How to Hire a CFO or Fractional Controller

How to Hire a CFO or Fractional Controller

Engaging the services of an adept CFO on a fractional basis holds the potential to enhance the financial management of a burgeoning small business up to a lower middle-market company. 

The strategic utilization of a part-time CFO for hire allows companies to benefit from invaluable Chief Financial Officer expertise without bearing the financial burden associated with the recruitment of a full-time CFO for hire, making it a financially prudent choice. Included herein is a definition of fractional CFO services.

What is a Fractional CFO? 

A fractional CFO refers to a part-time Chief Financial Officer, typically engaged by startups on a contractual basis to contribute expertise in finance, strategic planning, and other CFO-related activities. Functioning as a fractional CFO allows for the provision of outsourced CFO services to multiple small businesses, distinguishing this role from a full-time commitment to a single enterprise.

Opting for a fractional CFO for hire, engaged as an independent contractor rather than a full-time CFO, serves to mitigate business costs. This approach grants businesses access to elevated levels of strategic planning, cash flow management, advisory services, negotiation skills, and financial analysis capabilities that extend beyond the scope of preparing financial statements.

What’s the Difference Between a Fractional CFO and a Controller?

The primary distinction between a CFO and a Controller lies in the scope of their responsibilities. A Controller is adept at managing more operational and tactical tasks, whereas a CFO is positioned to oversee broader strategic initiatives.

A Controller’s role encompasses ensuring compliance and reporting for the business, reconciling accounts, maintaining precision in financial statements, overseeing existing accounting staff, and managing payroll taxes.

In contrast, a CFO for hire extends beyond these foundational duties by actively contributing to financial planning, conducting risk assessments, optimizing cash flow, participating in strategic initiatives, cultivating beneficial business relationships, and effectively communicating financial information to both internal and external stakeholders.

What Services Does a Fractional CFO Offer?

A fractional CFO assumes responsibilities integral to executive management teams, offering a spectrum of services that encompass:

  • Strategic planning
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
  • Development of business plans and pitch decks for venture capital fundraising
  • Financial modeling
  • Valuation
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) due diligence
  • Preparation of deal room documents
  • Forecasting and budgeting, featuring variance analysis
  • Proficient cash flow management
  • Cultivation of banking relationships
  • Provision of business intelligence
  • Financial analysis, including Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A)
  • Generation of reports and presentations
  • Decision-support activities
  • Negotiation processes
  • Oversight of investor relations

Most Common Problems that Fractional CFOs Help Solve

Fractional CFOs are adept at resolving various common business challenges, including:

  • Facilitating the development of business plans and pitch decks for venture capital fundraising
  • Providing support for companies engaged in M&A deals or preparing for IPOs
  • Collaborating on strategies for growth and enhanced profitability
  • Implementing solutions to improve cash flow
  • Elevating and optimizing financial systems

How to Hire a Chief Financial Officer? 

The acquisition of a fractional CFO for your business can be facilitated through various channels, depending on your hiring preferences. Whether you intend to employ a part-time CFO through your payroll or engage an independent contractor or freelancer via a contractual arrangement, the choice influences where you seek a fractional CFO.

Potential avenues for finding a fractional CFO include:

1. Professional Referrals from CPA Firms and Attorneys

CPA firms and legal professionals may provide valuable referrals for a fractional CFO. While CPA firms in public accounting maintain independence from audited companies, they can still serve as indirect sources for part-time CFO recommendations.

2. Word-of-Mouth Networking

Leveraging word-of-mouth within professional networks and among small businesses can lead to referrals from those currently utilizing the services of a fractional CFO. This approach ensures that the CFO’s time is effectively distributed among multiple companies.

3. Fractional CFO (Part-time CFO) Businesses

Several companies specialize in fractional CFO services. Fractional CFOs, often working as independent contractors, are associated with these businesses through contractual agreements. Some operate nationally, while others focus on regional markets. Research their online presence, including websites and client ratings.

