Interview: Finding the Right CFO

Interview: Finding the Right CFO

I Recently sat down with my friend and colleague, John Van Deusen, founder of FRS Executive Search – here is what he had to say:

[Carol] You mentioned that the unemployment rate among CFOs and Finance Managers was practically 0 and that these types weren’t typically making moves to work for other companies for more money (more event driven) –  Can you explain that?

[John] Employers are struggling to find qualified candidates at all levels of an organization, but the unemployment rate for CFOs & Controllers is less than 1%.  The current market for financial executives is tighter than it was during the peak economies of 2006-2007

[Carol] You also mentioned that there is often a mis-understanding among CEOs and Executives as to the differences between CFO, Finance Mgr, Controller and Accounting – the functions/purpose and value that each bring to a company.   Can you elaborate on this?

[John] For CEOs of large corporations ($250m+) hiring a CFO is second nature.  However, privately held corporations (Single shareholder, Partnerships or Family owned) can really struggle when hiring at the CFO or Controller level.  The success rate for companies hiring a CFO or Controller on their own is 46%.  A big contributor to the failure rate is the misconception between the two roles.  In its simplest form; do you need the person to work on the business or in the business?  Controllers work in the business and while there are some  senior level Controllers that bring value to an organization beyond just accounting, a CFO  really works on the business (strategic planning, contractual negotiations, licensing agreements, domestic/international expansion, cost containment, vendor negotiations, financing, etc. 

[Carol] How does a CEO go about determining what talent to hire – whether a CFO, Finance Mgr, or Controller?

[John] Most companies hire their first Controller around $10m in revenue.  As revenues increase and the business becomes more complex, the organization may need to bring on a Sr. Controller.  A Sr. Controller is going to provide some budgeting & forecasting, financial analysis, contract & vendor negotiations and the ability to implement better financial systems, procedures and reporting.  Once a company exceeds $50-$75m and based upon their industry sector (Manufacturing, Distribution, Construction, Healthcare, Government Contracting, etc.) a company will benefit by bringing on a CFO.  The value that a top-notch CFO can bring to a business is normally transformative.  By working on the entire business; R&D, Manufacturing, Quality Control, Project Management, Domestic & International Expansion, Cost Control, Vendor Negotiations, Purchasing, Financing and M&A, a true CFO will pay for themselves annually.     

[Carol] You offer an unprecedented guarantee in the industry – each placement comes with an 18-month guarantee; what is it about your practice/technique that allows you to recruit with such confidence? 

[John] You learn quite a few lessons over 25 years of recruiting.  I can provide an 18-Month Guarantee on each search, because of the due diligence that I perform on my clients and candidates.  Depending on the size of my client, the size of the C-Team and the various levels of management, I may spend anywhere from half a day to two full days getting to know my client.  I learn their operating model, their business drivers and the culture that makes them individually unique.  Are they Publicly or Privately held?  If privately held, are they single shareholder, family owned or a partnership.  Each of those three entities has a very unique dynamic.  As for my candidates; I normally spend three to four hours with each before my client ever sees their resume.  I have a 94% first placement success rate and an 18-Month Guarantee that provides my clients a level of comfortability that is rare in the retained recruiting world.

Thanks much to John for his time and insights.
Check out the FSR website or reach John directly at his office:

John Van Deusen

FRS Executive Search
Office: (858) 527-0377
Cell: (619) 227-8018

Financial Recruiting Solutions (FRS) is a retained, executive search firm that specializes in the acquisition of CFO, Sr. Controller and VP of Finance candidates for their clients.  They have been serving Southern California for nearly two decades.

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