I want to address competition primarily for prospects and rookies. But let me pull in the Pros, MVPs, and All Stars–if you moved to a new city, would you worry about competition?
That’s what I thought. And I’m right with you. The competition is not who we think it is. The better we understand that, the more we can stop worrying about other part-time CFOs doing what we do.
There’s Plenty of Work to Go Around
True competition shrinks the slices of pie for those working in a given marketing space. But here’s my premise–there’s too much work out there to be done. The workers are few. The business is plentiful. You just need to find it. Your slice of pie is there; it’s there for the grabbing.
If you are just getting into this business, even in a town of 150,000 or slightly less, you’ll never be wanting for work. If there were 3 of you, there would still be work to be done.
Never, never forget this first premise. There’s lots of work out there. The problem is not competition. It’s just finding the work.
Small CPA Firms Will Never Be Able to Do Our Work
I have no desire to dish CPA firms. CPAs like Bill Rasmussen and Kevin Leggio of BKD who are tax strategists are the very best and I admire and appreciate what they can do for my clients. But they are not controllers. They are not CFOs.
But have you started noticing a trend that more and more small CPA firms are raising the CFO flag stating they provide CFO services? Oh, they do? Really?
Are they experts in marketing? How about in creating new and better sales systems that improve the top line? Can they implement Lean practices in operations? What about strategy? ERP selection and implementation? Can they do all that and much more?
When a small CPA firm states they offer CFO services, that’s nothing more than a sexy marketing tactic. And that’s fine. Their primary customers will be within their own client base. But they can’t do what we do.
Don’t worry about small CPA firms. They are not the competition. Not even close.
More Than One Part-Time CFO in the Same Community
I saved this one for last because it’s subservient to my first point–there’s plenty of work to go around.
Let’s say you’re in a small town, say Wichita, Kansas. What is a part-time CFO to do if there are suddenly, 2, then 3, then maybe 5 other professionals looking for CFO work? Let me offer a few suggestions.
If a couple CFOs started providing these services in my city, I would invite them to Kaldi’s or Dunn Brothers and talk shop and Cardinals baseball. Royals ball too. If they were a Cubs fan, I’d have no worries (Editor’s Note: Mark is kidding).
Then we’d talk business. Since the CFO business is all about being in the relationship business, I’d want to know who their key contacts were and people referring business to them. If there’s a little overlap, so be it. But if they have a few people driving them business whom I do not know, then I’m staying away from those referral sources. And I hope they would reciprocate.
Think of a Venn Diagram with referral sources for all three of us. Hopefully, there’s going to be a lot of area where your key contacts are not being touched by the referral sources of the other CFOs such as below:
Having some peers in your community can be advantageous. If you’re overworked, you can share some of it with one of the others. Need a sounding board or need to vent? Then you have the perfect mastermind group.
Having a couple others on the playing field could impact your marketing efforts. But I’m calling it slightly.
Do you have an expertise that the other CFOs do not possess? Then exploit it.
Go deep in that industry. Be willing to work beyond the borders of your city.
I enjoy e-commerce, professional services firms, food distribution, agriculture, and light manufacturing. But I’m not expert enough to niche down in these industries. If I did, I’d have a goldmine in front of me. With some marketing help and clever positioning, you could become the regional expert and thought leader in a domain space providing more work than you could ever handle.
Never underestimate your knowledge and know-how in an industry.
More than half my clients are at least 150 miles from my Columbia office. I’ve served clients in Boston, Florida, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and the state of Washington. I have even pulled off an eight-hour project for a small Sydney, Australian pharmaceutical, a division of a larger firm.
But that’s because I had (and have) a software vendor strategic relationship providing me leads. Since technology was (and is) a non-issue, out-of-town work makes local CFO competition irrelevant.
Who Is Your Competition?
Shawn Burcham is one of my CEO heroes. He possesses the most God-given abilities I’ve ever seen in a 10-talent CEO. I can vouch he’s not wasted or squandered any of those precious talents, not even a sliver.
I’m calling him out because he stated the last function he gave up as his company continued its meteoric sales rise was the controllership post.
Shawn is not alone. Many of the CEOs I meet are still handling all banking responsibilities and intricately involved in every financial decision regardless of the insignificance.
The competition is not who we think it is. It’s the CEOs we have the potential to serve.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. That’s because the best CEOs know when and how to let go.
What about the ones that don’t let go? That’s the competition.