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You Can’t Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

As a former CEO to some CEOs, this Blog is to my counterparts that “don’t know what you don’t know.”  I have seen time and time again closely held businesses that have experienced growth make the same mistakes over and over again. To the CEO that believes bookkeeping is a necessary fixed cost that should be minimized, here is a money making tip. You can’t afford not to spend money on the accounting department if you want to be successful.

The Big Mistake

Your company has grown over the years; you have experienced good times and maybe some bad times. Additionally, you have taken a nice paycheck and sometimes, some nice bonuses.  You got used to a certain life style. And you did all of this with a bookkeeper that does not cost you much.  But your company has grown. Still in the back of your mind, you know something tells you that you are not comfortable with your accounting records. But you elected to keep cost down for the bookkeeper and you do not spend much on accounting.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

My Tax CPA Does It All

Maybe until now, some of you have your outside CPA that prepares your tax return also prepare year-end financials. This is not a knock-on tax preparers, but your CPA that prepares your tax return is an expert in one of many fields CPAs work in. For example, I am a CPA, but there is no way I would prepare my own tax return. Tax laws change way too often. I just want to maximize my deductions and pay my fair share of tax, but not more than that. That is why I have my tax CPA prepare the tax return.

But over the course of my career, I have found that most tax CPAs do not have operational expertise. They have not run a manufacturing or service business, nor have they had any P&L responsibility. The Tax CPA is considering accelerated depreciation, maximize expenses, etc. This is quite the opposite from a management set of financial statements. The role of the CPA Tax preparer is totally different from a “operational” CPA, Controller or even CFO.

Minimizing the Back Office For the Wrong Reasons

Most CEOs that I have worked with argue to minimize the cost of the back office. That includes the cost of preparing financial and accounting records. But think about this… The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) does not require public companies to prepare their financial statements according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) because they pulled this out of thin air as another way to regulate.  The SEC requires public companies to prepare their accounting records and financial statements based on GAAP because it is the best way to present fairly the results of your financial operations to third parties reading your financial statements.  In other words, It’s the RIGHT way to keep your books!

In some cases where there is significant debt and exposure, some banks also require that the company present your accounting records based on GAAP – regardless of whether it is a Public or Private company.  Some debt situations even require an audit. The banks simply make it one of the covenants related to your debt. When you present your books and records per GAAP, you have accurate financial statements, everyone is assured your accounting is correct.

The Importance of Using GAAP

So, if a lot of brain power has been put into coming up with GAAP, and the general consensus is that GAAP is the right way to present your financials and accounting records.  Why would you as CEO not require that your financial statements be presented per GAAP?

I have been an “operational” type CPA for over 27 years now. In addition, I have held the office of CEO twice. I have used my expertise in public company environments and private companies both as an employee and as a consultant in the U.S. and in other countries. I have seen many very successful small, medium and large private companies and they were all keeping their financial records per GAAP. Yet, I have NEVER seen a significant company (not a micro or small business) be successful and properly run without keeping their books and records per GAAP.

So why is it that CEO’s of closely held (private) business still permit their accounting records to be kept some other way?   The answer: they do not want to spend money on a fixed cost such as accounting. But they will spend money on the sales team, hunting leases, extravagant meals or parties.

Not getting the basics down – such as GAAP – leaves money on the table when you are exiting the company. Increase value with our Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

You Can’t Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

These are real life examples and outcomes of minimizing the cost of your accounting department that I have lived…

The service company incorrectly books gains on U.S. dollar receivables. In conclusion, they had to reverse $8 million from earnings.

I have seen this one several times. The company does not have some large assets on the balance sheet, because their tax preparer said they used accelerated depreciation. As a result, the balance sheet assets are severely understated. Hint: your value is understated. IT’S ABOUT THE MONEY DUDE!

The manufacturing facility does not properly accrue costs. As a result, their margins are way off, and the CEO wondered why they were always short on cash.

The company did not properly reconcile accounts including cash. This led to fraud.

The company did not properly recognize revenue. In conclusion, the company was understating revenue by millions of dollars.

I can go on and on with more real-life examples.

If you do not have your financial statements presented per GAAP, how are they prepared and presented? Do you really know your margins in your P&L. Do you really have all your assets, liabilities and equity presented correctly? Is your P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statement presented correctly? Guess what? Your ratios that your controller or CFO should be analyzing are not correct.

