By: Lynne Sampson, Product Marketing, Oracle

As the CFO at a high-growth company, you have to wear many hats. You (of course) need to have the financial know-how and accounting skills, but you also must juggle several other roles, including that of mediator, negotiator, and even referee. Why?  Well, because you will be asked to make decisions based on waves of requests from the CEO and all department heads―everything from new promotions to new product ideas to new software.  

And those requests cost money―a finite resource in any small, growing company―which can lead to many hard conversations. As Ken Judd, a small business financial consultant who is heavily involved with Financial Executives International, has stated, “sometimes a CFO must be the grown-up in the room, with a clear eye into how much the company can realistically achieve with the resources it has.”

And those conversations can get further off track, if your finance team has a difficult time getting a handle on those resources. Most small companies start off using spreadsheets and QuickBooks. This can be a great way to hit the ground running, but there is a dark side. When financial transactions are recorded on spreadsheets (not to mention planning and budgeting as well), you are banking your company’s financial future on an unreliable platform. It is not a matter of “if” a mistake will occur, but “when.”

Spreadsheets are mainly a desktop tool, but now they are accessible through smartphones, tablets, and laptops. When you utilize spreadsheets, version control becomes your biggest nightmare. Not only that, but every single change made to a spreadsheet can break key formulas and macros. Finance teams often spend days consolidating spreadsheets from different departments into a cohesive financial plan.

This can lead to staff burnout, which, in turn, leads to high turnover. So now, you are not only dealing with a financial issues, you are dealing with HR issues. Finance talent is hard to find. Teams are understaffed, and you can lose quality people for better opportunities with more equitable work/life balance.

If you want your finances to stay ahead of the growth curve, all while maintaining your (and your team’s) sanity, here are four key pieces of advice for SMB finance leaders:

  1. Get comfortable with cross-functional leadership. Every executive at a small company must wear multiple hats. Resources are scarce, and everyone has to chip in and help with something that may not be in their “wheelhouse.” Make sure you’re knowledgeable about corporate sales, major marketing campaigns, and operational strategies. You don’t need to master all these areas, but you will need to be comfortable with each department’s lingo so that you can have quality conversation with key players.
  2. Make your people learn the business. If possible, rotate your team members from one function to another. This will develop their skills and help avoid burnout.
  3. Automate as much as possible. Replace spreadsheets and manual updates with cloud-based financial systems and tools. Things will only get busier as you grow and expand, and you must be able to scale to keep up. Putting finance in the cloud will automate much of the tedious manual work that burns people out. Again, when you allow your team the ability (and time) to focus on value-added analysis and strategy, instead of low-value data gathering and number crunching, you create an engaged, invested finance team.  And once that happens, your turnover will decrease.
  4. Find a reliable partner. When you make the move to cloud, look for a provider that provides world-class security, incorporates ever-changing finance requirements/regulations into their software, offers a complete breadth of finance functionality (core financials, planning and budgeting, analysis, risk management, etc.) and can scale as you grow.

Every SMB wants to grow. It’s the CFO’s job to ensure that the company grows responsibly while remaining fiscally strong. With the right team and technology in place, CFOs can turn their small company into the next breakout star.

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