Category Archives: CEO

Five Steps to Committing to Financial Management Fundamentals

Five Steps to Committing to Financial Management Fundamentals 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We seem to take one step forward and two steps back lately – with the pandemic, the economy, and life in general. In many instances, things are so close to “normal,” we’re ready to embrace it all again wholeheartedly. We need the familiar, especially during the tradition-filled holidays. We long for some normalcy and comfort. Yet, we’re hesitant in many respects, especially in business. And while this hesitancy is understandable after all that we’ve been through, we can’t run a business this way, especially as it pertains to financial management. In fact, our financials never needed more attention. As 2021 comes to a close and 2022 begins, it’s the perfect time to make a resolution to get back to financial management fundamentals. 

Five Steps of Financial Management Fundamentals 

  1. Read Monthly Financial Statements 

While this may sound entirely too elementary, we’re starting with the basics because there are those who tend to ignore them. By reading (and understanding) financial statements, you will quickly see what looks good and what doesn’t, if there are any red flags, and any trends. Monitor inventory levels against projected sales, receivables, and cash and identify other critical financial indicators and ratios from the balance sheet. If something doesn’t make sense to you, chances are there may be a problem that needs to be solved.  

  1. Review Bank Statements 

Similar to your review of the financial statements, how will you know if something is off, if you don’t review the company’s bank statements monthly?  

  • What’s coming in?  
  • What’s going out?  
  • Do the amounts look reasonable?  
  • Do the canceled checks (reviewed online) look appropriate?  

With this review, you shouldn’t be in the details of every single transaction (or you’ll never get any work done). Rather, your goal should be to get a good sense of the company’s overall activities. In this way, you can track monthly sales-to-expense ratios to better understand when to adjust spending and to identify the top impediments to profitability, so you can deal with them quickly. 

  1. Review Payroll Reports 

Payroll reports should be reviewed quarterly when Form 941s are filed. During this review, you want to look at year-to-date wages paid for employees and ensure everything looks reasonable. If it doesn’t, find out why immediately. 

  1. Assess Expense Reports and Spending 

Review credit card usage, expense reports, and overall spending, including meals and travel expenses. Take note of any entries that appear off, whether they are too high, too low, or too frequent. Once again, you don’t need to have all the details, but rather perform a high-level view – often, all that is needed to identify an issue sooner rather than later. 

  1. Listen to Feedback 

No one has all the answers. The best leaders understand the intrinsic value of listening. In this case, that feedback should be from far more than the accounting department. It should also include feedback from operations and any other impacted department, as well.  

  • What’s working?  
  • What isn’t?  
  • What are the concerns?  
  • Does anything need to be investigated?  

These five steps will help ensure you are practicing financial management fundamentals, increasing oversight, and increasing overall engagement. Remember, the most successful CEOs are those who delegate, but also who stay close to the heart of the company’s financial picture. The consistent financial monitoring required of businesses takes attention and it takes work, but without a true long-term plan and careful monitoring, you cannot forecast or grow to the next level. So, in 2022, make a resolution to stay committed to financial management fundamentals. Barker Associates has extensive experience in financial management. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

The Impact of Management Practices on Business Outcomes

The Impact of Management Practices on Business Outcomes 
New Research Shows Direct Correlation with M&As and Financial Performance 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

It’s no secret – good management is good business, plain and simple. But is it possible to actually quantify the impact on business outcomes, such as mergers and acquisitions and financial performance? According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review, we can. 

In an effort to determine whether there is a direct correlation between management practices and certain business outcomes, researchers used data from the US Census Bureau to examine the practices of 35,000 manufacturing plants. And while it is well established that much of management may be subjective, including leadership styles and how they align (or don’t) with various team members, objectivity can be found with the right questions. 

Quantifying Management Practices 

According to the article discussing the research, studies were conducted using more unbiased, neutral questions, leading to more definitive, measurable answers. For example, questions such as how much managers tracked employee performance, if they used the data found to improve practices, how production goals were set, and if they utilized standardized incentives are a few variations. Other questions included: 

  • How many key performance indicators (KPIs) were monitored at this establishment? 
  • What best describes the timeframe of production targets at this establishment? 
  • What were non-managers’ performance bonuses usually based on? 

Answer choices provided were specific and assigned a value. As noted in the article, “For example, responses to the question ‘What best describes what happened at this establishment when a problem in the production process arose?’ were: i) No action was taken, ii) We fixed it but did not take further action, iii) We fixed it and took action to make sure that it did not happen again, and iv) We fixed it and took action to make sure that it did not happen again, and had a continuous improvement process to anticipate problems like these in advance.” The results were gathered and quantified to define more structured management practices as those that were more specific, formal, and frequent. 

