Virtual CFO Services

This article will explore virtual CFO services, including what they are, how they can help small businesses make smart financial decisions, the services they generally provide, and what kinds of costs you can truly expect when it comes time to hire one.

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Financial Turnaround

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Virtual CFO Services

For small- and mid-sized businesses, a trusted financial professional can be an essential component to maintaining and growing a successful company. In fact, a recent study estimated that 29% of startups that fail did so because they ran out of money. And while some small business owners may be excellent bookkeepers, helping manage cash inflows and outflows, revenue, budgets, profit margins, and how business decisions impact cash flow is much more difficult and complex. And, something that’s often better left to the experts.

However, suppose you’re one of the more than 30 million small businesses in the United States. In that case, you probably think that hiring a CFO is too costly or simply something you don’t have enough use for to justify hiring someone full-time. The good news is, thanks to outsourced CFO services, it’s more affordable than you think! 

This article will explore virtual CFO services, including what they are, how they can help small businesses make smart financial decisions, the services they generally provide, and what kinds of costs you can truly expect when it comes time to hire one.

What is a CFO?

A CFO is a senior-level executive responsible for managing the financial side of a business. Before we dive into what that means, though… let’s start with something easier. You may be asking, “What does CFO stand for?” CFO stands for chief financial officer. There are two kinds of CFOs, the first kind are full-time CFOs who work directly for a company and the second are part-time fractional CFO who typically work for companies on a contracted basis. 

They oversee the financial big picture of a company, including budgets, cash flow tracking, short- and long-term financial planning, reporting, and auditing a company’s financial strengths and weaknesses. CFOs play an essential role in a business’s C-Suite—along with CEOs and COOs—often assisting in long-term strategic planning.

CFOs are financial experts with years of training and experience. Some CFOs have advanced degrees such as a master’s in business administration (MBA) or finance. Others have advanced credentials such as being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). When it comes down to it, CFOs are highly qualified and have experience not only in accounting or budgeting, but in planning or leading strategic initiatives as well.

Historically, CFOs have been employed almost exclusively by large companies and firms—in part because of the salary expectations for CFOs. According to Salary.com, the average CFO in the United States makes about $394,200—with a range between about $300,000 and $500,000. For many companies, that’s simply not something they can afford. Fortunately, CFO services for a small business have become more affordable thanks to virtual, outsourced CFO options. But more on that later.

What is a Virtual CFO?

A virtual CFO—sometimes referred to as an outsourced CFO or fractional CFO—is a financial expert that provides CFO services virtually. In other words, rather than being in your office working with your team full-time, virtual CFOs work remotely. Just like other fractional CFOs, virtual CFOs work on a part-time basis. Virtual CFOs can work as independent freelance contractors or as a part of a virtual CFO group—generally an outsourced services firm that employs one or more virtual CFOs to provide their expertise to multiple businesses.

Why Hire a Virtual CFO?

Just like large corporations benefit from the services of a financial expert, so too do small businesses benefit from high-quality financial assistance. Some of the benefits to virtual, outsourced CFO services include:

Cost Savings

Virtual CFOs cost a fraction of the amount that full-time, salaried CFOs cost—meaning you’ll have access to expert services and advice for a small percentage of what you’d otherwise pay. Additionally, virtual CFOs are skilled at helping small business owners tighten up budgets and save money on a short- or long-term basis. Whichever way you look at it, virtual CFOs can mean cost savings for your business.

Strategic Advice

Have you wondered if it makes financial sense to hire another employee, to offer new products or services, or what the effect of raising your prices will have on cash flow? If so, you will probably benefit from having access to a fractional CFO. Virtual CFOs or Fractional CFOs are more than just an acronym, they’re trusted partners who want to help you succeed with your business.

Time Savings

Over half of small business owners report frequently working weekends. While most small business owners are passionate about their business and probably don’t mind working the occasional weekend, virtual CFOs can provide time savings. You’ll no longer have to worry about handling most—or all—the financial side of your business. Instead, you’ll have an expert by your side to help out with the finances.

Scale your Business

Growing a company is a tricky business, and one wrong move could impair the entire project. One of the benefits that a virtual CFO can provide is the business acumen to recommend the right financial moves to grow your business and increase revenue.

Plan for Hardships

While we can’t know what the next five years holds or when the next economic downturn will hit, experienced, virtual CFOs can provide the strategic planning experience necessary to help small businesses plan for any possible issues that may come up in the future.

How Does a Virtual CFO Work?

While no two virtual CFOs work in the exact same manner, most tend to work on either a part-time or project-based basis. While virtual CFOs can provide guidance into what kind of services you might need—based on what kinds of projects you need assistance with—understanding the differences between the two can help small business owners plan for the conversation in advance.

Part-Time

Some small businesses need or want regular access to the kinds of insights that virtual CFOs can provide. This is especially true for small businesses that have complex financial situations or are experiencing vast degrees of growth. In these situations, it’s best to hire a part-time virtual CFO. As a small business owner, you can work with the virtual CFO to determine what types of services you need and how many hours per week or per month you need their services. 

