I have noted that, even during these days of the COVID pandemic, there is still a lot of money in the PE and VC world that investors must spend for firms to survive.
PE and VC firms invest in companies with a plan to exit the investment in three to five years. The exit can take the form of another investment round at a higher valuation, an IPO, or the sale of the business altogether. Another dynamic is becoming increasingly apparent: PE-backed companies are having an increasingly difficult time implementing an exit and/or raising the next round of capital.
Why the difficulty, when there is an incredible amount of money for investors to invest?
The primary factor leading to next round challenges is the enhanced due diligence investors are performing now compared to pre-pandemic. The long run of economic gains nourished a confident exuberance in investors where the investor had to believein a company’s financial projects similar to how Dorothy had to believe in Oz … without much evidence. The supply of capital outweighed the supply of companies to the point that investors were willing to lower the bar for the due diligence completed on sales and financial projections, data rooms, and balance sheet liabilities.
The current atmosphere based ona stricter due diligence process represents a correction that goes back to the core fundamentals of investing.When the pandemic dust settles a bit, the correction will result in a more sustainable environment for the PE and VC firms. In the meantime, portfolio companies must place more focus on the following areas to support due diligence efforts:
Data rooms. Companies that cannot produce supporting documentation for their financial and sales assertions are destined to fail due diligence. Deals fall apart when a company cannot produce contracts, proving professed commitmentsordemonstratingcompliancewith the contract terms.Be prepared for due diligence efforts by appointing a trusted, organized document manager to oversee your data room. Read more about data rooms here.
Projections.Think like the investor—play a great game of Sesame Street and make sure that one of these things (your financial projections) looks like the other (your historical trends).Practice the dialogue spoken regarding your company’s future to ensure it rings true to what you can support based on data and research.
Historical financials.Your financial data must be accurate and easyto follow by potential investors.When you produce complicated financials that require confusing explanations or take too long to organize, you put the deal at risk. Just like a burglar will move on from a house with a security system, investors are glad to move on to the next deal that requires less effort to close.
If you are a founder or a C-suite executive of a fast-paced, growing entrepreneurial company, are you prepared for the next round of funding or other exit strategy? Let’s talk about how to begin organizing your data room, simplify your financials, and produce realistic, evidence-based projections that investors will find credible.I would love to speak with you about the challenges you face in preparing your exit strategy. I invite you to set up a 30-minute free consultation with me by clicking on this link to my calendar – let’s talk!
Those of us who work to manage our cholesterol have received conflicting information about eating eggs. I grew up loving eggs, but then, as an adult, I was told not to eat them due to high cholesterol.
Then the nutrition experts decided you can eat egg whites. Now it is back to eat your eggs – yolk and all – the last time I spoke with a nutritionist. Confusing.
Deciding if you are going to outsource a function within an organization is about as confusing. The trends go back and forth on that issue too. Advances in technology and lower costs of offshore professionals have made the idea of outsourcing more attractive in some cases.
I have some advice, gained over my years as CFO in various organizations, for you to consider while you evaluate the idea of outsourcing financial functions:
Don’t try to fix a broken process by outsourcing it. Do not outsource a recurring, detail-oriented process that is currently broken. Get the best consultant you can afford working to fix the process. Make certain the expert who fixes the process creates a training manual on how the process should run and trains an internal staff person on it. You may discover during this process it is easier for you to keep that process going with your own employees or you may decide you want to outsource the detail part of it to an outside, less costly resource. The bottom line is that if you do not understand your own process, you cannot know if a third party is accurately performing it on your behalf.
Get organized. Organize your data in a way that you can provide it to the outside party prior to engaging them. If you cannot make sense of your data, you can end up paying a third party a lot of money to do it for you.
One of the areas I’ve seen this as an issue is with State Sales Tax. Compliance in this area is about as difficult as hanging upside down from a tall tree branch while flossing your teeth. Companies get frustrated with the complicated process of filing state sales taxes, especially when multiple states, or states with complicated calculations and forms are involved. For example, are you capturing sales revenue based on the billing address or the shipping address? You must have accurate data before outsourcing it for someone else to handle.
My recommendation is to invest in upgrading your IT infrastructure. Regardless of whether you are outsourcing compliance with state sales tax or another process, you must be in a position to produce data in an organized manner that a third party can accept and act on.
When you do decide to outsource a portion of your business, make sure you keep the data and regularly backup the data the outsourced agency is using. Make sure you still know where your information is and how to get to it if the outsourced entity suddenly goes out of business. Perform routine oversight of the work being done by the third party. This is even more important today in this every changing business world.
