Are you cool with hiring people who simply don’t know how to do their jobs?

Of course, I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m assuming most of us would say….no.

No, we want employees and contractors and any professional we trust with the functions in our business to know their stuff!

But choosing people who have the right kind of finance background for the job gets complicated when you’re on the outside of their industry looking in.

In truth, most business owners have no idea what kind of training and finance background their CFO should have to do the job correctly, or whether their bookkeeper should have some sort of certification, and so on. It’s just not in their wheelhouse.

That said, you still need someone handling your financial management, so I’m here to shed a little light on the kind of training and amount of experience you can keep an eye out for as you browse your options:


This is easy mode, comparatively. An average bookkeeper might simply have an associate’s degree, or, alternatively, a few years of experience with hands-on transactional work like processing transactions or data entry. The key to this position is knowledge of the tools and the tasks. Bookkeeping uses the hands more than the head, so look for someone whose background reflects this kind of skill.

Staff/Senior Accountants

Stepping up a level, a staff or senior accountant needs to be worthy to take a lot more responsibility for your accounts. They should be able to reconcile various types of accounts and prepare important reports, which also means understanding what’s in those reports and deciphering the KPI’s that help your business run day to day. Likewise, they should be able to handle a decent amount of trend analysis over the long term.

With these duties in mind, we want our accountants at this level to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting and at least two or three years of experience doing this type of work in their particular finance background.


What about the person who manages the previous two positions? That’s your controller. This individual will be in charge of all accounting operations, so think of them as the conductor of the symphony.

A controller’s job is to handle both internal controls and external compliance, make sure accounting processes run smoothly within the organization, and supervise the cash that comes in, the cash that goes out, and all payroll concerns for employees – and that’s only scratching the surface.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Your ideal controller comes to you with at least a bachelor’s in accounting, if not a certification or advanced degree to go with it. They also might be a CPA or CMA, but management experience is a crucial part of their resume and certifications. In terms of finance background experience, aim for 5-10 years.


These are the financial management heavyweights. Beyond just a financial professional, a CFO is the CEO’s right hand, and responsible for bringing the finance and operational sides of the company seamlessly together.

This means seeing the big-picture vision, where the organization is heading in the long-term, and mapping out how it’s going to get there. A CFO manages not only financial planning, but setting the policies that support those plans, keeping an eye on trends that show up in the reports, and adjusting those plans and policies to get everyone back on course.

Unlike most of these other types of experts, a CFO is also a financial liaison within the company, managing external relationships with tax professionals, bankers, insurance representatives and more.

And beyond individual relationships, a CFO must also be able to monitor the environment around the business and anticipate the ways external factors might help or harm their organization’s performance.

It’s a lot of responsibility to juggle, so an ideal CFO will have that foundational bachelor’s in accounting, usually accompanied by an MBA and at least 10 years of experience in senior management positions.

Pay special attention to that senior management experience, by the way. You want to be sure that any CFO you work with isn’t transitioning directly from lower-level CPA work. We know now that this position requires much more than simple accounting or compliance skills.

While assessing whether your chosen finance pro has the right background for the job you need them to do is important, there is much more to these hiring decisions than flipping through resumes.

For more information on making a confident – and profitable – hire, whether you outsource or go the full-time route, read on here. And if you’re ready to learn more about the impact that great financial management can have on your business, let’s talk.

Your CPA Shouldn’t Be Your CFO!

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