In a recent engagement with a CFO teetering on the brink of resignation, Vaco witnessed the immense pressures these executives face when balancing their workload with trying to fill business-critical positions on their teams.
Investor meetings, long-term strategizing, data extraction, budgeting and other imperatives consume the day-to-day of most CFOs, and it leaves little room to contemplate permanent hires. In the case of one CFO, they were debating between hiring a director of finance and a senior financial analyst. Feeling the strain and lacking clarity on the appropriate level of experience needed, the CFO reached out to Vaco.
Our recommendation leaned towards engaging a consultant. The rationale was clear: bring in a hands-on professional capable of alleviating the workload and affording the CFO time and focus to determine what skills would be needed for a permanent hire.
After hiring an interim senior financial analyst, the CFO gained valuable insights: they knew after a few months and a job well-done by the interim analyst that they needed a director of finance. The clarity the consultant provided, a level of clarity that interviewing candidates at varying levels for a permanent role would not have offered, meant the CFO got work done while evaluating exactly what they needed.
Bottom line: consultants are invaluable; they save money, time and bolster organizational culture.
Consultants save organizations money
Hiring a consultant involves a higher upfront cost but outweighs the financial burden of a mis-hire, which incurs substantial pre- and post-onboarding expenses for an inadequate permanent employee. Consultants, with their expertise, mitigate critical errors and ensure the successful completion of day-to-day imperatives as well as pivotal projects, like IPOs and system implementations. They can usually start quickly and provide immediate relief to an organization.
Financially, though consultants have higher short-term rates compared to using existing employees or making long-term hires, their engagement minimizes risks associated with quiet hiring and making incorrect permanent hires. Moreover, consultants expedite specialized projects, saving time and avoiding the extensive training (and cost) of existing staff, especially in areas tied to new regulation or that involve intricate implementation knowledge, like revenue recognition under ASC 606.
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Consultants save organizations time
Consultants are a strategic remedy for time-sensitive scenarios, such as a series-A startup CEO urgently seeking funding. Opting for a permanent CFO hire isn’t ideal due to the short-term nature of the requirement, and the standard CFO recruitment process can take up to 4-6 months. Engaging an interim CFO enables swift assumption of financial responsibilities, offering immediate relief to the CEO focused on fundraising. Simultaneously, a parallel search for a permanent CFO aligned with the company’s future growth trajectory can be pursued, ensuring that immediate needs are met without compromising the long-term vision of the company.
Consultants efficiently handle backlogged work and provide additional support to specialized project teams. They can seamlessly integrate into ongoing projects while a permanent hire is in progress, and in some instances, may transition into full-time roles within the organization—referred to as a contract-to-hire arrangement.
In time-sensitive situations, which are often the case, leveraging consultants is smart for business, for the workforce and for the work at hand.
Consultants save company culture
Prioritizing the emotional well-being of your employees is paramount, particularly in the current job market where hiring competition is fierce. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 300,000 U.S.-based accountants and auditors left their jobs in the past two years, marking a 17% decline.
With the current labor shortage and reduced enrollment in college accounting programs, organizations must get creative and stay vigilant in how they attract and retain this population of their workforce. Mental health has rightfully gained substantial attention in recent years, but the focus on employee emotional health is now even more critical. In this competitive landscape, organizations risk losing talent to companies that prioritize emotional well-being and avoid overburdening their workforce.
Overworking poses a serious threat to organizational culture and employee retention. The strain of excessive work hours, coupled with additional projects, can drive valuable team members away and foster a culture of frustration and fatigue. But by engaging consultants, organizations alleviate this burden on their teams, providing them with the necessary resources to excel in their roles without subjecting them to relentless work hours. Hiring a consultant demonstrates your commitment to your team’s well-being and will pay off in the form of strong retention rates and an engaged workforce that produces good results and contributes to an overall positive working environment.
Consultants also offer a valuable opportunity to carefully select a permanent hire who aligns with the company’s culture and positively impacts the organization.
In closing: consultants are worth the investment
While hiring consultants may initially incur a higher cost, it’s a strategic investment. The premium you pay is for their expertise and the flexibility that comes with short-term engagements. What’s notable is that you save on the costs and time associated with managing, training and developing these professionals. Additionally, you bypass overhead expenses like payroll, healthcare and insurance.
Though the short-term rates for consultants may seem higher, it’s far from the financial commitment of a full-time employee. Considering the significant positive impact a consultant can bring to your company, including preserving your culture, optimizing your time, and ultimately saving costs, the investment often proves to be a wise and worthwhile decision.
About Amy Hann Walker
Amy Hann Walker co-founded BVOH Search & Consulting in 2004, which was acquired by Vaco in 2022, where she now leverages her long-term relationships with finance leaders at companies throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She advises clients on securing top talent for permanent positions and helps to efficiently onboard consultants for short-term and project-based needs.