The need for virtual chief financial officers (VCFOs) in fast-growing small and medium-sized businesses is intensifying. In order to make smarter business decisions for growth, savvy business owners are outsourcing to experts so their staff can focus on what they do best.
In 2015, the CharterNet VCFO team, led by Saeed Mirzakhani, started working with Avonlea Labels – a leading Sydney manufacturer of high-quality adhesive labels. At the time, the business owners at the label company knew their company was prospering, but couldn’t understand why they couldn’t find the budget to pay for necessities. They had very little insight into their company’s financial position, which meant that decisions were made on a whim.
Fast-forward two years and the owners at Avonlea Labels say that the decision to hire a CharterNet VCFO has paid off handsomely: the company has recently shifted from a small to medium-sized enterprise and has experienced 25% growth in this financial year to date. How did this happen? Read the case study:
When CharterNet first met the Avonlea Labels team, they weren’t looking to engage a virtual CFO. Instead, they wanted an accountant to help them understand their numbers better. Although they could see value in a VCFO with experience from the ‘big four,’ the owners felt their lean business model couldn’t afford them the opportunity.
“I had difficulty convincing my company to invest in a VCFO service because we didn’t understand our numbers, and we felt that we didn’t have the funds for it,” said Matt Ellis, General Manager of Avonlea Labels. “However, putting it off was only stunting our growth further.”
Faced with mounting pressure to make strategic business decisions for the future, Avonlea Labels needed help, and fast.
Avonlea Labels decided to trial CharterNet’s VCFO service for one quarter with a view to committing further thereafter dependant on the value received.
“If we don’t gain our client’s investment back and much more, we’re not doing our job,” explained Saeed Mirzakhani, Partner at CharterNet.
CharterNet got the ball rolling by first understanding the company’s needs through an exhaustive investigation of their financial circumstances. By drilling down into the numbers, CharterNet gained an in-depth awareness of budgets, including fixed costs and what the company needed per month to keep the doors open.
After transitioning Avonlea Labels to Xero, CharterNet’s preferred, powerful cloud-based accounting software, CharterNet implemented a reporting add-on to provide real-time analysis to the Avonlea management team. This would allow Ellis to get a better overview of his company’s finances on a daily basis, and improve team collaboration by making data accessible online.
With the systems in place to collect and analyse data, the CharterNet team began to advise on expenditure, as well as implement a baseline financial strategy in the way of budgets, forecasts and cash flow management.
“Saeed and his team provided financial logic rather than just gut feelings,” said Ellis. “For example, while we had always invested in marketing, we had little awareness of how much we should be spending to ensure a good return. Now, we can make educated decisions that I know will pay off.”
Ellis describes his decision to continue with the VCFO service as a ‘no-brainer.’ In the two years that CharterNet and Avonlea Labels have been working together, the label company has experienced 25% growth to date, and moved to a medium-sized business.
Ellis says that since working closely with Mirzakhani of CharterNet, Avonlea Labels has become more strategic, and has invested wisely in marketing, better systems, processes and procedures.
“We’ve never been more aligned and effective, and it’s purely driven by understanding our numbers,” Ellis said. “We’ve promoted two people and invested $10,000 in systems.”
When asked to offer advice to other growing companies, Ellis said, “knowing what I know now, I’d say that you’d be crazy not to engage a VCFO.”
“Without them [CharterNet], it’s like driving a car one hundred kilometres per hour down the freeway blindfolded.”
By using a VCFO, the decision-making process at Avonlea Labels has transitioned from what Ellis described as an ‘on a whim’ mentality to a clear strategy dictated by an understanding of numbers.
And, as for hiring a permanent CFO?
“There’s no need for a full-time role,” explained Ellis. “Plus, they [CharterNet] have exposure to a lot of industries, which benefits us. It means that they can apply knowledge from real-life examples.”