Leadership Needs to Believe in GAAP

Why do you think Exxon, Walmart and all other public company CEO’s believe in GAAP?  I have also seen many small, medium and large closely held private companies keep their accounting records per GAAP.  These are all successful companies. They know their margins, they know where cash is, they know their ratios and guess what, they know how to forecast!

I have also seen time and time again good companies that have been around a while and have experienced growth, and NOT prepare their financials per GAAP.  And every one of these CEO’s and companies has the exact same issues.

  • They really don’t know their margins in their P&L
  • Some companies don’t even really know their actual revenue
  • There is always that doubt in the CEO’s mind as to what is really going on in the business
  • The CEO lives a stressful life
  • Every time there is even the slightest decrease in margins, there is even a bigger disproportionate stress on cash
  • If your books are not per GAAP, then most likely they are not on the accrual basis; if that is the case, then you are 60-90 days behind your business
  • Having your books on an accrual basis is just the first step. There are many other accounting rules, procedures and pronouncements to get your books per GAAP. Just because they are on accrual basis, does not mean they are per GAAP. GAAP “rules” actually change frequently

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

In Summary

In my consulting business, I have seen CEOs that are “smart” as in they know what they don’t know. They bring us in to get the problem fixed. Although it takes time and money, the CEO is fully supportive and we get it done. These are the companies that grow and ultimately have a successful liquidation event. Or they leave a well-run machine to their family or employees.

But it shocks me to continue to see companies as large as $120 million in revenue, with a couple hundred employees that have not professionalized their accounting department. No one knows the true margins. Everyone stresses out about the “accounting records.” There are no correct historical financials, and most certainly, there are no forecasts. Unfortunately, there is no analysis of the business at all. In some high margin “hot” industries, this works for a while. The sins are buried. But millions of dollars are lost without knowing it. But, since ultimately everything ends up in cash, when that “hot” industry has even a slight downturn, the CEO feels the cash crunch.

Whether you are trying to increase the value of your company or positioning it for sale, this issue of unknowingly leaking cash is a destroyer. Learn how to tighten your belts and increase value with our Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper.

Don’t be Cheap

Don’t be cheap. Spend the money (which is usually less than the hunting lease) to get your books and records based on GAAP basis.  Get your priorities straight.  Continue to have a professional accounting department in your business. YES, you will spend more than you are currently spending. But you can’t afford not to spend money on the accounting department!

Consider this… I had one investment banker with a very large firm tell me the difference in a valuation of an acquisition target from a company that has accounting records per GAAP and solid accounting department versus one that does not have a professional accounting department and accounting records not per GAAP is a difference of 20%-30%.  I had another investment banker tell me the difference in valuation is “one turn of EBITDA”. The use of EBITDA and multipliers is often used in valuation.

So if your company generates $2 million EBITDA and the multiple used is a 5, then your value would be $10 million with a professional accounting department and books per GAAP. In comparison, your value is $8 million with an unsophisticated accounting department and accounting records not per GAAP. I don’t think your professional accounting department will ever cost you $2 million per year! But not having it will.

Not having your financial records per GAAP is one of the destroyers of value. If you want to protect the value of your company, download the free Top 10 Destroyers of Value whitepaper to learn how to maximize your value.

You Can't Afford Not to Spend Money on the Accounting Department

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Demystifying the 80/20 Rule

Whether you are working with a client, putting together a reporting package, networking with potential investors, or closing the books, there’s a rule you can apply to make your life easier. This rule is probably one that you’re very familiar with – regardless of whether you practice it. When you are completing a job, there always seems to be a few things that push the needle further than anything else. This is the 80/20 rule.

Using the 80/20 rule is a great way to be a more effective financial leader. Click here to read more about how you can be a highly effective CFO.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

Simply put, the 80/20 rule is where 20% of the work results in 80% of the outcome. Likewise, 80% of the work only results in 20% of the outcome. While the numbers may not be spot on, the theory holds true in pretty much everything you do.

In the early 20th century, Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, introduced this concept to explain the distribution of wealth in his home country – Italy. It first came about when roughly 20% of his pea pods made 80% of the total number of peas grown. As he continued to test this theory, he expanded it into other areas of macroeconomics (wealth distribution). Then roughly 30 years later, Joseph Juran applied the 80/20 rule to business production methods. He explained this rule “the vital few and the trivial many.”

