Category Archives: CEO

How to Avoid Driving Down the Interstate Blindfolded

How to Avoid Driving Down the Interstate Blindfolded 
Our Kick-Off to National Financial Literacy Month  

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

April is National Financial Literacy Month, and I personally cannot think of a better time to discuss the importance of understanding financials. You don’t have to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to have a healthy grasp on your numbers. In fact, I sincerely hope that many others do. Financial literacy is important whether it’s for yourself and your family, as the owner of a small business, as a non-profit director, or in any capacity where you have some control over money coming in and money going out. This month presents a timely opportunity to review and upgrade not only your financials, but equally as important, your financial knowledge. 

First, some history. National Financial Literacy Month had its beginnings over twenty years ago, and has since evolved into a month-long observance. The idea of dedicating a month to this topic has broad support – the House and Senate have issued joint resolutions in support of National Financial Literacy Month, and the U.S. Department of Education promotes its observance. 

What is Financial Literacy and How Does it Affect Business? 

According to Investopedia.com, “financial literacy” is the “ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing.” And unless the business you’ve started or are otherwise running is a financial services firm, accounting, budgets, and numbers may not be your strong suit. That’s okay – they’re not a lot of people’s favorite things either (we are a select few)!  

Yet, understanding your business’s finances, including cash flow, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and budgets, is essential to understanding the overall health of your business. In fact, according to a study by U.S. Bank, as reported in Business Insider, 82% of small businesses fail because of cash flow problems. That’s why every for-profit and non-profit organization owner, officer, and director should prioritize financial literacy in their continuing education. And it’s also why we’re going to help you do just that. 

For the next few weeks, we are going to observe National Financial Literacy Month in the best way we know how. You can expect our own version of financial tutorials right here in our blog. We will talk about everything from the terms you need to know to common misconceptions to why it’s so important to review some basic concepts, such as EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation and Amortization), Working Capital (Cash and other Current Assets less Current Liabilities), Aged Accounts Receivable, and many more. 

Where Do You Stand? 

For this week, let’s start with some basics. Take this financial literacy quiz to see if you’re on the right path to financial brilliance, or if maybe you have some brushing up to do.   

1. Do you have a financial professional on staff? 

Having the expertise of a CPA or internal (or outsourced) CFO can save you time and money in the long run. 

2. How often do you forego infrastructure development to save money?  

Saving money is, of course, important, but so are efficiencies.   

3. Do you have an annual budget?  

Navigating the fiscal year without a budget is just like driving down the interstate blindfolded! By reviewing past revenue and expense flows to forecast future income and expenses you can create a budget to see clearly where you are going. 

4. If yes, do you monitor actual vs. budget?  

The annual budget is a living, breathing document, meant to be part of your monthly financial review process – planned versus actual expenses. It’s okay to make periodic adjustments, a process that helps you know if the company goals are on track. 

5. Do you firm grasp on your profit and loss statement and balance sheet? 

Both documents are crucial, but each provides its own benefits. A balance sheet provides a snapshot as to how effectively a company’s resources are used. A profit and loss (P&L) statement provides a summary of the company’s revenue and expenses incurred during a specific period of time. 

6. Is your G/L infrastructure meeting the need?  

If your monthly financial reporting: (a) is either non-existent or (b) is not helping you run your business, consider a review and restructuring of your GL. Make it work for you – not the other way around. 


How many “Yeses” did you score on the Financial Brilliance Meter?
0 – 1 – Financial Dunce 

2 – 3 – Financial Aptitude 

4 or more – You are on the road to Financial Brilliance! 

No matter where you scored, we’ve got you covered. Stay tuned for the best ways to increase your financial literacy this month, so that a perfect score is waiting for you the next time you take the quiz. And if you scored perfectly now, congratulations! But, as you know, as a leader, professional, and human being, there is always room for growth. 

