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Customer Profitability

Customer Profitability Definition

The customer profitability definition is “the profit the firm makes from serving a customer or customer group over a specified period of time, specifically the difference between the revenues earned from and the costs associated with the customer relationship in a specified period” (Wikipedia). In other words, customer profitability focuses on the profitability of a specific customer. How much revenue do they bring in? How much time, resources, etc. do they require from your company? By calculating the profitability of each customer, you have some great business insights on productivity, resource allocation, etc.

For example, if your customer service department is overwhelmed with work, then you can assess the number of requests per paying client. If a customer that is at the towards the bottom for revenue and the top for requests, then you can conclude several things. Those can include that you need to either increase their price, fire that customer, or limit the amount of requests for that customer.

The Purpose of Measuring Customer Profitability

Customer profitability is a key metric utilized to inform decision making in various areas of the company. These decisions affect the value exchange between the customer and the company. Once we measure the profitability of our customers, we are now able to understand who our customers are and how we make a profit. It can provide great insights on the business that lead to focusing on what is best for the customer.

How to Measure Customer Profitability

Before you measure the profitability of customers, you need to confirm how your company calculates revenue and expenses. Remember, Profit = Revenue – Expenses. Some companies recognize revenue when it is received (cash basis accounting). But we recommend that organizations use accrual basis accounting – or recognize revenue when it is earned. If you are bigger than a hot dog stand, then you should be using accrual accounting. In regards to expenses, it’s also important to allocate as many expenses through the customer as possible. Think about capital, debt, operational costs, etc.

Once you have figured out the respective revenue and expenses for a specific customer, then you are able to calculate its profitability. Next, you need an analysis all of your customers.

Customer Profitability Key Performance Indicators

There are various KPI’s that can help you understand how your customer profitability is doing at the moment. Here are examples of a few:

Average Revenue Per User (ARPU)

A measurement of the average revenue generated by each user or subscriber of a given service. Use the following formula to calculate the average revenue per user (ARPU):

 Total Revenue / Total # of Subscribers 

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

A projection of the entire net profit generated from a customer over their entire relationship with the company. Use the following formula to calculate the customer lifetime value (CLV):

Annual profit per customer X Average number of years that they remain a customer – the initial cost of customer acquisition

If your customer isn’t valuable or is costing you too much, then reassess your pricing. Click here to learn how to price for profit with our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide.

Customer Profitability Analysis

Customer analysis, defined as the process of analyzing customers and their habits, is one of the most important areas of study in a business.

By observing the actions of various customers you start to see a trend of what your average customer is like and what their habits look like. This is a hint at who your target market could be. Behavioral trends amongst customers are important in how your company decides to carry on their marketing efforts. Once you analyze your customer base and determine your most profitable customers it is important to allocate the majority of your efforts towards them to make your most profitable customer your target customer.

Managing Customer Profitability

Managing customer profitability is larger than just the sales or fulfillment of product/service for the customer. It also includes marketing, finance, customer service, product, and operations. If you manage the profitability of customers, then you will have a better chance of catching areas of inefficiencies.

Areas to Improve Profitability

Some ways to improve customer profitability are to change the way you provide commission to the salesperson. Instead of paying their commission based on revenue, base it on the profitability. This can either be focused on the margin percentage (i.e. a sliding scale) or on the dollar amount in profits.

Why It’s Important to Manage

Managing customer profitability is important for various reasons, not only does it set you apart from the competition by providing more value to your customers, but it also improves the company’s revenues. When you manage customer profitability you are making the value exchange from company to customer more efficient and more profitable.

If you are looking for other ways to improve profitability, then download our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide.

customer profitability definition

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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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Realizing Profit Potential

Over the years, we have asked our clients what business issues keep them up at night. Consistently, realizing profit potential was one of the top issues that kept business owners up at night. Is there money left on the table that hasn’t been realized? Is there potential that hasn’t been capitalized on yet? As a financial leader, it’s your job to maximize the profitability of your company.

Realizing Profit PotentialWhat is Profit Potential?