Impact on Mergers & Acquisitions 

Researchers then tracked mergers and acquisitions among the companies included in the management practices study with additional data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The intent of this comparison was to quantify the extent to which management practices influenced outcomes in mergers and acquisitions and overall financial performance. 

The findings included the following:  

  • Companies with more structured management, operations, practices, and procedures are more likely to become acquirers in an M&A. 
    • Companies even one deviation higher in management score were 7.5% more likely to become acquirers. 
  • Companies with less structured management and fewer standardized policies and procedures are more likely to be targets. 
    • A mere one deviation point lower in management score resulted in companies being 2.8% more likely to become targets. 
  • There is a strong spillover effect post-acquisition. A target company is more likely to adopt more structured management practices, similar to the acquirer company. 
    • The management scores of target companies increased by an average of 26% post-acquisition, including additional KPI monitoring, goal setting, and incentives. 
  • There is a direct correlation between improved management performance and productivity. “[F]or plants whose management scores increased by one standard deviation following their acquisition, productivity increased by an additional 3.3%, while value added per employee, value added per worker-hour, and profit margins increased by an additional 3.13%, 4.19%, and 1.16% respectively.”  

Ultimately, the last point is what we should all take out of this research. It’s about much more than the effect management practices have on mergers and acquisitions. Rather, it exemplifies the importance of structure in management practices that affect the day-to-day operations and productivity of a company. Simply, it adds value, which will inevitably improve business outcomes – whether its M&As, increased profitability, or looking more attractive to investors who understand that implementing stronger management practices now is an effective strategy for long-term success later.  

Barker Associates has extensive experience in both specific CFO needs and more general management practice ones. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Attention CFOs: Financial Targets Don’t Motivate Employees

Attention CFOs: Financial Targets Don’t Motivate Employees
Tips on Motivation Minus the Numbers 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Without a doubt, as CFOs, our language is the language of numbers. Simply, numbers make sense. So, it’s probably no surprise that we use them more often than other people. And while it seems intuitive to us that numbers are a great way to motivate employees, that thought process tends to be counterintuitive to others.  

Most people appreciate having a clear-cut goal to meet—something to strive for and work toward. However, financial targets don’t generally motivate employees in the same ways. Financial results are the outcome of hard work, performance, and productivity, not the cause of it. As such, when we focus on the numbers, employees don’t feel as if they have control over achieving that goal and ultimately begin to feel less motivated. In fact, using financial targets has actually been said to decrease morale among employees. 

This is not to minimize the importance of financial targets and metrics. Let’s face it—we’re CFOs, to us, there isn’t much else that is more important. And logically, we know that if we don’t hit those numbers, we may not be able to pay those employees we’re so worried about. But just because financials are important to the company does not mean they’re an effective motivational tool for employees. Rather, if we want to motivate, we need to bolster support for our organizational purpose, emphasize the value the employees bring to it, and focus on their specific impact on customers or the community. 

Three Tips to De-Emphasize the Numbers in Motivation 

  1. Reevaluate what you communicate.  

Put the metrics, measurements, and dollar signs aside for the time being. Instead, communicate goals over which employees have some control. They should be able to clearly see what they can do to help achieve company goals. Of course, some numbers will likely need to be included, but be cognizant of keeping the focus where it needs to be. Increasing focus on numbers will decrease focus on what actually needs to be done and dilute the overall strategy.  

  1. Be specific and use emotion when you talk about customers and clients.  

Employees are more likely to go the extra mile when relationships are built, and they can see individual, specific, and actual impacts on those relationships. They want to know what impact they are having on customers and the community. Employees want to feel good about what they are doing, so show them the impact they are making, not in the aggregate, but in specific instances. 

  1. Do not overshare every metric. 

Employees generally don’t need to know every single item that is being measured regarding financial performance. When all they see is numbers, they feel as if they have to figure out how to get there when really it should be the other way around. Tell them what they have control over and then the goal that was met because of what they did to get there. Think about where you want to direct their attention and remain focused there. 