If you need additional assistance, we’re only a phone call or email away. Barker Associates has extensive experience working with organizations to better understand their financials and help them drive into their future blindfold-free. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute financial analysis consultation. 

Leading with Trust Affects Your Team and Your Bottom Line

Leading with Trust Affects Your Team and Your Bottom Line 
A Little Trust goes a Long Way 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We talked last week about the concept of being lonely at the top and more importantly, how not to be lonely at the top. And we found that one of the best ways is to increase collaboration with your team. However, to do so effectively, we need to earn their trust first. 

Do you remember a time when you didn’t fully trust your leader? Maybe you could sense they weren’t authentic or credible, or you felt like you had to have your guard up for another reason. Your levels of performance and productivity were probably lower than usual. You also likely felt disconnected not only from your leader, but also from your team and even your own work. It may have led to internal conflict, poor communication, and decreased productivity. Overall, it wasn’t a thriving relationship. All because you didn’t trust them. 

The Importance of Trust 

Trust is a crucial component of any meaningful relationship, including those with our subordinates and colleagues. To be an effective, successful leader, you must have your team’s support, which can only happen after you have earned their trust. Earning trust is not necessarily an easy thing to do and not something that happens automatically. It takes work, authenticity, and consistency.  

When you earn your team’s trust though, almost magically, amazing things begin to happen. It increases their commitment not only to you, but to the organization and its goals. They become more comfortable with change and more willing to embrace a new vision. Communication also improves with trust, increasing collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Trust even fosters smoother conflict resolution. And it’s a two-way street. When the synergy of trust flows both ways, leaders will empower their employees to do their own work and make their own decisions more, and employees will have the confidence and trust to do so. 

According to a Harvard Business Review article, “Without a foundation of trust, people in the organization may comply outwardly with a leader’s wishes, but they’re much less likely to conform privately — to adopt the values, culture, and mission of the organization in a sincere, lasting way. Workplaces lacking in trust often have a culture of ‘every employee for himself,’ in which people feel that they must be vigilant about protecting their interests.” 

So, the question becomes … how do we build trust as a leader? 

One of the easiest and most effective ways to build trust and strong relationships is to give our full attention to others when they are speaking. Active listening tips include – 

  • Silencing the distractions (physical, digital, and mental). 
  • Eliminating interruptions. 
  • Repeating what they said and asking if you heard it correctly. 
  • If not, asking them to repeat it. 
  • Using verbal and non-verbal cues that your attention is on them only. 
  • Listening with empathy and trying to meet them where they are. 

Building trust also requires authenticity and transparency in your leadership methods. While transparency does not mean that you have to divulge everything to everyone, it does mean that what you do divulge is true and accurate. In this way, you are also modeling the behavior you expect from them. Another tip is to resist the urge to micromanage. Nothing screams, “I don’t trust you or your work” like micromanaging. Set parameters and expectations and hold your team members accountable. Overall, it creates a better working environment and increases the levels of success.  

Building trust at work is not all about a mere feel-good initiative. Trust actually has also been found to enhance the bottom line. Trust Across America (an organization that tracks the performance of America’s most trustworthy public companies) found that the most trustworthy companies outperformed the S&P 500. Additionally, an Interaction Associates study showed that trustworthy companies are “2½ times more likely to be high performing revenue organizations than low-trust companies.” 

Ultimately, it goes back to the old adage, “treat others the way you wish to be treated.” To build and maintain trust, treat your team members with integrity and respect, fostering open communications and a productive, efficient team. Trust is the glue that binds a leader to his or her team. And nothing provides the capacity for success and credibility more … trust me.  

Barker Associates has extensive experience with collaborative management styles, assisting organizations as they achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute consultation. 

Leadership: If it’s Lonely at the Top, it’s Time to Make a Change

Leadership: If it’s Lonely at the Top, it’s Time to Make a Change 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

“It’s lonely at the top!” We’ve heard that phrase circulated amidst leadership conversations for years. But what exactly does it mean? Is the perception different from the reality? And, more importantly, what does it say about our own leadership styles? 

