United KingdomFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since February 15, 2017
Juba is the founder of angioClast, a Cambridge-based biotech startup focused on cancer research. Before entrepreneurship, Juba was a seasoned CFO with multi-industry experience and worked on projects, ranging from an equity sale of a $150 million telecom company to a $50 million hotel business turnaround. He joined the Toptal network to resolve diverse FP&A, M&A, buyouts, and strategic analysis challenges.
United KingdomFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since December 13, 2019
A Wharton MBA graduate, Carlo has led transactions on $10 billion worth of LBO and growth capital deals. He's worked in investment banking, M&A (Deutsche Bank), management consulting (Bain & Company, Oliver Wyman), and corporate development (Lehman Brothers). Carlo leverages his skills in corporate finance, business strategy, and international business development to help companies scale and deliver value for their investors.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since November 22, 2019
Gary is a serial entrepreneur with CEO and CFO experience. Before co-founding an aerospace startup in 2017, Gary was the director of finance at a $120 million revenue SaaS company, where he was responsible for the financial management of multiple departments and supported three mergers. Gary leverages his unique blend of finance and entrepreneurial experience across early and growth-stage businesses to add value to Toptal clients.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since January 31, 2017
Greg is an experienced finance and corporate development executive. He has led corporate development and finance teams at several technology companies, completing many acquisitions and divestitures. He has worked as a CFO and a consultant for both large public companies and smaller venture-backed businesses specializing in the technology and fintech sectors. Greg joined Toptal to leverage his experiences in finance, M&A, strategy, and business development.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since April 13, 2017
Andy was recognized twice as an All-Star Analyst by the Wall Street Journal. He has been a strategist, operating executive, financier, and top-ranked industry analyst. As a freelancer, Andy advises a range of companies—from early-stage and middle-market to large caps—delivering customized solutions including effective investor presentations, dynamic financial models, and project finance structuring.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since August 29, 2017
Evan is a former investment bank VP offering a simple value prop: better-than-Wall-Street quality documents and advice at a fraction of the price. His work resulted in over $5 billion invested in SMEs by top-tier investors, including a16z, SoftBank, Tiger, and more. He has sat in every seat at the boardroom table as a director, shareholder, executive, and advisor. Evan enjoys helping businesses plan, refine their strategies, prepare for corporate actions, and hone their capital-raising approach.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since July 25, 2017
A Harvard grad with an MBA from Stanford, Peter has served as CFO of three successful companies, led several acquisitions, obtained growth capital, led recapitalization efforts, and led a successful exit for the shareholders. He's also raised $500 million+ for clients as a VP at KeyBanc Capital Markets, a commercial and investment bank. Peter enjoys freelancing to help clients with capital raising, M&A, FP&A, and various CFO-related functions.
AustriaFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since August 31, 2017
Olivia has over a decade of advisory experience, specializing in valuation, financial and business planning, M&A, capital raising, and due diligence. She has advised business owners globally on financial planning and strategy optimization during the fundraising and exit process. Olivia also works with investors for portfolio valuation work, the development of fund models, and due diligence. She is a Certified Valuation Analyst and is specialized in early-stage valuations.
United StatesFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since March 12, 2019
Thomas delivered actionable solutions and insights to multi-billion dollar clients across the tech and software industries as a senior equity research associate at Morgan Stanley. As an entrepreneur, he understands the importance of taking extreme ownership of projects and enjoys working with executives to grow their businesses through financial modeling, competitive market analysis, and creative problem-solving.
SloveniaFreelance Budgeting Consultant Since May 15, 2019
As a CFO, Barbara has led multiple software startups through venture capital fundraises and exits totaling over $25 million. An E&Y trained accountant with 15+ years of experience, Barbara specializes in developing models and presentations, executing operational improvements, and scaling finance teams and processes to support growth. She freelances to leverage her extensive financial skill set and expertise to drive value for Toptal's clients.
A proper budget lays everything out in the open. Every expenditure, investment, and expansion plan is broken down and tallied up. The right budgeting consultant can turn a time-consuming process into a positive experience to refocus a company's strategy. This guide presents the best way to track and test the right skills in top candidates.
... allows corporations to quickly assemble teams that have the right skills for specific projects.
Despite accelerating demand for coders, Toptal prides itself on almost Ivy League-level vetting.
Creating an app for the game
Building a cross-platform app to be used worldwide
Leading a digital transformation
Drilling into real-time data creates an industry game changer
Martin so far is a complete Rockstar.
His first bit of work produced a tool for us to model and forecast our financials and is far and away worth every penny we paid and more.
Just thought I’d share that with you.
