Tag Archives | KPIs

Becoming a Smart CEO

While larger companies typically employ an in-house CFO to measure and manage the organization’s financial risk as well as financial planning and allocation, most small businesses do not share the same luxuries. As a result, many growing businesses choose to outsource their financial processes such as bookkeeping, billing, and financial reporting. The CEO then becomes is the company’s only financial leaderWithout having a CFO on staff, the CEO makes major financial decisions. They are also responsible for reporting, growth, and business strategy. Becoming a smart CEO starts with becoming a financial leader.

Becoming a Smart CEO: Learn From 4 Types of CFOs

By looking at the 4 types of CFOs (once outlined by McKinsey & Company), we will narrow down how CEOs can adopt traits from each CFO to becoming a smart CEO.


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The 4 Types of CFOs

There are 4 types of CFOs that CEOs need to know about.

1. The Numbers Expert

The numbers expert type of CFO traditionally has experience with multiple positions within the finance department, including controllership, treasury, auditing, and financial planning. They are usually an internal hire. Because of this, they tend to hold a great understanding of the inner workings of the company.

2. The Strategist

The strategist is a CFO that a company usually hires from outside of the finance department. They typically have experience working in other verticals, such as operations, marketing, and general management. These folks focus on tightly run operations and the allocation of business resources. They also often have a major influence on their colleagues regarding major business decisions.

3. The KPI Advocate

The KPI advocate type of CFO love their scorecards. Many are hired from outside of the organization because they provide a non-biased look at performance metrics, cost reports, and standardized data. To them, everything is measurable. They often have a strong focus on meeting or exceeding established goals.

4. The Growth and Development Wizard

Although the least common among CFOs, the growth and development wizard type is becoming more popular. Growth and development wizards are usually hired externally. They generally have years of experience in mergers, acquisitions, private equity, and venture capitalism. They keep their eye on the prize of expanding the current business operations of the company.

The Smart CEO

Just because there are four established types of CFOs doesn’t mean that every CFO fits into one singular category. Consider the same for CEOs who operate without an on-staff CFO.

A smart CEO will embody multiple attributes of each type of CFO. With the help of their outsourced financial services firm, a smart CEO will pay close attention to bookkeeping and financial management while using KPIs and reports to make data-driven decisions and build better business strategies.

Smart CEOs then use their existing financial data to identify opportunities for growth and can start to make plans for expansion, product line extensions, partnerships, or even mergers and acquisitions.

Becoming a Smart CEO


Stephen King, President and CEO at GrowthForce, is a guest blogger at The Strategic CFO. Interested in outsourcing your accounting and bookkeeping? Learn how GrowthForce can help.


Becoming a Smart CEO

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Is Your Business Bankable?

Is Your Business Bankable

Businesses call us for many reasons but here are two very common reasons why we get called…

They are growing and want to strengthen the financial function.

OR

They are in financial distress and can’t find a way out.

Why does a business need to be bankable? What does being bankable mean? In this blog, we are going to answer all those questions and advise you how to strengthen your banking relationship (something all businesses need to do).

What metrics are you using to gage your company’s performance? It’s important to identify and track those KPIs. Need help tracking them? Click here to access our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet, and start tracking those KPIs today!

Is Your Business Bankable?

Before we answer the question “is your business bankable?”, what does bankable even mean?

Bankable is a financial jargon that indicates that a business is sufficiently healthy to receive interest from lenders to loan. It’s a basic indicator of a company’s success. If a bank is willing to loan a business cash and/or support a business, then the risk of it failing or not paying is low. A bankable company has significant assets, profits, liquidity (cash), and collateral.

An article from Forbes says it like this, “The bank is your cheapest, but often most difficult, source of capital with which to operate and grow your company.”

So, is your business bankable? There are several things to consider.

Financial health will be the primary focus of determining if your business is bankable. There are other things, such as collateral and the character of the person, behind the loan.