Demystifying the 80/20 Rule

Many may argue that it’s not exactly 80/20, and you would be correct. It may even be 99/1 if you look at a particular situation. But as we demystify the 80/20 rule, we need to be thinking from a macro viewpoint. What is the minimal amount of work you can do to result in the most work.

How It Applies to Financial Leadership

As the financial leader of your company, it’s so important to know what pushes the proverbial needle forward the most. Look at your team, your fulfillment, your customers, your vendors. Then look at your role in the company. What work can you do that will result in bigger and better outcomes? Identify the work that takes up the most time without providing much. You may consider having a lower level employee work on those tasks. If that 80% work is too sensitive, then restructure your day to allow for the most time sensitive issues to be front and center.

80/20 Rule

Customer vs Revenue Relationship

Because there is no business without its customers, let’s look at the relationship between customers and revenue.

Who are your best customers? They are the ones who pay their invoices on time, don’t require extra time from your team, and never complain. They are also your most profitable customers. These customers are your 20%ers, and they make up 80% of your revenue!

But then, there are those customers who you dread receiving a call from because you know it’s going to be yet another complaint. These unprofitable customers suck your time, resources, and money. They make up 80% of your customer support/implementation/sales. Yet, because they take advantage of you, they only result in 20% of the company’s revenue (and less in profit). If you are overrun by profitable customers, you may want to think about firing that customer.

An effective financial leader is able to guide their CEO through the numbers and demystifying what may be unclear to them. If you want to more effective, click here to download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to become a more valuable leader.

Improve Your Productivity by Applying the 80/20 Rule

If you desire for your team to be more productive, then you need to start with yourself. A fish rots from the head down. Start by analyzing your to do list. Are there a few things that will make a big difference? If so, prioritize those over everything else. Remember, not everything on your to do list will have the same impact or risk. A great way to assess the weight of each task is to use “tags” labeled: non-essential, essential, and critical. Are you chasing administrative tasks or completing the same tasks over and over? Ask yourself whether those can be automated or if a less expensive employee can complete them.

Why You Need to Be More Productive

There are so many squirrels that you could chase! There’s a million ideas that are all million-dollar ideas. But what do you need to do to meet your goals? If you continue to get bogged down by things in the 80% pile, then you risk never reaching your or your company’s goals. You need to be more productive, more streamlined. Although many see automation as a risk, we see it as an opportunity to force ourselves to be more productive.

How It Impacts How Effective You Are

When you apply the 80/20 rule to your leadership and workspace, you become more productive. You are then able to see clearly what is going to push the needle further. In our experience, our client’s experience, and our vendor’s experience, there are just a few indicators that hold much more weight. Think about it this way… If you listed everything you need to improve, you would never get it all done. You simply don’t have enough time to do everything! But you do have enough time to focus on the 20% and reap the 80%.

Lead From the 40,000 Foot Level

An effective financial leader leads from the 40,000 foot level. If you only look at an issue 2 inches away, then you are going to miss what’s causing it, what it’s impacting, etc. A good leader needs the entire picture before they make a decision for the company. This also helps you guide your CEO. Click here to download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to find out how you can become a valuable financial leader.

80/20 Rule

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Status Quo in Business Movement

business movement Have you ever treaded water for lengthy period of time? At first, it’s easy to maintain that movement; but at some point, your muscles start cramping and treading the water becomes more difficult. Everyone knows you can only tread water for so long before you either move or sink. So, when we look at our business, why do we think we can maintain the status quo for a long period of time?

Truth is: your business will either move upwards or downwards, not stay in the same place for a long period of time. This is because there are too many factors, including competitors, customers, vendors, etc., that impact your business movement.

Status Quo in Business Movement

Over the past two years, the oil and gas industry has been struggling with the declining price of oil. A frequently asked question in the energy business community is how long the price is going to remain in the $40 range. At $47 a barrel, that price point is not good for the industry or the economy of cities with a high concentration of energy related businesses. Although we do not have a timeline outlining when the oil price will recover, we do know that something must happen to make it move. By not innovating, changing, or moving, the entire economy is aching. Either companies will adapt and find a way to make it work or their competitors will do so.

