Category Archives: financial reporting

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. 

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. 

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek”

Pitch and Storytelling According to “Schitt’s Creek” 

A Successful Pitch is the Result of a Good Story 

Recently, I have been watching the Schitt’s Creek series on Netflix … for the second time, and enjoying it even more this time around. When I watched it the first time, I found myself getting irritated. But several Schitt’s Creek fans I knew encouraged me to stick it out, and I am so glad I did. What I learned watching the entire series twice is that each character surprises you from many different dimensions throughout the six seasons, representing numerous similarities to the world of pitching investors.   

The story centers around an ultra-wealthy family that loses everything. The first episode shows the authorities taking all of their possessions, forcing the family to move out of their large estate. They soon learn that they can retain a small town they purchased as a joke years earlier. So, they get on a bus with their suitcases and head to their new life. They are immediately immersed into a stark contrast from the luxurious lifestyle to which they had been accustomed. Yet, despite the lack of luxury, their experiences in this small town teach them many lessons they never would have learned before about life and business, including how to pitch to investors. You can see why my interest was piqued! In fact, I was so interested in the story that I watched an interview with the two creators. 

One of the creators insisted on developing the backstory of each character for hours prior to starting the script, while the other got increasingly frustrated with the time and energy “wasted” on backstories when they had an entire script to write. However, he soon realized that the investment of time in creating those backstories was one of the primary reasons for the success of the series.   

The parallelism to pitching to investors was uncanny. An essential element of a successful pitch to investors is having a compelling backstory. It is far beyond the “script,” or in this case, pitch deck. Working on the story behind the company so that it is authentic and backed by sustainable facts is the key to reaching investors. And connecting with them authentically through your story, coupled with ensuring you are the right fit for their investment criteria, will ultimately secure the investment!  Success! 

I recently became an investor in the Seattle Angel Group and immensely enjoy the education the group provides for both investors and companies preparing for pitch competitions. Bob Crimmins, a repeat successful entrepreneur, was one of those educators, and he was fascinating. He called successful stories “Cogent Stories,” as they are believable and can help an investor understand how they are going to invest their dollars now and receive a significant return three to five years later. As I watched Schitt’s Creek, I thought a lot about Bob and the impact of “Cogent Stories.” Apparently, they work for more than investor pitches. They are also what is behind a hugely successful series. 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming! (Spoiler alert here – if you have not watched the entire series you may not want to read further, but schedule a chat with me (link to my calendar) to discuss your backstory and pitch deck.). 

In the show, Johnny Rose (the family patriarch), Stevie (the hotel clerk), and Roland (the mayor of Schitt’s Creek) are business partners and pitch investors, achieving success at the end of the series. There are many circumstances that bring these individuals together, and their collective growth leads to the overall success of the pitch. 

Johnny Rose had been a successful businessman and made a lot of money with his business “Rose Video.” The events that led to the loss of his fortune were based only on his business partner’s actions. The business itself was successful. While Johnny’s story is fictional, similar stories happen every single day in the “real world.” What happened to Johnny could happen to anyone if they are not paying attention to governance, controls, and  financials.  Yet, the loss of Johnny’s fortune was itself a growth experience. 

Stevie was working the front desk at the hotel in Schitt’s Creek, feeling like she was a failure.  In an effort to “get her life together,” she decides to branch out and interview for a professional position with an airline. After she secures the position, she learns it is not for her after all.  This experience actually creates a huge appreciation for who she is, her talents, and her previous role. Similarly, for the C-Suite to be successful, confidence and self-identification for the position must exude when the investors begin their due diligence.  

Roland is the mayor of Schitt’s Creek, which is a position filled with pride, in part, because it was bestowed upon him through birth rite.  Roland struggled with who he was, and there were many times that his self-discovery process irritated Johnny and Stevie. But despite all of those irritations, he showed he was trustworthy and loyal to them in many ways as their relationship grew.   