Pete Pellizzari, CEO
Erik has been an extremely valuable member of our team who has tremendous breath of experience with start ups in our lifecycle phase. What makes his contribution unique and highly effective is not only his excellent financial modeling skills and knowledge, but also the emotional intelligence with which he manages each relationship at Vault, understands our team dynamics, and helps us tackle start up challenges effectively. It is rare to find a part-time consultant who makes you feel like he/she is genuinely invested in the success of your company.
Romy Parzick, COO
Student Loan Benefits, Inc. dba Vault
Toptal has been an incredible key partner for Sidekick. As an early-stage start-up, we’ve leveraged both design and financial talent. The experience has been incredible, with those professionals bringing creativity, expertise, and advice to ensure Sidekick succeeds. My Toptal financial expert helped steer Sidekick’s business model, which resulted in an initial ROI of 650x! My experience with Toptal has given me great confidence in the future.
Doug MacKay, Founder / CEO
Chris was great to work with and was always available on my schedule. His communication skills and personality were a 10/10. His outputs on the project were top notch and allowed us to develop more efficient forecasting and initiative prioritization frameworks. I would definitely use Chris again.
Chris Pozek, CEO
What really sets Toptal apart is the caliber of finance talent available in their network. I had a very specific and pressing need, and Toptal quickly matched me with the perfect person for the job. The expert produced a thoughtful and robust financial analysis that has ultimately allowed us to forecast and prioritize initiatives much more efficiently.
Chris Pozek, CEO
Scott had a lot of finance experience which he used to ask the right questions and help us do things more quickly than we would have done without him. The commission model is crucial to us being able to scale, he integrated seamlessly with our finance team and efficiently got us the outputs we needed.
Naushad Parpia, Founder and CEO
I was very impressed with the quality of finance talent in Toptal’s network. Our expert's experience was immediately evident through his insightful questions and the speed at which we could move. Toptal stayed on top of the process from making the match through to the successful completion of the project. I've already recommended Toptal Finance to my network.
Naushad Parpia, Founder and CEO
How to Hire Budgeting Consultants through Toptal
Talk to One of Our Industry Experts
A Toptal director of finance will work with you to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics.
Work With Hand-Selected Talent
Within days, we'll introduce you to the right budgeting consultant for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
The Right Fit, Guaranteed
Work with your new budgeting consultant for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.
Find Experts With Related Skills
Access a vast pool of skilled finance experts in our talent network and hire the top 3% within just 48 hours.
At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our budgeting consultants to ensure we only match you with talent of the highest caliber. Of the more than 200,000 people who apply to join the Toptal network each year, fewer than 3% make the cut. You’ll work with finance experts (never generalized recruiters or HR reps) to understand your goals, technical needs, and team dynamics. The end result: expert vetted talent from our network, custom matched to fit your business needs.
Can I hire budgeting consultants in less than 48 hours through Toptal?
Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with a budgeting consultant within 48 hours of signing up.
What is the no-risk trial period for Toptal budgeting consultants?
We make sure that each engagement between you and your budgeting consultant begins with a trial period of up to two weeks. This means that you have time to confirm the engagement will be successful. If you’re completely satisfied with the results, we’ll bill you for the time and continue the engagement for as long as you’d like. If you’re not completely satisfied, you won’t be billed. From there, we can either part ways, or we can provide you with another expert who may be a better fit and with whom we will begin a second, no-risk trial.
How to Hire a Great Budgeting Consultant
A budgeting expert is a rare breed of employee. They are highly sought after for having a precious combination of skills, mixing project management and an excellent interpersonal style with a strong knowledge of accounting and finance.
The annual budgeting process typically lasts for four to six months in mid to large-sized businesses. For an activity that has such a big impact on resource planning and consumes so much time, it is no surprise that hiring the right person to lead the effort is critical to a CFO’s success. A recent Grant Thornton survey found that accurate planning made up over 1/3 of a CFO’s performance target when it came to long-term incentive compensation, and performance to budget is the yardstick by which executives are measured. This explains the pressure to find a highly qualified hire.
For a small business, precise budgeting adds a much needed layer of control. A strong budget can act as a leash on expenditure, extending a runway and avoiding the common pitfall of running out of cash ahead of a key milestone or financial goal.
This guide will identify some of the crucial skills and traits to look for and provide interview questions to help you better identify a budget expert.
Exhibit Strong Character
Few look forward to budget season. For most, it’s a cumbersome part of non-core responsibilities. However, a proactive budget professional will remain positive about the process thereby making it more meaningful and worth a serious effort. Budgeting is a critical mission that requires full commitment. If the budget professional does not show this commitment, chances are few others will.
Here are some crucial elements to look for in the way a candidate interacts with a team:
They must excel at relationship management and be seen as a trusted partner. Often working with strong-willed executives, they will need to be authoritative during stressful situations and be seen as a voice of reason. They will be a conscientious team member that can both effectively lead or serve, depending on the situation.