Clearly, it’s not a literal statement. As leaders, we are surrounded by other people (often more so than we may like). Rather, it is a statement born out of one’s personality, emotions, and ability to shift perspective. Loneliness in these terms is not referring to physical isolation, but from an inability to make connections at work due to the position itself. Maybe you’re not invited to lunch anymore. Maybe you’re not on the inside track of the office jokes that everyone else seems to get. But that’s okay. Ultimately, you’re not there to make friends.

Some leadership aspects lend themselves to justifying the phrase. Whether you’re the CEO, the CFO, or in another management position, leaders are the ones who bear much of the responsibilities in a constant attempt to balance the ever-increasing demands from both sides – higher management and staff. There are deadlines, operational issues, risk management issues, financials to be filed, and problems to be solved. This is particularly true for women leaders, who often struggle to find support from like-minded women who have the same abilities and the same challenges. It is also particularly true for financial leaders.

Financial leaders often struggle with discovering the right combination of leadership responsibilities and deadline based tactical responsibilities. They find it difficult to stay engaged with the professionals they lead, because, well, some deadline is usually fast-approaching. Yet, they understand that it is no longer possible to focus solely on the tactical aspects of their jobs. If they want to move up to the CFO level, they cannot do it alone. Rather, they must engage with those whom they lead.

Are We Doing Something Wrong?

Despite the reasons, the idea of being lonely as a leader still doesn’t sit right. In fact, John Maxwell has noted, “If you are lonely at the top, then you are doing something wrong.”

Consider this: if you are alone, it could be concluded that no one is following you. And if no one is following you, how can you lead effectively? Our job, as leaders, is to build relationships, build trust, and make those we lead better at what they do, helping them ascend, as we have. Once we fully accept those responsibilities, we understand that in order to achieve our goals, we must connect to those we lead in more impactful ways, including coaching and collaboration (with little time to be lonely). 

The most obvious impacts of loneliness as a leader are on those we are leading, who may feel abandoned. However, it may also affect our own ability to do our jobs effectively. For example, good decisions never arise out of negative emotions, including loneliness. As such, decision-making, a crucial component of leadership, could also be affected when we shut ourselves off. 

Lonely at the Top No More

While some of the physical circumstance may be unavoidable – you do have a separate office, you’re not privy to some of the same conversations, you may struggle to find support, strategies to stay engaged with your team abound. In their implementation, not only will you be less isolated, you’ll ultimately be leading in more effective ways. 

Top Five Tips to Staying Engaged (and to not being lonely):

1. Be Visible. Your team needs to know you are there and accessible. Have an open-door policy and encourage others to use it. 

2. Collaborate. No leader operates alone. You don’t have all the answers. None of us do. Increasing collaboration among the team not only increases creativity, it also increases the value placed on relationships and productivity. 

3. Coach. Much of your responsibility as a leader rests with the development of others. Embrace that responsibility. Remember that in order for you to move up, others must do so as well. 

4. Actively listen. Your team is valuable and so are their voices, whether they are in consensus or have diverse points of view, show them that you care about what they have to say.  

5. Accept Change. Understand and accept that relationships will shift based on your leadership position, but those relationships still need cultivation. 

Leaders shouldn’t sit in detached isolation at the top of the organizational chart. Rather, we should immerse ourselves into the organization’s culture and people. With bonding comes energy and with energy comes relationships. And only through those relationships can we bring out the best in others. Loneliness dissipates because we are highly engaged with those around us, not sitting alone behind the closed doors of a corner office. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience with collaborative management styles, assisting organizations as they achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your 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.

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! 

