Investors in early stage companies are generally away from the “heat of the battle” daily crises, and are not always able to advise their portfolio company owners to get CFO help. Owners of early stage companies have a number of concerns that keep them from seeing that their company needs a CFO—or at least CFO services. Do my plans ensure I have enough cash on hand for the likely “go live” date of my product or service? When we finally “go live” will the market need still be there, or will someone have beaten us to the punch by launching earlier?
It’s not unusual for owners of early stage companies to wait until triggering events occur or are on the near horizon before they think about bringing in a CFO. As a result, they are left to wear all of the management hats, including the CFO hat, until far too late in the process. Below are answers to some of the most common questions early stage company owners should be asking when determining if they need CFO assistance.
1. Why is there still a gap between my company’s financial needs and the decisions put into place to meet them?
From the perspective of an early stage company’s owner, the company is so engulfed by each day’s latest crisis that the owner doesn’t have the bandwidth to make a strategic decision to remedy the problem. Additionally, the owner is often waiting for specific events to occur (e.g., successful production runs or sales agreements with customers) before he or she acts. Early stage investors would also prefer they not to add to the team early on, even if it makes long-term sense.
2. Is there a cost-effective way to onboard CFO services?
A project-based CFO may very well be the answer for an early stage company. A heavily experienced project-based CFO can prove to be a cost-effective contracted resource who can be flexibly utilized and immediately deliver value.
3. When should I bring a project-based CFO on board?
The project-based CFO needs to be on board well before a proposed liquidity event and well before the roadshow leading to that event. Given the expanded role of the CFO in companies today, he or she can provide much-needed assistance with a number of issues, including those related to operations, information technology and human resources. This can help the owner stay focused on items such as product development and market reconnaissance. Additionally, the CFO will ensure the company is taking the steps necessary to prepare itself for strategic options such as getting to scale and, eventually, a liquidity event.
4. What are the tangible benefits of bringing on a project-based CFO?
It’s hard to overstate the importance of adding a project-based CFO to an early stage company. Value delivery, strategic planning and offloading tactical issues from the owner’s plate are tangible benefits. And these benefits come to the company from an experienced professional at a variable cost and on an affordable basis.
Do you have an early stage company in your portfolio whose owner could benefit from valuable, cost-effective CFO services?