Category Archives: entrepreneur

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.   

Acquisition Integration – After the Ink Dries

Acquisition Integration – After the Ink Dries 
The “3 Ps” of Integration 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last week, we talked about defining your corporate strategy, and that oftentimes, those strategies include acquisitions of other entities for your company to grow to the next level. Whether it’s to streamline operations, introduce new products or services, or both, many companies define their corporate development strategy within the parameters of an acquisition.  

There has been a shift in our global economy. And in that shift, acquisitions have become the norm, not the exception. Yet, according to Harvard Business Review, historically, 80% of companies that have been involved in an acquisition fall victim of the plethora of moving parts essential to the process and ultimately fail. Combining not only two companies, but two sets of stakeholders is fraught with potential landmines.  

This week, we take the acquisition strategy a step further. The inevitable questions surface after the ink dries on the legal documents … How do we increase the chances of success? What exactly happens now that we’ve acquired another business? The due diligence is complete, the documents are signed, the lawyers have left – so, what’s next?  

Acquisition integration is the process of combining the systems, process, operations, and personnel of the acquired company into your own by maximizing synergies and efficiencies. Logistically, the integration itself should be focused on what I like to call the “3 Ps” of Integration – Personnel, Plan, Practices. 

Acquisition Integration – Personnel Issues 

  • Appoint an Integration Manager and Team. The integration manager should have seniority and experience with your company, and be able to hold the team members accountable. The integration will be his or her full-time responsibility for as long as the process takes. The team should be made up of those with expertise in the various areas of integration, including information technology, operations, finance, and marketing.  
  • Communicate the Good and the Bad. Meet with those you plan on bringing onto the new team from the acquired company as soon as possible. Without some reassurances that they are staying, they will soon look elsewhere for career opportunities and may consider offers from competitors. For those who will not be moving forward, let them know quickly. This is for your own benefit, as much as their own. Indecision will lead to rumors, which inevitably paves the path to a lack of morale – no way to start a new venture. 
  • Focus on Cultural Integration. Decide how much of the acquired company’s culture you are bringing into your own. Will they mesh? Are their conflicting values? What are the priorities on each side? Culture will have a huge impact on the new relationships going forward. 

Acquisition Integration – Plan Issues 

  • Develop and Follow a Conversion Plan. The conversion plan should incorporate all of the changes that need to be effectuated, as discovered during due diligence pre-acquisition. Additionally, understand who is responsible for each task and goal, along with applicable due dates. The manager and team must be held accountable to the conversion plan. 
  • Modify the Plan as Needed. Through the integration process, additional opportunities may be discovered. Modify the plan accordingly to adjust for these opportunities, including the required resources, and communicate any changes to the team. 
  • Use Metrics Consistently to Measure the Plan’s Success. Measure everything you are doing as it relates to the integration. Compare actual results to those anticipated, including timelines. 

Acquisition Integration – Practices Issues 

  • Identify Best Practices. Determine if the acquired company had practices that worked well and could enhance your own operational practices. If they bring value, develop ways to incorporate them into your own. Then, as always, communicate these Best Practices to the rest of the team.  
  • Evaluate Practice Similarities and Differences. What services, products, and operations are the same? Which ones are different? Are there overlapping vendor practices or relationships? Which parts of the accounting and marketing are complementary? Which are contradictory? 
  • Provide and Receive Feedback. Ask yourself the following: What went well with the integration? What didn’t? What are the expectations moving forward? Provide this feedback to the team. Additionally, accept any feedback provided to you and use it for improvements going forward. 

Focusing on the “3 Ps” in acquisition integration is crucial for the long-term success of your business post-acquisition. Barker Associates has extensive experience helping companies with acquisition integrations. If you need assistance with yours, or have any other questions, we can help. Please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

How Angel Investors Navigate Deals with an Investment Thesis

How Angel Investors Navigate Deals with an Investment Thesis 
Creating a Roadmap for Success 
Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

How do you know where you’re going without a navigation tool – GPS, a smartphone, or even the “ancient” map? For angel investors, that navigation tool is an investment thesis. When done correctly, it will not only guide you along your chosen investment course, it will help you identify the roadblocks and detours to avoid.  