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 

When Business Leaders Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

When Business Leaders Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

I have avoided yoga class for a few months because I was intimidated by the fact that most of the participants twist and turn like the performers in Cirque du Soleil®. This morning I decided I would break through my barrier of feeling intimidated and attend the class. As I drove to class, I realized one of the reasons I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone TODAY was because I had attended previous classes with this specific teacher. Alyson Foreacre is the owner of Yoga Den, where I attend. She is an amazing teacher who I trusted to lead me through my own practice of yoga. If all I did was stay in one yoga pose and breath, she would probably encourage me to do more in a very respectful and empathetic way.

My journey with yoga can be compared to how business leaders feel about financial information. In my years of practice, I have learned that they are intimidated by financial reports. They are fearful of asking questions, they don’t want to sound ignorant. Feeling intimidated by yoga class and by financial information is similar, as in both cases we are keeping ourselves from something that can be helpful in our overall lives.

My feelings of intimidation with yoga were primarily tied to fear of not keeping up with the class and not knowing how to do all the moves. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about how yoga class is a practice, not a directive. I was so right when I told myself “I got this” with Alyson’s assistance. She is an encouraging teacher who provides alternatives if she knows you need them. She also lovingly encourages you when you need a little guidance. Today she even laid on the floor beside me to show me how to do a certain move.  She validated my confidence in her ability to get me through the difficult moves.

I often meet with entrepreneurial business owners, nonprofit leaders or business professionals in corporations to discuss their pain points. The most frequent statement I hear during those discussions are “I don’t know what I don’t know.”  I have to admit that, it wasn’t until I was attacked by the anxiety of doing the right kind of Downward-Facing Dog and other yoga moves, that I truly have the proper level of empathy for this statement. I also realized that I should feel honored that my clients trust in me to share their own fears of financial information.

When Business Leaders Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

Being responsible for an entire organization, or even just a section of one, without understanding the financial implications can be frightening. It takes a lot of courage to push through your uncomfortable zone, to accept some uncomfortable space for some time until you understand. Just like my sore muscles right now are telling me it will take a few times before that class feels good.  But I know that if I dare to go again and I struggle, Alyson will be there for me.

Is it possible that you don’t know what you don’t know? If you struggle with the following internal dialog, the answer is probably “Yes”:

  1. I do not receive financial statements each month timely and I do not understand why.
  2. Cash is very tight, and I am not sure we have enough money to pay the bills and make payroll for the next month or two.  I am not sure how to address this.
  3. The new revenue recognition guidance is required, and I do not know where to begin with implementation.
  4. The organization needs to raise capital and I do not know what the right type of investor is for our organization.
  5. The corporation needs to divest of a subsidiary or a line of business and I am not sure how to make that work. What are the options?
  6. I know we need better systems and process to improve the customer experience but I do not know where to begin or have the time to ask various vendors what their system does, or even understand the full capabilities of our current system.

Barker Associates can help you work through these anxieties and guide you through the process. We are direct communicators who will share with you the reality of the situation, even it is not what you want to hear. Recalling my sore yoga muscles, I will be empathetic to your journey of not knowing what you do not know. Give me a chance to let my experience work for you. https://mindybarkerassociates.com/contact/

Start with Happy Employees – Gain Happy Customers

Danielle Moga, Barker Associates

If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.
– Lewis Carroll

Customer experience (CX) has been a hot topic for the last several years. Companies have invested in teams to analyze data, customer service issues, survey results, and they’ve utilized sophisticated tools such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to understand how likely the customer is to share their experience and promote the company.

Companies have increased their budgets and resources to understand the habits, needs and desires of customers to create the perfect journey and ultimate experience for those they serve but, despite all their efforts, some companies are still falling short, which means lost revenue, customer churn, and retention issues with their employees.

CX is the sum of all interactions. According to a 2018 survey by  Gartner, nearly 90% of businesses compete on customer experience alone. Whether your company is transactional or subscription-based the competition is fierce and if you want to attract, retain and grow your customer base you have to lead with the end in mind and design the ultimate experience.

