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THE 5 MINUTE FRACTIONAL CFO

083: My Secret To Delivering A Great CFO Call (In 60 Minutes)

May 17, 2024

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083: My Secret To Delivering A Great CFO Call (In 60 Minutes)

May 17, 2024

Once a month, we Fractional CFOs have our time to shine. It's our game dayIt's The CFO Call. 

The CFO Call is your chance to: 

- Share your FP&A work
- Answer the client's questions
- Explain the previous period's results
- Share valuable insights and perspectives
- Go over the strategies and tactics that will drive results

Man, the monthly CFO call is dense, isn't it?!? With all of those topics and areas to cover, a 60-minute call can easily go over time, taking 90 - 120 minutes or more.

But overtime can throw off your (and your client's!) schedule for the rest of the day, wreaking havoc on your plans and to-dos.

Is the answer to change the scope of work and plan on a significantly longer CFO call? 

No! Don't get sucked into that trap! 

You CAN deliver a great CFO call in 60 minutes with the proper preparation and tools. 

In today's edition, I'm going to share some of the secrets I've discovered on delivering a great CFO call (in 60 minutes).

Let's dive in. 

CFO Call Preparation

Games are not won or lost on game day.

Games are won or lost at practice in preparation for game day.

The same holds true for the monthly CFO call. When done correctly, your preparation for a CFO call should be the single most time-intensive activity each month. Depending on the client, their industry, what season they're in, and other factors, you could spend 3-5 hours on prep for just one CFO call. 

During this time, you review each of the financial statements, look for trends, evaluate operational drivers, read over A/R and A/P aging reports, and take a hard look at the client's goals and their current trajectory towards those goals. Yes, I left off a TON from that list, but you get the idea.

This process is where you're looking to identify the meaty, value-added, non-obvious, juicy insights and perspectives your clients are paying you for! It's here, in this step, that you're earning your keep with the client. 

A great CFO call has to strike a necessary balance of depth (this is where you're going beyond reporting and add real value) and focus (this is how you keep the call at 60 minutes). One can only find this balance through sufficient, intentional preparation. 

This is how you win on game day. 

I cannot recommend strongly enough that you implement a process for preparing for CFO calls. It should include checklists, prompts, questions, and specific metrics you should evaluate. If you don't have a defined process, the preparation stage can easily take 10+ hours per client. That's why I included 18+ pages of checklists my firm uses inside The CFO Academy.

Why is THIS CFO Call Important?

As you synthesize all that information, you then start to formulate a thesis for the CFO call. Ask yourself what the core message or theme is that you want the client to take away from the call. 

In other words, I want you to LITERALLY ask yourself: 

Why is THIS CFO call important? 

Write out the answer.

If you're unable to articulate why each individual call is important, your client certainly won't know why it's important. 

If you're coming up with responses like "This call is important because we're going over goals." or "We will be looking at the financials." you'll need to go back to the drawing board. 

Here's an example of a winner: 

This month's CFO call is important because the client's gross profit margins are 10% lower than they need to be. I've identified 3 potential fixes to the gross profit margin problem, and I'm going to review them with the client to see if we can reach a consensus on which fix to implement over the next 90 days so they can hit their EOY goals.

Boom goes the dynamite. 

Now, you have clarity and focus for the upcoming call. You know where you need to spend the bulk of your time, precisely what you'll be talking about, and how it pertains to the client's goals. 

With a thesis in hand, avoiding distractions on the call becomes much easier because you know exactly where you're driving.

As a bonus, let the client know why THIS call is important (before the call) so they can stay focused as well.

Conducting the CFO Call

My firm has a process for just about everything related to delivering Fractional CFO services, including a process for how we conduct CFO calls. 

This includes the general outline of the call, questions that should be asked on every call, mindsets to adopt before and during the call, and tasks that must be completed immediately after each call. 

I recommend adopting a similar approach to make your calls intentional and consistent. 

One thing that my team has found to be helpful is writing out a rough timeline for the CFO call on a sticky and putting that sticky on their monitor just before the call. 

It might look something like this:  

The sticky notes help keep the agenda in mind and provide you with a gentle reminder if you need to get things back on track.

Acknowledge then Defer Distractions

All of the preparation you've put into conducting a valuable CFO call (in 60 minutes) can easily get thrown out the window by seemingly harmless distractions. 

You know, those cute little distractions that clients always seem to bring up during the first 10 minutes of a CFO call. 

They are normally predicated by phrases like "Hey! Quick question for ya..." 

Next thing you know, you're down a 30-minute rabbit hole about some bookkeeping question that has nothing to do with your thesis for the call. With the call now 30 minutes behind schedule, you have to rush through your discussion on what the client can do to level up gross margins - and you don't even get to the goals conversation. It's either that or your call ends up going way past the scheduled time.

Dang it.

If you address those questions, you're screwed.

If you tell the client you won't address those questions, you're screwed.

Luckily there's a third option.

As clients ask those questions, simply say this: 

I want to make sure we stay focused on gross margins today but that's a great question. I'm gonna write that down and circle back with an answer once I'm able to dive in.

TL;DR

I'll be the first to admit that keeping a CFO call valuable AND focused AND done within an hour is hard. But it can be done if you're intentional. 

My secrets: 

- Use processes to prepare
- Identify a thesis for each call
- Have a process and agenda for each call
- Acknowledge and then defer distractions until after the call

Your Coach,
Michael

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

  1. 1:1 Coaching with Michael King -Get hands-on support and fast track your firm’s growth by working directly with me. 

  2. 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 Fractional CFO firm (including live Q&A). Plus you'll get access to our private community of nearly 200+ Fractional CFOs.

  3.  If you'd like more amazing (and free!) content about starting, scaling, or optimizing your Fractional CFO firm check out The CFO Report.

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