An investment thesis is one of the most useful tools in the angel investor industry, summarizing your reasons and conditions for investing in certain types of companies. If you do not have an investment thesis or some type of investment strategy from the beginning, you may fall in love with a charismatic founder and invest in a deal you have no business investing in. This scenario happens all the time and it shouldn’t because it leads quickly to frustration and likely, the loss of the investment down the road. There is a myth that an investment thesis is only for venture capitalists—those who have a fiduciary duty to invest money in a certain way. While it’s true it is an important component to them, it is equally, if not more, valuable to all investors, especially those who are just starting out on investment roads less traveled.  

Essentially, if you invest in start-ups, founders will inevitably pitch you for money (it’s the name of the game, after all). Without an investment thesis, you may find it difficult to concentrate only on the start-ups that match your investment objectives because simply, you may not know those objectives. On the other hand, a strong thesis will guide you into sourcing the right deals, with your criteria, conditions, and requirements clearly set in advance. 

The Benefits of an Investment Thesis 

All angels should have clear, documented investment theses due to the numerous benefits they provide. And like any good roadmap, your thesis not only benefits you, it benefits others as well. Behind the driver’s seat, it keeps you disciplined on your selections and focused on where you want to go with your investments. With a deep understanding of the types of industries and businesses you want to invest in, the risks you’re willing to take (and those you’re not), and the parameters you want to see in companies, you are much better equipped to find the right fit for your money. 

An investment thesis also benefits the start-ups and entrepreneurs looking for funding. It allows them to understand what you’re looking for and what you’re not, and if you’re the right fit for them. If not, they can move on to someone who is, saving time, energy, and money in the process. This can only happen when expectations are delineated clearly from the beginning.  

Finally, an investment thesis facilitates communication and dealings with other investors. Angel investors refer deals to each other frequently. What may not work for one in one instance may be perfect for another at that particular time. And no one wants to refer a deal that the person is not interested in. Not only does it waste everyone’s time, but it makes that person look as if they are ill-advised. 

Tips for Creating a Strong Investment Thesis  

Let me reiterate – an investment thesis is crucial for your success as an angel investor. A strong one will help develop a stong portfolio, while a weak one may indicate lower overall performance. Here are a few tips to help you create a strong investment thesis: 

  • Do not rush it. It should take thought, research, and time. 
  • Have a clear, simple purpose, conditions, and expectations. 
  • Choose an industry you either have experience in or in which you are passionate about. 
  • Determine how that industry’s impact influences your decision. 
  • Conduct market research with both primary and secondary sources. 
  • Analyze long-term trends and short-term events that could affect the industry. 
  • Set specific criteria for an investment. Be clear as to what you will invest in and what you will not. 
  • Remember diversification. While you should focus on a particular industry or sector, you can diversify other factors, such as geography, business model, technology, or customer segment to create a more balanced portfolio. This should also be calibrated with your personal net worth. 

Once your investment thesis is created, you will have a detailed roadmap of where you are going on your investment journey. It helps serve as a reminder of why you do what you do and what your own investment parameters and boundaries are. And it guides you toward finding the investments that fit those objectives. 

Remember, all early-stage investments are risky and can fail even with the best idea, product, and management. By investing only in companies that fall within your thesis, you are not only minimizing your risk and exposure, you will also have an increased ability to help more companies grow through your specific offerings. And ultimately, a better fit in the beginning will likely lead to a better return in the end. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience working with angel investors on their investment theses. If you would like to discuss angel investing, either as an investor or as a company that requires funding, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

There are Angels Everywhere

Angel Investors and the Upcoming Seattle Angel Conference 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I have the distinct pleasure of participating in the Seattle Angel Conference as an Angel Investor. This virtual event is May 12th, and I am thrilled to be involved. The mission of the Seattle Angel Conference is to create stronger startups and more effective angel investors with a “Learning by Doing” approach. Through this approach, the angel investors provide invaluable benefits to participating entrepreneurs. 

Angel Investors vs. Venture Capitalists 

With all of the excitement surrounding the Seattle Angel Conference, I thought it was a good time to point out some of the differences between angel investors and venture capitalists. Before a company can determine which type of investment is for them, it’s important to understand the distinction between the two. 

An angel investor provides a large cash infusion of their own money (or a group’s money) to an early-stage startup. Working with an angel investor benefits the entrepreneur through the wealth of knowledge and experience the investor possesses and is ready to share. Most have earned a substantial amount of wealth through entrepreneurship, and have experience with the exact same processes, preparation, and questions in the past. They can guide the entrepreneur through all of the bumps in the road, as they build their company and success. 

