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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.


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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Adding Value as a Financial Leader

Adding Value as a Financial LeaderThe role of the CFO or financial leader of an organization used to be termed as a “numbers cruncher”. For many reasons, The Strategic CFO has been working tirelessly to coach, consult, and mentor CFOs, Controllers, and others in the finance and accounting function to go from being a number crunchers to a value-adding financial leader. In addition, the role has naturally evolved to go beyond finance. McKinsey reports that 41% of the CFO’s role isn’t even in finance and accounting. As a result, adding value as a financial leader has dramatically changed.

Adding value as a financial leader goes beyond accounting and finance. The CEO needs a wingman – someone to guide them, provide strategy, and back up with a financial plan. To learn how to be a wingman, click here to access our How to be a Wingman guide.

Adding Value as a Financial Leader

We define “value”, in regards to adding value as a financial leader. But, how does one add value? They are a steward of both financial and non-financial performance. They are also responsible for partnering with other business, supporting business strategy, and sustaining value-adding strategies. In other words, adding value as a financial leader simply means supporting the organization (specifically the CEO) to do what they do best – cast the vision for the company.

Value-Adding Financial Function

In order for the finance function to be value-adding, the function (AKA the CFO) needs to have buy-in from the organization’s leadership. This buy-in allows that financial leader to oversee HR, IT, tax, finance and accounting. The finance and accounting function must support these departments or areas of business in order for it to be value-adding.

If the CFO of an organization is what we call a CFnO, then nothing will ever get done and no value will come out of that role. However, if the CFO provides data and analysis to allow the CEO to take a calculated risk, then that role will be value-adding

The Changing Role of the CFO

With technology advancements, more regulations, and additional complexity, the role of a CFO is completely different from 20 years ago… Even 5 years ago.

How Does a CFO Add Value?

Adding Value as a Financial LeaderThe three legs of an organization include sales, operations, and accounting. If one of those legs is falling short or is more successful than the other leg, then the stool risks tipping over. How does a CFO add value? A CFO adds value by understanding on each of those legs equally.

A financial leader or wingman needs to go beyond the accounting and finance function. To learn how to be a wingman, download our How to be a Wingman guide.
  A good CFO truly understands the operations side of the business.

Convert Accounting From a Cost Center to a Profit Center

Accounting is often seen as a cost center. That’s not a new thought or revelation. But the accounting department has the opportunity to convert itself from a cost center to a profit center under the direction of the right financial leader. How do you make this change? You focus on your margins, working capital and cash flow. As an accounting department, you do not have the ability to make sales. However, you do have the ability to identify waste, or better ways of buying insurance, or signing leases, reduce overhead, increase profit margins, and work to bring more down to the bottom line. In a McKinsey Special Collection, they outline that,

Valuing such initiatives often requires nuanced thinking. Although some transformations include radical changes, most create significant improvements on the margin of existing operations. That requires an understanding of the organization’s marginal economics—that is, the costs and benefits of producing one additional unit of product or service. When managers have a clear understanding of the marginal value of improving each of the activities that contribute to performance, they have the potential to redirect an entire transformation.

Streamlining Operations

Look at efficiencies in the operation. Understand the measure of throughput if you manufacture something, look at labor hours and efficiency if you provide services. Your monthly dashboards as CFO should include accounting and financial measures, but also operations metrics.

Customer Service

Working to respond to customers quicker and with more satisfactory answers should be a priority of the company. One indicator that I manage in my business is customer turnover. It’s much easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new customer. Therefore, streamline your customer service processes. This can include getting more responsive tracking software, hiring better or more representatives, training every employee to respond to customers.

Days Sales Outstanding (DSO)

It is common to have a collections department if you are a larger organization. But if you are smaller the collections effort often lies with the sales people who have the relationship with the customer, and sometimes the collections effort is done by someone in accounting.  It really should be the person with the client relationship.  Either way, make sure someone is following up with collections.  You would be surprised how many times I have walked into a business and one side of the business thinks the other is following up on collections, when in reality no one is.

Want to get more tools that can help you become more profitable, streamline operations, and collect A/R quicker? You can access that and so much more in the SCFO Lab. Click here to learn more. 

Be the trusted advisor your CEO needs and access the How to be a Wingman guide.

Adding Value as a Financial Leader

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How Does a CFO Bring Value to a Company?

See also:
Role of a CFO
5 Ways a CFO Adds Value
EBITDA Definition

How Does a CFO Bring Value to a Company?