A qualified candidate will often serve as a coach, helping business units navigate the budgeting process while managing the expectations of others. Since a budget needs to be challenging while remaining achievable, the budget professional will help find balance by first seeking to understand the needs and considerations of each department, while providing guidance.
While being a coach, they will also be sensitive to how budget performance impacts executive compensation and know how to manage the tendency for departments to protect their personal interests at the expense of the enterprise’s.
Q: The client is a high growth business that has aggressively been capturing market share, with revenue up 20% a year on average for the last 5 years. However, the first half of this year has been slow and revenue is projected to grow in high single digits for the full year. In leading the budget process, you are working with the sales organization to develop a comprehensive financial plan for next year. The CEO expects the customer base to grow by 20% with a slight increase in pricing but the SVP of Sales is only budgeting half that and no price increases. How would you work with the SVP to address this difference in expectations?
The purpose of a budget is to come up with a plan that has a high likelihood of being achieved. When results greatly exceed or fall short of the budget, the business will suffer. It is important to be able to reconcile differences in expectations that often exist between the executive board and the business unit owners to come up with the most likely outcome given what is currently known.
A good response will include the following action items:
An important first step is to establish rapport and trust with the goal of understanding the basis for their beliefs.
Facilitating open communication between both sides to prevent surprises and to help negotiate the difference.
Looking to find the information gaps that are creating the differences in expectations.
Building scenarios to model, support, and compare both sets of assumptions before a decision is taken.
Fluid Project Management
Creating a budget is a high-profile project with clearly defined deliverables and a specific, strictly enforced, timeline. Project management skills will make sure that deliverables and dependencies are understood and that schedules are kept. A budget professional will be focused on meeting a deadline while handling last-minute changes with minimal stress to the team.
Q: Budget season in the company typically starts in June with budget submission in early September and presentations to the executive leadership team at the end of September. The company has a revenue growth target of 15% with expenses targeted to grow at 10%. No capital expenditure guidelines have been issued but are up to the business areas to identify. The core business areas - Sales, Marketing, Operations, IT, and Finance & Administration - are all supposed to contribute equally as appropriate. Discuss how you would approach the process, when you would start your planning, and what the sequence of events would be.
This is an opportunity for professionals to display their project management skills and cover these basic concepts as part of their response. While some of these steps may seem obvious, ensuring each is given its own place is vital to a smooth budgeting process:
Develop and communicate the project calendar early.
Communicate strategy and objectives at the beginning.
Schedule key deliverables by department with a focus on sales planning and Capex initiatives as these will drive operating expenses across the business.
Hold cross-functional meetings for collaboration and validating.
Provide key stakeholders with regular status updates.
Plan for post-submission follow-up.
Master of Consolidation
A budget has many moving parts, with the complexity growing exponentially as more business units are introduced. Department budgets must be consolidated as well as integrated but many initiatives planned by one will impact another, requiring further synchronization. Additionally, corporate-wide strategic initiatives will need to be layered in, with every unit understanding and properly including the impact to their budgets.
A budgeting expert will be able to change their focus from a bird’s eye view to the center of the action as the situation requires. At the macro and micro levels, the consultant will be able to quickly grasp the specific concepts and drivers that influence the business. They should have a questioning mind and be constantly seeking to understand where pieces of the puzzle don’t connect or make sense while seeking to identify gaps, errors, and omissions.
Business units will look at the budgeting process differently, based on their own experience and perspective of what the important drivers for their part of the organization. For example, IT might be more focused on capital projects and labor resource utilization, whereas marketing might be focused on campaign spending. An ability to be comfortable with and integrate all types of budgets into one unified model is critical for success in the role.
Q: You have just integrated a company ahead of an upcoming budget process. While interviews and your own research have given you a strong understanding of the business and its business plan, you feel you do not have enough of the insider perspective for your liking. How would you rapidly get up to speed?
Meet with all business unit heads and/or second-in-command to gain detailed understanding about operations of each unit and what drives their activity.
Review existing forecasts in advance to help identify trends and projections as a basis for their meetings.
In-depth meeting with CFO to gain overview of the business plan and strategy for next few years and insights into the dynamics of the business units.
Understand how each business unit views the budgeting process,
As part of this, a strong budget consultant will also be an exceptional communicator. They must work across many functions and be able to communicate with a broad range of employees from CEOs to financial analysts. The development of an adaptable communication style is a must with the following ideally being present:
A history of successfully interacting with people at all levels and all backgrounds in an organization is crucial to ensure an accurate budget.
Ability to communicate with non-financial types. The candidate will need to be to effectively communicate complex financial projections in layman’s terms and using an appropriate medium.
Make the Most of Fintech
These skills must be also be allied to superlative fintech abilities that will provide a good structure to the models, a logical and properly organized approach to how the budgets are created, and a keen understanding of which technologies to apply.
A budget professional will have a solid understanding of GAAP and the appropriate accounting treatment for various initiatives and expenditures.
