What Makes a Great CFO

January 24, 2023 Mimi Torrington

business professional thinking about what makes a great cfo - technological background

As CFO, you are responsible for managing the organization's financial operations. You’ve got to be able to develop and implement strategies that will help your company achieve its financial goals. You might think your only role is dealing with the numbers, but that’s far from the truth. For Chris Ortega, the role of a modern CFO expands beyond finance and accounting. He joins Megan to share what makes a great CFO.

Chris is the CEO of Fresh FP&A, a consultancy organization focused on finance transformation and scale solutions for businesses. He is a dynamic and empathetic financial leader with extensive experience in finance, accounting, FP&A, strategic planning and financial leadership. Before starting Fresh FP&A, Chris was the VP of Finance at Unsupervised and Emarsys, FP&A Manager at WebLink International, Senior Financial Analyst at Covance, Accounting Manager at ChaCha and Senior Auditor at Ernst & Young.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately get results. With your host, Megan Weis. Let's jump right in.

Megan - 00:00:31: Today my guest is Chris Ortega. Chris has over 17 years of experience in accounting, finance, FP&A, and fractional CFO leadership around finance, transformation, and scale for seed-to-enterprise companies. Today, Chris Ortega is the CEO of Fresh FP&A. Fresh FP&A is a consultancy focused on finance, transformation, and scale solutions for businesses. Their experts have extensive experience in finance, accounting, financial planning and analysis, strategic planning, and CFO leadership. They're experts in resolving problems, providing strategic options, and detail-oriented self-starters with great analytical and leadership skills. Overall, Fresh FP&A helps businesses transform and scale their finance organization by providing fractional CFO and advisory services.

Megan - 00:01:24: Chris, thank you very much for joining me on today's show.

Chris - 00:01:27: Thank you, Megan. Thank you for the opportunity. Looking forward to our discussion.

Megan - 00:01:30: Yeah. Today we'll be hearing your story and talking about your role as a CEO, and we'll also be discussing your current organization and how you guys helped your clients transform and scale. And I'm really looking forward to learning from you. So let's get started.

Chris - 00:01:45: Awesome.

Megan - 00:01:46: First and as always, let's start with you and your story and how you got to where you are today.

Chris - 00:01:53: Yeah. So, born and raised here in Indianapolis, Indiana. I'm a diehard Hoosier fan. If you cut me right now… shout out to my Indiana Hoosiers. But yeah, professionally I spent most of like I have 17-plus years in accounting, corporate accounting, finance, FP&A, and financial leadership experience, primarily in high-growth staff businesses. So from seed startup scale up to enterprise level companies. Earlier this year, after an exit through SAP, I had the opportunity to lead an international marketing platform company all the way through the acquisition of SAPs, which was a really great experience. And then I found myself in my career where I felt like there needed to be a fresh perspective on finance. There needed to be something fresh brought to the office of the CFO. So earlier this year, I started Fresh FP&A, which is a consultancy that helps organizations transform and scale their finance organization by providing factual CFO and consulting services. So been doing that and yeah, here in Indianapolis, Indiana, I have a twin sister. Another unique fact about me for all the listeners, that I used to be an amateur boxer. I did fight profession, I did fight competitively for about five years. Awesome experience. So that's a little bit about me, where I'm from, my professional career, and some unique facts about myself.

Megan - 00:03:14: Yeah, you have great energy. I'm sure that helps in working in a startup environment.

Chris - 00:03:20: For sure.

Megan - 00:03:22: So what was the impetus behind creating Fresh FP&A? What were the needs out there that you recognized needed to be filled?

Chris - 00:03:31: Yes. So when I started Fresh FP&A earlier this year, right like I said, I feel like there needed to be a fresh perspective. When I look back over my 17-plus years in accounting, finance, FP&A, and financial leadership, I've helped organizations. I've seen all the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. And I felt like I was like, man, I know the playbook, I know how to build, I know how to transform, I know how to scale, I know how to take an organization from seed all the way to an enterprise level company all the way through acquisition. And I felt like there needed to be a fresh perspective on how to be able to do that. So that's why I started Fresh FP&A. And we get to work with a lot of different organizations in the fractional CFO capacity. I get a great opportunity to work with a lot of different clients and actually build roadmaps around financial transformation. Oddly enough, Megan, I was on a global panel with 65 different CFOs about a month and a half ago, and I asked them, what is financial transformation? And of those 65 CFOs, I got 57 different answers. So there's obviously not a clear definition of what financial transformation is. And that's where Fresh FP&A, we help break down the entire vision, strategy, tactics, metrics, and milestones that organizations need in the next 6, 8, 12, and 18 months to demystify and actually get them on the road of financial transformation. So that's why I started Fresh FP&A, and those are the kind of clients we serve. Yeah.

