What to expect from your CFO in the first 90 days

I had the unique opportunity in my career to work with businesses in different industries and of different sizes and ownership levels as a full-time CFO. Each business had different needs and complexities. The smallest business was a $15m educational training center and the largest was a manufacturer who generated over $200m in revenues.  The industries included alternative energy, retail and wholesale trade, macro-economic consulting services, marketing agencies, hospitality enterprises, internationally based service groups, among others.  Ownership levels were varied. Some were privately owned, and others were either publicly held or owned by private equity groups.

The one thing they had in common was a need for CFO leadership and guidance.  The differentiator was the actual amount of time they truly needed a CFO.  Most businesses under $50m can be easily supported with a fractional, outsourced CFO.  It really boils down the complexity of the business.

CEFO engages with businesses at all stages of development, revenue levels, and industries.  Solving critical pain points is our primary area of focus. Many of our engagements are long-term and fractional (part-time) in nature.  Some are for a defined period to solve a pressing issue, provide temporary leadership, or to assist with exit or acquisition opportunities.

The role of a CFO, whether full-time or fractional, is vital to the financial health and success of an organization. In the first 90 days, a CFO’s approach and actions can set the stage for long-term success and alignment with the organization’s goals. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from a CFO during this crucial period:

  1. Deep Assessment: You can expect your CFO to conduct a thorough assessment of the current financial and operational landscape. This involves looking into staffing, financial systems, reporting mechanisms, internal controls, and processes.
  2. Clear Communication: The CFO should establish clear channels of communication with various departments, ensuring that there’s a flow of information that can aid decision-making.
  3. Setting Priorities: With insights from the assessment, the CFO should work closely with senior leadership, particularly the CEO, to define and prioritize short-term and long-term financial objectives.
  4. Stakeholder Engagement: Building relationships is key. By engaging with stakeholders, the CFO can better understand their needs, concerns, and insights, which will be invaluable in driving the organization’s financial strategy.
  5. Strategic Alignment: The CFO must ensure that the financial strategy aligns with the broader organizational goals. They should work closely with the CEO and other leaders to understand and enhance the company’s vision and mission.
  6. Team Evaluation: The CFO should evaluate the finance team’s capabilities, strengths, and areas of improvement. This might lead to training, restructuring, or hiring to fill any gaps.
  7. KPI Review: It’s crucial for the CFO to assess if the organization is tracking the right metrics. Key performance indicators (KPIs) should be relevant, actionable, measurable, and align with the company’s strategic goals.
  8. Financial Analysis: Your new CFO should be financially savvy and anxious to dive into the financial statements, internal management reports, and cash flow analysis to fully understand the current and historical trends. This will help identify any immediate potential financial risks or opportunities.
  9. Budgeting and Forecasting: The CFO should be very future focused. They should be diving into the budget and projections that are currently in existence. If lacking, or not available, he or she must start redefining the budgeting process, ensuring that the company is prepared for future challenges and opportunities.
  10. Actionable Plan: By the end of the 90 days, the CFO should have a clear, actionable financial plan that aligns with the company’s strategic objectives.


This first 90 days for a CFO, whether in-house or fractional, are pivotal. This period lays the foundation for the financial leadership and direction the CFO will provide. Regular check-ins, open communication, and collaboration between the CEO and CFO are the key to ensuring alignment and achieving the desired financial outcomes.

CEFO can help you determine the best fit:

  1. By assessing your current financial management needs: Understanding your pain points, challenges, and aspirations.
  2. Forecast future needs: Think about the direction in which your company is heading. Will you be entering new markets, launching new products, or considering mergers and acquisitions?
  3. Consider your budget: Determine what you can afford while ensuring you don’t compromise on the expertise required.
  4. Interview both full-time and fractional CFOs: Even if you’re leaning one way, understanding the value proposition from both sides can help solidify your decision.


Remember, the ultimate goal is to find the right financial leadership that supports your company’s growth, ensures compliance, and helps navigate challenges effectively. Whether that’s through a full-time or fractional CFO will depend on the unique needs and circumstances of your business.  To meet with one of our experienced CFO’s, please contact our office at 518.693.7446 or email Pat McGowan at PMcGowan@cefoadvisors.com or Amy Roman at ARoman@cefoadvisors.com.

Cost containment: An important health care benefits objective for businesses

As the Fed continues to do battle with inflation, and with fears of a recession not quite going away, companies have been keeping a close eye on the costs of their health insurance and pharmacy coverage. If you’re facing higher costs for health care benefits this year, it probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. According to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, issued by HR consultant Mercer in 2022, U.S. employers anticipated a 5.6% rise in medical plan costs in 2023. The actual percentage may turn out to be even higher, which is why cost containment should be one of the primary objectives of your benefits strategy. 

