There were more firsts this year than any of us care to count. Some issues, however, have been around for a very long time and aren’t going anywhere. In fact, many are more important than ever before. Financial strategies and solutions, infrastructure, investor relations, and negotiations simply do not quarantine themselves, even during a global pandemic. Rather, the pandemic forced us to be even more diligent when it comes not only to our physical health, but also to our financial health.
Before we start crunching the numbers of 2021, we thought it was a good time to reflect back on the topics we found most crucial in 2020. Click below for some refreshers, as you prepare for the new year:
Getting to Day Zero: The importance of “Day Zero” being top of mind at the beginning of each month for proactive organizations.
Help Investors Spend Their Money: How the amount of money in the hands of Private Equity and Venture Capital firms substantially increased over recent years – the total money raised in 2008 was $392 billion as compared to $740 billion raised in 2019.
Essential Infrastructure: The right infrastructure is critical to generate data about your business during the due diligence process with potential investors.
Negotiate from a Position of Knowledge: Valuation is the value an investor would place on your company if you were to seek investment funding. Your company can be valued based on what someone will pay for it or what the market will bear.
Times Have Changed, or Have They?: With all of the year’s changes, one thing that hasn’t changed is the core fundamentals of business. In order to survive (pre- or post-pandemic), a business must have a product or service that solves a problem and can financially make a profit.
Oh No Not Again: The importance of having a clear vision and financial roadmap for your business through having the right infrastructure in place, including an Enterprise Resource Plan, CRM, General Ledger, Cash, HR System, and Payments.
Stay Safe: Leaders must set priorities that have measurable results with employees, even if the employee is working from home or transitioning back to the office.
If you have any questions about these topics or how to start your new year on the right financial foot, we can help. Let’s set up a time to talk! Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute consultation.
Many entrepreneurs who launch a business are focused on selling and bringing in revenue so much they are not thinking about the type of infrastructure needed to efficiently operate their business. I have to admit that some of this even happened to me when I first began my consulting practice. All of the support I received in my role as a corporate CFO was nonexistent. That saying about building the airplane while flying it applies here.
You bet I am – because it’s that important to the success of your business.
In an ideal world, your infrastructure can be represented by this graphic:
(* ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning – is the conductor that manages all of your business’s processes to integrate them into a cohesive database for reporting purposes).
Small businesses starting out often prioritize going after the work to generate revenue while building a “just-in-time” infrastructure. No thought is behind how all of the pieces should work together with the end result in mind. With a computer and a phone, you can run many types of businesses by the seat of your pants in the beginning.
For a business to grow to the next level, a business owner needs a vision and a roadmap that includes the evolution of their company infrastructure.
Understanding the basics of what your infrastructure should be able to do for you is critical when selecting the right tools to operate. Here are two of the most fundamental components: Cash and your General Ledger.
Knowing your cash burn rate – the rate at which you spend cash over time – is the most basic component for a business owner to know. Without cash you cannot operate. Maintaining a cash ledger, even if it’s in Excel or a tool such as QuickBooks, is critical. Select a tool that provides download capabilities for future integration needs. Forecasting cash needs over the next few weeks or months will help you decide the timing of critical versus discretionary spending. I advise my clients to know at least a 12-week forecast of cash needs.
You may be saying at this point that you already have a tool – your online banking site. Anyone who has heard me speak on this topic knows my position on this – you MUST have a checkbook that is reconciled each month to maintain history. The information gained from this piece of your infrastructure can be used to diagnose issues and strategically to plan for future growth. The online account is only a moment in time and does not serve your future.
Setting up your general ledger with the end goal of financial reporting in mind provides you with the insights you will need to answer questions such as, “How much did I spend in Marketing last year?” and “Am I making or losing money in my Hoboken location?”
Whether or not your future includes seeking investment funding, you must have the infrastructure in place to answer these types of questions when planning for the future. Potential investors will require you have data to back up projections for future sales. If you cannot rely on your general ledger and reporting tools to produce answers, perhaps it’s time to revisit your current infrastructure to support future needs.
Wondering where to start to build the right infrastructure? Let’s start with your General Ledger. Structuring your GL in order to generate reports from various perspectives is critical to daily decisions, budgeting, and financial reporting.
Note this example:
When a GL is structured with these various categories you can examine your business from multiple angles to determine if a location, product, or department are serving the business as needed. If you cannot produce financial reports to support tactical and strategic decision-making, perhaps the GL structure is the problem.