Megan - 00:05:02: So who is your ideal client and how do they know they need a transformation?

Chris - 00:05:08: Yeah. So I think one of the things that my ideal client, right, is any of those high growth businesses, whether it's in SaaS, whether it's in renewables, technology, any one of those organizations that are looking for that financial leadership that batteries included somewhere, some organization and experts that have been there, done that, which I think is hugely important. And obviously, when you look at the market right now, the fractional role itself, whether you're a fractional CRO, whether you're a fractional marketing officer, whether you're a fractional CFO, there are huge opportunities for organizations to bring in that skill set, mindset, that experience to help them actually grow and scale a lot of those different functions. For me, it's particularly the finance organization. And why financial transformation is so important for organizations is I think a lot of organizations think financial transformation is just going to go get technology and technology is going to solve all their problems. We're really just not that. And at Fresh FP&A, we actually break down the financial transformation into six key pillars. Both of them are, those key pillars are split into the foundation and scaling pillars. The foundational pillars are people process partnerships. The scaling pillars are platform performance and profit. So what we do is we work with organizations around those six key pillars and help them around each key pillar develop the vision, the strategy, the tactics, the milestones, and the metrics that they need to measure to ultimately drive financial transformation inside their organization. So back to the question I mentioned earlier. We help those CFOs help put the plans in place to actually demystify and answer those financial transformation questions.

Megan - 00:06:55: And when a client comes to you, what's the first question that you ask them?

Chris - 00:07:00: The first question I ask them is, I want to get a gauge of what is their value proposition to their organization. The reason why I start with that question, right, is I want to understand. Because at the end of the day, right, we can dive into the financials. I can start looking at their balance sheet, and income statement, but ultimately, I want to get the vision of that finance organization of what they want to bring to the business.

Megan - 00:07:23: Right.

Chris - 00:07:23: So I usually ask them, I usually ask like, hey, if you were to ask your CEO if you were to ask your board of directors if you were to ask your leadership team what is the value of your finance organization, what are they going to say? Right? A lot of times I get clients that tell me, well, hey, Chris, we're great at getting the numbers, or I think we provide a lot of value around forecasting. Ultimately, what I'm trying to get them to say and the value to bring to that organization is that there's not a business decision that the organization makes that they don't go seek to consult and advise from their finance team. So to me, that's one of the first questions I ask around the organization. The second question I ask is like, what does financial transformation look like to them? How does that feel? How does that look, how does that change the composition of their team? How does that change their processes? How does that develop the partnerships that they need? How does that look for the technologies that they have? So really help them think about financial transformation at a strategic level and what is the value that financial transformation is going to bring to the organization. Those are typically the first two questions I ask clients and prospects.

Megan - 00:08:34: And for a finance and accounting department out there, that's not the center of the organization, that isn't getting asked to be part of those bigger strategic decisions, what's your advice for, I guess, pulling up a seat to that table and getting to play a part in that decision-making process rather than just being the person that collects those numbers?

Chris - 00:09:02: Yeah, Megan, you'd be surprised. I get this question all the time. And my first piece of advice for those accounting finance FP&A, maybe CFOs that want a seat at that table, is two things. The first one is go develop great relationships with the business. Right. To me, if you want to see it at that table, the business has to trust you and know that you're competent in it. Right. So go build those relationships which I think are built on those two core pillars which are trust and competencies. First, I'll start there. The second, find a way inside the business to turn their business pain into productivity. When I look back over my experience, right, it was never me coming in and saying, hey, I developed this great model that's going to give you insights into your metrics and show us how we can drive more revenue. Right. Organizations and the business are not going to understand that. Right. Go into, go deeply, build those relationships, turn pain into productivity and learn the business. If you want to see at the table with the business, go learn, go learn, go listen, and go support and serve the business. Too many times, I think a lot of finance organizations and professionals find themselves in that score-keeping value because that's all they're bringing to the business. They're bringing the score they're bringing. We had a budget of five widgets and we did four widgets. Right? That's a common stake. The business isn't looking for a finance organization. For them, the key score, they want you to be a valued advisor. So for me, those are some quick steps that you can go take now to go get that seat at the table.

