The Smoke Detector: A CPA's expanding role - from CFO to CBO

By John Minnich posted 06-27-2017 09:56


In September 2016, I discussed how the role of the CFO continues to evolve. During my tenure at Concordia, my role has shifted from chief financial officer to chief business officer (CBO) to reflect my responsibilities more accurately. I shared a one-day glimpse in the spring 2017 CPA IN Perspective. Like many of you, my days can vary considerably throughout the entire day and evening. Helping lead an organization such as Concordia Educational Association (dba Concordia Lutheran High School) is exhilarating given its very unique structure. Back in March, I introduced and painted a picture of some of my role in “The CPA as a Leader and Trusted Business Advisor.” To continue the story, I thought it might be of interest to dive a little more into the role of a chief business officer and highlight how an institution such as Concordia straddles private school education and nonprofit sectors.

Whats_Next.jpgFirst, what is a chief business officer? At private schools and in higher education, the role essentially equates to that of a CFO with additional responsibilities. Depending on the institution, the chief business officer is responsible for the administrative, financial, and operations management of the organization. For my colleagues in higher education, the article, “Becoming a Renaissance CBO,” published in Inside Higher Ed suggests ideas for those looking to become tomorrow’s CBOs. A lot of similarity to that of a CFO.

  1. Make sure that you understand well the academic programs of the institution.
  2. Develop your communication skills.
  3. Mentor your direct reports.
  4. Develop your creative and entrepreneurial skills.
  5. Understand the roles of and work closely with the other senior leaders.
  6. Work with local community leadership to share services and find new ways to collaborate in stewarding resources.

Having served in higher education, one aspect of Concordia that I appreciate is how we operate similar to a private college without boarding. With over 700 students, Concordia provides academic, athletic, and other student programs including summer camps and JROTC. Events range from open houses for student prospects and their families to lunch and learns whereby alumni return to campus to share their stories with students. Financial aid including Indiana choice scholarship program (aka “vouchers”) and scholarship granting organization support our families and students. (See FAQs for more information.) As a service provider of education, Concordia must also meet state requirements for independent schools.

As for the nonprofit aspect, the organization is an educational association established as a 501(c)(3) doing business as a high school. We also have a separate foundation. Both organizations report to a different board. Committees include executive, finance, and governance. The foundation has development and investment committees. We benefit from the support of our alumni, donors, and volunteers. Various alumni and donor events occur including an annual auction. Concordia adheres to nonprofit guidelines including FASB 116 and 117. Academics, athletics, and other student activities represent the program offerings or services provided. Revenue consists of tuition, fees, and development income as well as revenue earned from athletic and other activities and events. Expenses range from student services to occupancy and technology. Users of financial reports are varied. We have many constituents including alumni, business and community leaders, donors, and families and students. Communication, transparency, staying relevant, and having vision are all key. To stay current, we rely on colleagues and our committees in addition to a diversified portfolio of professional memberships.

The blend of education and nonprofit sectors fascinate me as it creates opportunities for growth. As with any profession, the myriad of responsibilities in an environment such as Concordia necessitates a constant need for professional development. The business and educational landscapes continue to change. The need for soft skills such as collaboration, communication, emotional intelligence, mentoring, and networking transcend professions. Best practices are always at the core. At an institution such as Concordia, we all play a role in the support of students. This fall, I return to the classroom as an adjunct professor in the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Saint Francis. As with any educational environment, I will learn from students as I share my experiences with them. Using business and nonprofit terminology, it keeps me relevant in the programming and services provided by an institution. Plus, I just love higher ed!

#CPA #universityofsaintfrancis #keithbusseschoolofbusinessandentrepreneurialleadership #Chieffinancialofficer #ChiefBusinessOfficer