Mindy’s Money Tips contains in-depth, free advice for new entrepreneurs and mature business owners, alike. Find out when new articles are published by following me on your favorite social media platform – the links are shown at the end of this article.
If you would like to discuss how to structure your general ledger to work for you or other 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.
Since March nearly everyone in the world has experienced change in their lives beyond our average experience. Some of the changes have been stressful and devastating; some have been positive. Most people with whom I have spoken have found times of joy in spending more time with their loved ones, having the time to cook, play games and just talk.
However, the negative impact on so many businesses seems almost unbelievable. Eight months ago no one would have predicted that restaurants, retail stores and gyms would have to completely shut down.
What has not changed are the core fundamentals of business. In order to survive, a business must have a product or service that solves a problem and can financially make a profit. From what I have seen, many businesses that will not survive until the end of 2020 were not sustainable prior to the pandemic because they did not understand which products or services were making money and which products were losers.
The core metrics and accountability required to run a profitable business were overshadowed by the exuberance of the economy and the unrealistic valuations private equity and venture capital firms were paying for investments. These valuations stemmed from the limited supply of investment-worthy companies and the requirement for investors to invest in order to stay in business.
The firms being capitalized had the Seven Essential Tools® – and knew how to use them to attract investors.
Check out my Seven Essential Tools Road Map®, which shows the steps to preparing to pitch to investors. Along with the Seven Essential Tools® details, you can position your company for growth or simply gain a better understanding of where your company stands financially.
Investors are focused more than ever on the core attributes of a business when evaluating it for investment. The good news is that the information they want to know is the same information that is critical for you to run your business successfully.
If you are a founder or a C-suite executive of a fast-paced, growing entrepreneurial company, are you confident you have the Seven Essential Tools® you need to pitch to investors?
How would you respond if someone made a legitimate offer for your business? Would you know if the amount is what the market would pay? Even if the offer sounds like more, or less than you imagined, you want to respond from a position of knowledge, not sticker shock.
Valuation is the value an investor would place on your company if you were to seek investment funding. From a negotiating standpoint, it’s better for the prospective buyer to say a number first so you have an indicator of how serious they are. Prepare yourself – arm yourself with the knowledge of a realistic valuation so you can effectively negotiate.
One measure of the value of your business is what someone will pay for it. Enterprise Value is a real number that investors calculate using your historical financial statements to arrive at a multiple of revenue, or EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization). Other factors influence the value that could actually be paid for the business.
For example, are you loading your books with personal expenses and other tactics to avoid paying taxes? When investors value your business, such expenses can lower your EBITDA and affect the sale of your company.
On the other hand, EBITDA can be higher when you keep personal and business expenses and bank accounts separate and run your business as a true entrepreneur. Large and small organizations alike are guilty of combining personal and business expenses. C Suite executives in large organizations without governance over their expense account can significantly impact the value of the business by deflating the run rate of profit. Smaller businesses sometimes pay their family members a salary without the family member ever doing any work for the organization. Neither of these examples are proper stewardship over the financial governance of the organization.
Then there is the value that the market will bear. Factors that can influence the actual value paid for your business include how scalable your infrastructure is – the people, processes, and technology. If a new owner wants to focus on growth, is the right infrastructure in place to support that or will the new owner have to invest in infrastructure first? How much debt are you carrying? Someone has to pay off debt when the business changes owners.
On the other hand, your approach to acquiring new capabilities – buy, versus build, versus lease – in some cases can raise the value that the market is willing to pay.
Your role as an entrepreneurial leader can also influence the market value of your business. Employing a strong team who lead and run your company with an eye to the future is much more attractive than a business operating with old, inefficient processes and no new product launches.
My goal with this post is to help you understand the importance of knowing the value of your business. You never know when someone is going to reach out to you with an offer you cannot refuse. Be ready by knowing the valuation of your company so you can speak intelligently – before you get on the emotional roller coaster of discussing a transaction.
Recently I attended the 2019 Florida Early Stage Capital conference, where I gained an impressive and realistic view of the early-stage entrepreneurs in Florida. The Florida Venture Forum does a great job of running these conferences. If you are an early-stage entrepreneur, this is a must-attend event each year. The education and networking opportunities for early-stage entrepreneurs are irreplaceable.
