A founder’s take on what it’s like to work with a virtual CFO
Have you ever wondered how a virtual or part time CFO works? Or what it can actually do for your business?
We could tell you, but Charlie Hamer from Public Sector Network (PSN) offered to instead. So here he is sharing his experience of using a virtual CFO, plus how his business made it through 2020 and finally… a definitive ruling on the question of yoghurt.
We hope you enjoy this founder Q&A.
1. First up, what does PSN do?
We’re a research, events and training company that focuses all our efforts on the public sector. We do a lot of work in partnership with government and industry. We started in Australia, almost six years ago. We’ve been in New Zealand for about five of those years. We launched in Canada about three years ago; we’ve been in the US for about a year and we’re just starting to set up in the UK.
2. That’s a lot of countries in not a lot of years. What’s helped you do that?
The team we brought on board from the start, including a lot of people we’d worked with in the past or who had done similar things. We’re mostly a remotely run business, so we needed people who understood how to work together and could self start, without a lot of hand holding.
Our people are so important. We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.
3. How has our virtual CFO service helped your business?
Other than our internal people, having CFO support has been the most important thing by a mile. For me, it’s been vital for everything from insurance documents to financial modelling, and strategic advice and guidance.
Just being able to bounce ideas off someone from a business growth perspective has been critical. And for things like bringing on new shareholders and setting up employee equity options schemes. I didn’t know much about any of that when we first started.
Working with Remco and Mike has transformed my knowledge personally, and also enabled us to grow safely. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.
4. How do you work with a virtual CFO?
When we first started, it was about sitting down with Remco to understand our business – what our strategic goals were, understanding our finances and our team. That was about five years ago. Now we talk at least a few times a week, checking in with our financial model and where we’re at each week with that and more broadly, too.
At the moment, we’re spending a lot of time on business structure. Because of our growth, we spend a lot of time on new business set up because the countries we’re in are similar but different, and we’ve leaned on Remco and Mike to help us set up overseas.
We also work with the wider Standard Ledger team, which handles our payroll and bookkeeping and chases vendor invoice payment on our behalf.
5. What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Balancing the funding needed to build a new arm of our business, while still running our core business without giving up equity. It’s about juggling how we invest in that while ensuring that we still grow our core business. That’s our biggest challenge, and having someone like Remco who understands funding really helps with this.
6. What about COVID? How has that affected your business?
Weirdly, it’s actually been good for us in a business sense. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred for it not to have happened, but it did force us to do things we’d always been thinking about.
Before the coronavirus, we’d done some online events and had wanted to move to more, and it just forced us to do it. Luckily we had the plans underway to deliver professional online virtual events – not just Zoom events – and we moved pretty quickly to make it happen so we were able to survive the immediate crisis. And it’s actually enabled us to grow.
7. Do you have any tips for other business owners during a crisis?
Just simple things like: Don’t panic! But that’s easy to say now.
For me, the most important support was Remco and Mike because the financial implications of the coronavirus for our business were unbelievable. Their guidance and assurance, and assistance getting funding like government grants was just so important. We wouldn’t have known where to start with that.
We were also lucky to have an amazing team who just got on with it. And it’s one of those things: If you don’t, you’ll go out of business.
8. And finally, “yo-gurt” or “yog-ert”?
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Okay then. As a Welshman originally, we knew Charlie would have a definitive view on such an important question.
On another note: If you enjoyed this founder Q&A, you might like our chat with the food-tech duo behind the revolutionary CocoNutZ brand and our Q&A with the founder of the world’s first self-sterilising baby bottle.
And if you want to find out more about working with a virtual CFO, make a time to chat to us.
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Meet John Nixon. Great at using the R&D Tax Incentive, grants and financial planning to help startups and SMEs. Not great at surviving on a desert island.