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Talent Strategies for Modern Business: Leveraging the Interim Executive Model – Part 2

Part-Time CFO

Leveraging the Interim Executive Model

We never know from one day to the next when contacted by clients what their situation will be and which combination of resources and expertise they will need. Though many businesses share a number of underlying principles about how they run and how they are successful, each company is unique. They differ in any number of ways: where they are in their lifecycles, how they were founded and by whom, what has spurred growth, the leadership team, the culture, the challenges, and what type of expertise is needed at this point. 

At Cerius, we have been working with companies for more than a decade to find the right interim executive at the right time to help organizations fill their exact needs.

Organizations can leverage the expertise of an interim executive to get what they need in flexible, affordable ways. To offer just a few ideas, the following four chapters offer rare views inside a number of companies and show how they leveraged interim executives to bring them success through part-time and interim placements in small, midsized, and Fortune 100 situations. 

Part-Time CFO: In Case of Death, Know How the Business Will Move On

If ever there were two partners who worked well together, they were the two at the helm of this company, a $100-million consumable goods distributor. However, one day, the partner who had been the CEO, the visionary, and the strategist had a massive heart attack and died. 

This was a terrible shock to his partner, Charlie, who had always relied on his partner both professionally and personally. Charlie was distraught. He needed help. To get it, he went to a good friend in the same industry and asked what he should do. 

When Charlie stepped into the CEO position to fill the gap, he found a number of financial indicators that had started to decline. He knew enough to identify some of the issues, but not enough to identify the problem, create a plan of action, and execute it. The company had lost not only the captain of the ship but the sole financial leadership of the company as well. With the captain gone, everyone was now lost, without direction.

His friend immediately sent him to Cerius, where he identified a part-time CFO, Sam, because the organization was not as profitable as it should have been and Charlie was not as good with the financials as his partner had been. 

Sam came in approximately three to four days per week and not only helped Charlie’s company to become more profitable but also strengthened other weaknesses in the company, especially in his South American subsidiaries. 

Over the course of his assignment, Sam provided the regional managers with much-needed insights and information to help them narrow down where declines were coming from. Despite a legacy accounting system, Sam put together a series of reports that were easily kept updated, showing SKU sales and margin analysis by region, client, and item. 

Approximately one year after the interim CFO started the part-time assignment, Charlie was approached by someone in the industry who was interested in acquiring his company. He was very excited about the merger, as he knew the owner of the other company well.

When all of the dust settled, Charlie was shocked at the offer he received from the acquiring company. The valuation was significantly higher than he ever could have imagined a year before; he was almost speechless. The transaction went through without a glitch. 

Sam was invaluable to this company throughout the process. The $1.5 million savings he brought to the company’s bottom line, as well as making sure every subsidiary was profitable, helped to make this company significantly more valuable to the buyer. The valuation at the end of Sam’s term with the company was three times what it had been when he was first brought in.

Lesson Learned

When unforeseen circumstances push you to make a serious staffing change, hold off on any knee-jerk decisions or reactions. You don’t have to marry the first suitor who comes along, and nothing is permanent. Even from the worst circumstances, opportunities may be salvaged by level heads and steady hearts. Consider shortterm, medium-term, and long-term organizational needs. Finally, with the right expertise prior to looking at possible suitors—even part-time—you have the potential to sell for three times more with a little extra help from the right expertise.

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