Aleksey served in CFO roles of public and VC-backed private companies. As investor, he contributed to 25+ private equity deals that have deployed $500 million. He has advised 50+ clients on raising $1.6 billion in equity in the healthcare, consumer, media, software, energy, and industrial sectors. He enjoys working with officers of early stage and mature small-cap firms. He freelances because it exposes him to a wide range of companies.
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.
Bertrand is a 25-year finance veteran with a true 360 experience, honed as an investment banker, venture advisor, project developer, CFO, and expert witness consultant in international arbitrations. He has advised and partnered on over 100 transactions and investment initiatives totaling over $16 billion. Bertrand is a seasoned problem solver and decision-maker with expert facilitation skills. Bertrand advises on M&A, corporate development, venture growth, project development, and financing.
David has served as a CFO at multiple private equity portfolio companies in the SaaS, manufacturing, and service sectors where he optimized revenue growth, profitability, and led acquisition initiatives. He has been a consultant since 2014 and leverages his skills in financial modeling, analysis, forecasting, M&A, and process enhancements to deliver value to his Toptal clients. He has an MBA from UCLA's Anderson School and is a CPA.
Over the last 15 years, Theresa has defined and implemented financial and operational strategies as a CFO for multiple companies in the technology, healthcare, and business services industries. She has built functions from the ground up at startups and redesigned current ones at mid-sized organizations. In freelancing, Theresa is excited to continue supporting companies seeking growth options and/or higher valuations for potential future exits.
Gaurav is a financial professional and CA with 18 years of experience, specializing in financial modeling and valuations. He has also overhauled a financial reporting system and introduced budgetary controls that led to significant cost reductions and more effective reporting. Gaurav leverages his analytical skills and a results-driven mindset to analyze and help business owners optimize complex business models and processes. He has a master's degree in finance and economics.
Olivier launched his own consulting practice after a twenty-five-year financial career in Eastern Europe, working as CFO or controller for Fortune 100 and CAC40 subsidiaries (Publics, Alstom, Mondelez), combined with audit lead roles at KPMG and Mazars. He enjoys freelancing because it provides him with the opportunity to meet fascinating entrepreneurs and work on challenging projects, allowing him to leverage his corporate best-practice experience to improve accounting and financial processes.
Mario has a proven track record of improving a company’s financial results, such as turnaround of a loss-making company or costs and yield losses reduction by over 10% in Heinz Kraft. He supports companies in finding tailor-made funding solutions by early-stage investments and introducing them to his inner circle of investors and Nasdaq. Mario is enthusiastic about freelancing and providing exceptional entrepreneurial knowledge with his vast global experience to meet and exceed targets.
Neel is a finance leader and change agent with 10+ years of experience and a track record of impact in Fortune 50 companies. He has driven transformations to the tune of $250 million, EBITDA uplift of $100 million+, and sustainable change by managing mandates in multinationals, SMEs, and startups. Neel is adept at navigating across countries, regions, and cultures, and he brings an entrepreneurial and creative mindset, drive, and passion to design and execute win-win solutions for his clients.
Patrick is a CFA and certified chief compliance officer with 20 years of experience as a CFO or COO. He specializes in working with founders to hone their business models, build out their companies' financial and operational backbones, acquire their senior team to attract VC funding, and scale their companies through a metrics-focused approach. Patrick is comfortable in the inherent creative chaos of fast-moving teams, and his experience is backed by an MBA and MSc in chemical engineering.
Rolf is an international finance executive with hands-on experience in large-scale global companies and start-ups. He's confident leading remote teams, strong in process optimization, completes thorough deep dives, and provides solid solutions. He uses robust strategic and analytical approaches to optimize and turn companies around. Rolf has built organizations and investment pipelines, set up reporting structures, and designed and executed turn-around plans to create winning client solutions.
Interim CFOs provide been-there, done-that experience in doses that your company's burn rate can handle. This hiring guide addresses how to identify the right person for the role and create the best environment for a successful interim CFO engagement.
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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.
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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.
