What should be the going rate for a contract CFO? We are a $20mm Reseller organization with 60+ employees. Also, when is the right time to hire direct? Our contract CFO is reluctant to come on full-time.
Not sure I can answer the question about the going rate for contract CFOs, as there is a considerable range depending on the skills and experience you need, and, of course, the local supply/demand.
When is it time to hire direct? Hmm, I think if your present contract CFO is spending a majority of his/her professional time on your account, it might be time to seriously consider it.
Does your contract CFO give reasons why he/she does not wish to come on full-time? Those reasons might reflect more on what that person wants personally than on your organization, or on whether a full-time position is really appropriate. Might we worth pursuing that discussion further.
The answer to your question depends in part on the scope of the role you are envisioning. I have long experience with businesses in your size range, and often the CFO at that level involves not only finance, but some combination of HR, Legal and Administrative services.
As someone who runs a part-time consulting firm, you probably need a full-time CFO and a HR consultant.
Full time, because your doing $60 mil, and you should be having more than enough issues to warrant the full-time hours of a CFO (you already know you need a CFO).
Secondly, 60+ employees make you a mid-sized company and as such your company is not only subject to additional DOL rules, but 60+ people is probably a full-time position to handle just in itself; thus an HR professional to make sure your company is compliant.
As for the contract CFO not wanting a full-time gig, I can think of several reasons, from a decline in income to loss of freedom (perceived or reality). Loss of business and/or other opportunities (again perceived or reality).
I, unless that person has made concrete statements to the contrary would read that much into it.
Best of luck!
I agree. A company of your size likely needs both areas of expertise full time. Understanding why your contract CFO doesn't want to be full time may provide clarity on if the reasons are specific to that individual or if there isn't a full time cultural fit for them in your organization. Having clarity on your culture and core values will ensure that whomever you choose to fill the full time CFO role, will be a good fit. You may wish to fill the HR role first, if you agree that there is a need, as this individual will help with the recruiting and selection process of the CFO role.
I just realized I never answered the compensation question.
It all depends on the a) number of hours per week and b) length of contract.
The more hours and longer the contract the lower the hourly rate.
You need to balance what you are paying for a contractor against that of a full-time employee. Be aware, that IMHO, a $60M firm should be paying as a base salary between $225-$250K, so a Contractor who may be there for a year contract may be getting $150/hr. Less than a year, higher. Very short term, possibly double.
I think Robert's response is on point. It really depends on what this person is doing. Is he/she doing legal, HR, Admin and Finance responsibilities? What do you really want this person to focus on? Strategic analysis, raising capital, or operational issues? How strong is the rest of the Finance organization?
I've seen contract rates between $150-$250/hr for SF Bay Area. But if you want this person to be able to do everything then the rate would be closer to $225 or above. I recommend you set goals or benchmarks up front and make sure he/she has the skill set and experience to be able to deliver on those objectives.
If this person is spending most of their time there, then it's time to hire FT. It's worth having the discussion as to the reason he/she doesn't want to come on FT. Is it because they don't want more hours, or don't want the FT employee commitment or is he/she perceiving a "fit" issue?
I would think at your size you could use a full time CFO who would handle all administrative tasks. In addition, if you had a full time person they would be more involved with the business and your exec team would get the value of their guidance; as CFO the drop in my office moments were valuable for me and the team as well.
The contract rate depends on where you are located; if it is the Bay Area then $175 an hour and up; if you hire someone thru a rent a CFO firm the rate would be well north of $200 an hour.
Your contract CFO may not want a full time role for personal reasons (she likes the flexibility of contract work) and/or because she has other clients she serves that she does not want to give up. Regarding the latter comment, if she is receiving equity as well as cash from clients, having multiple clients diversifies her portfolio.
A discussion regarding her reluctance is certainly in order
See 26 CFR 31.3121(d)1(b) "Corporate officers. Generally, an officer of a corporation is an employee of the corporation. However, an officer of a corporation who as such does not perform any services or performs only minor services and who neither receives nor is entitled to receive, directly or indirectly, any remuneration is considered not to be an employee of the corporation. A director of a corporation in his capacity as such is not an employee of the corporation."
And Joseph M. Grey Public Accountant, P.c.; 119 TC 121 (2002)
I'd love to hear other perspectives on this.
You brought it up, so what is YOUR perspective?
Simple solution: To set a rate per hour, determine the annual salary of the CFO position you're filling, divide by 1000 and rounded result is the applicable rate for a contract position e.g. $150K = $150/hr. Formula applies for all contract positions.