A Harvard Business Review article described it best, “You cannot spreadsheet your way to passion. With ambitious goals on the horizon, it’s tempting to double-down on financial metrics. But hitting financial targets requires employees who are excited and care about their work.” This has never been as true as today. Employees want to feel appreciated by leadership. They want to have joy and pride in their work. And as we talked about previously, they are far less likely now to tolerate anything less. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience in both specific CFO needs and more general leadership ones. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

What Getting Stuck in an Elevator Teaches You

What Getting Stuck in an Elevator Teaches You 
There are Lessons in Nearly Every Situation 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I recently enjoyed a wonderful evening with some friends and family. We had a lovely dinner and then went to a show. We had purchased tickets for Hamilton years before the pandemic changed our lives, and were thrilled to finally be able to see it. 

After the show, we walked blissfully back to our cars, still glowing with the excitement and contentment of a great night out. We had all parked in a parking garage that was only accessible by an elevator. We approached the elevator and were soon joined by several other people.  As the doors to the elevator slowly opened, approximately twelve of us got in.  

Lesson 1: Communication 

We all pushed our respective parking garage levels, and continued our respective conversations. The elevator started to ascend. Suddenly, the elevator stopped, but the door did not open. My friend was next to the elevator controls and immediately hit the “open door” button. A few of us near the doors tried to nudge at the them, to no avail. We then hit the call button and reported to the person who answered that we were stuck in the elevator. He assured us that he was sending someone to help.  

What we heard in that message was that someone who was capable of fixing the elevator was in the building and on their way. After a few minutes, when no one came, we called back and asked how long it would be. The person who answered said he was not sure, as he was unable to reach the mechanic. We asked a few more clarifying questions and determined that the mechanic who was “on his way” had not even yet been contacted, and we had no idea how far away from the building this person was. 

Lesson 2: A Leader’s Attitude Can Change the Environment 

There was no air conditioning in the elevator, and with that many people, it was very hot. Between the anxiety from learning that we were stuck in the elevator and the heat, one of the people from the other group began having a panic attack.  We called the operator back and told him we had someone in distress, and to call 911.  We were informed that it is against policy for them to call 911 and if we felt that was appropriate, we had to make the call ourselves. I attempted to call 911 from my phone, unsuccessfully.  Thankfully, another person’s phone was able to get through.  

At that point, my amazing friend Sondra (one of the strongest people I know) led us all in a standing yoga class with breathing exercises. It helped calm nerves in everyone almost immediately, and we all began to have some light conversation again. We even took a few selfies, trying desperately to lighten the mood. Even the person having the panic attack was able to relax with the breathing exercises and calm, light tone my friend used.  

When the firefighters showed up, they worked diligently to get the door open. And soon, they were successful. Merely watching the doors open offered an incredible calming sensation. Unfortunately, it was short-lived. We soon discovered we were stuck in between floors. The firefighters were on the upper floor and determined they could not pull us up. They would have to close the doors to move the elevator to the lower floor.  

Some of them stayed on the upper floor, and others took the tool they were using down to the lower floor. They then attempted to open the doors on the lower floor. This did not go as well. The firefighters began hitting the elevator forcefully to try to get the tool to work.  One of them yelled with urgency to the team members that remained on the upper floor, “I can’t get it in. I cannot get the tool in.” The elevator was rocking back and forth, and the lights were flashing. It was pretty scary, and the anxiety levels were all back up to even higher than our pre-impromptu yoga class. I decided to close my eyes at that point, as it was all too much to process. The anxiety in the voices of the firemen, while we were rocking back and forth was overwhelming to us all. When they continued to yell the same thing, my friend said, “I think I’ve heard that before!” We all started laughing with that welcomed comic relief, and I remembered how important humor can be in stressful situations. 

Ultimately, they got the door open and got us all off of the elevator.   

Lesson 3: Be Grateful (and don’t forget about humor) … Always 

When I got out and was finally able to get in my car to leave my wonderful evening (and yes, it was still wonderful – just with a twist), I felt incredibly grateful to be on my way home to my family. I was in a scary situation and I was ok. I wasn’t about to forget it. I also thought to myself, it was really hot in there, but I don’t stink!  

Lessons learned from this experience –  

  1. Life is short. Make sure every day is full of what you value most. 
  2. You don’t have to be in a boardroom to learn valuable lessons … sometimes you’re in an elevator. 
  3. Communication is key in any situation. Ensure you are understanding what you are hearing and that the other person understands what you are saying. 
  4. When you are a leader, your anxiety or calmness multiplies when you communicate to others.  Maintain an authentic calm demeaner, if possible, and you will see the effects in others. 
  5. Remember gratitude (and humor) always. 
  6. Pit Liquor natural deodorant works! 
  7. Katherine Way dresses are incredibly breathable and work well when you are stuck in an elevator! 

