When Nothing Changes

In my work as an on-demand CFO, I spend much time with entrepreneurs whose companies have come into transitional times. Sometimes they’ve run out of cash, or soon will. Some grew revenue 100% over last year and expect to do the same this year. Some need to restructure operations. Many of my clients are expanding into the US, Mexico and Canada and want to operate into in these markets unburdened by differences in rules and regulations.

Regardless of the source of the challenges, these executives share a common trait.

They have identified the need for an outsider (me) to work within their companies to recognize and remove the issues impeding their progress. They seek a change in the trajectory of their organizations.

These founders want for something different.

Change Requires… Change

The standard board slides for a CFO of a VC-backed company generally includes trend lines of one measure or another. Cash, revenue, expense, deferred revenue, bookings, etc.

About eight years ago, I had particular one board member who consistently asked me why the slope of the line changed on every single graph I presented.

No matter what the slide was, he always asked me this question.

What he really wanted to know was if I could explain to him what had changed in the business. He knew that the slope of the line changed because something caused it to change. Something different happened.

He (rightly) expected his CFO to be able to explain to the VC what had changed in the business that resulted in a change in the organization’s performance.

He demonstrated a fundamental understanding that change itself was caused only by change. He was looking to me, as the CFO to appreciate that I also understood that.

What You Are is What You Get

I am nearly always brought in by a Founder or a CXO who wants to work through difficult business challenges. Through the lens of an experienced CFO, I work with leadership to carve a path through uncertainty.

The differences between those entrepreneurs who manage well through the change, and those who stumble, lay in their expectation of what would bring them success.

The founders who thrive during this quite intense and stressful time appreciate that change starts with them. These entrepreneurs acknowledge that while I am the catalyst for change, I am not the change.

While that board member expected me to understand and explain the changes in the business, I expect the entrepreneurs I work with to be the change in the business.

Uniquely positioned, I see if any change occurs because I am responsible for explaining the change in the slope of the line.  Hiring me alone does not change the slope of the line. Real hard messy work does.

As the saying goes, if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got. On-demand CFOs not withstanding.