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Profit Improvement - Driving Profitable Growth

Profit Improvement – Driving Profitable Growth

“Without an understanding of profitability, every business, no matter how successful is a house of cards” – Mike Michalowicz, Entrepreneur and Author.

There are four ways you can improve your profits: sell more, get customers to buy more frequently, increase margins and reduce costs. If you can do all four at once, your profits will increase dramatically. Even changing one of these four factors will boost your profits.

In this article, we will cover the main reasons for low profits and how a part-time CFO will help you to boost your profits.

Introduction

Profits are vital for your company’s growth for the following reasons:

  • They provide a return on your investment capital.  
  • They provide opportunities to reward staff.
  • They make it easier to attract investors and customers.
  • They make it easier to borrow money and negotiate a lower interest rate on the money it secures.
  • They can be reinvested in the business to expand into new markets, products and locations.
  • They provide a buffer against economic downturns and changes in market conditions.
  • They make it possible to hire more people.
  • They allow you to develop and test new products or services.

While many business owners experience a decline in their net profit margin (the percentage of total revenue that’s profit) at one time or another, they are usually able to continue to trade, albeit with the aid of a short-term loan and some heavy duty cost-cutting.

Sadly, unless you identify and address what’s causing your profits to shrink, the problems are likely to get worse. For it often follows that poor profitability leads to reduced cash flow. When profits are low and cash flow is weak, businesses can slip into a downward spiral.

Your profits tell you how well or how poorly your business is performing. For example:

  • Gross profit (the total amount your business makes minus the cost of goods sold (COGS) indicates how efficiently your business uses resources to produce your products or services.
  • Operating profit (gross profit minus operating expenses, depreciation,and amortization) indicates how efficiently you produce and sell your product or service.
  • Net profit (the amount of money left after paying all the business’ expenses including interest, taxation, etc.) indicates how well your business is generating healthy results.

These figures alone won’t give you the whole picture. You’ll need to compare them with previous annual and monthly profit results. That’s where ratios come in: they can be used as a benchmark against which you can measure your business’ performance.

Profitability ratios help you evaluate your company’s ability to generate profits.

They include gross profit margin; operating profit margin; and net profit margin.

  • Gross profit marginyour gross profit divided by your sales is a useful indicator of your company’s financial health. It shows how efficiently your business is using its materials and labour in the production process and gives an indication of the pricing, cost structure and production efficiency of your business.  The higher the gross profit margin, the better. That is because the higher the percentage, the more your business retains of each dollar of sales, which means more money for other operating expenses and net profit.
  • Operating profit margin – calculated by dividing your operating income by your net sales during a period reveals how much revenues are left over after all your company’s variable or operating costs have been paid. It also shows what proportion of revenues is available to cover non-operating costs like tax, interest, and distribution to your company’s owner.  It is useful because it shows you whether your operating costs are too high.
  • Net profit margin – calculated by dividing your after- tax net income (net profits) by your sales (revenue) shows the amount of each sales dollar left over after all expenses have been paid. The higher your net profit margin, the better because that shows your company is more efficient at converting sales into actual profit. A low net profit margin might mean that your business is not generating enough sales, your gross profit margin is too low or that your operating expenses are too high.

The main reasons for low profits

Falling revenue

Your sales or revenue slump could be due to internal and external factors such as:

  • Inadequate marketing programs. To be effective, your marketing needs to convey  the right message to the right target audience and convince them to take a desired action like call your company to purchase a product or book your service.
  • Poor pricing strategies.  
  • Increased competition.
  • An inability to keep up with market changes.

Excessive expenses

Budget overruns or unexpected costs will chip away at your net profit.

High variable costs

The higher your variable costs, the lower your net profit margin will be. High production costs or purchase costs can result in insufficient funds to cover expenses. When variable costs rise to the point that there are not enough funds left to support all expenses for the period, a net loss will occur.

Follow us in part II of the profit improvement article to learn how a Part-time CFO can help you drive profitable growth!  Coming up soon.

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Improve your banking relationship

Improve your banking relationship

Baking Relationship | The CFO CenterDeveloping a strong relationship with your bank provides tremendous benefits including offering necessary funding, preferential rates, and better terms.
Your bank can provide expert financial  advice and help you to find solutions to financial challenges. It can also help you to grow your business and reach your financial objectives.

Since your bank works with a wide variety of businesses, it can also be an excellent source of prospective vendors, partners, and customers for your business.

As banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce. Some banks take the initiative and offer their customers business ideas and opportunities. So if you don’t have a strong relationship with your bank, you’re missing out in many ways that could help your business to prosper.

Very few business owners appreciate the value of having a strong relationship with their bank.

Why you should develop a strong relationship with your bank

Having a borrowing history and a solid relationship with your bank will make it easier for you to get credit.

It’s important to educate the bank on your business, your strategy, and your financials so that they are fully aware of your business and the vision you have for it, says banking expert, Peter Black of Snowball Consulting.1

Banking Relationship | The CFO Centre“You need to have a good relationship with your bank,” says Black. “If you treat the bank as a commodity and don’t tell them anything, then when you need them most, they may not be there.”

