The Growth Company CFO – What Works and What Doesn’t

06/03/2013 09.05 EDT

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This article originally ran on CFO.com.  To view it, click here.   Over the past 15 years, I have had the privilege of assisting in the selection and placement of a good number of Chief Financial Officers for a diverse set of clients.  Throughout this experience, I’ve seen senior financial executives make successful transitions from industry to industry, from public to private companies and back, as well as adapt to wildly different cultures from company to company.  By and large, top-notch CFOs are a smart, flexible and pragmatic group of professionals.  However, in my experience, there is one divide that very few seem to successfully bridge – the transition from a large company to a small one.   By “small” I generally mean a growth-oriented company, usually backed by venture capital or private equity, which has designs to grow exponentially (i.e. not $25 million looking to grow to $50 million, but $25 million looking to grow to $500 million or more, usually followed by some type of exit via sale, IPO or some other transaction).  These companies present a unique challenge to a large-company CFO: they require not only a high level of financial and business sophistication to handle the complexity of managing rapid growth but also a high degree of self sufficiency and a strong hands-on orientation.   Regardless of how well these companies are funded, their resources are constrained relative to the level of support a big company CFO is accustomed to.   Therein lies the rub.  Finding...