Just-in Time Experts. Expertise that you need infrequently is a great area to consider outsourcing. Many third parties provide outsourced IT, legal, human resource, or financial expertise to augment internal resources and are less costly than hiring the expertise full time. You may only require specialized expertise for specific projects rather than an on-going need.
Outsourcing these functions is not without its drawbacks. For example, let’s say your obsolete, no-one-has-ever-heard-of information system gets hacked and you have no in-house expert who is familiar with your system. Hiring an expert to support obscure software can be costly and time intensive to get your problem solved.
Or perhaps legal expertise is something you only require occasionally. You decide to download a customer contract from the internet instead of hiring legal expertise to prepare your standard contract. If you get in a nonpayment dispute with one of your major customers and then bring in legal to help you, you may discover that the customer contract you downloaded for free from the internet will not allow you to properly recover the revenue you are due. Now the outside lawyer has to clean up the mess you made by not hiring them on the front end to prepare a sound contract.
My point is that it is essential the right expertise performs the company’s core functions in every business. The laws and regulation in these areas change rapidly and you need someone to help you stay compliant and out of trouble.
Barker Associates provides outsourced Chief Financial Officer services on a fractional or full-time basis in the event of a transition. Fractional services work best during times of fast paced growth, a new system implementation, a merger, or an acquisition. Even with a full time CFO on board, they have a day job and these types of changes require a unique focus and background. Our extensive and diverse background helps guide the organization through the change.
During a transition time, Barker Associates uses their expertise to assist the organization with designing a job description and interviewing candidates for the new position. Once your new CFO, Accountant or other financial professional is onboard, Barker Associates exits until you bring us back for the next big project.
If you are considering outsourcing a financial process within your organization and would like to discuss specific areas of concern, I would love to speak with you. Click here to schedule a 30-minute free consultation to discuss your unique situation.
Yesterday, as I was walking back to my car after a great networking lunch, I almost tripped over a pair of shoes left behind in the parking lot. They were probably part of a strategy to look fashionable and fabulous. Most of us can take a closer look and determine why they may not have been working from a practical sense and just had to be left behind.
From a practical perspective in business, some tools, processes, and even people have to be left behind. Leaders tend to get attached to all three at different stages of their careers and different stages as leaders. Financial systems are not typically customer-facing, being pushed to the bottom of the list of systems to upgrade. In addition, most Chief Financial Officers and Controllers do not have the level of Emotional Intelligence and skills required to stress the importance of the new system.
It makes sense, both financially and practically, that software vendors can only support a limited number of versions of their products. Eventually, you receive notice that support for your outdated version of their system will cease.
When you finally decide to upgrade your system, consider my recent experience. I learned that it is impossible to migrate data from certain older systems to the newest version without upgrading it through each version of the system – some of which are no longer for sale. I was able to locate a CPA who had all the previous systems, and the client had to pay them to move the data through the updating process.
Do you want your valuable accountants struggling to operate your business with an outdated system? Good accountants are in high demand, receiving multiple calls from recruiters who are offering them opportunities to work for more money in up-to-date software environments. They can walk out of your office today and have a job tomorrow. Do you want them dealing with the 10th system crash that week, or trying to get a mega Excel sheet to balance because they can’t use the old software to get the correct financial data for decision-making? When the recruiter calls them it is highly likely your accountant will be in the mindset to listen to what the recruiter has to offer. Turnover in the accounting department will cost you a minimum of $15,000.
You must have the right financial system to report the right financial data to make informed and effective decisions about strategy. If you are selling multiple products or services without clear financial information, you might as well be driving blindfolded down the highway at 100 mph.
The moral of my story is that old systems are not serving your company or your employees well. You must invest in upgrades appropriate to the stage and size of your company, or you are putting your business at risk.
Do the right thing, leave what is not working behind. Leave behind the old system, just like the owner of these shoes left them behind – because they were not working.
Barker Associates helps our clients evaluate their current
financial systems to determine if it’s time to upgrade or replace, and we are
happy to help you, too.
There’s nothing that brings on a bit of panic that the end of the year is coming like seeing Christmas decorations prominently displayed at retailers before you’ve even heard the knock of trick or treaters at your door.
For me, as the year-end
approaches, I tend to count down shopping days and furiously plan out how I’m
going to get it all done. It’s an approach that many of us take as we navigate
holiday parties, shopping, travel, and the million other things that are
synonymous with the end of the year. Whether you’re a holiday enthusiast or
just a busy parent who is driven to make this the best holiday ever, It’s easy
to get super focused on the end of the year hoopla for your family to ensure
you get it all done, but what about your professional life?
