27 tips on hiring a top FD

11 … and their battle scars

A financial director who’s been there and done that (and has the battle scars to prove it) is always an advantage. Look for someone who has dealt with cash-flow problems, legal disputes, and low-margin businesses. You never know when you might just need that relevant experience.

12 Know the timescale

It can take several months to find and hire an FD. “Pencil in at least four to six weeks, on average, to identify candidates, interview them and make an offer that’s accepted. Add a couple more weeks if you haven’t yet defined the role and objectives. There’s usually another one to three months’ delay as they serve their notice period before they’re working for you,” warns Jennifer Price of executive recruitment firm Archer Mathieson.

13 Offer them added incentives

The best FDs are never short of offers. How do you attract them” “Put together a package that includes additional lifestyle benefits (whether that’s a gym membership or a company car) as well as a competitive salary to ensure the candidate will have ‘stickability’ with your firm,” advises James Hartshorn, head of search at Barclay Meade Executive Search. Remember to include performance bonuses and share options.

14 Match them up with your business plan

Hire someone whose experience fits with the growth plan you have for the business, be it organic, through acquisition, overseas expansion, IPO or merger, advises Price of Archer Mathieson.

15 Beware of the cost of getting it wrong

The cost of getting this level of hire wrong has got to be the first consideration for any board. An FD is a high-profile hire. Get it wrong and it will impact the entire company. Cost implications are not just the time spent interviewing; they include the recruitment agency’s fees, the negative brand impact, team disengagement, potential lost opportunity, the fees for hiring a replacement and the exit cost for the wrongly hired director. “In a high-growth company, this could mean 12 months or more lost in the build towards an IPO or a further funding round,” says Barclay Meade Executive Search’s Hartshorn. “When you make the decision, make sure it’s the right one.”

16 Promote from within

If you have a financial controller, and you rate them, think seriously about giving them a chance to move up the ladder before you get on the blower to the headhunters. “As well as the cost savings, both in terms of recruitment and, potentially, salary, you already know if they’re a good fit with your business,” says Ian Moat, director at Manchester-based specialist management and executive recruitment firm Threesixty Selection.

17 Know the going rate

Salaries can vary widely according to region, industry and company size, so do your research and find out what competitors are paying to make sure your offer is competitive. “Good places to look for this information include job sites, newspapers and the many salary surveys that are published every year,” says Sarah El-Doori, marketing director of finance jobs site GAAPweb. “The current average salary of finance director jobs advertised online is £62,000, but note that ‘average’ includes everything from small entrepreneurial ventures to large plcs.

18 … and pay above it

Don’t be tempted to scrimp on salary. Good-quality candidates don’t come cheap. “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys,” adds Sarah Hunt, managing director of specialist recruitment business Equity FD. “It may be an old adage but it’s true all the same.”

19 Road test your FD

“If you’re nervous about settling on a financial director, consider recruiting on a temporary-to-permanent basis,” suggests Jay Wood, regional manager at Reed Finance. “This ‘try-before-you-buy’ model will give you time to gauge the candidate’s ability and how they work alongside the rest of the team. If they’re any good, you can hire them on a permanent basis. If they’re unsuitable for the role, you can let them go at the end of the temporary period.”

20 Look for passion

You run an entrepreneurial company, right” So make sure your FD is someone with a genuine passion for fast growth. The classic trap is to assume someone with an outstanding large blue-chip record is what you need. “It’s no good paying for advice from a 30-year veteran with lots of experience if there’s no longer the appetite to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done,” says David Bloom, CEO of FD Unlimited, a provider of part-time, interim and full-time finance directors.

Read more tips on page three

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