Member Profile: Scott Fischer
March 17, 2017
Dollars and Sense
Scott Fischer has worked as a Treasurer, Country Manager, Division Manager, Plant Manager, Division Accountant, and a Plant Accountant. He has been the Director of Internal Audit for a $15 billion company where he also served as the Vice President of M&A and Financial Planning. During his time at this multinational, Fischer put together a Profit & Loss statement and 220 general ledgers in 65 countries once a week. Throughout his career, he has worked to gain insight into every aspect of finance, rounding out his personal capabilities.
“You start surrounding yourself with people as smart or smarter than you who can manage things you do not know much about.”
Eventually, Fischer’s desire to work in big companies subsided and he decided it was time for a career shift. Taking all the experience he had gained, Fischer founded CFO Idaho, a premier financial consulting company in Boise, Idaho.
CFO Idaho seeks to assist growth companies that are not big enough for a full-time CFO, but are growing and need help continuing to do so. The company places people with financial acumen into long-term, part-time positions. This allows them to become part of the company, while only being there for 10-15 hours a week strategically providing help. The average age of CFO Idaho employees is 55, and their average experience is 28 years. They are well-rounded and have extensive business knowledge.
According to Fischer, “When a startup gets too big and too complex, you cannot physically do all the work yourself, yet you don’t trust anyone else to do it. You’re caught in a quagmire unless you can hire someone like me, who can come in to your company, take over big parts of what you are doing, and drive value. That’s how you grow. You start surrounding yourself with people as smart or smarter than you who can manage things you do not know much about. That’s where CFO Idaho comes in and strategically looks at what a company is doing, looks at what resources they do or do not have, and helps them keep growing. This is usually done through the financials.”
A sit-down with Scott Fischer
Did you grow up in Boise?
“I grew up in Boise, went to high school at Meridian, and graduated from Boise State in accounting and finance. I got my CPA from Arthur Andersen in Silicon Valley and worked for a couple big companies for a few years, eventually working for a startup called Versatec later on. That startup was acquired by Xerox, and once again, I was employed in a big company.
I worked inside Fortune 500 companies for twenty plus years. In doing so, I got to work in Europe, spent three years in South America, and worked for a couple years on the East Coast. I got to a place where I was burned out of the big company experience, and wanted to do something different. I decided to bring my kids back to Boise, because it was a great place for them to be. That’s when I started CFO Idaho.”
How would you describe your business to a stranger in the street?
“We provide long-term, part-time financial consulting to help companies grow through the transition from a small company to a large company by inputting all the tools and processes they need to make the right decisions.”
What are your short-term and long-term goals for CFO Idaho?
“Short-term, we are focusing on the mid-market. We want to be in the $10 to $30 million range as far as clients go, and are currently only providing CFO services. Long-term, we expect to be a vendor of tools and processes for companies much bigger than we are today. If you have a public company, you’re a CFO, and you just gobbled up two companies that tripled your size, you need help at the CFO level. You need someone who you can trust to file an S-1; that trust will be found in CFO Idaho.”
What has been your greatest success with the company so far?
“My greatest success so far has been WMDTech. Taking a company that went from literally $0 revenue to about $10 million in revenue, in just 5 years, was very rewarding. I think we are at an inflection point, where if the company gathers the right resources and does the right things now, they have the potential to grow to $50 or $60 million three or four years in the future. I’ve been with them every step of the way, even from when they didn’t have an office.”
What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced as a financial consultant?
“There’s a lot of them. The greatest challenge I deal with, especially with entrepreneurs, is that they think they know, but in fact, they don’t. They think they know what their product is for and who their customers are, but they haven’t vetted it with real customers. A lot of clients are confident, think their product makes so much sense, and won’t listen to any input. They don’t want to change their product, and these people are often difficult to work with.”
Do you have any statistics exemplifying growth that CFO Idaho has seen?
“CFO Idaho started with just me working in 2011 and 2012. Then, in 2013, I had one other CFO. Two years later, we now have six people on board, and two others working part-time. Companies from outside the state call to ask if we are interested in being part of their growth product. I think that is pretty good evidence we are doing well.”
How did you hear about Trailhead, and what made you decide to become a member?
“I knew Raino. We worked on the Idaho Technology Council together on a capital committee, and I knew he was doing it. I knew Boise needed an infrastructure for entrepreneurship, and it was finally built. It’s an amazing accomplishment. So many people find Trailhead to be a welcoming place, and come in to try to build something. People used to hide out in coffee shops, libraries, and their garages. It’s cooler to be here; you get to interact with so many more people, and the resources are here.”
What are your favorite things about Trailhead?
“I like the interchange of ideas. There’s a book out there called Where Good Ideas Come From. In essence, the author talks about the rate of innovation in small towns versus big cities, so maybe Des Moines, Iowa vs. New York City to be dramatic. Why are small towns not very innovative? There are innovative people there, and they have good ideas. Research and experience have found that in giant cities, a lot of things are happening and a lot of people are there to help. No one keeps an idea as something they want to hide. You need to be able to share your ideas and let them grow into something cool. This is what Trailhead is about.
The exchange of ideas is what makes Trailhead an innovative hub. Frankly, good ideas are a dime a dozen. There is no website that I know of that sells good ideas, because an idea by itself isn’t worth anything unless you implement it. Once you get a good idea, implementation is key.”
What interests you about entrepreneurship?
“The world has changed; it’s no longer an employee world. If you want to get ahead, you have a better chance of getting ahead by starting your own business. In order to be relevant, you have to stick with what is happening. Helping people be successful at being an entrepreneur is being right in the middle of that new wave hitting business.
Every entrepreneur has a different need, and if you’re someone like me who has been exposed to a lot of different things, you’re kind of like an encyclopedia for entrepreneurs. If they tell me about a problem, I can usually say I’ve seen that before, and this is what I know. You need to be somewhat of a jack of all trades.”
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs starting a company in Boise?
“Know your customer and work with customers as you are building your product. It’s not enough to simply say, “I know my customer.” You have to do more. I like people who start providing something to customers right away, and then learn and improve on it.”