By Lee Barnathan, California Business Journal
The world of CFOs, controllers and finance consultants – never known as the most exciting subjects – just got a bit more interesting.
Thanks to ETONIEN.
One need only look at the El Segundo, Calif.-based company’s website to get an idea of how to bring bland descriptions of what they do to life.
There is a picture of soldiers parachuting under a blackened sky. The parachutes are white — except for an orange E (ETONIEN) logo. The photo says “Deployed on Demand.”
There is also Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, which ETONIEN altered to read E=MBA CPA2.
Next, there is an office floor map that has been changed to read, “In Case of Financial Fire” and all exit routes lead to the same “E logo.” There is also a shot of a fire alarm on a wall that reads “CFO Alarm,” but the command to “Pull Down” remains the same.
Creative? Yes – and it is also clear and accurate portrayals of what ETONIEN does, which is providing companies, private equity firms and the like with interim and project-based CFOs, controllers and consultants that have all the right experience needed to do the job – and do it right.
“People call us when their hair is on fire. The only way to put out that fire is providing the best quality consultant with the right skills on a time sensitive basis,” Co-founder Joseph Davis says.
For example, if a firm needs an interim CFO in Grand Rapids, Mich. or upstate New York with medical device manufacturing experience, it’s a very specific request. Yet with 300 Tier-1 consultants ready to go on an as-needed basis and another 2,000 consultants with various levels of expertise in the Finance & Accounting space, chances are that request can be met, says Partner and Managing Director Chadd Davis, who is Joseph’s son.
“Clients don’t care where the consultants are based — if they’ve got the skill set to fill that need, they will look to bring in the best professional,” says Joseph’s other son, Brett, also a Partner and Managing Director in the firm.
ETONIEN has placed its consultants in various industries in numerous cities around the country: manufacturing, retail, technology, financial services, healthcare, consumer products, etc.; New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Dallas, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc. (The trio declined to name companies because they value their clients’ anonymity).
The company’s services are desperately needed because the CFO title is generic and often includes different job needs in different companies. Some might need a CFO who has worked in the world of private equity firms. Others might need help in navigating public financial markets. Or help with a recent merger or acquisition. Or project managing the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software between the IT and accounting/finance departments.
“There’s a new opportunity every day because of our flexible model and the high quality of our consultant bench,” Brett says. “Clients want to see if we can help them in a rapid deployment manner.”
Typically, ETONIEN sends its consultants to help a company that doesn’t have the luxury of time to recruit or hire but needs an expert now to help navigate the upcoming waters, usually for three to nine months. “Typically, clients want our professionals to come in and get them from point A to point B,” Chadd says. All consultants typically have between eight and 30 years of experience — with most having at least 15 years, coupled with a CPA and/or MBA.
The majority of ETONIEN’s work comes from the portfolio companies of private equity firms, many of which have either made a significant equity investment in a private company or a carve-out of a business unit from a larger public or private company. With a carve-out , there’s no infrastructure because the parent company handled all the IT, payroll, human resources, accounting and finance. ETONIEN also brings in senior level financial and accounting consultants to help in a variety of post-acquisition integration difficulties that come with each investment.
A newer service offered is Procurement and ETONIEN now has industry specific consultants that specialize in analyzing the relationships with the client’s vendors. “Companies are continually trying to grow revenue and increase margins to increase profitability — another method to increased profitability is the through the cost efficiency of the middle part of the P&L and the company’s procurement of goods and services,” Chadd says.
For example, a beverage company spends a huge amount on bottles, caps and labels. Using a different vendor or renegotiating a contract with the existing vendor can cut some costs. Another example: A company has 2,500 travelling employees, so maybe the company would be wise to secure corporate rates for hotels, rental cars and incidentals. Or contract with an office-supply company for massive discounts on bulk sales.
The market for ETONIEN-type services continues to grow, not only in the city of Los Angeles, but also nationally. Both geographical markets, major and smaller, need proven CFOs that can parachute in on a moment’s notice, according to industry experts.
“There are very few firms in our space that can service private equity firm portfolio companies located all over the country,” Brett says, “and we have that unique ability to provide top-level consultants regardless of location.”
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