In the News: Interview with Bert Martinez on ‘Money for Lunch”
Bert Martinez interviewed Bob Weis on his popular radio talk show “Money For Lunch” delving into the beginnings of CFOs2GO, the unmet needs in the market that led to the company’s founding and rapid growth, and the role that interim CFOs can play in today’s business environment.
BERT MARTINEZ: What was the catalyst to get this thing going?
BOB WEIS: Started in public accounting and went into venture capital. It wasn’t fulfilling the needs I had and observed a market out there in terms of portfolio companies of the VC companies that didn’t have a CFO and didn’t need one on a full time basis. I took a bit of a month or two and came up with a business plan in 1986. There was myself and one other person in the Silicon Valley that was doing it and since then little has changed.
BERT: Sure and what I like is, again we see this all the time in entrepreneurial companies, you observed the market place needed this, there was a problem there for a lot of these small companies, they needed a CFO or CIO but didn’t need them full time. From this problem, you started making this profit; so good idea.
BOB: When it was first getting started I would meet with the outside CPA firms, some of the BIG 4, the ones that were opinion leaders in the market place and they are pretty cynical. But as we actually started to make a difference in the companies by holding a role of CFO and the way we do it a little differently is that we actually have a staffing company, called Accountants2go that staffs the bookkeepers and accountants and all the other line managers, and we actually build a full solution instead of a CFO. So these companies like a VC company, or a small business were organized across practice groups right now and have been for a number of years so when we have a group for just a VC-backed company and we have another one for small businesses, and another one for non-profits. Each one of them has a different type of expertise from the CFO and different kind of staff members that make a difference.
BERT: Let me ask you this, if I’m looking at CFOs2GO, who typically is your typical client?
BOB: Well there are two kinds of clients from my interpretations. One is the kind of person that can anticipate a problem so they can see something they might have an existing business and they know they are going to grow a lot, going to contract some, or they are going into new markets and they can anticipate they are going to need something different or something more than what they currently have. The second kind of individual is one that has to actually experience a financial management breakdown before they can identify that they need some help. If we all abstracted from that statement it and just said it is life, there are some people that can anticipate it and there are some people that have to experience it. There are areas where we can anticipate them and that is the type of client we have. There are some guys that can say we will be growing, I know the accounting system or I know the pricing or the financing or all kinds of things are not going to be the same and they give us a phone call, we will have a conversation, we will build out a strategy and the supporting tactics and everything works. Alternatively we have people that phone us and they say the have a letter from their bank and they want us to leave. So then we have go back in there and have to figure out if there is a way to resuscitate this relationship and build the trust. Others have auditors walking off the job or sometimes there are public companies that are getting d-listed. If you don’t take care of business just like anything else, it won’t take care of you.
BERT: Let me ask you this, when did you asses that you had achieved proof of concept for the company?
BOB: Well there are two events that occurred. One we were involved fairly early on probably in 1986, we were lucky enough to get a company that was on the 100 fastest growing magazine. Initially I started with that company, I was the CFO in CFOs2GO, and so I held the role of a part time CFO but I almost immediately staffed an accounting manager to do all the accounting work and as the company grew I started to build the credit and collections area because that is where it needed it in that particular company. And then I started to build out the other more general accounting areas and then I sat a full time CFO to take over my job. When I left, I went up to the Founder and the CEO and gave him a thank you, and said you really kind of proved how this business — my business- provides a continuum service from where you are very small and only need a part time CFO to a large one and need a full time one.
As I was walking out of the room, he said “Wait a minute you’re not going anywhere. We are going to formalize the Board of Advisors that we informally had while I was there and I want you to lead the strategic planning sessions we do each quarter.” So I stayed on for another two, or three, or four years, with holding only essentially a directorship role and so it gave me a sense of a continuum services and how I can transition myself and others so they are valuable at different points of development for a particular firm. Another firm marking name, he got himself into trouble, these were 30 entertainment companies, and he had not filed tax returns for ten years. Only a person that makes a lot of money is able to stay out of jail when you aren’t filing tax returns. There were 30 different companies that were 10 years behind in tax returns, a family bankruptcy, a stalled computer conversion, a non performing winery, and a studio that wasn’t performing. When I went into there as their CFO for 18 months and build a team out using temporary staff to replace staff that was obviously not performing. Over the course of 18 months I slowly but surely just started to reinvigorate and redirect the company and left and again staffed it with a full time CFO. It showed not only the ability to grow with a company and stay relevant but also showed the ability to expand quickly and then contract quickly and to bring in particular talent at a particular time when you need them. With these 30 companies needing to file 10 years of taxes, instead of going to an outside tax preparer to file all those tax returns, I just brought in a tax person there and we kept of filing all those tax returns. It was an enormous amount of work; it was herculean. So it proved that concept in a different way.
BERT: Out of time…wraps up the show.