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One ‘Recovering CFO’ Creates Placement Firm

Published In: Daily Journal of Commerce on November 21st 2006
Author: Katie Zemtseff

Tom Varga admits to being “a recovering chief financial officer,” by which he means he used to live the 80-hour, high-powered corporate week. But he has since turned his talents to another field: owning his own business.

Varga created CFO Selections in 2002 when he saw a need for temporary finance executives, and a supply of experienced candidates in this region who didn’t want the typical job or the typical salary.

His clients don’t need a full-time CFO, so they hire CFO Selections for temporary service. CFOs are then matched with clients and move into companies. Varga said the average engagement is 22 months.

The company recently expanded its services to include personalized search and placement for new executives. That move was spurred by numerous client requests, Varga said, adding that initially he did not want to be in the search business. “(Clients said) ‘We had 100 yards to go, you’ve got us 95 yards, now you’ve got to get us over the finish line.”

It is the combination of both services and its focus on the financial world that Varga said makes CFO Selections unique among temporary placement firms.

But the relationship between a company and a CFO is an intimate one, so Varga meticulously matches people together, and leaves open spaces in his schedule so he can enter the picture should a problem arise.

“The easy part is mix-and-match. The tough part is the cultural fit,” Varga said. “Do they need a Type A take-the-hill personality or someone who comes in and says, ‘How was your weekend?'”

John Parker, Unimark Construction Group president, said his general contracting company needed someone who was experienced but personable when he first began working with CFO Selections in 2004. Now, Unimark is also using the firm to find a new controller. Parker said Varga has a good grasp of who Unimark is and how it operates because of their earlier work together. “They dig into our company to understand our culture. The last thing you want is someone qualified but who doesn’t fit culturally.”

Parker said he could use his accounting firm instead of CFO Selections, but he likes to keep financial work separate.

Companies can also hire consultants to do the job but Varga said they generally charge by the hour, which could make that route more expensive.

Varga said his price point is affordable to a small business, but if a company needs someone more than part-time, it becomes cheaper to hire a full-time CFO.

The company currently has four executives in the search department and 17 in the CFO arena.

CFO Selections is based in Bellevue, but has offices in Issaquah and Phoenix, Ariz.

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