“Tell the bank the good and the bad news in equal measure, as and when it occurs,” recommends Black. “If you have a new contract or a good story, tell the bank about it. Many don’t do this.”

There’s more to it than regular phone calls, however. You also need to demonstrate that you have a coherent strategy and follow it, says Black. That will help to establish your credibility too.

“Continually changing the strategy or appearing to move from one to another does not give the bank confidence,” says Black. “The worst situation to be in is one where the bank does not even understand your strategy.”

Make sure the forecasts you provide are realistic and credible, recommends Black. “The bank will build up a history of how accurate the forecasts are that a business provides. No forecast can ever be totally accurate, but the banks see no end of forecasts showing a massive increase in profits and cash just to underpin the latest request.”

Let your banker know about regulatory changes that could have an impact on your company’s growth opportunities.

Banks need to know:

  • Who your customers are
  • Who your vendors are
  • What is going on in your industry

For that to happen, you need to establish regular communication with your bank manager.

Share your company’s long-term strategy with the bank. Your bank may be able to provide additional resources to help you achieve your goals.

Schedule regular meetings with your bank throughout the year so that he or she gets an accurate picture of your business. It will also make it more likely the bank will respond faster when needs or opportunities occur.

Baking Relationship | The CFO CentreThe stronger your relationship is with your bank, the better they will be able to understand your business when you come to them for advice and solutions to help it grow. Banks know things don’t always go as planned. They want to be comfortable that they understand your ability to deal with these situations and make good decisions to improve, building a track record with them based on trust, sharing information and debate. It’s astonishing how many business owners don’t invest in building a track record and strong relationship with their bank.

At a recent event focusing on how to build a world-class finance function, CFO Centre Group CEO, Sara Daw, found only four out of 50 business owners who attended considered their bank was a strategic partner to their business. This is far too low. At The CFO Center, we make building a strong value-adding relationship with your bank a priority.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your bank manager, you’re missing out on more than a possible future credit facility. You’re missing a valuable free resource for advice and information.

Your bank can provide a regular evaluation of your business and financial strategy, as well as ideas and solutions to overcome many challenges you might face.

Banks also offer a wide array of services including:

  • Cash management tools
  • Credit card processing
  • Online and mobile banking services

Since banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce.

Banking Relationship | The CFO CentreThey can walk you through your balance sheet and explain how they perceive your finances and business. They can also learn more about where and when you’re likely to need the money to grow the business.

Giving information and asking for advice helps to build trust between you and your bank manager. Gradually, you learn to trust their advice and they begin to trust in your ability to repay your loans.

Banks hate surprises so if your business is encountering problems, it’s important to let your bank manager know as soon as possible. If you know that you’re likely to miss payments or be late in paying vendors, let your bank manager know in advance so they can assess the situation and provide you with options.

This will also demonstrate to your bank manager that you can manage the business and also be trusted to inform the bank before the problem gets worse. Your bank manager might even be able to extend your line of credit or temporarily waive your fees.

You can increase your chances of getting a loan or credit extension by demonstrating your ability to repay, whether it is a short-term overdraft or a longer-term loan. The bank will expect to see the proof so you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Your track record
  • Your previous results
  • A business plan (which needs to cover how the company started, your products/services; the management of the business and its plans for the future; market research undertaken to support assumptions and forecasts; and your financial requirements)
  • Your last audited accounts
  • Current and up-to-date management accounts
  • Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable lists
  • A budget for the current/next trading year
  • A cash flow forecast

How a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship

Baking Relationship | The CFO CentreMany business owners are uncomfortable speaking with their bank manager. Owners and CEOs often do not know how to communicate their business strategy and needs to the bank and do not know what information the bank needs to support their funding requests. This is where an experienced CFO can be an essential part of your team; someone who understands how banks make their decisions and can, therefore, position your application for a greater chance of success.

Your part-time CFO will:

  • Develop a relationship with key personnel at your bank.
  • Share information about your business with the bank and keep the bank fully updated. The more trust that can be built the more the bank will be willing to help.
  • Provide the bank with a credible business plan which takes into account previous track record including debt and cash flow history.
  • Provide you with independent advice on bank products and their suitability.
  • Negotiate the best deal on bank facilities.
  • Provide access to senior contacts in the bank where required.
  • Introduce new banking options if needed and negotiate terms.

Your part-time CFO will work hard to forge a strong relationship with your bank so that when you need access to any of the bank’s services your request is treated as a priority.

What’s more, your part-time CFO has many years of banking experience so can advise you on the best banking deals.

Your part-time CFO knows where to go for supplementary funding to complement your bank finance (if necessary) and how to benchmark funding deals for your peace of mind.

CFOs can skillfully communicate your needs in a way that appeals to bank managers. That helps to add further credibility to your credit application.

Conclusion

Your bank can play a significant role in your company’s future growth, both in terms of providing necessary funding and strategic advice.

That will only happen if you take the necessary time and energy to foster a relationship with your bank manager. The benefits of doing so, however, make it one of the best investments you’ll make.

1 ‘How to get the most out of your banking relationship’, Black, Peter, Forum of Private Business, www.fpb.org

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Growth Through Acquisition

To accelerate the growth of your company and organic growth doesn’t appeal, consider merging with or acquiring another company.

