Virtual CFO Services – How to hire a qualified interim CFO

The answers you need before hiring an interim CFO

Business Meeting

Business Meeting (Photo credit: thetaxhaven)

If you’ve thought about using virtual CFO services, I recommend doing due diligence on your candidate and asking the following questions. The qualified interim CFO you choose should be able to respond positively to 90% of the qualifications listed below.

  • Does the virtual CFO have hands-on experience in working with a company of your size and is he or she accustomed to the type of company culture you provide?
  • Does the virtual CFO have experience in your specific industry? If not, does he or she have the breadth and equivalence of experience necessary to serve your company?
  • Does the virtual CFO have experience in defining and implementing key productivity and financial indicators, and the requisite skills to track the indicators to keep the CEO informed?
  • Does the virtual CFO have experience in delivering clean, lean Executive Summary financial information, with commentary regarding tracking and trends, so that the CEO can easily understand where his company stands and what the numbers mean to make informed decisions?
  • Is the virtual CFO candidate willing to discuss the two or three most challenging situations he or she has worked on and how those challenges were resolved on behalf of their clients?
  • Does the virtual CFO have experience in working with bankers, lawyers, outside accountants and other professional service providers on behalf of the company he serves? If so, what did that experience entail – i.e. experience in mergers and acquisitions?
  • Has the interim CFO worked side-by-side in the trenches with CEOs and done the job he was needed to do? Does he have proof of the CEO’s satisfaction through a series of outstanding references given across time and industry?
  • Does your interim CFO feel that timely and accurate record keeping is equally as important as forward-looking financial strategies and planning – or does he or she give more emphasis to one over the other? The answer should indicate balance, and not weighting one over the other.
  • Does the interim CFO have experience in resolving bottlenecks in company productivity and financial management issues?
  • Will the interim CFO candidate readily discuss your situation before coming on-board so you have a clear understanding that he or she has a clear understanding of your challenges?
  • Does the interim CFO have repeat clients and long-term professional relationships?

These are some of the main qualifications you should look for when hiring virtual CFO services.


How to know if you need virtual CFO Services

What Your Accounting Dept. Can’t Tell You

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

When your company changes, your internal financial management has to keep pace. Red flags in the accounting department may be signaling a skills gap or they could be indicating a lagging, bloated or overwhelmed financial reporting and tracking system. The expertise to make specific fixes may be outside the wheelhouse of your in-house financial talent. Here are a few ways to know when you need virtual CFO services and why it’s so imperative.

  • Financial Reporting is Not Timely or Accurate – If you are reviewing the numbers one month or more in arrears, your accounting department is lagging, and under such duress, the financial reporting system itself may be faltering. Falling behind on the numbers not only impacts management’s decision-making but adds undue stress and productivity drain, impeding strategic development. A CEO needs timely and accurate information to make timely and accurate decisions.
  • Your Company Needs Experience in Working with Bankers, Lawyers and CPA Firms – Few things are more expensive than inexperience. You don’t know what you don’t know. Navigating the complexities of business and plethora of professional services requires a deep knowledge of the systems and scenarios that are unfolding in and around your company. A skilled CFO is an advocate, analyst and advisor who anticipates and translates the best course of action with your banker, lawyers, accountants and other professional service providers.
  • Your Banker Urges You To Strengthen Internal Financial Talent – If, as a CEO you find yourself complaining to your banker that your accounting department is not delivering, a banker invested in your success will urge you to make some internal changes. He may recommend a stronger accountant, but many accountants don’t have the necessary skills. An interim CFO or in-house CFO may be the precise solution for streamlining and improving the accounting department.
  • You Company is Undershooting Its Potential – When financial reporting is bloated or faulty it requires enormous time and energy from the CEO to review and interpret the numbers. This diverts his or her focus away from growing sales, which is where the energy is needed. A good interim CFO frees the CEO from minutia to focus on creating company growth.
  • Your Growth is Internal and Your Accounting Department Can’t Keep Up – Often a financial reporting system needs a tweak instead of an overhaul. A good interim CFO knows where to streamline the financial management process to keep the accounting department on track.
  • Your company is poised to acquire another company but you don’t have anyone with the requisite background to perform the due diligence. In this scenario knowledge is power, experience is paramount and the success of the acquisition hinges on specific expertise. Acquisitions are both an art and a science founded on the ability to know, use and analyze the numbers.
  • You have a great opportunity to grow the business, but your team lacks the capabilities to manage the numbers. Driving profitability and growth requires swift and accurate financial management. The current team may be unable to define and put in place key productivity ratios and financial ratios, and accurately track and report on the trending, leaving the CEO without a clear view of what is required to navigate the company’s future.
  • A Sounding Board and Strategic Partner- As a CEO it is lonely at the top. Leaders face serious responsibilities when pursuing their company’s next steps. Having a sounding board and strategic partner is not only advantageous, it is optimal. According to Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD, authors of Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, “Innovation rarely arises without the input of others. Breakthroughs are created in collaborative circles.” A skilled CFO can bring a fresh perspective to the table and strategize with you and your key managers on how to drive the business forward.