Q: You need to work with the CIO for a software development company. The company develops software for both internal use as well as for sale externally. The CIO looks for you to prepare the budget in a GAAP compliant manner. For the purpose of putting together a budget, what sort of questions will you need to ask the CIO and their team?
Accounting treatment has an important place in the budget and technology development projects have distinct phases that determine how the expenses are accounted for. The candidate would be expected to address the following areas.
Establish where individual development projects are in their lifecycle and how much will be expensed during each phase occurring within the budget’s timeframe.
Identify the correct basis to amortize development expense post go-live, based on how software asset will be consumed.
Fully understand related ongoing operating expenses or revenue streams.
Identify new projects under development versus maintenance and enhancements as they have different accounting treatment.
On the technological side, a solid professional will not create Excel models only they understand. While Excel remains a critical tool in the budget process, in a global, highly collaborative business, the budget professional will be expected to work with a number of other tools. This is especially true as big data continues to change how budgets are prepared
Budget teams will need to be able to pick up new software technologies quickly as the budgeting technology continues to evolve. While Oracle Hyperion has been the dominant player, Adaptive Planning and many others are making steady inroads into the space. Whatever the software of choice, the right candidate will:
Use good spreadsheet practices to avoid overcomplicating models.
Build models with input forms for assumptions, named ranges, instructions, and reasonable documentation.
Link models to presentation tools, ensuring these are completely in sync for any last-minute updates.
Ensure models include appropriate graphic elements as, for most purposes, large data-intensive spreadsheets are poor tools for communicating financial messages.
Will ideally have experience of leading the roll-out or upgrading of budgeting software used by clients.
Quickly Identify Right Budgeting Method
There are good reasons for different approaches to creating a budget. Each of the three most common methods, top-down, bottom-up and zero-based, serves a different type or stage of business better than another. A good candidate will know when one is more suitable than another. However, it is not uncommon to bounce one method against another as a sanity check.
Top-down budgeting: The budget is formulated at the highest level of management and passed down to different departments.
Bottom-up budgeting: Each department or business unit lays out their own costs, which are then added together to form central budget.
Zero-based budgeting: Starting from a zero base, all costs, whether recurring or new, are justified in turn, allowing for optimization.
Q: A CEO with an early stage manufacturing business is being required to not only create an operating budget for the upcoming year, but also a 3-year long-range plan (LRP) for private equity (PE) investors. How would you recommend going about it and why is the method(s) chosen appropriate?
In this case, the zero-based budget is preferable for several reasons. The candidate should be able to pick up on this, choose that approach and justify how the budget would be created.
The zero-based budgeting approach is correct here because early-stage businesses will not have a lot of consistent historical activity to create a budget with, through bottom-up or top-down.
Creating a zero-based budget is also the right choice as it will make executives look at each action taken and each expense incurred, and justify them based on the financial impact.
Find out the expectations of PE investors and use them to create a top-down budget and and LRP that should be able to be reconciled with the zero-based budget.
Spot Challenges Before They Arise
Finally, experience with budget lifecycles will make a candidate stand out from the rest. This will help to ensure that all active participants, who already have a full plate, spend little of their time on non-value added activities.
Having been through budget cycles before, an experienced professional will have the ability to rapidly anticipate where the budget will get challenged in a specific setting. This experience will see them proactively work with the business unit leadership to prepare for inevitable challenges, either with supporting details to counter the challenges or by presenting alternative scenarios.
Either as part of the original budget planning or as part of the revision process they will be able to identify revenue opportunities and expense cuts. They will not only rely on their understanding of the business but will also have sat through the budget review sessions searching for opportunities that may have been missed.
Q: A $500MM subscription-based software provider has included a large increase in customer service representatives in their budget plan. The increase is far greater than the growth in customers. The executive team has instructed you and the Customer Service leadership team to revisit the plan and either adjust the increase in headcount to match the growth in the customer base or provide significant rationale to support the additional increase. What sort of issues might you have to address in this process?
While return on investment, payback, net present value and other financial return calculations work well for investments that produce quantifiable results, they aren’t always easy to defend for less tangible outcomes. The candidate should address this through some of the following points.
How would they quantify incremental costs?
How would they identify benefits throughout the business, eg: reduced customer churn, improved customer satisfaction, higher sales due to better reputation, lower credit?.
How would the executive team like the initiative to be measured, in order to get buy-in?
Would they prepare an alternative scenario for the lower headcount, quantifying how it would impact the business.
Turning Bureaucracy to Your Advantage
An exceptional budget and financial consultant will be able to naturally wear a variety of hats from business partner to project manager while also being the interface to the corporate finance function. The right hire will make a process for dealing with financial issues that is frequently seen as bureaucratic seem meaningful and will help set the road map for progress, converting strategy and financial advice into results.