When I began my career in finance a couple of decades ago, there were forums, professional organizations, boards of directors, but business coaches were encountered less frequently. Today, it seems like I run across CEOs with coaches more than not. There are life coaches, business mentors, leadership coaches, those that work with entire teams. I completely respect a CEO’s support system. Whatever enables them to lead their organizations with full momentum benefits me as their outsourced CFO. So, I’ve tried to remain open minded and curious about the coach’s role in client organizations where we run our CFO managed accounting solutions.
Who Are You?
Sometimes the coach’s role is clear and sometimes there’s zero communication between the coach and the CFO. I usually ask the CEO bluntly, what influence does the coach have in operational decision making? I get various answers. “Oh, it’s just personal coaching/support and nothing that overlaps with the CFO’s role. Don’t worry about it” — and I don’t. At other times, I get a full introduction and consider them to be almost guiding the organization daily. At one meeting, I was told that our contract should be drafted to report directly to the coach who could not answer basic questions. We were uncomfortable.
More than once, an involved, savvy or even frustrated business coach has requested our presence to be part of the overall cleanup picture. The relationship has always worked best when the coach and CEO are motivated to let us take the lead in instituting financial fixes and accepts the CFO consulting. We want to move quickly, and things can get muddled when the coach’s role in a financial transition is not clear.
Why is Everyone Smiling When the House is on Fire?
When we are brought into a new client with a coach, it sometimes feels like we’re walking into a home that’s in a broad state of disrepair. The CEO + Coach focus has been goals, growth, sounding board support and communication while the financial foundation is crumbling and there’s a flood in the basement. If we are present at this point, they have arrived at the decision to reach out for finance and accounting leadership, but I’m often surprised at how long it’s taken. I’ve heard coaches and CEOs shy away from accounting altogether under the “big picture thinkers” label. That’s fair. Sometimes fixing the accounting and finance department feels a lot like going to the dentist or gluttony for punishment. A sense of humor helps, but there’s no doubt, it can be a difficult project that begs time and attention.
The Coach or the CFO – Who Comes First?
However it happens, once the situation is understood, we arrive on the scene and start fixing away with a certainty about our duties. Even though each company has its uniqueness, there are similarities to problems. Before long, solid fixes reveal a clear and compliant financial picture.
Though we may lack in emotional advice, outsourced CFOs offer consulting with perspective on future exit planning and valuation. We have the evolution of systems in mind at the right stages, cost analysis, tax strategy, communication gets addressed when we dial in flow of information. Streamlining processes, tightening controls and automating is now possible like never before. We notice CEOs are visibly less stressed once we are through onboarding, things are humming, and we are seeing issues before they happen.
I Think Better When My House is Clean
Now, with financial management handled, solid accounting and reliable analysis, imagine how the CEO feels about utilizing coaching sessions. I can imagine they would be more effective. Perhaps it’s not as simple as the right order of things. I am always a fan of solutions that work in whatever form or team structure. However, if you are hiring a coach because you are overwhelmed and bleeding in finance and accounting issues, try calling the outsourced CFO as the repairperson first and then re-evaluate. It could save you a lot of money by minimizing the overlap. I know I personally can think and dream better when my house is clean.