Profit potential indicates the capacity for a company to make more money in future business and trading transactions. I like referring to it as the monetization of your total capacity to drive earnings. Furthermore, profit potential measures the profit a company can achieve if all their operations are at peak efficiency. This includes pricing, efficiencies, operations, turnover, etc. Also, look at profit potential as the maximum revenue with the lowest possible costs. It’s important to keep in mind that “potential” hints at what a company can accomplish with ideal conditions. But most companies do not meet these conditions in reality. Also, be realistic about peak performance. For example, a manufacturing plant simply can not run at 100% capacity. There is down time for things like maintenance.

A great way to start realizing profit potential is to look at your pricing. Click here to learn how price effectively with our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide.

Steps to Realizing Profit Potential

What are the steps to realizing profit potential? While I could probably write hundreds of different ways to realize a company’s profit potential, I have compiled a few steps that every small to medium size company can focus on first.

Focus on Throughput

Throughput is “is the number of units of output a company produces and sells over a period of time.” Remember, only units both produced and sold during the time period count. Profit potential lies between producing X number of products while simultaneously reducing operating and inventory expenses.

Do not forget to take into consideration your Total Units produced must consider down time for routine maintenance.

To calculate throughput, use the following formulas:

Throughput = Productive Capacity x Productive Processing Time x Process Yield 

Throughput =   Total Units    x  Processing Time  x  Good Units 
             Processing Time       Total Time        Total Units 

Analyze SG&A

Another step to realizing profit potential includes analyzing your company’s SG&A expenses. SG&A stands for Selling, General, and Administrative expenses. It is also known as overhead. When a company analyzes SG&A, they will realize this is the easiest place to looking for unrealized profit potential. Does your company have a large number of non-sales personnel? Are those employees needed to operate? If not, then merge responsibilities for those employees into the roles of essential personnel. Do you carry a lot of expenses that if cut would not disrupt either the manufacturing or sales processes? If so, then analyze whether those expenses are necessary or required.  Do you have sales people that are compensated with a base salary when it should be commission based?  How did you build your budget for SG&A this year? Did you just take last years budget and add 5%, or did you really analyze SG&A?

If you have cut all the SG&A possible and are still not profitable, then take a look at your pricing with our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide.

Realizing Profit Potential

Know What Is Valued

Companies are giving away more value per dollar of revenue than ever before. That’s what marketing teams are being taught to do. However, many companies are giving value away without being able to actually afford it. Look at your minimum viable product. Is all the extra bells and whistles you are adding to your product and service actually adding value to your bottom line? Ask yourself whether customers would leave if you cut those extra “value-adders”. If you determine that they would not leave, then streamline your product and/or service.

Of course, I am not saying to decrease the quality or tear away value that is actually valued. However, companies should know what the company values. Then, they should focus on that. For example, Tesla offers an incredible experience with its technology. It’s no doubt that they have found value in their vehicle. But what if Tesla started including a fuzzy steering wheel cover? Their customers would probably think that the fuzzy cover is tacky and does not add much value. They want to feel the leather under their finger tips. Therefore, Tesla should stop spending money purchasing the unwanted fuzzy steering wheel covers for their customers.

Address Your Culture

Another thing that may be impacting your profitability is your company’s culture. When you address your culture, look at productivity, efficiency, accuracy, moral and the people.

For example, a sales driven firm knows they could be more profitable. They have reduced their costs and priced their products for profitability. However, there is still something missing. The financial leader walks through the sales department, factory floor, and ends up in the customer service department. There are no smiles, yelling, and phones slamming. Unfortunately, no matter how hard sales and operations worked, customer service representatives were loosing more customers than normal. The financial leader discovered that their culture was all about making the sale and delivering it. They did not value servicing customers or continuing to build a relationship with those customers.

In another example, a company noticed they were only focusing on the unprofitable or lower margin clients. The profitable customers did not have the same level of attention. Instead of loosing the unprofitable clients, they chose to pull back support and created a paid support program. If those needy customers wanted more support, then they were going to have to pay for it.

Analyze Pricing

Are you pricing for profitability? By now, you should have looked at your COGS and SG&A (or operating expenses). If you have already reduced those costs as much as possible, then determine if you are profitable or not. If you are still not profitable or as profitable as your shareholders want, then you need to make changes at the top – pricing. Access our Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide to learn how to price profitably.