Through trial and error, often hysterical ups and downs, these three professionals began to trust each other. They respected the talent and contribution they each brought to the team. Johnny knew that Roland would always have his back, and vice versa. One of my favorite episodes is when Johnny and his wife, Moira, are celebrating their wedding anniversary, and they run into some of their old “rich” friends, along with their new friend, Roland. The encounter is a life lesson in itself. Johnny and Moira attempt to fit in like they used to, but soon get irritated and offended when their old friends begin to talk negatively about Schitt’s Creek. Johnny, standing up for Roland, who is even more offended, mentioned that while their so-called friends never reached out once after they lost everything, Roland and Schitt’s Creek welcomed them with open arms.  

This episode reminded me of the loyalty, communication, and respect needed among team members working toward pitching to investors. Working as a team to strategize and execute a fast-paced growth company takes perseverance, intellect, the ability to deal with ambiguity, and many other attributes that can only be achieved when there is open communication among team members who trust each other.  At the end of the day, it must roll up into an authentic story about who these people are because that’s what investors are investing in … the people behind the company.  

When you are preparing to pitch to investors, the best thing you can do is work on your “Cogent Story.” Take the time to create all aspects of your strategy prior to the pitch, similar to how the creators worked tirelessly on creating the backstories of their characters on Schitt’s Creek.  Your story will be more authentic, your confidence will increase, your team will be stronger, and your chances of success will increase exponentially. Barker Associates has extensive experience with assisting companies in developing their backstories and preparing pitch decks. 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. 

At the Intersection of Financial Infrastructure and a Global Pandemic

How a Pre-Pandemic Shift Left Companies Vulnerable 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

At the Intersection of Financial Infrastructure and a Global Pandemic

How a Pre-Pandemic Shift Left Companies Vulnerable

Pre-pandemic (do we even remember that time?), the investment world had experienced a huge shift. Unfortunately, this shift did not help prepare companies or investors for what was to come. Priorities had shifted from a company’s sustainability and infrastructure to avenues of increasing revenue as quickly as possible. However, sustainability and infrastructure were exactly what was needed most during a global pandemic.    

What Supply and Demand? 

Everything we had learned in our earliest economics classes about supply and demand seemed to be irrelevant. I remember those classes –training my brain to think of opposites – supply goes up, demand goes down, and vice versa. However, that concept no longer applied to venture capital and private equity firms. The number of firms that were chasing deals with buckets of money created a huge supply of investor dollars. But the number of successful high–growth companies to invest those dollars did not increase at the same pace.   

The result? Investment firms began expanding their reach. They started to invest not only in the usual entrepreneurial high-growth companies, but also in companies that would have typically received funds through stock sales in the public markets or through traditional bank financing. These companies needed to move into the investment firm world to fill the gap that had resulted in too much money and not enough companies. Additionally, investment firms began relaxing the guidelines associated with the due diligence process. 

These changes forced a decline in the regulatory compliance surrounding the movement of investment dollars, financial audits, and other financial items. With the focus almost exclusively on top–line revenue growth, there just didn’t seem to be a need for them. Further, companies with contracts that brought in recurring revenue were trading in the investment world based on multiples of revenue (some as high as ten times what their revenue was currently).   

A Lack of Infrastructure Meets a Global Pandemic 

Enter COVID-19. With so much time and attention previously focused on quick revenue generation, many companies lost the infrastructure to produce the quality financial data and reports needed to make informed decisions for ensuring sustainability. However, infrastructure and sustainability were what was needed to survive the pandemic. 

When the pandemic hit, every stakeholder (board members, investors, CEOs) immediately shifted their focus to cash flow analysis and sustainability. Chief Financial Officers have all noted that their interaction with other managers, officers, directors, and investors increased literally overnight. While no one could have predicted the full cash impact of the pandemic; in particular, the need for short-term cash flow, they could have been better equipped. The companies best prepared to analyze the situation were the ones that had the appropriate level of infrastructure prior to the pandemic. The stakeholders wanted to know if the entity would survive. While most had the ability to enter ‘survival mode,’ one has little to do with the other. Survival mode is simply not sustainable for any extended period … in any situation. 

