CFO for rent

March 22, 2010
| By Pete Daly |
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A lot of companies aren’t large enough to justify the expense of a full-time chief financial officer like Chuck Berghuis, but now they can rent a piece of him.

Berghuis, 55, of Hudsonville, recently joined B2B CFO, a Phoenix, Ariz., firm that has about 150 individuals available around the country to serve as temporary or part-time chief financial officers.

Berghuis, who is B2B CFO’s second partner in the West Michigan region, serves as a part-time CFO for diverse companies. With an MBA from the University of Michigan, he has had 31 years of experience in corporate management in West Michigan.

Prior to joining B2B CFO, Berghuis served as the CFO for a $10 million Zeeland manufacturer. He has served as vice president for the Charter Group in Grand Rapids, and as interim CFO for a $40 million-plus manufacturer with international operations.

“Our goal is to be kind of a longer-term CFO for companies that don’t need a full-time true CFO,” said Berghuis. “Most companies under about $50 million don’t need a full-time CFO — a good accountant, maybe a good controller, but they don’t need a full-time CFO.”

Berghuis said an assignment can range from a few hours a month to a day or so per week.

B2B CFO “partners” are all independent contractors, according to Berghuis. They remit a portion of their fees to B2B, which provides them with client referrals and support information from its network of partners across the nation.

“I had really decided I wanted to be my own boss, but this gave me an opportunity to have a large organization behind me, even though I essentially have my own business,” he said.

Being a temporary CFO at a variety of companies can be a challenge because of encountering situations that are new. That’s when Berghuis turns to the 150-person B2B CFO network, inquiring online if any of them have had experience with a given situation.

The cost of “renting” a B2B CFO varies, but is a “reasonable” hourly rate, according to the company Web site, and the client decides in advance how many hours that will be. The CFOs do not work on a contract basis — simply a “handshake,” according to the Web site.

Some small companies can function for years without needing the expertise a CFO can provide, but that can change. Berghuis said his experience in mergers and acquisitions has given him insight into establishing the value of a company, an important consideration when an owner is starting to think about selling the company or transferring.

“If you don’t want to be doing this five years from now, right now you need to start figuring out what you want to do, because it takes some time, mentally and financially, to get ready to leave your business,” he said.

Another sign of the times is “a lot of bank pressure” on businesses, which was fairly uncommon in West Michigan up until the financial crisis of the past two years.

“Helping owners out with cash flow” is a major part of the services the B2B CFOs offer, he said.

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