For the business world the last
quarter of the year is full of opportunities though I’ve heard countless
excuses for the end of the year slack ranging from PTO, lack of focus or just
plain ole procrastination but this is the best time of year to outpace your
competition and get a jump start on the next year.
“If you fail to plan you plan to fail” – Benjamin Franklin
While everyone else is planning their
vacation, surfing online stores for that coveted gift, and running around to
countless holiday parties, what are you going to be doing?
Now is the time of year for a full-on
sprint to the finish, but to cross the finish line a winner, you need to take
some time to evaluate.
What did you set out to accomplish
Did you accomplish all your tasks,
achieve your goals?
The last 60 days is an excellent
opportunity for a big push to check off those last few boxes on the company
to-do list. If you haven’t set specific goals, think in terms of categories and
get your team together for a review. The more involvement in the evaluation
process, the more likely you will get the support and momentum you need to push
Financially – Did you
meet your profitability goals, move inventory, or land the big customer you had
your sights on? If not, design some strategies and draft an action plan for the
next 60 days. Is there a campaign you could run, a promo, or maybe a customer
Projects – Review
your project list. How many did you complete? Did your accomplishments align
with your goals? Assess current status on open projects and determine what you
can accomplish now.
Teammates – Look around,
is your team tired, haggard, and barely hanging on? What have you done this
year to take care of your team and show your appreciation? People can only push
so hard for so long, so if your team has been knocking it out of the park, look
for ways to acknowledge and reward. If you don’t know what to do or want to
find creative low or no-cost strategies, enlist teammates across all levels. I
think you will be surprised at how a little goes a long way towards building a
loyal following in the workplace.
Customers – What’s
your retention rate? How about an acquisition? Have you on-boarded the
customers you desired, and are they generating profitability as you
anticipated? Customers are essential in our business, and like teammates, they
need to be appreciated. A simple thank you note, a holiday gift, a discount…all
simple ideas that make a difference.
Conversely, you may have customers who
cost more to serve than they add to revenue. Now is a great time to review
those customers and ask why. It may sound crazy to think about firing a
customer, but if they are hurting profitability, morale, and taking too many
resources, now is the perfect time to devise a phase-out approach.
Environment – Take a look
at your surroundings. Have you spent the year head down so focused you no
longer see the stack of files or the supply closet in desperate need of a
KonMarie makeover? What about empty desks? Did you have layoffs this year, and
now a sea of cubes with an errant stapler is your only reminder of what once
was. Clean it up. No one needs to see that; it’s depressing. Reorganize your
space, check lighting, bring in some plants and ask yourself, is this a place
people want to spend most of their waking hours? If not, make a change. Enlist
your team. Nothing drives enthusiasm like a DIY project. Set some guidelines
and go for it, then plan a celebration to cap off the year.
Once you’ve evaluated your year and
have an accurate assessment of the current state, envision your future…dream
big with your team. Throw out a few SWAG ideas, brainstorm, put all options on
the table to discuss, and leverage to take massive action to reach your goals.
Collectively ask “if we were to look back in 60 days, describe the perfect
close to the year?” If you know what ideal looks like, then you have
something to work towards.
Lastly, map it out. Studies show that
we are more likely to be successful if we know what our goals are and then
create SMART strategies to turn those goals into reality. Write them out,
prominently display them and continually work with your team to get to the
finish line and celebrate you’re winning year.
“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll
Do you need help creating your winning
strategy, finding focus, or creating an action plan for success? Barker Associates is here
to help you kick it into gear for the end of the year sprint and plan out your
roadmap for future success.
The statistics above are a benchmark based on the gender representation of companies making up the Russell 3000 stock index; the index is comprised of the 3,000 largest U.S.-traded stocks. If the California law was applied to the boards of these 3,000 companies, 3,732 are the number of women that would need to be added by 2020 to comply with California’s law. Since most Russell 3000 companies are incorporated in Delaware, the legislation would have to be adopted in Delaware for to cover this many companies.