Such a move can help business owners like you to grow your top line and profitability, says the FD Centre’s CFO East of England North, Lynda Connon. 

A successful merger or acquisition can also give your company access to your target company’s technology, skillsets, markets, and target customers.

If the target company is in a different industry, the merger or acquisition can help to diversify and mitigate risk. 

Considering a diversification strategy like this is valuable if there is any doubt about your company’s prospects for long-term profitability.

The standard form of an acquisition is when one company (the acquiring company) buys another company. 

It does this by either buying all the shares in the acquired company or by purchasing its assets. The shell company is then liquidated.

Likewise, there are several types of mergers, including:

•         Horizontal merger (in which you merge with a company in your industry)

•         Vertical merger (in which your target company is at a different production stage or place in the value chain)

•         Product-extension merger (in which your target company sells different but related products in the same market)

•         Market-extension merger (in which your target company sells the same products as your own but in a separate market)

•         Conglomerate merger (in which your target company is in a different industry and has different products or services).

Growing your business via a merger or an acquisition has many benefits, including the following:

•         To achieve a lower cost of capital

•         To improve your company’s performance and boost growth

•         To achieve higher revenues

•         To reduce expenses

•         To achieve economies of scale

•         To diversify your product or service offering in your existing markets or move into new markets

•         To increase market share and positioning

•         To achieve tax benefits

•         To diversify risk

•         To make a strategic realignment or change in technology

•         To obtain new technology, more efficient production, or patents, and licenses.

Dangers of mergers and acquisitions

As beneficial as mergers and acquisitions (M&As) may be, particularly in terms of achieving fast revenue growth, they are not for the faint-hearted. 

The merger or acquisition process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years depending on such factors as whether the target company is a public or private entity, the negotiations, legislation, and the involvement of financial institutions and other stakeholders.

“The actual transaction can be done very quickly if you’ve identified your target and if all parties are keen to go ahead and legals can be put in place,” says Connon. 

“But typically, a merger or an acquisition takes several months.”

But you also need to factor in the time that will be involved in the identification of suitable target companies as well as the post-acquisition integration.

The post-acquisition integration can take anywhere from six to 12 months, she explains. 

“So the actual transaction itself can be done very, very quickly. It’s the process of identifying the target and making sure it’s something that will work for your organisation as a combined entity and making it happen after you’ve done the deal.”

It’s estimated that of all M&As, 70% to 90% fail for various reasons. 

Many failures are due to a lack of strategic planning and incomplete due diligence, according to Connon. 

They also fail if there is a poor strategic fit between the two companies, a poorly managed integration or an overly optimistic projection of the target company.

The result is a failed growth strategy and a large amount of lost opportunities.

Successful merger or acquisition strategy

So, how can you be sure of being in the 10% to 30% who achieve successful acquisitions or mergers?

Before even starting your search for target companies, it’s essential that you clarify your acquisition strategy and reason for merging with or acquiring a company, says Connon.

Most successful acquisitions happen when companies have identified and understood their own acquisition strategy, says Connon. 

They have clarified the company’s direction over the next two to five years, understand the market challenges for their core business, and know the gaps in their own portfolios and skillsets.

“They also take time to identify potential targets and to subtly review and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of those target companies,” she adds. 

“Post-acquisition, the ones that tend to fail are the ones where acquiring companies haven’t taken the time to really understand their own strategy or market challenges and what they want from an acquisition. Often, it’s been done for emotional reasons rather than good, sound business reasons. Those companies will typically fail.”

To develop your acquisition strategy, you’ll need to be clear about what you hope to achieve. What is your business model? What do you want to do? Do you want to grow income, to improve profitability, to enhance cash flow? Where are the market challenges in your sector and can you address them all? If you can’t, do you need to make an acquisition? Do you need to merge?

If you conclude that a merger or acquisition is desirable and will be beneficial in the long-term, then you need to develop an “identikit” of what that potential company looks like, she says. 

Every company you consider should be evaluated against the metrics you’ve decided upon.

“Don’t get distracted by personal judgement. If you stick to the metrics you’re looking for, you’re more likely to make a successful acquisition,” she adds.

Due diligence

You and your team of M&A experts need to carry out due diligence and investigate the target company’s business, people (particularly crucial personnel), records and key documents. 

The point of the due diligence process is to uncover any inherent risks in the target business, to question the value placed on the investment or acquisition price and to identify critical issues.

Your M&A team should ask questions and request documentation about the following areas:

•         Corporate information, including the company structure, shareholders or option holders and directors

•         Business and assets, including your business plan, assets and contracts with both customers and suppliers

•         Finance including details of all company borrowings and loan agreements, cash flow statement, business reports, plus all tax liabilities and VAT returns

•         Human Resources including details of contracts for directors and employees

•         IP and IT, including information about IPs, owned or used by the target company and the software and equipment that are used

•         Pension plans that are in place for directors and employees

•         Litigation including details of any disputes or legal proceedings the company is involved with now or in the future along with licenses or regulatory agreements it has

•         Property including information of real estate that’s owned or leased by the target business

•         Insurance policy details along with recent or future claims

•         Health and safety policies that are in place

•         Data protection, including information about how sensitive data is stored and protected and reassurance the target company is compliant with data protection laws

Post-acquisition or merger, you should use your original strategy to measure its success, whether that’s income growth of 25% or improved profits of 2%.

