Job descriptions, really, Big Red Car?
Big Red Car here on a gorgeous, sunny Texas day. All the rain has lowered temperatures, everything is green, and it feels like fall already (which doesn’t normally happen until mid-October). Houston is still flooded, but it is starting to drain. Now, the real work begins.
I had a hard time figuring out the right title for this bit of wisdom, so I used Growing Up – Job Descriptions. I would have to give myself a D- on the title. Sorry. The message is deeper than that.
I am seeing a lot of successful startups failing to improve their basic functions as they get out of the cradle into the crawl, walk, run continuum. I am also seeing some struggling to make it so.
Working with a more mature, serial entrepreneur on a largish turnaround, it became apparent how different it is when a startup is using crayons and a more mature enterprise — even a turnaround — is able to operate at a higher level, using fine point pen competence.
So, when do you know that you have to take off the training wheels? Not important, as long as you know you have to one day. Here is an example.
Financial Controller duties
The serial entrepreneur was debating with himself the duties of a Financial Controller to be retained from the turnaround, going concern. The entrepreneur is a seasoned type who actually issues job descriptions BEFORE he hires people. Imagine that?
So, he asks, “Big Red, you have a decent List of Duties for a Financial Controller, do you?” The entrepreneur is Irish and speaks with a lovely Irish accent. Other than Southern accents, the Irish accent is the nicest touch of one’s ear. He’s a shrewd operator, and negotiated a substantial Irish Discount knowing this fact. Those Galway men are a savvy bunch.
“Well, yes, Irish, I do indeed.” The Big Red Car (Brennan from the Country Cork on his mother’s side) will fall into an Irish cadence when speaking to a full-blooded kinsman.
So, he sent him this List of Duties of a Financial Controller. Click on the link.
The duties are not as comprehensive as others might make, but they are more than sufficient to inform a CEO and his Financial Controller as to what the job might entail.
They were drawn up about five years ago when a similar situation presented itself. [Note: This is not a job description. This is a list of duties to be incorporated into a Job Description and Basis of Employment. The BRC can send you an exemplar of that if one is needed.]
OK, job descriptions, why, Big Red Car?
Here’s the core message, y’all: You will not always be a cute, spindly startup. One day, someone will invite you to eat at the adult’s table and this is the kind of stuff the adults are doing.
Secondarily, this has nothing to do with your product. A Financial Controller is someone who facilitates the product and is purely support. A good controller doesn’t even have to understand what you do as long as the money comes in, goes out, piles up, and gets invested or distributed.
You can be a product wizard and still fail because you can’t get the cash flowing in the right pipes. It’s all connected.
When this description was first slapped together, the recipient (first time founder/CEO whose company had achieved a bit of traction) was scared out of his wits. He said, “Oh my God! I don’t even know what half of that stuff means.”
That’s the crawl part of the crawl, walk, run continuum. Not to worry. It is fine. Nobody knows that stuff until they’ve been blooded in business for a few years, but you can learn and there is no time to begin learning like NOW.
In that instance, the CEO did something else. He hired an outside service to keep his books, but — wait for it — when he was ready to hire a Financial Controller, he did and he did it with style, class, and aplomb. He had kept the document. He made the switch from walk to run.
If you are a startup, treading water, do not be afraid. It’s fine.
Here is what you need to know about how you assimilate financial talent. This blog post corresponds in time to the initial draft of the FC duties. See how that works.
Let’s end with this — there is a big, cruel world out there which doesn’t care that you are a cute, furry, adorable startup. If they compete with you, they intend to crush you, make your loved ones howl with lamentations, pile your skulls up, and piss on your grave.
As you grow, you will have to grow up and learn to operate on an infinitely more sophisticated playing field. Thought you would want to know.
OK, don’t feel bad. It’s going to be fine. Keep that list of Financial Controller duties handy and when the time comes, you will be ready — with style, class, and aplomb. If you get stuck, I will coach you through the Valley of Death.