As always, Barker Associates is here for any CFO services you may need (and is also happy to impart some words of wisdom from time to time!). If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.

Embracing Negotiations in Leadership – How to Break Through Hesitation and Negotiate Your Best Solution

Embracing Negotiations in Leadership 
How to Break Through Hesitation and Negotiate Your Best Solution  

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Negotiations are a crucial part of corporate strategy, but not (as some may think) merely for high-stake deals, such as mergers and acquisitions. In fact, leadership frequently requires negotiation on nearly a daily basis. And good leaders understand that negotiating is a skill that needs to be developed, just as with any other leadership attribute. Yet, many avoid it unnecessarily … and often, detrimentally. They tend to be more concerned about the objections and perceived conflict they believe negotiations brings about than with the feasible solutions they uncover. Some feel they lack the confidence to ask for what they want or need.  

Underlying all of these concerns is age-old fear, and in particular, fear of failure or rejection. This is the fear that likes to stop us in our tracks, causing us to hesitate in the belief that we are safer that way. And, as we all know, the only way to grow and truly get what we want is to push that fear aside and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

In addition to the uncertainty and fear that can arise in preparing for negotiations, the pandemic has also actually affected how we negotiate. Non-verbal communication and body language are important elements in connecting with others, especially during negotiations. However, with the increase in virtual negotiations, our view of the other person is restricted to computer screens or smartphones. Without the ability to fully see a person’s body and, more specifically, his or her subtle movements, it becomes more challenging to anticipate their acceptance or objections and proactively work toward solutions. But while their individual preferences and comfort levels may be more difficult to ascertain, they are not impossible if we remain mindful of them throughout the process. 

Finding Opportunities to Negotiate 

If you find yourself shying away from negotiations, it’s time to start thinking about why, and recognizing the numerous opportunities that surround you each day to do so. Like any skill, it takes practice and development. Utilizing average encounters will increase your confidence as you move into negotiations with higher stakes. Even asking for a discount on an item you are purchasing and asking your cell phone service provider for a better rate are, in fact, negotiations.  

One could argue it’s not worth the effort or the time to engage in these activities, but that’s the fear talking again. Even if you don’t care about saving a few dollars at a store, the investment in building your negotiation skills and confidence is invaluable. Avoiding negotiations in these “not worth it” circumstances leads to avoiding them in other “very worth it” ones.  

Going into any negotiation, you can also hone in on your skills by considering the following questions: 

  • Is the situation fair? 
  • Do I deserve a better outcome than the one I have been offered? 
  • Am I feeling hesitant or confident? 
  • How can I connect with the other person to come to a better resolution? 
    • Tip 1: For in-person negotiations, pay close attention to the other person’s body language and try to anticipate and address objections before they ask them. 
    • Tip 2: For virtual negotiations, take the pulse of the other person often. Repeat what they’ve said to ensure you are understanding correctly. Ask them if they have any questions throughout, and pay attention not only to their words, but to their tone. 
  • How can I cultivate the relationship? 
  • How can I close the deal? 

Negotiating is really about making the conscious decision to do so, rather than avoiding it all together. Be mindful about recognizing and evaluating the potential for negotiations and that it may look a bit different today than it has in the past. But underlying it all is always relationships, confidence, and the mindset to put yourself in a position to strategically approach the deal. Ask for you what you want, be fair, work through the objections, and get better outcomes.  

As with any skill, the more you practice – even with “low-stake” negotiations, the stronger your skills will become. If you need guidance, Barker Associates has experience working with CEOs on negotiation strategies and skills, particularly with finances, lending, and mergers and acquisitions. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

Time Management in the Hybrid Workforce

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Time management is one of the most useful, yet often most difficult, skills a CEO can master. There is arguably no other role in corporate America with more functions, time restrictions, pressure, and distractions. Add to that the transitions and contingencies associated with a global pandemic, and time management feels like more of a conundrum than a skill. 

Through the past eighteen months, CEOs have had to learn the art of leading remotely, and found that doing so has its own unique time management issues. CEOs learned to use new communication tools, change meeting formats, and spend time inspiring teams from afar. Now, many are going back into the office for a new hybrid workforce model. In this next transition, CEOs shouldn’t forget all that they knew from pre-pandemic time management, but they should also incorporate what they’ve learned and what worked well with virtual time management.  

Fundamentally, the issue is that while our virtual world saved businesses during a time when we could not head to the office, it also opened us up to, at a minimum, the perception of 24/7 availability. Historically, many CEOs struggled with boundaries and time management because they were trying to accomplish more than was physically possible in a 24-hour period. However, with virtual accessibility, the problem has been exacerbated. And now solutions for a hybrid model must be developed.  