“That would be the target by which you’d measure your combined entity. You’d go back to those numbers and see what have you’ve achieved compared with what you set out to achieve.”

tel: (800) 919-4022
email: [email protected]
www.thecfocenter.com

 

 

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Hiring Best Practices: What to Look for When Hiring a Part-Time CFO

 

Are you looking to hire a CFO that will oversee the financial side of your business?

As you start to consider what to look for in a CFO and who would be the best fit for your business, your first instinct might be to interview full-time candidates only. However, you’ll be missing out on the many benefits that qualified, part-time CFOs bring to the table.

 

The Benefits of Hiring a Part-Time CFO

 

Immediacy for Urgency

When the needs of a business are urgent, it is usually easier and quicker to hire a part-time employee to help out, instead of instigating a full-time position. Given the nature of their role, part-time CFOs can act quickly on fulfilling specific needs, whether it is identifying business pain points or ways to make the business more profitable. Although you may only request your part-time CFO to work once a week, they will be ready to help whenever you need them, and they are always just a call or email away.

 

Financial Leadership

Other than solving immediate challenges, a part-time CFO can also act as a strategic business partner and help grow your business in a sustainable way. For example, they can prepare financial forecasts, develop annual plans for revenues and expenses, and assess the competitive landscape and long-term cash flows. As a result, this would help free up any business owner’s time, so they can focus on other aspects of the business.

 

Affordability

Aside from solving a company’s short and long term goals, one of the biggest benefits of hiring a part-time CFO is that you can have access to an experienced CFO at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. A full-time CFO delivers all the benefits of a part-time CFO but at an increased cost and financial commitment, and most SMEs do not require that skillset or experience every day of the week. Instead of investing in extra recruitment and hiring costs to find a full-time candidate, your business can reap the benefits of a part-time CFO who has practical, financial, and strategic skills to offer.

 

Flexible & Customizable Work

Flexibility is becoming more acceptable in today’s business landscape, allowing for part-time CFOs to fit right in with their varying schedules. Once you hire a part-time CFO, they will take on a variety of different tasks, based on what and when you need them for. Depending on the part-time CFO’s experience, they can also cater to different business markets and fulfill various needs. Overall, this results in an efficient solution for both parties, where clear roles and responsibilities are established and no time is wasted.

 

Open & Honest Dialogue

An advantageous quality that most part-time CFOs (and part-time employees in general) have is their ability to be candid with their employers. You can expect a qualified, part-time CFO to challenge you in ways that a full-time employee might feel uncomfortable doing. An employee’s honesty and transparency tend to lead to meaningful discussions that push businesses towards their goals and bring clarity in times of confusion. Since part-time CFOs are independent workers, you can also confide in them about any departmental issues you may be facing.

 

Expertise in Local and International Markets

Depending on your business needs, you may require a part time-CFO who is familiar with the local and international markets – companies such as the CFO Center provide access to a network of local, national and international teams to support a diverse variety of needs that an individual CFO cannot offer. There are also over 60 experienced part-time CFO’s to choose from who have expertise in various sectors.

 

Finding A Suitable Candidate

 

There are many qualities to look for in a CFO, however, we have outlined some of the most important below:

 

Big Picture Thinking

A CFO who can see beyond the numbers would be a valuable asset to your company. This individual would be able to interpret data in a meaningful way and provide analysis that encourages positive growth for the company.

 

Communicative Team Player

Considering that a part-time CFO will not operate within a consistent schedule, they should be able to communicate often with others and provide extensive detail whenever necessary. It is also important that they are a team player who gets along with other employees, otherwise, they will not be able to work efficiently and successfully with your team.

 

Multi-Faceted Experience

To make the most of your part-time CFO’s skill set, you should consider how much experience they have with different companies and within various industries. Individuals with an impressive range of previous experience can provide valuable perspectives on different problems, strategies, and goals that other employees may fail to see.

 

Life-Long Learner

Ideally, your part-time CFO should be excited about building upon their skills and developing their career, to ensure that they stay up-to-date in their respective fields. Without this attitude, your business will not be able to grow and progress from a financial standpoint.

 

Interested in hiring a part-time CFO of your own? Browse our selection of America’s most qualified, part-time CFOs.

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Thriving in the New World Guardian

Thriving in the New World Guardian

Thriving in the New World requires a CFO to expand their Guardian role for the organization.  The CFO must see themselves driving the organization’s efforts to harness increasing levels of complexity while embedding behaviours and systems to defend against existing and emerging threats to business continuity.

Organizations of all sizes have relied on their financial leaders to develop internal control systems and financial compliance with taxation and regulatory bodies.  The business owner and key stakeholders will better navigate the future by ensuring their financial leader is accountable for maximising the organization’s overall information integrity and for broadening the compliance framework.

Successfully achieving this broader mandate will require the CFO to elevate their collaboration and partnership with other functional leaders.  Success will also depend on how intensely the leadership team commits to sharpening their ability to convert information into insight.  There are two initiatives your CFO can pursue to create greater visibility of information related opportunities and potential compliance challenges.