Megan - 00:10:43: That's great advice. So what's been your biggest success story at Fresh FP&A to date?

Chris - 00:10:49: Man, there are so many. And I think what boils down to me is the success stories I see with my clients, right? This may sound counterintuitive, but I established myself and our team establishes themselves at Fresh FP&A by being a partner in the journey with our clients. Right? Also, at the end of the day, I want to enable and I want to empower the clients that we get to work with that they are able to lead financial transformation on their own or like, they are able to go bring in a best-in-class CFO to help navigate their organization. Right? So I would say probably my biggest success story is actually seeing clients that say, Chris, thank you for empowering us. Thank you for enabling us to take a more modern-based approach to our finance organization. That way we can go scale. I think another thing that I get really excited about is, like, serving the global finance FP&A CFO community. I get a lot of people that reach out to me and say, Chris, man, thank you so much for your knowledge and your inspiration to help me, like, become a better financial professional. So I think my biggest wins always come from my clients and the professionals I get to serve on a daily basis.

Megan - 00:12:05: And talk to me about how your background and finances help prepare you for a role as CEO.

Chris - 00:12:14: I would say it probably that's a good question. I never got asked that before. I think for me.

Megan - 00:12:21: I'm always eager to hear that.

Chris - 00:12:24: I can tell you how my life prepared me to be a CEO. That's perfect. Actually, the CEO is my initials. Those are literally. And I remember when I was seven years old and my mom sat down with me and she said, Bunny, that's what my mom calls me. So for all the listeners, you can make fun of me, right? My mom calls me Bunny. Yes. She sat down with me and she said, Bunny, do you know what your initials mean? And I was like, I don't know what my initials mean. My mom said, Bunny, your initials are the highest level that you can reach in business. And I remember going back to her and saying, oh, mom, that means I'm a fireman. I'm a fireman in business? She's like, yes, you're going to be the fireman in the business. So I think for me, growing up, I've always had this, aspiration of one day, being the CEO of my own organization or another organization. And I think throughout my career, I've always been a very strategic-thinking finance person, right? Then this is going back even to when I was an auditor at Ernst & Young, to where I was a controller and staff accountant at a high growth SaaS business, to where I was a manager FP&A to I think every different level. I've always liked, how can I serve the business, how can I help the business think more strategically, and how can I help the organization use my skills, passions, talents, and experience to build them and help them achieve greatness. So I think for me, I don't necessarily think that my finance, I think my finance career has supplemented me being a CEO along with just that personal motivation since I was young to reach the highest levels in business. So I think it's been a combination of both. But I love that question.

Megan - 00:14:06: Was that intentional on your parent's part?

Chris - 00:14:09: I don't know, man. I have a twin sister and her initials are BLO. So there's nothing in business around that. But for me, I think my mom it's always something I look back on in my personal life, and just, I think for me, reaching the level of success, and this is for all those listeners to think about, right? I've always looked at, no matter what level of success I reach, it is my responsibility to go bring up the next group of people. Right? I have great mentors in my life, great resources, and great people that I look up to, and they've done that for me. So I think that one of the biggest hats that I wear is representing the finance accounting FP&A space with the background, being a minority, is coming from a very modest upbringing, I think it's very important to me. So I think my professional career, my personal life, and just this overall North Star for me in my life are all areas and avenues that really accelerated me to be CEO.

Megan - 00:15:13: And, you provide fractional CFO services. So talk to us about the benefit of getting a fractional CFO on board in an early-stage organization.

