The Fractional CFO’s Inspiring Guide to FP&A

Podcast: FP&A Today

Episode Title:  The Fractional CFO’s Inspiring Guide to FP&A

Host: Paul Barnhurst

Episode Guest: Kathy Svetina

Episode Date: July 19, 2022

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FP&A Today is the podcast for Financial Planning and Analysis. The weekly show dives into the challenges and opportunities within the world of FP&A, interviewing FP&A leaders, CFOs and other finance pros in order to give you the freshest insights and takeaways. Each week our top guests provide actionable advice about financial planning and analysis – from career goals to navigating challenges, and powerful Excel tips.

About this Episode

One of the most common stumbling blocks women-owned businesses face is the absence of budgets and forecasts due to inaccurate financial data. This makes it very difficult to perform any FP&A or financial planning and analysis. 

The importance of accurate data in Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)

Good data is the foundation of FP&A or Financial planning and analysis. It allows your Fractional CFO to conduct comprehensive financial health checks and study historical data to build out effective budgets and forecasts. 

On a recent episode of the “FP&A Today” podcast hosted by Paul Barnhurst,  Fractional CFO Kathy Svetina had the fantastic opportunity to chat about everything FP&A: how she got started, how it addresses issues such as the lack of budgets and her fearless forecast on its future. 

She also broke down how to revolutionize FP&A by shifting the mindset away from pure numbers and into being true partners in the business.

Key insights from the FP&A Podcast

6:45 Why Do Businesses Seek FP&A Services

8:28 How Fractional CFOs Improve Business Finances

14:55 Breaking Down Budgeting and Forecasting Methods for Businesses

35:18 The Future of FP&A: Opportunities and Challenges

44:53  Transitioning to an FP&A Consultant Role: Tips for Aspiring Professionals

Why do businesses seek FP&A services

Many people are not fully aware of FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis), especially if they don’t move or work in the finance world. These include business owners – so when they seek help, they are not looking for help with “financial planning and analysis” exactly. 

They usually come with specific challenges in mind:

Dealing with growth

Imagine your business is growing so fast, yet you’re not sure if it’s financially sustainable. 

You’re sure to have so many questions about how to manage this growth: 

  • Can I afford to grow? 
  • Am I paying my hires right? 
  • Is it possible for this money to run out?  
  • Will my investments pay off? And so on.

It’s this uncertainty that will often lead business owners to FP&A.

Lack of financial structure

Sometimes, businesses are aware that they don’t have a solid financial structure in place.  You recognize that things are not as organized – and are aware that you need to do something about it – but don’t know where to start. FP&A can help bring this order and transparency to your finances.

“I offer FP&A services to women-owned businesses because my personal mission is to have more women in executive and CEO roles. And they need to be very comfortable with their business finances and to know how to use them to get to that point. And I really wanted to support that.”  – Kathy Svetina (5:02)

How Fractional CFOs improve business finances

When a fractional CFO starts working with your business, the first thing to check is the company’s financial data. This might seem like an easy task but there are challenges. 

Small businesses often don’t have the luxury of having teams of accountants and bookkeepers gathering data like big corporations. So it’s crucial to check the following:

  • What data is available?
  • How accessible is it to gather?
  • Is this data easy to get? or is it a complicated process? Because waiting weeks for outdated figures isn’t good for your business.
  • Is the data accurate because you will need reliable data to make good financial decisions. 

So after understanding the data situation, the next step is to determine how your business plans to use it. And there is no cookie-cutter formulaic answer to this. How your business plans to use data will depend on what stage of growth it’s in, your current projects, and what goals you want it to achieve. 

For example, if you want to increase sales, your fractional CFO will take a look at your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. They will look for data on how much your incoming sales are worth when you are expected to close them to help come up with KPIs that are relevant to your business. 

Finally, fractional CFOs will check on the systems and software you use to collect and store data. They might suggest more efficient software or provide tips on how to maximize what you’re currently using.  Cleaning data manually – all the time – costs a lot of time and money. So, the goal is to make data processes automatic to keep everything accurate and efficient.