Harnessing Digital Transformation

The recent pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation for every business.  Over the past year, it has become clear that companies who want to win must consistently adopt emerging technologies to exploit the opportunities offered by digitization. Businesses who select the right solutions will convert the promise of richer information into higher revenue and lower costs.

It is likely your business is headed towards larger technology investment. Business leaders must, of course, rely on their technology advisors and their market oriented leadership to drive digital transformation; however, the contribution of the CFO should not be overlooked.   Owners and CEOs should seek to pair their technology advisor with their financial advisor to ensure the technology selection process is sufficiently thorough and holistic.

Decision makers often desire greater amounts of information; however, there is no guarantee it leads to better decisions.  For most organizations, their finance teams have the most experience in digesting large amounts of information and structuring it to make recommendations.   Fostering collaboration between finance staff and your digital marketing leaders will promote more streamlined, more accurate, more actionable information.

Creating a Compliance Culture

The reality is that discussions regarding “compliance”  are low on the excitement list for most individuals, and almost certainly not the driving force for most CEO’s or owner operators.   For finance and operations teams, compliance may not be their primary passion; however, their functional success links directly to processes that ensure compliance requirements are visible and achieved.    The challenge for compliance in a post pandemic world has grown. Workers remotely accessing business systems and confidential data puts greater pressure on protecting customer information and maintaining adherence to internal practices.

It is no surprise that the first step to creating a compliance culture begins with the leadership team. For many business the choice to task the CFO to take on compliance culture responsibilities will reinforce to employees the organization’s commitment to a disciplined overall compliance framework.  Your CFO should bring a compliance mindset to the organization. Equally importantly, they should bring proven methods to establish compliance systems.

Once the initial building blocks of leadership commitment and senior level accountability are established, the CFO can work with their colleagues to put in place three additional elements that have proven effective in financial compliance.  These elements are Visibility, Review and Corrective Action.   These three elements have been essential for every finance leader to demonstrate a reliable compliance framework to tax authorities, regulatory bodies, and financial stakeholders.

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Thriving in the New World Operator 1

Thriving in the New World Operator

In this series of Thriving in the New World, The CFO Center explores what exactly it means to be an operator in the “new world” and essential elements that allow your business to thrive.

Most owner-operated businesses would agree that increased cash and more access to capital would help them exceed their business objectives.   Recent societal and economic realities have strained or even exhausted cash resources for many companies.   Even those companies enjoying unprecedented growth are scrambling to fund unexpected expansion.   The essential building block for liquidity has always been Operational Excellence, defined as consistent and reliable execution of each business’ unique processes to acquire and satisfy customers.

High performing operations processes have always been the foundation for generating cash from within the business.  Equally important for those business owners seeking to thrive in a post Covid world is the critical need to demonstrate operational excellence to third party financing sources.  Seeking to expand your credit line with your bank or pursuing additional investors will require the business owner to present a clear and compelling story for how the company will produce profits, cash and sufficient return on capital.

The traditional role for a CFO in Operational Excellence is to provide accurate financial information and act as leading voice in cost reduction.   Creating a truly reliable foundation for generating cash and profits; often requires financial leaders to contribute more than they have ever before.  The experience, attributes and mindset of many CFO’s positions them to act as a catalyst for delivering cash and profit maximization across the full range of business processes.

Fix the Finance Foundation

The processes and practices of the finance function must be viewed as rock solid by the owner and the rest of the organization to create a path for participation or preferably leadership of broader operational improvement initiatives.

There are three key functional outcomes that must be in place to give the finance team the credibility to extend its involvement to other operational processes.  Without these deliverables in place, the organization’s ability to undertake deeper process review will be severely impaired.

The first base level capability is timely, accurate and useful financial reporting.  If the leaders of the company are not receiving this level of financial reporting, then it is unlikely that the finance leader has earned the right to apply their team’s expertise to general operating processes.

The second must have competency from the finance team is an understanding of the cost drivers for the business. The understanding of costs does not have to be perfect; however, there must be a methodology in place to capture and analyze the complete range of items that form the cost of  products or services

The third requirement for finance team effectiveness is to have a solid grasp of the company strategies that will drive future growth and success.   If your finance staff are seen just as number crunchers it will be difficult for them to contribute to operational initiatives.   The first installment of our CFO contribution series suggests a practical approach to engage your finance leader in developing future proofing strategies.

Own Cash Flow

The responsibility of generating positive cash flow clearly belongs to the CEO and the entire organization; however, expanding the mindset of your financial leader to thinking and acting as the owner of cash flow can be a powerful tool.   Finance and accounting staff have historically only been tasked with producing cash flow forecasts based on inputs from other leaders.

We suggest making a clear organization signal showing reliance on the finance team to go beyond analyzing cash inputs and outputs. The new expectation should include concrete actions aimed at increasing the amount or timing of cash inputs while reducing the amount or timing of cash outputs.  One example of a high impact cash inflow recommendation is to convert the finance team’s experience with both external and internal obstacles to timely collection of receivables into operational practices that eliminate these obstacles in advance.

