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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.

Future Proof Your Business

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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.

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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]

Hat

How Your Office Shredder Is Putting Your Company At Risk

It might look innocent enough, but your office shredding machine actually poses as much a threat to your business as the most virulent computer virus.

What?! How?

How could something that was bought to protect your business be as harmful as a computer Trojan?

It’s simple really: it’s not fit for purpose. Yes, it cuts your unwanted documents into thin strips. But—and this is the important bit—it leaves your company exposed to all kinds of trouble because those strips can be reassembled.

All it takes is a little bit of patience to reassemble those bits and read your documents.

Now, you might think this all sounds far-fetched, a little too James Bond/Jason Bourne for your circumstances but unfortunately, it’s not.

In fact, there’s even software that runs on Windows whose very purpose is to reassemble shredded documents.

Called ‘Unshredder’, it automates the reassembly of torn or shredded documents, thus saving ‘even novice computer users’ the tedious task of doing the job by hand.

What if those documents reveal your company’s strategic plans for the next five years? Or the details of your next big ‘secret’ project? Or the names and personal details of your customers or clients?

Even office memos can reveal valuable information in the wrong hands.

And let’s face it, people who take the trouble to reassemble shredded paper to find sensitive company information aren’t doing it for benign or charitable reasons.

No, they’re most likely doing it for nefarious purposes: to expose your company’s plans via social media or traditional media; to sell the information they find to your competitors; to blackmail your company, or to commit large-scale identity theft using your customers’ details.

The impact of your company’s secrets being revealed could be devastating. But the impact of your customers’ or clients’ details being revealed could be just as bad.

In the UK, for instance, companies that collect customers’ or clients’ personal details are legally obliged to protect those details under a law called the Data Protection Act 1998.

The same law also states that companies are legally obliged to carefully destroy customer records when they no longer need to retain them.

Not doing so results in severe penalties.

Like the £100,000 fine handed out to a local council which was found guilty of dumping the personal records of 100 people in a building it had once used as offices. The personal records were found stuffed inside 45 bags of rubbish left by the departing council employees.

So, allowing your customers’ details to fall into the wrong hands could result in your company ending up on the wrong side of the law.

And it doesn’t matter how healthy your revenue is, few companies can take a £100,000 hit to their monthly cashflow without hurting.

There’s more. If word gets out that your company doesn’t protect your customers’ details, think of the public relations implications. Who will want to risk buying from your company again?

How can you avoid this kind of disaster?

Simple, you outsource your document disposal to companies that offer paper shredding services. These companies use industrial-scale paper shredders with blades capable of transforming your documents into tiny, uneven bits of paper that can’t be reassembled.

Just as importantly, these companies will provide you with proof of destruction so that you have an audit trail, should you ever be in a position where you need it.
And as with all kinds of outsourcing, there are many other benefits too.

One, you save on overheads. You no longer need to pay for the repair, maintenance and replacement of an office shredder that, like a photocopier, has an unfortunate habit of breaking down when you most need it.

Two, your employees no longer need to waste time slowly feeding one document at a time into the office shredding machine. Instead, they can do the job for which they were employed.

Three, you save space. No need to allocate valuable office space for the mountain of documents that need to be fed one page at a time into your office shredder.

Four, you save money. And five, you help save the environment, because most reputable professional paper shredding services recycle what’s left of the documents they process.

So, as you see, although outsourcing has attracted its fair share of negative press in the past, it is often a force for good in a company.

It not only allows you and your employees to focus on your core competencies but saves you money and time.

Paper-shredding is just one example of what you can outsource in your business. You can in fact outsource all your technology services and business processes such as HR and finance, which allows you to operate a leaner, more efficient business and use the savings to drive growth.

Enlisting the services of an experienced part-time CFO, for example, can add value, increase efficiency and maximize opportunities in your business.
You get access to a CFO with the experience and knowledge to help you plan, manage and control business growth and who can organize both your in-house and external accounts functions.

Many business owners don’t realize the breadth of the role of a part-time CFO. For instance, a part-time CFO will not only become an unofficial ‘sounding board’ for the often-isolated CEO or owner of the business but can also help devise an efficient outsourcing strategy for the company.