“(People) are not really asking “Can you do financial planning and analysis for me?” they come because they have specific problems. And the problems are usually, “I am growing”…. “It feels like I am growing really fast, and I do not know whether I can afford it.”… or “I know that I need structure in my finances, and I have no clue where to start.”Kathy Svetina (7:42)

Breaking down budgeting and forecasting methods for businesses

When helping companies with their business financial planning, it’s important to establish their budgeting and forecasting processes. There are several steps involved to make this happen:

Data availability and accuracy

There are small business owners that have never implemented a budget or a forecast. 

They understand the importance of both but lack these financial tools mainly due to the unavailability of the necessary data. Without the right data, budgeting becomes like a guessing game, or throwing something at the wall and hoping that it sticks. 

So the first step is to ensure the availability of accurate data, that is clean or scrubbed of any accounting errors.

Financial Health Check 

Step 2 is to conduct a financial health check which does the following: 

  • Verifying that all accounting is correct
  • Ensuring that there is a competent bookkeeper
  • Confirming tax compliance 

If any data is missing, a deeper dive will be needed to gather it as well.  

This process typically takes 6 to 8 months to prepare for budgeting and forecasting.

Historical data analysis

Next is to scrutinize historical financial data to assess its reliability. Does it pass the proverbial “sniff test”? Are there any red flags, anomalies or irregularities, especially in revenue recognition? It’s important to address and resolve these discrepancies first before moving on to actual budgeting and forecasting work.

Budgeting tools and software

When building out budgets, there are various software available for small businesses such as Fathom but Excel is also still popular. What’s important is that the tool used ensures accuracy and aligns the budget with the unique needs of the business.

“When we think about finance, it’s mostly about numbers, but it really isn’t at its core. If we move away from “We’re just doing numbers”…We’re NOT doing just numbers. We’re really there to drive the business, to make it healthy, to make it sustainable.”Kathy Svetina (35:46)

The future of Financial Planning and Analysis

The biggest opportunity in the future of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) is changing how people see finance, including those who are part of the financial world and those who are not.

Finance has been traditionally all about numbers, but it’s more than that. It’s about helping the business grow with the right financial strategies and stay strong with correct financial management. This is a chance for finance folks to work on soft skills and build relationships in the companies they work for or work with, becoming true business partners.

This opportunity is huge. By being more than just number crunchers and becoming strategic partners, finance professionals can really help businesses succeed in the long run. 

The challenge for FP&A professionals, however, is to not get lost in the technical stuff. While knowing things like coding and modeling is important, it shouldn’t take over. The goal is to be the business partner who helps make important decisions.

Transitioning to an FP&A consultant role

For those looking to transition from a technical support role (or purely crunching numbers) to an FP&A consultant position, the key advice is to focus on developing essential soft skills. This includes honing your presentation, persuasion, and most importantly, listening skills. You can take courses or read books to improve these skills, but the most effective way to learn is through hands-on experience or by observing those who excel in these areas.

One particularly valuable source of learning is spending time with proficient salespeople. 

If you have the opportunity, especially in larger companies where FP&A roles are common, consider collaborating with sales and marketing teams. Salespeople are adept at active listening and building relationships, while marketers excel in storytelling and engaging audiences. 

By immersing yourself in them, you’ll get valuable tips and insights that will greatly move your career forward toward becoming an FP&A consultant.

Final insights on FP&A for Fractional CFOs

  • Business owners often seek help for specific challenges like rapid growth or financial structure, without realizing they need FP&A (Financial Planning and Analysis) assistance.
  • A fractional CFO assesses your financial data, creates KPIs, and optimizes data handling to support smart decisions and business success.
  • Developing budgets and forecasts begins with accurate data, followed by a financial health check, historical data analysis, and budget creation.
  • The future of FP&A lies in reimagining finance to enhance business health and success, requiring a balance of technical skills and strategic partnership.
  • Aspiring FP&A consultants should prioritize soft skills like presentation, persuasion, and listening, and seek learning opportunities by collaborating with skilled sales and marketing teams.


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About host – Kathy Svetina

Kathy Svetina is a Fractional CFO for growing small businesses with $10M+ in annual revenue.

Clients hire her when they’re unsure about what’s going on in their finances, are stressed out by making financial decisions, or need to structure their finances to keep up with their growth.

She solves their nagging money mysteries and builds a financial structure with a tailored financial strategy. That way they can grow in a financially healthy and sustainable way.

Kathy is based in Chicago, IL and works with clients all over the US.

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