Financial Things to Look for

Financial things to look for:

Non-Financial Things to Look for

Non-financial things to look for include the following:

  • Do you have a strong management team?
  • What does your industry or segment look like (strong, declining, etc.)?
  • Do you have a business plan?
  •  The character of the people behind the company and signing the loan documents
  • Will you provide a personal or corporate guarantee?

If you are unsure, then just ask your banker.

Is Your Business BankableThe Need to be Bankable

We deal with companies that are both highly successful or maybe in a distress situation. If you are successful, then you may want to acquire another company, have a distribution, or invest in CAPEX. In today’s market of relatively cheap access to capital, why would you use your own cash? If you are growing, then you really need to consider a line of credit to help you grow. We see very successful companies in a high growth scenario bleed out of cash and working capital. In those cases, a line of credit would make life so much easier.

 Click here to access our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet, and start tracking your progress to be bankable!

Bankable Business Plan

Now, that you have determined if you are bankable or not bankable, it’s time to put together a bankable business plan. There are several things that banks (and investors) want to see before they invest in your and your company. There are ten sections to a bankable business plan.

(HINT: If you do not have a good banking relationship with your banker, then even the most perfect business plan will not guarantee you will get the capital or line of credit you need/want.)

Value Definition

What ares in your business create value? In a bankable business plan, you need to define your value-generating centers (core-business activities). A successful business will continue to come back to the value that they provide to customers; however, an unsuccessful business will continue to get distracted by other areas of the business that are not generating any or as much value.

Needs Assessment

A Needs Assessment identifies the company’s priorities. It also defines what needs to be accomplished and the steps that need to be taken to achieve the goals. This is a great tool to use to identify what you know and don’t know about your business. Use this process to analyze every part of your business. Score.org provides a Needs Assessment that will gage how well you know your business and your needs.

Differentiation and Competitive Assessment

Porter’s Five Forces of Competition is used in the differentiation and competitive assessment to identify competing products/services and to start the process of differentiating yourself from the competitors. For example, there are 3 companies in Houston that provide the exact same product; however, ABC Co. is working to be bankable. So ABC Co. works to position their product differently and to provide more value than their competitors. Without conducting a differentiation and competitive assessment, ABC Co. risks loosing valuable market share.

Market Analysis

Bankers want to mitigate their risk. Conduct a market analysis to explain exactly that your market is doing. Is it new and expanding? Or is it saturated and declining? This will help explain your company’s growth potential.

Marketing Planning

Put together a marketing plan. Identify how you are going to market your product or service, what your target market is, and how you are going to continue to grow.

Sales and Promotion Strategy

Now, that you have built out your marketing plan, identify your sales and promotion strategy. For example, if a $1 trial for a subscription is critical to your sales strategy, then write that out and explain how it has contributed to your company’s growth.

Organization Design

What does your organization look like? Are you bombarded with too many non-essential personnel or administrative functions? Or is your company designed to optimize all positions to cover both value-adding functions and administrative functions?

Financing Needs

Identify your financing needs. How much do you need to sustain your company? How quickly do you need financing? Answer all this questions

Financial Projections

Next, build out your financial projections. Be sure not to have optimistic projections that are hard to near impossible to accomplish. They need to be realistic, detailed and logical.

Risk Analysis

Finally, what risk does your company have? For example, a company who relies heavily on the oil and gas industry needs to identify what risk they will face if that industry declines.

Conclusion

In conclusion, being bankable is a measurement of success. As previously stated, there are several things you need to watch to remain bankable and profitable. Measure and track those KPIs. Click here to download our free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet.

Is Your Business Bankable
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Is Your Business Bankable

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Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

There is more information available today than in another other age before. It’s overwhelming. Instead of having verbal conversations with one another, there is a room of people on their phones or laptops communicating with other people around the world. We are processing thousands (if not millions) of pieces of information a day. And that’s making the role of the financial leader more difficult. There is simply too much information. So, how do you navigate financial leadership in the digital age?