Generally, I agree with your math, especially if you're working through one of the agencies or larger professional CFO firms.
Working with individuals, there is a lot of downward pressure, in part held over from the recession when there was a flood of potential contractors, and now from the "lifestyle" oriented contractors who are willing to give up $ for the flexibility.
At your size, you're around the tipping point where a full-time CFO may be needed. However, that will still depend on your particular situation -- for example, do you have a strong controller in place who may be doing some of the things a CFO might do in another company (if not, could hiring one and scaling back your CFO be an option)? How complex is the business? What type of financing needs do you have?
If your current CFO has made a career choice to provide part-time CFO services, that would easily explain their reluctance to accept a full-time job. In that case, though, they should be willing to help with any transition.
As for the rate, as noted by others, that will depend on things like location, the skill set of the CFO, and the number of hours. I think the range should actually be a bit lower than what I see above, more like $125-175/hr though I've certainly seen $250+.
As a contract CFO for Canadian and US tech industry clients I echo the comments above. An additional consideration is the role creep. I have clients where the CEO loves doing budgeting or the VP Operations wants to oversee month end accounting and treasury.
If this is happening you can maintain a contract CFO for a long time because the workload is absorbed elsewhere. Obviously, this is not sustainable and is risky if the people involved are losing sight of their roles for finance topics where they are not experts.
It is best to understand the culture fit and dynamics of bringing a C-level person into your organization before you do. My mentality is to build relationships while supporting all levels and departments. I recognize the need to do so in the minimal time I have each week to provide excellent service and valuable advice.
I've seen full-time CFOs slip into office politics, budget/personnel guarding, stretching into other departmental business or spending too much time grandstanding. There is also the usual requirement to offer stock options / shares to full-time CFOs which may further bias decision making. These factors don't often play into the equation with a contract CFO so be cautious in your hiring process.
Joan Varrone and Bob Katz provide good perspectives.
Is the role really a CFO position that entails all aspects of leadership to take the company forward in the areas of finance, risk management, operations, administration, etc. - or is it an accounting position with an inflated title?
If you're hitting the stage where symptoms of people, process, and systems dysfunction are prevalent then you are well past the stage of needing a full time CFO, and have not engaged the right interim CFO to avoid or mitigate these problems. Or you have not fully identified and defined your needs.
The role of CFO's have expanded to encompass what was formerly known as the COO position, and in many organizations have responsibility for everything except sales, marketing, and R&D/Engineering.
For an interim rate in the Bay Area I've found Bob's formula of taking the targeted base salary and dividing by 1,000 hours to be reasonably correct for roles up to a Controller level, but for interim leadership positions like a CFO figure you should pay above that and also provide equity incentives in many cases. The lower rate gets you someone to do a job and is often just an administrative expense, the higher rate should be an investment that pays you back many times over.
I am a contract CFO. One of my clients is around 25M/yr and 120 employees, so their situation is similar to yours I think. I work about 70-80 hours/month for them, but there is definitely enough work to keep me busy full time, so you may be ready for a full-timer, especially if you can find a CFO with some HR or Operations skills. Robert Half wage survey will tell you that a CFO for a company under 50M is paid roughly 150K, with variations for region and advanced degrees, etc. That works out to about $75/hour, but there's always an up-charge for a contract arrangement, so $125/hour is probably the low end in my opinion. I charge less than $125 because I HATE looking for work, so I've had very little turnover in clients because I'm almost impossible to replace at my rate.
I've found the Robert Half surveys to be way off the mark (low). I just spoke to a woman in OK who was giving me basic parity in salary levels to that of NYC. In essence that's more money (col and taxes are much less).
Agreeing with Wayne *and* Mark here. At $125/hr you'll find few complaints (and my research shows that RHA charges more than 50% above this for 1099 work). That being said, a real CFO getting under $150k at a 50M company seems way under-calling it (especially considering fiduciary risk, etc). Maybe a zero-growth, rote role. But in an interesting role, there'd be bonuses, phantom stock, options, etc on top of that $150 to make it make sense.
I've found any and all salary surveys to be way off the mark.
One thing I've learned in more than 30 years of hiring and in job seeking on my own is, salaries for any kind of professional position are all over the place. Even in the same, local market.
Some of the comments about a 'fair' rate here only support that.
I think some of the comments above have oversimplified the "rate" equation. FIrst, the consultant pays self employment taxes; health care; insurance; etc. Second, the consultant must also carve out time for marketing and business development, resulting in an inability to truly consult at 100% billable. Third, while most employees are at will, there are still costs associated with letting a senior executive go that are not present with a consultant.