Refine and Revolutionize Business Processes

Each organization varies in complexity of business processes, capabilities of process analysis, and often very different levels of CEO interest or prioritization of process improvement initiatives.  Given the nature of many small to medium-sized organizations, there can often be aptitude and attitude gaps leading to under prioritizing  detailed data-driven process review work.

Even a small finance team can become the internal champions for generating improved results achieved through documenting and enhancing your most critical processes.   Elevating the CFO to, at minimum, a shared level of ownership with the firm’s operational leaders will apply complementary expertise to process review efforts.  Converting process improvements into additional cash and profit can often involve just a few additional questions that may be missed by other functional areas.

Create Compelling Capital Acquisition Content

There is a high probability that pursuing operational excellence will lead to capturing more cash from optimized processes and deliver positive returns in the short term.

The longer-term benefit of intense CFO involvement in the operational aspects of the company is the ability to work with the owner to put a more convincing investment case forward to potential sources of debt or equity financing.   Revenue growth is understandably the primary focal point for future investment; however,  the business case is significantly strengthened by a tangible action plan showcasing gross margin enhancement, profit improvement and positive cash generation.

Reviewing, examining and revising processes has always been part of running a successful enterprise.  Although most companies have made improvements over the life of their business; there is often a substantial opportunity to further optimize the organization’s capability to convert every dollar of revenue into more profit and more cash.   One of the positive byproducts of the turmoil related to the pandemic is that business owners, management and employees are more aware and likely more open to the need for change than ever before.   The time is right for businesses to count on their CFO to bring a thorough, disciplined methodology to deliver operational excellence and improved financial results. Uncover more.

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Thriving in a New World Strategist

Thriving in a New World Strategist

In the introduction to our CFO Contribution Series, Thriving In the New World Strategist, we suggested that most business owners may not be well served by high-level, third party driven, divergent strategic exercises. Certainly, there is significant value in undertaking far reaching, blue sky thinking. Most small to medium size organizations will be better served by incorporating their own foresight into targeted, most probable future scenarios developed by highly engaged participants directly linked to the success of the business.

There can be no doubt the Covid-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented change for most businesses. Revenue levels have plunged for some firms while others are experiencing unexpected increases in new customers and unforecasted demand levels. Supply Chains have been disrupted. Optimizing employee productivity and satisfaction have become more art than science. Short-term cash availability and long term capital requirements are highly uncertain. Even the most confident experts are reluctant to make a call on the economic climate we are likely to experience a year from now or even six months from now.

Success in this uncharted New World requires business owners to make effective decisions to address today’s challenges and to establish a strong market position in an uncertain future. We call this Future Proofing your business. The path forward will be unique for every enterprise. For most businesses, the contribution of an integrated senior financial leader can be a major factor in making the best decisions for steering the business towards a successful future.

Owner operators will particularly benefit by injecting their full time or part time CFO into idea

generation and implementation planning to future proof their business using the following four-step process.

Developing Most Probable Future Scenarios

The insight of the CEO along with sales and market-oriented management will understandably be essential to develop and select three or four most likely market scenarios. Important dimensions for assessing your business’ future would include revenue outlook, new revenue sources, changes in access to customers or preferences of customers, competitive forces, regulatory factors and assessment of staff effectiveness. Identifying these factors specific to your business and your industry should be considered in conjunction with the team’s projections of potential future operating environments.

Involving a holistic professional with the ability to stretch the team’s future thinking to include the full spectrum of potential obstacles often leads to more robust, more complete future scenarios. Team members should expect the organization’s financial leader to embrace the uncertainties inherent in guessing at potential futures while also expecting them to act as a catalyst to describe the leading scenarios with sufficient clarity to facilitate resiliency testing and implementation planning.

Leveraging Emerging Technology

The pace of change over the past five to ten years combined with the recent accelerated societal and economic changes linked to the pandemic forces all businesses to adapt and respond quicker and more intensively than ever before. Adapting and responding effectively requires timely and appropriate application of emerging technology solutions to uncover new connections to customers and to unlock methods to streamline and enhance business processes.

A few of the more pervasive and perhaps highest potential technology trends destined to shape the future are Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and Internet of Things. Finance leaders bring essential analytical skills, as well as opportunity and risk assessment expertise. These attributes will help the business select the most advantageous solutions and deploy these applications to deliver favourable returns.

Stress Testing Scenarios and Strategies

Once the business has collaboratively generated their high probability future scenarios and articulated corresponding strategies to maximize results; a critical need emerges for disciplined evaluation to ensure the selected paths forward can stand up to expected obstacles and deviations.

The CFO’s involvement in scenario testing is likely to be most accepted and welcomed by the business owner and the future proofing team. A New World CFO is one that passionately embraces uncertainties and optimism while maintaining their proven ability to rigorously apply a check and balance approach to the team’s chosen future scenarios and strategies.

Commitment to Highest Impact Initiatives

The hardest decision for many organizations undertaking future proofing activities during today’s tumultuous environment will be to commit the necessary financial and human resources to those chosen few initiatives expected to best position the business over the next six months to five years.

