Scaleup Story: Building a Global Advisory, Accounting & Automation Business
We sat down with Louw Barnardt, Co-Founder of innovative Cape Town-based finance and accounting company Outsourced CFO.
For startup and scaleup founders, getting the numbers right is key. But, founder teams seldom have a finance guru in their starting line-up — for obvious reasons! Accountant and entrepreneur profiles are worlds apart. Where will you find someone who can play the role of the ‘financial co-founder’ you never had? Enter Outsourced CFO.
“There were engineers, creatives, developers, and more — but absolutely no accountants. So we asked ourselves: who is going to help all these founders run the financial side of their companies? That’s how Outsourced CFO was born.”
How it started
Back in 2013, three young Chartered Accountants were finishing up their audit articles when the opportunity came knocking. “We attended the very first Startup Grind event in Cape Town. Seventy founders came to listen to an interview with a very successful entrepreneur. There were engineers, creatives, developers, and more — but absolutely no accountants. So we asked ourselves: who is going to help all these founders run the financial side of their companies? Outsourced CFO was born.”
Big ambitions and goals
Ever since they started out 8 years ago, Outsourced CFO (or OCFO for short) has grown in leaps and bounds. Today, the team has worked with over 600 companies in 17 countries around the world. Their full-time plus part-time team has crossed the fifty people mark, and their fundraising team has helped raise more than $100M for entrepreneurial companies.
“Apart from the year of 2020 when the pandemic hit South Africa, we’re privileged to have never closed out a year at under 50% year-on-year growth”, says Louw Barnardt, Co-Founder. “Our Big Hairy Audacious Goal includes reaching ten thousand founder-lead companies, as well as contributing to their growth and success. We feel that this will really make a dent in our universe.”
Global talent wars drive opportunity
The most significant trend shaping their industry right now is the search for great talent in the remote world of work.
“There seems to be a global shortage of highly qualified finance and accounting staff. The profession has not yielded enough qualified talent to satisfy the global demand as unprecedented amounts of new companies are started and scaled up.”
This lack in the global talent pool has created an exciting opportunity for arbitrage and doing business transnationally, with international companies sourcing talent from South Africa to supply for the world’s demand. OCFO’s Chartered Accountant (South Africa) designation carries immense value abroad, as the world has seen and appreciates the kind of finance talent produced in our country.
“This global search for finance talent is really driving our growth at the moment.”
What Outsourced CFO actually does
Team OCFO has four main offerings. The first is around CFO Services — access to fractional or part-time CFOs that help steer the financial strategy for scaling companies.
The second is called Cloud Accounting Services. CFOs can’t do their work without good quality, readily available bookkeeping and reporting. The team uses Xero’s accounting software and other leading cloud tools to help simplify monthly reporting cycles for clients.
Third, they offer Automation Services. This division helps companies to streamline and automate various operational systems around their finance function, deploying and integrating the latest technology infrastructure to help clients scale.
Lastly, there’s Entrepreneurship Programs. This involves a variety of the above work being done with cohorts of entrepreneurs in accelerator and venture builder programs.
“At the end of the day, we offer founders and management teams innovative financial insight, world class technology, and peace of mind.”
What is it like to work at Outsourced CFO?
“From day one, we wanted to prioritise an amazing company culture,” says Louw.
“The finance and accounting world can be a cut-throat one, where deadlines and pressure push culture out. We wanted to create an environment where finance professionals can have balance, do meaningful work, and flourish in their chosen career paths.”
Outsourced CFO was named as one of the Top Culture Driven Companies in 2020. They live by their core values, and do everything they can to preserve an amazing company culture, even after moving to practically fully remote work in 2020.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to scale their companies?
“Choosing to build a company as a career path is probably the toughest of any vocation. Make sure that you stay aligned with the deep passion that drove you to start the business in the first place. Taking care of your health and taking regular breaks to ensure you don’t burn out is key.
“Invest as much as you can in relationships. Internally, your company’s success will be determined by your ability to attract and retain amazing people. Externally, your growth will rely on you being able to attract new market opportunities and clients.
“People do business with people.”
“Create playbook-like processes to ensure high quality experiences for clients and staff alike, and whatever you do — don’t run out of cash!
“Lastly, if you are going to run a fully remote business, be sure to do everything you can to build a kick-ass remote team. Covid has changed the game so much. Companies can be run from anywhere today. So you need to figure out how to build a business that takes advantage of this trend.”
We’re super stoked to share our clients’ startup -> scaleup story. Outsourced CFO have been part of the Hi5 Fam since March 2019, and we’re excited to see how their culture and business grows in the coming years. If you’d like to follow OCFO’s journey, head over to www.ocfo.com to find out more about the work that Louw and his team are doing.
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