Chris - 00:15:22: Yeah, this is huge. So when I look back over my experience, right, I think one of the macro things that you're starting to see with a lot of organizations is they're starting to pull a little tighter on the personnel side, but they're starting to forgo hiring a new position. They're starting to, unfortunately, a lot of organizations are going through layoffs at the moment right now, which is unfortunate. But the thing about it is these businesses still need that expertise. They still need those people that have been there, done that, and seen the fountain tops, particularly in the finance organization. So for me, it's actually a win-win for the business because I've been able to go from organizations to where seed all the way up to enterprise levels. I've seen it through acquisitions, I've led fundraising, I've done all these different things. And I'm able to provide what I consider and my team considers the batteries included. Right. Like, we come already with the experience, we come with already building out. And I think it's so important for early-stage companies to realize and build those foundations first. Then you get to series C and you're bringing finance in-house because you had it externally. You don't have the people, you don't have the processes, you don't have the partnerships, you don't have the platforms, you don't have the culture of high performance, and you don't have those profit optimization strategies in place. You haven't built the foundations yet. That gets a lot more difficult as you begin to scale. So organizations that are still looking for that horsepower, still looking for those people that have that experience, that mindset, and go through a lot of different use cases, that's hugely valuable. And also when you look at it from the cost side right? You're getting all of that experience, that expertise, and that knowledge, at a fraction of the cost of the time, energy, and effort it would take to hire that role in-house. Right. Like when you look at hiring a CFO and the amount of recruiting dollars that go into it, the amount of investment that goes into it, and the learning curve that goes into it, it takes a year time before that. CFO is probably super productive versus bringing in those fractional resources, not only in the office of the CFO, but in marketing and sales, and client success, in operations. You're able to get people for a fraction of the cost, but you're getting that expertise. So to me, I think it's a win-win for early-stage businesses all the way up to enterprise-level companies.

Megan - 00:17:47: Yeah, you lay out a very good argument for one. So throughout your career, and as you look back and you sound like you are one yourself, what makes a great finance leader?

Chris - 00:17:59: I think what makes a great finance leader is two things. The first one is putting people before profits. Yes, you just heard a CFO say we need to put people before profits 100%. When I look back over my career, as I advise my clients right now, there's a more modern way that we need to be thinking about. And if the pandemic and the great recession, the great recovery, whatever you want to call it, CFOs have a golden opportunity to think about the people. People are our number one asset in every organization. But when you look at it from a traditional CFO perspective, it's one of the first places they go to make numbers look better. To me, that needs to be reversed, right? We need to be looking at policies and procedures and processes. People need to be the last thing that we think about in terms of optimizing our role and moving it forward. So I think that's number one. The second thing is, and this is my golden secret and I'm sharing with everybody, this is like, I've always been a salesperson that loves finance, right? So for me, having that internal sales mindset, that partnership, that collaboration, that connection, that bringing along people along the journey, I've always looked at that as a superpower for me. So I think obviously putting people before profits, really taking that empathetic, data-driven approach to the finance organization and then also being a great sales partner to the organization, like having that sales kind of mindset, having that collaboration. That connection, that ability to be able to tell a story, I think those, to me, if I was to look at amongst all these skill sets that I have, those to me, I think, will be my superpowers.

Megan - 00:19:46: That's awesome. So as you look out into the near future, let's say the next year or so, what are some tactical mistakes that are out there that CFOs should be on the lookout for?

Chris - 00:20:02: Great. The top one off the top of my head, technology is not going to solve all your problems. So many CFOs, so many people I talk with, they think they're going to go get a tool and it's going to solve all their problems. No, that is a fundamental fallacy. The second thing that I think is a mistake a lot of CFOs make when you're looking at trying to reduce costs, you're looking at trying to optimize your cash flow, your spending. There are so many other greenfield opportunities around that you could be looking at to optimize your spending, not just the people. So I would go look at how you're optimizing your marketing spend, how you're managing your sad spend, how you're looking at negotiating your contracts, how you're looking at your collections processes, right? Like, how are you looking at a lot of other more strategic-level initiatives besides just going to go cut people? So I see that time and time again when cash burns, people are the first place that they go. They don't even look at all these other opportunities they have to make really significant impacts. They just go straight to the people. I think the third mistake think CFO should make going into the next year is not getting and deeply, intimately understanding their business. Right. It's surprising when I ask CFOs, like, hey, tell me your ideal customer profile and how you make money, and they're just like, what are you talking about? I'm like, you got to know your business. Who is your ideal customer? What do they look like? What is that whole composition? I think CFOs need to get out into the business and we need to change what that role is. Right. We definitely need to keep our financial acumen. We need to keep discipline. We need to make sure we're being good stewards of the company's resources. But we have a huge opportunity to go inside the business, go learn the pain that it is to be a CMO in an ever-changing market. To connect and collaborate with your CTOs, and your CIOs. We need to be that spoke of the wheel that branches out inside the organization. So, for me, I think those are three common pitfalls that a lot of CFOs need to leave in 2022 and we need to level up in 2023.