Happy Employees

Employee Experience EX

The exclusive focus on the customer alone has not resulted in the business outcomes companies desire. Perhaps the focus should be on something a little closer to home…the Employee Experience (EX). After all, without employees you can’t serve customers, so maybe the old adage “customer first” should take a back seat for organizations that truly desire to be transformative in the market place.

Social media and platforms like Glassdoor and Indeed have created complete transparency so that organizations can no longer hide from the real-time employee workplace reviews. In this competitive market, where skilled talent can be scarce, companies cannot ignore the need to make the Employee Experience a priority.

Like CX, EX is the sum of every day to day interaction the employee has from the first contact to last. It’s every touchpoint they have with recruiters, HR, their boss and peers, the software they use, the processes they must follow; each touchpoint is specific and distinctive.

The Employee Experience is a full spectrum of all their experiences and a well-designed EX should empower employees with the tools and know-how to serve customers successfully, provide employees control over their professional growth and development, and create an atmosphere for positive and healthy collaboration in a well-designed workplace. When EX strategy is developed and correctly implemented the end result will be happy employees with a commitment to the company and their job.

According to a 2016 report by Deloitte University Press, organizational culture and employee engagement was a top priority in 2017 and is still a top focus. The report noted that nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience very important or important, yet only 22% felt that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee experience. Of those same responders, more than half were either not ready or only somewhat ready to address the challenge.

In lieu of a true strategy that focuses on understanding and implementing modern actionable solutions to promote a positive EX, employers are using perks like casual Friday, free ice cream and an occasional “bring your pet to work day” to solve the problem. Companies use these perks in an attempt to build a great culture without any actual thought to what creates a great culture.

Jacob Morgan, the author of The Employee Experience Advantage, analyzed over 252 global organizations to understand the attributes that promote EX and drive employee engagement. The top 3 companies that excel in this area are no surprise: Facebook, Google, and Apple. We’ve all heard about some of the amazing perks these companies offer, but according to Morgan, leadership in these organizations has focused on the bigger picture to yield positive results. They focused in areas that really matter to employees: culture, technology, and physical space.

Culture

Culture is a nebulous word and people define culture in a variety of ways. Morgan describes culture as a side effect of working for an organization. Are your employees frustrated and burnt out? Do they have a voice and an opportunity to present ideas or provide feedback without fear of backlash? Is there role clarity and a clearly defined path for growth? If you’ve heard negative chatter, you likely have a culture problem impacting the EX, which will ultimately impact the engagement level of your employees and your customers.

Technology

Employees should have access to technology that supports their function. Technology should be a help not a hindrance to employees. They should be able to work successfully and with ease with the help of technology, but sadly, many companies have convoluted systems that don’t sync, resulting in errors, rework and duplication, all of which are time-consuming, costly and put not only the employee experience at risk but your company as well. Leaders who fail to stay current with new technology and upgrade the employee experience through exposure to more advanced technology risk losing those employees to companies who do make such investments.

Physical Space

Lastly, a great employee experience is dependent upon the physical space in which employees work. Is your office well lit, clean, free of clutter? Do you participate in initiatives that support a healthy workplace? Are employees situated in an environment that supports their tasks? For instance, if call centers are placed next to employees who must utilize quiet focus to get their job done, then you likely are going to have some unhappy and frustrated employees.

Companies that invest in the development of a focused EX have seen improved results with attracting and retaining skilled employees who are passionate about the company and the brand, and play an active role in the ongoing success of the organization. Employees want and expect to develop their skills as the company grows and adapts to market demands. Maintaining stale, obsolete skills is the ultimate morale killer.

Although developing a focused strategy has not been a priority to organizations, of the 252 global organizations analyzed by Jacob Morgan, only 15 companies, or 6%, have created a winning employee experience; companies that don’t focus their strategy are at risk for both employee and customer churn.

Focusing on long term solutions means taking the time to engage employees to understand their needs, wants and expectations and work to align tactics with developing a winning experience. In the end, you get happy, productive employees who bring tremendous value and drive positive business outcomes.

