The value of Interim Financial Controllers

Sometimes, what seems like a disaster can turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

When a key member of your finance team unexpectedly leaves, your immediate reaction might be frustration or panic. This often leads to a hasty search for a direct replacement.

Without your Head of Finance, it might feel a bit like flying a plane when the pilot has gone awol – tasks pile up quickly. The fear is that if you leave it too long, you might end up doing the bookkeeping yourself.

While finding a direct replacement straight away might seem logical, there are instead a number of benefits to taking a breath, pausing and bringing in a temporary replacement while you determine your exact needs. Not least the high cost of hiring the wrong person. Back in 2017, the Recruitment and Employment Confederation estimated that mis-hiring a mid-level manager earning £42K could cost a business over £132,000 in total, costs that a growing SME can little afford.

So, what should you do if you are suddenly left in the lurch by the resignation of your Head of Finance?

First, don’t panic and blindly promote or hire just anyone to fill the role. The permanent replacement can wait.

Instead, think about using a temporary or Interim Head of Finance/Financial Controller. Someone who can come in – either in person or remotely – for a few days a week, for a few months. A professional who can move you from a place of ‘this is a disaster’ to ‘I’m glad we had the opportunity to re-evaluate’.

Someone like Jo who can easily step in, liaise with internal and external stakeholders such as an outsourced bookkeeper. Someone who will take the pressure off those immediate tasks and projects, all while providing exactly what your business needs right now, and establish what is needed in the future.

One of the interesting, and exciting, points that Jo mentions, but doesn’t expand on, is regarding the marketing agency where she had stepped in temporarily due to the Financial Controller leaving unexpectedly. Jo was there to fill the gap and keep things functioning well while they found a replacement. At the same time, Jo was able to focus on their aged debtors which had been spiraling out of control. Thanks to her tenacity and expertise, she was able to reduce the debtor balance by over £500k in the few months she was there!

Events such as a key team member leaving can seem like an unlikely event but it does happen, and often when you least expect it.

One of our other clients almost came unstuck when their part-time Head of Finance handed in their notice. This vital employee was only on one months’ notice. When their part-time status and unused holiday were factored in, our client had only 6 full working days before their key finance resource was gone.

Our reputation gave them confidence

As a result of two independent recommendations, they contacted Artemis Clarke, looking to find a replacement Head of Finance as soon as possible. Our reputation clearly gave them confidence that we could find them the perfect replacement in superhuman time!

We explained that opting for an immediate direct replacement in the timeframe would have been impractical and may not have addressed the company’s actual requirements. The departing Head of Finance had some key knowledge in their head that no-one else knew and it was vital to extract this information and get some form of handover before they left. Instead, we recommended hiring one of our own part-time Interim Financial Controllers for a short period (approximately four months) to keep things ticking over while a permanent replacement was found. This highly experienced interim professional could offer valuable insights on the business, provide feedback on the role and candidate requirements. They were also able to help develop the structure of the finance team in line with the company’s growth and long-term objectives.

We quickly identified the best available finance person to join the company and soon they were in place, ensuring the continuity required by the business. At the same time, they were able to work with us to help define the permanent Head of Finance role going forward and get involved in the interviewing process.

Taking on an interim Financial Controller for that short period gave our client immediate access to a wide range of skills, expertise and experience needed to plug the gap left by the outgoing finance person. All our interim financial controllers are interviewed and assessed by us, and are absolute gems at slotting into any business. They ensure the day to day still flows smoothly while helping identify gaps and requirements in the role to support business needs.

By providing a seamless transition – even if no handover with the outgoing team member is possible – they reduce the stress you feel with losing a senior member of the finance department. All while providing the luxury of time to find the right candidate, rather than just the first available candidate.

The benefits of taking on an Interim Financial Controller are huge

The benefits of taking on an Interim Financial Controller, while recruiting your permanent replacement, are huge. Particularly around providing the time and space to find the right candidate for your organisation. A temporary replacement will be able to supply not just the resource you need to carry on in the interim but could give you the insight and strategic expertise to develop exactly the team you never knew you needed! An excellent Interim Financial Controller will turn a stressful and damaging situation into a huge growth opportunity.

Don’t risk wasting time and money on hiring the wrong finance replacement. Talk to us about our Interim Financial Controllers to see how we can support you and your business.