strategic or tactical finance. I’m intentional about utilizing systems where the numbers come out easily, data entry is automated, and in the end, it doesn’t require a CFO to produce them. This saves my clients money.
What’s the difference between accounting and finance?
Finance and accounting are terms often used interchangeably. While both are related to the administration and management of an organization’s assets, each contains major differences in scope and focus. When it comes to evaluating and strategizing the financial health of your company or department, it’s important to have a working knowledge of both disciplines.
Finance is forward-looking, anticipatory, and strategic. It refers to the ways in which a company generates and manages its money.
Accounting is historical, focused on analyzing what already happened during a set period of time, and tactical. It’s the process of reporting and communicating financial information about a business. If a fractional CFO comes from primarily an accounting background, they’re probably spending too much time on the accounting function and not enough on what is truly finance like sales forecasting. Just because your fractional CFO is part-time, you should still expect that they will function and perform the role of a full-time CFO.
Should your fractional CFO outsource your accounting?
Outsourcing accounting separately from the CFO's work is the wrong approach. If a CFO comes primarily from a finance background, they may be focusing properly on the strategic details, but they don’t have the in-depth knowledge of how to make the back office truly hum. They either leave it to others to take care of it or they outsource it. Not only that, if they are not exact and specific on how to set up the accounting for your company, they run the risk of not knowing exactly how the accounting engine is running and could miss key details leading to faulty recommendations.
With outsourcing, you run into the same issues as with a traditional CPA firm or a traditional accounting firm, only worse because they’re viewing it purely from an accounting standpoint. They’re not looking at analysis and have a one size fits all process.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at a client’s P&L and payroll is a one-line item. That client can’t possibly understand the cost of sales and marketing. They can’t possibly understand what their gross margin is. And they can’t possibly understand some of the most fundamental metrics to track.
Know the metrics that matter to your business
Every business is different, and everybody has their favorite metrics that they want to focus on at different times. But some metrics make more sense based on the level of maturity of your business or the industry that you are in.
For example, in SaaS businesses, ARR or annual recurring revenue is the end-all, be-all metric. In the early stages when you are still trying to establish product/market fit, you’ll be focused on trends and the momentum that you are establishing. As you scale, you’ll start to focus on a repeatable sales process. Your ARR becomes Net New ARR. Further growth will shift into new ARR by individual sales reps.
When determining what metrics to focus on, there is no one-size-fits-all for any business. It also depends on if you have investors or the stage of the investment. There’s unfortunately not a one-size-fits-all answer for determining the most important unit economics metrics for all investors. However, unit economics, net dollar retention, ARR growth, and Gross Margin almost always come up.
Anthony Nitsos is a fractional CFO for SaaS companies in the pre-seed to pre-B phases of funding and the founder of SaaS Guru. He sets up state-of-the-art finance and stakeholder ecosystems, delaying the cost of hiring a full-time CFO. He leverages a hybrid blend of medical, operations, IT, and finance professional skills resulting in millions saved on infrastructure spending. Connect with him on LinkedIn or learn more at SaaS Gurus.
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