First, take a look around the office. How much of your team’s work in on a device? How does your team look visibly (tired and exhausted or alert and awake)? If you go to any news source (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, etc.), notice how many articles are about technology and anything digital. Almost every article has some tech or digital component to it. This issue impacts financial leaders all around the world.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Too Much Processing of Information

News channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, TV shows, financial statements, reports, contracts… Every piece of information we take in from the moment we wake up to the moment our eyes shut is simply overwhelming. There is too much processing of information occurring, and it has the risk of destroying a company’s value. A company’s leadership needs to be on guard of how much information they are processing each day. An article Fast Company published says, “Our brains have the ability to process the information we take in, but at a cost: We can have trouble separating the trivial from the important, and all this information processing makes us tired.” Our brains can only hold so much – much like a bandwidth of Internet. Once we go over that bandwidth, then we start to lose or forget information – even the most important information.

So, what does one do? They focus on a few key metrics rather than all the metrics. Click here to start identifying those key metrics with our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Financial leadership in the digital age is continuing to evolve and involve more areas in business than accounting. Already, financial leaders take a role in operations (productivity, efficiency, etc.), investment decisions, strategic planning, and human resources. I tell any CEO hiring a CFO that the CFO should be good enough or better to take on the role of a CEO.

Have a Team to Process the Information

As the financial leader, you have the opportunity to defer the role of sifting through all the information and data. Have your accounting department analyze all the information and package it into the most important information that you need to make strategic decisions. The CFO sits on a lot of information to begin with. With a team’s support, the CFO can focus on the most important information.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

Focus on Key Performance Indicators

Financial leaders in the digital age need to identify the key performance indicators (KPIs) that really matter in the business. If they don’t identify those KPIs, then they risk being overrun by data and may miss something important – result in injury, lawsuit, fines, etc.  With current systems that are properly installed, you can have thousands of bits of information in your monthly report.  But may I ask, what do you really need to make decisions?

Today, a client asked me if I wanted to see the daily reports. I asked what is in the daily report. The client responded with, “everything”. It included man hours, throughput, downtime, what was sold, was was wasted, HR information on who clocked in late and who was on time, literally everything on a daily basis. My response was simply “no” because  I do not need to see everything every day because I am running the company as an Interim-CEO. Instead, I want to see data that is meaningful, weekly, and information that will lead me to make business decisions. If we have over time one day of the week and none the rest of the week, then that will not lead me to make any business decision in this case.

Since so much data is available real time, be sure to gather and analyze that which is relevant and will lead you to make a decision.

Hire the Right Team

CFOs need to reevaluate which positions they are adding to their accounting department. Consider positions like data scientists, data security professionals, statisticians, and IT delivery specialists to add to your team. If the digital age is creeping into every area of business (especially accounting), then you need to have people with more experience in data, security, and analysis.

Adopt and Adapt to Technology

McKinsey recently reported that “the average capital project reaching completion 20 months behind schedule and 80 percent over budget.” Why? Because the stakeholders (project managers and contractors) in these capital projects are resisting technology. This is just one example of how resisting technology is a technology driven world will have an impact on the bottom line. If your company is already utilizing technology, then think of areas that you could be using more technology to reduce costs. If your company is still operating in the proverbial Stone Age, then it’s time to bring in a consultant or a team to implement a digital component. That could be an accounting system, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, an optimized website, etc.

In another example, retailers everywhere are having to change their business models to cater to the buy-now demand that customers have taken up. Retailers are creating e-commerce sites, closing brick and mortar stores, and managing inventory entirely different all because of technology. Recently, even grocery stores have been competing with companies, like Instacart and Favor, who are doing the shopping for customers that do not want to shop by creating their own delivery services.

Automation Plus Analysis

Over the years, the automation has creeped into finance and accounting departments. While at first, many in accounting were terrified that it would make their roles obsolete, we are seeing something different. You can only automate so much. In the end, business is all about humans. You cannot automate humans. What does that mean exactly? That means that now accountants are able to do more with the data than punching the information into spreadsheets, systems, etc. They can now spend their time analyzing the data, and thus, they become more valuable to the firm.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Paul McDonald from Robert Half says that, “companies plan to move the expertise needed to modernize their finance departments in-house, even as the process brings about more automation to routine tasks.”

