Cindy Rogers has seen it all. A certified FP&A and CPA, she has run budgets, forecasts, strategic planning and cash management. She also writes and reviews questions for AFP’s FP&A certification test.
After years as an employee, including being a direct report to the CFO, Rogers struck out on her own as an FP&A consulting professional. This new perspective keeps her at the forefront of FP&A, because companies increasingly are creating extended teams that include consultants, contractors, gig workers and freelancers, in addition to full-time employees. We asked Rogers about her experience on both sides of this divide, and how businesses can integrate the collective knowledge from the extended team into the company.
AFP: As a consultant, what type of contracts are you hired to fulfill?
Cindy Rogers: Usually, my work is project based, and it can last a few weeks, months or even years. Often, I’ve been hired to develop and facilitate a company’s budgeting process, which resulted in a longer-term contract—more than one year. There were shorter contracts as well, where I would build or refine financial models to assist with strategic decision-making or their forecasting process.
Other contracts are coverage for employees for a fixed term, such as maternity leaves or filling in for an interim period until the company finds a replacement manager or director. Sometimes it takes time for the company to find the right fit at a given level and they need someone to be able to come in and help move priorities while they search for the right employee.
AFP: Do you think freelancing or gig work will become common in finance and FP&A?
Rogers: Yes, because companies can hire FP&A professionals to come in, bring the expertise they don’t have in-house, train employees and stay nimble when needed. I believe the tasks to perform are common, i.e., IFRS, U.S. GAAP, economic metrics, and of course, spreadsheets for financial models. Many companies have ERP or other systems in place, but I’ve found most still use spreadsheets in one form or another.
AFP: How can a company integrate the intelligence from a non-employee who is on the team? By Intelligence, I mean the specific contracted deliverables, as well as the insight, creativity and energy of an outside perspective?
Rogers: Employers should create a job description with specific functions for the contractor, addressing the same aspects of the role as if they hired a full-time employee. This may be accomplished by detailed scope of work for the project, but those tend to focus on the technical objectives of the task and tend to miss the “soft” goals. In short, if you want to capture and integrate the intelligence from a non-employee—put that right in their contract with specific documentation of goals. Specific deliverables could include mentoring/training of other team members on improved methods or workflows; participation in corporate self-evaluation (performance) review process for documented two-way feedback, etc. These soft skills are the difference between success or failure, or between good or great consultants.
Also, care should be taken that consultants report to the appropriate person in the organization—high enough that the consultant’s request receives appropriate attention. Generally, they should report to the same management level as an equivalent employee would to help capture the day-to-day benefits that experienced consultant can provide. Those learnings can be lost if the consultant/contractor is subordinated one level down—which I have seen done due to the nature of the employment arrangement.
AFP: What should a company do when onboarding a consultant or contractor to bring them into the team?
Rogers: It’s important that team members are made aware of what the consultant was hired to achieve. Appropriate staffs should be made available to the consultant or contractor, so projects are pushed ahead so that companies can get the most out of their consultants. Stalling because the consultant is waiting on the employee to provide their time or expertise results in wasted effort and money for the company.
An effective team should include cooperation and collaboration of all team members, regardless of whether they are internal or external, permanent or temporary. This should be circulated to other employee team members, so they clearly understand the role.
AFP: How do you manage the office politics as an outsider?
Rogers: Carrying yourself with honesty and integrity will serve well in the long run. I try to stay out of office politics whether I am an employee or a consultant but that doesn’t mean you can always steer clear of it in both cases. I try to listen and tend to not add any comments or negative opinions that are not constructive or that would fuel the fire. Regardless if you’re an employee or consultant, if you stay with the simple mantra of “treat others how you want to be treated,” this will show through trust with your co-workers when it comes time for that promotion, rate increases or extended contracts.
An excerpt of this interview appears in the FP&A Guide on Integrative Intelligence, underwritten by Microsoft. Download the guide here.