#3 Becoming a Portfolio CFO with Stuart Trood

Becoming a portfolio CFO with Stuart Trood on the GrowCFO Show

Stuart Trood is a portfolio CFO. He undertakes the CFO role for a number of different clients, each on a part time basis. We caught up with Stuart to find out more about the work of the portfolio CFO and find out how to become one. Stuart also explains to us the importance of a support network of fellow portfolio CFOs.

Stuart Trood portfolio CFO

Stuart Trood has undertaken previous full time roles as both a CFO and a CEO. He worked for a range of businesses from large corporations to startups over a period of 30 years. Stuart wanted to take this experience and use it to help smaller businesses. Stuart wants the choice of working for businesses that interest him. He also wants freedom in the way he can use his time. He manages his commitments to maximise the time he can spend working on the things he enjoys most and to achieve a better balance between work and family life. Stuart became a portfolio CFO following the sale of his previous business. Following the sale he wanted to do something completely different and ddeliberately chose not to return to corporate life.

Does a portfolio CFO work fewer hours?

The portfolio CFO has the ability to work as much or as little as he chooses. The big challenge is balancing what you want to do and how you want to work with demands of the client. Stuart doesn’t work any less but has more choice in what he does and when he does it. He wants to be involved in managing the business and not just the numbers. The portfolio CFO has more choice and can easily get involved in direction and strategy of the business in a hands on way. This may mean he works more rather than less.

How do you switch from corporate to portfolio CFO?

Stuart was fortunate. His transition was relatively easy. Following a business sale he got his first portfolio role quite quickly, but didn’t have the financial pressure of needing to immediately find other roles. He had time to develop his portfolio.

Stuart found networking a key requirement. Joining the right networking groups is important. No matter how much you network its unlikely that everything will come together immediately. You need to be patient while your portfolio develops. You also need to be dogmatic, and stick with your vision. Its all too easy to give up too soon or take an opportunity that doesn’t align with what you really want to do because you simply need the income.

There are various agencies for portfolio CFOs that will help you find work. Its worth investigating these. You can register with more that one.

Covid-19 has changed  the market

Covid -19 seems to have increased the opportunities for portfolio CFOs. This has happened in two ways:

  • Some businesses are struggling to afford a full time finance professional.  They realise they can buy part time support from a portfolio CFO rather than employing their own CFO.
  • Other businesses  may never have employed a senior finance person. They are realising they need extra support. Many of these can’t afford the extra member of staff but may be able to afford one or two days a week from a portfolio CFO.

What does Portfolio CFO do?

The portfolio CFO isn’t necessarily doing the books and the accounts. He may take on more of an oversight role. Alternately he might have more of a project focus. This can be business turnaround, or doing finance transformation.

On the other hand, the portfolio CFO might find it interesting to go back to the basics. It can be refreshing after corporate to be more hands on again. He can do some bookkeeping and  use systems like Xero “hands-on”.

Stuart has found lots of variety. Covid has meant he has been involved in loan applications and managing the furlough scheme for his clients.

Can GrowCFO help the portfolio CFO?

Stuart originally came into contact with Dan Wells and the GrowCFO network because he wanted new networking opportunities with his peers. He has ended up running the portfolio CFOs community within GrowCFO. He is also the CFO of GrowCFO! Its part of his personal client portfolio. The community has become a great place for sharing experiences and learning with fellow portfolio CFOs . The covid crisis has actually been a great time to establish this group. Everyone has new questions to answer at a very difficult time. Sharing and collaboration has helped disseminate knowledge both quickly and effectively.

What to become a portfolio CFO?

If you want to become a portfolio CFO what are the 3-4 things to do in the next 100 days? Stuart has some clear advice:

  • Be certain you want to do it. Talk to existing Portfolio CFOs. Make sure you cover a range of people. Varying tenures and different disciplines. Find out as much as you can.
  • Work out who your first client might be. Don’t step out of corporate into a black hole.
  • Figure out what networks you might need to join
  • Be clear on the sort of portfolio you want. What sort of work interests you?
  • Decide what lifestyle you want. This will impact on the sort of client you take on.

What about day rates?

Portfolio CFO rates can vary hugely. It all depends on what the business can afford to pay. Its not necessarily just day rates. Some CFOs will keep timesheets and charge by the hour. Others will commit one or 2 days a week to each client and charge by the day. Day rates can be £500 upwards

Rates will vary according to the type of work you do. Deep specialists in particular areas may be able to command higher rates. A portfolio CFO might also act as a mentor or coach. Mentoring day rates can be quite high. Some of the top mentors and coaches may well charge  £1000 -£1500+ per day.

Giving back

Money isn’t necessarily the CFOs motivation. Both Stuart & Kevin want to pass on knowledge to next generation. There are many years of experience to pass on. For example navigating the financial crisis of 2008 has many lessons for the covid crisis. The role of CFO is changing rapidly, Covid has accelerated this, often with CFO being more hands on strategically. Portfolio CFO can bring big corporate experience into the small business that can’t afford full time support.

Good time management is vital

It’s Easy to be a victim of your own success. A good CFO will be asked loads of questions by the rest of the business team. He will become key member of that team and can easily end up working 12 hour days. Multiple clients can give conflicting deadlines. There is a real need to be disciplined and understand when to say no. The portfolio CFO role will easily creep from a part time to full time role. This can happen unintentionally and you end up back with a single full time role you never really wanted.

How do you find out more?

Join GrowCFO, its free. Once you join the GrowCFO portal you can make contact with Stuart. You can join the GrowCFO Portfolio CFO community. There’s no cost to join. You can take part in monthly community meetings, make contact with the portfolio CFOs, chat, and get informal support.


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