Stay Focused in the Digital Age

So, how does one stay focused in the digital age? It starts with knowing what information is important enough to earn your attention and what information is simply a distraction. Start measuring your company’s KPIs today with our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet.

Financial Leadership in the Digital Age
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Financial Leadership in the Digital Age

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Customer Profitability

See also:
Identifying Profitable Customers
Segmenting Customers for Profit
3 Benefits of an Analysis of 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.


Click here to Download the Pricing for Profit Inspection Guide


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 customer profitability, 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, Measure Customer Profitability

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Customer Profitability Definition, Measure Customer Profitability

 

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Productivity of an Accounting Department

Most people (especially those outside the finance side of the business) see the financial function as a cost center. Although an accounting department does not generate any revenue, it has the potential to dramatically improve profitability. Think about this: you should be able to convert 1-2% of sales into profits if the department was more productive. The productivity of an accounting department is directly linked to the improvement of profits and cash flow – the bread and butter of financial leaders.

How Productive Is Your Accounting Department?

Before you attempt to improve the productivity of an accounting department, assess how productive or unproductive it is currently. First, log what is working and what is not working. By going through this process, you will allow yourself or the financial leader of your company to fully evaluate what is going on. There are a couple areas that you can start considering when asking the question: how productive is your accounting department?

If you find that your accounting department is productive, brainstorm ways to make it more productive. The great thing is that there is always room for improvement.

Track your accounting department’s productivity by using KPIs. For help, download the KPI Discovery Cheatsheet!

productivity of an accounting departmentTips to Improve Productivity of Accounting Department

While there may be a million little things that you can do to push the needle a little, we have found that there are a few focus areas that allow you to take the biggest strides ahead. When improving the productivity of an accounting department, start by using best practices, training and developing your team, automating as much as possible, communicating effectively, tracking progress, and outsourcing. Finally, walk through your accounting department to ensure maximum profitability.


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Use Best Practices

The best way to accomplish this first tip is to continually read up on, research, discuss, learn from thought leaders, and attend events to catalog the best practices used by others to attain a productive accounting department. In addition, if you keep ahead on implementing the best practices, you should be able to accomplish company goals quicker. According to GAAP, some best practices include regularity, consistency, continuity, and recording sales when they are certain.

Training & Development

Unfortunately, some employees are simply not going to do the dirty work of reading up on the best practices. They are leaving that up to you ­– the financial leader. Those employees are going to continue to do exactly what they have done in the past; and therefore, reduce the chances of being more productive. So, it is up to the financial leader to provide training and development for the team. If the team hears and learns the same training and development sessions, then there is a huge opportunity to create a more synergized accounting process.

In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey says that synergy “is the habit of creative cooperation. It is teamwork, open-mindedness, and the adventure of finding new solutions to old problems. But it doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s a process, and through that process, people bring all their personal experience and expertise to the table. Together, they can produce far better results than they could individually. Synergy lets us discover jointly things we are much less likely to discover by ourselves.” The more your team is on the same page, the more productive your accounting department.

Automate

One of the great things about technology is that you can automate almost everything. While that could be bad news for those of you whose jobs could be automated, it is great for the productivity of an accounting department. Rather than laying off those employees, strategize how you can transition those people into more value-adding roles.

Communicate with Team

There’s a joke that you can tell extroverted accountants from introverted accountants by whose shoes they look at – their own or the other person’s. All jokes aside, it is critical that the financial leader get themselves and their team out of their office to communicate. During the hour or so when you take lunch or get coffee, ask one of your team members to join you. In addition to getting to know them better, see if they have any ideas about how to make the department more productive.

Identify Skills of Team

Part of communicating with your team includes identifying the skills of your team. Understand what talents they may have that was not on their resume. Assign projects to them in areas that they excel. Ask questions like: What’s the first thing that you like to do at the beginning of the day? Or if there is something that you could do all day, every day, what would that task be? When you identify the skills, talents, likes, and dislikes, you will be able to further develop your team.