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How to Hire Interim CFOs 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 interim CFO for your project. Average time to match is under 24 hours.
The Right Fit, Guaranteed
Work with your new interim CFO for a trial period (pay only if satisfied), ensuring they're the right fit before starting the engagement.
How are Toptal interim CFOs different?
At Toptal, we thoroughly screen our interim CFOs 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. Start now.
Can I hire interim CFOs in less than 48 hours through Toptal?
Depending on availability and how fast you can progress, you could start working with an interim CFO within 48 hours of signing up. Start now.
What is the no-risk trial period for Toptal interim CFOs?
We make sure that each engagement between you and your interim CFO 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. Start now.
How to Hire a Great Interim CFO
For many companies, there comes a time when in-house talent is no longer experienced enough to successfully handle the financial challenge at hand. However, this does not mean it is the right time, or it is not cost-effective, to hire a full-time, permanent CFO. In these cases, interim CFOs provide been-there-done-that experience in doses that your burn rate can handle.
As with any senior-level hire, finding the right person is critical. The interim CFO must be eager and capable of fulfilling the vision of the CEO and the company’s investors. What makes hiring an interim CFO particularly challenging though, is that the circumstances creating the need for the hire often imply that time is of the essence. Therefore, it’s even more important than usual to hire someone who is capable of quickly accessing the company’s situation, building key relationships and effecting change.
In this hiring guide, we will address how to identify the right person for the role and create the best environment for a successful interim CFO engagement.
Why Hire an Interim CFO?
Before we start, we lay out below some of the most common reasons for retaining an interim CFO, alongside case studies to provide some insights into how they can help.
Interim CFOs are often brought in to handle corporate transitions such as a change in ownership of the company, which sometimes prompts a change in senior management, or an acquisition of another company, which requires additional resources to ensure a smooth integration. Sometimes the transition at hand may be caused by the sudden departure of the current CFO, creating an immediate staffing need.
Case Study: Outdoor Leisure, an outdoor furniture manufacturing company, needs help integrating a recent acquisition of Lollypop Fabrics into its business. Lollypop has been running its business on a cash basis using a simple accounting software platform, whereas Outdoor Leisure’s business is run on an accrual basis using a sophisticated, closed-loop ERP system. Lollypop will continue to operate out of its current headquarters, but its people and systems need to be integrated into Outdoor Leisure’s business by year-end. What would the ideal interim CFO for this situation look like?
In this instance, Outdoor Leisure should be looking for:
A strong technical accounting background with prior experience integrating small acquisitions into larger organizations.
Familiarity with both accounting software systems.
Understanding of the tax and accounting implications of the transaction in order to form their own opinion as well as effectively leverage outside accounting advisors.
Ability to clearly communicate with the Lollypop team to incorporate policies and procedures to effectively work together going forward.
A CPA designation is a must, with a career presence at one of the Big Four or equivalent accounting firm desirable.
Preparing for Strategic Events
Interim CFOs are also often brought in to help companies prepare for strategic events such as a fundraising round or an exit. This type of event creates a need for a senior-level financial person to help navigate the process as well as make sure that the company’s financials and business operations are at high-enough standard to meet the due diligence and compliance requirements of the investor or acquirer.
Case Study: CatToys.com has experienced rapid growth and its co-founders would like to explore strategic alternatives such as a sale to a strategic buyer or an investment. The business has survived with a diligent bookkeeper to-date, but given the focus on growth, the co-founders have not had a lot of time to focus on the company’s financial reporting. However, they know that in order to get the best valuation, they need to clean up their financial and business operations and are looking for an interim CFO to do just that.
In this instance, an interim CFO should be helping to prepare the company for the event as well as help them pitch to investors and strategic acquirers. The interim CFO will need to:
Understand diligence requirements of all parties involved.
Ensure that all documentation is in good shape (corporate documents, historical financials, etc.) well before they are presented to outside parties.
Build a financial model and support valuation discussions.
The above requires familiarity with this industry’s particular competitive landscape and dynamics. The right candidate will likely have a finance background and experience working on Wall Street or in corporate development.