While not everyone is on the same page about the continuation of remote work (a Reuters article noted what JPMorgan Chase & Co’s chief executive said about a hybrid model: “It doesn’t work for those who want to hustle. It doesn’t work for spontaneous idea generation. It doesn’t work for culture.”), many CEOs are accepting a hybrid model. Essential to this model though is appropriate time management, taking what was learned and applying it to this new reality. 

Time Management Tips 

At some point, we’ve all likely heard the time management tips for CEOs and other leaders to increase efficiency and productivity. But this time of transition begs the question—How many of those tips will remain the same in a hybrid model? Many of them will, with some added rigidity, but there will be a few nuances.  

  • Delegate or shorten meetings. A report tracking CEO time management showed that 72% of a CEO’s average 62.5-hour work week was spent in meetings, leaving little time for self-development or for developing strategy. Limiting your presence in meetings, whether face-to-face or virtual, creates space and time to focus on what is necessary.  

  • Set more rigid boundaries. Block that newfound time from attending fewer meetings and consistently use it for activities that require more high-level thinking, including strategic development. Fiercely protect that time as if you were meeting with your top revenue-producing client. 

  • Delegate, delegate, delegate. While a crucial key to time management, delegation has been an issue for many CEOs long before the pandemic (and likely will be one long after). Too many CEOs spend too much time on operational functions, or even on micromanaging. Both everyday operational tasks and the management of those tasks must be delegated to others on your team. Remember, you hired them for a reason—trust that they can handle it.  

  • Prioritize. Use the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) when you prioritize your tasks and activities. For those unfamiliar with the Pareto Principle, it states that for most events, about 80% of the results comes from 20% of the effort. You can use this methodology to prioritize what brings about the highest ROI. 
    • In your prioritization, keep in mind the importance of high-quality relationships and that some face-to-face interaction, not just with partners or clients, but with subordinates and team members, helps to develop those relationships.  

  • Reduce participants in your meetings. With virtual meetings, we lost geographical restrictions. As a result, we became accustomed to inviting everyone to meetings, whether they were really needed or not. But doing so tends to lead to increased time in the meeting, and overall decreased efficiency. On the other hand, smaller groups allow for more participation and honesty, getting more accomplished in a shorter amount of time.  
    • Only those needed for a particular strategy and/or on a specific team should be included in meetings. 

The Benefits of Time Management for CEOs 

Effectively managing your time management helps you prioritize better and avoid getting stuck in the distractions and details that plague CEOs all day long. You are less overwhelmed and have a clearer vision about what you truly need to do to move the needle. And ensuring you are spending your time on those high-level tasks is the best way to ensure productivity for the organization. Additionally, when you master your own time, can better determine where others are having difficulties with their own. 

Ultimately, a new approach to time management is needed that is flexible enough to embrace a hybrid work model. Not everything will be the same or go back to “normal.” As always, we must evolve along with our circumstances. And we do that by taking what we’ve learned and working it into our new strategies. As CEOs, it’s imperative to be strategic about not only the direction of the organization, but also about the effective utilization of your time. Remember, if you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience in working with CEOs on time management and other leadership functions in the hybrid workforce model. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

The Real Costs of Deal Fatigue – How Not Being Prepared for the Deal can Cost You the Deal

The Real Costs of Deal Fatigue
How Not Being Prepared for the Deal can Cost You the Deal

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Deal fatigue is a common occurrence in the world of mergers and acquisitions. The parties involved get frustrated with the process and feel helpless that they can do anything to speed it up. Frankly, they’re fed up, and as negotiations or other processes necessary to close the deal seem to have no end in sight, one of both parties loses hope and wants to give up. For example, oftentimes, the timeframe between a Letter of Intent and the close of the deal takes too long and can result in one or more of the parties deciding they want out of the deal.  

The High Costs of Deal Fatigue 

The costs of deal fatigue are high and the complexities many. Not only has the company lost the proposed deal and any related funding, but there are many other associated costs of the deal falling apart, including: 

  1. Attorneys’ Fees. The funds used to pay attorneys and consultants have added up over the months (or even years) and can no longer be paid from the closing proceeds. 
  1. Impact on Operations. With the pending deal, the C-Suite has been distracted by answering due diligence questions and negotiations. And, as a result, they have not focused on the core day-to-day responsibilities of the company’s operations. This could impact many success metrics, such as ensuring customer satisfaction, building the proper pipeline of sales, managing personnel, and regularly reviewing financial data. 
  1. Personnel Problems. There is also the potential loss of personnel if they had learned of the pending transaction and decided to pursue another career opportunity. The costs of recruiting and onboarding are always high, but this has never been truer than in today’s environment, where the costs of losing personnel have skyrocketed. 