Although dealing with a challenging market price can limit your ability to change your status, there are many other ways to counteract those external factors. But first, how do you get stuck?

Lead your company forward and keep your business moving! Download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to learn the habits of leading the company to success.

How You Get Stuck

There are two ways to get stuck in the status quo: no one is pushing to make a change in your business or external factors limit the amount of business movement you can have. It is quite easy to get stuck in your business. You accept that the economy is bad and you cannot change those external forces. Although those external forces, like the oil prices, may limit what you can do to make a change, you will get stuck if you do not do something. Change can be hard if you are not prepared for it.

Some signals that you are becoming complacent and risk not moving in the right direction include:

  • Not investing in new technologies
  • Resisting to new ideas and changes
  • Being comfortable with the status quo with no energy to move forward
  • Lack of momentum
  • Fear of failure

HINT: Not taking a risk may be worse than betting on an investment or launching a new idea. Calculate the opportunity costs and risks associated with doing nothing compared to doing something.

Why It Is Not Good

No one likes to drown, so why do we allow our businesses to do so in “calm” waters? You are treading water in a large body of water. You are comfortable in the water that you are in; the water is the perfect temperature, the sun is not too hot, and you are with friends. But as you tread the water… The sun goes down, waves get bigger, friends go home, and now you are all alone.

Treading water is wanting everything internally to stay the same and still expecting all the external factors to remain the same. After a short time, it becomes impossible to continue to do both. Competition moves forward and customers transfer their business to other companies, leaving you with a company without any innovation, progress, or cash. Getting stuck is not good as it decreases the value of your company, allows for an increase in the amount of competition, and has the potential to destroy the future of the company.

business movement

Competition

Forbes once said, “your competitor isn’t your real competition: status quo is.” Although the unknown may be scary, it’s important to compare the costs of investing in something to keep you moving forward versus staying complacent and letting your competition pass you by. If you stay in the status quo for long enough, not only will your current competition pass you up and take your customers but more competitors will flood your market.

Not doing anything at all is worse than trying and failing. The moment you decide not to take a risk when all odds are against you is the moment when a competing firm will take a risk.

Competition cannot be accounted for in the financials, but as a financial leader, you can guide your executive team to success. Download the 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs to see the bigger picture and steer your company in the right direction.

Loss of Business

Everyone should want to be the latest and greatest. So why would your customer stay with you if you haven’t changed/updated/reacted to new technologies that the customer expects to see?

If you were the customer, would you stay with a company that has stopped investing in their product or service or move to another company that has improved their services to adjust to the technology changes or the moving economy? Most people would choose the latter. My guess is you would too. Don’t lose business over being complacent!

Start Moving

business movementIn today’s world, it is no longer safe to just survive. In fact, companies must be working on the offensive side rather than the defensive side to succeed. What does this mean exactly?

Instead of reacting to a declining or expanding economic climate, it’s time to start making educated decisions before it is time to react. For example, our team at The Strategic CFO has consistently looked at what other companies in other industries are doing. If we felt that what they were doing was a good investment and we would be first-to-market in our specific industry, our team would “start moving.”

If times are slow, this is a great opportunity to improve your skills, train your staff, brainstorm, strategize, streamline your processes, and trim off some of the fat of your company. Invest a little in projects, marketing, and training. Although it seems counterintuitive to spend when sales are slow, you will be better equipped to grab a bigger share of the market when the economy picks back up.

It Starts with Leadership

If your company is just trying to maintain the status quo and is avoiding risk/innovation/change/etc., then it is lacking a real financial leader. As a financial leader, you must lead your company forward rather than keep your team in a holding pattern. To learn more financial leadership skills like managing your company’s ideas, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs. Find out how you can become a more valuable financial leader.

Business Movement

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How do you tell an entrepreneur that their business sucks?

business sucksYour business sucks…
How does that make you feel? Probably upset, maybe a little defensive. But what if it’s the truth? Many entrepreneurs generate new ideas as if it were a bodily function. As you have likely seen, not all ideas result in a multimillion dollar venture. Some of those ideas will fail to even bring a penny in!
In the business world, no one will outright tell you idea or business sucks because of business etiquette. However, that doesn’t mean that people don’t think it. After working with CFOs and Controllers for the past 25 years, I have learned that the majority of financial leaders will not tell their entrepreneur (or boss) that their business sucks, even when it does. Unfortunately, the truth needs to be told.
Before we go into how to give them the bad news, it’s critical to identify if there really is bad news to give.
As the financial leader of your company, it’s your duty to vet new ideas. This is part of the responsibility of being a wingman to your CEO. If you’re interested in learning how you can elevate your status, download the free How to be a Wingman guide by clicking here.  

