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Scale Up by Colin Mills

The full title of the book by Colin Mills is

Scale Up: How to Take Your Business to the Next Level Without Losing Control and Running Out of Cash

In my review posted at Amazon.co.uk, I gave it 3 Stars.

Here is my review.

A long promotion for the role of part time finance director

It’s promoting the role of the part time finance director (FD) or chief financial officer (CFO) in general and the FD Centre / CFO Centre in particular. It’s so promotional in fact that I feel it’s cheeky to ask potential customers to pay for it.

Fast growing businesses face challenges in terms of 1) keeping control of what’s happening in the business as the founder/owner has to delegate and 2) managing the strain on cash flow that is caused by growth.

I’m a believer in the role of the part time FD. It’s something I’ve done myself occasionally in the past and I’ve helped promote others. Its fundamental purpose is to bridge the gap between a business getting big enough and complex enough to need professional financial management and the business being able to justify and afford a full time, experienced qualified accountant to do it.

The only other book I am aware of that has looked at the issue is Finance on a Beermat with their concept of a finance cornerstone.

I did find the author’s continual promotion of his own company wearisome.

If you’re interested in the concept, I recommend you Google the terms “part time finance director” or “virtual finance director ” as I know some don’t like the stigma the words “part time” suggests. The hours worked may be limited but the responsibility is full time as every part time FD I know wants to know what’s happening in a client’s business as soon as something significant occurs.

You’ll find there are plenty of other people providing a similar service with varying levels of experience. I agree with the book that it’s a good idea to hire someone who has worked in a bigger business than you currently have although you can go too big to be relevant.

The role works so well because of the 80/20 Pareto rule. You can, in rough terms, get 80% of the benefits of having a finance director by only buying 20% of the time, although you will pay a premium rate. You get the most important bits without all the make do, administration style work that drains away the time.

There is a difference between an accountant and a finance director/manager. The accountant mainly looks to the past and reports on what has happened. The finance director focuses on the future and what might happen, guiding the CEO and other directors to make decisions that are financially sound and consistent with the agreed strategic direction.

The book is easy to read. It has a nice summary of the issues associated with scaling-up before getting into the nitty gritty of the role of finance. It also includes stories from entrepreneurs to help break up the main narrative although, these are all clients of the author’s businesses and include the inevitable endorsements. It also includes an explanation of the author’s methodology.

Personally I felt there was too much focus on the outsourcing solution and not enough on helping the business owner understand how and why the financial control issues inevitably arise. I’d have also liked a few horror stories explaining how things can spiral out of control when things go wrong. Entrepreneurs are often surprised that profitable companies can be forced into insolvency because of the timing differences that cause cash generation to lag well behind profit.

It is helpful but I felt I was reading through a long winded marketing promotion. I’ve knocked off a star because of it.

There are many thousand of business books, you can see the full list of my reviews at Business Books Reviews by Paul Simister (Please click). I've also narrowed these down to a list of the 12 Best Business Books For Business Owners & Entrepreneurs (Please click).

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