Lack of Preparedness and Its Effect on Deal Fatigue 

The root cause of deal fatigue is a lack of preparedness. This can begin years prior to the idea of entering any transaction whatsoever. Decisions that are made, and processes put in place, that are not healthy for the day-to-day organization can impact the company’s ability to complete a transaction. The following are a few far too common examples: 

  1. Lack of organization of legal documents and contracts. Unfortunately, this is a huge issue that has gotten worse in the digital age. Years ago, businesses would have filing cabinets full of documents, along with administrative personnel who managed those documents. There was a clear-to-follow process to make sure all contracts were executed and fully completed prior to being added to the filing cabinets.   

In contrast, contracts now reside in emails and other cloud-based storage systems. They may have signatures, or they may not. In fact, most of the due diligence processes I have gone through over the past eight years are held up because the “completed and executed” contracts are not readily available or the parties involved thought the documents were executed and find that they never were. 

  1. Financial statements are not up to date and do not reconcile to the billing and sales data. The ease of use of some modern cloud-based accounting systems combined with the fact that most personnel are not taking the necessary time to reconcile as often as they should lead up to outdated, unbalanced financial statements. Imagine going into a deal only to find that their representations are based on unfounded financial principles? This could not only cost you the deal, but your reputation, credibility, and integrity. There is simply no negotiating around outdated financials. 

The best way to avoid deal fatigue is to be prepared in every aspect of your business and the deal itself. This will help each step move along faster and more efficiently, reducing the overall time of the transaction. If deal fatigue starts to creep in, remind everyone involved about the mutual advantages and the reasons the deal was struck in the first place. Keeping a clear vision of the big picture helps to avoid getting stuck on the smaller details. 

Are you about to go into negotiations or already experiencing deal fatigue? Barker Associates can help keep the parties and the deal on track. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Getting Back to Business Basics

Getting Back to Business Basics 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We have collectively experienced unprecedented times. As CEOs and CFOs, we seem to be writing the playbook as we go. Over the past eighteen months, survival mode has become the norm rather than the exception, as we navigate the turbulent waters of each day. Yet, we all realize we can’t survive in survival mode for extended periods of time. In doing so, we are only looking at our immediate requirements and needs to get by, not our long-term goals and needs to thrive. 

When we operate only in the day-to-day, as survival mode requires, we tend to overlook the basics when it comes to our businesses, and specifically, our financials. But truly getting back to basics is the only way to support the long-term strategic growth of the business. And when it comes to basics, you can’t get much more fundamental than a business plan and an annual budget.  

Basics #1: The Business Plan 

You may be thinking this is Business 101 and you’re beyond it, but you’d probably be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t be) at the number of businesses that do not have any business plan whatsoever. A business plan is much more than something that has to be checked off your never-ending to-do list. It not only helps you create an effective strategy for growth, but also helps you determine your future financial needs, including the need for investors and/or lenders. 

According to the SBA, the importance is clear. “A good business plan guides you through each stage of starting and managing your business. You’ll use your business plan as a roadmap for how to structure, run, and grow your business. It’s a way to think through the key elements of your business.” 

Additionally, if you plan on seeking funding, business plans play a crucial role. “Business plans can help you get funding or bring on new business partners. Investors want to feel confident they’ll see a return on their investment. Your business plan is the tool you’ll use to convince people that working with you — or investing in your company — is a smart choice.” 

In thinking about the execution of a business plan, too many owners or leaders get stalled on the format itself. However, it’s important to remember there is no right or wrong way to develop a business plan. Regardless of how many pages or the font used, the most important takeaways are that it clearly lays out your product or service, identifies your target market, and details your strategy for reaching that market, including the financial needs and requirements on both a short- and long-term basis. While this past year has shown us that we cannot fathom every possible scenario that could impact our business, developing a robust plan is one way to prepare for as many contingencies as possible and help ensure the company’s success. 