Have KPIs

Identify those key performance indicators (KPIs) that indicate the productivity of an accounting department. Once you have identified them, use and track them. If you find your department sliding backwards, reassess and start the process over again.

If you are struggling to identify and track the KPIs that indicate the productivity of your accounting department, click here to access your free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet!

Outsource

If a specific job or task is not a core function of the business, explore whether it can be outsourced. For example in our retained search business, we have discovered that many companies are outsourcing their accounting departments to countries like the Philippines and Germany because it is more cost-effective for their organization. While that decision may be outside the norm, it is an opportunity to step up and be a financial leader. Outsource tasks and roles that can be accomplished at the same quality for a lower cost.


Click here to download: The Smart Back Office for SMBs


productivity of an accounting departmentWalk-Through Process

Finally, generate a list of topics to run through when evaluating the productivity of an accounting department. The Journal of Accountancy developed a questionnaire as part of a walk-through process checklist that can be accessed online (we have also included it below). When you ask yourself these questions, you’ll be able to better gauge the productivity of your accounting department and exactly where you need to focus.

Time

  • How much time are you spending on any given task?
  • Is it labor intensive?
  • How many people participate in the process?
  • Does it take excessive time to complete?
  • Is there a duplication of effort?
  • Are too many handoffs occurring?
  • Are roles and responsibilities clearly defined?
  • Is anyone performing similar tasks?
  • Are roles and responsibilities appropriate?
  • What is slowing down the process?
  • Do you require needless reviews or approvals?
  • What are the busiest times of the day, week, month and/or quarter?

If there is a task or job that is time intensive, judge if that job could be automated, outsourced, or done quicker. The goal is to reduce the cost associated with that task or job. Unfortunately, you are going to find that there are jobs that simply cannot be trimmed as they are essential to the business itself. That’s okay! But try to find and reduce the costs associated for as many tasks as possible.

Necessity

  • Is the step or process necessary to the company’s success?
  • Can you eliminate it without causing any damage?
  • Do you have more tasks to do because of a single task?
  • Is duplication of information necessary?

Automation

  • Can you automate a task?
  • Are you keying in the same data into multiple places? (For example, the accounting system, an Access database, spreadsheets, etc.)
  • Does a backlog exist?
  • How often are your deadlines missed?
  • Where is there a breakdown of a streamlined process?
  • Is there a person or a job that stops the production of financials?

Value Adding

  • Does a task add value?
  • How accurate is the data?
  • How much value can come from automating/outsourcing/etc.?

Conclusion

Streamline your accounting department by asking questions, automating, outsourcing, and find more profits and cash flow. Don’t continue to just be a cost center… Transform your department into a value-adding entity within the company! For help and tips to track your transformation, you need something to measure your performance. For help, download our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet and start measuring your accounting department’s KPIs today.

Productivity of an Accounting Department

Productivity of an Accounting Department

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Key Elements When Seeking Financing

key elements when seeking financing

This past week, one of my clients met with a banker to develop a new banking relationship. He hands the banker the company’s financial statements, expecting the banker to look at the income statement. Instead, the banker flips to the back of the financial statements to look over the balance sheet. As the coach, I asked my client, “See what he just did?” Most financial leaders (and the owners of their businesses) are consumed with their income statement but the banks want to know are more interested in how leveraged their banking client is. Not surprisingly, there are a few key elements when seeking financing for companies to follow.

Key Elements When Seeking Financing

Every company cycles through good and bad times. Depending on what part of the cycle your company is currently in, your banking relationship may be influenced. There are some key elements when seeking financing that will keep you on the good side of your banker.
Identifying your KPIs is a critical piece of the process when seeking financing. Want to find your KPIs and learn how to track them? Access your free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet today!

Leverage

What is leverage? Financial leverage is the use of borrowing from the bank to offset the cost of sales. Many companies hope to borrow just enough to increase their capabilities to sell more. But if banks see that you are too highly-leveraged, it’s bad news!

As a key element when seeking financing, leverage is important to have as it provides credibility to your borrowing experience. A banker will see that you have maximized the potential of previous capital to increase sales. The “kicker” here is if you have failed to optimize the borrowed capital potential, then the bank is going to be more prone to backing out of (or not starting in the first place) a banking relationship with you.

