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Would you Dial a CFO? Potential in 'dial an expert' business model

Dial A CFO is part of a new wave of business models

Say you've spent decades in business, building up a reputation in your field and and some pretty solid experience. But stepping into C-level shoes is just not for you. Where to next?

These are the types of people Tony Rutherford of Dial a CFO is recruiting. The Dial team encompasses corporate expertise from business analysts through to directors, financial controllers, and yes, CFOs.

"You'd be astounded at the number of people out there like that," he says. "Businesses just don't know they are out there. There are some very good people that want to work across multiple companies. Yet in New Zealand there is this inference that unless you're working for a pedigree New Zealand company as a full time CFO that you're somehow haven't self-actualised."

For companies, particularly SMEs, the benefits are bringing on industry experts to fill skill gaps on an as-needed basis. Dial a CFO is a little over a year old and its 50-odd team have worked with more than 15 companies on everything from risk management to procurement to legal, strategy and planning.

Rutherford says the next step is building up customer clusters, and to that end, is reaching out to banks such as ASB and industry organisations like the EMA that could link Dial a CFO into their groups of clients and members.

There's also potential to expand the model into Australia, and to other professional service sectors, he says.

"Why wouldn't you dial a lawyer, architect, CEO?"

Rutherford started the company after seeing a gap in the market.

"We spotted a lot of businesses that need the requirements of a CFO: someone who's really been there and done that and driven teams and managed commercial outcomes and managed risk and done stakeholder engagement," he says.

"Lots of midsize New Zealand corporates need it but not on a full time basis. There's no value of having a $300,000 person on payroll."

There are virtual CFO services in New Zealand but Rutherford says those tend to tap into the multinational chartered accounting environment. Dial a CFO associates, he says, gain their experience within the commercial sector and can often match the industries of customers.They work in companies as though they are staff members, as opposed to the external, technical focus of CA firms.

Clients range from the smallest of startups (like Zane Education, with ambitions to list on the NYSE this year) to multinationals turning over hundreds of millions.

"A lot of businesses just get by with their internal network – but just imagine the strength of having one organisation where if one week you need a BA and one week you need a CFO and next week a Treasury expert ... the mix is going to change over time," he says – and Dial a CFO aims to be a "one stop shop for all of your commercial and business requirements".

Dial a CFO's associates are essentially self-employed. According to Rutherford, most would be working 2-3 days a week, but this can vary. Some depend on it as their only channel of work; some of the more junior members are looking for permanent work, while others at the opposite end of the spectrum are semi-retired.

"The great thing about the service is we can accommodate any client request."