The Benefits of a Part Time Finance Director

The position of Finance Director (FD) in business is generally held in high esteem and in many instances the role is considered to be second to the Chairman/Managing Director.

The position affords the incumbent the opportunity to become actively involved in all aspects of the business in order to facilitate good planning and reporting practices. On occasions this high level cross-functional activity may not be enjoyed or even welcomed by the Finance Director’s peers.

Whilst it would be expected that larger organizations would appoint a full-time Finance Director, there are many reasons why such an individual may not be employed by many small and medium sized businesses.

There are situations that are most suited for engaging a Finance Director and these include:

The owner losing control of the business – not knowing how the business is performing – no management accounts – no cash management
Rapid business growth without a senior financial professional to assist in setting a robust strategy and plan for the future
Businesses that absorb all available cash with increases in working capital potentially restricting growth and capital expenditure.
Established businesses with poor profitability and/or with an unacceptable cash generative history.
Businesses facing external pressures to make financial improvements to satisfy personal or corporate commitments from banks or investors.
Business owners that plan to exit and seek help to maximize the business value.
In the above situations the small business owner may gravitate back to the work with which he/she is most comfortable or to the work that is necessary to meet the immediate business demands. This action is taken at a time when the business may be becoming more complex, undergoing change and potentially be at greater risk of failure. In such circumstances the services of a Financial Director are essential to maintain the good management and success of the business. Affordability is one key reason why a full-time Finance Director may not be employed in the small business. However, the cost of a full-time FD may be prohibitive but it does not eliminate the need for a person to fill the role. In addition there may not be sufficient work to actively engage a full-time finance director, what then are the options?
Consider the appointment of a Part Time Finance Director.

An increasing trend amongst small and medium sized business owners is to appoint a Part time Finance Director, albeit the person may not be formally appointed to the board – thus becoming a virtual FD.

The part time FD will only work sufficient time to discharge the commitments of the position; this then represents a significant saving against employing a full time person. Typically one to three days each week would be worked which would be a cost effective solution for the small and medium sized business owner.

Would the role of the part-time Finance Director differ from that of a full time person? No, the responsibilities of the position; be it part-time or full-time would be the same; only the time worked would be different.

The part time FD would become conversant with the business, take responsibility for accounting, cash management and advise and report on the financial performance of the business.

However, a virtual or part time Finance Director would provide several advantages including:

Containing costs. The financial skills required in the business would only used when the business needs them.
Usually experienced in different business sectors and different sizes of business. This would provide the opportunity for the part time FD to transfer the skills, best practices and knowledge gained in one industry to another.
Offering the business owner unbiased and independent opinions.
Freeing-up management time to enable other specialist functional directors to concentrate their work in areas most beneficial to the business.
Providing input into the strategic decision making process.
Advising on general business matters.
Adding credibility of the business to third parties, particularly banks, finance providers and other professionals.
Consulting with auditors, solicitors and other professionals on behalf of the business.
Ensuring good management and accounting practices are implemented and compliance with statutory requirements.
What traits should the part time Financial Director possess? It will be important for the business owner to be able to work with and trust his part time FD. In addition the Finance Director should demonstrate an interest in the business and be willing and able to transfer his knowledge and skill into the business. The part time Finance Director should become an integral part of the management team and take responsibility for and be accountable for his/her actions and at all times act professionally.

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