Are your business outcomes meeting your expectations?

Where is your focus, the CX or the EX?

Have you invested in your Employee Experience or paid it lip service?

Barker Associates will help you review and understand opportunities to enhance your Employee Experience – the work environment, use of technology and company culture. Together we can design and implement employee experience solutions that yield happy employees and positive results. Contact us today at (904) 394-2913 or by email at here.

The Cure for Founder-itis

Founder-itis is a serious condition that occurs when one or more of the founders have remained in their position in an organization for far too long.  They have remained physically, mentally and emotionally in a position that is preventing the organization from healthy growth. This condition can occur in small to very large organizations.  I have witnessed very strong impacts of Founder-itis at large companies.

The cure for this condition is an emotionally evolved founder-turned-leader to fight against their natural tendency to hang on to what is comfortable, what worked in the early stages of the company to catapult its growth.

Long-term CEOs of successful companies such as Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Howard Schultz at Starbucks have broadened their horizons as the company has grown.

How to transition in business from founder to leader.

Successful founders who transition to long-term leaders by avoiding Founder-itis have learned these four key qualities.

  • Deals with ambiguity – When an organization starts out the management team may find themselves working around someone’s dining room table, in a basement or their garage. All the stakeholders communicate and keep each other up to date in real time because they can, literally, reach out and touch.  Modern-day conference software works for small teams as they start a business.  During this stage, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is engaged in very detailed decisions and aware of every move that is made. When it’s time to move effectively upward with a growing organization at some point, the CEO must effectively delegate those detailed tasks to move up to a more strategic role with the organization.  Details they knew off the top of their head intuitively will have to be delivered to them in a report that is generated as a result of a quality process.  The CEO must learn to deal with some ambiguity and trust the management team is effectively executing their responsibilities. Founder-itis comes in when the CEO will not let go of knowing small details and continues to micromanage staff.  This is not an effective use of CEO or staff time.

 

  • Hires well and timely – CEOs of high growth companies hire professionals for positions that will challenge them and help develop the strategy as well as successfully execute it. If the CEO lets Founder-itis slip in and only hires puppets who will execute only on what they are told without challenging the status quo, they are holding the organization back from the ability to grow effectively. I recently heard a private equity partner state that is one of the things that holds back the execution of the strategy that fuels growth.

 

  • Leads and supports rather than controls and micromanages – If a CEO constantly talks about how easy a certain task is and should be with 1980s style processing; is not open to a suggested change in process, upgrade to a new system or hiring enough staff to complete tasks, they are choking the organization. Two examples I often see of this are processing payroll internally instead of outsourcing and gathering paper receipts and matching against a paper credit card statement. You may think that only happens in smaller companies; however, it has happened in companies that have over $50 million in revenue and operate in most of the fifty states. Such situations persist because one of the Founders thinks that since they had always processed payroll manually when it was their responsibility, it’s just not a big deal.

 

I also have seen recently where a very young company got hit with an $8,000 fine from the state department of revenue related to incorrectly processing unemployment.  This happened as the founder wanted to save money and not incur the payroll processing fee. The fee was taken from their bank account before the receipt of the letter that explained the error and related fee.

 

  • Embraces pivots – Founders who believe they can keep doing what got them to their first $1 million in revenue are not pivoting. Founders need to realize their role has changed and it is essential for the strategy of the organization to change. The world is changing so fast – just when an organization is up to date with technology, it is time to change again. Embracing that change and the short term disruption it causes is not easy, but it is essential if the organization is to remain relevant, keep talented and engaged employees and execute sustainable strategy.

 

Leadership and sustainability go hand-in-hand and truly make a difference in a growing organization. Especially with today’s low unemployment, leaders must recognize part of their strategy is to provide a working environment that will keep top talent engaged.  Expecting employees to be happy that they receive a paycheck while you expect them to deal with 1980s technology and stone age processes will lead to high turnover and unnecessary chaos and is a sure symptom of Founder-itis.