Creating the internal and external confidence to act now often hinges on the development of concise, compelling business cases to define the initiative, its costs and expected profits. The involvement of your financial leader in the entire future proofing process will significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of these strategic business cases. In situations where the organization is seeking external financing or participation from partnering organizations; the voice of an informed, engaged, credible CFO will be a significant factor in securing the desired external support.

Business owners and their management teams have the responsibility to navigate the firm through today’s urgent challenges and opportunities. They also bear the greater responsibility to establish direction and take action to prepare the organization to succeed for many years ahead. A New World CFO welcomes this responsibility and possesses the knowledge and dedication needed to deliver results today and in the future. Discover more.

Future Proof Your Business

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Introducing the Thriving in the New World Series

Introducing the Thriving in the New World Series

Thriving in the New World series is The CFO Center’s unique approach on how we can truly make a difference to your business. Explore how a transformational CFO, as a Strategist, Operator, Leader and Guardian, is essential to future proof your business.

The Covid-19 pandemic has transported almost every business into a new reality with greater obstacles and greater, or certainly different, opportunities. Many business owners are operating at ground level to address challenges that threaten the livelihood of their employees, the continuity of their customers and the future of their business.

Now is not the time for strategic retreats, or high-level consulting reviews. Entrepreneurs that thrive in this new world will be those that combine their experience and knowledge with the insights and expertise of involved, committed individuals. These entrepreneurs will possess the mindset to navigate each day’s most pressing issues while charting the course for the business to move forward.

Now is the time to ensure your business is enjoying the leadership and hands on guidance of a New World CFO. Accenture defines the new CFO as a “value-oriented individual who views the world through a different lens” . They see themselves as value architects whose primary focus is helping the organization drive profitable growth.

All businesses have staff or advisors in place to manage the financial requirements of their business.

Perhaps more than ever before, businesses of all sizes, and all stages of development will benefit from finance oriented leadership that goes far beyond the numbers, far beyond basic reporting and far beyond being the controller or watchdog for the business.

If you own and operate a small to medium-sized business, you may have gotten by without access to the “C” level expertise of an experienced CFO. Thriving in your new world may require access to a proven, holistic financial leader driven to grow your business profitably.

This four-part – New World CFO series will provide specific, understandable and implementable information designed to help your business thrive and survive. Uncover more about the benefits of futureproofing.

Future Proof Your Business

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The CFO Center - New Additions to the Team