On the other hand, a venture capitalist is a professional group that invests money into high-risk startups or developed companies because the potential for rapid growth offsets the potential risk for failure. While they may still offer support and guidance, the transaction is mainly one of larger sums of money and more control over the venture going forward. 

While both angel investors and venture capitalists invest money in start-ups, here are three of the major differences between them: 

  1. How they work. Angel investors work alone (or in small groups), while venture capitalists are part of a larger company of professional investors. Angels invest their own money, while venture capitalists invest money from various funding sources. 
  2. The amount they invest. As a general rule (and there are always exceptions), angels invest less than venture capitalists. Angels will usually invest somewhere between $25,000 and $100,000 (angel groups could be much higher – up to $750,000 or even more). Venture capitalists generally invest millions of dollars per company. 
  3. The timing of their investments. Angels only invest in early-stage companies. Venture capitalists invest in both early-stage and more developed companies, as long as there is a proven track record showing strong indications for rapid growth. 

Accreditation for Angel Investors 

Many angel investors, but not all, are accredited according to guidelines established by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). To be accredited, the angel investor must have:  

  • annual earnings of $200,000 per year for the past two years, with a strong likelihood of similar earnings in the near future (if the angel investor files taxes jointly with their spouse, their required annual earnings increase to $300,000) or  
  • have a total net worth of at least $1 million (regardless of marriage and tax filing status). 

Seattle Angel Conference 

The Seattle Angel Conference provides education for the companies that participate, completely free of charge. The education experience alone is invaluable, allowing exposure to many professionals with a depth of knowledge to help build a company with the right attributes to move to the next level. As an investor-led event, the conference connects entrepreneurs and a collection of new and experienced angel investors, who truly are everywhere. Each investor contributes $5,500 to create a fund, estimated to be between $100,000 and $200,000. 

Applying companies participate in a company review, during which the angel investment committee sorts the documentation, looking for key components of investment. This ongoing review and due diligence strengthen the entire process. In the end, six companies are chosen to present their ten-minute pitch at the final event on May 12th to get a chance for funding and a more thorough review by the investment program. 

The participating startups not only receive a detailed review of their company, but also the opportunity for valuable feedback from the investors, who are often seasoned entrepreneurs themselves. While many entrepreneurs want to avoid the “tough questions,” it is only through those difficult questions that the company’s narrative increases in clarity and strength. In addition, these entrepreneurs get introduced to dozens of angel investors through the process. While they may only end up working with one of them, building that network is a huge benefit – you never know whose path you will cross in the future. 

For me, personally, I have loved participating as an angel investor, as it inspires me to learn about the innovative ideas of early-stage companies. I enjoy having a pulse on what is happening in various industries and what is next through these inventive entrepreneurs. All angel investors have the opportunity, and are expected, to participate in the process, including review, analysis, and due diligence. The collaboration of investors with diverse backgrounds and experiences helps bring about a better investment decision. 

Click here to purchase a ticket to this thought-provoking, inspiring virtual event and learn more about angel investing and the companies that need it. If you would like to discuss angel investing, either as an investor or as a company that requires funding, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

Financial Literacy for Raising Money

Financial Literacy for Raising Money 
The Questions You Need to Ask Yourself 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

As we continue to discuss increasing our financial literacy, we must also consider the ways in which a company increases its chances for securing money for growth. The list of possible ways to obtain money to finance the growth of a company is extensive, including multiple forms of debt and equity instruments. The question of which is right for you is dependent upon your particular situation and your level of understanding of each. In order to navigate through this scenario, we have come up with a list of questions you need to be able to answer to make the best decision for you and your company overall.  

Do you really need money for growth? 

While there are many professional organizations that make endless promises to help you raise capital for your business, and while they all sound tempting, you must first understand whether or not you actually need money for growth. Contrary to popular belief, you will not always answer this in the affirmative. If you decide your organization requires capital for growth, then begin the process by speaking to your trusted advisors about their opinion on your plans. This discovery process should happen with professionals you already have a relationship with and who know about your company. Think about your attorney, CPA, outsourced CFO, or someone in a similar situation who has previously advised you in these matters. Only after this discovery and pertinent conversations can you then move forward with first designing a strategy, and then executing that strategy in a way that does not allow the fund raising process to consume the C-suite and deteriorate the business itself. These results can occur whether you are a small start-up or a large organization.  