Megan - 00:22:15: That's very good advice and yeah, your last comment. I think every CFO should have to spend some time on the floor or facing customers or something to really understand people at the lowest levels and the customer and what it is they're looking for.

Chris - 00:22:34: Exactly. CFOs need to know with them what's in it for me across the entire organization. When you're able to know that and you're able that's how you build relationships, you're able to listen to that salesperson. Right. Like, one of the most underestimated skill sets that a CFO can have is listening. Go listen, don't react, listen to the business.

Megan - 00:22:55: Yeah. Hard to do for some people. So talk to me about how finance leaders and maybe you've touched on this a bit, but how can ensure that they're going beyond the numbers and they're contributing to the strategic direction of their organization.

Chris - 00:23:12: Yeah. This is something I struggle with even as the CEO of Fresh FP&A right. Balancing the time, energy, effort, and resources that I'm spending on strategic versus tactical. Right. I think one immediate hack that I can give people is, like, look at your time. Right. Sometimes what I do is I take a month and I'll keep really detailed track of the time that I'm doing. Right. Maybe I spend a week out of a month where I'm like, all right, I'm going to do sample sizes of how I'm balancing my strategy and tactical execution. Right. Another piece of advice I can give to people as they're managing right, is, like, learn to delegate. There are so many times where I'm like, yeah, I know, like 60, 70% of it but it's the time, energy, and effort and resources it would take to go get that other 20% to 30% knowledge when I can just bring on a fractional partner to help me with that. Right. I can go bring in a great marketing person to help me think strategically about the marketing side of my business. I can help bring in a great business development person that can give me the strategic mindset that I'm missing around the business development side. So I think, like, making sure you're balancing the time, energy, and effort, quantifying that, and then also taking the time out to say, man, I'm too much into this. I need to delegate. I need to find a way to delegate these resources out, whether it's temporary resources, whether it's contracted resources, or maybe it's full-time resources that you need. I think the third piece of advice as well, too, to get out of that mundane tactical piece of it is to understand those blockers. Right. And a lot of times you may be doing something that's not really providing value to the business. Right. You may be doing a tactical process. That was always one of those we always did it this way or we've been doing it this way for 20 or 30 years kind of thing. Challenge the status quo. I think that's really, like, what is the value that we're getting out of this? How is this helping make me a better business partner? How is this making us a better strategic organization and challenging the status quo? So for me, I think those would be the top three things to get you out of that tactical and get you rebalanced on that strategic side of your business.

Megan - 00:25:23: And you studied accounting and finance. You have an MBA in corporate finance. So tell us, what about the CFO role can you not learn through an advanced degree or in a book?

Chris - 00:25:37: I would say probably about 60% to 70% of it now. 100%. Right. I can tell you, like, a great example, of one of the most important superpowers for any finance professional in the future. Great storytellers, right? When I look back over my elementary school or maybe elementary school, I tell good stories in elementary school. But when I look back in, like, undergrad my MBA, when I look about the CPA exam, there wasn't a section or a class that said how to be a great storyteller. Right? Yeah. And another one is like, communication. Right. I took communication classes on how to write demos in college, but I didn't get tested on that. The CPA exam, it told me how to write a good, audit opinion. But I never used that before. Right. And I get this question a lot from my community of people that I help serve a lot of what is needed and what the business demands out of the office of the CFO. You're never taught in school. It's not going to be on the CPA, CMA, or started accounting exam, you're not going to learn those things, right? You've got to get into business and go practice those things, right? Like when I look and see how I became a great storyteller, how I became a great communicator, how I was able to take complexity and turn that into clear, concise conclusions for the business, how I was able to build my business acumen, how I was able to speak the business's language. I never learned that in school or in exams. I had to go do it. So step outside your comfort zone and go find those I call them MVPs, minimum viable projects that you can go do to go flex and exercise those new skills, right? Because at the end of the day, the business is not looking for the office of the CFO to be a great number of people, right? That time is gone. That phase is over with, right? We need and the business is expecting us to be great communicators, to be great collaborators, build community, and build connections inside the business. That is the new benchmark that the business has set for CFOs of the future. So where you can find those resources, there are great books to read, there are conferences to go to which are great supplemental knowledge. But the best way that you're going to learn those skills, you got to go do it. Step into your comfort zone, and go find those MVPs.