Cash Flow

We say it often and we say it loud… Cash is king. Without cash and/or liquid assets in your company, the bank is going to turn its nose up at you. Be sure to communicate the availability of cash in your company. For example, if a friend asked you for $250,000 but had no way of paying you back, you would be wary and decline the ask. This is because there is no hope that you will get the money back that you loaned. The bank acts in its best interest.

Make it easy for the bank to make a decision. Communicate through the financial statements (especially the balance sheet) the availability of cash.

Not About Price

Oftentimes, business leaders think that the bank cares about the price of your product. They don’t. To the bank, price is the least important factor in their assessment of your company because money is a commodity to them. Price is immaterial.

When meeting with a banker, communicate the bottom line and what’s on the financial statements NOT how you price your product. The bank is not your business consultant. They have to make money off of you.

Creating a Banking Relationship

When seeking financing, it is essential to create a banking relationship. You wouldn’t get married to the person you passed by on the sidewalk, so why would you get into a banking relationship with someone you have zero connection with. There are a few things that you need to look for to have a successful banking relationship.

What to Look For

If you are just starting out in a new city or have no relationships with any bankers, one of the first things that you can do is connect with people that do! For example, as a consultant, I have multiple relationships with various banks. When one of my clients needs a banker, I make the connection. People love feeling like they have it all, so give them the benefit and ask for help.
key elements when seeking financingLook at the bank for their philosophy and how they take care for their customers. In addition to philosophy, look at their morals.
Some questions to ask your banker in the “dating” stage include:
  • How long is a typical relationship with your customers?
  • What are the communication boundaries?
  • What is the bank’s view of breaking debt covenants?

Relationship or Transaction

Another important question you need to ask yourself is: “is this bank looking for a relationship or a transaction?” If you answer the latter, then you are just commission to them. When times are rough, you’re going to get cut. But if the answer is a relationship, then you’re looking at a long healthy marriage.

Relationships are absolutely critical in business. Value these relationships and take care of people. It will reflect in your business.

How does the bank deal in times of crisis?

A few years ago, I had a client that went through a period of stress. In the last quarter of their fiscal year, the business was growing and was doing well. They had 4 quarters of decline, but had tracked their KPIs. Although they had broken a few debt covenants, they were tracking their progress carefully with the bank. This client had a strong relationship with their bank. Without that relationship, the bank would have taken my client to the “workout” group.
Don’t have KPIs to help your banking relationship? Learn how to identify your KPIs and how to track them with our free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet. Click here to download your cheatsheet!
When you stub your toe, how does your bank react? Are they willing to let you slide on debt covenants for a few quarters as long as you have a plan to get out of the downturn? Often, people don’t see the importance of knowing how your bank is going to react in times of crisis. The economy continually ebbs and flows, changing for good or for bad.
Also, how does the bank deal with growth? You need more financing, but you are breaking covenants. Are they willing to provide financing with the knowledge that things won’t pick up immediately?

 The Workout Group

Several years ago, the bank wanted to meet with another of my clients because they had broken their debt covenants. The client calls me after meeting with “great news”! He said that the Bank had offered to work out his problems in the workout group. This “workout” group isn’t to work out your problems and put you back on track. It’s to work you out of the bank. This is not a good thing.
You don’t think your house will ever burn down, but what happens if your house does burn down? You don’t think you need a bank to weather the storm, but what happens when you need the bank to weather the storm with you? Assess whether or not your current banking relationship will be your insurance in the case of a fire or storm.
One way to do this is to look at the bank’s philosophy of business and their internal culture. How tight are they with the rules? Are they willing to stretch a little on their debt covenants and step up to help in times of distress? My client’s bank was unwilling to stretch its debt covenants. Instead the bank just wanted to wipe their hands clean of my client and move on to the next sale.
This willingness to be flexible all boils down to relationships. I have to warn you though, not every bank is similar in their goals.

key elements when seeking financingGet in Line

To prevent being put into the “workout” group, it’s crucial to start out on the same page. Get an alignment of interests, philosophies, culture, and anything else that would impact your company.

