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What is a CFO?

Far too many times, I come across business owners and CEOs (owners) who say they have a CFO only to find out when I ask a few questions that the person they call a CFO isn’t a CFO.  In all reality, the owner’s CFO is really their bookkeeper, clerk, office manager, accountant, CPA, controller, chief accounting officer, or, God forbid, their uncle, nephew, spouse, or cousin Sal.  With that type of “CFO,” is it any wonder why the company isn’t growing, or profits have stagnated, or why the owner can’t sleep at night or has no viable exit strategy?

Fractional CFO services with First CXO


Decoding the Role:

Unveiling the Functions of a CFO

A real CFO is a strategic business partner, advisor, confidant, customer service person, and mentor to an owner.  Too often, owners think a CFO is supposed to put together their financial statements.  No!  A CFO is not your bookkeeper, accountant, or controller.  That is not their job.  Like any good leader, a true CFO will retain and lead people who are experts in those roles.  A true CFO will set the goals, objectives, and timelines for those tasks and will ultimately be accountable for the results.  But if the CFO is doing those tasks day-to-day, then your CFO is really a Controller. So stop calling them the CFO.  

If your CFO doesn’t understand your marketing plans, the sales strategy, how your warehouse operates, who your key customers are and what makes them buy, or who the competitors are, or if they can’t speak clearly and confidently to your investors, bankers, or the board, or they can’t look you in the eye and politely point out problems with your strategy and offer up solutions, then fire them now! 


One of my first bosses told me something that locked me into the finance field early on in my career; there are only two people at the company who need to know everything about the business - the CEO and the CFO. A CFO is a business planner.   One thing I have learned through the years is if you are CEO or an owner, it is lonely at the top.  A true CFO should be able to relieve some of that burden. If your CFO isn’t your right-hand man, you need to find one who is. 


If you are interested in a valuation, a sale, or in strategic business consulting and are looking for an experienced advisor, please let me know.  Thanks. 


Bob, CEO and Founder of First CxO
CEO and Founder of First CxO. 

Services include fractional CFO, M&A advisory, and strategic business consulting and coaching.  First CxO specializes in working with CEOs and owners who are at inflection points in their business cycle. 

Bob enjoys working with CEOs and business owners who recognize the need to plan for change and value a strategic advisor with over 30 years of experience.  Bob can be reached at 310-422-6858 or



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