Tuesday, 21 March 2023

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The new CFO: How far can you go with an outsourced CFO?

The new CFO: How far can you go with an outsourced CFO?

Ink Factory Studio is a “small but mighty women-owned business,” as described by chief operating officer Lindsay Wilson. In financial matters, though, the Chicago-based company knows its limits.

Launched in 2011 by Wilson and two fellow cofounders, Ink Factory specializes in visual note-taking. Its team of artists—who translate speeches, strategy sessions, and other spoken words from corporate customers into text and pictures that appeal to visual learners—has grown to 13.

The founders recently decided to stop managing their finances themselves. “We got to a point where we just realized that math is not our strong suit,” says Wilson, whose clients include Amazon, Ford Motor, and NBCUniversal Media. “We draw pictures all day.”

So Ink Factory, which already had an in-house accountant, turned to a local outsourced CFO firm. Last summer, ORBA Cloud CFO Services paired it with chief financial officer Kimberly Stanley.

“Kim really matches our energy and our curiosity and wants to understand our business,” Wilson says of Stanley, whose engagement spans financial forecasting, accounts receivable, and strategy. “I can speak about our business, and I can talk about everything that we do, but when it comes to the numbers, she can help tell that story so much better and differently.”

Catering to businesses large and small, outsourced—also known as fractional—CFO firms offer a host of services, from basic accounting to high-level strategy. These outfits, which have proliferated over the past several years, help companies gain access to relatively scarce talent. As a business grows in size and complexity, it may need to recruit an in-house CFO.

Director Chris Arndt founded what is now ORBA Cloud CFO Services in 2011 under a different name, originally focusing on startups. “[We] kind of became known as the entrepreneur’s CFO, and then we started building the company,” recounts Arndt, who sold his business to CPA firm Ostrow Reisin Berk & Abrams (ORBA) in 2016.

His division—many of whose clients are in the e-commerce, manufacturing, cannabis, and not-for-profit sectors—now accounts for 25 of ORBA’s roughly 170 staff. As the business has grown, so has its median customer size to about $10 million in annual revenue.

True to its name, the unit serves clients virtually. In addition to outsourced CFOs, it offers bookkeeping and controller services, which contribute the bulk of its revenue, Arndt says. “When…

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