The extensive vetting of Florida-based companies seeking to present their pitch at the event means attendees meet the A-list early-stage entrepreneurs. Hearing from the represented companies about their products or services, and the problems they must solve challenged my understanding but was a great learning experience. Each entrepreneur generally has personal experience with the problem they are solving, which then drives them to develop a solution. The challenge at this stage of the game for these companies is to develop a revenue model and platform that will scale and build a recurring stream of profitable revenue.
Insights I Gained from the Conference
The conference included a strong healthcare solutions representation. As anyone who has dealt with the healthcare system in the USA knows, managing the end-to-end process of undergoing complex medical services and procedures is cumbersome and difficult to manage. A variety of innovative ideas were represented at this year’s conference that can solve each problem you may encounter in the health treatment lifecycle. One of the things that became crystal clear during the pitch contest is that if you want to build a business related to healthcare, you must answer two questions: who is going to pay for it and how will the solution meet HIPAA and other compliance guidelines? Each company in that space was asked these types of questions if they did not address them in their presentation. Given the judges’ interest in these follow-up questions, I recommend if you are pitching to investors in the healthcare space, you include this information in the pitch.
From the panel discussions I attended, I learned:
Early-stage companies have traditionally found it difficult to acquire funding in Florida, as most of the wealth that has been obtained has been tied to the real estate industry. Entrepreneurs who made money from real estate seem to have a difficult time grasping the concept of risks faced by an early stage start-up. Angel groups are addressing this problem – high net worth individuals pool their financial resources and brain power to invest in start-ups.
Several incubators have also been formed in Florida. These incubators are working hard to convert entrepreneurial solutions to sustainable companies.
A theme that was consistent from investors and incubator managers is the frequency with which entrepreneurs approach them with an idea and a solution and who think that an investment of money will help solve any problems their start-up is experiencing. Whether the issues are process-related, growing pains, or personnel, they don’t understand that investors want to know the business model is sustainable and scalable. These entrepreneurs need to be willing to listen to the investors’ advice and show a willingness to adapt if they want to earn the investor’s confidence and investment.
Learning from Experience
My favorite part of the conference was the interview Jennifer
Dunham, Partner with Arsenal Growth, conducted
with Abhi Lokesh, Co-founder of Fracture, pictured here.
It takes guts for a business leader to sit before an
audience and discuss his mistakes along his journey. Abhi’s vulnerability and
honesty about his journey in entrepreneurship and interacting with Arsenal as they
built the business immediately endeared him to me and the rest of the audience.
When asked what the most challenging moment in the journey was, he humorously recalled
a board meeting with Arsenal Growth where it was pointed out to him that he was
not listening to their advice and acting on it. Ironically, Jennifer Dunham was
the Arsenal board member he was meeting with at the time, and she was
frustrated by Abhi’s failure to respond to her recommendations.
He also spoke about a time when the orders were coming in so fast the company was unable to fill them within the time frame the company had committed, and how they strategically addressed the issue. Now when you go to their website https://fractureme.com/, the first thing you see at the top of the page is the expected ship date for orders placed today. Fracture has hit upon a unique and aesthetically pleasing alternative to display digital photos.
And the Winner Is…
the early stage competition. This web and mobile-based security system takes
“if you see something, say something” to a new level by partnering with law
enforcement and first responders to help individuals, schools, corporations and
neighborhoods to raise the level of safety and security within communities. The
app allows individuals to report incidents in real time or to submit tips after
the fact. The presenters successfully demonstrated how they solved a problem
while generating revenue and building a scalable platform to grow their
I receive my education in a variety of ways. I love to learn
from those who are on the ground walking the walk and talking the talk. By
meeting hands-on entrepreneurs and hearing their stories and challenges, I become
a better resource for entrepreneurs as they consider pitching to investors, as
well as to C Suite executives, as they consider making investments in
innovative start-ups that solve a problem with which they are currently dealing.
I also think it provides a platform to understand the world better, which makes
me a better person.
Special Contributor Danielle Moga, Barker Associates
If a picture paints a thousand words, the
charts and graphs being compiled for reporting packages should tell a very
colorful story; however, the dashboards and scorecards being created, though
visually appealing, are lacking a strong story line and worse yet…a plot.
Accounting and financial professionals spend hours compiling data from disparate systems to provide an “at a glance” view of information, but often times the rainbow of colors is the best part of the document. The information is typically flat, one-dimensional, and lacks actionable data to help the audience improve financial and operational goals.