Realizing Profit Potential

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Mistakes Manufacturing Companies Make

Mistakes Manufacturing Companies Make

Job costing, cost accounting, manufacturing costs, what does all of this mean? Oftentimes, job costing, cost accounting, and manufacturing costs are used interchangeably. As a manufacturer, it does not matter what you call it. But it is critical that as a manufacturer, you capture all of your conversion costs. Simply put, you are taking raw material and converting it to a finished good that is ready for sale. You need to capture 100% of those cost of converting the raw material. Most small companies start with the most basic bookkeeping, and that’s okay. But there are two huge mistakes manufacturing companies make that you need to avoid.

 

Eventually, you need to have proper accounting transactions and systems to capture all of those manufacturing costs to have accurate margins. Accurate financial statements and margins will allow you to correctly price your product and will allow you to make adjustments to your business. This is helpful when you have a change in prices of materials or labor, or if your volume throughput changes for whatever reason.

Mistakes Manufacturing Companies Make

In my career, I have seen two recurring mistakes manufacturing companies make that are related to accounting process, procedures and systems.

First, a company may not want to spend the time and money to improve their cost accounting and systems. As a result, this company will struggle forever. The managers of that business will not have accurate financial reports, and they will likely feel the pain when markets turn or are in a high growth situation. Remember, cash gets tight when in either a growth or decline pattern, especially if it’s not managed well.

Second, a company wants to improve the manufacturing cost accounting, but they overdo it. They want a report that tracks every penny and part, and they install a massive expensive system. Many times, they install the wrong system for their company because it was marketed as the best accounting system. This happens when companies do not spend the money to go through a system selection process. They all end up spending much more than the cost of the professional system selection and bust their budget.

Best Practices for Manufacturing Companies

As a manufacturing company, please consider the following as a best practices for your leadership to abide by.

Analysis Paralysis

You DO have to capture 100% of your costs to take raw material and manufacture a finished good. However, this does not mean you need a separate dashboard or KPI for every cost item. If it is not material and the outcome of the cost is not going to change your mind or cause you to make a business decision, then you may reconsider trying to measure it. Remember, everything you want to measure has a cost itself of measuring it. Not capturing 100% of the costs can be devastating to your company.  Remember the quote from Benjamin Franklin, “A small leak will sink a great ship.

Many business owners and financial leaders want to measure everything. But you should limit your key  performance indicators to those that will lead to business decisions! Click here to access our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet to identify those indicators that really drive value.

Margins

When you manufacture a product, you have your obvious direct materials and direct labor – measuring Cost of Goods Sold. This is absolutely crucial in a manufacturing company. But there are other costs that you need to measure. I am referring to your indirect expenses, especially your sales, general and administrative expenses. You also want to measure your gross margin and/or contribution margin and your Earnings, Before, Interest, Tax, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA). Consider the implementation of analyzing trends based on a trailing twelve months (“TTM”). This will help you spot trends in your business and financially lead your company. Do not forget your balance sheet. Everything ultimately affects cash and working capital.  Without cash and working capital, you will create a financial disaster. Do have KPIs for your balance sheet items that you want to measure.

Systems

Systems are an important part of having a productive and efficient accounting department. It seems that every year there is a new operating system that comes in to the market, and it seems that the developers of these systems want to expand into every market – beyond manufacturing and accounting. With all of these choices and with all of the talented sales people, you need to understand what the choices are for your business. It is worth spending the money to go through a system selection process.

Timing

Timing is everything in manufacturing. Consider the following timing of:

  • Throughput
  • Delivery of the finished good
  • When you modify your standard costs
  • How quickly you close you books and generate financial records that are accurate and serve as a tool to help you run your business
  • Collections so you have cash to place that next order of raw material

Employee Turnover

I recently quoted in a past blog that employee turnover in the U.S. has an average cost of $65,000 per year per employee lost. The number in a manufacturing environment is actually higher because there are often specialty skills that need to be acquired in manufacturing. So keeping a close watch on employee turnover is crucial in a manufacturing company.

Inventory

For whatever reason, inventory seems to be the “Achilles Heal” in many manufacturing companies. Companies either do not properly manage inventory, they have bad practices, or it just seems that it is never right. Once you establish a good process and reconcile inventory, it should be more of a maintenance routine if your people know that they are doing.  Consider the following for inventory:

Be Realistic About Inventory

Be realistic about what is obsolete inventory and good inventory. I know that companies, especially public companies hate to write off inventory.  But you are just kicking the can down the road by not dealing with it now.