If one of our part-time CFOs helps you to create an outsourcing strategy, for example, the process will include:

• Evaluating your company’s current and future requirements.
• Discussing a company-wide strategy/protocol for taking on outsourced providers
• Investigating specific outsourced providers (starting with our national network of trusted providers) with proven track records
• Evaluating providers’ core competencies to ensure they find the right match
• Discussing cost implications in detail and uncover any hidden costs before contracting the supplier
• Interviewing providers and ensure they will be a good cultural fit
• Ensuring that the provider will be able to deliver the service on time and to the right standard
• Challenging providers about their data security and integrity
• Asking providers to share their contingency plans in the event of serious problems
• Evaluating providers’ training programs and ability to support your business in the event of staff sickness or absence
• Discussing providers’ compliance policies to ensure that they will take on the responsibility (where appropriate) to adhere to laws and regulatory requirements.

And that’s just outsourcing. For a fraction of the cost of hiring a junior member of staff, our part-time CFOs will work with you to resolve all of the 12 major challenges your company is likely to face:

1. Exit Planning
2. Risk Assessment
3. Implementation Timetable
4. Strategic Funding
5. Internal Systems
6. Reporting
7. Profit Improvement
8. Cash Flow Management
9. Compliance Reporting
10. Tax Planning and Legal Issues
11. Outsourcing
12. Banking Relationship

And because it’s a part-time role, there’s no impact on your payroll or headcount.

What’s not to like?

Conclusion

So, if you want to keep your company safe, outsource your paper-shredding. And if you want to free up your time, save money and accelerate your business growth, hire a part-time CFO.

To find out more about how a part-time CFO will help your business, book a free one-to-one call with one of our part-time CFOs now by clicking here or call us on 800-919-4022.

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How A Coffee Merchant Grew 30% In 5 Years by Hiring One Part-Time Advisor

Coffee is one of the most sought after commodities in the world but even that fact doesn’t make coffee traders immune to economic turbulence.
Such was the case for family-run green bean coffee merchant D.R. Wakefield. During one particularly volatile period, the UK-based business was subject to some tough grilling by its bank but just didn’t have the wherewithal to supply the answers.
“We simply didn’t have enough background information, data and statistics collated in a manner required by the bank,” recalls CEO Simon Wakefield.
It was then that he and his management team realized they needed someone with sophisticated financial expertise to help them.
Hiring A Part-Time CFO
Hiring a part-time adviser was the last thing Simon wanted, having had unfavorable experiences with part-time employees in the past.
“In my previous experience of part-time employees, I found they would come, they would freelance, and they would go and it didn’t work with us.
“I like to have people in-house that work with us and understand our business.”
D.R. Wakefield, set up in 1970 by Simon’s father Derrick, supplies both specialist and regular grade coffees to the UK trade, small private roasters and large multinational companies alike.
“It sounds simple but when you start drilling into the way we work with multiple currencies, multiple countries, it becomes quite detailed.”
Then Simon discovered the UK’s FD Centre (U.S.-The CFO Center) and how it provides part-time CFOs.
He changed his mind about part-time employees and made the decision to hire a part-time CFO, Nick Thompson, from the FD Centre.
Nick had more than 15 years’ experience as a CFO in entrepreneurial businesses and had worked at CFO level in retail, restaurant, property and auctioneering sectors both in the UK and overseas with such companies as Conran Restaurants, The Conran Shop, Early Learning Centre and Bonham’s Auctioneers.
Why The CFO Center/FD Centre?
“The FD Centre offered us something: if our first CFO didn’t work out they would quickly replace him with another one,” explains Simon. “If the CFO we took on wasn’t able to support us in the way we expected they could replace him with another CFO.”
He was delighted to realize that his new part-time CFO would do far more than look after the company’s finances.
“I initially thought a CFO would just look after your finances. Naively I didn’t realize how many extra subjects and areas he would cover.”
Nick provided Simon with daily financial reports when the coffee market was exceptionally volatile. He recommended the company change auditors and helped the accounting team to update its accounting software packages and credit control procedures.
That all helped the company’s cash flow position to improve, says Simon.
Nick also helped Simon bolster his relationship with his bank by bringing in a permanent in-house management accountant to take care of the finances.
Five years on and Simon credits those monthly and sometimes weekly financial reports as playing a crucial role in the company’s growth.
“I have the figures at my fingertips. It’s not a gut feeling like I had before: it’s presented in data to me on a monthly basis or as often as I want it. This means I can make plans and can justify them. For example, if we want to install some new hardware.
“It gives you confidence when you know what your figures are and it doesn’t come as a surprise.”
Nick also helps Simon with strategic planning and even his personal finances as well.
“The improvements and suggestions he’s given to us have helped our business develop. These include some of the ideas he came up with when he first spoke to us. Once he started settling and grasping what we were about we could begin to implement these ideas. He was quiet, unassuming, and unflustered.”
The company flourished at a time when so many other companies floundered.
“In the five years Nick’s been here we’ve grown about 30%,” reports Simon.
There have been other important benefits from using the services of a part-time CFO, admits Simon.
“As an owner, manager, someone working in the business I needed to be able to trust him. Nick built my trust very quickly with his experience and suggestions.
“I can sleep better. I’m not quite so cranky when I go home because I’m not only confident, but comfortable in what we are doing here.
“He’s added revenue because he’s made new suggestions. For example, he’s suggested that we look at taking on a marketer which has taken that role away from me. He’s also suggested I join another business group, which has meant I’ve been able to benefit from other skills and other experiences. It’s given me a lot more confidence in how I can move forward and develop the business.”
The management team have also benefitted from having a CFO on-board, says Simon.
“The rest of the team have confidence that they know we’ve got a CFO overseeing us. He’s brought in targets for them and it’s made the whole team come together.”
The only regret Simon has is that he didn’t hire a part-time CFO earlier.
“I wish I’d done it sooner as it’s really helped. Nick’s brought in a lot of value to us as a company, he’s brought a lot of value to me as an individual. I think they’re the key things you can expect or hope from anyone.”
To discover how a part-time CFO will help your company to scale up, please call us on 800 919-4022 or contact us here.