Should companies wait until the legislation requires balanced
gender representation on boards? They can wait, but it will be similar to
maintaining data and information on a system that was implemented in the 1990s
that few IT professional even know how to program – neither decision makes a
lot of sense. Note the most recent search
for the President of the University of South Carolina came to a screeching
halt when none of the finalists were women. There were women interviewed and at
least one of the semi-finalists took themselves out of the running for the
position. There are several unanswered questions about this situation, like did
the search committee conduct the search to reach out to all qualified applicants,
were the questions to the applicants generally the same? There is no doubt the
University of South Carolina spent time, money and energy seeking a President and
was unable to accomplish this satisfactorily.
The cost is difficult to quantify, but there is certainly a cost related
to this situation.
Is it that difficult for well-meaning companies to find
women leaders to serve on boards or serve as C-Suite executives? I truly
believe it is for several reasons.
Forbes magazine reported on Amazon’s
appointment of two well-known leaders, Indra Nooyi and Roz Brewer earlier
this year to serve on their board. Because a small pool of U.S. leaders is
consistently tapped for board positions, they do not have the time to serve on the
multiple Boards to which they are invited.
The Forbes article goes on to suggest that one of the
reasons women don’t make the cut is the qualifications being sought.In general, the qualifications being
Must be a sitting CEO or senior executive in a Fortune 500 company.
Must be a financial expert.
Must understand cyber-risk and security.
Must understand innovation. Those are just some of the criteria stated out loud.
Implicitly, the board candidate also:
Must not have an agenda (feminist).
Must not be too old.
Must not be disruptive.
Another factor to consider is our networks.
If male leaders primarily are cultivating networks with
other male leaders and women leaders primarily are cultivating networks of
other women leaders, who else would they recommend when a board position opens?
one-fifth of US board directors being women, it could take until my
daughter’s children have children for female board representation to reflect
A Board of Directors is elected to represent shareholders. Who is speaking for the 26% of U.S. women invested in the stock market? Why should you care if the boards of Corporate America are diversified based on gender or other factors? Here are a few of those reasons:
Your potential customers will view a diversified board as making better strategic decisions when the customer is represented.
Talented, highly qualified employees value the actions of their employer and will be monitoring social media and the news, as stories of board diversity are reported; as potential employees, they will embark on their job search with such information in hand.
Satisfied customers and a skilled workforce can lead to successful earnings and annual reports – and ultimately – happy shareholders.
Honestly, one of the most difficult things to overcome with women moving up to the C-suite and taking on Board appointments is the sacrifice required to maintain that type of position. More men than women are willing to make that sacrifice. When I think about this, it leads me to think we should examine the requirements for C-level executives and leaders, regardless of their gender. If you have a transparent conversation with a spouse or a child of anyone who holds one of these positions in the USA, they will admit it is difficult on them and the family. I have had demanding professional positions most of my career and I have had to constantly make difficult decisions on how to allocate my time.
If having gender representation on boards of directors that reflects today’s workforce is important to you, what else can you do to promote your belief?
20% By 2020 Women on Boards is a national campaign to increase the percentage of women on U.S. company boards to 20% or greater by the year 2020. Established in 2010, it is a 501c3 organization co-founded in 2010 by Stephanie Sonnabend and Malli Gero.
Their website lists several actions you can take, from establishing a local campaign committee to easy actions you can take to have a voice. Visit their website for more information.
In summary, company leaders are going to have to focus on this issue if they want the company to continue to make money, which most do. Legislative and social pressure is just too great. It is a multi-dimensional issue that is going to require messy conversations and creative solutions to overcome. We should all think about this issue and make a choice regarding how we are going to work toward a resolution – perhaps mentor a young professional; perhaps you, as a current board member, begin to ask how many hours are the C-suite leaders working and try to move to realistic expectations; and if you are serving on a search committee for one of these positions, a well defined process is an absolute must.
If my post hasn’t convinced you just how passionate we are about this topic, let me add that I include this issue in these upcoming speaking engagements. I’ve included the links to each event so that you can consider attending.
When Business Leaders
Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know
I have avoided yoga class for a few months because I was intimidated by the fact that most of the participants twist and turn like the performers in Cirque du Soleil®. This morning I decided I would break through my barrier of feeling intimidated and attend the class. As I drove to class, I realized one of the reasons I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone TODAY was because I had attended previous classes with this specific teacher. Alyson Foreacre is the owner of Yoga Den, where I attend. She is an amazing teacher who I trusted to lead me through my own practice of yoga. If all I did was stay in one yoga pose and breath, she would probably encourage me to do more in a very respectful and empathetic way.
My journey with yoga can be compared to how business leaders
feel about financial information. In my years of practice, I have learned that
they are intimidated by financial reports. They are fearful of asking questions,
they don’t want to sound ignorant. Feeling intimidated by yoga class and by
financial information is similar, as in both cases we are keeping ourselves
from something that can be helpful in our overall lives.