How do you know in which direction to go?  

If you’re the decision maker and have governance over an organization, the first step is to evaluate your ethics and check your ego at the door before you begin to have the necessary conversations. Raising capital has become so sensationalized that those with decision-making authority tend to think of fund raising as a necessity. However, that is not necessarily the case. While raising funds is a common impetus to growth, it isn’t for every company.  

Start by looking at the historical and projected financial information. Ensure the use of funds you expect to raise is clear, and that the financial strategy for growth is viable. This initial step will require that you have quality up-to-date financial information.  Click here to see my blog about the need for financial infrastructure. 

How do you know who to trust?  

Many entrepreneurs tell me about situations where a third party offers to help them raise capital, but charge them a percentage of what they raised. Keep in mind, if the person who made that statement is not a broker or investment banker, that arrangement could be illegal and cause issues as the company grows. My biggest piece of advice is to ask if the person if he or she has a license to effectuate this type of arrangement.   

The other issue is that some of the investment bankers have had a difficult time getting clients in the pandemic environment. As a result, they have started consulting to assist with cash flow and to provide themselves with additional companies to move into the investment banking sales funnel. The issue with this is that these companies are signing up to be with the investment banker before they even know if that is the right fit for them or not.   

As a true professional, both of these instances are painful to witness. Before executing a contract or providing a deposit to anyone to assist with fund raising, proceed with caution. Make sure their culture and track record are consistent with your goals and strategy.  If you have partners that have different goals and ethics, it could be catastrophic to the organization.  Do your homework to make sure it is the right partner from the outset! 

Do you need debt, equity, or a combination of the two?  

Banks are conservative, and it is difficult for any size corporation to secure debt these days.  This form of capital is, of course, cheaper than equity overall as you do not have to give up ownership and the interest rates are currently so low. 

Equity partners can potentially have in-depth experience with the industry you are in and can actually help you build a larger and more robust entity. The saying is, “You can have a smaller piece of a big pie and actually have more value than a larger piece of a small pie.” If you do your homework and make sure your equity partner is aligned with your values and the right fit overall for your company, you can accomplish this goal.  

In a scenario with a combination of convertible preferred stock, it provides the investor with a liquidation preference. In the event a few unlucky events happen, this could mean the common stock investors could wind up with nothing in the end, which is exactly what happened when BlackBerry liquidated.  In that case, the company emphasized to employees that they should buy in while they could. When they were granted stock, they had to pay the taxes at the value at the time, and then when they sold the stock, it was, at time, at 1% of the value on which they paid the taxes. So, that could mean they were granted stock worth $45 per share, paid the taxes on it at their rate, let’s say 20% or $9, then they sold it for $.40, which was all the cash they received for that share, despite the taxes they paid. If they had a number of shares, that is a lot of money wasted. 

In the situation with a SAFE combination, there is a debt instrument that converts to equity at the next round of investment. This is a great instrument when companies are at an early stage and the discussion over valuation is difficult. When valuations increase quickly for successful companies, this can actually turn into an uncomfortable conversation that can hold up an exit transaction under certain circumstances.   

Just as with our previous financial literacy articles, it’s not just about improving your financial knowledge of the present, but about strengthening that knowledge to predict a brighter future, especially as it pertains to the growth of your company. If you would like to discuss various growth strategies and what makes the most sense for your business, or if you have other specific areas of concern, please click here to schedule a 30-minute free consultation. NOTE: beginning May 1, 2021 consultations will no longer be free. 

Grow Your Financial Knowledge, Grow Your Business

This week, we continue our month-long discussion on financial literacy, including best practices to increase your financial knowledge. While there are numerous reasons business owners do not have an adequate level of financial knowledge (some people are just not good with numbers, guidance from GAAP has gotten so complicated it makes it even more difficult to understand, and business owners are just “too busy” to get into it), this knowledge is crucial to having effective conversations about your business.  

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Can You Stand Your Financial Ground? 