Clean Up

Get rid of the junkyard! So many companies I have seen have a junkyard behind the manufacturing facility.  It has been there for years and all it does is accumulate rats, snakes and rust.  Liquidate it and get a scrap dealer to take it off of your hands. You can use that cash for door prizes at the next company party!

Stay Focused

Stick to your business and stay focused. Especially in closely held companies, some business owners waste money on the craziest things. I have saw hundreds of old mopeds (remember, these are bicycles with a weed eater motor) in the back of a large industrial manufacturer. The owner got a “great deal” on them, so he purchased them to resell. The problem is that the initial transaction happened 7 years ago. I also saw a massive specialty machine that cuts steel in the back of a pipe manufacturer because the owner thought he could open a new line of business cutting huge pieces of steel. This machine was two stories tall and weighed thousands of tons. Still to this day, I have no idea how they ever moved it. In addition, the owner never got the new line of business started because there is not a building big enough on his property. The machine has not run in 10 years.

Physical Count

Establish strict physical counts quarterly or at least annually. Have the right team of people conduct the physical count.

Adjustments

Make adjustments to your inventory, and get it over with. Write it up or down in your accounting records.

Segregate Inventory

Segregate your inventory. There is something beautiful about walking into a manufacturing facility and seeing exactly where the raw material, work in process, and finished goods are. Keep obsolete inventory in a separate area that is clearly marked off. Tag and count everything!

Hire a Good Cost Accountant

Cost accounting is a specialty area within the accounting profession. Unfortunately, not every accountant or controller knows cost accounting. Yes, hopefully most accredited accounting programs at universities cover cost accounting, but that does not mean the person you are hiring is a cost accountant. Someone with good manufacturing experience and understands cost accounting is worth his weight in gold. This person will add value to your bottom line.

In the meantime, start measuring and tracking your KPIs. Download our free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet and start tracking your KPIs today!

Mistakes Manufacturing Companies Make
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Battling Uncertainty in Your Company

Battling Uncertainty in Your CompanyUncertainty is all around. Sometimes, it’s more apparent than not. We subconsciously disregard a good chunk of unknowns in our personal life, but in our businesses, anything uncertain tends to cause chaos. Where is my next customer? Am I going to be able to pay bills? Is the economic climate going to pick up? We ask all these questions (and much more). For example, many parts of Houston got destroyed by Hurricane Harvey and it’s 51 inches of rain. As a result, many businesses were underwater and would take months to repair their brick-and-mortar store front. Other business, such as real estate, had to navigate multiple properties being under several feet of water – and no longer sellable either at all or at the same price. Battling uncertainty in your company is a continual fight that you must endure if you want to success.

Battling Uncertainty in Your Company

When you are battling uncertainty in your company, figure out what you know and don’t know. Why? You may be surprised of what you do know and don’t know. It also allows you to see areas of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. For example, let’s look at the Astros baseball team – also, the World Series Champions of 2017. They had great players, great coaches, and excelled in every practice and game. But there was no guarantee that they would beat the San Diego Dodgers. In fact, it could have very easily gone the other way as the Dodgers have great players, great coaches, and excelled in every practice and game. There’s a level of uncertainty that has influence over your future. If the Astros were not able to identify a huge external threat, then they could have been potentially blindsided.

Also, it is important to know what you can control and what you simply cannot control.  Many times, we spend hours worrying about those things we cannot control. If you can’t control it, move on and spend your time solving those things you can control. I saw how uncertainty affected many companies with the most recent downturn in the oil and gas industry. Many companies where either affected directly or indirectly when oil prices plunged from $100/BBL down to below $30/BBL. This industry change caused a lot of companies to go into panic mode and uncertainty.

That’s why it is so important to conduct a SWOT Analysis while battling uncertainty in your company.

battling uncertainty in your company

Conduct a SWOT Analysis

Once you have identified what you know and don’t know, conduct a SWOT Analysis. This is a snapshot of what is going on both internally and externally. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Strengths and weaknesses addresses your internal company health. What are your core competencies? Are you maximizing their potential? In comparison, opportunities and threats addresses the external factors that have influence over your company – government, policy, economy, movements, etc.

To get started on your SWOT Analysis, click here to download our External Analysis whitepaper – addressed the OT of SWOT.