Interest and Philosophies

If the bank is only interested in their bottom line, then it may not be a good fit. If the bank is truly invested in your company and is willing to help you out in any reasonable way, then it’s a perfect match.

As I’ve built The Strategic CFO, it’s been a priority of mine to create relationships with bankers as they are going to reap the benefits of my clients doing business with them and I value their expertise. As a result of our mutual interests, the bankers in my network continually push potential clients towards my consulting practice. Those bankers and I have a strong relationship where we understand each others’ needs and desires as well as feed each other.
Of course though, I have had bankers tried to take advantage of my generosity and not return the favor. As a result, those relationships did not last long. It’s all about getting ones’ interests and philosophies in line.

KPIs That Influence Debt Covenants

Banks monitor your debt covenants. To help them (and you) out, identify KPIs that influence debt covenants to help track where you are and where you’re going. Picture this, your significant other or spouse comes home and lets you know that they’ve purchased a house, car, and boat without ever discussing it with you before. If you’re like me, I’d be surprised and would want to control the situation. If your significant other continues to make extravagant purchases or decisions without your prior knowledge, you would have trust issues and may want to cut up their credit card while they’re sleeping.
People see banking relationships as far-off and a different type of relationship. But the truth is, it’s all the same. Relationships are relationships. If you or your company or your significant other continues to create negative surprises, it’s not going to help with the relationship.
First, fix the problem before it becomes an issue. As soon as you see a yellow flag, jump on it!
Then after you fix it, let your bank know what has happened and how it has been resolved. This not only comforts the bank but builds trust. If the yellow flag starts turning red, alert the bank and outline the consequences. This helps you prepare and for the bank to prepare. Procrastinating this step can result in devastating consequences. The bank may be able to help you if you give them enough time.
Start identifying and tracking those KPIs that influence your debt covenants. For help and tips on how we measure KPIs, download our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet today! Know your numbers and where your company is the weakest so that you can start turning around your future.

key elements when seeking financing

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Key Elements When Seeking Financing

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Cloud Computing: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

As I sat in my car, stuck in Houston traffic, I looked around and saw many other people stuck in a similar situation – frustrated, impatient, and banging their heads against the wheel. How easy would it be to never go into work, avoid traffic, and just stay at home or work at a local coffee shop all day? More companies are adapting to working remotely, and collaborating from home is increasingly easier… thanks to the Cloud.

What’s the Point of Cloud Computing?

For an example of why a company would switch to cloud computing, I need look no further than my own backyard.

The Strategic CFO started out as a service company, doing business through face-to-face consulting. We were one of the first in the market as a consulting firm for CFOs. Eventually, that market was flooded with competitors who offered similar, if not more services. Although we have developed additional services over the years, we have recently begun allocating more of our budget on the web and cloud technology, rather than spending money on a big office to support a more traditional model of business.

Long gone are the days where it is necessary for a company to have an office in order to be “in business.”

Technological luddites who aren’t quick enough to accept technology as the market is shifting may see their overhead skyrocket and may even find themselves in financial crisis. Having been in this industry for over 25 years, I’ve found this to be a common issue in many companies.

Cloud Computing Benefits

Cloud computing helps companies cut long-term costs. There are many advantages to being part of the cloud, such as no need for office space, more storage, flexible availability, and ultimately tracking Key Performance Indicators easier.

Telecommuting vs. Office Space

As mentioned, some businesses don’t operate in an office. Instead, many businesses are experimenting with telecommuting (or “working remotely”) and foregoing their expensive office rent. I once had a client who was entirely virtual – I never even met the person. For all I know, that client could have been working in their pajama pants!

Previously, we spent thousands of dollars a month in rent, yet we were rarely in the office because we were interacting with clients in their offices or via the web. That was when we knew we had to get rid of this expense. The decision to switch from the office to telecommuting using the cloud saved us easily around $40,000 a year. That budget was then allocated to other areas in our company that were growing. Reallocating liquid assets has helped us be more flexible and able to shift with the market.