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Why Entrepreneurs’ Dream of Hypergrowth Fast Becomes A Nightmare

Rapid growth is the stuff most entrepreneurs dream about as they take their fledgling company through the early years but when it happens, it can quickly become the stuff of nightmares.
The bubbles in the celebratory champagne—“Here’s to our success!”—barely have time to go flat before the problems arise across the high-impact growth or Scale Up business.
Suddenly owners are beset by problems involving the people they’ve hired or not hired, their cashflow chokes, and processes that once worked so smoothly groan to a halt. Customers then leave snide reviews because products or services aren’t delivered on time, and key suppliers get angry at delayed payments. Bankers who were once so keen for business begin to crank up the pressure as overdrafts or loans get close to the ‘red zone’.
No wonder then that so many business owners spend hours every night staring into the darkness wondering what on earth happened to their once easy-to-manage business.
The owners of high impact growth or Scaled Up businesses are often the loneliest, most isolated and overworked individuals. While start-up owners get an avalanche of government help and assistance, their Scaled Up counterparts get very little attention or assistance.
The CFO Center/FD Centre’s Chairman Colin Mills says he’s seen first-hand what pressure does to business owners.
“I’ve sat in sales meetings with entrepreneurs who had literally been brought to tears by stress and frustration and the feeling that it’s all too much.”
It’s for this reason that Colin has written Scale Up: How to Take Your Business to the Next Level Without Losing Control and Running Out of Cash.
It’s aimed at the owners of companies facing or already experiencing the problems of scaling their businesses to ensure they minimize the problems and achieve growth in a controlled, sustained way.
“Our experience suggests that scaleup issues start to bite at about $1M/£1M Sales Revenue or a minimum of 10 employees,” he explains.
“By the time a business reaches $50M/£50M Sales Revenue or 250 employees (larger firms tend to have fewer employees per $/£ of Sales Revenue) they can most often be considered a “scaler”: they are past the main dangers of scaleup.”
In his book, Colin explains why scaling a business can be so problematic. The business owner has to deal with one or even all of the following:
• People challenges
• Sales and marketing challenges
• Operational challenges
• Administrative challenges
• Financial challenges
Colin explains, “Businesses run the gauntlet of increasingly severe challenges, mostly because they are growing but don’t have the necessary infrastructure to support their expanded operations.
“While on paper, they may have the revenue, the manufacturing base or customer reach of a substantial business, the culture, the controls, the processes, the personnel and the leadership remain those of a much smaller business than they were a short time before.
“Worse, they haven’t yet accumulated the resources to build and maintain that infrastructure.”
This creates a hazardous situation for the business, he says.
“The biggest danger in this period is that the business will either outrun itself or get stuck, like a deer in headlights. Outrun, as the company spirals out of control and its cash reserves dwindle trying to meet the expanded demands of the business.
“Or stuck, as the entrepreneur tries to cope with everything at once, frustrated that the problems he could happily once deal with—back when the business was smaller—are not being dealt with by the people he is employing, often at substantial cost.”
Overcoming such problems or avoiding them is only possible if you revise your business model.
“You need to consider your whole business model, because if you have a terrible business model, then the last thing you want to do is to start scaling it. If you do that, then all the small problems that make your life a nightmare now will become major headaches.
“If your business model isn’t great, however, it doesn’t mean that all is lost: there’s a lot you can do to retro-fit, design and redesign a business.”
Besides explaining the challenges scaling businesses face, Colin also provides the methods you need to use to overcome them—the same methods that the CFOs from the CFO Center offers its clients.
They’re also the methods the CFO Center has used in its own scaling up process, says Colin.
The CFO Center is a scaleup that has been growing at over 30% for the last three years with close to 400 CFOs but Colin admits he keeps a keen focus on the business, the business model and the key performance indicators.
“It might be a scaleup now, but that doesn’t mean to say it’s not going to careen out of control. I have to keep my eyes on the business, re-evaluate the business model, watch the indicators.”
Along with practical advice that you can use immediately, the book features an array of case studies in which business owners describe how they overcame the challenges of scaling their businesses.
So, if your business is on the verge of, or already experiencing the ‘difficult teenage’ phase and you’re wondering how to overcome the nightmare challenges you’re facing, this book is for you.
It’s available on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle ebook here.
And to discover how the CFO Center will help your company to scale up, please call us on (800) 919-4022 or contact us here.