Confessions of Part-Time, Portfolio CFOs

Leaving lucrative and secure C-suite positions mid-career to build a part-time portfolio might seem crazy but many of those who’ve done it say it is one of the sanest decisions they’ve made.
Take Michael Citroen, who at 58 years old is a 14-year veteran of the part-time portfolio job world. The former Group Finance Director (CFO) relishes the challenge and excitement of working with half a dozen SMEs in his role as a part-time CFO. “It’s nice going into different businesses and meeting different people and having different challenges to deal with. There’s so much more variety every day.”
He particularly likes that the businesses he deals with are all at different stages of growth. Some are very new, others are more established, and a couple have been guided through a sale with his help.
Citroen had been working full-time as the Group CFO of a large privately-owned company when he made the decision to go freelance.
“It was getting very political,” he recalls of his former company. “And I also wanted to be in control of my own calendar,” he says.
So, in 2003, he resigned and joined FD UK, a company that offered part-time CFOs to SMEs. When that company was bought out by The FD Centre (parent company of The CFO Center) five years later, Citroen stayed on and is still working with them today—part of an expanding international network of part-time portfolio CFOs.
“That’s another great aspect of working within a network of part-time CFOs: there’s massive backup. If there’s anything you need to know, you just ask the network, and you’ll get answers back really fast. I wouldn’t have that if I was working alone.”
Besides the enjoyment of working flexibly with entrepreneurs and with other part-time CFOs, Citroen says he values the security that being a part-time CFO with half a dozen clients brings.
“You don’t have all your eggs in one basket,” he says, explaining that if one client leaves he knows he can attract and retain another, so his income isn’t at risk.
“The FD Centre is very focused on helping its part-time CFOs to win new clients,” Citroen says. “I could never have done as well as I have if I’d had to do it on my own. I had no idea about marketing and the technical aspect of things like websites when I first began.”
Like many people starting out on the part-time path, Citroen had been worried about giving up a salary with perks initially. “To begin with it was a little insecure, giving up a regular job.”
He quickly discovered that the financial return you get is contingent on the amount of energy you’re willing to expend.
He realized early on the new lifestyle would enable him to spend more time with family while maintaining a good level of income.
“It gave me time to be with them without having to answer to anybody.”
It’s something that another part-time CFO Neil Methold has appreciated about this way of working. Being a part-time CFO for the past six years has meant he’s been able to play a large role in his teenage son’s life: getting him settled into senior school and being able to attend almost every one of his sporting events.
“If I’d been working full-time I wouldn’t have been able to do that. And that’s priceless,” says 53-year-old Methold.
Like Citroen, Methold has found the move into the part-time portfolio world beneficial in so many ways. Not only has he been able to enjoy more family and leisure time but he’s had the pleasure of coaching and mentoring people working within his clients’ companies.
“My greatest satisfaction comes from coaching and mentoring people within these companies so they become self-sufficient and can do more and more of the work themselves.
“Nowadays I say to clients ‘My success here will be inversely proportionate to the number of days I charge you. In other words, the more I can get your people to do the work on a daily basis the less I have to do’. I see it as my responsibility to ensure the work is done, not necessarily to do it all myself. I think that has a significant impact on client retention.”
So too does learning to adapt your style of working to each client, says Methold. It wasn’t something he was aware of when he first started out, he confesses.
“But one day, I was mowing the lawn and thinking it all through in my head. That’s when I realized I was being too harsh, too demanding, too assertive, too telling. You have to be direct in a big company because there are shareholders and high expectations.
“But that doesn’t work with SMEs. You have to use a different style—you have to be softer and more accepting that things don’t necessarily move as quickly as they do at large corporations and that there are going to be different priorities.”
It was when he began to adapt his style of working to suit each client rather than going in “full guns blazing” that he started to enjoy much better relationships. It’s why he has retained his clients for so long, he says.
“You can’t go in and be all corporate. SMEs don’t want that. They want someone they can trust and rely on and build a good relationship with. A friendly face. Not just a very clever big shot. You need to be down to earth and people-focused.”
“When I really accepted that and started to slow down my own pace I become more accepted. You have to adjust and be a bit of a chameleon to suit how they are and not how you think they should be.”
Citroen says the ability to communicate is critical in your role as a part-time CFO. “You have to have the ability to talk to your clients on a personal level and to be able to relax with them. Clients will call you late at night or on a weekend because they’ve had an idea they’re excited about and want to share with you. People who can’t handle that aren’t successful as part-time CFOs.”
Both he and Methold agree that time management is key to success in the part-time portfolio environment.
“Although I’m not in contact with my clients every day, I do keep in touch with them every week, whether it’s a phone call, text or email,” says Citroen. “It’s all part of the relationship I have with my clients.”
Successful part-time CFOs need to take the initiative when it comes to client contact, says Methold. “You have to work really hard at proactive communication with your clients. It’s easy then for them to see you are valuable. I will go to see a client, and on the way home have three 20-minute conversations with three other clients who I haven’t been with that day just to keep moving them forward.
“You have to commit to doing that extra stuff. You can’t just go in for a day, leave and send a bill.”
This obviously takes a lot of organization, and that’s another skill a successful part-time CFO must have (or develop!), he says.
“I have various lists, so I know what I have to do and at what point each week to make sure I don’t drop any balls because when you have lots of clients doing different things, it’s very easy to forget stuff.
“You need to be aware of what’s happening with each client and what you last spoke about. You can’t go, ‘Ah, can’t remember that last meeting. Sorry.’ When they are talking to you, you are their CFO.”
Being willing to deliver such high-quality service is something that makes a difference when it comes to client retention, he says.
“Clients really do value that you put yourself out to call them on the weekend or speak to them late at night or when you’re on your vacation. That’s when you and the clients really do start to cement the relationship.”
The relationships you have with clients are what helps to make this such a rewarding way of life, he says.
Citroen agrees, adding that working full-time for one company pales in comparison with working part-time across a number of growing businesses. “The job satisfaction you get working as a part-time CFO is enormous. I would definitely never go back to full-time employment.”

2/2014 The CFO Center appoints Peter Caltabiano, CEO, to open 2nd U.S. Territory, located in South Florida

The CFO Center appoints Peter Caltabiano, Senior Executive, to open 2nd U.S. Territory, located in South Florida

SOUTH FLORIDA— The CFO Center (www.thecfocenter.com) has appointed Pete Caltabiano, Senior Executive, as Regional Director for the Southeastern United States and Caribbean. Headquartered in South Florida, he will develop and lead a team of professionally qualified CPAs providing CFO services to small- and medium-sized enterprises in Florida. “We are very fortunate to find a partner like Pete, who brings 20 years of international experience in a global multisite organization,” said The FD Centre/The CFO Center Founder and Chairman Colin Mills.

Pete has more than 20 years of international experience in both America and Europe with a track record for successfully implementing business transformation and change management, process improvement, and cost reduction. He is a dynamic leader with excellent interpersonal skills and a communication style that is open and clear to any audience. He is a motivator who thrives on challenges of change and maximizing the development of talent to deliver results. A strategic thinker and negotiator with a proven track record of creating vision and delivering change whilst still upholding personal and company ethos.

Pete attended Florida Atlantic University where he received his B.A. in Economics. Shortly thereafter he left south Florida and moved to North Carolina where he started his career and his family. From there, he advanced further with a move to Europe. He was actively involved in fundraising for the NSPCC and Alzheimer’s charities by activities such as cycling from London, England to Cardiff, Wales as well as a cycle from Paris to London. He’s competed in numerous Triathlons, enjoys scuba diving, crossfit, and endurance racing. Pete currently lives in South Florida with his wife Nancy, daughter Hayle, and two dogs, Binky and Cody.
http://www.linkedin.com/in/petercaltabiano

ABOUT THE CFO CENTER:
The CFO Center (FD Centre) is the global leader in providing part-time CFO and finance director services to small- and medium-size enterprises.

For more information, contact Regional Director Pete Caltabiano, 800-919-4022, [email protected]

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