What skills does a Part-Time Finance Director need?

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So, you think you might like to move over into a more portfolio career, potentially as a Part-Time or Fractional Finance Director for those growing SMEs?

Well, first of all, congratulations! Not only do we think it’s a great idea – there are plenty of scaling businesses which really need your expertise. But we also know from our current part-time Finance Directors (PTFDs) just how rewarding a portfolio career is. 

Before you get too excited, and jump ship from your current employer, let’s take a quick look at the skills and attributes that are very specific to becoming a portfolio FD.  

The key here isn’t just how ‘good’ you are with these skills, but how much you enjoy them. How much you’ll thrive using these additional skills every day. 

With this in mind, take a look, and you’ll see what we mean.  

We’ll start with the interpersonal skills:  

  • Flexibility – it might seem obvious, but being able to work and think flexibly is vital for the businesses you will be working with and for your own wellbeing. If you find change, or even the threat of change stressful, then you simply won’t enjoy life as a part-time FD. And really, what’s the point if you don’t enjoy it? There are plenty of brilliant and rewarding full time FD roles out there. There is no need to get hung up on the portfolio concept if you aren’t excited by the idea of an ever-changing work environment.  
  • Communication – specifically, the adaptability to communicate a variety of concepts, to different people with different communication styles. You’ll need to be able to switch around day to day, and you’ll need to find this an enjoyable challenge. Similarly, you also need the ability to understand other people’s communication styles. Specifically, as a part-time Finance Director, you need to be able to really hear what people are saying, even if they don’t know it themselves. For example: does the MD really want to cut prices to sell more, or do they need to understand long-term cash flow better? It’ll be on you to unpick the real conversation.  
  • Organisation  – this goes without saying, but we will say it anyway. You need to be organised to the highest level in order to thrive when working in more than one business.  
  • Making decisions – decisions don’t happen by themselves – or when they do, it’s often not in a good way! A key feature of the fractional or part-time Finance Director requirement is that a business has reached a point where key decisions need to be made. Those decisions probably need to be made quickly, based on often incomplete records or ‘gut feelings’ and their impact will be long lasting. Does that make you want to jump in, or run away?  
  • Resourcefulness – you already know that being the Finance Director can be quite a lonely role, even when you have a great team behind you. Overall, the responsibilities are big and far reaching and you’ll often be handling them alone. You will need to be able to dig deep. Deep into your treasure trove of knowledge, deep into your mental and physical reserves and even deep into your contact list. You’ll need to find solutions to a myriad of problems, and you will often be doing this on your own. Does that sound like fun? 
  • Passionate about the business – this one is tricky, but key. Each business owner believes passionately that their business is the answer. They are deeply invested in their business and the people they work with, and they want their FD to share in their enthusiasm. This can be hard, especially when you are working with more than one business. You need to relish the challenge of learning about the business, the industry, its history, the people and its future. And you need to bring that same enthusiasm to each and every business you work with. Some people just can’t maintain that level of energy for more than one business. And that’s ok. It just means that you might not be a good fit for a portfolio career.  

Not just for part-time Finance Directors.

These ‘soft’ skills are similar for anyone looking to work for themselves across multiple clients. We also need to factor in the additional technical specifics too. It’s that combination of the two sets of skills that sets a PTFD apart from the crowd and gives a business owner precisely what they need.  

It goes without saying, but again, we’ll say it for the sake of clarity. To be a successful PTFD you will probably be a qualified accountant with experience of operating at director level in a number of organisations.  

Dependent upon the types of business that you work with, their specific current needs and plans for the future, you’ll need a mix of the following: 

  • Strategy 
  • Business disposal 
  • Investment decisions 
  • Share issues 
  • Funding 
  • Business planning 
  • Cash flow/working capital management 
  • Systems 
  • Financial forecasting and modelling 
  • Employee share/incentive schemes 

The exact mix will vary for each business and can often be the reason for a specific need for a specific FD. That’s where our honed recruitment skills come in. We match businesses to the right PTFD. It’s a bit like match making but without the awkward silences.  

If reading the above gives you good part-time Finance Director vibes, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.