 

Schedule a consultation with Mindy Barker Associates today for help with:  

On My Soapbox About Regulations

Recent posts discussed new regulations and the unintended consequences that companies are, or will experience as a result. ASC 606, already in effect for public organizations, affects nonpublic companies for annual reporting periods beginning after December 2018. The South Dakota vs Wayfair ruling last year has impactful implications for businesses who qualify to pay sales tax. Together these regulations are like tsunamis that are overtaking public and private organizations.

These tsunamis can significantly impact your business large or small.  Organizations tend to frequently hold off on systems upgrades and acquisition integration noting they cannot afford it.  The combination of these regulatory tsunamis transitions the conversation and makes it imperative systems work seamlessly together.  The organization cannot afford for that not to happen.

Learn the unintended consequences of recent finance regulations.

These tsunamis share common implications to you – in order to complete the analysis of how each will impact your organization and to implement the proper accounting, you must have good clean customer data in a system with strong month-end controls; and you must have the actual executed customer contracts – all of them. In my experience with organizations of all sizes, these requirements are problematic because they just don’t happen. What I find is that customer data is scattered throughout multiple databases and spreadsheets, month end processes end up being shoot-from-the-hip events and customer contracts are in various states of execution due to lack of strong contract administration.

 

These issues are even worse for organizations that have decided we are going to work “smarter,” – a buzz word I hear associated with the elimination of the administrative assistant position. The Ivory Tower people who have just deposited a one million dollar sign-on bonus in their bank account for a C-level position at a public company are going to have a press release and investor call where they talk about how we are going to work smarter, etc.; then the staffing cuts happen. I see the administrative positions go fast.

 

The administrative assistant is often the traffic controller of the organization. Read my post, Who is your Betty about this critical role. Critical because, once that position is eliminated, contracts and corporate documents are all over the building, saved on laptops that may or may not be backed up somewhere and are reimaged when the person leaves. In the past year, every single time I have been involved with collecting customer contracts for due diligence or some type of project, the C-level person I am working with has had to call the professional on the other side of at least one contract and ask if they have a fully executed copy. This is a HUGE and embarrassing issue occurring in companies, regardless of industry and profit-status.

Accurate contracts and clean customer data are required for any hope of achieving compliance with ASC 606 Revenue Recognition and the interstate sales tax impacts from South Dakota vs Wayfair.

What you need to know about sales tax

Sales Tax – the Wayfair case is highly technical when you dig into the guts of it, and I wrote about some of those technicalities previously. Here are a few points to keep in mind as the impacts of this ruling become more concrete:

  1. The threshold for reporting Sales Tax is $100,000 OR 100 transactions. What about your college student making and selling hairbows cheerleaders around the country on Etsy to? They better not send 100 hairbows collectively to certain states unless they are prepared to collect and submit sales tax.
  2. State and governmental entities that are in charge of regulating this probably do not have a plan on how they are going to accomplish this. Are they going to stop every long haul truck coming into the state? Look in every mailbox? I am not sure how they are going to find you!
  3. Since the law is retroactive you may have a big liability out there that you do not know about. Why – because you cannot locate the contracts or analyze data because you have none that is clean. Instead, you may have to guess what states, how many transactions, how much it adds up to.

If your organization undergoes an audit or wants to pursue a capital raise or total sale – this can be a huge problem.

Respect your accountants and know they have a difficult job to maintain all of these controls. CPAs, in general, are not the best at standing up for themselves and making sure they have the right infrastructure. CEOs and Boards tend to hire in the Marketing and Sales areas and cut in the Accounting side. IT systems are not upgraded and maintained properly, which further complicates the job of maintaining clean data. Speak up – challenge the impact of short-sighted decisions.

 

Barker Associates helps small-to-large businesses, especially entrepreneurs, improve performance and increase financial stability. Contact Barker Associates at cfo@mindybarkerassociates.com.

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