If your company is experiencing any of these scenarios, I welcome the opportunity to discuss them with you. Please feel free to call me at: 630-269-7646 or email me at

John Lafferty is the Problem Solver – Week 4

This month, we continue to profile the work that John Lafferty has done to refocus and maintain the financial stability of various companies. As you read through these profiles, ask yourself, “Does this sound like an issue that my business is having”?

Week 4 – Specializing in Specialties

Place: Midwest

Company Type: Specialty Products

The Situation:  A specialty products company was undergoing rapid growth, and in the midst of this, some management processes suffered; inventory was rapidly building, reducing inventory turns, and tying up cash—causing financial distress.

What happens when a company has trouble projecting their sales and margins, thereby putting a strain on finances?  How are they supposed to deal with managing the finances of the company during the blur of rapid growth?

The John Lafferty Solution

Enter hands-on professional, interim Chief Financial Officer (more commonly referred to as CFO) John Lafferty.  Under his guidance and strong recommendations, he managed to help the company reassess their “future sales levels so it could anticipate the necessary level of outside financing.”

The CFO-Pro Solution: Using his clear, well-honed talents of assessment, he was able to not only recommend an executive search for a general manager to help smooth out the day-to-day operations, but also to keep the company focused on  sales and expenditures.  The general manager they found then helped the company land a bank line of credit that dramatically stabilized their finances as they grew.

Struggles with inventory and profit, while simultaneously dealing with rapid growth, is a situation that could easily leave you feeling helpless; what do you deal with first?  What issue do you focus on?  You need to have the right financial guidance to give you peace of mind and help alleviate some of the stress of a difficult and multi-faceted situation. Contact John Lafferty at 630-269-7646 or today!

John Lafferty is the Problem Solver – Week 3

This month, we continue to profile the work that John Lafferty has done to refocus and maintain the financial stability of various companies. As you read through these profiles, ask yourself, “Does this sound like an issue that my business is having”?

Week 3 – Keeping On Point–Online

Place: Around the World (international business)

Company Type: Web-based Venture

The Situation: One of the first companies to make successful use of the explosion of the internet was, despite their solid marketing and massive initial success, having difficulty in managing their cash flow and meeting consumer demand. Instead, they were dealing with a high cash burn and an inability to remain objective when faced with directing their company.

What happens when a company can no longer keep objectivity at the forefront of their business?  What is the first step to remedying this lack before it disturbs the management and operations?

The John Lafferty Solution

Enter hands-on professional, interim Chief Financial Officer (more commonly referred to as CFO) John Lafferty. Putting his strong directional style and leadership qualities to use, he applied his business savvy to serve as an interface between this web-based business, and audit and venture capital firms.

The CFO-Pro Solution: Acting in his role as financial mentor, Mr. Lafferty helped to provide “the objectivity necessary to obtain a new round of venture capital funding.”  He also streamlined the tracking of cash flow by directing the financial reporting and realigning the delegation of duties and reporting within the company.  The refocused company was so successful in fact, that shortly afterward; a larger competitor purchased it for a handsome sum exceeding $100 million.

Confusion over the direction of your business and keeping it successfully on track can create much tension. You need to have the right financial guidance to give your business solid direction and ease the tension.  With the knowledge that help is but a phone call away, your success can be assured and sustained. Contact John Lafferty at 630-269-7646 or today!