We want to think about our clients as all roughly the same: We have a deliverable, a package, a forecast – all of the things that we're promising as part of our value proposition. But without the foundation of a good onboarding, it's going to be very difficult to hit all those deliverables for every client. In the same way that we’re unique as individual CFOs, they’re all unique too.
The challenge of onboarding
How we built our team
The role of the onboarding CFO: providing flexibility and structure:
In broad strokes, my job helps the permanent CFO overcome a mental hurdle. They need to let go of the do-it-all-myself mindset and leverage the resources that we've put in place as a firm.
We want our CFOs to feel comfortable being a strategist and trusted collaborator, but before they can get there, we collaborate on how to architect the information: the way they want the chart of accounts to look, the conversations they want to have, the data they’re going to review – and when and how.
As an onboarding CFO, I help with the architecture to let them know what's possible, and how they can use those resources. This has become crucial as we’ve been expanding into new verticals where the KPIs may not follow the standard templates of our bread-and-butter, service-based organizations.
Collaboration between the onboarding and permanent teams
Our onboarding team essentially duplicates the permanent team, so we want to be very clear about the roles of each.
Originally, we had our teams assigned to opposite tasks: one was responsible for going backwards – housekeeping of historical data – and the other one, forwards: focusing on strategy and forecasting.
But it’s impossible to provide sound forecasting without sound data, so that approach ended up generating confusion and unrealistic expectations.
Instead, we decided to keep one team, one focus, and instead break up the process into phases: phase one is architecture and data cleanup. We open the walls, check out the plumbing, and provide a schedule for how long exactly onboarding should take. In phase two we dive into consulting conversations and get the forecast running.
This breakdown keeps the permanent CFO out of the line of fire. The client knows to expect that the high-level strategy will be a bigger part of the conversation starting in phase two. But we also make sure to listen to their needs and take a consultative from the get-go, based on the kinds of insight we can start to provide before the data is cleaned up.