By Jack Perkins, founder at CFO Hub, which provides on-demand CFO, controller, accounting and HR services.
Digitalism and evolving consumer behavior have dramatically changed the finance department’s contribution toward business growth and transformation.
Once primarily viewed as the company coffers’ stewards, their role’s scope and complexity have broadened. While bookkeeping and cash flow management remain primary concerns, a modern finance team is now tasked with so much more. So, the underlying strategy for choosing your team is ensuring those responsibilities—new and old—are covered by a well-rounded group of financial professionals.
But finding and then assembling such a capable squad won’t happen overnight. It’ll require patience and persistence. To that end, here are some tips you can employ to build and grow your finance team the right way.
Build Upon The Rock
A house is only as good as its foundations. Seeing as a finance department serves as the foundation, a brittle one better resembles a house of cards than a fortified citadel.
To lay a solid bedrock, you must enlist the right people to lead the team. For companies that seek to move past small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) status, that starts with your CFO and controller. The ideal pairing will work in concert to build, guide and oversee the entire department:
• The CFO outlines the vision and sets the strategic road map to drive the organization forward. Their daily tasks vary widely across managing risk, advising stakeholders, driving efficiency and return on investment (ROI), ensuring liquidity and raising capital.
• The controller reports to the CFO and helps carry out their vision. The role provides day-to-day control and oversight of the accounting team’s financial affairs.
And, as McKinsey notes, to reduce costs and optimize business processes, top finance leaders in these positions are increasingly prioritizing value-add activities. That means enlisting professionals who want to spend a greater proportion of their time on tasks like financial planning and analysis, business partnering, controlling and policy setting.
Determine Your Needs Beyond Accounting
Like the role of a CFO and controller, a finance team’s skills, needs and competencies are also evolving at a breakneck pace.
An aptitude for accounting is now just one of many important qualities an individual must bring to the table. Modern teams, by necessity, must embody nimbleness, forethought and strategy drawn from multifaceted experiences. CFOs—and the business as a whole—depend upon it to thrive in a competitive and mercurial market.
As Gartner, Inc. notes, you must “deploy an employability- and experience-based development model, not a ladder- and training-based framework” to cover all necessary responsibilities.
After your CFO and controller have set the framework, their next task is outlining the desired positions. Skills and qualities that support achieving the overall vision must be role requirements. You must go beyond traditional recruitment box checking by identifying the intangible, nontechnical skills that are equally as important.
When It Comes To Talent, Don’t Settle
Few businesses will ever be fully prepared to scale. Often, hiring is done reactively rather than proactively—especially in the early stages of the life cycle. For growing businesses, keeping margins tightly controlled makes sense; you only commence the hunt once there’s enough revenue and work volume to justify a new team member.
Herein lies the rub.
As a business scales, the number of tasks and their innate complexity grows exponentially, quickly stretching the existing finance team’s capacity. The strain to juggle everything increases the urgency to hire and to have done so yesterday. This, in turn, can cause the entire recruiting process to become rushed—to simply say yes to the first qualified candidate.
Fight that feeling. Push back. You’ll be much happier if you wait for the right fit.
That doesn’t mean you need to hold out for the perfect match who checks every single box. But practicing discretion and patience is wise. The wrong hire could quickly backfire, creating more problems than they fix. Not to mention, if they’re unsuited for the position, there’s a much higher chance that they leave, which would send you back to square one.
Empower Your Teams
Building a robust finance team isn’t just about continuously adding new talent to the stable. You must be equally concerned about nurturing and retaining your existing studs.
Once you have hired new talent, don’t put them in a box. You brought them in to be thought leaders—movers and shakers.
Unleash them. Involve them. Listen to them.
If they’re truly as talented as you suppose—you did hire them, after all—they should be given space and freedom to flex their abilities and brainpower.
Here, a culture of collaboration is vital.
Seek to provide the support structure necessary to ensure that they’re not just satisfied, but fulfilled. If your team feels an enduring sense of growth, ownership and accomplishment, it’s far less likely that they’ll experience a “grass is greener” sense of complacency.
Identify Role Needs And Stick To The Plan
Within the modern business environment, financial teams have evolved far beyond being number crunchers. Arguably, no other department is as integral in terms of driving cost efficiencies, improving business processes and enabling a company to reach its full potential.
But all of that is moot with the wrong people.
Assembling an all-star squad begins and ends with your financial leaders—your CFO and controller. They’ll be the rock upon which everything else is built. Their guidance will help ensure that you know who and what you’re looking for. It will also inform how to best identify, train and support such talent.
By laying the right foundations, you’ll build a weather-resilient house and remain ready for continual additions.