Running an SME is a full on roller coaster of a ride. As time ticks, you’re thrown in all sorts of directions and can even feel as though you’re in free fall going backwards sometimes. At the start that’s all really exciting, of course, and you’re able to juggle several aspects of the business yourself whilst you focus on getting the right foundation in place and the orders coming in.
As your business starts to embed, however, your attention has to split. The day to day running begins to tick over, with your staff knowing their roles and responsibilities. But your role becomes more strategic, and you start to realise some of the more specialised jobs now need a specialist’s eye. For example, HR and recruitment, marketing, IT… and finance.
Taking the next step for the development of your business
Outsourcing some or indeed all of those functions makes a lot of sense at this point. Think about the specific knowledge and experience needed to fulfil job roles effectively, the ongoing training required to ensure people stay up to date, and how much working time in a week is actually needed. Every business is different, of course, but odds on you’re going to need highly experienced individuals possibly only working part-time on your business. Those are not easy people to find or keep. And they’re pretty expensive to have on your headcount too. However, the problem is you still need them because you know they’ll make a difference to the success of your business. So how do you solve that problem?
Being accountants, we’ll take the example of a virtual financial director to illustrate what we’re trying to say.
By the time an entrepreneur is considering specialist input as described, the business will have begun to take shape. Within the ranks you will have an overseer (aka Managing Director), a sales leader, an operations leader, an output leader (depending on your product/service offering), and an accounting and administrative function, plus there may be other departments too. All these are very much part of the day to day running. You, as the manager, are overseeing everything though and strategic thinking is necessary but hard to fit in.
Splitting out the strategic thinking
You will hopefully have some idea of where you’re wanting your business to go. If you’ve got a marketing strategy and plan, that’s fantastic. If you’ve got the right people helping you recruit and manage the HR side of your staffing, that’s great. If you’ve got an IT support company ensuring your communications and technology work well, then good. Now you need to get a proper grip on the finances.
How a virtual financial director can help
Strategic financial planning and reporting takes time. Having someone working as though they’re a part of your team will free you up to manage the strategic elements of your business as well as the day to day. They will:
- Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your financial reporting
- Provide detailed analysis of your business activities
- Identify financial risks to your business
- Identify profit opportunities for your business
- Liaise with and manage HMRC, banks, etc.
The right virtual financial director will have considerable experience of working in a business of your size. They will understand your industry. They will know the traps to watch out for and how to spot new opportunities. And they will be happy to input the amount of time your business needs; whether that’s two days a week, or a few hours a month.
This gives you access to the expertise your business needs to grow and flourish, without the time and expense involved in recruiting a permanent head on a full-time salary.
Benefits of a virtual financial director
Your time is freed up
The role of a finance director is time-consuming, particularly if it’s not your specialism and you just want to get on with running your business. So having a qualified and experienced individual carrying out that work on your behalf will free up your time and save you money. They’ve already travelled up the learning curve you’re experiencing with regard to finance, so they can work quickly and effectively on your behalf. And you can focus on seeing through the strategic plans you have for growing your business.
You have expertise on tap
Many SMEs reach a certain size and need the expertise of a finance director; the problem is they can’t justify having one on board full time. A virtual financial director gives you the best of both worlds. Knowledge on tap without the burden of another full-time salary and all that’s incumbent with that.
You know the details are being taken care of
A virtual financial director will ‘own’ key reporting and financial oversight responsibilities. They will track your cashflow and report to you on a regular basis, making you aware of concerns on the horizon before they appear in the business. They will also help you get to grips with your debtors and reduce the delay in you receiving payments. Cashflow is still king!
They provide expertise for budgeting and forecasting
They will help ensure your strategic plans are informed by considered forecasting and supported by appropriate budgets.
They provide meaningful information to aid swift decision making
One of the fabulous strengths of being an SME is the ability to be extremely agile. However, to make swift decisions you need useful up to date information to hand. Whether it’s regarding your cashflow, your key clients, or other KPIs, your virtual financial director will provide that information and help drive your business forward.
They make sense of the data
It’s easy for a keen business owner to be swamped with information. A good virtual financial director will make sense of the myriad of information available and present it to you in a meaningful way. For example, profitability across product ranges, opportunities for profitable upselling, profiles of profitable customers etc. With their input you’ll be able to increase margins, control business costs, and snap up opportunities.
They flag risks early
A virtual financial director proves their worth with enabling business opportunities as described above, but they also help prevent disaster by spotting risks in advance too.
They ensure your internal processes support your business
A successful business needs to operate like a well-oiled engine, and effective processes are the equivalent of that oil. Your virtual financial director will be able to spot where problems are occurring from the data they analyse regularly, and highlight to you areas in need of improvement so your business can grow unhindered.
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