Interim CFOs are also beneficial to startups or established companies experiencing high-growth phases that need senior-level financial advice, but may not be able to afford a senior-level hire. In these cases, the finance person may be referred to as a part-time CFO or a fractional CFO since the company is receiving senior-level experience at a fraction of the price of a full-time CFO.
Case Study: Star Pajamas is a young company that saw early success after a celebrity was sighted wearing their signature pajama set at Starbucks. Online sales surged, which has created out-of-stocks on some of its most popular items. The founder would love to ride this momentum to expand her product line, but is unsure of how much she can really afford to invest in manufacturing next season’s line. She has been approached by lenders willing to provide her a line of credit against the inventory, but their rates seem exorbitant. She is looking for an interim CFO to help her weigh different options.
In this case, an interim, part-time CEO can help Star Pajamas access its current financial situation, better understand and hopefully improve its cash flow cycle, and ascertain the potential risks and rewards of different levels of investment in inventory production. They should also be able to:
Recommend trusted banks and lenders.
Evaluate the cost of financing the inventory versus using cash on hand.
Implement new systems and appropriate levels of process to ensure the founder has access to up-to-date and accurate financial information.
Train existing staff or recruit mid-level financial talent to ensure these implementations are carried forward.
Ironically, in these situations, an excellent interim CFO may actually perform themselves out of a job by enabling an environment that allows less experienced accounting and finance professionals to successfully run with the systems that are put in place. This interim CFO will have experience working with high-growth companies and is an excellent jack-of-all-trades.
Finally, interim CFOs are often brought in when companies simply need more firepower to provide business analysis and improve core operations. Interim CFOs can provide fresh perspectives as well as the expertise to upgrade systems and accounting and reporting processes. Experienced interim CFOs are also adept at professionalizing finance and accounting teams, both through recruiting new hires and mentoring existing employees.
Case Study: After a major acquisition that distracted the senior management team and a loss of their CFO to illness, Brooklyn Vitamins’ operating profits have significantly declined. It has also breached a covenant on its critical bank facility, and its auditors have voiced concerns over internal controls. After investigating its prior quarterly expenses, it determined that far too many employees are empowered to engage outside vendors and spending has grown out of control. In addition to addressing these issues, the interim CFO is needed to help the management team recruit an appropriate permanent CFO.
In order to turn around this precarious situation, the interim CFO needs to take a number of swift, decisive actions despite their temporary capacity:
Implement controls to limit purchasing approval to department heads.
Implement a new vendor approval process.
Develop comprehensive reporting and budgeting tools to improve management reporting.
Improve integrated closing process to provide timely results.
Negotiate with lenders to ensure that its line of credit can remain in place.
Use their knowledge of the company’s needs to find and ensure a smooth transition to the new CFO.
Hard Skills to Look For
While the examples above chart a number of different ways in which an interim CFO can prove to be useful, companies in a transition or in high-growth mode may know they need financial help, but not exactly what type of financial help they need. The men or women in these roles may carry the same title, but their expertise and experiences will vary widely.
In these cases, step back, and ask yourself about the most important thing an interim CFO needs to address at your company. Look for someone that has handled that type of situation in the past. Then dig deeper and ask yourself if their experience is applicable to the industry you are operating in, or to your company’s lifecycle stage.
Questions to ask
If you are looking for technical expertise, ask the candidate if they would be willing to speak to your tax or audit firm. Those existing partners will understand exactly which questions to ask to ensure that you are on-boarding a person with the appropriate expertise for your organization. Your tax advisor may put the candidate through their paces on GAAP reporting requirements, SOX compliance, or implementing internal controls.
If strategic finance expertise is needed, quiz the candidate about their track record on raising capital or negotiating successful exits, and how they’d position your company for a successful event. Scratching the surface is not enough, you should dig deep into the process they’d propose implementing at your company to ensure that they’re willing and able to not only handle the discussions, but the tedious accounting and legal work required to be fully prepared for an exit.
