AcctTwo Blog

How to think like a startup CFO

October 24, 2017
Posted by: Kate Johnson

Category: Accounting, CFOs

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Modern Day CFOOver the last ten years, we’ve worked with a lot of startups as a trusted middle-market accounting software reseller for Sage Intacct. On a daily basis, we work with CFOs and their teams. We to get to know their businesses and see the ins and outs of the organizational magic that happens behind the scenes at startups.

Whether you are a CFO that’s thinking about transitioning your career to a startup organization, or adopting a startup mentality at your organization, we’re sharing what we’ve learned.

The scrappy startup

Startups are scrappy organizations and rely on their management team to wear multiple hats. More and more companies are starting to think like a startup. This means that CFOs are taking a more diverse role; they have a more hands-on approach that’s integrated into the day-to-day activities of the company. Gone are the days where CFOs solely manage the financial risks of an organization.

Why adopt a startup mentality?

Adopting the startup mentality, no matter what your company size is, has become very popular. Innovation at larger companies has the reputation to take longer, this might be due to more policies in place and/or the decision makers being far removed from the target audience, making it harder to move quickly and adapt to changes. Thinking like a startup allows you to restructure your organization into smaller divisions to mimic the decision-making power of a startup. Something like this needs full company adoption, from the CEO to project manager. It shouldn’t be taken lightly, if you want to adapt this mentality, look at a few companies that have done this successfully. If you are not constantly innovating and bringing new products to market, then you are going to get left behind.

Modern-day CFOs

Nowadays, businesses that are looking at the startup business model require their CFOs to do more than track and report results, close the books, and establish guidelines for spending. The modern CFO is now expected to work across the organization to develop growth, align new initiatives with monetization, and deploy resources and investments. To quote Les Trachtman, “The best way to promote respect for the value of the company resources is to make sure you exhibit that respect yourself.” Trachtman talks a lot about how upper management should exhibit the same behaviors that they want their employees to model.

Traits of modern-day CFOs:

To fit the new role of a modern-day CFO it requires a new skillset of traits, CFOs need to be:

  1. A trusted advisor
  2. Respected for their opinions beyond finance
  3. A great communicator
  4. Flexible
  5. A jack of all trades
  6. An industry sector expert
  7. Focused on process improvement and investments

In the startup business climate, or faux startup environment, CFOs need to be able to foster an atmosphere of innovation and flexibility.

Flexibility is particularly important, an edge that startups have is that they are able to react and adapt rapidly. As a result, executives and management teams can make decisions quicker that could lead opportunities or swifter problem resolutions to improve the business.   

Investing in the right tools

Applying a startup mentality to jumpstart a new movement within your organization takes an open mind and a few key strategies. You need to focus on accelerating innovation and investing in the right toolset to help grow your business.

One of the biggest risks CFOs can take is to not invest in the right set of business tools. When adopting a leaner scrappy startup mentality, it might seem counterintuitive to spend money but if you are wearing so many hats you need tools to help you work smarter to accomplish more.

Don't take shortcuts when it is time to invest in your business on important items like accounting software. Having the right systems in place from the start will give you critical information and insight into your business. You should also plan for scalability so your system can grow with you, and establish an infrastructure that provides full, real-time visibility across your organization.

Scaling up to prepare for growth

Waiting until you are ready to scale up is waiting too long. Trachtman says that “Scaling up requires you to keep changing your organization before you think the organization needs change.” Preparing for future growth helps you set the keystones for success.

We’ve seen it time and time again. Companies wait too long to expand for growth and must take huge strides to ramp up. We’re a startup that works with small-to-medium sized organizations and work with organizations in this situation every day. If you’re at a crossroads with your accounting software and thinking about making the leap and invest in a more robust accounting software, read our eBook: Choosing the Right Middle-Market Accounting Solution. It helps you begin your search for the right accounting solution that fits your unique business needs. Click here to learn more about this topic >

About Leap the Pond

Leap the Pond delivers Sage Intacct based accounting solutions to growing organizations that have BIG plans.

Our team averages more than 20+ years of experience with accounting and operations. Each consultant leverages this experience to help our customers drive improved performance, streamlined processed, and real-time metrics. Since 2008, Leap the Pond has led more than 350 successful projects for nearly 300 organizations.