You see numbers. We see opportunities.

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Print this page By Lori Overholt, CPA
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Many years ago, I was on a Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants committee to help spread the word that CPAs are more than “number crunchers.” We chose the slogan: “You See Numbers. We See Opportunities.”

I think, especially in the CFO role, these words are spot on. The CFO position is a true business partner, providing a valuable strategic role and insight and often, CPAs are uniquely qualified to be that partner.

Throughout my career, whether performing financial audits or maximizing tax deductions, it was always important for me to understand the business inside and out. I needed to get to know the business’s processes, strengths and weaknesses in order to complete the audit or tax return to the best of my ability. That understanding became a natural transition into the CFO role where it is vital to provide financial performance transparency across all departments in an organization.

With the regulatory environment businesses are facing today, it is more important than ever to have a CFO who knows how to gather and analyze large amounts of data. This means strategic decisions can be made and accountability systems can be put in place. In a good economy or a bad one, the CFO role is essential to  understanding the company’s cost drivers so that arbitrary cuts are not made that could end up harming in the long run and to managing growth so that investment dollars are used wisely and growing pains can be minimized.

There are opportunities in the numbers, and the CFO, with insight into what drives the numbers, can provide the analysis needed for insightful decisions on allocating resources to value adding projects.

Attend any American Institute of Certified Public Accountants CFO Conference and it is clear to see the wide variety of areas of the company that a CFO touches. Sessions like “The New Era in Healthcare”, “Transforming Technologies”, “Is Your Organization Global Ready?” and “Business Continuity Planning” show that CFOs are involved in all facets of the business. It’s about seeing the opportunities, and in a small business, the CFO is a hands-on advocate for the company, helping to communicate important information, both financial and nonfinancial, to owners, banks, employees, insurance companies and brokers, vendors and customers.

Last year, I had the honor of winning the Virginia CFO Award for small private companies from this magazine. I confess that before my friend, Virginia Beach City Councilwoman Shannon Kane, nominated me for the award, I didn’t know much about it. I had seen the cover of Virginia Business highlighting the winners in the past, but didn’t think too much about the impact of winning such an award.

I went to the awards ceremony at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond with Shannon, Del. Glenn Davis, VSA Resorts Vice President of Sales and Marketing Nadine Paniccia and my mother, Donna, with no expectations. In fact, as we sat at the table, Shannon asked me what I planned to say if I won and I remember saying, “Do you think I would need to make a speech?” I must have said something intelligible, although I don’t quite remember what it was. I did remember to thank Shannon for nominating me and I continue to be thankful.

Since receiving the beautiful trophy, the recognition has been surprising and humbling. I received congratulatory letters from Sen. Mark Warner and Del. Barry Knight. I got personal emails and notes, Facebook posts and tweets, even flowers from business associates and people in the community. Just last week, one of my neighbors yelled out a “congratulations” to me. He just saw the information, a year later, when the magazine announced this year’s nominees. At networking events, I’ve met past winners who make a point of seeking me out to congratulate me.  Recently, I was appointed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to the Common Interest Community Board and the board chair, Pia Trigiani, made a point of highlighting the award in my introduction.

As a past winner, I was asked to be a judge for 2016. I enjoyed reading all the accomplishments of the nominees and thought about how lucky we are in Virginia to have so many different types of businesses and so many talented CFOs.

I see opportunities.

Lori Overholt, CPA is President and CFO of VSA Resorts and President of VSA Association Management in Virginia Beach. She is also a member of the Virginia Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Related link: http://www.virginiabusiness.com/reports/article/making-people-feel-good-is-executives-primary-goal

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