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The Simple Way to Dominate Your Market

Want an easy way to outsmart your competitors and dominate your market? One that doesn’t involve an investment of time or funds in social media, Google AdWords, email marketing, SEO or any of the usual suspects.

Nor will you have to employ a swathe of graduates from Harvard, Oxford, or Cambridge to carry this one out on your behalf.

It’s one that will give your organization a distinct and profitable advantage over the majority of SMBs, no matter your industry or specialty.

So what is it?

Well, you may be surprised to discover that it’s the oh-so-humble business plan. Yes, that often dismissed document can indeed give your company a distinct competitive advantage over the rest of your market. (If you’d like to find out more about how to create and use an effective business plan/implementation timetable as a working document to keep your business on track to achieving your desired objectives, you can download a free report now by clicking here.)

Our experience, and just about every survey you read, shows that SMBs who have and use a business plan are consistently more successful and more profitable than those that don’t. A survey commissioned by business and finance software provider Exact, for example, found companies with a business plan were consistently more profitable (70%) than those that did not (52%).

So why don’t all SMBs have a business plan, one that details the company’s operating and financial targets, its strategic direction, and tactics? Apparently, many don’t consider it necessary. Or their entrepreneurial owners like to keep everything ‘in their head’. That’s probably fine for a start-up but fatal for a growing company.

There are so many benefits to having and using a well-constructed business plan. It will help you and your management team to:

  • Clarify objectives and develop suitable strategies
    • Understand your market
    • Identify and overcome internal and external threats
    • Seize opportunities
    • Organize the company
    • Raise external funding
    • Obtain raw materials
    • Develop new products or services
    • Generate sales
    • Comply with regulations, define job duties, etc.

There’s a catch however. While having a business plan is mission-critical, creating it can be arduous, which is probably why so few SMBs have one.

After all, thinking through objectives and likely outcomes which may occur many years down the line is, by nature, challenging. But it is the hard work up front which makes for lighter work down the road as all of our team of part-time CFOs will attest to.

It’s the case that most CEOs and Managing Directors just don’t have the time to spend on quality strategic thinking and to document and communicate that thinking in a way which allows the whole business to buy into the vision.

Likewise, they don’t have the time and specialist knowledge to manage such a business plan.

That’s unfortunate because a business plan provides CEOs, Managing Directors, and management with an ability to foresee threats and opportunities and course-correct when necessary.

