Category Archives: CFO

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.  

The ABCs of Recruiting the C-Suite

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

True leaders know they are as only as strong as the team they build around them. To that end, hiring not only the most qualified, but also the most compatible C-Suite executives with whom to strategize and collaborate on the future of the company is invaluable. 

Recruiting the right person at this level differs significantly from recruiting at other levels. He or she must possess the requisite qualifications and also the requisite experience to be enabled to make significant decisions quickly. Moreover, he or she must have the ability to handle incredible amounts of responsibilities, and function well, if not thrive, under pressure. This person’s presence will impact other employees, the company culture, and the company itself. And a bad hire at this level can lead to enormous disruptions, including damaging morale, decreasing productivity, and adversely affecting the company culture. 

Finding the Best Talent Doesn’t Come without Challenges 

Recruiting top-level employees presents its own unique set of challenges that aren’t generally encountered at other levels. These challenges should be kept in mind as the recruiting process begins. First, you will likely face competition. These employees are in demand, usually having the ability to choose where they want to work and name their terms.  

Additionally, C-Suite employees in general are not actively looking for a new job. In most instances, they are already employed. However, individuals at this level are always looking for new opportunities, so don’t let their current employment stop you. The workforce is different today. Long gone are the days of people retiring from a company after thirty years of service. This person may be ready for a change in his or her career, and that change could be your offer. 

Tips to Help Secure the Right C-Suite Fit 

  1. Set Goals. Ask yourself the following: What are you looking for? What is negotiable? What is not? What input have you received from your board of directors or even other employees? You should have the answers firmly decided upon before moving forward, and be clear about them during the interview process. It is equally as important to understand with clarity who you do not want to hire. What characteristics do they have? Transparency from the start is essential in this process.  
  2. Draft the Right Job Description. Don’t just resurrect an old job description or write what you “think” you need. Engage in due diligence to find out what your competitors are searching for, what candidates are putting out there (if anything), and then set benchmarks and make the description appealing based on the information you learn. This document should never merely be about a title and responsibilities. It should reflect the company’s culture and clearly demonstrate where this person will make the largest impact and how. 
  3. Realize Expectations. C-Suite candidates will have certain expectations, often resulting in increased costs. They may request their own office, own parking spot, and certain other benefits. Ask yourself what you are prepared for and can handle financially before you engage in discussions. 
  4. Vet carefully, but do not delay. It’s important to get to know this person – not just their qualifications and experience, but their values and who they are at their core. Utilize behavioral interview questions and emotional intelligence quizzes. Have frequent follow ups and thoroughly check references. However, all of this is said with a caveat. Remember this individual is likely in high-demand, and one of your competitors could move in and make them an offer if you delay too long. 
  5. Consider promoting someone from within. You should always consider moving someone up from within. Benefits of this decision include being good for overall morale, motivating employees, and increasing retention. Yet, while it is ideal to promote from within, you must ensure he or she is ready for the type of responsibility and demands the C-Suite brings with it.   

Hiring at this level requires forward-thinking analysis. It calls for significant preparation far before any job description is drafted or interview occurs. For example, you want to ensure that you’ve created a culture that reflects the company’s mission, objectives, values, and long-term vision. Without proper alignment, you risk attracting the wrong type of candidate for your company. 

Often, the first (if not, one of the first) C-Suite executives hired is the Chief Financial Officer. Generally speaking, the owner or CEO excels at strategy or operations, but does not possess the knowledge needed for financial decisions. He or she needs someone who thoroughly understands all financial aspects of the company and can then guide it the right direction. Outsourcing this function is another available option.

With the significant investment of time, money, effort, and energy the recruiting and onboarding of your new C-Suite employee will be, you want to ensure longevity with the right fit. Barker Associates has extensive experience working as an outsourced CFO and assisting companies in determining their needs for this position. If you would like to discuss these services, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

The Balancing Act of Account Reconciliation and Online Banking

The Balancing Act of Account Reconciliation and Online Banking
Convenience Doesn’t Make Up for Inaccuracy

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We are continuing our financial literacy discussion with something we all know about … or do we? We’re talking about online banking and its effect on our reconciliation habits (or lack thereof). In our daily routines, with our phones and computers easily assisting us with deposits, automated payments, and Zelle transfers, do we ever think about good old bank account statements and the ever-important task of regular bank account reconciliations? My guess for many is no. 