If seeking specifically operational expertise, the expert should be able to provide examples of key process improvements that saved time and money at prior companies without requiring a major investment. Examples of this would be steps they have already implemented to improve the cash conversion cycle or processes put in place to shorten the monthly accounting close.
Don’t Forget the Soft Skills
While hard skillsets may vary widely, the professional and leadership skills required to be a successful interim CFO are much more consistent from role to role.
1. Tackle all aspects simultaneously
World-class interim CFOs are not just pro-active in assessing a company’s situation and zeroing in on the right plan but also able to clearly explain their rationale for the prioritization. For example, when time is critical, or there are not enough resources to tackle every issue, the interim CFO should focus on those aspects that are immediately pertinent to the company, while highlighting outstanding areas that need to be addressed by the permanent CFO in the future.
2. Excellent player-coaches
They are capable and willing to roll-up their sleeves to get the job done. But at the same time, they must be able to guide and mentor both senior and junior-level employees in your organization so that their work will add value beyond their tenure.
Furthermore, world-class interim CFOs are capable of adding value across all operational aspects of your company. Beyond their initial scope of operation, they can often provide valuable opinions on topics such as marketing budgets, logistic operations, supplier contracts and staffing plans.
3. Relationship builders
Interim CFOs should be able to offer recommendations and introductions to legal firms, audit firms, banker, lenders, insurance brokers, outsourced HR providers, and recruiters. Any strong candidate is likely to be familiar with many different types of software and can provide opinions not only on accounting systems, but also business intelligence tools and team communication apps. Naturally, this also serves them well when coming into a new organization, where quickly building up good working relationships with key stakeholders is a must.
Questions to ask
First and foremost, does the candidate have prior experience in interim or consulting roles? Were those roles with a company at the same stage and structure as yours (e.g. a startup or a PE-backed company)? Interim assignments are not the time to train employees. If the candidate can’t check all of the boxes, that does not necessarily mean they can’t handle the role, but ask them why they believe their prior experience will allow them to quickly be successful in this role.
Ask the interim CFO how they prioritize responsibilities when there is not enough time in the day. Are they able to convince you that they not only get the important task done and stay calm in a stressful situation, but they can keep their teams calm as well?
Quiz them on who their favorite people are to work with, especially in the area you are looking to help. A strong interim CFO will be able to offer up a number of professional recommendations for external service providers your company can bring in, or even full-time hires. The failure to do so may be a red flag that they have been nurturing these types of relationships in the past.
Ensuring a successful engagement
Once you have found the ideal candidate, spending the time to adequately on-board them greatly enhances the chances of a positive experience and a successful engagement. An interim CFO is a particular position as they must be given the room to make decisions while also preparing the role for a permanent hire in the future.
Here are a few suggestions about how to make this transition go smoothly:
1. Make scope of engagement clear to everyone
New people in an organization, especially finance people, can be unsettling. Nervous employees may start wondering if a round of cost-cutting is nigh or if their jobs are at risk in a company sale. To whatever degree you can provide transparency, let your broader team know why the interim CFO is getting involved in the company. This not only creates a better environment for the CFO, it helps limit distractions.
2. Ensure the interim CFO has adequate resources
As with any new senior-level hire, the on-boarding process should involve meetings with key employees to gain a broader overview of the company and become familiar with decision-makers. In addition, the interim CFO will need access to financial systems and corporate documentation and potentially introductions and meetings with key advisors such as your investors, bankers, and audit firm.
3. Jointly determine milestones
Many experienced interim CFOs will provide you a roadmap for the first few weeks of the assignment. If not, don’t be afraid to ask for one. While time and circumstances may veer you and the interim CFO off of the original path, a good game plan will ensure that you start off with similar expectations about deliverables, expected results, and timing.
The importance and impact of interim positions may be looked over due to the limited time with your organization. That would be a critical position. Finding the right interim CFO may increase your runway, get you closer to an exit and lay the groundwork for the right full-time CFO to come. Trust us, the best ones will leave a positive impact long after they’ve moved on.