Basics #2: Annual Budget 

While twelve months from now may feel like it may as well be twelve years from now, it is imperative to have a strong annual budget. The annual budget should also be able to be broken down into months for easier monitoring. At a minimum, your annual budget should include the following:  

  1. Income Statement,  
  1. Balance Sheet, and  
  1. Cash Flow Statement.  

Most businesses are familiar enough with income statements – they can clearly see the revenue coming in and the expenses going out. This is undoubtedly important, but it does not prepare you for your working capital needs. Essentially, you need to know how much you actually require to run your business. In order to truly understand those requirements, an accurate balance sheet and cash flow statement are needed. For example, if you have inventory on your balance sheet, you will need to project the use of cash to purchase that inventory. An income statement will not help you with that.

Nearly every decision you make today can impact your cash flow tomorrow. For example, I once worked with an organization that had double-digit growth each year and was very profitable. The company was getting ready to launch a second product and had offered extended payment terms to customers on their entire order if they added the new product to their order. This may have been an impactful customer service move; however, it was quite the opposite for generating the cash flow needed to pay the vendor. No one had projected the impact this decision would have to their balance sheet and cash flow, so they were unaware that the plan they had in place was going to essentially stop incoming cash. We had to react quickly and manage cash just to meet payroll and other immediate obligations. Simply, this stressful time could have been avoided entirely if the company planned appropriately with a balance sheet and cash flow statement. 

While the responsibilities and priorities of a CEO or CFO may vary depending on the company, the need to get out of survival mode and back to business basics is the same for everyone. The common denominator of these basics is that they require you to look ahead and make forecasts on the future of your business – the very opposite of survival mode. Barker Associates has extensive experience in developing business plans and annual budgets that are appropriate for the specific business involved. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First

Leadership – The Importance of Leading Your Mental Health First 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I love people. I always have. And I am sure I always will. That being said, once I became a leader of an organization, one of the most difficult things for me to grasp was that my team, made up of colleagues who previously would join me for lunch or socialize after work hours, no longer seemed to want to be with me outside of meetings or the office. I wondered what I had done wrong … until I remembered that my new title brought along more with it than met the eye, and that it can be lonely at the top

I have grown tremendously throughout my career and, through the process, have come to understand myself better.  Moving from a CFO of an organization to a consultant and business owner catapulted my self-development to a new level. I have learned more about my strengths and, even more importantly, my weaknesses. Sure, I enjoy learning more about people. I ask tons of questions, not to be intrusive, but to get to know the other person better. And yes, I am an open book, even “honest to a fault,” so I had to learn to grasp that just because another person is not an open book does not mean they don’t like me.  

Through this self-discovery, I am now someone who can better understand not only my own perspectives, but empathetically, those of others.  I understand how much “me taking care of me” is required to be the best leader for my own organization.  And I appreciate it even more after going through COVID-19. 

Leading Ourselves to Better Mental Health 

Recently, I listed to a great podcast that brought these points home for me. As I listened, I could completely relate to how the guest, Nick, talked about how hard his parents were on him (as my parents were on me).  While it bothered him (and me) greatly in our younger years, there is nothing but acceptance and appreciation now for the person they molded me to be. Nick also talked about the feelings of isolation brought about by COVID-19 and how exhilarating it was to have the first business dinner meeting post-COVID. He was right. I’ve had a few meetings that don’t require a camera and Zoom over the past few months, and always felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders in doing so. After I listened to that podcast, I made sure to book more in-person business meetings, and it has already made a difference in how I feel.  

Another area of change for me has to do with my physical health. Pre-COVID, I loved group exercise. When the gyms shut down, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn how to work out on my own and to get and stay motivated. But I didn’t stay in that space. Instead, I found several sources to help me, and now I have many options to deal with stress to ensure I exercise when I travel or even when I cannot make a scheduled exercise class. 

You Don’t Have to Do it Alone 

I have come across some amazing resources that have helped me maintain my mental health through life’s (and a pandemic’s) transitions. I do not receive affiliate income from any of the links I share here. I am sharing them with you in the hopes I can help make your path to self-discovery less bumpy than my own.  