How To Identify If Your Business Sucks

Have you ever seen an ugly baby? Most of us have, yet no one thinks that their baby is ugly. In much the same way, entrepreneurs think that all of their ideas are home runs and most people won’t tell them that their idea baby is ugly.

Unfortunately, all entrepreneurs are going to make at least one wrong call. Because you are their wingman, you should be guiding your entrepreneur to take financially sound risks. But before you tell your entrepreneur their business sucks, there are a couple things to look at when identifying whether an idea or business is worth investing in.

business sucks

Is it profitable?

If the idea or business is not profitable, you should not pursue it. This is the easiest way for a financial leader to identify that the business is not going to be successful. As the financial leader, you should be able to steer your executive team to a more successful and profitable road.

Are customers leaving?

Churn. If your customers are leaving quicker than you are bringing new ones in, your business probably sucks. Churn is one of the KPIs that we use to indicate the success of our business. If you are not able to reduce that number in your business, then your business will likely fail. A business cannot survive without its customers, so this is a telltale sign that your business sucks.

If customers are leaving quicker than they are coming in, look at your current strategy and pivot. This may mean that your entire business strategy is not working or just a small sliver of it. The product may not match your audience. As a financial leader, it is important for you to understand both the sales and operational legs of your company. Finance doesn’t have to be simply a cost center. You can only cut so many costs in the business before you need to turn your focus on how to improve the business itself.

No Buy-In From the Team

If you, the entrepreneur, or the person who came up with this new idea or business strategy is left all alone without any support from the team, that’s a problem. An idea cannot successfully come to fruition without buy-in from the team. Why? Because the team’s support and belief that this idea will be a winner is critical to its success.

Have you ever been told to do something that you truly didn’t believe in or want to do? Most likely, you didn’t put your best effort into that task. Other tasks took priority in your book so that you would not have to bring that idea to life. You may have spread your negative attitude towards “it” to other employees, essentially building a coalition against “it”.

I have been there. My clients have been there. You have probably been there (either on the ideation side or the fulfillment side). That is why it is essential to have a strong buy-in from the team when deciding to pursue a new business venture, idea, or strategy.

business sucksThe Numbers Don’t Add Up

Oftentimes when someone isn’t in the day-to-day financials and doesn’t understand how an idea impacts the company, it’s easy to punch a few numbers in the calculator. This habit is what leads to people being calculator rich. Even if the person operating the calculator knows their economics, it’s easy to be blind to the bigger picture when you have a shiny idea sitting on your desk.

But after the dust has settled, it is important to nail the numbers down out to see if it is really viable to pursue. In my business, I consistently have to reevaluate whether the numbers actually add up after I have had a couple hours or days to sit on it.

How To Let the Entrepreneur Down Easy

Naturally, entrepreneurs are bold, risk takers. If you outright tell them that their idea isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, it’s going to hurt their ego (and potentially more). They are all excited about this new idea, and they are great at convincing you and making it incredibly difficult to disagree with them. You want to let the captain of your ship down easy, but how do you do that when the truth is… Their baby is just plain ugly.
HINT: You have to be a trusted advisor to your entrepreneur. (Download the How to be a Wingman guide to start letting your entrepreneur down easily, while still moving forward.)

Your Baby is Ugly

Several years ago, I had a client who wanted to get out of a lengthy banking relationship. Red flag #1. This client had broken several debt covenants and were out of compliance. The bank was telling my client that their baby was ugly. They were put into a work out group, where it was the bank’s decision to either work them back into compliance or kick them out of the bank. Why was my client’s business so ugly? It started with their financials.

Instead of going through the process of fixing the ugliness of the financials, my client wanted to break up a long-standing and generally successful relationship. The owner was hurt and felt defeated. When I started working with the owner, I explained that there was an opportunity to fix the financials, get back into compliance, and grow like crazy. It wasn’t like they had severely strayed off of the pathway to success, but they were riding on the backroads. My job was to let the entrepreneur down easy.

