How to get CFO-level strategic advice without the CFO

Managed financial solutions provide an avenue for companies to outsource their entire accounting and finance function. In part, it means that companies can hand off the responsibilities for their accounting processes, including billing, accounts payable and disbursements, payroll, month-end close, reporting and, most importantly, time spent on oversight.
But at its core, managed financial solutions is more than an outsourcing of transaction processing.
“Our clients are seeking interactions that are less administrative and more advisory,” says Dave Houston, CPA, a senior manager at Clark Schaefer Hackett. “We’re able to provide our clients with real-time collaboration, to provide business insights and solve problems.”
Smart Business spoke with Houston about managed financial solutions, where it’s the right fit and how to get the most out of the relationship.
What does a relationship with a managed financial solutions provider look like in practice?
In a managed financial services relationship, organizations are provided with a team that builds a relationship with critical operational and executive leadership during the onboarding phase. This team remains consistent and functions as a peer to the organizational leaders they serve, allowing them to challenge leadership to rethink how they see their organization and how they make decisions. This is necessary in creating an environment where challenging conversations are had at the right time, and root issues are exposed quickly.
Companies that would engage with a managed financial solutions provider could benefit from CFO services, but they’re not necessarily in a position to add a CFO as a full-time position. Bringing that CFO-level functionality into the business through an outside provider means using those numbers as the basis to talk about strategy, modeling out possibilities to inform organizational decision making based on the company’s strategic plan. And where companies don’t have a strategic plan, managed financial solutions providers, because of that CFO aspect, can help create one.
Who typically uses managed financial solutions and why?
Often the best candidates are those whose growth trajectory requires that they begin to think bigger picture, better define their place in the market and how they’re going to move forward. They need better financial clarity but their size might mean hiring full time for accounting and financial roles is limited by cost. Still, these organizations need more expertise related to their industry, and would benefit from knowledgeable consultants who could offer comprehensive solutions to complex hurdles facing the business.
It’s also for leaders who find themselves spending too much time in the business processes and not enough time working on the business and doing the long-term strategic planning necessary to take it to the next level.
For certain industries, such as nonprofit, it makes more sense to maintain a managed financial solutions model as a permanent solution for their accounting and financial needs. In these settings, company leadership can focus on mission-critical tasks, then lean on an accounting services provider to handle the financial administrative work and the financial steering of their mission execution.
What should companies look for in a provider?
When searching for a provider, look for a partner — a firm capable of establishing a relationship with the right levels of communication and trust.
Also, business owners should look for industry experience and a firm that has a suite of advisory offerings that can complement the accounting and finance functions. A company’s services can be enhanced by the firm’s expertise in these areas, putting more eyes on the business, which leads to more proactive advice.

Fit is crucial because business owners need to have a strong relationship with their service provider. A provider should be trusted enough that it eliminates the need for an owner’s day-to-day oversight. But that shouldn’t eliminate the need for the owner’s participation, as their input is key to making financially sound business decisions.

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