Create Plans for Known Threats And Opportunities

This is a great time to create plans for known threats and opportunities. The Harvard Business Review says that, “Uncertain times, when some things are on hold, provide a good opportunity for fix-ups and clean-ups. Uncertainty makes it tempting to let things deteriorate (maybe we won’t keep this office going or live in this place any longer).” First, fix the things you know are broken and improve on the things that could be better. Create an action plan that will address these known threats and opportunities.

In addition, times of uncertainty usually harbor very creative doomsday scenarios. Rumors spread quickly, and this season of uncertainty can cause strife among your team. Use this creative energy to find an opportunity that will make one thing certain. Ask your team to research, talk about, think of, and find opportunities to take. Sometimes, it begins will brainstorming where (not what) the opportunity lies.  As a business leader/executive communication is a priority in times of uncertainty.  You would be surprised how many times I have seen business leaders go silent in times of crisis.  This is the worst thing you can do, and it only makes things worse in your company as a whole.

Battling Uncertainty in Your CompanyAddress Your Company Culture

Typically, whenever an entrepreneur or CEO loses sight on what is going to happen, they become frantic and are not able to think clearly. As a result, that panic travels down the organization chart and no one can make a smart decision. In times of battling uncertainty in your company, address your company culture.

Address your challenges upfront. There will always be things you cannot tell your employees but share what you can. Get a feel for moral in the organization. If you have to make some difficult decisions do so and assure those staying this was the best for the company as a whole and benefits them directly.

Then, harness their creative juices to generate ideas and to find opportunities. Engage every employee – from the lowliest employee to the top leader.

After your employees are feeling certain that something is being done to make the uncertainty certain, engage your customers. Thank them for their loyalty and share your genuine appreciation for them. The last thing that you want to happen is for you to lose a big customer and for your employees to follow suit because they are uncertain of their employment.

Where Uncertainty Comes From

Business Dictionary defines uncertainty as a “situation where the current state of knowledge is such that (1) the order or nature of things is unknown, (2) the consequences, extent, or magnitude of circumstances, conditions, or events is unpredictable, and (3) credible probabilities to possible outcomes cannot be assigned. Although too much uncertainty is undesirable, manageable uncertainty provides the freedom to make creative decisions.” In other words, uncertainty comes from what we don’t know. There is no way that we could ever know everything! But there’s an opportunity when looking at the certainty of uncertainty.

The Certainty of Uncertainty

The good thing about uncertainty is that we are certain it will always be in our midst. If you know that there will always be uncertainty, then you can separate what you know and don’t know. Think about science – whether it’s how the world was created or how gravity works, etc. Scientists have created these theories will all the information that they have found and researched. Those theories hold true until more information comes along that proves otherwise. If we compared theories 300-400 years ago to now, we would be shocked that they thought that way. In the spirit of science, financial leaders must make decisions knowing what they know at the time and adapting as they get more information.

Leading Through Uncertainty

Ram Charan, author of The Attacker’s Advantage: Turning Uncertainty Into Breakthrough Opportunities, says that, “risk takers are catalysts, operating in offense mode… They’re doers who take risks based partly on fact and partly on their imagination about what could happen when those forces combine in what others might later call a convergence… The catalyst, in fact, is the one who often creates the convergence” (Fast Company). When you are leading through uncertainty, make a decision and avoid delaying for more information that you know is not going to be there. Take ownership of those decisions and charge forward. Remember, a fish rots from the head down. If you as the financial leader fail to lead confidently, then the company underneath you will begin to crumble.

It is also important to be a servant leader! A Harvard Business Review article says that, “when lives are on the line, servant-leadership is the only leadership model that truly inspires a team, because servant-leadership demonstrates that you, as the leader, put your people’s welfare ahead of your own.”

To prevent chaos, it’s important that you know how to overcome obstacles and consequently, be prepared to react to external factors. Click here to access our free External Analysis Whitepaper and gear your business up to navigate uncertainty.

Battling Uncertainty in Your Company

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The Butterfly Effect: Planning with External Analysis

planning with external analysisEvery decision you make as a financial leader affects your business. Looking back on 2016 to now, a lot of events happened and changed the course of business. Often, there are events occurring in the world that either directly or indirectly impact your company. As a financial leader, it’s up to you to decide how to change your business, or if you should keep it the same. But you need to start planning with external analysis.