“If it were my company…”

The way to do this is to go back to your pre-marital counseling. One of my team members just recently got married, and we were joking about some of the things she learned in pre-marital counseling were the same things I heard 30+ years ago. To prevent any blaming or hard feelings, it’s important to fight with feelings. No one can argue with your feelings. “I felt _____ when you did ______.”
The same methodology happens in business. Start by saying, “if it were my company, I would do this…” A) No one can argue with how you feel you would do something differently. B) You’re not telling them their business sucks but rather having a conversation. C) There are no hard feelings.
For example, if one of my team members suggests ideas to better my business, I’m going to be more open to those suggestions. However, if she starts telling me that I’ve screwed up and my business sucks, I’m going to get defensive. Create a dialogue, rather than an argument. An idea is just an idea in the beginning. Even if the idea becomes a reality in the end, I, as the entrepreneur of my company, have the final say so.
Guide your CEO or entrepreneur effectively as their wingman. This ability to be the trusted advisor your CEO needs will elevate your status, increase the amount of trust, and steer your company to success. Download our free How to be a Wingman guide today!

business sucks

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The Power of Keystone Habits

The Power of Habit bookHabits are powerful.  They save time, create efficiency and allow our brains to focus on more complex tasks.  They can emerge without our consciousness, or be deliberately designed.

Some habits have the power to start a chain reaction, changing other habits as they move through the organization.  These are called keystone habits and they are important because they help other habits flourish by creating small wins.  Keystone habits start a process that, over time, transforms everything.

Charles Duhigg introduced this idea in his book, The Power of HabitThe book provides this example of a keystone habit…

“Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

Examples of Keystone Habits

Many organizations grow profits by focusing on a keystone habit. If a financial leader, be it the CFO, entrepreneur, controller, or CEO can understand and promote his or her organization’s keystone habit, profits will follow.  Here are a few examples of companies that saw dramatic bottom-line improvements by focusing on their keystone habits.

Alcoa

alcoa logo

Company: Alcoa

Keystone Habit: Safety

Result: 5x increase in net income and $27 billion increase in market cap

When Paul O’Neill took over the helm of Alcoa in 1987, he made a statement that sent investors running for the doors to dump their stock.  His statement…  “I want to talk to you about worker safety”.  But what O’Neill realized is that focusing on the company’s new keystone habit of safety would cause a trickle-down effect to the bottom line.  If employees work more safely, there are fewer injuries and production slowdowns resulting in improved productivity.

In addition to becoming one of the safest companies in the world, Alcoa’s focus on its keystone habit of safety enabled it to increase profits and market capitalization.  Someone who invested a million dollars in Alcoa on the day O’Neill was hired would have earned another million dollars in dividends while he headed the company, and the value of their stock would be five times bigger when he left.

Read the full story here.

Marco’s Pizza

Marco's_Pizza

Company: Marco’s Pizza

Keystone Habit: Accountability

Result: Increase Unit Level Profitability by 1.8 Points of EBITDA

Ken Switzer, CFO of Marco’s Pizza, has seen the privately-held chain of pizza restaurants grow from 30 stores to over 600 during his 27-year tenure with the company.  What does he credit with the company’s success?  Their focus on the keystone habits of accountability and profitability.

Marco’s has found that one of the biggest keys to fostering employee accountability is their incentive compensation plan.  Every single employee at the national support center in Toledo has a significant bonus opportunity based on achieving franchisee profitability goals. That is the sole factor in about 40% of the bonus opportunity for employees.  Tying a significant portion of employee compensation to achieving goals has fostered a sense of “we’re all in this together” that results in more employee engagement.  When you’re in that team environment, people just talk more and work well together.

Read the full story here.

Frito-Lay

frito-lay-logo

Company: Frito-Lay

Keystone Habit: Logistics

Result: 6% Compound Annual Growth Rate on Core Operating Profit

How does Frito Lay keep its spot at the top of the snack food chain?  By focusing on its keystone habit of productivity.  According to president Tom Greco, “we believe the productivity opportunity is significant.  Our productivity agenda pursues cost-reduction and capability-building initiatives to deliver results.”