Next Steps 

The pandemic taught us once again that knowledge is power. Infrastructure is crucial when analyzing different scenarios to make decisions quickly. Chief Financial Officers should take advantage of the temporary dynamic brought on by the pandemic. Using this time to get the right type of infrastructure in place will help prepare them to make critical decisions at any moment. 

There are many companies that were forced to make difficult decisions to lay off employees, not renew leases, discontinue software development, or even close their doors for good. Unfortunately, most had to make these decisions without the confidence that they possessed all of the information. Full knowledge is mandatory for a sustainable future and for the success of any company overall. 

By leading from a position of knowledge, which comes from having the right infrastructure, companies will have an edge over others whose directors or CFOs are blindly making decisions. What does that type of infrastructure mean? We’ve talked about it before – most recently in Oh No Not Again – but essentially it means having an Enterprise Resource Plan, CRM, General Ledger, Cash, HR System, and Payments. A clear vision and financial roadmap on how to achieve that vision, along with cash and a strong general ledger, are the foundation of an essential infrastructure. 

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.

Oh no – not again!

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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.

Infrastructure refers to all of the pieces behind the scenes that are capturing your business’s daily transactions. It is one of the Seven Essential Tools I discuss in my book, Pitching to Win: Strategies for Success.

Are you thinking, “Oh no – Mindy’s going on about Essential Infrastructure – again!”

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:

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates


(* 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:

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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.

Essential Infrastructure

“Essential” has new meaning.

We have learned many definitions related to essential in 2020. The interpretation of essential has been heavily debated, including discussions over golf courses, liquor stores, restaurants, and bars. As communities open up, these debates are getting more interesting as the discussions center around who is allowed to be open.

My favorite debate about “essential” is the one where the attorneys representing Elizabeth Holmes, the Founder and CEO of Theranos, appealed to the court that they should be considered essential and allowed to meet at the office to work.

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates The right infrastructure is critical to generate the data about your business during the due diligence process with potential investors.

Pre-COVID, one meaning of “essential” described having the right infrastructure in place if a company wanted to raise capital. The right infrastructure is critical to generate the data about your business during the due diligence process with potential investors.

Here are a few examples of why this is important:

Revenue projections will be a key component of what the investor will look at when evaluating the business. The revenue in the projected income statement for the prior year probably represents an increase in the revenue over the current year. The investors will ask questions like: “How long does it take you to close a deal from the time you speak to a customer to close?” “How many deals do you have in the pipeline now?” “What is your customer churn rate?” “How do you charge customers – as SaaS, by transaction?” etc.

These questions will be asked during the initial discussion as well as during the presentation. Whatever answer you give, if the due diligence moves forward, must match the data in the general ledger, CRM (Customer Relationship Manager data base) and other systems.

I have known a C Suite executive falsely stating things like they have never lost a customer or they close a deal in 30 days. But when we drilled down on the historical data his statements are not supported by facts.

I have also experienced a C Suite Executive who stated that the projections were high because “that is what we need to close this deal.” False information may get the attention of a potential investor but it will not keep their attention when they drill down to the “essential” infrastructure and claims are not backed up by facts.

Burn rate – potential investors will ask what your burn rate is, i.e. what is the amount of cash the company requires each month. Burn rate is based on the cash leaving the checking account – not the pretax income. These are two different calculations and often commingled into one number for companies. If the C Suite executive states the monthly burn rate is $10k because that is the best guess he has during an investor presentation, but the historical cash spend is $15k per month, the investor will lose trust and the company seeking investment will lose credibility. Best guess does not get the job done.

According to the experts at Ernst & Young:

“Increasingly, buyers are looking for infrastructure that can help them identify, track, measure and report on a broad range of externalities. Being able to demonstrate actions taken to date, along with a path forward that helps buyers envision how the company can help address or mitigate global challenges and serve societal needs, can help them think more expansively about opportunities for creating value.”

In their article, the E&Y authors are directing their advice to Private Equity Firms to emphasize the importance of creating value for portfolio companies the PE may want to sell. The quote above supports my assertion that adequate infrastructure is essential for companies seeking investment.

