What to Look For in a Fractional CFO for Your Startup

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When seeking the services of a fractional CFO, it is important to remember that these professionals come from diverse backgrounds. This diversity means each CFO brings unique strengths, focuses, and perspectives. While this may be the case, there are some qualities that the best fractional CFOs possess when dealing with startups. 

These qualities include quickly adapting to the startup environment and customizing financial solutions based on the company’s needs. It is crucial that you look for the following things when hiring a fractional CFO as a startup founder:

Relevant Industry Specialization

It’s not enough for a CFO to have an impressive resume with large corporations if they have never successfully worked with a startup to navigate challenges. The right CFO for your team needs to be able to anticipate challenges and provide valuable insights on effectively managing cash flow while you scale. Their experience and track record must be directly related to startup success. 

As you interview potential CFO candidates, ask about their experience with multiple startups and how recently they’ve worked with them. Additionally, please inquire about the functions of a temporary CFO and specific ways they’ve supported startups, such as fundraising support, financial strategy, or operational guidance. You can also consider using the following template when reaching out to potential providers:

Dear [Provider],

I am interested in learning more about your fractional CFO services and how they can benefit my business. We are currently looking for support in [insert specific financial needs], and I believe your expertise and experience could be a valuable asset to our team.

Please provide me with more information on your services, including pricing and availability. I would also like to hear about your success stories working with businesses like ours.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Strong Relationships with Investors and Partners

A successful CFO should have well-established connections with venture capital firms that can help your startup secure the best possible investors. Ask about their relationships’ history and warmth, as this can make or break your fundraising efforts. Also, inquire which VC firms they have worked with before and ask if these firms would be a good fit for your company’s financial and investment needs.

You should also consider other companies in your industry, sector, and startup ecosystem. Your CFO’s relationships with these organizations can help your startup tap into synergies, accelerating growth and expanding your footprint. 

Strong Communication Skills

A fractional CFO should have excellent communication skills and soft skills and should be able to explain complex financial information in an easily understandable manner. A good CFO should also be willing to listen to the concerns of their team members and initiate difficult yet necessary conversations when needed.

Having a fractional CFO who knows how to check their ego at the door can also help maintain a healthy work environment that inspires teamwork. Their ability to read the room and empathize with the anxieties and aspirations of other team members can also be crucial in determining your startup’s success. 

Flexibility to Adapt to Various Startup Growth Stages

Unlike in the corporate world, where a rigid approach may be successful, a startup CFO must possess the skills to adapt to the company’s ever-changing needs as it progresses through various growth stages

This ability to be agile is essential to guide the company through its various milestones and requirements, identifying opportunities for pivoting when necessary. Startups are inherently risky, and the CFO plays a significant role in managing that risk with sound financial planning and solid strategic decision-making.

Their Value-Add Beyond Finance Skills

The most successful CFOs in this context are well-rounded individuals who can offer cross-functional support and fill in key gaps in your management team. CFOs don’t just provide basic financial analysis and metrics. They bring a diverse skill set that adds value in multiple ways. 

For example, they may have deep experience in areas like Legal, Sales, Admin, and human resources, which allows them to provide exponential value to your startup. Their ability to identify opportunities for improvement and growth is also crucial.

Top Benefits of a Fractional CFO for Your Startup

Hiring a CFO for your startup can provide a vast range of benefits that can help your business successfully navigate its early stages of growth. Here are some of the key advantages:

Efficient Financial System

A CFO will set up a system that streamlines your startup’s financial operations and ensures timely reporting and accurate record-keeping. CFOs are experts in managing budgets, financial forecasting, and cash flow. They’ll keep track of your expenses, provide insights into cost-cutting measures, and help your business stay in good financial standing. With an efficient financial system, you can focus on core business operations.

Increased Investor Confidence

When investors see your startup has an experienced CFO, they become more confident in your business. A CFO ensures that your financial statements are accurate and transparent, which can boost the trust and credibility of potential investors.

