Author Archive | The Strategic CFO

Strategy for Managing Cash

managing cash

Does your company have a strategy for managing cash

Many companies have established procedures for purchasing materials, collecting customer payments, and paying vendors.

But often people either do not communicate these procedures or simply don’t follow them consistently.

Even when everyone is aware of and follows the established protocol, your system may be flawed. Before we show an example, you need to know how to manage cash flow

Know How to Manage Cash Flow

We all know that cash is king – liquidity is essential for survival. Many entrepreneurs only know how much is in the bank, but they don’t understand how much cash they actually have. So, how does one manage cash flow?

First, you need tools. 

Here are a few tools that can help a company manage cash flow:



Manage and Work Your Operating Cycle

Then you need to manage and work your operating cycle. Your operating cycle is “how many days it takes to turn purchases of inventory into cash receipts from its eventual sale”. It indicates true liquidity – how quickly you can turn your assets into cash. Calculate how long your operating cycle is using the following formula:

Operating cycle = DIO + DSO – DPO

Watch Your Expenses

Watch your expenses carefully. If you do not have an eye on SG&A and procedures on what can be purchased, then you risk racking up unnecessary overhead. Think about too much inventory, unnecessary equipment replacements, extreme marketing budgets, etc. 

Use Cash Wisely

Use your cash wisely. Always be thinking about will this add value to my company? when spending your valuable cash. If you will not see a return on your investment, then consider spending the cash elsewhere. 

Collect Quicker

Another method to manage (and improve) cash flow is to collect quicker. This is a great method to use if you are in a cash crunch and can only make small improvements. For example, there is a $10 million company that collected their accounts receivable every 365 days. They had a lot of cash tied up. If they improved their DSO 5 days, that would be an extra $137,000 of free cash flow

Example of Strategy for Managing Cash

Let’s look at an example of a strategy for managing cash flow. Imagine that Company A has 120 days of inventory on hand. They collect receivables in 60 days. And they pay payables within 30 days.  Even assuming that this is their established cash management strategy and everyone follows it, Company A will still find itself in a cash crunch. This is because of the disparity of time that cash is tied up in inventory and receivables versus the speed with which it pays its payables.

So what can Company A do to free up cash?  Here’s a link to an article that talks about how to develop a strategy for managing cash and techniques to improve cash flow.


 

Strategy for Managing Cash, How to Manage Cash Flow

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What Happens When Companies Don’t Have Internal Controls

While we never aim to scare our clients and readers, we have a huge plethora of war stories about what happens when companies don’t have internal controls. Just in my 18+ years of experience, I’ve compiled all the crazy stories for you today. 

What Happens When Companies Don’t Have Internal Controls 

So, what happens when companies don’t have internal controls? They open themselves up for theft, embezzlement, and liability. If there are no controls over what’s going on inside, then there is no control over cash flow, profitability, etc. It also “gives permission” to your team to do as they please and when it pleases them.  They may or may not be making decisions in the best interest of the company.  But without internal controls, they are likely less careful with the decisions they make.  Have you ever noticed how easy it is for a child to spend their parent’s money, but if it was their own money they are less likely to spend frivolously?

War Stories | What Happens When There Are NO Internal Controls 

In my experience, I have gathered so many war stories on what happens when there are no internal controls. Read about some of my most unforgettable below.  

My Most Trusted Accountant and Advisor 

Many years ago, while I was part of the audit team, I had a client who had the same accountant for 20+ years – we’ll call her Sheila. She has been with the company since it opened its doors and was the owner’s most trusted confidant and advisor. Sheila was in complete control of the receivable and payables.  There was no oversight over Sheila’s position. When I started to look at their accounting records, there were several red flags…

Sheila was very defensive and abrasive when I came into the office and during the review phase of the engagement.  She mentioned several times it was okay for me to work remotely.  She wanted me to sit outside of her office, even though her office was large and had a meeting table and several chairs. Intuitively, I knew something was off with her.