Megan - 00:28:09: And let's go back to the beginning of your career. So talk to us about how your first role in audit at Ernst & Young set you up for the remainder of your career. Or didn't.

Chris - 00:28:18: So, shout out to everybody. Yeah, shout out to everybody that's been in public accounting. That's a long time ago for me. But for me, one of the things I loved about being in public accounting was the audit practice. So typically when you go to public accounting, you go one of two lanes. You're either taxing it or your audit. I was an auditor. I was a Marine. This is the one we used to call it. The tax was more like special people and the audit was like you had an army of people. So you were a Marine in one of the big four. But one of the things that taught me the most is I loved actually the Sarbanes-Oxley test of controls, walking through, and really learning the processes of a business. So I got the opportunity to work with a lot of Fortune 500 companies here in Indianapolis. One of them specifically was Eli Lilly. And I got to spend an entire summer doing the test of controls walk-throughs. And that's where I understood these are the skeletal frameworks of billion-dollar businesses. All of them are built on processes. All of them are built with people. All of them are built on the partnership that you build inside of it. So for me, it was really almost like being behind the curtain, like almost. The odds, like the odds, affect business. Because I'm learning the processes that are driving a billion dollar organization and I'm learning them at a very detailed level. So very taking that process-based approach, that people-based approach, that partnership-based approach early in my career. I didn't know this at the time, but that was how I was building the foundation of financial transformation. Had to learn the people, had to know the processes, had to develop the partnerships. So I think Ernst & Young was probably like the catalyst for me building out those six pillars and really understanding those frameworks around financial transformation. So it's funny, Ernst & Young was like the foundation pillar of me building the foundation pillar for financial transformation. That was good.

Megan - 00:30:20: And what advice do you have for other CFOs or aspiring CFOs who are listening today?

Chris - 00:30:26: Yeah. Challenge yourself. So all the advice I'm going to give you right now is not technical, or quantitative. That's table stakes, man. I think my advice, first off, get outside your comfort zone. Learn to find comfort and chaos. Right. When you can develop that kind of clarity and that kind of comfort, when chaos and uncertainties around you, you make yourself incredibly valuable. Number two, and this may be a wild one, but I wake up every day looking to fail. Yeah, I'm going to say that again. I wake up every day and I look to fail. Why do I do that? Why am I recommending people look to fail? Some of the biggest learning and growth moments I've ever had in my personal life and professional life have all come from failure. Like, when I have failed, I have learned and grown and built my confidence the most, right? Because to me, if you start developing a mindset that there are only two options in every situation, you either win or you're going to learn. You only fail if you don't learn. Right. You open yourself up to so much, right? So maybe not everybody taking every day is like, hey, I took Chris's advice and I failed every day. Find opportunities to fail because you're going to learn from those. You're going to get better and you're going to increase your confidence and broaden yourself. And then the third piece, I would recommend CFOs, as we talked about a little bit earlier, go inside the business. Right? The office of the CFO is not just a finance organization. To find opportunities to go be involved in the culture. To find opportunities to be a change agent inside your organization. And this goes along with my third piece of advice. Get comfortable and love the warmth and fuzzies of an organization. Love employee engagement. Love employee attrition. Not love employee attrition, but have the conversation around employee attrition. Be open to being in interviews to meet with people. Right. If CFOs took a more active role in the interviewing process, I think there'd be a lot more value. Right. So go. Be comfortable with those warm and fuzzy, those people sides of your organization. Those would be my top three pieces of advice that I would give to people. Get outside your comfort zone, be comfortable with the warm and fuzzies and continue to develop your value proposition. As I mentioned, I think those would be the three superpowers for CFOs or anybody, any financial professional, right? Like you don't have to be a CFO to start challenging and doing those things. So to me, that would be my advice.

Megan - 00:33:12: And lastly, as a finance leader and entrepreneur, what's keeping you up at night these days?