In 2012, the company rolled out a geographic enterprise system (GES) developed to reduce the amount of manual handling throughout the supply chain and drive productivity.  According to Greco, “GES is both a productivity generator and a growth enabler. Productivity allows us to invest in our growth”.

Read the full story here.

Google

google log

Company: Google

Keystone Habit: People

Result: People that can pick up the slack when executive plans fall short

It can be said that Google is picky about the people it hires.  They focus on choosing, developing and empowering “smart creatives”—professionals with the technical skills to solve problems as well as the imagination to dream up new ideas.  They argue that the people are what create value, not the execs with a “plan” so they invest in their people.

In order to succeed in the business of solving problems, Google needs to constantly be creating new value.  They need good people to invent these new products and processes.  Focusing on their keystone habit of people has allowed Google to maintain its edge in a competitive industry.

Read more here.

Domino’s Pizza

dominos pizza logo

Company: Domino’s

Keystone Habit: Taste

Result: Increased profits 16% in Q3 2014

Had a Domino’s pizza lately?  In case you’ve missed their self-deprecating commercials, Domino’s has recently undergone a taste renaissance.  Spurred on by negative consumer comments about their pizza, the chain has revamped their recipes in an attempt to make their food taste better.  Check out this video detailing how focusing on the keystone habit of taste has allowed them to rebuild their reputation and gain market share.

Click here to read more about Dominos and check out their turnaround story.

Conclusion

Keystone habits say that success doesn’t depend on getting every little thing right, but instead focus on identifying a few key priorities and developing them into powerful levers.  Where to start in identifying your company’s keystone habit?  Look at those habits that, when they start to shift, dislodge and remake other patterns.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit:

“Destructive organizational habits can be found within hundreds of industries and at thousands of firms. And almost always, they are the products of thoughtlessness, of leaders who avoid thinking about the culture and so let it develop without guidance. There are no organizations without institutional habits. There are only places where they are deliberately designed, and places where they are created without forethought, so they often grow from rivalries or fear.”

To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

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Favorite Leadership Quotes

Every now and then, I come across a quote about leadership that really speaks to me. As a result, I put together a list of 20 of our favorite quotes about leadership. After you check them out, leave a comment with any of your favorites I forgot to mention. Check out the following leadership quotes…

Favorite Leadership Quotes

favorite leadership quotes“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney, co-founder of Walt Disney Productions

“You don’t need a title to be a leader.” – multiple attributions

“I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison, American inventor and businessman

“A leader is a dealer in hope.”  – Napoleon Bonaparte, French military and political leader

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not making decisions.” – Catherine Cook, co-founder of MeetMe

“The task of a leader is to get people from where they are to where they have not been.” – Henry Kissinger, diplomat and former US Secretary of State

Timing, perseverance, and 10 years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” – Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader, politician and activist

“I don’t look to jump over seven-foot bars,  I look for one-foot bars I can step over.” – Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway

“Only the guy who isn’t rowing has time to rock the boat.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, French philosopher and writer

“If you’re going to be thinking anyway, think big.” – Donald Trump, president of the Trump Organization

“Never give up because you never know if the next try is going to be the one that works.” – Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics

“You shouldn’t focus on why you can’t do something, which is what most people do.  You should focus on why perhaps you can, and be one of the exceptions.” – Steve Case, co-founder and CEO of AOL

“A man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.” – Max Lucado, author

“The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” – Vidal Sassoon, hairdresser and businessman

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”   – Wayne Gretzky, NHL Hall of Famer

Management is doing things right.  Leadership is doing the right things.”  – Peter Drucker, management consultant and author

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.” – Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company

“You don’t learn to walk by following rules.  You learn by doing, and by falling over.” – Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

Favorite Quote

And my personal favorite…

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”  Bill Gates – co-founder of Microsoft

To learn more financial leadership skills, download the free 7 Habits of Highly Effective CFOs.

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5 Ways a CFO Adds Value

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

Ways a CFO Adds Value

1.  The CFO Enables the Company to Grow Faster

CFO responsibilities include the following:

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

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

2.  The CFO can Improve Company Profitability

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

3.  The CFO can Improve Cash Flow

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

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

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

5.  The CFO Provides Leadership and Direction Throughout the Company

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

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

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