Not spending quality time on strategic planning usually leads to a chaotic working environment. Opportunities get missed. Threats aren’t identified until it is too late. Small wonder that the business owners who reach out to us often talk about ‘not feeling in control’ and ‘not really knowing what is coming around the next corner’.

Business planning and getting it right brings a real sense of clarity and direction to a business – this is where an experienced CFO or Finance Director (FD) can make a significant contribution. They can help you to create and manage a highly-effective implementation timetable.

CFOs often possess a different, albeit complementary, set of skills to CEOs/Managing Directors. What’s more, they can act as devil’s advocate to ask the right questions and help to steer the company in the right direction. Meanwhile, you can get on with what you do best. This 3-minute video explains the part-time CFO/FD model in a little more detail.

Now, if you’re like many SMBs, you probably don’t have the resources or the need to employ a full-time CFO. So what can you do? You can try to manage the entire process on your own. Or, you can make it easy on yourself and your management team by hiring a part-time CFO to manage the entire process for you.

The CFO Center will provide you with a world-class CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. It’s the business equivalent of having an Olympic coach to help your business thrive.

To get started, just book your free one-to-one call with one of our business planning experts today—just click here now.

Fear Of Seeking Funding Might Stop You From Growing

Are you so wary of debt that you won’t look for external funding to grow your company? Do you still consider the banks to be the only real source of funding?
A ‘yes’ answer to one or both of those questions is a sign that you could be hampering your company’s future growth prospects. (If you’d like to find out more about your strategic funding options, download a free report now by clicking here.)
If you are hindering your company’s growth, you’re certainly not alone. Research conducted earlier this year revealed that 78% of the 500 UK businesses surveyed by specialist mutual financial services provider Wesleyan Bank were too wary of incurring debt to seek external funding.
About three-quarters of those surveyed said they had a better understanding of traditional funding options such as bank loans and overdrafts than they did of alternative funding options such as asset finance. A national SMB alternative finance survey commissioned by Nesta and the University of Cambridge found that only 9% of respondents had approached an alternative finance provider.
The so-called alternative funding market is growing rapidly, and in the UK alone has more than doubled in size year on year from £267 million in 2012 to £666 million in 2013 to £1.74 billion in 2014, according to the ‘UK Alternative Finance Industry Report’.
Sean Read, Director of Sales & Marketing at Wesleyan Bank says, “Without external finance, many SMBs are stilting their chances of prospering and fulfilling their ultimate potential.”
That’s because funding—whether through debt or equity— is often the catalyst for taking your business to the next level. Without it, you’re likely to stay where you are now or worse, stagnate.
Nowadays, there are many options for both equity and debt financing to consider. There is also the option to combine both debt and equity in a funding mix to provide the capital base for long term growth and the working capital to support working capital requirements in the business.
While there’s a vast array of options available—including some that can provide funds within days—figuring out how to access these funds can be a very time-consuming, frustrating experience, even for the most seasoned business owner.
Worryingly, the Wesleyan Bank research revealed that many SEO owners turn to the internet for advice about funding options rather than speaking directly to banks or independent funding experts. While the internet does provide some accurate information, it is just as likely to offer information that at best is outdated and, at worst, wildly off-the-mark. Following such unqualified advice is likely to be disastrous for your company.
After all, raising funds is critical to your company’s future growth. As such, it should only be managed by those with substantial experience and knowledge of the strategic funding market.
Typically, that person will be a CFO or an FD (Finance Director). And there’s the rub, for as an SMB, you probably don’t have a full-time CFO with the necessary experience in fundraising to manage the process for you. So what can you do?
You can hire a very experienced part-time CFO to manage the entire process for you. He or she will manage everything from determining your immediate and long-term objectives to finding the right kind of funding partner for the business. You can watch a 3-minute video here which explains the part-time CFO/FD model.
At The CFO Center, our CFOs have sourced more funding (over £5 billion) for our clients than just about any other company in the UK. We will provide you with a world-class CFO or FD with ‘big business experience’ to manage your strategic funding process for you and we’ll do it at a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. It’s the business equivalent of having an Olympic coach to help your business thrive.
To find out more about your funding options, just book your free one-to-one call with one of our strategic funding specialists—just click here now.

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