For example: a small business in the printing industry has recently experienced a high level of growth, leading to several new hires and a more robust ability to move inventory quicker than ever. However, while revenues are picking up, the company’s cash position is getting dangerously low. A part-time CFO can help this small business owner understand when to purchase inventory and make those critical hires to ensure the company has the operating capital to grow. 

Project-Based

Other times, small businesses have a specific, short-term, or project-based need for CFO expertise. For example, maybe you’re launching a new initiative or company, need assistance with making important financial decisions like how many employees you can afford to hire and what accounting infrastructure you’ll need to support your business.. In these specific scenarios, hiring a project-based virtual CFO might be a good option. For project-based contracts, small business owners work with a virtual CFO to explain your project, define the terms and services, and provide an estimated time frame for the project.

For example: a small but growing landscaping business is considering adding a new service to their list of offerings, but doing so would require them to hire a new, experienced exterior designer to provide customized offerings to their clients. The owner is unsure if hiring a designer is a good business move, based on current market trends and how much of an influx of profits they’d need to have to afford this new employee. A project-based CFO can help the small business owner analyze their profit margins, projected growth and new expenses to understand whether or not to add this new service to their offerings. An outsourced CFO could help the business owner build a financial forecast and do sensitivity analysis so the business owner better understands the different financial scenarios he or she could find themselves in. The project based analysis and scenario building then leads to a more informed decision and a confident executive team.

What are Virtual CFO Services?

While the services provided by virtual CFOs vary from individual to individual, you can generally expect that virtual, outsourced CFOs provide the services listed below, which are different than bookkeeping services for small businesses. It is important to note that the right virtual CFO will allow their clients to decide which services they need—and which they don’t. Small business owners should be wary of virtual CFOs that try to upsell or tie them to packages that include unneeded services. 

Financial Expertise

No matter your situation, virtual CFOs can help you make sense of your finances to help meet your long- and short-term goals. Whether you’re looking to raise capital, increase your line of credit, or finance an acquisition, virtual CFOs can provide the expertise you need to navigate these situations successfully.

Financial Projections

Projecting your revenue and cash flow for the next quarter, year, and beyond can help businesses make smart financial decisions, improve profits, and plan for growth. Virtual CFO services can provide companies with financial roadmaps to understand financial projections and what they actually mean.

Cash Management

It’s one thing to balance your books. It’s another thing entirely to analyze cash inflows and outflows, review current financial practices, and deliver clear, decisive recommendations to help you manage your business. Virtual CFOs can do all that, in addition to providing customized solutions to help you monitor and adapt your business strategies to remain financially healthy.

Merger and Acquisition Advisory 

Mergers and acquisitions are complex deals, so ensuring you have all your financial ducks in a row is essential. So, when you’re looking to expand through an acquisition or position your company to be sold for a profit, virtual CFOs can provide the experience and strategic thinking necessary to guide you through these processes, often paying for themselves.

Succession Planning

Whether you’re planning to retire in five, 15, or 25 years, it’s never too early to plan for your succession. After all, none of us can predict what the future will bring. Virtual CFOs have the know-how needed to help you plan and prepare for your exit strategy, no matter how far off it may be. This will ensure the company you built and loved remains strong throughout the future.

Financial Turnaround

At some point or another, many businesses weather a storm or two. But, being prepared and knowing how to remain savvy throughout the process is difficult. Experienced virtual CFOs can help small businesses improve their cash flows, stabilize operations, and explore all the options available to help make a successful recovery.

How Much Does a Virtual CFO Cost?

Virtual CFOs are much more affordable than full-time CFOs, though the cost varies greatly based on factors like the services being performed, location, experience level, and more. Generally speaking, virtual CFO fees range from $1,000 to $12,000 per month. So while there’s no one answer to the question “how much does an outsourced CFO cost,” these numbers should provide a workable range to decide if your company can afford virtual CFO services.

And while a virtual CFO salary falls within the standard, full-time CFO salary range of about $300k to 500k, it’s paid from working with several different clients. So you’ll reap the benefits of their expertise with added cost savings.

Milestone Business Solutions: Virtual CFO Services for your Small Business

With over 25 years of CFO experience, Milestone Business Solutions is a trusted, strategic financial partner for small businesses. Whether you’re looking for guidance to grow your business to the next level, a knowledgeable advisor, or an experienced leader to take hold of your financials, Milestone is here for you. At Milestone, we pride ourselves on making a difference for all the entrepreneurs who are out there making a difference in their communities every day. 

We’re not your typical outsourced service provider. We believe in building beneficial business partnerships with our clients—providing them with the information they need to make smart decisions about their company. Our team is your team. You get virtual, outsourced CFO services or outsourced accounting services at a fraction of a cost, because we believe that every company deserves the benefits that come from executive-level financial strategy.

Guided by our four core values of service, leadership, integrity, and lifestyle, the Milestone team offers a refreshingly forward approach to the back office. We’d love to learn how we can partner with you to provide virtual CFO service for your small business. Drop us a note today to start unleashing your back office.

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