I also noticed that the company cut thousands of checks every month to different companies. Sheila cut them and signed them herself.  The business owner trusted Sheila and gave her access to manage the bank account and accounting records.

The biggest red flag was discovered during the audit of the transactions.  There were several inconsistencies with who the checks were being written to and how they were recorded in the accounting system.  It appeared Sheila would have the checks payable to herself and immediately go back into the system and change the name to a made-up vendor.  After months of due diligence and investigation, it was discovered that she had stolen at least a quarter of a million dollars in just the last 10 years of her employment. While this hurts the owner, the owner gave less trust at face value and implemented internal controls to regain trust in accountants.

Creating Checks and Balances with Internal Controls

In another instance, the Chief Operating Officer of a company approved several supplier invoices.  The accounts payable department processed the invoice and paid the supplier without further questioning. It took at least a year before the company learned that the COO created this false company, approved the invoices and received payments for personal gain.

Therefore, it is critical to have internal control at all levels of the company with different teams in place to create the check and balances it needs.  Internal control would the purchasing group validate the supplier, approve the purchase order before submitting the order to accounts payable.  Generally, operations would have received a receiving document once goods/services have been provided with a signature of the person receiving the goods/services.  Accounts payable would receive the final invoice and match it against the approved purchase order and receiving document.

 

What I Learned About Internal Controls 

There are several things I learned about internal controls when I was in audit and now even as a CFO 

Trust Your Gut 

If your gut is telling you something is wrong or off, it is worth investigating. When I have followed my gut, I have either found something wrong or found comfort that everything is okay. But those few times I did not trust my intuition, I missed steps to prevent fraud, etc.  

Never Do Anything Without Oversight 

As a CFO, business owner, entrepreneur, and accountant, I have learned that no one is too high not to have oversight. If I cut all the checks and sign them, that leaves it all up to me. Thankfully, I know myself and I would never do anything criminal! However, not all people are like me. There are, unfortunately, individuals that are motivated by rationalization, pressure, and/or opportunity. Oversight helps protect all parties – even yourself.  

So that is what happens when companies don’t have internal controls – lack of control.

what happens when companies don't have internal controls, When Companies Don't Have Internal Controls

what happens when companies don't have internal controls, When Companies Don't Have Internal Controls

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Accounting Fraud Prevention

See Also:
Accounting Depreciation
Account Reconciliation
Cash Flow Projections
How to Develop a Daily Cash Report
Future of the Accounting Workforce

Accounting Fraud Prevention

A small business owner typically cannot afford to hire enough people to have proper separation of duties to gain the internal controls needed to prevent accounting fraud.

Using Internal Control and Prevent Accounting Fraud

Every business owner can achieve accounting fraud prevention by taking these simple steps:

1. Open the Bank Statement Yourself

Every small business owner should receive the unopened bank statement. Then they should review each check for authorized payee and signature and approve electronic payments. Only after they do the above should they give it to the bookkeeper.

2. Don’t Let Your Bookkeeper Reconcile the Bank Account

The person who pays the bills should never reconcile the bank account. That’s how they cover their tracks. If you don’t have someone else to do it, then this is an easy function to outsource.

3. Close the Prior Accounting Periods

Once you produce a financial statement, that period should be “closed”.  As a result, this reduces the risk of hiding a fraudulent transaction in a prior year.

4. Attach Scanned Images to Each Accounting Transaction

Most fraud occurs from check tampering. For example, the bookkeeper changes the payee to themselves. Prevent accounting fraud by scanning the bill and linking it to each accounting transaction.Thus, this makes it harder to fake a bill.

5. Set Up Username for Each User

If your staff login as “Administrator,” then you have no idea who made what entry. Set up a username for each user that way you can track who did what and when.

6. Restrict User Access

Make sure you have separation of duties between authorization, record keeping, and custodial responsibilities for each accounting transaction.

