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From Zero to Hero 1

From Zero to Hero

Business control is vital – at both ends of the business spectrum

After the first flush of start-up, many business owners find themselves faced with common problems caused by business control. Those problems tend to polarise into coping with potential failure or run-away success – the ‘zero or hero’ scenario.

The heroes are fast-growing, successful businesses, usually with considerable drive and enthusiasm from business owners. Heroes are clearly going in the right direction, and appear to be getting there rapidly. However, like a fast train, without good control systems, knowing when to slow down or accelerate and understanding all the signals – a hero-business can easily run out of track and suffer a spectacular crash.

The zeros are those businesses that for some reason are finding life difficult. These can often be potentially great businesses, but they find themselves in a situation where their viability may be threatened, again by poor business control.

It is immaterial whether businesses fail with a huge fall or sink slowly and uncontrollably, the result is always the same.

Issues facing the business hero

Hero-business owners are often extremely enthusiastic, have great business ideas, products or services and are consumed with ambitions for growth. Such businesses, led by their highly driven business owners, are usually great to work in, customers and suppliers alike are impressed with the never say die attitudes.

Prime amongst the issues for the fast growing start up is being under-capitalised – the great idea can often die as a result of just not having enough cash. The enthusiastic owner whose vision drives the business can suffer from a lack of vision for coping with growth.

Dealing with the zero scenario

Zero businesses are strugglers. They can be fallen heroes; however they are usually businesses that have striven to survive almost from day one. They often adopt a wait and see policy, hoping that things will get better.

They are usually characterised by a lack of profitability and cash. The constant pressure of trying to juggle cash to make ends meet overshadows the viability of the business and the potential success that lies within.

Driving up the zero and controlling the hero

As with the medical profession, prevention is always better than cure. However, even business cases that may appear terminal can often be rescued.

The solution lies in business-based financial support and advice. The problem facing both heroes and zeros is finding and funding that advice. Frequently, business owners bemoan the difficulty in finding and sourcing affordable advice. However, in some cases they cannot afford to be without that advice.

Finding advisors with the right track record

As with so many other things, the business owner should go for experience. Someone who has “been there seen it and done it”. One immediate response is to hand the problem to the accountant. This can provide a solution, but in reality, most external accountants are not experienced in running a business.

An experienced chief financial officer (CFO) is invaluable in recognising the danger signals and providing solutions, they know how to finance a business, deal with growth, present meaningful monthly numbers and get the best deals from banks.  At some point both heroes and zeros need this experience but they probably don’t need it full time – this is where an outsourced CFO provides the best solution. Watch a 3 minute video here to find out how you can take on one of USA’s leading CFOs for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee.

Access financial management skills at a fraction of the cost of a full-time resource

Owners of hero to zero businesses are prime candidates for an outsourced part time CFO solution. With the outsource option, business owners can access a financial management skill set, that is experienced in dealing with problems and opportunities, able to organise both the in-house and external accounts functions and provide the necessary business advice.

The outsourced CFO has the skill set to plan and implement the controls needed to help the zero business survive and the hero business to grow positively. Additionally, an outsourced or virtual solution does not impact payroll or headcount with the business only charged for the days worked – which may only be a few days per month.

Business owners – zeros or heroes – cannot afford to be without business-based financial advice. The outsourced CFO should be their first priority, before they hit the problems, after all the more time a business has to rectify a situation the more chance of success. Watch our 60 second video on how our outsource model works: www.thecfocenter.com

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Don’t call it your dream, Call it your plan

Don’t call it your dream, Call it your plan

Life through a lens

One of the toughest challenges for owners of SMEs is to be able to stand back, to look at their business through a wide-angle lens and identify what it is they really have.

Because quite often, the day-to-day distractions and diversions that inevitably surround the running of a successful business – particularly when there’s a global pandemic pulling the rug from under everyone’s feet – get in the way of sensible, objective evaluation and strategic decision-making. Crucially, that can mean that really important opportunities to grow and develop go at best un-exploited and at worst, un-noticed.