Chris - 00:33:18: Oh man, I think the number one thing that keeps me up at night right now is man, I love this question. I think the uncertainty. Right now, there's a lot of it, right? And the thing about it is let's break that down. When I say uncertainty, right, there's a lot of uncertainty around the macro environment. So the macro environment I think about that is like the global economy, the global difficulties, the war that's going on. There are a lot of global macro things that are macro things that are happening, but then there's also a lot of micro things that are happening inside of businesses, right? When you look at the level of the VCs, private equity and strategic people shifting away from this growth at all costs to be you got to have a path to profitability, right? When do you look at the macro that's affecting people, specifically around some people, the US economy, right? Like seeking specifically here, right? Like? What is the US economy going to look like in three to six months? So I would say they keep me up at night, but definitely, when I have that hour of reading, it is that hour that I'm having immediate focus before I go to bed. It is something I'm always reading about and preparing myself for because there's a lot of uncertainty that we're facing as business professionals, as finance professionals, and then there's a lot of uncertainty that we're facing just as humans as well too. So I think to me I get over that uncertainty by just educating myself. And also one thing I always say to myself and plan the work and work the plan, keep that on it, and keep on top of those things. A lot of those things are out of your control as well too. So one thing I learned in just my life overall, I'm not going to spend a lot of time, energy, and effort worrying about something that's completely out of my control. I'm going to do everything I can to keep my locus of control and what I can make an impact on. So to me, I think those are the elements of it.

Megan - 00:35:24: Yeah, that's great advice. Chris, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Chris - 00:35:28: Megan, thank you so much for the opportunity, and for everybody listening, if you have any other questions, comments, or clarifications I'm all over LinkedIn. You can just Chris Ortega on LinkedIn. If you want to know more about Fresh FP&A and how we can help transform and scale and support your finance organization, check us out at www.freshfpa.com. And if you have any questions, email me at ceo@freshfpa.com. Happy to answer any questions. Megan, thank you so much for your time and for all your listening. I hope you enjoy your holidays. And 2023 is going to be here. Let's make it count.

Megan - 00:36:04: Yeah, that's awesome. And I wish you and Fresh FP&A all the best as you continue to grow. And to all of our listeners, please tune in next week. And until then, take care of yourselves.

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In this episode, we discuss:

  • A fresh perspective on FP&A

  • Understanding financial transformation

  • The six key pillars of financial transformation

  • How can finance play a part in the decision-making process?

  • The benefits of getting a fractional CFO on board

  • What makes a great financial leader?

  • Tactical mistakes CFOs should be aware of

Key Takeaways

The Six Key Pillars of Financial Transformation

Quote pillars of financial transformation

Chris is the founder of Fresh FP&A, a consultancy that helps organizations transform and scale by providing fractional CFO and advisory services. The Fresh FP&A team breaks down the financial transformation into six pillars. These are people, process, partnership, platform, performance, and profit.

“We work with organizations around those six key pillars and help them develop the vision, strategy, tactics, milestones, around each key pillar, and metrics that they need to measure to ultimately draw financial transformation inside their organizations,”Ortega said. - 04:18 - 06:12

How Can Finance Play a Part in the Decision-Making Process?

Quote Chris Ortega, CEO of Fresh FP&A

If you want to play a part in the decision-making process rather than just being the person that collects numbers, build relationships within the business based on trust and competence. Find ways to turn business pain into productivity.

“If you want to seat at the table with the business, go learn, go listen, go support and serve the business,” Ortega said. - 07:50 - 10:00

The Benefits of Getting a Great Fractional CFO on Board

Quote benefits of a great CFO

Bringing a fractional CFO on board in an early-stage organization provides cost-effective and experienced personnel without hiring for a new position or making layoffs. You're getting a CFO's experience, expertise, and knowledge at a fraction of the cost of the time, energy, and effort it would take to hire that role in-house.

“Bringing a fractional CFO is a win-win for early-stage businesses up to enterprise-level companies,” Ortega said. - 14:29 - 17:04

What Makes a Great CFO

Quote what makes a great CFO

If you want to become a great finance leader, put people before profit, take an empathetic and data-driven approach to the finance function and become a great sales partner to the organization. Learn to collaborate and connect with people and tell good stories.

“People are our number one asset in every organization. But when you look at it from a traditional CFO perspective, it's one of the first places they go to make numbers look better. To me, that needs to be reversed,” Ortega said. - 17:07 - 19:03

Tactical Mistakes CFOs Should be Aware of

Some CFOs rely solely on technology to solve problems and overlook greenfield opportunities when trying to reduce costs, like optimizing marketing, managing SaaS, or negotiating contracts, so they don't reach an intimate understanding of their business.

“CFOs need to get out into the business, and we need to change what that role is. We need to be that spoke of the wheel that branches out inside the organization,” Ortega said. - 19:04 - 21:32

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