4.  Freelancer Platforms

Platforms like Upwork and Toptal feature qualified freelancers offering fractional CFO services or financial consulting as independent contractors. These platforms provide a pool of vetted professionals for your consideration.

5. Financial Placement Services Businesses

Notable entities like Robert Half, a prominent accounting and financial placement services company, offer fractional CFO and interim CFO services through divisions such as Robert Half Management Services. These services typically involve billing clients for placements or temporary financial services on an hourly basis at a markup rate.

How Much is a Fractional CFO? 

The hourly rate for a fractional CFO typically falls within the range of $250 to $500, with an average pricing of $300 per hour. In the realm of fractional CFO services, there is often room for negotiation, and your business may explore the possibility of securing a fixed monthly retainer ranging between $5,000 and $12,000. This retainer would typically cover five or six hours of work per week.

The overall cost of engaging a fractional CFO is contingent upon the number of hours the part-time CFO is contracted to work with your business. It is advised to consider the specific needs and scope of services required when determining the appropriate arrangement and associated costs.

Benefits of Fractional CFO Services

Leveraging fractional CFO services yields numerous advantages for your business:

1. Serving as a cost-effective alternative, fractional CFO services enable your business to access high-level financial expertise without the financial commitment associated with hiring a full-time CFO.

2. The utilization of fractional CFO services grants your business access to a comprehensive CFO skill set. This access enhances decision-making processes and contributes to the overall improvement of profitability.

3. Engaging a fractional CFO enhances your business’s fundraising endeavors by presenting an impressive resume of financial leadership. This can instill confidence in potential investors and stakeholders.

4. The additional resources and focused attention provided by fractional CFO services contribute to the expedited completion of projects. This efficiency is particularly valuable in dynamic business environments.

5. Fractional CFOs bring not only expertise but also offer mentoring and training opportunities for existing financial teams. This contributes to the professional development and skill enhancement of internal staff.


Engaging a fractional CFO proves invaluable for small businesses and midmarket companies lacking an in-house CFO or Controller capable of executing the highest-level financial functions.


How much does a fractional CFO charge per hour?

The hourly rate for a fractional CFO typically ranges between $250 and $500, with an average rate of around $300 per hour. However, rates can vary based on factors such as experience, expertise, and the specific needs of the business.

What does a fractional CFO do?

A fractional CFO serves as a dynamic financial strategist for businesses, operating on a part-time basis to provide essential financial leadership. Their multifaceted role encompasses advanced financial forecasting, strategic planning, and cash flow management. With expertise in fundraising support, a fractional CFO assists in crafting compelling business plans and pitch decks to attract investors.

How do you find the fractional CFO?

Fractional CFOs can be found through various channels:

  • Professional referrals from CPA firms and attorneys
  • Word-of-mouth networking within professional circles
  • Fractional CFO (part-time CFO) businesses
  • Freelancer platforms such as Upwork and Toptal
When should you hire a fractional CFO?

Hiring a fractional CFO is advisable in situations where a business requires high-level financial expertise but may not have the resources or need for a full-time CFO. Common scenarios include strategic financial planning, fundraising, M&A activities, and when a company is undergoing significant growth or facing financial challenges.

Is a fractional CFO worth it?

Yes, a fractional CFO is often worth the investment, especially for small businesses and midmarket companies. The benefits include access to strategic financial expertise, advanced forecasting, cash management skills, and assistance with financial aspects of activities like securing new financing or engaging in M&A deals. It provides a cost-effective alternative to hiring a full-time CFO while delivering valuable insights and support for critical financial functions.

How to find a CFO for a startup?

Hiring a CFO for a startup demands a strategic and targeted approach. Begin by defining your specific needs and determining whether a full-time CFO or fractional CFO services are more suitable for your startup’s stage. Leverage your professional network, attend industry events, and explore online platforms like LinkedIn and executive search firms to identify potential candidates. Consider startup-focused resources such as incubators, accelerators, and industry conferences, where experienced finance professionals often converge.