You may say to yourself, I will build the infrastructure when I am ready to pitch to investors – we are not ready right now. If you have the ability to influence decisions about company spend, it is your fiduciary responsibility to insist the company has the right infrastructure. Not only will it position the company to prepare for the future, it will guide the entire management team in making the right decisions day to day.

Let’s dive into your essential infrastructure concerns – click here to set up 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.

Harley, Blue Dog, and Change

Harley is a Bichon Frise we rescued when his second owner rejected him. Besides being adorable and sweet in so many ways, he is also the most anxious dog I have ever met. My husband calls him PITA, which stands for Pain in the A____. He is 11 years old, and he has been with us most of his life. 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Harley loves to play with his toys, with and his favorite is Blue Dog. It is challenging to identify Blue Dog as a dog at this point, as you can see from the picture above. 

Blue Dog is to Harley like a work process is to most business people, including accountants. Harley wants his Blue Dog, and we want to stick with the same comfortable process.  

Our resistance to change is one of the core reasons most accounting system implementations go bad.

~Mindy Barker

Pushing an existing bad process into a new system is a plan for disaster, yet I see it happening all the time. As the investment market increases pressure on companies to produce fast results, companies try to ramp up the speed to implement new systems to deliver faster results. The compressed timeline does not allow for sufficient planning and training of staff on the new system.  

I also frequently find that the system selected is not right for the company. Software cost ends up being the deciding factor over functionality when deciding whether to upgrade software. A comprehensive analysis of software capabilities to support scalability, growth and control turnover is often a critical missed step in the overall selection and evaluation phase of the project. 

How can software selection control turnover?

Accountants today are in high demand. Accountants who are responsible for the day-to-day processing of accounting transactions are not interested in performing vintage-style repetitive data input and cumbersome processes when more automated options can be implemented. Talented and well-educated accountants at this level are contacted by recruiters a minimum of 2-3 times a month. The career-path accountant wants to be challenged to create more efficient processes. You will lose them if you force them to continue to deal with antiquated systems.  

When evaluating new financial management systems, QuickBooks may be included as the incumbent system for businesses who started as a small business but have grown over the years. 

I have a very complicated relationship with QuickBooks. On the one hand, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they have accomplished from market penetration in the business world. The result is the low tangible cost for maintaining the system, which (here’s where my relationship gets complicated), creates a barrier for leaders to open their minds to more robust ERP systems. Leaders resist taking the plunge to move up a level to a more strategic system until they are forced to do so as a result of a financial transaction with a lender or equity financial backer. I have seen businesses with annual revenue of $50 million still using QuickBooks, which drove off great staff and created chaos.  

Besides the internal turmoil caused by the failure to evolve technically, there are implications to enterprise value. Financial reports that fail to provide clarity during due diligence are limiting factors to monetize the Enterprise Value of the business. Understanding the quality of earnings or completing an audit are other critical functions that require precise, succinct financial reports. 

The ease of using a system such as QuickBooks can equate to Harley and Blue Dog. I don’t think our household will suffer (much) if Harley ever has to replace Blue Dog, but I am not so sure about fast-growing businesses who continue to rely on QuickBooks. The lack of functionality and ease of integration can prevent you from seeing the entire story of the company for which you have responsibility.  

Consider the following indicators that you need to review your financial ERP system:  

  1. Experiencing a high turnover in the accounting department. 
  2. Month-end close takes more than seven days. 
  3. Reconciliation of Bank Accounts takes more than 30 minutes. 
  4. Customer collections are not timely. 
  5. Lack of clarity of profit of specific services or products. 
  6. Personnel expenses by department not readily available. 
  7. Processing of corporate credit card transactions requires more than an hour of an accountant’s time. 

With the right financial story, you are empowered to grow your business. Take an honest look at your situation using the factors listed above. Barker Associates helps our clients with a balanced look at their position and the path to financial clarity, and we are happy to help you, too. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation – cfo@mindybarkerassociates.com.