Most of us happily “live” online. Our online lives provide convenience and speed like we’ve never known before. Simply, they provide what we all crave – instant gratification. As a society, we have become accustomed to having all of the information we need with the click of our mouse or a swipe on our smartphone. Dare I say, we tend to get a little lazy, not to mention, annoyed, when we don’t have instantaneous satisfaction. Everything from groceries to dinner delivery to setting appointments to virtual doctor’s appointments to online banking just helps make our lives easier. And we’re all for it. 

With regard to online banking, being able to find out your balance, arrange for a payment, and make a deposit all from the palm of our hand is wonderful … in certain situations. However, in many instances, people are becoming far too reliant on this online information and forgetting about some of the basics, such as bank account reconciliation.  

In the Days Before Online Banking 

Once upon a time, long before online banking became a regular part of our lives, the standard practice for both personal and business checking accounts was to reconcile a check register to a monthly bank statement. You remember those days (or you should) – when you received your bank statement in the mail (yes, the actual mailbox, not email) and then you’d open your checkbook and go through line-by-line check-marking away to make sure each transaction was accounted for? Well, there was a reason for that. You need to know which transactions have cleared and which haven’t, so you can accurately determine how much is in your account (which, in reality, is not always what the number on the statement says). 

Yet, when accounting professionals adopted online banking into their processes, organizations tended to forgo the discipline of maintaining a check register as part of their reconciliation processes. In the interest of increasing efficiencies, and feeling as if the ends no longer justified the means, reconciliation became an “obsolete” practice. But should it have? Absolutely not. 

A Common Conversation 

The following is a typical conversation I’ve had when consulting with clients on accounting process improvements: 

Accounting professional (with a bundle of unsigned checks): “This is our process for obtaining check signatures.” 

Me: “How do you know you have enough money in the account to cover these checks? What is your procedure?”  

Accounting professional: “I checked the balance online this morning.” 

Me: “Where is the reconciliation to the check register? How do you know that all of the uncashed checks will not deplete the entire balance?” 

Accounting professional: “I know there are not that many outstanding checks.” 

Me: “When is the last time you reconciled the account?” 

Accounting professional: Answers range from “a year ago” to “I do not remember” (not good) to “yesterday” or “a month ago” (which is good). 

Finding the Right Balance 

I am not saying there aren’t times when viewing online balances without going through the reconciliation process is appropriate, but it’s not the final reconciliation resource. It’s okay to use online banking as an effective tool to manage your daily cash flow, but it requires the extra effort of being connected to a cash reconciliation process that is properly maintained and reviewed periodically. Without accurate and consistent reconciliations, your organization is at risk of fraud, unauthorized withdrawals, or bank errors. If left unchecked, these issues can quickly lead to cash flow issues that will hurt business operations and stifle growth. 

Let’s avoid those situations with an experiment: If you are a CEO, President of a company, or a Finance Chair of a non-profit, ask the accounting department for the latest bank/cash reconciliation of the operating account. Ask specifically for these documents: 

  • The bank reconciliation 
  • A copy of the bank document to which it was reconciled 
  • The Balance Sheet balance to which it was reconciled 

(Note: Publicly traded companies, financial institutions, insurance companies and other regulated industries have to maintain reconciliation procedures, so if you are in charge of one of those, regulation will take care of this.) 

If you are bold enough to move forward with this call to action, my experience tells me about 50% of you will get a reconciliation completed in the last 45 days. If you get one and do not know how to review it, schedule time with me for a free, no-obligation checklist that will guide you through a high-level review.  

If you do not get a reconciliation, and, in fact, get a blank stare from your accounting person, contact me to complete a review of your cash procedures and processes. You may have plenty of cash flow today, but how do you really know without a current reconciliation? Don’t risk finding yourself in a position where you cannot meet your basic financial obligations. “Cash is king” is a cliché’ for a reason – it’s true!

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. 

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. 

Dogs Will Lie, but the Numbers Will Not

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Your House…and Your Books…In Order

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

When I have guests over for dinner, I empty trash cans, pull out the cloth napkins, and replace the everyday hand towel with a nice guest towel. The morning after the dinner party, I almost always say to myself that we should keep the house this tidy and organized all the time. A decluttered house feels really nice. Working at home during the pandemic has allowed me to have the time to keep the house up better and I have enjoyed it.