Most CEOs don’t understand how a CFO brings value to their company. They see CFOs as overhead rather than income-producers. CEOs typically see the role of a CFO as a CPA or a regular accountant role. So, how does a CFO bring value to a company? In actuality, the CFO is responsible as a financial leader to determine whether the company is successful or unsuccessful. A strong CFO knows how to add value to an organization. There are numerous tactics such as reviewing tax information or analyzing every financial statement involved with the company, but from a strategic standpoint, it’s very simple how a CFO brings value to a company.

According to our 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value article, the CFO of a company should be able to perform in five ways: 1) growing the company faster, 2) improving profitability, 3) improve cash flow, 4) obtain increased leverage from banks, and 5) provide leadership and direction throughout the company. A good way to measure profits and cash flow is to follow your bottom line — your EBITDA.

So why EBITDA? Why not simply check cash flow or sales? Investors prefer to use EBITDA because EBITDA allows bankers to compare and monitor performance over time. EBITDA is the best measurement for the value of a company.

How Much Value Should a CFO Add?

How much should a CFO be able to contribute, and what is the reciprocating value proposition? Having worked with hundreds of companies over the past 25 years, I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been a solid financial leader set in place initially. The ultimate goals for a CFO are to improve profits, manage risk, and free up cash flow.

Let’s assume that EBITDA equals net income. This is so we do not miscalculate interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. If a CFO is hired to improve a business, this means that the CFO should configure a way to optimize cash flow and costs to the point of increasing EBITDA by 1-2%.  It is a general expectation that the CFO should improve cash flow and profits by this percentage. Improving business right away by 5-10%, for instance, as a CFO is much more difficult than expecting 1-2%, which is why that is the general rule of thumb.

NOTE: Want to learn the 7 habits of a highly effective CFO for free? This provides a step-by-step guide on how to improve your role as a CFO.

Download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs

The CFO Value Proposition

The EBITDA improved in a company is equivalent to the salary the CFO is paid. If a company generates $20 million in sales, then that company would typically pay the CFO $200,000-400,000, depending on the size of the company. From this theory, CFOs should be able to pay for themselves the first year by identifying ways to free up profits and cash flow.

Revenue ($20,000,000) x Value of CFO (.02) = CFO Salary ($400,000)

                                         Value Proposition

The same concept applies for larger companies that generate $100-200 million and pay the CFOs a salary of $1-2 million. CFOs of larger companies are typically paid a higher salary than middle-market or smaller companies. On the other hand, start-ups typically don’t pay their CFOs until they have generated a certain amount of revenue. Most companies under $10 million don’t even have a CFO, because value proposition is nonexistent.

How does the CFO Drive Business?

How do we equate the value of a CFO to the value of a business? The answer is simple: Most companies sell 3-5 times EBITDA. 

If a CFO comes into a $20 million company and increases profits by $200,000, the CFO creates anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million worth of value within the first year.  A CFO driving EBITDA not only frees up that cash flow, but sets a precedent by increasing the value of the company for the future. The investment of $200,000 in a CFO is worth the payback of  a $600,000 to $1 million constant return.

For example, a client I worked with hired a CFO, and within the first year, he generated an increase in business of 72%. The second year, he added another 20% on top of the previous year’s improvement. After 3 or 4 years, the CFO was then in charge of expanding the company and finding new opportunities for growth, such as opening another location for the business.

So how does a CFO add value? It’s a mutual relationship. The CFO of a company separates from title of “overhead,” and evolves into the financial leader for a company.

how does a CFO bring value to a company

how does a CFO bring value to a company

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How does a CFO add value?

Oftentimes, CEOs don’t see the value in a CFO… They ask “how does a CFO add value?” After hearing that countless times, I want to let you on a little hint.

A good CFO improves profitability and cash flow 1-2% of sales.

A few months ago, I was meeting with a young man named Nathan who was about 8-10 years into his career. Nathan had achieved his dream by becoming the Director of Finance for a mid-size entrepreneurial company. What could go wrong?

Nathan started getting frustrated because the company would not value him as a financial leader. They saw him as overhead. Leadership thought he could do more. They didn’t respect him. The financial leg of the company saw him as a cost centerHave you ever been in the same boat as Nathan?

Very quickly after his promotion to this position as Director of Finance, Nathan began to regret taking the offer.

How do you go from “overhead” to valuable?

Let’s go back to my simple answer: a good CFO should improve profitability and cash flow 1-2% of sales.

Increasing EBITDA

Most CEOs see CFOs as overhead, especially when they don’t make a positive difference to the bottom line, or EBITDA. Before Nathan was promoted to Director of CFO add valueFinance, there wasn’t anyone in a financial leadership position in the company. The company wasn’t financially managed.

