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Business Finance Management
May 13, 2022
Times of growth and expansion are exciting for startups, but success brings new obstacles. For instance, what do you do when your success means you suddenly need specific financial expertise that your current team can’t provide?
Many companies in this position start looking for a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Generally responsible for the overall financial management of a business, CFOs usually evaluate the startup’s financial situation, help build financial models, and even secure future funding. But a full-time CFO can cost upwards of $300,000 to $500,000 a year — far too much for most startups to manage in their early stages.
One potential solution is to hire a fractional CFO. Fractional CFOs offer most of the expertise of a full-time CFO, but on a smaller level, making them an attractive option for startups and smaller-sized companies — with a few catches.
This guide explains what you need to know about fractional CFO services. But if you find, as you read this article, that a fractional CFO sounds like almost-but-not-quite what you’re looking for, don’t fret. Zeni offers an alternative approach for startups that is far less expensive and more useful than fractional or freelance CFO services.
Fractional CFOs are the part-time alternative for companies that don’t need a full-time CFO sitting in a corner office suite every day and drawing a sizable salary every year. Think of them as freelance finance specialists who contract with your business and offer similar services to a regular CFO without long-term, full-time commitment.
If you only need assistance here and there, a fractional CFO could be an excellent solution. Just keep in mind that, as a freelancer, they will also be working with other clients simultaneously. You might wait on their availability or take a back seat to higher-paying clients.
Typically, fractional CFOs will not be available for regular bookkeeping and administrative work or will charge based on their hourly rate. Fractional CFOs are also unlikely to maintain records for tax compliance, nor are they likely to complete tax filings.
One of the most attractive things about bringing in a fractional CFO is that they often have a network of investors they can contact when it’s time to secure more funding for your company. Relying on an expert finance specialist to attract VCs and other investors can take some of the anxiety and trial-and-error out of funding your startup.
CFOs also tend to handle some of the more complex jobs that your everyday finance team might not want to or be able to take on. A CFO might build a financial model, for example, that forecasts your future financial position under certain scenarios. They may also analyze your financial statements and reevaluate your current practices to determine areas for improvement.
What you don’t want is for your CFO (whether working on a part-time basis or otherwise) to do simple things that your regular finance department could handle. CFOs cost far too much money to be spending time cleaning up your finances or balancing books.
While this separation of duties makes sense from cost and time perspectives, there is a gap between your high-level CFO and your lower-level financial team.
Some startup leaders get frustrated because a part-time CFO often has a hard time working closely enough with the finance team to make important business decisions or more strategic financial advice. They lack insight into the bigger picture to offer in-depth guidance based on current numbers or ensure the company stays on track toward a particular model or goal.
CFOs, whether full-time or part-time, don’t come cheaply. While the freelance, hourly model that fractional CFOs use often sounds more affordable than the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year a full-time CFO would require, you might not be saving as much as you think.
In fact, fractional CFO rates tend to hover somewhere around $500-600 per hour, which quickly adds up. At $600 per hour, a fractional CFO would cost you $312,000 per year if you only used their services an average of ten hours per week. Make sure you understand how frequently you’ll need help from your CFO before you sign any contracts, because these numbers have the potential to land unprepared, fledgling startups in hot water.
What if you could employ an entire team to handle your CFO needs instead of just one person who may be working overtime and splitting time between multiple clients?
Then, what if you could integrate those CFO services seamlessly with your other finance and accounting tasks and wind up paying less for it than you would if you found a fractional CFO?
That’s precisely what you’ll get with Zeni. Here’s a quick breakdown of why you might consider Zeni instead of going the fractional CFO route.
A fractional CFO is just one person, and Zeni is an entire company that has worked with many startups in similar positions to your own. When it comes to finding investors and raising capital, our network is robust and constantly evolving. A solo CFO may have a few dozen investors on speed dial, but Zeni can put you in contact with hundreds of VCs who like to work with businesses just like yours.
Plus, instead of asking your CFO to spend extra hours preparing decks to impress potential investors, Zeni can do all that work automatically. Since we update books daily, it’s simple and quick to generate financial reports in a structure that VCs want to see.
Financial models, forecasts, and suggestions on picking the right direction for your business are crucial benefits you might think you can only get from a traditional CFO. However, Zeni’s CFO service package handles all these tasks while integrating seamlessly with your other financial information. Simply log into the dashboard to see your day-to-day financial information displayed conveniently in the context of your longer-term goals and models. We also use this information to give you expert-level guidance on improving your company’s financial health.
Remember how we said it would be a waste to let your CFO clean up your finances and handle everyday bookkeeping?
At Zeni, we combine our advisory, accounting, daily bookkeeping, payroll, and tax services into a single dashboard so that you can accomplish all your financial management in one place. This integrated approach completely replaces the need for an expensive fractional CFO.
And it works from the top-down, too. If you have a financial model you want to adhere to, Zeni’s CFO advisory services will guide the bookkeeping and accounting team to make sure your company stays on track. There’s no gap here; we’re all under the same roof.
Zeni’s competitive pricing based on your monthly revenue means you’ll likely pay less and get more for your money than with an interim CFO or part-time CFO services. Ultimately, Zeni saves on costs across all financial functions where a fractional CFO would rely on various third-party and in-house resources to complete these services.