Prioritizing tasks, working efficiently, setting routines, being fully present at work and at home. Is it possible to juggle a career in finance and motherhood, get enough sleep and still find time for your relationships and yourself? We recently sat down with an inspiring finance leader, business owner and keynote speaker at this year’s Vena Nation week—Kendra James-Anderson—who's doing it all in what can feel like an often challenging, yet very fulfilling journey.
Kendra is the owner of The Finance Femme, a virtual CFO and accounting firm that supports women-owned business. She describes herself as being a business finance nerd and having an ISTJ and Enneagram Type Three personality. She’s also a wife to her partner Ashlee and a mom to their eight-month old son, Carter.
“I wish I had more hobbies, but with a thriving business and an active baby boy, my days are pretty much accounted for,” she says. Whenever she can, she likes to get away to a beach or mountains and get grounded outdoors.
Read on to discover what inspired Kendra to start her own business, what a typical day looks like in her life and what she plans to talk about in her Vena Nation keynote talk.
What is being a virtual CFO really like? Where does your story begin?
Kendra James-Anderson: As a virtual CFO, I support several businesses as their Chief Financial Officer remotely. So instead of our clients having a full-time, “in-house” CFO they are leveraging my firm for their accounting and strategic support. This means our clients get in-depth accounting and finance support for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO.
Being a virtual CFO is challenging and rewarding at the same time. Much like an in-house CFO, it is our responsibility to ensure that our clients and their teams are focused and aware of the financial health of their business in the short and long term. Maintaining or improving the financial health of a business is a team effort, not just the responsibility of the CFO. But the CFO needs to ensure that the right data and analysis is in front of the right people so that proper decisions can be made. This requires strong analytical skills, but also strong communication and even persuasion skills. Personally, I believe communication and presentation skills need to be even stronger when you’re virtual since you don’t have the benefit of being physically in office with someone frequently where you can build relationships.
I started in business finance in my corporate career. After graduating from Clemson University with a Bachelor in Corporate Finance, I climbed the corporate ladder directly supporting CFOs of major companies such as GE. This gave me front row experience to the CFO’s hard and soft skills. That experience was instrumental in the success of my firm today. I support my clients with the same technical skills I learned directly from a CFO of a Fortune 50 company.
What inspired you to start your own business?
K J-A: While I was working in the corporate world, I had colleagues and friends starting businesses. They were generating great income, but some were struggling because they didn’t know how to properly manage their money. Others had investor opportunities, but didn’t have their financials together. I realized that these businesses needed the support of a CFO. They not only needed the accounting support, they also needed the strategic layer that only a CFO can provide.
Who are your role models?
K J-A: My #1 role model is my dad. He’s an amazing man on so many levels. As a businessman, he worked at Toyota for over 30 years and was one of the first black presidents in the company. As a human, he’s one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people I know.
Describe a typical day in your life.
K J-A: My day wouldn’t be complete without at least one meeting. I usually have a client meeting where we’re discussing anything from their prior month’s financial and KPI results to reviewing data on industry changes and trends. Most of my client meetings center around data and strategy, while most of my team meetings center around internal growth. I feel like we are always hiring since our firm has been growing so much.
How do you manage work-life balance?
K J-A: With an infant, I would not be able to work without support at home. My wife and I tried to manage, but it was impossible so we hired a nanny and that was a game changer. Additionally, I do not hesitate to hire in the firm. I created The Finance Femme to make business enjoyable for our clients so they can do the parts they love and are passionate about while we handle all of the back office and strategy. And just like I want our clients to love their business, I want my team to love supporting them. So I strongly promote work-life balance (or harmony as we call it) for my team and this includes work perks such as unlimited PTO.
What time management tips or advice do you have for working moms?
K J-A: Hire help. Period. This can be a nanny (part time or full time), a maid service, a meal service, laundry, whatever you need. But don’t think that you should do it all even if you can. My dad tells me, “You don't get brownie points for doing everything.” Instead you get burnt out. So outsource and hire help in areas that you don’t want—or can’t find time—to do.
What are your top 5 tools for managing remote teams and finance pros?
1. A project management tool—we use Basecamp.
2. A communication tool—we actually use Basecamp for that too.
3. A calendar scheduling tool—we use Acuity.
4. A sharing hub—we use Google Drive.
5. A data analysis tool—a Complete Planning platform such as Vena.
How do you motivate your teams when things get challenging?
K J-A: Things often get challenging when you’re in the weeds. So sometimes it’s a good idea to back out of the details for a second and focus on the bigger picture. Remember what the end goal is. It also may be a good idea to step away from the work for a day or two and come back to it with fresh eyes and fresh energy.
Tell us about your toughest day as a virtual CFO. What happened? How did you overcome it?
K J-A: My toughest days came when I used to have several back-to-back client meetings—like eight hours of straight meetings for a few days in a row. I used to do about 25 meetings in a four-day period. It was right after month end and I had several meetings to discuss results and update strategies. While I love talking strategy, the body and brain needs time to rest. I quickly realized the importance of blocking blank space on my calendar to allow for breaks—and lunch—and being intentional with how I plan my days and weeks. I call this “Calendar Control” and I even recorded a whole episode about this on my podcast.
Without giving too much away, what will you be covering in your Vena Nation week keynote talk?
K J-A: I’m sharing tips on how to be a modern day CFO. The finance and accounting industry has evolved a lot over recent years and even more so now because of COVID-19 and remote work. As businesses are becoming more modern in how they think and work, it’s important that the C-Suite follows suit. I am very excited to share this information at Vena Nation week and look forward to the dialogue that I’ll be having with industry professionals afterwards.