Anytime a part-time CFO prospect or rookie wants to pick my brain about starting a consulting practice, I delay the conversation until they’ve done something else first. I want them to interview several partners of B2B CFO® before I provide advice and guidance. There are no exceptions.
I’m independent, but not a rugged individualist–although that term sounds appealing for whatever reason. So what gives? Why the recommendation? There are three primary reasons I do this.
Cream Rises to the Top
When my kids were young and still living at home, we had Sam the dairy farmer deliver raw milk to our back door every Tuesday. It was good–so good that the white stuff you drink at the grocery store now tastes like water. To this day, I don’t drink store-bought milk.
If you’ve ever opened the lid to a jar of raw milk, the cream is thick. And yes, it’s on top.
And that’s the first reason why I recommend part-time CFO wannabes to other partners at B2B CFO®. They are the best in the world. Smart, intelligent, great backgrounds. I only know a few in addition to several others who have moved on to other careers, but I can attest these CFOs are class acts.
If you are truly serious about joining the ranks of part-time, outsourced CFOs, do what you are already great at–due diligence. You’ll come to the same conclusion as mine. These are very, very smart financial professionals.
The Power of Comradery
When I play the role of sounding board to part-time CFO prospects and rookies, I do everything I can to talk them out of this work. You read me right. I try to convince them to stay or get back into the W-2 world.
The ones who ignore me are the ones who wind up being successful. That’s because they are confident, focused and driven.
But I’m here to tell you that this business, as rewarding as it can be, is still very hard. And because of these difficulties, why do it alone?
And that’s the second reason I recommend B2B CFO®. Having a bad day? Pick up the phone and call one of 200-plus peers.
While you may work by yourself in your corner of the world, you’re never truly alone. More importantly, you have the chance of building friendships that can last a lifetime.
The Third Reason – Integrity
A couple years ago, a B2B CFO® partner in a nearby city e-mailed the name of a prospect they had been in touch with. Odd I thought. Why me? I’m a rugged individualist. Oops, I mean I’m an independent.
He did not give me any guidance. He just asked if I would talk to him. Better not be a Cubs fan.
I gave him my normal spiel:
- Dude, are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? Stay put. Stay in your corner office making $300,000 a year.
- Repeat the first point about 3 more times, 4 if I’m in a cranky mood.
- Answer questions.
Seriously? Yes, I really do the above. Like I said earlier. Focused and driven CFOs move forward with little or no doubt. They are confident, and they typically succeed.
While I gave the pros and cons of working solo or with a band of brothers (and sisters) as objectively as possible, here’s the cool thing about this story–I got an email from this guy a few weeks later. He thanked me for helping with his decision. He went with the band of brothers, the cream at the top, B2B CFO®. Cool story. This is rich with integrity.
In case you were wondering, he was not a Cubs fan.
Is a CFO Firm for Everyone?
I’m a frameworks kind of guy. In my practice I use scores and scores of mental models and frameworks to unpack difficult and hard-to-understand concepts into simple terms. It works.
For the person I mentioned above, I walked him through my heuristic that I’ve created for small business owners before they buy into a franchise. My mental model also works for financial professionals wanting to start a CFO practice.
Whether you are a CFO thinking of joining a firm or a business owner deciding to invest in a franchise, there are three and only three relationships that you will ultimately enter:
- The Business Relationship
- The Spiritual Relationship
- The Contractual Relationship
Let’s unpack each one of these three.
The Business Relationship
The first relationship and debatably the most important one is the business relationship. Never forget this–in the business relationship you are the customer first and foremost.
As a potential customer, look for a Disney-or Zappos-like transformational experience. As you conduct your due diligence, you have to find out how you will be served throughout your customer journey.
Selfish? Why do you even ask? Every world class organization never forgets how to serve its customers.
The Spiritual Relationship
One of the main reasons you might be considering a CFO firm is so that you will not feel alone. Enter the spiritual relationship.
No silly, I’m not referring to the hand-holding, kumbaya experience.
Instead, the primary objective of the spiritual relationship is friendship with others. For many of you, this may be the number one reason to join a CFO firm.
The Contractual Relationship
Your role in the contractual relationship is either going to be franchisee, member, partner or whatever term your contract outlines.
In my (very strong) opinion, this is the least important of the three relationships when deciding on whether to join such an organization. And be careful here. Once you sign the contract or agreement, it’s similar to being an employee.
My best advice here is that contractual relationships should always be subservient to the business and spiritual relationships.
To My Friends Who are Independent
I’m not sure how bluntly I can state this. There is no right or wrong here. Given the opportunity, I’d give my left arm for any one of you whether you are part of a village or a one-person shop.
Some people want or need to be part of a group. Some people want to be independent. And you know what? Both can be wildly successful. Go figure.
I’m reminded of people like Mark Mahle and David Rowe, a former Mizzou lineman. Mark has been successful with his McDonald’s stores in Columbia, Missouri. David has been incredibly successful with his D. Rowe’s bar and grill in the same city. Both are in the food business. Both have tasted success–one bought the menu, the other created the menu.
Accordingly, I never talk to any prospects or rookies till they have spoken with a few partners at B2B CFO® or a nearby regional CFO firm if one exists.
Please don’t hang the CFO shingle yet till your due diligence is complete. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.