Perhaps pegging the rate to typical salary works for more "commoditized" roles, but it would be very hard to stay in business as a consultant earning what amounts to a substantial market discount. It also, of course varies by market and the level of expertise brought to the table. In my area (NY Metro), experienced CFOs for hire charge between $200-$350/hr, depending on the job (short-term project vs. long-term role), urgency, complexity, etc.
As for the original question of when to hire full-time, I have been a consulting CFO for over 5 years now, and my practice focuses on Start-ups and Early stage companies. In my experience, revenue level means less to this decision than business complexity; transaction volumes; employees.
My rule of thumb has been at 2 days per week, it was time to discuss bringing on a full time VP Finance/CFO. Since based on the above, I would be taking a substantial pay cut to go in as a full time employee, the role has to be a perfect fit, and that may be part of your Consulting CFO's reluctance.
60 employees require a lot of admin, and also implies a reasonably high level of transactions, and so I would concur that you would probably benefit from full-time support.
That said, you could look at a hybrid model, keeping your consulting CFO on as more of an advisor/member of the sr mgmt team and bring on a full-time controller at a lower pay level. This might give you a great deal more for perhaps not any more cost.
What is with all this analysis of consulting rates vs the consultant's costs?
We're finance professionals here. Assumed to be steeped in economic understanding. We should know better than to try and cook up something based on a formula. It's as simple as market rate. The point at which demand and supply come into equilibrium.
I'm contracting for a service. Any associated costs are the provider's problem and not of my concern. My issue is how much do I have to pay to obtain the service I need. It's that simple.
The right time to hire direct will depend on the needs of the organization, not the revenue, nor the number of employees. Needs meriting a CFO may be fund raising, strategic planning, admin or legal oversight, tax planning, etc. If these needs are not ongoing, ie one-times, you may be better off continuing with a part-time CFO. An alternative consideration is the cost you are currently incurring with a part-time CFO. If you are contracting them for more than 3 days a week you are probably paying the same cost or more cost than hiring a full-time CFO, so you would be better off doing that hire. The cost of a CFO can vary tremendously, depending on the needs of the role and the experience desired.
I have been reading the posts and have a different take. I do management consulting and contract CFO work. Based on the size and volume ($20mm, 60 employees) and the industry (reseller) it would not appear that this company needs a full-time CFO. That does not mean they do not need a full-time accounting professional. The CEO may be in the right position with a contract CFO to offer strategic guidance and high-level financial analysis along with help with key projects. The full-time accounting position would likely be a Controller or very strong Accounting Manager.
When to hire a full-time CFO would be dictated by the volume of work that requires the skillset of the professional CFO and when the consulting fees are approaching the full time salary.
It is always the COST of hiring the CFO that is the focus. NEVER the cost of financial waste in processes. NEVER the cost of having NO financial strategy. NEVER the opportunity costs. etc.
These, along with others are costing the company so much more. How much is it costing the business without a CFO (full or part time).
But those costs aren't real.... or at least they aren't perceived as real.
What's real is that CFO's cost and they don't produce revenue. I know this to be true because I've had untold business owners tell me this....
Of course they were myopic, narcissistic and were bleeding their companies dry of working capital; but I'm sorry if I digressed....
I can say with confidence that it's insights like Emerson's that matter.
Situational awareness in finance entails always remaining mindful of opportunity costs, which requires the ability to accurately compare competing courses of action.
To that end, I recommend first asking two key questions: (1) How do you define success? and (2) How successful do you want to be? This helps develop a clear framework to better allocate resources. With clarity comes conviction and with conviction comes the ability to better compare alternatives.
So, for example, if a company is more of a lifestyle firm designed for the owners' pleasure, where the CFO position is largely viewed as a cost to be controlled rather than a source of strategic vision and profitability, it will not value or need to hire a full-time CFO as quickly as a more growth oriented, visionary firm.
Either way it's important to make sure mutual expectations of the role are clear as there's nothing worse than wasting a highly skilled professional's time and expertise or a company's money.
Quite a few opinions here. Putting the rate question aside - what is the job role for the position. I know many companies under $100M revenue who operate with a controller not a CFO. If you need someone to help strategically grow the business, someone who understands financing issues and financial strategy - you may need a part time CFO. If you are looking for someone to simply close the books - I believe you can get by with a controller. Here in the Midwest, the going rate for a part-time CFO is $150-$200 per hour. That is finding someone on your own, not going through a company like Robert Half.
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