By following these steps, you can create
meaningful visuals that tell a story and provide actionable insights to your
1. Begin with the end in mind
Determine if the time creating visuals is worth the time and money it takes to compile. Most leaders don’t understand the hours it takes to pull data together and create meaningful visuals; rather, they see a pretty cover page leading to traditional financial reports. If the visuals are not connected with actionable goals and socialized with leadership and the teams responsible for the measure, they are a waste of time and add no value to the final product.
2. Define what you want to measure
If leadership wants to use visuals to tell a story, then they should use the correct tool to tell that story. “Dashboard” and “scorecard” are tools used to deliver periodic metrics. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different. A dashboard is typically linked to multiple systems, provides real time data, and has flexibility in design, depending on the person or team using it. A scorecard is a snapshot in time, of a specific measure to a pre-determined goal. Leaders who are actively engaged in selecting the measures to be used and the delivery tool can ensure the measure is tied to a specific organizational goal as well as gain the buy in and support for achievement from their staff.
3. Discuss the strategy
I’ve seen too many organizations go through painstaking efforts creating a strategic plan, only to have the completed document sit on the shelf to collect dust. Strategic initiatives, if designed properly, should propel an organization forward and those are the items that should be measured and reviewed regularly. Ideally, senior leaders should review progress towards goals with internal teams and leadership quarterly; review goals semi-annually with the board.
4. Tie results to performance
“What’s measured improves.”
It doesn’t make much sense to design a measure if you don’t have accountability tied to results. The individuals and the teams responsible for achievement must have the ability to successfully complete goals without barriers that prevent performance. For instance, I’ve seen organizations tie cost savings initiatives to the accounting team without including the purchasing or sales teams that actually spend the money. One of my favorite examples of poor planning and misaligned goals is an organization that had a goal to use new software for the organization; however, no one consulted with the IT team or the project management office to ensure resources were allocated to support and implement the project. All parties that can impact the successful outcome of a project should buy in to the project outcomes and performance goals attached to those outcomes.
5. Enable the change
culture that supports and enables change when introducing changes to repetitive
reporting packages. Initiate change with a concise project plan that includes
metrics and milestones, team accountability and ongoing engagement from
leadership help ensure success. Uncover what measures and milestone leaders
need to make informed decisions and then incorporate them into reporting
packages in visually informative ways.
Leaders who intentionally communicate
with visual measures will have a greater success rate at achieving their goals.
Use the rainbow of ink for visuals that tell a compelling story of your
progress and actionable opportunities.
Barker Associates works with leaders to understand and identify meaningful and actionable goals for their organization. We can design indicators to measure progress and actionable tasks to keep your organization on track for achieving goals and executing successful projects.
Most founders and CEOs are certain their business is a good investment and that others should see it that way. Unfortunately, that is not the case in a high number of instances when we dive deeper into the aspects of a company.
We each have a unique set of characteristics that drives us and puts us in situations where we are comfortable. Every time we make a choice to put ourselves in a situation and stay in it, something about that situation is working for us. Solid self-awareness and emotional intelligence help us make choices in life that work for all aspects of our lives and align with our relationship with money and our core values. A culture is developed around that. In business, the governance over this culture is ultimately driven by the purpose of the investors, shareholders, or founder(s). They determine the “Why” of the organization.
The culture and purpose of an organization can be several things.
It can be a hobby, and you are okay with not making any money. I know many business owners who have built a lifestyle company that provides enough cash to pay their bills; they may also run all personal expenses through the company. They are examples of “Lifers.” This practice is great if they happily accept the annual income they produce and do not have any desire to sell the company one day.
Entrepreneurs who are aware they need to build Enterprise Value will focus on establishing and monitoring metrics with the understanding they are building a business that can survive in the ecosystem of the investor world. They do not commingle their personal and business expenses. They listen to experts and focus on the important aspect of building a business. They may not take a salary from the business in the early years, opting instead to reinvest in the business and build a loyal customer base and revenue.
The problem arises when the Lifer wants to raise money from or sell the business to an investor – which really means they want the investor to fund their lifestyle.
Which Are You?
Before you get ready to pitch to investors, evaluate which type of business owner you are and if pitching to investors is the right thing for you. Do not waste your time and energy if it is not.
C-level executives, particularly financial executives, historically have relied exclusively on their technical abilities and work ethic to advance up the corporate ladder, within the same organization. My father talks about when recruiters came to Georgia Tech in 1959 to discuss with upcoming graduates their potential future with the company, including their retirement plans. The expectation was that graduates would get a job, work hard and stay with the same company their entire career. Today you must manage your personal brand – especially CFOS, who have approximately a 2.5-year lifespan at a company.