This is where the role of Chief Financial Officer becomes so vital. And where the specific advantages of joining forces with a part time (and often virtual) CFO are brought sharply into focus.

 

Allow yourself to dream…

What does your CFO do for you as the owner of an SME? Hopefully, they’ll make sure that everyone gets paid the right amount at the right time; sort out your internal reporting, compliance and tax planning, and probably run your relationship with your bank.

While that (along with a few other bits and pieces) is probably enough to keep a business ticking over, it’s not a reasonable platform on which to base a sound growth strategy.

Of course, things look even worse if you don’t have a CFO on your team. Whatever your business and whatever your own specific talent, it’s almost certain that you didn’t get into business to spend your life doing cashflow projections or dealing with taxes! No dreaming for you – you’re more likely to be waking up at 3 am in cold sweats.

 

A CFO Center CFO can help make your dreams come true

When you started your company, you almost certainly allowed yourself to dream – every successful business operator needs ambition. But as we’ve seen, all too often those aspirations become bogged down in the everyday grind of keeping a business afloat.

The CFO Center team provides CFO expertise of a very high caliber – the top 1% of talent in the marketplace. These are people who know their stuff – the operational finance stuff, which keeps the wheels in motion and the strategic finance stuff, which brings the dream to life.

In many cases they’re able to draw on their own business success to guide others.

A CFO Center CFO will help decode the dream and turn it into a plan and be the one to hold you to account to make it happen. He or she will bring forward the target by showing you how to come at it from a different angle. Great CFOs are catalysts and can help you break the pattern of linear growth and get you what you really want on an expedited timetable. And that’s essential if the dream is still to come true.

 

The CFO Center ‘Entrepreneur Journey’: our ‘secret sauce’

All CFO Center CFOs operate within an environment that provides comprehensive support and expertise. The CFO Center has a global network – a Collective Intelligence Engine – of more than 700 individuals, each of whom has achieved success as a CFO and often as an MD or CEO, themselves. What’s more, they are uniquely able to access and deploy the limitless potential locked up in your business model. And they talk to each other, share expertise, experiences, and contacts.

In brief, a CFO Center CFO will guide the entrepreneur on a three-stage journey to achieve clarity about what it is they really want from their business. To take them from where they are now, to where they want to be.

And to be clear: ‘where they want to be’ is an individual choice for the business owner. It might involve scaling up significantly; it could mean launching new products in new markets around the world; perhaps it means ratcheting up your multiple as you prepare for exit. Whatever form it takes, it’s invariably about making that dream a reality by refashioning the plan and making sure it actually happens.

Stage One on the journey covers the process of achieving operational excellence. In other words enabling an organisation to do what it does best, to the best extent possible.

Stage Two, strategic opportunity, involves preparing the springboard. This is where the strategy to achieve those dreams is forged. Perhaps it’s a question of entering new markets; evaluating risk, raising new funds. Whatever the strategy, it’s based on sound experience and, yes, that ‘secret sauce’ that blends the logic with a little magic and know how.

Stage Three, game-changing performance is, simply, what happens when stages one and two are complete.

The dream is achieved by developing a concise roadmap based on what the business owner wants to achieve. The role of the CFO Center CFO is to identify and unlock that potential – thus freeing the dream and making it a reality.

 

Fly like a bird

Of course, this is not to suggest that success comes easily. Business challenges are usually complicated and risky. That’s another reason why potential isn’t always realised; why many business owners end up working late nights on mundane tasks.

So, one of the first conversations a CFO Center CFO will have with a client is to understand what it is that motivates them to be in business, and what they want to achieve from it. What really matters to them. There are numbers, many numbers, in the life of a CFO, but it’s identifying and understanding the numbers that really matter in the client’s life that is crucial.

A CFO Center CFO aims to unlock that potential and give wings to the dream.

 

 

How a part-time CFO can help you to resolve your cash flow problems 3

How a part-time CFO can help you to resolve your cash flow problems

The CFO Center will provide you with a highly experienced senior CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. This means you will have:

  • One of USA’s leading CFOs working with you on a part-time basis
  • A local support team of the highest caliber CFOs
  • A national and international collaborative team of the top CFOs sharing best practice
  • Access to our national and international network of clients and partners

With all that support and expertise at your fingertips, you will achieve better results, faster. It means you’ll have more confidence and clarity when it comes to decision- making. After all, you’ll have access to expert help and advice whenever you need it.

In particular, your part-time CFO will assess your company’s cash flow position and take the following steps:

Identify all the immediate threats to your business

A part-time CFO will look for all those things that could plunge your company into serious financial trouble if they’re not addressed immediately.

These could be factors such as the payment of wages or salaries, the payment of taxes or the payment on a due date for vital goods, etc.

Address those imminent threats

Your CFO will look for ways you can meet your most pressing financial requirements and buy the company more time. This might involve:

  • Chasing late-paying customers. To encourage those customers to pay, consider offering a discount for immediate payment or asking them to pay immediately by credit card.
  • With invoice discounting and factoring, you’ll receive up to 85% of the value of the outstanding invoice, sometimes within 24 hours. You’ll receive the remaining 15% minus a fee once your customer has paid the outstanding invoice.  An invoice discounting service can be confidential so that your customer will be unaware of the financier’s involvement. Factoring companies, however, undertake a full collection service (including sending out statements, making reminder calls and collecting payment), so your customers will be aware that you’re using their services.
  • Arranging short-term loans or operating line of credit with your bank.
  • Considering other funding sources besides banks and other lending institutions such as self-finance, or loans from family and friends, partners, investors and alternative finance like peer–to–peer lending.
  • Asking for better terms from creditors. You may find they’re open to extending your repayment schedule.
  • Identifying and addressing the underlying problem.
  • Assess the business to identify the cause of the cash flow problems. Address those issues to avoid a similar situation occurring again.

Prevent cash flow problems from recurring

As well as identifying and resolving the imminent threats to your business, your CFO will review all inflows and outflows of cash to determine where improvements and savings can be made. This is likely to involve:

  • Working out your break-even sales figure (the number of sales required to cover total expenses without making a net profit).
  • This will mean reviewing your sales figures for the past six months to check that you exceeded that breakeven point. It’s then possible to calculate how much you’re likely to make in sales for the next two months. If you’re unlikely to break even, you’ll need to plan how to increase sales and reduce costs.
  • Looking for ways to increase your profit margins such as raising prices. You can do this without losing valuable customers by offering packages or bundles of goods or services.
  • Reducing your salary or personal draws from the business until your revenue improves.
  • Cutting costs. The beauty of cost-cutting is that it can be done in hours or days, unlike revenue-boosting measures which take longer to implement and to take effect. Such cost-cutting measures might include doing any of the following:
    • Stopping work on non-critical capital projects.
    • Reviewing your inventory and selling off obsolete, damaged, or discontinued products.
    • Eliminating slow-moving products or less popular services from your line since selling unprofitable goods or services is likely to send you out of business faster.
    • Negotiating price discounts for volume purchases from your suppliers.
    • Consider downsizing. Bigger is not better if your company is always struggling to stay afloat. If your profit margins are consistently small, reassess your business goals. Rather than expansion, focus instead on profit.
    • Ditching products or services with the lowest profit margins. This change of focus may mean you can also reduce the size of your borrowings, staff, advertising, and marketing campaigns, premises, etc.
    • Reducing labor costs (without triggering a drop in productivity). Any cost-cutting measure that triggers a drop in staff morale will have negative consequences for productivity. Your CFO may advise you to defer salary increases and bonuses or to cut salaries from the top-down. You might also consider introducing a temporary freeze on overtime. Other measures might include lowering the number of employees through attrition or redundancies.
  • Speeding up the sales process. Your CFO will encourage you to accelerate the speed with which your customers’ purchase orders are converted into cash. In particular, you’ll be asked to consider what steps in the sales process can be combined or eliminated. For example, asking for payment at the time of the order, accepting credit card payments, or offering automatic account debiting.
  • Lowering miscellaneous expenses. You’ll be encouraged to find ways to make small savings on things like insurance policies, office rent, bank service charges, utilities, etc. Lots of small savings across the board can have a significant impact.
  • Refinancing your debt obligations. Your CFO might suggest approaching your lenders to see if you can lower your monthly payments on your term debt obligations by taking the remaining principal amount and spreading it out over a longer period.
  • Analyzing if you can outsource jobs or services. You’ll be asked to look at your operations to determine if any of your activities, services, or functions could be provided at less cost by an outside company or contractor.
  • Holding a sale of surplus or slow-moving inventory.
  • Approaching suppliers to negotiate better deals.
  • Asking your suppliers to take back excess inventory.
  • Selling off your underused assets and renting the equipment instead.¹

With all that support and expertise at your fingertips, you will achieve better results, faster.  It means you’ll have more confidence and clarity when it comes to decision-making.

Improving credit control.

Your CFO will help you to get tighter controls over your credit. That will mean:

  • Getting written agreement to your credit terms before taking on new clients.
  • Many businesses are not clear about credit terms with their clients and often simply set out conditions on the face of the invoice, but that’s too late in the process. Instead, you should always ensure that an authorized representative of your customer has agreed to your credit terms in writing before you agree to supply products or services.
  • Carrying out credit checks on all new customers, no matter how large or influential they may appear.
  • Invoicing at the time of a sale or close to it. Instead of waiting for the month’s end to issue invoices do it daily or weekly.
  • Making sure your sales invoices are accurate. Unfortunately, some customers will use any excuse for not paying invoices on time and any inaccuracies (such as an incorrect address or date or no purchase order number) could be enough for them to justify delaying payment.
  • Treating the collection of monies owed as a high priority. If you haven’t already done so, set up a computerized system to provide notification of late payments.
  • Setting up an invoice dispute resolution process. It’s important that your company records any documentation related to invoice-related disputes. You should also keep a record of those customers who challenge their invoices or raise questions so it’s possible to see if any do this regularly as a way of avoiding settling their accounts.²

Investigate the use of regular cash flow forecasts

Your CFO will encourage you to use regular cash flow forecasts so you know how much cash is going to be needed in the coming months. It means you’ll know in advance if you’re likely to face a cash shortfall and can make arrangements for extra borrowing, or take other appropriate action.

It will also make it easier for you and your senior team to make decisions such as whether or not to:

  • Hire more staff
  • Change your prices
  • Move premises
  • Tender for a large contract
  • Find new suppliers.

You’ll be able to see at a glance the impact such decisions might have on your cash flow.

Cash flow forecasts can also highlight potential problems so that you have time to take action to avoid them.

Conclusion

Your cash flow keeps your business alive. Having control of your company’s cash flow which allows you to operate within your means, and move away from a ‘feast and famine’ situation is usually a huge relief to everyone within the business.

It means that decisions can be made and checked against the cash flow forecast to determine whether they are viable. This increased visibility can be introduced quickly and can have a hugely positive impact on the whole business.

It also means that reserves can be built up gradually to give the business a cushion and alleviate the stress of not knowing what lies around the next corner.

Having the right cash flow management processes in place and being able to spot peaks and troughs in trading to improve cash flow is one of the most critical components of any finance function.

Put an end to your cash flow problems now by calling The CFO Center today.

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

_____________________

1 ‘How to manage a cash crisis’, NAB (National Australia Bank) Ltd., 2011

2 ‘Top Tips for Enhancing Your Invoicing Process – and Avoiding Problems with Your Business Cashflow’, Finlay, Mitch, Talk Business magazine, www.talkbusiness.co.uk, Jan 2015

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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