Over the years I cannot tell you how many times I have heard business leaders of growth companies declare, “I wish I had hired a high calibre Finance Director earlier” or “I wish I had shored up Finance earlier”.
In my experience, failing to do so does not necessarily make or break a company (sometimes). But hiring a great Finance Director or a superb Controller early on in a company’s lifecycle will inevitably ensure that the operational support platform will remain stable during growth, scale and exit. If for no other reason, this approach will allow the CEO, MD and remaining Senior Management Team to focus on product, brand, partnerships, sales, hiring and longer-term strategy. If you wait to hire until you have your next milestone well within your sights, you will potentially have missed at least a whole heap of strategic planning time that would benefit the business greatly going forward – not to mention identifying resource, investment and structural issues well in advance.
I certainly don’t subscribe to these statements being limited to first time CEOs and leaders as I have heard them many times from second and even third time entrepreneurial CEOs. But why do I still keep hearing these cries? It’s cost, I appreciate, but then the costs should be far outweighed by the return of a good Finance professional who will probably find synergies, savings or funding to more than offset their pay. Quite rightly business leaders focus on front and centre and drive the performance of the business; Finance and Operations can catch up. But there comes a tipping point when too much ‘catch up’ translates into tasks that hold you back, be it audit, reporting, debt, payments etc. If anything, the right resource will allow for a smoother ride and sometimes even a quicker leap to the finish line.
So whether you are a growth or even mid-cap company, don’t leave this vital function to the last minute. In scoping the shape of Finance leadership, be it control, commercial or strategy oriented, the most fun we have is helping our Clients discover the design of their resource well in advance of executing an assignment for them. The time to grow – smartly – is now.