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August 19, 2018

CFOs for Hite

Part-Time Professionals

Not every business can afford a CFO full time, but many need a CFO's services to help their businesses grow.

Barbara Miracle | 7/1/2005
Remember Y2K? Peninsula Engineering President and CEO John Elsea remembers that period well because he faced the challenge of running a growing firm and dealing with the financial uncertainty of Y2K. He hired a full-time operations manager, but that didn't work out. So Elsea turned to Shannon Brouillette for help.SHANNON BROUILLETTE

Age: 33

College: University of Florida

Family: Husband, Chris; two children, Hayden, 4, and Wyatt, 3

Hobby: Family shares a passion for fishing, fly-fishing and being on the coastal waters of Florida.

Experience: Member of KPMG Peat Marwick's audit team; commercial lending officer for United American Bank and later Colonial Bank

Biggest mistake clients make: "Many clients get caught in the day-to-day operation of the business and lose sight of the bigger picture -- specifically as it relates to the financial vision for the company."

Brouillette is president of Orlando's CFO Strategic Partners, one of only a few firms that specialize in providing part-time CFOs on an hourly basis. After working at KPMG Peat Marwick and an Orlando bank, Brouillette launched the firm in 1999 and signed Peninsula Engineering in Orlando as her first client. Today, CFO Strategic Partners has 200 clients, primarily businesses with between $1 million and $50 million in sales. They pay $150 an hour to work with one of Strategic Partners' 16 CFOs, all CPAs with industry and public accounting experience.

Leigh Ann Horton, former tax manager for Hard Rock Café International, joined the firm in 2000 as vice president. CFO Strategic Partners has offices in Orlando, Tampa and Atlanta and has just launched a franchise program focusing on the Southeast U.S.

Mario Iezzoni, a certified business analyst with the University of South Florida's Small Business Development Center in Tampa, says that businesses often need more than just financial skills; they need industry and financial contacts. "What keeps a business small," he says, "is they don't have that lifelong knowledge of the market." Brandon Silkey, a CFO who works with CFO Strategic Partners, concurs, noting that a key focus of his work with clients is building relationships with area banks. "We know what the banks are looking for," he says.

The website of CFO magazine includes financial news, webcasts, events, a career center and links to stories in the print publication. There's also a blog that addresses timely financial data and reports.

Florida Small Business Development Center Network
CFO Strategic Partners
Tatum Partners

Tatum Partners, an Atlanta-based firm with 400 partners nationwide and 36 in Florida, also provides part-time CFOs as well as professional services for special projects, including financing, restructuring and technology solutions. Mary Wood, managing partner for Tatum in south Florida, says much of the work is project related, but Tatum can serve as the CFO if the need arises. Overall, she says, "we look for ways that provide solutions for companies going through a transition."

There are also low-cost and no-cost options for businesses that need financial help. Iezzoni says that in addition to the counseling offered by Florida's Small Business Development Centers, many business owners could benefit from the services of SCORE, a non-profit network of retired and working volunteers who offer free, confidential advice to businesses through 389 offices nationwide. Although SCORE volunteers may not actually serve as part-time CFOs, they frequently advise businesses on an ongoing basis.

Although every client's needs are unique, Brouillette's work with Elsea is a good example of how the relationship between an owner and a part-time CFO working on a regular basis works. For the first few months, she worked with Peninsula Engineering full time, helping Elsea implement the new Y2K-compliant project management system. That system and Brouillette's implementation of new reports gave Peninsula the tools to see where it was making money and where it was losing it. "We discovered how much money we were leaving on the table," Elsea says.

Next up was putting together a budget, analysis of the data and working to get the firm's vendor relationships under control. "She did a lot of coaching with me," says Elsea, who adds that Brouillette also worked closely with Peninsula Engineering's staff, which now handles much of the day-to-day financial work. He adds, "Our overall profit has gone up dramatically."

Six years later, Brouillette is still working with Peninsula, which now has 37 full-time employees, but on a much more limited basis. Elsea has no plans to hire a full-time CFO or operations manager. He's happy with things just the way they are, calling his work with CFO Strategic Partners "sleep insurance."

The 2005 average salary range for a CFO nationwide for companies with up to $50 million in sales is $84,500 to $111,000, according to Robert Half Finance & Accounting's "2005 Salary Guide." In Miami, the range is $94,640 to $124,320.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Business Services, Entrepreneur

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