No system of internal control should be built on trust. The best accounting practice is to separate out the following functions: authorization, record keeping, and custodial responsibility for assets in each accounting transaction.


accounting fraud prevention using quickbooks, accounting fraud prevention

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What Should Your Month End Reports Contain?

what should your month end reports containBack in the day, month end reports consisted of a income statement, balance sheet, and maybe a cash flow statement. These are the three statements that made up your financial statements for month end reporting. As technology advanced and people got smarter about tracking trends, analysis, and operations today, the month end report includes much more. In this week’s blog, I answer the question, what should your month end reports contain?.

We should not think of the month end report as just your financial statements. Just as the role of the accounting department and the role of the CFO continues to evolve, so should the month end report. The month end report should be a management report that captures key data that will be used to make decisions and drive the business. It should include much more than just your financial statements.

In today’s world, the CFO does so much more that count beans. They add real value to the company. Learn about the 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value.

What Should Your Month End Reports Contain?

The month end report should include the financial statements. But they should also include operational data, metrics, and dashboards that are both usable and meaningful. Remember, whatever data is provided should be used to make decisions.

In general, for a manufacturing facility your month end report might include the following:

I would argue that the above list is the bare minimum for month end reporting. Depending on your organization, you may have many other indicators that must be tracked at month end.

Having the right indicators will help you make better decisions and add real value to the firm. Access our 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value whitepaper to learn add value in 5 simple steps.

what should your month end reports contain“Analysis Paralysis”

Be careful though… Providing meaningful useful information at month end does not mean overkill with useless data. Time and time again I see businesses adopt dashboards and metrics, but they go to the other extreme and enter into analysis paralysis. What should your month end reports contain? Not so much that there is an overload of information that cannot be used effectively or at all.



Example of Analysis Paralysis

Allow me to give you an example… If you manufacture valves, your revenue is $10 million per month, and your related EBITDA per month is $1.5 million, then does it really make sense to track an expense line item that is $500? I would argue no. It costs you more time and money to track that item individually. If you do track it, then having that data will not lead to big decisions that are meaningful. All expenses and revenue line items are important, but that does not mean you need to track and analyze every penny. If you are a huge company and have a very expensive system that does all this automatically, then good for you.

There is a famous quote that I have used before, “a small leak sinks great ships.” I truly believe that. We do not want to have a small expense item that over time is a problem. But this blog is intended for your standard monthly close reporting and assumes you have your business in order so that you capture and put a stop to those small leaks.

Efficiency

The month end report should not be a binder 4 inches thick. The ideal financial report at month end should be one that the executive team can review in one hour and get a good feel for where the company is and where it is going. This will vary from company to company. In general, the report should be detailed enough to capture the most important items to make decisions, but condense enough so the management team does not spend a full day reading a large binder. Again, this will vary company to company. Some CEOs want the large binder, and that’s fine. Follow your CEO’s request.

The CFO and the accounting department are responsible for gathering this data working hand in hand with the operations. That is why I preach that a good CFO is actually someone that has a very good understanding of the operation. The Controller should also be someone that understands the operation. Furthermore, the CFO and the Controller should understand both the operation and the operating metrics. The CFO must full understand and interpret the operating dashboards and metrics before this information is passed on to the CEO.

When a CFO has a good understanding of the entire business, they are able to be more effective in their role. Learn about the 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value to take your role to the next level.

In Summary

In summary, your month end report should capture more than just your financial statements. It should also capture the following:

  • Capture key operational data
  • Capture information that is useable to make meaningful decisions
  • Key metrics and dashboards for your business and industry
  • Keep it short and sweet so the executive team can review this report in an hour or less
  • Careful not to overanalyze

If you want to add more value to your company, creating a great month end report is a good start. Learn 5 other ways to add value as a CFO with our 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value whitepaper.

What Should Your Month End Reports Contain

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What Should Your Month End Reports Contain

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