If the right investor came along tomorrow, how confident are you that you are prepared with accurate historical and projected financials? Can you demonstrate thorough knowledge of your company’s financials, cash flow, burn rate, and return on investment?  Are you prepared to get drilled on each number you provide and have the ability to accurately explain where it came from? If you are not prepared, it will feel like the longest half hour of your life.  

So, how confident are you? 

If your answer is, “Not confident,” or “Somewhat confident,” it is time to make an investment in yourself. Here are a few tips to increase your financial knowledge: 

  • Prioritize your financial education. We know how busy you are, but think of it as the investment it truly is. 
  • Develop a financial advisory team. Ask these trusted individuals questions and encourage them to do the same.  
  • Make the cash flow statement your new best friend. This is the lifeblood of business and you should understand everything on it at all times. 
  • Take some basic accounting courses. It’s never been easier to take a class online. 
  • Connect with a CFO firm. Not everyone has all of the required resources at their fingertips. Allow the right CFO firm to become that resource as a trusted partner. 
  • Get a better understanding of key financial terms. We’re including some right here to help get you started. 

Terms to Help You Stand Stronger 

When an investor begins to ask about gross profit, net profit, or EBITDA, often the business owner’s face says it all – like when you’ve caught a teenager in a lie. Knowing these financial terms helps you not only have a more constructive conversation with potential bankers and investors, but also to truly have a better understanding of your business. Some of the basics (there are many more) include:  

Aged Accounts ReceivableThis is a report that categorizes a company’s accounts receivable according to how long invoices have been outstanding. This report is used as a benchmark in measuring the financial health (or lack thereof) of a company’s customers. 

Burn Rate. Burn Rate refers to how much money it takes to operate your business for a period of time (generally, a month). Knowing your burn rate helps to ensure that you have enough available cash to adequately run your business. Experts advise being able to cover your burn rate for at least six months. 

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)This refers to the total cost of all labor and materials required to provide the products or services that your customers ultimately purchase. 

Debt-Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR)A ratio calculated by dividing your business’s net operating income by your debt payments. This compares cash flow to debt obligations. With the information, you can determine if you can cover debts due within one year.  

EBITDA. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. To calculate EBITA, take the gross margin and subtract total operating expenses, plus depreciation and amortization. Keep in mind the difference between EBITDA and EBIT. EBITDA subtracts all expenses, whereas EBIT subtracts everything except depreciation and amortization. 

Gross Profit Percentage or Gross MarginThis refers to the percentage of total revenue that remains after subtracting the direct costs of producing the product or service.  For example, if your company’s revenue is $400,000 in one year and your gross margin is 25%, then your gross profit is $100,000.  

Profit Margin. Profit margin is the percentage of your total revenue that you retain as profit. This metric is most often analyzed on a per unit basis. To calculate profit margin, subtract overhead expenses (along with direct costs) from your sales and then divide it by your total revenue. While it may take some time for a business to start generating profit, it is ultimately what makes it valuable … and a priority for investors. It is imperative that you are confident that your revenue you are charging for the product will cover the overall cost of the organization.  When you are in growth mode, this may not be the case – which is why the Cash Burn rate (referred to earlier) is so important. 

Working Capital. Working capital is cash plus other current assets, less current liabilities.  

Whether it’s understanding these terms (and the many others), using the tips to increase your financial knowledge, or tightening up financial reporting, successful leaders ensure these characteristics are not contained within the walls of their accounting departments, but instead, are a part of their entire company culture. With financial clarity, you can maintain stability to carry out the company’s mission. 

Simply, when you understand the financial terms and their effects on your business, it not only helps your bottom line, but also helps you have a more constructive (and potentially profitable) conversation with potential bankers and investors. 

Let Mindy Barker & Associates show you how to raise your knowledge and be prepared for that next big conversation. We can help you improve your financial brilliance and empower you with the tools and financial information you need to improve your company value, cash flow, and profitability. Schedule a 30-minute free consultation here to learn how. 

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. 

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Celebrating International Women’s Day 
The Past, Present, and Future of Women Leaders and Founders  

“We need women at all levels, including the top, to challenge the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored.”  
– Sheryl Sandberg 

Yesterday, we celebrated International Women’s Day, highlighting the accomplishments of social, economic, and political achievements of women around the world. It’s no coincidence that we celebrate this day as a part of Women’s History Month. How can we celebrate the achievements of today and look forward to the progress of tomorrow, without acknowledging the determination and sacrifices of the past? While there is no shortage of influential women leaders today, they stand on the shoulders of hundreds of others who paved the way.  