How External Factors Destroy a Business

Worst-case scenario, a company will collapse due to an event that occurs externally. Here are a few examples of why external factors might actually destroy your business:

Your Company Can’t Keep Up

It’s all about infrastructure. How does your company stay in the game? If you think about it, the core of the company requires a strong group of individuals to keep the company together. Without a strong team, the company will crumble. Analyze your internal situation as well as your external situation: be aware of bitterness, fatigue, and boredom within your staff.

Competitors Fix the Problem Before You Do

“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” If we really think about this phrase, it’s true.”The going gets tough” means the situations around you are getting increasingly more difficult. “The tough get going” means that the strongest people work through the problem as fast as possible. If your competitors can solve the problem before you can, then your company becomes irrelevant.

Customers Adapt to the Change

Like we discussed in last week’s blog, the number one reason for startups failing is creating a product that customers don’t need. This can also be applied to businesses that already exist. If a customer doesn’t need a product, they won’t buy it. For example, the hard drive market shrank rapidly after the creation of the cloud. The cloud solved the issue of limited storage. Since then, customers adapted to the change and the hard drive market continues to shrink. Now, it’s up to the hard drive companies to make their change in order to gain new or keep current customers.

Not used to change? Planning with External Analysis helps anticipate obstacles before they affect your business. Download now!

Planning Strategically

As you can see, it takes a lot of adaptation. Over the past year or so, we’ve been getting a lot of traffic from the middle east. Everyone at The Strategic CFO wondered, “Why is this happening?” We caught up on the news and realized that oil prices collapsed.

As a result, the people in the middle east have a renewed interest in all things financial because they wanted to take initiative and start their own companies. To adapt to this change, we shifted our focus and paid more attention to them in our blog and communication.

You, too, can adapt to change. It’s a matter of staying alert, and responding to a pattern. In this case, we took note of our target demographic, and shifted to cater to them.

Porter’s 5 Forces

planning with external analysisPorter’s 5 forces was created by Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Porter. The model exhibits 5 forces of competition within an industry, affected by multiple aspects of the industry and the environment. The 4 aspects that affect competition include the bargaining power of buyers, the bargaining power of suppliers, the threat of new entrants, and the threat of substitute products.

Analysis of Porter’s 5 Forces

If you think about it, all four of those aspects affect the competition equally, and are affected by spontaneous events. Bargaining power of buyers means that the consumers create pressure for a business to change its product and overall model.

Supplier power refers to the amount of influence the supplier has over a business’s decisions. An example of supplier power is oil and gas pricing. Due to the events that happen in the oil reserves, the prices fluctuate.

Threat of new entrants is the threat that new competitors present in any given industry. In a profitable industry, competition will be saturated. One of our interns told us about an ice cream owner the other day, and he said he and his partner were going to open their shop in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, they couldn’t enter the market because of the competition. As a result, he moved to Houston, posing as a threat to the Houston ice cream market. His product is common with a unique twist, but he entered a less-saturated market.

Finally, the threat of substitutes is the threat of a new product replacing an existing industry’s product. Let’s use an airline as an example. If a new airline provided a better price and better experience, consumers would most likely choose that airline.

Dealing with competition is always tough. Download this External Analysis to beat your competition to the punch!

Planning with External Analysis

planning with external analysisSWOT analysis considers Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Opportunities and threats are the focus for external factors. These environmental changes are most likely variable, unpredictable, and out of your control.

Environmental changes are similar to “the butterfly effect” – the concept that small changes have large effects. What happens across the world may have a large impact on your company. Not all change is negative – it is possible that what happens halfway across the world might increase your revenues in some way. In that case, you’ll still have to prepare… even if it’s not for the worst.

“Plug In” as a financial leader

As a financial leader, you have to be plugged in. News isn’t always for entertainment! In a way, it’s an indication of what your next move is. When planning with external analysis, consider more than what is happening today. Consider what might happen 3-6 months in advance, based on what is happening and has been happening lately.

Conclusion

Some say that the flap of a butterfly’s wings control the tides on the other side of the world. This concept, although somewhat overstated, is a great metaphor for environmental changes. What happens in Saudi Arabia may not affect us now, but maybe it might 5-6 months from now. The best part of adapting: always preparing for the worst.

Prepare for the best… and the worst. Download the External Analysis to gear up your business for change.

