The greatest college quarterback of all time, at least according to a 2015 Bleacher Report, is Marcus Mariota. As quarterback for the Oregon Ducks, Mariota had an average 45 touchdowns for each of his three seasons and finished his college career in 2013 taking home the Heisman trophy. By the end of his college career, Mariota had led his team to 36 victories, a great accomplishment for any college quarterback. Just about any football fan will tell you that a quarterback’s job is to be a leader on and off the field. While pulling impressive numbers is definitely important, it’s really about the value that a quarterback adds to the team, and getting a good quarterback will always be the focal point of building a football team. Does he exhibit leadership skills? Does his team trust his decisions? Does he listen to his coach? Is he willing to learn? Is he a good communicator? Can he be the face of the team? Can he help the team improve?
Recently, our Founder, Kenji Kuramoto sat down to chat with hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel on the In Process podcast. There, he spoke side by side with Tom Mall, who has extensive chief financial officer experience, about a CFO’s role and how a CFO can help your business. Both stressed the importance of allowing your CFO to take on a leadership role and step out beyond the typical accounting roles of financing and fundraising. Essentially, as a business, start thinking about a CFO in terms of having a relationship beyond the confines of his/her office and instead with rest of the company. Think of your CFO as your company’s quarterback.
As the “right-hand person” to the dreamer CEO, the CFO is the pragmatic, feet on the ground team member who works closely with the CEO and develops a similar perspective. While the CEO of the company might be thought of as the coach, the CFO is the quarterback. Both teammates are fighting for the same goals (to win the game), but they’re approaching it from two different angles. As your business delves into fundraising and financing, allow your chief financial officer to get outside of the accounting function and look at processes throughout the organization. Your CFO might interact with the board, outside vendors, and other departments in order to make the daily life at the company easier. And that’s a great thing.
If you are considering hiring or looking to outsource your CFO services, encourage that person to “kick the tires” a little bit. Often a company will engage a CFO to do the cool, sexy work: fundraising, strategic planning, etc. While this will definitely be a part of their role, encourage your CFO to pay attention to the very common bookkeeping work first because it can slow down so many things once fundraising is started. If your company seemingly has all of your accounting ducks in a row, like an end of the month system for reconciling their books, allow your CFO to help you establish a plan to make your financial health a regular part of day-to-day business. Know whether your sales team is on top of their calls, how valid your numbers are, and what action needs to happen next. Ask your CFO to talk openly with the CEO about focusing on customer concentrations and how the company makes money before digging into fundraising and growth. Like a great quarterback knows, the interworkings of his team are equally as important as his own arm. The CFO has to have a good grasp how the team works together before he/she can work out a win.
After checking on the financial health, and as the CFO moves into the fundraising role, he/she has a great opportunity to prove his/her value. A CFO can help you determine what type of funding to go after and then decide how to structure that process. As the quarterback, the CFO is the point person, who is connected to all of the attorneys, CPAs, and investment bankers. Once the CFO determines a direction, then they can decide which process will best work for your company. The CFO will lead the process, but they are involved with everyone else at the company too, from the board to the CEO. Ironically, your CFO will do the most work once the capital is raised. They take on the role of having an investor relationship role in which they become a regular, frequent, and important communicator. Like a quarterback carries the plays back and forth from the coach to his team, the CFO becomes the integral communicator between the investors, the board, and beyond.
A quarterback’s role is to help his team become better in their sport and win games. Likewise, a CFO’s role is to help your team become more aware of the financial health and happenings of your company and win in the game of cash. Cash is always king, and the CFO has to keep an eye on the cash at all times in order to lead his company to financial victory.