Knowing Your Economics: The Discipline of the Financial Leader

Knowing Your Economics: The Discipline of the Financial Leader

knowing your economicsMichael Gerber said it best in his book, E-Myth Mastery, “there is nothing in the creation and operation of a company that so seemingly conspires to confuse, intimidate, overwhelm, complicate, rationalize, and metastasize the plain ignorance of the average business guy, or woman, then money” (172). But why is that so? It’s because as humans, we tend to overcomplicate and twist even the simplest of things… Because it can’t be that easy! As we dig into the discipline of the financial leader and knowing your economics, let’s get on the same page. Money can mean different things to different people, but in the end, money is meaningless without people – just like business is meaningless without people.

The Discipline of the Financial Leader

Over the past 25+ years, The Strategic CFO has made it our mission to convert number crunchers into financial leaders. Anyone (relatively speaking) can account, but it takes someone specific to be a financial leader. The financial leader is simply that, someone how leads the company financially. But it’s often difficult when you have multiple leaders in the company without a focused vision or goal. Thus, Michael Gerber expands that “to the degree the enterprise leader is clear about her vision, the financial leader can build a financial model of that vision…” (174). That being said, you need to be in constant communication with your entrepreneur, CEO, and executive team. Sometimes the best conversation is where the financial leader is listening. That communication will transform you from a financial guru to a leader – where you need to be if you’re going to succeed. Knowing your economics or financial statements is just the first step to becoming a discipline financial leader.
When you discipline yourself to knowing your economics (or financials), knowing your cash position (balance sheet), knowing how every decision impacts the bottom line, you will find yourself leading the company forward. The basics are critical. Often, we find that accountants, Accounting Managers, Controllers, CFOs, etc. are only concerned about the costs. But they also need to be involved in the sales and operations of the business. There shouldn’t be a day that you as the financial leader do not think about the entire business.
A best practice that our leaders have implemented is to walk the plant, go out to the field, and spend time in the manufacturing facility. The key here is to get out of the office.  Having conversations with the field people and shop people can often lead to great ideas the financial leader can implement.

Knowing Your Economics

Again, it seems simple… Do you know your numbers? So many times when we come into a company, we find that not the CFO, CEO, COO, CMO, or anyone in leadership truly knows their numbers. The numbers we’re talking about are your unit economics. Unit economics shows your revenues with their direct costs associated with that one unit. Look at the following example for a simple unit economic breakdown:

   Revenue       $10
COGS          $3.5  
   Gross Margin  $6.5

It’s best if you can allocate each cost to a single good. While it may take some work to do that, some companies neglect to address SG&A when they look at their unit economics. That results in false economics or financial results; and eventually, you will find yourself out of cash. While the example above is really simple, it works. If you find that it doesn’t work, then you may not have a good costing system in your manufacturing facility, your margins may be off, and again, you income statement may not be accurate.

If your income statement not profitable or need to be improved, click here to download our free Know Your Economics worksheet. It walks you through how to become more profitable, starting with the basics.

Once you have accurate financial statements, the only way they will be of any value is if and only if they are completed timely.  Getting your financial statements 1 or 2 months later does no good and does not provide decision makers timely information they need.

Improves Decision-Making

Knowing your financial situation helps improve your decision-making. When you know how much you sell a product for, what its associated costs are, you know how much margin you have. If your costs go over a certain threshold, then you will be unprofitable. Knowing your unit economics is a simple test to know if a decision will be a profitable one or not.
Using the same example above: if you want to implement a new software that would automate the sales but it costs an additional $7 per unit, then you would be unprofitable. As a financial leader, express this with your sales team. If they cannot provide evidence or sales projections that increases the number of units sold (thus reducing the software cost per unit), then the decision is no.

Expands View of Business

When you know the economics, margins, and financial position of your business, you are able to see a lot more. It’s the basics of doing business – much like eating and exercising. You need it to remain healthy. Ingrain the economics of your business in your entire team. Marketing, sales, finance, operations, etc. need to know how each decision impacts the profitability of the company. When you do this, each employee is able to think more constructively. In addition, you build a culture of financial leadership. With the basics under your belt, you are able to expand your view of the business.
For example, when we bring on interns in the summer, we drill our unit economics. Then as they get further into their internship, they bring more value because they know how the business works. They may see something that we as long time employees/leaders don’t.

Weather Storms or Sunshine

Unfortunately, recessions roll around occasionally. Economic crisis is a natural cycle. Then sales start booming and you can’t fulfill those orders fast enough. Whether you are weathering storm or sunshine, it’s critical that you know the basics of your business. When you know your economics, you can shape your economics to result in profit – in storm or sunshine. If you need help shaping your economics, click here to download your free Know Your Economics guide.
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