Program - Outsource CFO Services

ANDY FICHTHORN has a background in public accounting, having worked for Price Waterhouse, before joining Anheuser-Busch as a strategic planning executive.  He then moved to Sea World, the theme park subsidiary, and became President of Sea World in San Diego.  After his retirement, Andy has been involved with Chairmen’s Round Table, where he is currently Vice Chair for Client Acquisition.  Andy is also involved with several non-profit boards, and is a Rotarian with Club 33 Downtown San Diego. CHAIRMEN’S ROUNDTABLE is a non-profit, volunteer driven organization, founded some 20 years ago. 

It provides services to private company CEOs at the “cross-roads” – who have built a business without outside investors, not beholden to equity holders, and are doing it on their own.  It is “lonely at the top”.  They are looking for growth opportunities, an exit plan, and “light at the end of the tunnel”. 

Chairmen’s Roundtable offers a mentoring program, with some 40 volunteer mentors.  Two mentors are assigned to each CEO seeking their services, for a period of 6 -9 months.  These mentors represent the best business minds in San Diego County.  The mentor qualifications are that they must have been a CEO or ran a sizeable business, and have Board experience, either on an Advisory Board or Board of Directors.

Most CEOs of private companies lack a basic strategic plan, and a budget.  They don’t use tools to help manage their business.  They have the operations expertise and talent, but less talent in accounting and management. 

The mentors help them prioritize and develop a road map, and help nurture the company forward. 

Chairmen’s Roundtable does not compete with peer-to-peer networks such as Vistage or Entrepreneur’s Organization, although these are a source of referrals to Chairmen’s Roundtable.  They are different also to SCORE, in the size of the business they are focusing on. 

Chairmen’s Roundtable is non-profit and based on volunteer mentors.  There are no fees for the services performed.  There are no conflicts of interest.  They have about 20 clients a year, and have helped some 400 CEOs.  They offer advisors, like a public company Advisory Board.  They are independent and get to know the business they are helping.  A typical company helped has a minimum of $2 million in revenue, and a minimum of 5 employees, and is usually a bare-bones operation.  The CEO must be coachable and participating in the business.  They cannot be in a financial crisis, a lawsuit, or actively raising equity investment. 

The mentors are retired or semi-retired CEOs of both publicly traded and privately held companies.  About one-third of the mentors have “day” jobs and some are serial entrepreneurs.  They have no experience with the client’s business or operations field.  They learn about the company’s business operations in brief, starting at the beginning with questions about the industry, the market and the competitors of the business.  They deal with defining the company’s market and customer base, developing a well-defined strategic plan, 5 year financial plan and detailed budget.  They identify how to be profitable.  They ask good questions.  They identify the objectives, aims and strategies.  However, it is a self-discovery process for the CEO, who work it out “for themselves” under the mentor’s guidance. 

Unlike a public company, the target private companies lack the resources of an HR Department, a succession plan, and development plan.  They lack the colleagues, and internal and external sounding boards of public companies.  They lack formal or informal advisory boards.  They have no strategic plan, no financial plan, and no detailed budget.  The CEO is strong in the operations side of the business, but everything has to flow through the CEO.  They also lack a succession plan. 

Employees in a private company are doing important work, and are valued, but they need to be more connected to the company.  Many CEOs of small companies don’t share information with their employees.  They need to empower employees and get upwards recommendations, and develop employees through accountability and rewards.  Sometimes the recommendation is to hire a CFO or a VP for Operations, and spread the workload among other, senior people.  Hence the companies they help have to have the resources to implement the changes that are needed. 

They recommend the CEO form an Advisory Board and have someone able to step-in and become an interim CEO, if something happens and the CEO is incapacitated for a period of time. 

A common thing that needs changing is the underinvestment in the financial side of their business, a need for CPAs, financial training and digging deeper into financial analysis. 

Chairmen’s Roundtable has about 15 sponsors, who provide modest funds and bring the organization clients. 

The website is: