Category Archives: business continuity

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek”

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek” 

A Successful Pitch is the Result of a Good Story 

Recently, I have been watching the Schitt’s Creek series on Netflix … for the second time, and enjoying it even more this time around. When I watched it the first time, I found myself getting irritated. But several Schitt’s Creek fans I knew encouraged me to stick it out, and I am so glad I did. What I learned watching the entire series twice is that each character surprises you from many different dimensions throughout the six seasons, representing numerous similarities to the world of pitching investors.   

The story centers around an ultra-wealthy family that loses everything. The first episode shows the authorities taking all of their possessions, forcing the family to move out of their large estate. They soon learn that they can retain a small town they purchased as a joke years earlier. So, they get on a bus with their suitcases and head to their new life. They are immediately immersed into a stark contrast from the luxurious lifestyle to which they had been accustomed. Yet, despite the lack of luxury, their experiences in this small town teach them many lessons they never would have learned before about life and business, including how to pitch to investors. You can see why my interest was piqued! In fact, I was so interested in the story that I watched an interview with the two creators. 

One of the creators insisted on developing the backstory of each character for hours prior to starting the script, while the other got increasingly frustrated with the time and energy “wasted” on backstories when they had an entire script to write. However, he soon realized that the investment of time in creating those backstories was one of the primary reasons for the success of the series.   

The parallelism to pitching to investors was uncanny. An essential element of a successful pitch to investors is having a compelling backstory. It is far beyond the “script,” or in this case, pitch deck. Working on the story behind the company so that it is authentic and backed by sustainable facts is the key to reaching investors. And connecting with them authentically through your story, coupled with ensuring you are the right fit for their investment criteria, will ultimately secure the investment!  Success! 

I recently became an investor in the Seattle Angel Group and immensely enjoy the education the group provides for both investors and companies preparing for pitch competitions. Bob Crimmins, a repeat successful entrepreneur, was one of those educators, and he was fascinating. He called successful stories “Cogent Stories,” as they are believable and can help an investor understand how they are going to invest their dollars now and receive a significant return three to five years later. As I watched Schitt’s Creek, I thought a lot about Bob and the impact of “Cogent Stories.” Apparently, they work for more than investor pitches. They are also what is behind a hugely successful series. 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming! (Spoiler alert here – if you have not watched the entire series you may not want to read further, but schedule a chat with me (link to my calendar) to discuss your backstory and pitch deck.). 

In the show, Johnny Rose (the family patriarch), Stevie (the hotel clerk), and Roland (the mayor of Schitt’s Creek) are business partners and pitch investors, achieving success at the end of the series. There are many circumstances that bring these individuals together, and their collective growth leads to the overall success of the pitch. 

Johnny Rose had been a successful businessman and made a lot of money with his business “Rose Video.” The events that led to the loss of his fortune were based only on his business partner’s actions. The business itself was successful. While Johnny’s story is fictional, similar stories happen every single day in the “real world.” What happened to Johnny could happen to anyone if they are not paying attention to governance, controls, and  financials.  Yet, the loss of Johnny’s fortune was itself a growth experience. 

Stevie was working the front desk at the hotel in Schitt’s Creek, feeling like she was a failure.  In an effort to “get her life together,” she decides to branch out and interview for a professional position with an airline. After she secures the position, she learns it is not for her after all.  This experience actually creates a huge appreciation for who she is, her talents, and her previous role. Similarly, for the C-Suite to be successful, confidence and self-identification for the position must exude when the investors begin their due diligence.  

Roland is the mayor of Schitt’s Creek, which is a position filled with pride, in part, because it was bestowed upon him through birth rite.  Roland struggled with who he was, and there were many times that his self-discovery process irritated Johnny and Stevie. But despite all of those irritations, he showed he was trustworthy and loyal to them in many ways as their relationship grew.   

Through trial and error, often hysterical ups and downs, these three professionals began to trust each other. They respected the talent and contribution they each brought to the team. Johnny knew that Roland would always have his back, and vice versa. One of my favorite episodes is when Johnny and his wife, Moira, are celebrating their wedding anniversary, and they run into some of their old “rich” friends, along with their new friend, Roland. The encounter is a life lesson in itself. Johnny and Moira attempt to fit in like they used to, but soon get irritated and offended when their old friends begin to talk negatively about Schitt’s Creek. Johnny, standing up for Roland, who is even more offended, mentioned that while their so-called friends never reached out once after they lost everything, Roland and Schitt’s Creek welcomed them with open arms.  

This episode reminded me of the loyalty, communication, and respect needed among team members working toward pitching to investors. Working as a team to strategize and execute a fast-paced growth company takes perseverance, intellect, the ability to deal with ambiguity, and many other attributes that can only be achieved when there is open communication among team members who trust each other.  At the end of the day, it must roll up into an authentic story about who these people are because that’s what investors are investing in … the people behind the company.  

When you are preparing to pitch to investors, the best thing you can do is work on your “Cogent Story.” Take the time to create all aspects of your strategy prior to the pitch, similar to how the creators worked tirelessly on creating the backstories of their characters on Schitt’s Creek.  Your story will be more authentic, your confidence will increase, your team will be stronger, and your chances of success will increase exponentially. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in developing their backstories and preparing pitch decks. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need. 

Non-Profit Mergers: It’s Time to Close. Now What?

Non-Profit Mergers: It’s Time to Close. Now What? 
Beyond Planning & Due Diligence 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last month, we talked about the initial considerations of a non-profit merger, as well as the critical due diligence phase. After finding unity of purpose, reflecting on the relevant issues and deciding that a merger aligns with your goals and mission, you engaged in an extensive due diligence process, examining all legal, financial, logistical, and human resource documents and processes. At the conclusion of due diligence, the board of directors of each organization developed and approved a Plan of Merger consistent with applicable state laws. At long last, after months of preparation, meetings, discovery, approvals, and planning, the time arrives for merger implementation. Essentially, it is finally time to close the deal. However, this is only the beginning of the end

As with the previous phases, planning and organization are crucial for a successful implementation. While it would be nice if we could sign on the dotted line and all issues magically resolve, we know that is not the case (it never is!). This process, like the others, will take time, patience, and an in-depth understanding of the logistical steps that must be achieved to effectuate the merging of two different organizations. The following checklist can be used as a guide through the final steps of the merger. 

1. Appoint a Merger Transition Team. This group of three to six individuals will spearhead each logistical step of the merger. They will assign tasks, set timelines, and keep the merger moving forward at a reasonable pace for the new nonprofit. 

2. File Appropriate Documents with the State. Each state has its own requirements for filing with regard to non-profit mergers. All documents should be filed with the state of organization/incorporation, following those particular guidelines and requirements. Note that although the merger is legally completed once the state accepts the documents as filed, many more steps must be taken for actual completion.  

3. Develop Integration Plan. Due diligence should have previously identified duplicative positions, departments, and resources. This plan will identify what is being removed and what is surviving in the new organization. The plan should also identify any issues in the short-term due to the merger and provide for analysis at one month, three months, six months, and twelve months.  

4. New Board of Directors Established. The new board generally consists of previous board members from each of the non-profits prior to merger, but can be entirely new. They should establish their new meeting schedule and implement new by-laws as soon as possible. 

5. Schedule Employee and Volunteer Training. How will the new departments, responsibilities, and tasks differ from the previous ones? What do employees and volunteers need to know about the mission, vision, and day-to-day operations to effectively perform their duties? 

6. Determine Human Resource Needs. Establish a new payroll system, health benefits, vacation and sick pay, and hiring and termination protocols. 

7. Finalize any Facilities Management Issues, Vendor Contracts, and Insurance Coverage. What contracts need to be rewritten in the new organization’s name? How will insurance coverage transfer without lapsing? 

8. Develop Communication Plan. This plan should involve internal and external communications and ensure consistent messaging throughout. This may include the launching of new branding, the name and logo, and a marketing campaign. The new website and social media accounts must also be established and maintained. 

9. Finalize Financial Transactions. Transfer assets, close and open accounts, as needed, and integrate accounting systems. 

10. Implement Technology Solutions. How will technology, phone systems, and databases be integrated? What is still required? What can be eliminated? 

While the entire process can take between twelve and eighteen months, depending on the size of the organization, this Closing Checklist enables the Merger Transition Team to keep the merger on track, heading toward a successful completion.  

Need more assistance? Barker Associates has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations as they implement and finalize mergers. If you are considering this strategy, use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for a free 30-minute consultation. 

Top Five Tips to Help Choose the Right ERP System

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last week, we talked about the strategic planning of an ERP system implementation, with factors to consider in both the planning and implementation phases. This week, we pivot to how to choose the right system for your organization. 

The decision has been made. You and your key stakeholders are ready to automate and streamline the workflow and day-to-day tasks. You’re more than ready to increase efficiency and productivity with one resource for data centralization, workflow management, and tracking. You’re moving forward, but quickly become overwhelmed, not with the process of implementation itself, but with the vast variety of ERP system options available.  

Taking the time to ensure there is a good fit is crucial for success. In fact, implementation failures often occur where there was never the right fit from the start. However, this should not discourage you from pursuing a transformational strategy that will provide a competitive edge.  

The following are the top five tips that will help eliminate the confusion and move the process along to help you choose the best system for your organization. 

1. Thorough Process Review and Analysis. Prior to looking at any system, you should determine your current needs, as well as those needs that are likely to arise in the foreseeable future. Start by documenting your current processes, strengths, and weaknesses. Ask yourself the following: 

  • What is working?  
  • What is not working?  
  • Where are the gaps in the current system and processes?  
  • What should the system look like now?  
  • What should it look like going forward? 
  • Do I actually need a new system?  
  • What problem am I trying to solve? 
  • What functions are “must needs,” and which would just be a bonus? 

After you answer those questions, create a document that shows the core objectives, needs, and gaps; what essential functions, solutions, and automation capabilities a new system should provide; the budget; timeline; and a list of key stakeholders. This document should present a clear picture of the criteria you require in an ERP system. 

2. Determine Budget and Research Costs. You’ve determined your needs, but now you need to know what budget you have and the related costs of the various systems. An ERP system implementation is time-consuming and a large investment, so you want to ensure you are comfortable with your budget, as well as all of the associated costs up front. As you research ERP systems, you should have a good understanding of all the costs involved – not just for implementation, but long term. You may want to consider: What are the licensing fees? Are there costs for training? Are there support, maintenance, and upgrade fees? It is up to you to discover any “hidden costs.”  

3. Review of Current Infrastructure. Before proceeding, you want to have a clear understanding of your current information technology infrastructure. An ERP system is software, and you don’t want to start down a road with a possible solution only to find out later that it does not align with your current technology. This is a large enough undertaking of resources. You do not want to have to worry about investing in a new technology system as well. Involve your IT department from the beginning to confirm that the new system will be compatible.  

4. Evaluate Systems. Narrow your requirements and criteria to the five or ten that are priorities. What exactly are you looking for? Use a chart or Excel spreadsheet to list out each and to keep all of the details organized. Then research systems via Google, social media, reviews, and recommendations. Verify all claims made through independent research and 3rd party reviews, and consider all options to start. It is not prudent to choose one because you’ve heard the name before or because it is what competitors are using. Instead, ensure it will meet the needs you identified in your process analysis. 

As you analyze your potential new partner, you may want to make the

following inquiries:  

  • How many implementations have you performed? Any in our industry? 
  • Who will be responsible for different parts of the implementation? What experience do they have? Will you use a third-party for any phases? What is required from my team? 
  • Is there a guarantee or warranty? 
  • Are training and support offered? 
  • Is it customizable? Mobile friendly? 
  • Is there cloud storage? If so, what are the data limits? 

As you gather information about each system, plug it into your criteria chart, so you can easily compare the systems, their functionalities, and their solutions. Additionally, check on the system’s scalability. This is a long-term investment. You don’t want to outgrow it in the foreseeable future. 

5. Meet with Stakeholders to Make a Decision. Having everyone’s buy-in on the system that is ultimately chosen is critical to its long-term success. Management teams should be involved – anyone who will be impacted during or after the process. You will need their support during planning and implementation. Choose the one that offers as much of the functionality your organization requires as possible, and don’t be swayed by extra features that you don’t need. Finally, look for longevity and a proven track record with other organizations similar to yours.  

Remember no one system will be a 100% perfect match for all of your needs or requirements, but it should be an overwhelmingly good fit for your organization. Barker Associates has extensive experience with ERP system implementation plans, assisting organizations achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute ERP consultation.

ERP System Implementation

ERP System Implementation 
Importing a Phased Plan, Exporting Complexity

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Transitioning to updated, automated systems that support growth and infrastructure is crucial to the long-term success of an organization. As part of this transition, the value of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system cannot be underestimated. Despite some challenges due to the complexity of automating several functions at once, implementation increases both productivity and efficiency. Through the integration of various functions, including financial reporting, human resources, and sales, the organization inevitably performs at a higher level.    

While the entire process may seem complex, as with most transitions, proper planning has a direct correlation to its successful conclusion. We often recommend to start not at the beginning, but at the end. In other words, what is the desired outcome? Knowing where you are going sets the tone for how you are going to get there. Examining what processes can be automated, the investment of resources (including time) needed for implementation, assignment of roles, including who can assume the project manager role, and the restraint on resources in the day-to-day demands being met simultaneously with implementation demands are just a few of the initial considerations. 

Once buy-in and support of company executives are achieved, the more complex process of implementation and execution can begin. A phased plan that clearly defines the requirements, objectives, and steps is crucial for a company’s successful navigation of an ERP system implementation. Best practices mandate that the plan be divided into two primary phases: Initial Planning and Implementation. 

Initial Planning Steps 

  • Review the current data structure and system to identify gaps. Rank the gaps in order of importance so you can determine what you need in the new system. 
  • Make a list of all the functions that are in the current system that are critical to the operation’s success.  Make sure those functions will be in the new system. 
  • Gather information about the organization, the day-to-day management of financial reporting, and any limitations of the existing reporting structure. 
  • Prepare a list of all reporting needs to ensure the proposed structure meets the requirements.  
  • Provide all information to make a decision and assist the organization with compliance. This review and analysis should cover the general ledger, development, and day-to-day operations. 
  • Review the process necessary to retrieve the data from day-to-day operations to make certain there is minimal (or no) double entry of data. 
  • Determine how all historical data will be kept and maintained once the current systems contracts are terminated.  
  • Determine the amount of time the products will remain live during the integration process.   
  • Determine the extent of historical information (timeframe and detail) to bring into the new software. 
  • Present the structure, outputs/reports, and plans for implementation to Executive Management to receive approval prior to moving forward with implementation. 

Implementation Steps 

  • Map all current general ledger accounts to the proposed structure, making sure each detail transaction has a location in the new set-up. This mapping is tedious and critical for the success of the new system.  It should be carefully prepared and reviewed. 
  • Document all newly created processes for the new system, carefully reviewing each to ensure proper controls are maintained and no essential functions are excluded from the new system set-up. 
  • Export data from the current systems to preserve detail historical data that may be required for research after conversion.  
  • Export data from the current system and, using the mapping created, move it into the new system.   
  • Do this month-to-month, and run basic reports to review against the current system information. This review will result in some changes to the set-up. Make these changes in coordination with Executive Review and approval. 
  • Ensure consistent and clear communication has been provided throughout the organization, and that key stakeholders will be able to obtain the information they need to do their jobs. 
  • Perform extensive testing in compliance with professional standards. 
  • Train staff who will be working with the new system. 
  • Make sure data is reconciled between all systems. For example, sales agrees with the sales and customer systems, contributions in a non-profit agree with the development data, and accounts payable agrees with the subledger. 

Following these phases and steps will help to ensure not only a smooth transition, but a successful process overall. Barker Associates has extensive experience with ERP system implementation plans, assisting organizations achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute audit consultation. 

You Have Unity of Purpose, but What about Unity of Numbers?

You Have Unity of Purpose, but What about Unity of Numbers? 
The Importance of Financial Due Diligence in Non-Profit Mergers 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last week, we talked about the initial considerations of a non-profit merger. Once you’ve reflected on the relevant issues and made the decision that a merger aligns with your goals, donors, board members, and mission, it is time for the next phase of the process – engaging in due diligence.  

In the scenario of a non-profit merger, due diligence has three primary functions: 

1. Minimizing the risks associated with joining two separate organizations to further a common mission; 

2. Providing clear insights into each organization’s interests; and 

3. Improving the timeframe of the merger by reviewing the relevant documentation and processes, and identifying any challenges sooner rather than later.  

Due diligence is conducted by thoroughly inspecting all aspects of the organization with which you plan to merge your own non-profit. The entire due diligence process consists of numerous categorical reviews, including legal, contractual, employment, operational, financial, tax, real property, physical property, intellectual property, and human resources, among others. However, for our purposes, we will focus only on financial due diligence. 

Financial due diligence provides an opportunity to analyze potential savings with regard to the overhead of the combined organizations.  With this full and complete knowledge, the approving Board Members will have the ability to examine the overall benefits of the merger. 

The Financial Audit Checklist 

Before you can merge with another non-profit, you must possess a clear understanding not only of its current financial status, but also of its financial history. You must have the ability to answer questions such as: What resources will be available moving forward? And what obligations will remain? 

Financial due diligence will include a review of the following: 

  • Audited Financial Statements for at least three years 
  • Annual Budgets, Projections, and Strategic Plans for at least three years 
  • Debt and any Contingent Liabilities 
  • Grant level financial results 
  • Accounts Receivable 
  • Accounts Payable 
  • Fixed and Variable Expenses for at least three years 
  • Depreciation/Amortization Schedules and Methods for at least three years 
  • Outstanding Liens 
  • Accounting Methods and Strategies 
  • Any Investment Policies 
  • Account Standings 
  • Employee listing with position and annual salary 
  • Organization Chart 
  • Detail list of larger donors 

While non-disclosure agreements must be executed prior to any due diligence occurring, many organizations have valid confidentiality concerns as they relate to financial reviews of internal documents. As one possible solution, some organizations choose to move forward in a phased approach. In doing so, they leave the disclosure of the most sensitive data and documents to the end of the process.  

While each situation will be different, and financial due diligence may vary slightly, it is essential to build a foundation for success. Not only are you protecting the non-profit itself, but also the individual board members and donors involved. Each non-profit should conduct its own independent due diligence, as well as joint due diligence to maximize information and minimize risks. By taking both a historical approach and a forward-looking approach, you will gain an incredible amount of knowledge. And with more knowledge, comes the empowerment to make the best decision for your non-profit. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations as they prepare for, and go through, a merger. If you are considering this strategy, use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for a free 30-minute consultation.

It May be Time for Non-Profits to Consider a Merger

It May be Time for Non-Profits to Consider a Merger  
A Possible Solution During Impossible Times  

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

The profound effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come in all aspects of our lives and businesses. However, non-profit organizations have faced, and will continue to face, their own set of unique challenges. Overall closures, increasing unemployment, a lack of feasible projects, and the cancellation of fundraising events have combined to result in sizeable shortfalls with regard to funding. 

To navigate through these trying times and ensure success moving forward, non-profits need effective solutions. One possible solution they may consider in 2021 is a merger with another non-profit. And the time to consider this course of action is now – prior to it being needed. Too often, there is an inclination to only consider mergers reactively because, for example, the organization needs financial help. However, the best time to consider it is proactively, as an effective growth strategy. When considered proactively, the advantages and disadvantages can be examined on a more rational, analytical basis instead of an emotional, biased one. 

As with any transition, challenges will be present. Questions to explore may include: 

  • Do you have enough knowledge about mergers and the due diligence required to effectuate one?  
  • Is there enough funding for the process?  
  • Do you know a facilitator to help explore merger options?  
  • Does either non-profit have government contracts in their name for a specified amount of time? 
  • Do you have too much of a personal connection to the non-profit mission and vision to examine the option clearly? 
  • Do you perceive a merger being a failure? 
  • Are you concerned about losing employees? Or the organization’s culture? 

There is no doubt that these are valid questions and considerations that must be examined. Yet, they should not undermine the significant advantages of mergers for both organizations involved, including: 

  • Increased resources – Instead of purchasing new equipment, leasing new space, or hiring new employees, a non-profit can gain all the resources needed through a merger. 
  • Decreased expenses – Each organization has its own expenses, many of which will be duplicative. Once merged, those expenses will decrease. 
  • The ability of each to meet the needs of the other – Each organization has its own strengths that will often compensate for the other’s weaknesses. 
  • Effective growth strategy – Combined resources coupled with decreased expenses will result in an increased probability of growth. 
  • Furthering mission – Oftentimes, with a merger, the reach of the non-profit will expand due to the increased resources, enabling its mission to have a more significant effect. 
  • Better positioned to achieve goals – With more resources and further reach, the organization will have the ability to focus on, and work toward, reaching its goals.  
  • Greater probability of long-term sustainability – With a more effective growth strategy, there will be a higher chance of long-term sustainability and success.

After thoroughly examining the challenges and the advantages of a merger, the following questions should be considered:  

1. Can you look at a similar organization as a resource, and not as competition?  

2. Can you determine the ways in which you are similar and the ways in which you are different? 

3. Can you envision what working together would look like? 

4. Could combining resources, leadership, and operations work in both your favors? 

5. Which name should survive (considering government contracts, if applicable)? 

6. Are you prepared for extensive due diligence? 

Mergers are viable solutions for non-profits, whether due to funding needs or the desire for an effective growth strategy. In either case, through a merger, the strengths of each can be leveraged for a common goal. Over the next several weeks, we will explore a variety of topics related to non-profit mergers, including due diligence, closing items, and integration considerations.  

Barker Associates has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations as they prepare for, and go through, a merger. If you are considering this strategy, use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for a free 30-minute consultation.

At the Intersection of Financial Infrastructure and a Global Pandemic

How a Pre-Pandemic Shift Left Companies Vulnerable 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

At the Intersection of Financial Infrastructure and a Global Pandemic

How a Pre-Pandemic Shift Left Companies Vulnerable

Pre-pandemic (do we even remember that time?), the investment world had experienced a huge shift. Unfortunately, this shift did not help prepare companies or investors for what was to come. Priorities had shifted from a company’s sustainability and infrastructure to avenues of increasing revenue as quickly as possible. However, sustainability and infrastructure were exactly what was needed most during a global pandemic.    

What Supply and Demand? 

Everything we had learned in our earliest economics classes about supply and demand seemed to be irrelevant. I remember those classes –training my brain to think of opposites – supply goes up, demand goes down, and vice versa. However, that concept no longer applied to venture capital and private equity firms. The number of firms that were chasing deals with buckets of money created a huge supply of investor dollars. But the number of successful high–growth companies to invest those dollars did not increase at the same pace.   

The result? Investment firms began expanding their reach. They started to invest not only in the usual entrepreneurial high-growth companies, but also in companies that would have typically received funds through stock sales in the public markets or through traditional bank financing. These companies needed to move into the investment firm world to fill the gap that had resulted in too much money and not enough companies. Additionally, investment firms began relaxing the guidelines associated with the due diligence process. 

These changes forced a decline in the regulatory compliance surrounding the movement of investment dollars, financial audits, and other financial items. With the focus almost exclusively on top–line revenue growth, there just didn’t seem to be a need for them. Further, companies with contracts that brought in recurring revenue were trading in the investment world based on multiples of revenue (some as high as ten times what their revenue was currently).   

A Lack of Infrastructure Meets a Global Pandemic 

Enter COVID-19. With so much time and attention previously focused on quick revenue generation, many companies lost the infrastructure to produce the quality financial data and reports needed to make informed decisions for ensuring sustainability. However, infrastructure and sustainability were what was needed to survive the pandemic. 

When the pandemic hit, every stakeholder (board members, investors, CEOs) immediately shifted their focus to cash flow analysis and sustainability. Chief Financial Officers have all noted that their interaction with other managers, officers, directors, and investors increased literally overnight. While no one could have predicted the full cash impact of the pandemic; in particular, the need for short-term cash flow, they could have been better equipped. The companies best prepared to analyze the situation were the ones that had the appropriate level of infrastructure prior to the pandemic. The stakeholders wanted to know if the entity would survive. While most had the ability to enter ‘survival mode,’ one has little to do with the other. Survival mode is simply not sustainable for any extended period … in any situation. 

Next Steps 

The pandemic taught us once again that knowledge is power. Infrastructure is crucial when analyzing different scenarios to make decisions quickly. Chief Financial Officers should take advantage of the temporary dynamic brought on by the pandemic. Using this time to get the right type of infrastructure in place will help prepare them to make critical decisions at any moment. 

There are many companies that were forced to make difficult decisions to lay off employees, not renew leases, discontinue software development, or even close their doors for good. Unfortunately, most had to make these decisions without the confidence that they possessed all of the information. Full knowledge is mandatory for a sustainable future and for the success of any company overall. 

By leading from a position of knowledge, which comes from having the right infrastructure, companies will have an edge over others whose directors or CFOs are blindly making decisions. What does that type of infrastructure mean? We’ve talked about it before – most recently in Oh No Not Again – but essentially it means having an Enterprise Resource Plan, CRM, General Ledger, Cash, HR System, and Payments. A clear vision and financial roadmap on how to achieve that vision, along with cash and a strong general ledger, are the foundation of an essential infrastructure. 

Choosing Gratitude

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

While this year has given us challenges beyond what any of us could have imagined, I choose to be thankful for all the experiences I have had and lessons I have learned in 2020. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to have gratitude above all else.  

Early this year, if someone had told me I would be okay with certain things, I would have said, “No, not me. I just can’t live like that!” Admittedly, there were many ‘I can’ts.’ 

I can’t: 

  • Go months without hugging my Mom tightly 
  • Deal with my Dad’s inability to speak 
  • Work out consistently at home, rather than at a gym  
  • Use paper towels other than ‘Bounty’ 
  • Use toilet paper other than ‘Charmin’ 
  • Not going out to eat twice a week 
  • Work at home every single business day, without physically attending any networking events 
  • Clean my own house 
  • Have naked fingernails and toes 
  • Do a TV interview without the assistance of a makeup artist  

Despite all of my resistance though, I did each of these things in 2020, and learned so much about myself and my ability to cope in the process. I met some amazing new people, had some wonderful new experiences, and learned that I can, in fact, do all of those things and so much more. I would never have known this about myself if 2020 had not forced me to adapt. 

I learned to be a more well-rounded business professional. Pre-pandemic, I was a master at in-person networking. I gain a tremendous amount of energy from walking into a room of people, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones. I love shaking hands, hugs, and engaging in conversation. Like so many of us, I love the human connection. 

As we all know, COVID-19 ended our ability to make that human connection. The isolation of working at home and not enjoying experiences with others was tough. I was also committed to going to the gym and to the group with whom I work out, all having been dear friends for over twenty years. Losing that treasured time was also extremely difficult.  

Yet, I survived these losses and foreign experiences. I figured out how to network with Zoom calls, join virtual conferences, and then follow up with attendees. I made connections that not only filled my pipeline of work, but also broadened my perspective of events that were occurring all around the world. I was able to work more efficiently and in ways that would have been highly unlikely before the pandemic. For example, I was able to effectively service clients in London, New Orleans, Sarasota, and Jacksonville – all remotely. I was also offered the opportunity to be the opening speaker of the embarcLA Virtual Conference, organized by the Mayor of Los Angeles. This event was designed to help those with entrepreneurial aspirations who lost their jobs. It was so exciting to see inquisitive young minds asking the right questions and learning the intricate steps of turning big, bright ideas into productive, profitable businesses. 

I work out at home consistently and love using the homemade barbells that my husband made for me. I am so grateful to be able to continue to take care of myself, and, of course, grateful to him. 

I got back into my kitchen and spent some time reorganizing. Now, I love to cook, and although I still enjoy the ambiance of a restaurant, I do so with a more critical eye on the food prep.  

When quarantine first started, my Mom had just experienced a stroke and was in Rehab, while my Dad was in Assisted Living. They were apart and kept in their rooms for weeks during the first part of the shutdown. Given that both have dementia, this was very difficult to explain to them. Finally, they were reunited in Assisted Living, but, of course, I was unable to visit. They were locked in their room, but at least they were back together. The isolation caused a significant decline in my Dad’s health, and there have now been times where he does not even recognize me. We all lost so much as a family. But now that the restrictions have been loosened, I am able to visit them. And I choose to be grateful for that.  

I learned to be happy with the paper towels and toilet paper I had. It turns out, it is not that big of a deal to have the ‘right’ brand, after all. 

I reconnected with a number of my college buddies, and I now treasure the Zoom cocktail hours we had during lockdown. Purposefully checking in with others was different, and in many ways, more genuine and engaging than a typical networking event. 

This was also a time where the news was not always the easiest to understand or process. I have found a healthy way to get the news that I need to be informed. I am so glad that I am inclined to learn what all sides have to say on a specific subject, so that I can silence the noise and understand the true issues better. When I recently tried to explain to someone that I enjoy being friends with all, and hearing everyone’s perspective, the woman looked me straight in the face and said, “It must suck to be you.” I simply laughed and told her it did not. I have learned so much, treasure the diversity of thought I hear from all, and am grateful for that perspective. 

As this year, with all its challenges, comes to a close, I will continue to choose to be grateful for each of these extraordinary experiences and for all that I have learned through them. I am exceptionally grateful to my clients, referral partners, friends, and family, all of whom helped contribute to my journey. I am grateful for each one of you.  

My hope is that each person who reads this has a safe and Happy Thanksgiving, remembering that the exuberance of gratitude can far overshadow any fear and anxiety if we allow it to. Choose gratitude each and every day. Happy Thanksgiving! 

Dogs Will Lie, but the Numbers Will Not

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Are you wrapped around your pet’s little paw? We are, despite the fact that we recently learned they will lie to us.

Last night, I fed our Maltese and Bichon Frise their dinners and went about my evening activities. Later, my husband, Glenn, came into the kitchen and the little guys acted as if they had missed their dinner. Given the circumstances, he, of course, fed them again.

While our dogs may lie about whether they’ve eaten yet, some things never lie, such as the real data you need to run your business each day. And whether or not you intend to, it’s the same data you need to pitch to investors when seeking funding.

With the right infrastructure in place, you have answers at your fingertips, such as:

What is the seasonal fluctuation of my business so that I can prepare for the ups and downs?

What is the demographic profile of my customers so that I know where, when, and how to reach them?

What is the average cost, price, and profit of a sale? Am I losing money on my best sellers?

These questions and many more can be answered by having the right infrastructure in place and capturing the data as you conduct daily business.

What does the “right infrastructure” look like? The answer is different for each organization based on its size and complexity. At a minimum, an organization should have a list of existing and potential customers and a system to maintain communications with them. The optimal tool is an integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. An organization also needs to manage money and financial information to project cash flow for the next 12 weeks, have the correct information for tax compliance, and make the appropriate strategic decisions. This may mean you need a separate billing system and/or General Ledger. You also need to properly set up your General Ledger with the right coding segments to be able to report on profit and loss by product, location, customer, and department, among others.

If you feel that you are blindly making decisions about hiring, marketing, warehouse space, or any other issue, remember the numbers don’t lie. Let’s talk one-on-one in a free consultation to get you in the right direction. Check out these times on my calendar and choose the one that is best for you.

Stay Safe

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Stay Safe. People are closing emails with this entreaty, wishing it of friends and family at the end of a gathering. The caution is a new reality in our life.  

“Stay safe” has many different interpretations to each of us and it is difficult to lead a team and keep them “safe” with so many interpretations. We cannot, as leaders, let the fear factor impact our ability to lead. We must remember that we are working with humans and lead with empathy, while encouraging each person to work as part of the team to execute the strategic initiatives of the organization. The employment contract between a business and an employee is a financial one and the investment in salary dollars must create a result that supports the initiatives to drive the strategy. 

“The fear of failure can be one of the biggest impediments to making an impact,” said Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, California, noting that leaders don’t make excuses — they lead. (Bizjournals, 5 Leadership Lessons for Women, From Women, 9/25/2018) 

Let’s lead, not make excuses. To help with effective leadership during this time I’d like to share my reflections on the challenges we have faced. 

I’ve been thinking about the differences between this century’s big financial crises: September 11, the 2008 financial crisis and today’s financial crisis brought on by the pandemic.  

  1. 9/11 united this country, but the pandemic has hardened a divide that was already in progress in so many segments. This divide creates opportunity for risk within all businesses, as all businesses have employees with so many different views. 
  1. The economic up-tick before the pandemic was fueled by fast- paced growth in innovation and technology that was not always backed by the proper governance and accountability. 
  1. According to Bain & Company more money has cycled through the PE industry in the last five years than any other period in the history of PE. The number of firms chasing opportunities to invest created a tilted supply/demand dynamic that significantly lowered the bar on due diligence and investment. 

Why does all of this matter as we approach a post pandemic state and lockdown restrictions begin to loosen? Let’s analyze that. 

Controversy in the media means that your employees may be more inclined to share their feelings and reactions to current events, with their teammates. As their leader you cannot ignore the impact this can have on the work environment, even if it’s a virtual environment. Maintaining healthy, constructive conversations while still performing and measuring results of work performance could be difficult for some types of leaders. 

Financial leaders are generally not the best at managing the human factors of daily work life. Leaders must set priorities that have measurable results with employees, even if the employee is working from home or transitioning back to the office. Your goal is to create a team atmosphere with a sense of belonging and accountability for performance. You must stay mindful of your fiduciary responsibility to make sure the investment of salary dollars result in the desired outcomes. Be aware that the complexity of that is more difficult when distance and social issues divide the team. 

Leading from a position of knowledge comes from having the right information infrastructure in place to set and monitor goals and performance.  When you add leading your team so all feel they belong and are part of the solution development, you will have an edge over those companies that are blindly making decisions.   

Let’s set up time to talk about how to effectively set up your infrastructure to provide real time financial data so you can have all of the brain power of your team working on developing a solution rather than doing data input. Use this link to my calendar to pick your free 30-minute consultation with me. 

Stay Safe, 

Mindy