Lately I’ve seen an increase in the “fractional CFO” space. Such a career track might appeal to Finance Chiefs who have been unemployed for too long or are sick of 80-hour weeks or feel they are ready to do something different.
That led to my conversation with Todd Serulneck, Managing Director of the Charlotte officeof AcuityCFO. Todd found me on Linkedin and reached out to me. We scheduled a time to talk and it quickly turned into a Q&A that yielded some very interesting information.
Cindy: How did you land in the fractional CFO space, Todd?
Todd: My career was spent in retail, and my last corporate role was as CFO of the Eastern Seaboard Division of Walmart. During my last year with Walmart, I began searching for a new position with the understanding that a year was normal for conducting a CFO search. Ultimately, I left my job with Walmart and continued looking for another 6 months. However, there is no shortage of finance talent in Charlotte, NC, and I did not want to relocate.
At the time, mid-market companies were being acquired, not created; I would need to relocate to find something that was a good fit; and given CFO tenure, would probably be looking again in 3-5 years. None of those sounded good to me.
While attending an ACG conference, I encountered a colleague who was operating as an independent fractional CFO. I began investigating that career path, found a fit with Acuity, and established its office in Charlotte.
Cindy: What are some factors that played into you deciding to join forces with an established CFO services company rather than going independent?
Todd: There are many reasons, including these …
– I am no longer “working myself out of a job”
– A book of business was already established
– Back office support along with a sales & marketing team
– The availability of ongoing training, peer support, and technology
– The ability to scale my business
Cindy: What’s the down side, if any?
Todd: Compensation is the big one, but the flip side is freedom. I have two young children and have been able to attend every single one of their events over the last years, something I could not have done as a part of the corporate world.
I’ve been with Acuity for 3 years and am just now seeing the fruit of my efforts. For anyone seriously considering fractional CFO as a career path, I recommend at least 1.5 years of income tucked away as a safety net because it could take 3 years to realize income.
For that reason, this is a journey that requires a long-term vision. You can’t do it short-term and expect to generate much, if any, return on your investment.
Cindy: What is the difference between searching for a new job and searching for new clients?
What I came to realize is that both job searching and starting a fractional CFO practice require unique skills sets. From my perspective, a job search requires skills that must be learned and can become outdated every 3-5 years. I utilized a career coach and highly recommend engaging one if you intend to conduct a CFO search.
Starting up a fractional CFO practice requires the ability to sell, market, and interact with clients. Basically, it is the old adage … if you don’t kill, you won’t eat.
Then Todd flipped the tables and asked me a very interesting question … which will be the subject of my next blog post. Stay tuned!
Copyright CFO-Coach 2018
Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email Cindy@CFO-Coach.com, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at www.CFO-Coach.com.