For example, when seeking funding to scale up your marketing efforts. A CFO can create a financial model showing potential investors how increased marketing spending will lead to revenue growth. They’ll also help you prepare for due diligence, a process that potential investors or buyers use to evaluate your business finances before investing or acquiring. In addition, they can help you negotiate favorable deal terms and manage investor expectations. 

Improved Operational Efficiency

CFOs can analyze your expenses and identify areas where you can reduce costs, such as switching to more cost-effective suppliers or implementing better billing systems. With improved operational efficiency, you’ll have enough cash flow to invest in your business.

Expert Financial Forecasting

Forecasting your startup’s financial future can be challenging, but a CFO can help you get the right insights. CFOs use their financial expertise to conduct scenario planning, currency forecasting, and market trends analysis. With this financial forecasting, you can prepare your business for potential risks, know when to raise capital, and invest in growth opportunities.

A fractional CFO can also provide objective and unbiased financial advice. They’re not emotionally attached to your startup, which allows them to provide a realistic assessment of your financial situation. They’ll give you an honest evaluation of your startup’s financial health and offer recommendations for improvement. 

Improved Management of Financial Risks

A CFO can identify potential financial risks in time, provide solutions, and help implement appropriate operational changes to mitigate the dangers. Additionally, there are many legal considerations that startups need to consider while managing their finances. These can range from tax considerations, employee withholdings, and payroll regulations.

CFOs help startups easily manage all these aspects, ensuring businesses always comply with the law. Proper risk management can reduce your exposure to financial risks and protect your business from potential financial loss.

Access to a Network of Resources

Fractional CFOs have many contacts, including investors, lenders, accountants, and legal professionals. They can tap into this network to help you secure funding, make strategic financial decisions, and navigate complex financial regulations. Your fractional CFO will be able to connect you with the right people, resources, and tools to support your startup’s growth.

When to Consider a Fractional CFO

When You Need Expertise, but Cannot Afford a Full-Time CFO

They offer access to high-level financial expertise without the overheads associated with a full-time CFO. Fractional CFOs can work for a fixed number of hours or projects, giving your business the flexibility to hire them as per your needs and budget.

Your Business Is Growing Rapidly

If your business is growing quickly and you’re finding it hard to keep up with the company’s financial demands, it might be time to bring in a fractional CFO. These experts have experience working with rapidly growing businesses and can help you stay on top of cash flow, forecasting, and financial reporting.

When You Need to Scale Your Business

As your business grows, your financial and accounting needs will evolve too. Fractional CFOs can offer strategic advice, helping you to streamline your financial operations, manage cash flows, and access capital to fuel your growth. Fractional CFOs can support you in making financial decisions that will help you achieve your long-term business goals.

When You Need to Optimize Your Financial Operations

Fractional CFOs can provide strategic insight into your company’s expenses, eliminate wasteful spending, and optimize your financial operations to increase profitability. These professionals can review your financial processes and advise on the best practices to improve financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and cash flow management.

When You Need to Raise Capital

Raising capital is a complex process that requires expertise encompassing financial modeling, forecasting, and analysis. Fractional CFOs can help you prepare for raising funds, create a pitch deck, and negotiate with investors. Additionally, they can help you analyze different investment options and evaluate the risks and returns associated with each option.

When You Need to Navigate Through a Financial Crisis

Fractional CFOs can develop a financial plan to help you weather the crisis, negotiate with vendors and suppliers, and work on a strategy to manage debt and other financial obligations. They can help you make informed financial decisions during a crisis that will ultimately help your business emerge stronger.


A fractional CFO is an excellent solution for small startups that need professional financial management without the expertise of a full-time CFO. When searching for one, look for someone with experience in your industry, a track record of success with startups, and excellent relationships with investors and partners. Contact a financial management professional today if you need clarification on whether a fractional CFO is right for your business. They can provide a consultation and guide you through the process to ensure you make the right decision. 

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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