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What do you do with unprofitable customers?

Have you ever come across that one customer who you would do anything to get rid of? Have you ever questioned what to do with the customer that causes more strife than good?  Whether they’re a drain or merely a pain, these customers cost you money.  So what do you do with unprofitable customers?

Business is a two-way street. Customers should be as beneficial to you as you are to them. Over time, customers who are not as profitable wiggle their way into your business. How do we find out which customers are profitable and which are not?

Evaluating your customers and how they impact your profitability is just one of the many ways to improve cash flow. Download the free 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow whitepaper to learn 24 other methods.

Defining Your Profitable Customers

Let’s take a look at your numbers. Does your sales volume reflect the number of customers you spend your time with? More specifically, what are your ratios for the number of transactions and average sale per transaction? If your ratio is pretty high, and your margins are low, that’s a warning sign that it’s time to weed the garden.

Customer Profitability & Cash Flow

Profitable customers have a huge impact on a company’s cash flow. Maintaining customer profitability means managing your costs (and thus cash flow) associated with that particular customer.

1-customer-segmentationThe first step is to manage customer segmentation. Allocate fewer or less expensive resources to those customers that are known for taking advantage of you.

The second step is to measure each customer’s margin. This will allow you to compare each customer and see where you should be spending your time.

The third step is to measure the lifetime value of a customer. This is a KPI that we use and find valuable as a metric for conversion rates.

The fourth step is to manage customer impact.  What would your business look like if you sent this customer packing?

The last and most important step is measure customer profitability.

Customer Profitability Analysis

First, you have to segment your total customers based on your servicing characteristics. This looks at the number of transactions and the sales volume. You can then calculate the profitability of a customer by subtracting your estimated relative cost to service from the revenue for the various segments.

Conduct your customer profitability analysis to start eliminating customers that are costing you money, focusing on those customers that are profitable, and increase productivity in your organization.

But putting the math aside, you should probably look back on the patterns and relationships with those customers… Are your customers rude and putting off certain payments? Are they a pain to deal with?  Do they expect special treatment for a bargain price?

Want to know other ways to free up your cash flow? Access the 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow here!

Firing Your Customers

Once you determine who your unprofitable customers are, you need to fire them. I know what you’re thinking… “How do I fire someone that brings me money?!” But that’s the problem. They are consuming resources you could dedicate to profitable customers, so they are actually costing you money.

Firing those unprofitable customers opens up opportunities for your more profitable customers. You can spend more time, money, and effort on the people worth focusing on.

Last-Minute Lisa

Let’s say a customer calls you on Friday afternoon and needs an order rushed out by the end of the day. This customer also consumes extra resources because you have to pull extra workers to complete the order quickly.  Unless you charge a premium price for rush orders, this customer is less profitable because they consume more resources. Not sure who these customers are?  Talk to your operations people.  They know.

Slow-Mo Joe

Another customer is always slow to pay their invoices.  In order to collect, your A/R clerk has to make multiple calls and re-send invoices because they “lost” them.  Because they consume more resources than customers who pay regularly, they are less profitable than other customers.  In addition, they constrain your cash because they are slow to pay.

Tiny Tim

Tiny Tim is the customer that only orders in small batches.  Your manufacturing process requires set up time for each order, so small batch orders are less profitable than large orders due to the cost of setting up the machinery for the order.  If you don’t have premium pricing for small orders or include set up time for each order, you don’t make as much money on smaller orders as you do for large orders.

Last-minute orders, delayed collections, and small batches can seem insignificant in isolation, but if a customer continually takes advantage of you, those costs can add up quickly.

Benefits of Weeding the Garden

Increase Productivity

If you continually weed your garden, it allows you to take bite-size pieces in cleaning up. This improves productivity immensely. Use the metrics/steps mentioned above to measure customer profitability and act in real time.

Nourish Profitable Customers

Identify profitable customers. Funnel more resources into those customers that are profitable. Just like soil needs nutrients, your good customers need resources. Avoid nourishing unprofitable customers.

Build a Better Garden

Weeds (unprofitable customers) tend to choke out healthy plants. Build a healthy garden by removing those weeds and unhealthy elements that restrict the growth of your company.

For other ways to improve cash flow, download the 25 Ways to Improve Cash Flow whitepaper to start identifying how profitable customers impact your company.

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