Think about getting your house in order and keeping it that way, similar to keeping your books and records audit ready. When business owners and their CFOs go through an audit that requires a lot of up-front preparation to get the information auditable, they generally discover facts about their business of which they were previously unaware. The ability to use financial data to think strategically and make sound decisions about the operations of the business is not a luxury to undervalue.

Auditors estimate their costs for performing your audit based on the books and records being clean and auditable. I have asked some auditors how much more first year audits cost than their original estimate due to the books and records being out of order. They report that the range is 20% to over 10 times the original estimate. This is not a pleasant outcome for anyone.

Here are seven tips on how to keep your books auditable and help reduce your audit costs.

Maintain a checking account balance in checkbook style that one person reconciles to the bank statement and then a second person reviews for accuracy.

Reconcile balance sheet account balances no less than once a quarter, if not every month. The two accounts that are generally audit gremlins are prepaid expense and accrued expenses. If you have not reconciled these accounts in the last year, I can almost guarantee you there will be unexplained numbers in them.

Keep a data room with all of your contracts and loans. With the digital age and the end of the metal filing cabinet, this seems to be something that is rarely maintained appropriately. Read more about the data room in my previous blog Who is Your Betty.

As soon as you decide to engage an auditor, your immediate next step should be to get the list of information they will want. Assign a person and a due date to each item on the list and distribute it to the responsible parties. Set deadlines for delivery of the documents and monitor progress until the tasks are completed (Excel schedule, Asana, or other project management software).

Complete the confirmation information and attorney letters immediately after you receive the list of the items the auditors want to confirm. Make sure the auditors give it to you as soon as you have a year-end trial balance for them to review.

Provide the auditors with a complete trial balance. Every adjustment to the trial balance you provide auditors increases the price of the audit.

Work on the format and disclosures of the audited financial statements for the current year as soon as the previous audit is complete. There is no excuse for digging through loan documents to prepare the financial statement footnotes after the year-end, or to read a new GAAP disclosure to figure out how to do it after year-end.

Barker Associates works with companies to access audit readiness, which is a far better investment than starting an audit with false confidence you are able to get through the audit. Let’s work together to make sure your audit fees are not multiples of the original quoted rate from the auditors. Click here to set up a free consultation.

To eat eggs or not – that is the question.

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Those of us who work to manage our cholesterol have received conflicting information about eating eggs. I grew up loving eggs, but then, as an adult, I was told not to eat them due to high cholesterol.

Then the nutrition experts decided you can eat egg whites. Now it is back to eat your eggs – yolk and all – the last time I spoke with a nutritionist. Confusing.

Deciding if you are going to outsource a function within an organization is about as confusing. The trends go back and forth on that issue too. Advances in technology and lower costs of offshore professionals have made the idea of outsourcing more attractive in some cases. 

I have some advice, gained over my years as CFO in various organizations, for you to consider while you evaluate the idea of outsourcing financial functions:

Don’t try to fix a broken process by outsourcing it. Do not outsource a recurring, detail-oriented process that is currently broken. Get the best consultant you can afford working to fix the process. Make certain the expert who fixes the process creates a training manual on how the process should run and trains an internal staff person on it. You may discover during this process it is easier for you to keep that process going with your own employees or you may decide you want to outsource the detail part of it to an outside, less costly resource. The bottom line is that if you do not understand your own process, you cannot know if a third party is accurately performing it on your behalf.

Get organized. Organize your data in a way that you can provide it to the outside party prior to engaging them. If you cannot make sense of your data, you can end up paying a third party a lot of money to do it for you.

One of the areas I’ve seen this as an issue is with State Sales Tax. Compliance in this area is about as difficult as hanging upside down from a tall tree branch while flossing your teeth. Companies get frustrated with the complicated process of filing state sales taxes, especially when multiple states, or states with complicated calculations and forms are involved. For example, are you capturing sales revenue based on the billing address or the shipping address? You must have accurate data before outsourcing it for someone else to handle.

My recommendation is to invest in upgrading your IT infrastructure. Regardless of whether you are outsourcing compliance with state sales tax or another process, you must be in a position to produce data in an organized manner that a third party can accept and act on.

When you do decide to outsource a portion of your business, make sure you keep the data and regularly backup the data the outsourced agency is using. Make sure you still know where your information is and how to get to it if the outsourced entity suddenly goes out of business. Perform routine oversight of the work being done by the third party. This is even more important today in this every changing business world.