In the case that there is no CFO or the past CFO was not successful as improving profitability and cash flow, it is reasonable to expect the new CFO to improve profits and cash flow by 1-2%.

For ease of explanation, we’re going to focus on increasing EBITDA simply because it’s difficult to mitigate interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. There are only a few ways to increase your EBITDA: increasing sales, reducing overhead and improving cash flow are some of these.

(Need to improve your cash flow? Download your free 25 ways to improve cash flow!)

It’s often said that the CEO drives sales and the CFO manages everything underneath that! It couldn’t be said more perfectly. But there’s one thing that I don’t necessarily agree with. If the CEO is only managing sales (keep in mind that you have to spend money to make money) and the CFO is managing operations and accounting, there’s an imbalance in financial management.

(Click here to read a case study to price for profit while utilizing the 3-legged stool example you’re going to read about below.)

A 3-legged Stool

CFO add value

You probably figured out now where we’re going with this. A 3-legged stool has… well 3 legs! Each leg is imperative for the seat to stand horizontal. People rely on there being 3 legs so they can rest and sit on the stool.

Sales, operations, and accounting go hand in hand. Revenue allows for the company to continue to operate. Operations fulfills the sales orders. But if you accounting doesn’t manage cash flow, then operations can quickly spend more than is coming in. If cash flow isn’t managed, sales could sell either at a loss or without collecting for x amount of days resulting in no cash.

#1 Reason Why Businesses Fail: No Cash

Cash is king. So if cash is so important, then why are financial leaders not valued?

Typically, companies see financial leaders as the weak link. Others in the organization don’t know their value.

How should financial leaders be valued?

What gets measured gets managed. If you’re not even looking at your records (i.e. historical data), then you’re probably not going to use those numbers to run your business.

A CFO needs to ensure that operations has enough cash to purchase inventory to produce the products that sales needs to sell. If the CFO is not working with the sales force to project sales, then you will easily miss sales targets. Thus, this results in miscalculated inventory levels.  Suddenly, the company is dealing with angry customers and no cash.

In short, the CFO is important. While a 1-2% improvement may not sound like much, a CFO of a $50 million company could add $500,000-$1,000,000 worth of value to the company. The value added in this case will certainly cover their salary and then some.

Just like a CEO can increase his or her salary by increasing the size of the company, a CFO can increase his or her salary by improving profitability and cash flow.  This is typically why the larger the company, the larger the salary. 1-2% of a $50 million company is a lot different than a $100 million company. If you as the CFO are able to add enough value to the company to cover your salary and then some, it’s hard for others to argue that you aren’t valuable.

Case Study

CFO add valueA couple of years ago, I had a client, Rob,  that owned a $135 million distribution company. Over time, Rob has accumulated a massive amount of inventory. When I went to find out where the company was bleeding, I identified that Rob’s cash conversion cycle had jumped significantly over the past 4 year period.

Rob and I were able to free up and reduce his daily sales outstanding (DSO) from 180 days to 90 days. This freed up $4 million in liquidity! By freeing up cash, Rob was able to add value to the company.

This is only 1 of the 5 ways to improve your cash flow that is included in our free white-paper!

If you are seeking to add real value as a financial leader, click here to learn the 5 Ways a CFO Adds Value.



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Debt to Equity Ratio

What is the debt to equity ratio and does it apply to all business? The short answer is that investors and creditors use it to see if a business is likely to pay back its debt and sustain a decline in sales. This applies to most business, but it is not relevant to companies that don’t have debt. These two issues determine if the company is vulnerable to changes in the business cycle. If it is highly leveraged – meaning a high proportion of debt financing – it is riskier.

Reasons for the Debt to Equity Ratio

One reason that investors look at this leverage ratio is to judge whether the company will always be able to service its loans. If your ability to continually pay off debt is questionable, this highly geared (highly leveraged) business is not worth the risk. High debt payments can absorb any free cash flow in a business and lead it to a halt.

Debt to Equity Formula

The debt to equity formula is total liabilities/equity. This is the simplest version of the equation and considers both long and short term debt. Other versions of the debt to equity formula are adjusted to show long term debt/equity. This can be useful for certain industries but you should also compare it to the original formula (total liabilities/equity).

One thing about the debt to equity formula is that it is only one ratio. It does not give an in-depth view of the company’s debts but simply makes it easy to tell if something is noticeably off. Companies can also distort this ratio in an attempt to make another ratio look better. One example of this is with return on equity. If a business wants to keep a very high return on equity, it will only accept a certain amount of equity. The rest of the required financing will be from debt, thus optimizing the effect of the equity investment.

