049: How I Lead Clients as a fractional CFO (4 Roles)

June 16, 2023

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June 16, 2023
Read time: 3:14 minutes 

As a fractional CFO, impact is everything.

But before you can have impact, you have to convince your clients to take action.

How do you do that?

You can't bark out orders at your clients.
And you can't be a passive observer either.

Both of those will likely result in your client leaving you (especially the former).

A great fractional CFO is able to find a middle ground where they can exert influence. That influence is what leads to action.

You have to approach the role of a fractional CFO like a coach. And to effectively coach your clients, there are 4 distinct roles you have to play.

Today, I'm going to share those 4 roles in hopes that you'll be able to lead your clients better so you can maximize your impact.

Role #1: The Cheerleader

The Cheerleader role is exactly what you think it is! 

• You're helping the client recognize their wins
• You're giving the proverbial high five
• You're celebrating them

It's sometimes easy to forget that our clients are actually, you know, people. And we all need someone that's cheering for us from time to time.

There also tends to be a lot of negative emotion for our clients around finance. There can be shame, embarrassment, and guilt when the numbers aren't pretty. 

If your clients consistently feel beat down by the numbers EVERY time they get on a call with you, they'll bounce.

So don't be afraid to inject some of those positive vibes from time to time.

Role #2: The Teacher

As fractional CFOs, we should all show up with the heart of a teacher. 

What does that mean? 

👉 Educate (don't tell).
👉 Use their language (it's about them, not you).
👉 Use various types of examples (helps drive the point home).
👉 Be patient (they didn't spend 20 years learning what you did).

When you're explaining (teaching) concepts to your clients you're aiming for understanding. You're not trying to help them study for the CPA exam.

Role #3: The Challenger

Challenging our clients can mean many different things:
Thinking bigger
Thinking differently
Pushing them to go faster
Pushing them to slow down

It can also mean asking them if what they're doing is actually in alignment with their goals? Or is it serving as a distraction?

These are all important challenges that we need to put in front of our clients from time to time. Even more so if we see our clients doing something that isn't going to serve them well.

And I get it... 
For many of us, challenging our clients starts to get into the "this isn't super comfortable for me" zone.

But your clients are paying you to show up and tell them what they need to hear.

That's leadership.

Role #4: The Disagreer

Sometimes your clients decide to go down a path that's you know is wrong.

The path will lead them to a bad place, maybe even a tragic place.

This is when you must come in and, in no uncertain terms, flat out disagree with what they're doing.

In other words, call them out and tell them they're wrong.

But you are, in fact, walking a tight rope here! You do have to balance the fact that you work for them and you can't force them to do anything. On the other hand, they're paying you to speak into them and their business.

It isn't easy, but that's the job.

💡 Look, I know that some (or all) of these roles may not feel comfortable to you. But if you want to get your clients to take action, you've got to determine which role they need you to step into. And you have to do it unapologetically. 

👉 And if you're anything like me, you have to remember: 
Our calling isn't about what's comfortable.
Our calling is about impact.

Your coach,

Whenever you are ready, here are 3 ways I can help you:

1. The Inner Circle - every month my team and I go live and share the most impactful lessons we've learned in our journey to start, scale, and optimize our own CFO firm (including live Q&A). Plus you'll get access to our private community of nearly 150 fractional CFOs.

2. The CFO Academy - This is a 7 week deep dive into the exact playbooks that I use to run my firm, KFE Solutions.

3. If you'd like more amazing (and free!) content about starting, scaling, or optimizing your Fractional CFO firm check out: 
→ The CFO Report on YouTube (if you love video)
→ The CFO Report on Apple Podcast (if you prefer audio)

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