The CFO'S Perspective

Years of Lessons Learned as a Business Partner


It's hard to believe 20 years has gone by since CFO Selections was founded! It has been 16 years since merging a small search practice with CFO Selections. Time has gone by so quickly! It has been gratifying to make great friendships within the community, including my partners, consultants, clients, and fantastic trusted advisor community. To this day, I still get a thrill reading the business section of various publications and finding a company mentioned we assisted at some point in their growth.

Today I am sharing lessons learned as both a partner of CFO Selections as well as in the business development role. These are the keys to success I encourage all business owners and entrepreneurs to leverage on their business journey.

  • Informal Advisory Board

    • advice-transparentAn informal group of advisors is invaluable if a company does not have a formal advisory board. The group of advisors can be other business owners and trusted advisors, including lawyers, CPAs, bankers, and a broad group of consultants who serve the business community.

      It was beneficial to have them as a sounding board to offer new thoughts beyond our own. Long ago, as the company started to grow, and I would reach out to my board for advice. They sometimes said things I did not want to hear, but I trusted their input and advice. Ninety percent were spot-on because they had been through something similar in their careers.
  • Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reasons"

    • do-the-right-thingWe lived by this mantra from the very beginning. We knew if we lived with this mindset, the rest would take care of itself. It has served us well. Over the years, we did not take unnecessary risks or try to grow too fast. We made every attempt to first do what was right for our clients AND our team. The CFO Selections and ASP Teams continue to follow this principle today.
  • Understand that your job will change as the company grows

    • climb-mountain-equity-ownersThis was one of my most difficult challenges. In the early days, I knew every client, every consultant on our team, and generally everything that went on in the business.

      As the business grew, it became apparent that this was no longer possible. One day I was introduced to the executive director of a local nonprofit. They had expressed an interest in knowing more about the CFOS Foundation since their organization focused on foster care, the cause the CFOS Foundation supports.

      The Executive Director said, "your consultant Amy is fantastic; we love her work!" My stomach dropped. Immediately after the call, I reached out to Tom Varga and asked, "is that a client of ours?" He said, "Yes, for many months." I had to face the reality that I needed to operate in a new way. Going forward, we began to bring equity owners into the business. As an avid mountain climber, I was told by Tom that new partners needed to be "folks you would trust to rope up with to climb a mountain."

      20 years later, my job is still evolving. As we continue our geographic growth, I spend more time on the road assisting in new markets. The CFO Selections team is larger and doing more than I can personally track. Our growth enables the evolution of my role in ways that are both enjoyable and impactful.
  • Pick your partners wisely

    • pick-partnersAs CFO Selections grew, the company reached a decision point and resolved that bringing on partners was the best way to move forward. Carefully choosing the partners with whom you go into business is one of the most important decisions you can make. Pick right, and there is a higher chance of success and happiness; pick wrong, and it can be highly detrimental to your business and you personally.

      Since the growth of our company necessitated making changes, our best option was to have a group of our team join us as an ownership group. It would enable the firm to grow and live on beyond the founder. When we decided to move in this direction, Tom Varga and I grabbed yellow pads and went into two separate rooms to list everyone on our team who we would "rope up with on a mountain". We came back together an hour later with our lists. To my surprise, we both had the same ten people listed! That was the beginning of our partnership group. Over time we developed a more formal partner track but continue looking for the same characteristics as we did years ago.  
  • Grow with your peers

    • goow-peersFrom time to time, I mentor people who may be new to their professions in the trusted advisor community. They may say they are not natural networkers or cannot seem to get a meeting with the right decision maker. I continue to meet new professionals and do business with them. Many of them have become good friends over the years. These junior accountants, lawyers, and bankers are now their firms' senior partners or presidents. I did not do anything special; I just grew with them. It is exceptionally pleasing that those same people also happen to be the leaders in their respective fields. Don't overlook the opportunity to help others along the way. They will be your future network.
  • Focus, no distractions

    • focusYou cannot be all things to all people. Do what you are good at and stick to it. In business there are always options to add lines of business outside of your core mission. Spreading yourself too thin and taking on too many roles results in a loss of effectiveness. Since the beginning, our firm has gotten together once a year to discuss our strategy and the initiatives we could potentially add to our service offerings.  

      Maintaining our focus on our core service offerings and being selective when adding new ones has enabled us to successfully grow over the long term.
  • Persistence

    • focus-almond-rocaIt is all any of us have. I was not the best student in school. However, I do have the one characteristic that I believe most successful business people have: persistence. No matter how difficult things got or how many losses I might have, I kept getting back up and going again.

      After five years in business with my original business partner (several years before merging with CFO Selections), we faced a rough patch. We were small and moving into a recession. We were both thinking about going into other lines of work. We decided to "cut the lines" and either sink or swim. The recession passed, and we made it through. Even now I get knocked down, but I know that if I persevere things will always work out.

I have always embraced this value in my personal and professional life. I am an optimistic person who looks at the positive side of things. I have always believed in the business and my partners, knowing we would thrive and grow. I am thankful to those who helped me get started many years ago, and my partners today. I am excited to see what the next 20 years will bring and I am still learning every day! I hope these lessons will help you on your journey to business success.

About the Author


Mark Tranter has been with CFO Selections since its inception. The opportunity to help businesses succeed and grow continues to be the reason he loves his work. Making connections and building relationships is key to Mark’s business philosophy. 


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Topics: Leadership, Personal Development, About Us, Company Culture

Topics: Leadership Personal Development About Us Company Culture