Just-in Time Experts. Expertise that you need infrequently is a great area to consider outsourcing. Many third parties provide outsourced IT, legal, human resource, or financial expertise to augment internal resources and are less costly than hiring the expertise full time. You may only require specialized expertise for specific projects rather than an on-going need.

Outsourcing these functions is not without its drawbacks. For example, let’s say your obsolete, no-one-has-ever-heard-of information system gets hacked and you have no in-house expert who is familiar with your system. Hiring an expert to support obscure software can be costly and time intensive to get your problem solved.

Or perhaps legal expertise is something you only require occasionally. You decide to download a customer contract from the internet instead of hiring legal expertise to prepare your standard contract. If you get in a nonpayment dispute with one of your major customers and then bring in legal to help you, you may discover that the customer contract you downloaded for free from the internet will not allow you to properly recover the revenue you are due. Now the outside lawyer has to clean up the mess you made by not hiring them on the front end to prepare a sound contract.

My point is that it is essential the right expertise performs the company’s core functions in every business. The laws and regulation in these areas change rapidly and you need someone to help you stay compliant and out of trouble.

Barker Associates provides outsourced Chief Financial Officer services on a fractional or full-time basis in the event of a transition. Fractional services work best during times of fast paced growth, a new system implementation, a merger, or an acquisition. Even with a full time CFO on board, they have a day job and these types of changes require a unique focus and background. Our extensive and diverse background helps guide the organization through the change.

During a transition time, Barker Associates uses their expertise to assist the organization with designing a job description and interviewing candidates for the new position. Once your new CFO, Accountant or other financial professional is onboard, Barker Associates exits until you bring us back for the next big project.

If you are considering outsourcing a financial process within your organization and would like to discuss specific areas of concern, I would love to speak with you. Click here to schedule a 30-minute free consultation to discuss your unique situation.

Getting to Day Zero

Companies are going through year-end financial reporting. Just for fun, at cocktail parties and networking lunches, I ask executives and investors if they get the year-end results as quickly as they would like to get them. My unofficial survey says that most stakeholders are not receiving results timely.

Proactive organizations have “Day Zero” at the top of mind at the beginning of the month. If you don’t know what this means in terms of proactively managing your financial strategy, read on…

The truth is that almost every single employee in an organization can impact the ability of the accounting department to close timely, yet the company accountant may not be the best source to drive home that truth. The message from the top should convey respect for each professional’s time and support for more efficient month-end and year-end processes – where everyone focuses on funneling information in a manner to close the records effectively. The ultimate goal is to provide to the management team a Flash Report as soon as possible following month-end, followed by the official month end financials.

Day Zero refers to tasks your accounting and finance departments can complete prior to the end of the month to speed up the month end close. Decisions about the company require timely, accurate data – a smooth and timely month-end is vital.

Some “green eyeshade” accountants may balk at the idea that they can shorten the month-end process; however, the strategic finance professional digs into their process to find and tackle these tasks, as well as improving their process going forward. 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates Getting to Day Zero

Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • Recording depreciation,
  • Making standard monthly entries for amortization of intangibles, and
  • Recording accruals of expense.

Once you have identified the pre-close tasks, create a Day Zero checklist with deadlines for each item. The finance manager should oversee that deadlines are being consistently met and if not, get to the root of the problem to correct the process. One solution may involve asking other departments to turn in their information based on a schedule you provide in advance.

Refining your month-end close process is an iterative process if you continually raise the bar to identify better ways to execute. Automating reconciliation and other process improvements contribute to shortening the cycle.

Document your processes with Standard Operating Procedures so that all team members have steps to follow should any one team member need backup. Keep your SOPs up-to-date through periodic review.

Spend time in the middle of the month following the month-end process to complete your review of the entire process. Engage your finance team and uncover those Day Zero tasks you can incorporate into your process. Everyone in the organization will benefit when leaders have more timely and accurate information with which to make decisions.

If you are disciplined and implement Day Zero and other month-end processes, you can provide a Flash Report of results to management as soon as Day 1 after month-end.

Barker Associates can facilitate a review of month-end processes with your team to ensure you have uncovered all the possible streamlining opportunities. Provide the best customer service to your management team possible – provide financial information and think strategically and become part of positive initiatives to move the entity forward and not the green-eyeshade accounting department about which everyone complains.

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/