  • Calm App – This has become one of my go-to apps. And I love sleep stories. By far, my favorite is Wander with Mathew McConnaughy. I also have enjoyed the guided meditations that I can use throughout the day. The music is great with coffee in the morning and they also have a selection of music to play to help you concentrate while you work. 
  • Jill Coleman (Instagram) – I love following Jill Coleman, a business coach for fitness professionals, on Instagram.  I also listen to her podcast FITBIZU.  She offers great advice about mindset around eating and exercising.  Her fitness programs helped me make it through COVID-19 with an actual workout plan.  She also offers business advice on her podcast, including how to run a sales call. 
  • Katie Hammill (Instagram) – I follow Katie on Instagram, and work with her to review my weekly meal plans. She taught me that one of the most important aspects of a healthy lifestyle is a meal plan. We have implemented it in my household, helping to maintain calm in our daily lives. We always have a plan for dinner, rather than having a stressful conversation at 6 p.m. about what we are going to do. Another helpful hint to reduce stress around mealtime – make sure you have all the ingredients in the household when you make your meal plan! 
  • Kathy’s Table – Kathy’s Table provides individually proportioned meals that are healthy and gluten free. We include these in our weekly plan at least two nights a week. After two minutes in the microwave, you have a healthy, and delicious, well-balanced meal. And, maybe even better yet, clean-up is fast and easy, which also eliminates daily stress. 

Our mental health is impacted by much of our daily lives, especially with all that we have been through in the past fifteen months. And as leaders, we must also recognize our own impact on the mental health of our employees, who are looking to us to lead with more confidence and less stress. We must rid ourselves of the thought process that if we work harder and longer, without any care for ourselves, we will be more effective leaders. In fact, the opposite is true. Without taking care of ourselves, we will eventually burn out, leaving our team without a leader at all. 

Leadership requires accountability not only of your subordinates, but of yourself.  When you are overwhelmed with so many day-to-day responsibilities you may put self-care on the back burner.  If you need a leadership coach to help you with this important aspect, and you are serious about the accountability to do so, click  here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. We will work out the right coaching plan for you, and I will apply the $100 toward the package.   

Cybersecurity – It’s Not Just a “Big Business” Problem

Cybersecurity – It’s Not Just a “Big Business” Problem 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Cybersecurity is a word we’ve all become entirely too familiar with. It seems that we can’t turn on the news without hearing about another story of a company being hacked, its information stolen, and, in certain instances, its data being held for ransom. And despite what some continue to think, this is not just a “big company problem.” It affects small and mid-sized businesses just as much, if not more. In fact, according to the  Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 43% of cyberattacks target small businesses. 

There’s a reason for this targeting. Small businesses tend to have more exposure, without the protections in place to help minimize the risks of a cyberattack. Not only are they more prone to attacks, for small business with limited resources, an attack can prove to be fatal. Sadly, 60% of small businesses that experience a cybersecurity attack are out of business within six months. The reason? Too often, they don’t have a viable backup system or plan, so when they lose their data, it’s gone for good. 

According to a U.S. Small Business Administration survey, 88% of small business owners believe their business is vulnerable to a cyberattack. With the increase in remote workers without infrastructure for cybersecurity or employee training on increased risks due to the pandemic, this high percentage is not surprising. 

Other Costly Statistics in the World of Cybersecurity 

How They Get In 

The most common way attackers infiltrate your system in through email. We’ve all seen them. They look like legitimate emails at first glance, but then there is something that catches your eye – the email address may be off, it may be asking you to click on a link, or it has an attachment that doesn’t seem right.  

Whether it’s through an email or through ads or pop-ups on the web, when you click on that document, link, or ad, the virus that was embedded launches a program on your computer that will start locking files. If you’re connected to a network (which many of us are), the virus then travels to the server and infects files there and on other connected computers. Once it starts, it cannot be reversed, and you may not even be aware it is happening. Often times, the attacker will wait, lurking in the background, to collect as much valuable information as possible. 

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself  

Despite the news stories and all the warnings, many small businesses are not prepared for a cyberattack. While we can never eliminate the threat completely, there are actions we can take as part of an overall strategy to minimize the risk: 

  • Ensure your computers and servers have a strong firewall 
  • Keep all hardware and software up to date 
  • Install all updates and patches 
  • Use stronger passwords and change them frequently 
  • Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 
  • Do not allow users to download unsupported or free software 
  • Back up all critical data and systems regularly 
  • Have a backup plan in place 
  • Invest in Cybersecurity insurance 
  • Educate your employees 
    • Raising awareness among employees is one of the most important steps you can take. Continuously inform them about what the latest threats are, remind them about updates, and remind them not to open emails if they don’t know who the email is from. Use real-life scenarios and samples of phishing emails to help them understand the threats. 

With these tools and systems in place, you not only minimize your risks, but if you are attacked, you will be able to get your company back up and running much faster than if you didn’t.  

As they say, the world is changing, and, as always, we need to change right along with it. The key, as with much in business, is being prepared, understanding your own particular vulnerabilities, and taking proactive steps to help ensure your safety and the safety of your business. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience in helping companies navigate through all the complexities of running a successful business, including utilizing resources to help keep it safe. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.