Unsure how to get started managing your brand?
The CFO Leadership Council is a dynamic, energetic organization that provides countless opportunities for professional development and to keep up with the changing role that CFOs face. Jack McCullough, founder of the CFO Leadership Council, offers his perspective on the value of building and maintaining a personal brand.
“In the modern business climate, it is no longer good enough to be good enough. Any up-and-coming executive, or even one who is well-established, needs to understand and own her or his personal brand. This is especially challenging for financial executives who are hampered by a “humility gene” that prevents that from taking credit for their accomplishments. But, it is also critical for these leaders to cultivate these brands, since there are still many who consider CFOs to be glorified controllers. Every executive has a personal brand. The question is, are you going to control it, or is it going to control you.”
Jack McCullough, Founder, CFO Leadership Council
CFOs and other senior financial executives are invited to join the Jacksonville CFO Leadership Council on September 25 for a panel discussion on Elevate Your Personal Brand & Executive Presence. Click here for more information or to register.
Entrepreneurial growth companies, nonprofit agencies, and governmental organizations are all becoming alike in one way – they are seeking capital to carry forward their mission; however, they also compete for the same pool of high net worth individuals, venture capitalists, and private investors.
From this evolution comes the new challenge for each American – to step up and grasp their responsibility in this new world. To take responsibility, we all must accept the impact of this change: no longer can social and business issues can be addressed separately when funding involves the same pool of resources.
Entrepreneurial growth companies are led by individuals who have left the corporate environment to start a new venture, in part to do good for the community. They are social-minded, routinely volunteer or get involved in nonprofits one way or another. Generally, these entrepreneurs are seeking capital to push forward and provide the product or service they are selling.
On the flip side, nonprofit organizations are beginning to realize that they have to perform as social entrepreneurs, seeking funds from donors as if they were investors. Historically they have sought funds from governmental entities through grants; however, this avenue is becoming increasingly difficult to pursue, as the governmental entities do not have enough money to fund the nonprofits. Governments struggle to hire and maintain employees and provide services to the community so elected officials can remain in good favor and get reelected. The constraint of human and monetary resources leads to a direct hit to the nonprofit world.
For example, nonprofits struggle when they have multiple grant managers within the same governmental organization with a different interpretation of the impact of the grant guidelines. The result is that nonprofits find themselves funding services they expected to be reimbursed from the government, only to learn that they must raise the funds from donors to maintain sustainability because of misinterpretation of the rules.
In both the nonprofit and the entrepreneurial growth companies one of the major funding sources – the high net worth individuals and donors – are more insistent on monitoring outcomes for promised results from their investments. Both types of organizations must have the right infrastructure and process to capture metrics that support the promised result.
If you are a for-profit business professional reading this post, consider serving on a nonprofit Board or Finance committee. Learn more about the differences between for-profit and non-profit financials by participating in my free webinar, Financial Stress or Success, Which is your Nonprofit? then with your new-found knowledge, go out and volunteer.
Working in a professional environment is overwhelming – there is always too much work to do and not enough time or resources to get it all done. It is easy to convince yourself if you do one more task, your to-do list will look better in the morning. That one thing can turn into a couple of hours of work that robs you of time with your family, practicing self-care or participating in other activities that build a healthy body and spirit. Working overtime to get through your work to-do list may seem like the right thing to do, but in the long run, failure to pay yourself with personal time erodes mind, body, and spirit.
I’m not making this up. According to a recent CDC study, on average, only 28.8% of working men and a dismal 20.9% of working women meet the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Of note is that, in general, Southeastern states were consistently rated “below average” in study categories.
Balanced professionals have learned how to set a weekly goal to pay themselves first. They succeed because they are very intentional about maintaining the discipline to do it.
To get started, make a list of the things that energize you and make you a healthy person. Here are some options:
Talk a walk outside
Attend a new gym class to do a workout you’ve never done
Read a book you’ve heard recommended
Schedule a special dinner with your family
Dare to take a roller coaster ride
Then take that list and turn it into your commitment to yourself – your Personal Payday reminder. Make an appointment on your calendar for each goal you set. Block off that time and hold it sacred.
As a business professional, you are looked up to by employees and family as a role model of success. What message are you sending? Time and money are the same thing when you are building a business or a professional career. Paying yourself with an investment in health is essential to long-term success.