A Look into the Past 

Unfortunately, we cannot list every courageous woman leader from the past (not to mention those we each have within our own families and friends), but here is a celebration of a few, intended to honor all: 

  • Sojourner Truth, after being born into slavery and escaping with her infant, became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. She later became known for her “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech regarding racial inequalities in the year 1851.  
  • As a young girl, Louisa May Alcott worked in the mid-1800s to support her family financially, something unheard of at the time. She later wrote “Little Women,” one of the most treasured novels in American history. 
  • In the mid-1900s, Marguerite Higgins became the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Foreign Correspondence after working as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune during WWII, The Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  
  • Rosa Parks became one of the most famous, influential women of the civil rights movement when, in 1955, she refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. Today, she’s known as the “Mother of the Freedom Movement.” 
  • Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female justice on the Unites States Supreme Court (1981-2006). 

The list, of course, goes on in all government and private sectors, industries, and facets of life. These women and thousands more played prominent roles in advancing women to where they are today. And, as we celebrate women this month, we share in our gratitude for them all. 

The Here and Now 

There is no doubt that progress continues for women leaders and founders. There have been great successes in the government, sports, finance, and corporate worlds. Women are breaking records every day, but there is still a long way to go. In 2019, the proportion of women in senior management roles globally grew to 29%, the highest number ever recorded (same percentage in 2020). On the one hand, we love breaking records. On the other, at only 29%, there is much room for improvement and many more glass ceilings to crack. 

The gap doesn’t just exist within the boardroom. It is also very apparent in female founders and funding. We need improvement in women led companies locating and securing the funding they need to scale their companies. 

While there was already a significant gap in funding, according to Crunchbase, global venture funding to female-founded companies fell further in 2020. Whether this is the result of COVID-19 is unclear; however, there is data that suggests the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women in the workforce. 

Through mid-December, 800 female-founded startups globally had received a total of $4.9 billion in venture funding in 2020, representing a 27% decrease over the same period in 2019. 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates Image Credit: Crunchbase

Optimistically, early 2021 Crunchbase data shows improvement. In fact, 30% of investments in U.S. companies at Series A and B stage between January and mid-February went to teams with female or Black founders. While it is a brief study period, this trend is worth watching over the coming months.  

Overall, while female entrepreneurs are still far underrepresented in startup funding tallies, at least there are some signs of, and initiatives to, continue that progress. In fact, there is a new target set by All Raise (an organization that advocates for female investors and founders) of growing seed and early-stage funding amounts from the current 11% to 23% by 2030 for U.S. companies with a female founder. 

Tomorrow 

So much has been accomplished, yet, it’s clear we still have a long way to go. According to the World Economic Forum, global gender equality is not estimated to be achieved until 2133. So, as we celebrate the great women leaders of yesterday and today, we do so with an understanding that thousands more women will be standing on our shoulders tomorrow. And the forward momentum that is women’s leadership continues on. 

Are you a woman founder looking for funding? Are you ready to be a part of that 23% target? Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with this link to my calendar to talk about how we can work toward getting you the investment money you need.  

Financial Topics Worth Talking About in 2020 -The Year in Review

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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. 
  • To Eat Eggs or Not – That is the Question: The varying trends of outsourcing a function within an organization, and when you should consider it. 
  • Don’t Just Hope for the Best – What Does the Data Tell You: What steps should be taken to gain a confident understanding of your business’s financial position. 
  • 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. 
  • Keeping Your House…and Your Books…In Order: Seven tips on how to keep your books auditable and help reduce your audit costs. 
  • Dogs will Lie, but the Numbers will Not: With the right infrastructure in place, you have the data to provide answers to the questions asked by investors (and your own Board of Directors) 
  • Could Due Diligence Impair Your Exit Strategy?: The primary factor leading to next-round challenges is the enhanced due diligence investors are performing now compared to pre-pandemic. 
  • Choosing Gratitude: Looking beyond the challenges of uncertain times and expressing gratitude.  
  • Bonding with Budgets: The three primary budget considerations for any organization. 
  • At the Intersection of Financial Infrastructure and a Global Pandemic: How a pre-pandemic shift left companies vulnerable and what to do next. 

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.