Really get to know your workforce to succeed at cost containment, you’ve got to establish and maintain a deep familiarity with two things: 1) your workforce, and 2) the health care benefits marketplace. Starting with the first point, the optimal plan design depends on the size, demographics and needs of your workforce. Rather than relying on vendor-provided materials, actively manage communications with employees regarding their health care benefits. Determine which offerings are truly valued and which ones aren’t. If you haven’t already, explore the feasibility of a wellness program to promote healthier diet and lifestyle choices. Invest in employee education so your plan participants can make more cost-effective health care decisions. 

Many companies in recent years have turned to high-deductible health plans coupled with Health Savings Accounts to shift some of the cost burden to employees. As you study your plan design, keep in mind that good data matters. Business owners can apply analytics to just about everything these days — including health care coverage. Measure the financial impacts of gaps between benefits offered and those employees actually use. Then adjust your plan design appropriately to close these costly gaps.

Now let’s turn to the second critical thing that business owners and their leadership teams need to know about: the health care benefits marketplace. As you’re no doubt aware, it’s hardly a one-stop convenience store. Many companies engage a consultant to provide an independent return-on-investment analysis of an existing benefits package and suggest some cost-effective adjustments. Doing so will entail some expense, but an external expert’s perspective could help you save money in the long run. Another service a consultant may be able to provide is an audit of medical claims payments and pharmacy benefits management services. Mistakes happen — and fraud is always a possibility. By re-evaluating claims and pharmacy services, you can identify whether you’re losing money to inaccuracies or even wrongdoing. Regarding pharmacy benefits, as the old saying goes, “Everything is negotiable.” The next time your pharmacy coverage contract comes up for renewal, explore whether your existing vendor can give you a better deal and, if not, whether one of its competitors is a better fit. 

It’s doable … really Cost containment for health care benefits may seem like a Sisyphean task — that is, one both laborious and futile. But it’s not: Many businesses find ways to lower costs by streamlining benefits to eliminate wasteful spending and better fit employees’ needs.  

Could your business benefit from interim financial reporting?

Could your business benefit from interim financial reporting?

When many business owners see the term “financial reporting,” they immediately think of their year-end financial statements. And, indeed, properly prepared financial statements generated at least once a year are critical.

But engaging in other types of financial reporting more frequently may help your company stay better attuned to the nuances of running a business in today’s inflationary and competitive environment.

Spot trends and trouble

Just how often your company should engage in what’s often referred to as “interim” financial reporting depends on factors such as its size, industry and operational complexity. Nevertheless, monthly, quarterly and midyear financial reports can enable you to spot trends and get early warnings of potential trouble.

For example, you might compare year-to-date revenue for 2023 against your annual budget. If your business isn’t growing or achieving its goals, find out why. Perhaps you need to provide additional sales incentives or change your marketing strategy.

It’s also important to more closely track costs in light of the current level of inflation. If your business is starting to lose money, you might need to consider raising prices or cutting discretionary spending. You could, for instance, temporarily scale back on your hours of operation, reduce travel expenses or implement a hiring freeze.

Your balance sheet is important as well. Reviewing major categories of assets and liabilities can help you detect working capital problems before they spiral out of control. For example, a buildup of accounts receivable could signal troubles with collections. A low stock of key inventory items may foreshadow delayed shipments and customer complaints, signaling an urgent need to find alternative suppliers. Or, if your company is drawing heavily on its line of credit, your operations might not be generating sufficient cash flow.

Don’t panic

If interim financial reports do uncover inconsistencies, they may not indicate a major crisis. Some anomalies might be attributable to more informal accounting practices that are common during the calendar year. Typically, either your accounting staff or CPA can correct these items before year-end financial statements are issued.

For instance, some controllers might liberally interpret period “cutoffs” or use subjective estimates for certain account balances and expenses. In addition, interim financial reports typically exclude costly year-end expenses, such as profit sharing and shareholder bonuses. The interim reports, therefore, tend to paint a rosier picture of a company’s performance than its full year-end financial statements.

Furthermore, many companies perform time-consuming physical inventory counts exclusively at year end. So, the inventory amount shown on the interim balance sheet might be based solely on computer inventory schedules or, in some instances, management’s estimate using historic gross margins.

Similarly, accounts receivable may be overstated because overworked finance managers might lack the time or personnel to adequately evaluate whether the interim balance contains any bad debts.

Glean more insights

Many business owners have had an “aha moment” or two when studying their year-end financial statements. Why not glean those insights more often? We can help you decide how frequently to engage in interim financial reporting and assist you in designing the reports that provide the information you need.