Good Home’s problem was plain enough: For small companies, bringing on a full-time chief financial officer can be an awfully big step to take. The salary alone–generally between $100,000 and $150,000 a year–often is more than what the CEO takes home. Then there’s the matter of control. Obviously, hiring a CFO means giving up some measure of authority over the finances and spending decisions of your business. What’s more, the return on investment on a CFO is hard to measure. “Most entrepreneurs feel like there’s no revenue associated with a CFO,” says University of Texas business professor Jim Nolen. “They’re thinking, ‘Why spend money on a CFO, when I’m not sure how I’m going to get that back?'” he says. It’s no wonder that so many people stick with QuickBooks.
But there is an alternative: Rent a temp. After all the corporate downsizing of the past few years, the rent-a-CFO business is booming, with at least two dozen companies specializing in temp CFOs scattered across the U.S. Many temps have decades of financial experience and can help you arrange financing or credit or a budget. Just as important, he or she can serve as a clear-headed strategic planner–something that will help ensure that a CEO’s growth plans actually make financial sense. “He’s the sanity check to the CEO’s strategies,” says David Gilmore, a managing director of Atlanta-based Tatum Partners, one of the biggest providers of temp CFOs to small and midsize companies nationwide.