CFO — it’s one of those common acronyms that get tossed around in boardroom meetings when companies start talking about scaling up. But do you really understand what a CFO is equipped to do? The answer may surprise you — and it’s exactly why we wrote this blog post.
To get to the good stuff, we tagged along with Melissa Powell, one of our Atlanta-based fractional CFOs, to find out what makes a CFO tick, where they can provide the most value, and what tools are essential to the process. From the Acuity headquarters in the Atlanta Tech Village to her remote home office, here are the insights Melissa shared about her day-to-day.
So, what makes a CFO a CFO?
CFO responsibilities can vary based on the needs and growth stage of the company. Some of the CFO responsibilities can include everything from financial strategy, modeling, financial planning and analysis, cash management, board financial reporting packages and budget presentations to actual analysis and key performance indicators, buy-side and sell-side financial due diligence, support during a debt and/or equity raise, among others. They’re all top-level processes that are vital to a company as they continue to grow.
Is there a difference between a CFO and a controller?
CFO and accountants have very different jobs, although many CFOs often work in tandem with a controller and/or bookkeeper. While a controller spends the majority of their time computing taxes, reviewing financial records, and keeping the finances secure, a CFO goes beyond the books to project, build, and anticipate the next steps a business should take to be successful. So while I rely on a controller to provide background data, my top priority isn’t to report or track but to help companies prepare for the future.
What does a normal day look like for a CFO?
That’s the best part — there is no normal day for a CFO. Because we’re top financial advisors, CFOs have schedules that vary based on the needs of their clients. My days are always hard to pin down in advance — the entire point of my position is to be flexible to the companies that I represent. Whether I’m reviewing the data or attending a forecasting meeting, my job is to be in a position to guide companies toward a better, more financially robust future.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
The ever-changing financial challenges and opportunities that surface when I’m working with a client. I’m privileged to have the opportunity to collaborate with brilliant entrepreneurs and their amazing companies and teams, and I really enjoy adding value to these companies, supporting them as they scale, and helping them achieve their financial goals. Being their partner throughout this process is by far the most fulfilling thing I do.
What types of companies do you work most closely with?
I have clients in many different industries, including manufacturing, consumer product and retail, restaurants, technology, fintech, and cryptocurrency. I typically build the strongest relationships with the entrepreneur, CEO or COO, and together we work closely with the controller and bookkeeper to accomplish the overarching team goals.
What accounting software do you prefer to work with?
When it comes to accounting software, I look for reliable, affordable, and secure tools for my clients. For bookkeeping, Acuity recommends utilizing QuickBooks or Xero for the core accounting system. For modeling and financial planning and analysis, I prefer using Jirav financial planning. And for cryptocurrency clients, Acuity likes to use Verady for tracking wallet value and transactions.
And finally, what makes what you do so great?
I know I’m successful when the companies that I work with continue on the path of long-term growth. I take pride in it, and so does every member of the Acuity team. Together we have experience ranging from financial process improvement to post-merger integration, and we’re always looking to make the impact that guarantees our clients success. We’re dedicated and passionate about what we do, and I think that’s the Acuity difference.