Less Hardware, More Storage

In the early days of computing, data was stored on huge supercomputers that were virtually impossible to move. This made it difficult to share information or work on projects that contained a lot of data.

Now, there are many platforms to store, create, and share data. Apps such as Quickbooks and InfusionSoft perform services that were previously performed on computers and hard drives.  By working in the cloud, a company can easily expand their ability to store information. Some companies even offer unlimited storage with a subscription package – an industry that was started as a direct result of cloud technology.  Even better, these companies will back up your data nightly – a practice often neglected by many businesses.

Anywhere, Anytime Availability

Another benefit of cloud computing is the availability of information from any location, and on any platform of technology. Like we mentioned earlier, the cloud allows for global collaboration and minimal miscommunication. As long as you have an internet connection, team members can access the same information from anywhere.  This can lead to huge leaps in productivity.

This contrasts greatly from traditional companies, where you have to ask multiple different people for data and do a lot of number crunching because the data varies. For entrepreneurial companies, this transparency is a blessing gift-wrapped and presented beautifully. For large corporations, this could be a security disaster. Thankfully, this “anywhere, anytime availability” can be controlled to reduce security risks while still improving productivity.

Eight years ago, Hurricane Ike made landfall in Houston, TX. It’s been estimated that 2.8 to 4.5 million people were without power – including our offices (where our standalone server containing all of our client files lived).  All but a couple of consultants had power at their homes, but couldn’t log into the server because our office had no power.  Had we been in the cloud, my employees could have logged on from their homes and stayed productive despite Mother Nature’s wrath.

Track the KPIs of your business

With cloud technology, it is also easier to track the KPIs of your customers and employees – hence, your overall business. CRM (customer relationship management) systems such as HubSpot, SalesForce, and InfusionSoft track the activity of both your customers and your employees, and analyze the data in real-time.

How does this help track KPIs? Well, for one, software can perform services that traditional companies need to gather multiple pieces of information from the employees quickly, analyze the numbers, and then make the reports.

Secondly, the data is communicated universally across the organization and is more accurate.

Finally, with faster number-crunching, you can more quickly resolve issues and grow your business.

Is your company having issues tracking (or even identifying) your KPIs? Download your free KPI Discovery Cheatsheet today by clicking here.

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

With any type of technology, there are bound to be issues. Some of these disadvantages can be so problematic that they scare more people away than they bring in. The important thing is to analyze whether the benefits outweigh the risks

Integrating the change with your employees

On-boarding employees is a critical step that you have to undertake unless you want to risk high employee turnover. Likewise, implementing a new system calls for your company being responsible for on-boarding and training employees to to use it.

Integrating change with your employees will generally result in one of two outcomes: everyone embraces change or everyone sees change as evil so they’ve nailed their feet to the ground.

Security

When considering switching to the cloud, the biggest question you hear is “what about security?” Having all important documents and resources in hard copy form seems like the better alternative for some people; but when you think about it, the security issues with hard copies and the cloud are similar.

If the office catches on fire and you don’t have any backups, you find yourself in a bit of a situation. Likewise, cloud computing requires backups and continual updates to structure your system in a way that it becomes more and more difficult for the bad guy (or fire in the physical world) to hack into your system.

Technical Issues

Security isn’t the only issue to consider when switching to a cloud environment.  Sometimes, honest mistakes can occur that can cause setbacks. Occasionally, I and many others in my network mistakenly delete something without making a backup. Thankfully, we have not found ourselves in too much of a pinch as a result of our haste; but that’s not to say that technical issues can’t severely hurt a company.

Like it or not, cloud computing is probably here to stay.  It’s a powerful tool to not only save the costs associated with storing and accessing data, but can result in huge productivity gains due to greater access to information.  The improvement you can see in these key indicators might itself be enough justification to make the switch. 

Want help determining what key indicators you should be watching?  Download our KPI Discovery Cheatsheet here.

Cloud Computing Benefits

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Cloud Computing Benefits

 

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