How do you use the debt to equity formula in your business? For further reading about debt to equity ratios, check out this article.

If you want to add more value to your organization, then click here to download the Know Your Economics Worksheet.

Debt to Equity Ratio, Debt to Equity Formula

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Debt to Equity Ratio, Debt to Equity Formula

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5 Ways a CFO Adds Value

ways a CFO adds valueCheck out the following 5 ways a CFO adds value and how they can take their role to the next level – gaining more respect, increasing salary, etc.

Ways a CFO Adds Value

1.  The CFO Enables the Company to Grow Faster

CFO responsibilities include the following:

  • Formulating and implementing financial strategies
  • Managing the company’s financial departments
  • Ensuring that the company is in compliance with industry and legal standards

An effective CFO analyzes the company’s current financial position and market trends. Furthermore, this enhances financial strategies and improve cash flow and profits, while still keeping a lid on costs. This also enables the company to grow faster and more resourcefully.

2.  The CFO can Improve Company Profitability

Controlling costs, improving productivity, and analyzing and suggesting pricing strategies are three ways the CFO can impact the bottom line. Through oversight and management of the financial departments, the CFO has access to past and current financial reports. Access to this information gives the CFO ability to evaluate how the company can control costs in order to maximize profits. The CFO should also evaluate the productivity of employees in different departments. Then determine if there are any patterns of bottlenecks or slow-downs in operations. The financial reports will then enable the CFO to analyze net income from sales revenues and operational expenses. Then he or she can recommend optimal pricing strategies for the company’s products or services.

3.  The CFO can Improve Cash Flow

By managing the cash conversion cycle, the CFO can help the company improve collections, pricing, and terms resulting in increased liquidity. Cash flow projections prepared by the CFO provide a means for management of the lifeblood of the company – cash.

4.  The CFO has the Ability to Obtain Increased Leverage from Banks

Banks want to see in-house financial expertise. An effective CFO will enhance the financial know-how and of the company when working with banks. In smaller companies, the CEO usually handles bank relationships. In larger companies with different departments and extensive operations, a financial team led by a CFO is necessary to handle company finances and communicate with banks in financial language. An effective CFO knows that maintaining open lines of communication with their banker will enable the company to better access the funds needed for growth.

5.  The CFO Provides Leadership and Direction Throughout the Company

The CEO looks to the CFO to be a sounding board for new ideas, present and sell the financial picture to others and “peek around corners”. An effective CFO can also bring financial insight to sales and operations departments who often distance themselves from company finances or financial strategies. If both sales and operations work together with the CFO to maximize profits by increasing cash flow and minimizing costs, the entire company will become more successful.

If you want more tips on how to improve cash flow, then click here to access our 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow whitepaper.

ways a CFO adds value, Value-Adding CFO, CFO adds value
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Cost Control vs Cost Reduction

cut costs There is a difference between cost control vs cost reduction. Most people think that controlling costs and reducing costs are one and the same when, in fact, they can generate two totally different outcomes.

The first thing you need to know is that you can’t grow a company by cost reduction alone. You can get short term gains but, eventually, they fade. When public companies reduce costs through a restructuring there is typically a  short term lift to their stock price. However, for the increased stock value to be sustainable they must grow revenue.

An example might be Barnes and Noble bookstores. No amount of cost cutting is going to change the situation that they find themselves in today. They must reinvent themselves and pivot.

So if we want to add value we must grow revenue, how do we do it? There are three ways that come to mind. We could develop new products or services, increase market share or increase selling efforts. What do all three of these strategies have in common?

You have to increase costs to increase revenue!

So instead of looking for the lowest cost in a transaction you should look, instead, for the largest value received per dollar spent. It is easy to apply this train of thought to selling costs, marketing costs or product development costs, but what about overhead?

Does hiring the candidate at the lowest salary translate into a good value proposition? Does paying a premium get you a better employee?

The answer is: “it depends”. You should evaluate each cost incurred in light of the excess value received and the goals of your company.

We knew a company who wanted to spend as little as possible on their accounting staff. So they hired the cheapest accountants they could find not the most competent. In the end, they spent more money on cleaning up the financial statements, bringing them current and completing the year-end audit than the savings recognized.

The moral of this story is that you can’t build a house with only a hammer. Consequently, you can’t grow a company profitably by just focusing on cost reduction.

Learn how to apply concepts like this in your career with CFO Coaching.  Learn More

cost control vs cost reduction

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