My feelings of intimidation with yoga were primarily tied to fear of not keeping up with the class and not knowing how to do all the moves. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about how yoga class is a practice, not a directive. I was so right when I told myself “I got this” with Alyson’s assistance. She is an encouraging teacher who provides alternatives if she knows you need them. She also lovingly encourages you when you need a little guidance. Today she even laid on the floor beside me to show me how to do a certain move. She validated my confidence in her ability to get me through the difficult moves.
I often meet with entrepreneurial business owners, nonprofit
leaders or business professionals in corporations to discuss their pain points.
The most frequent statement I hear during those discussions are “I don’t know
what I don’t know.” I have to admit that,
it wasn’t until I was attacked by the anxiety of doing the right kind of
Downward-Facing Dog and other yoga moves, that I truly have the proper level of
empathy for this statement. I also realized that I should feel honored that my
clients trust in me to share their own fears of financial information.
Being responsible for an entire organization, or even just a section of one, without understanding the financial implications can be frightening. It takes a lot of courage to push through your uncomfortable zone, to accept some uncomfortable space for some time until you understand. Just like my sore muscles right now are telling me it will take a few times before that class feels good. But I know that if I dare to go again and I struggle, Alyson will be there for me.
Is it possible that you don’t know what you don’t know? If you struggle with the following internal dialog, the answer is probably “Yes”:
I do not receive financial statements each month
timely and I do not understand why.
Cash is very tight, and I am not sure we have
enough money to pay the bills and make payroll for the next month or two. I am not sure how to address this.
The new revenue recognition guidance is
required, and I do not know where to begin with implementation.
The organization needs to raise capital and I do
not know what the right type of investor is for our organization.
The corporation needs to divest of a subsidiary
or a line of business and I am not sure how to make that work. What are the
I know we need better systems and process to
improve the customer experience but I do not know where to begin or have the
time to ask various vendors what their system does, or even understand the full
capabilities of our current system.
Barker Associates can help you work through these anxieties and guide you through the process. We are direct communicators who will share with you the reality of the situation, even it is not what you want to hear. Recalling my sore yoga muscles, I will be empathetic to your journey of not knowing what you do not know. Give me a chance to let my experience work for you. https://mindybarkerassociates.com/contact/
If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there. – Lewis Carroll
Customer experience (CX)
has been a hot topic for the last several years.
Companies have invested in teams to analyze data, customer service issues,
survey results, and they’ve utilized sophisticated tools such as the Net
Promoter Score (NPS) to understand how likely the customer is to share their
experience and promote the company.
Companies have increased
their budgets and resources to understand the habits, needs and desires of customers to create the perfect
journey and ultimate experience for those they serve but, despite all their
efforts, some companies are still falling short, which means lost revenue,
customer churn, and retention issues with their employees.
CX is the sum of all
interactions. According to a 2018 survey by Gartner, nearly 90% of businesses
compete on customer experience alone. Whether your company is transactional or
subscription-based the competition is fierce and if you want to attract, retain
and grow your customer base you have to lead with the end in mind and design
the ultimate experience.
Employee Experience EX
The exclusive focus on the
customer alone has not resulted in the business outcomes companies desire. Perhaps
the focus should be on something a little closer to home…the Employee Experience (EX). After all,
without employees you can’t serve customers, so maybe the old adage “customer
first” should take a back seat for organizations that truly desire to be
transformative in the market place.
Social media and platforms
like Glassdoor and Indeed have created complete transparency so that organizations
can no longer hide from the real-time employee workplace reviews. In this
competitive market, where skilled talent can be scarce,
companies cannot ignore the need to make the Employee Experience a priority.
Like CX, EX is the sum of every day to day
interaction the employee has from the first contact to last. It’s every
touchpoint they have with recruiters, HR, their boss and peers, the software
they use, the processes they must follow; each touchpoint is specific and
The Employee Experience is
a full spectrum of all their experiences and
a well-designed EX should empower employees with the tools and know-how to
serve customers successfully, provide employees control over their professional
growth and development, and create an atmosphere for positive and healthy
collaboration in a well-designed workplace. When EX strategy is developed and correctly
implemented the end result will be happy employees with a commitment to the
company and their job.
According to a 2016 report
by Deloitte University
Press, organizational culture and employee engagement was a top
priority in 2017 and is still a top focus. The report noted that nearly 80% of
executives rated employee experience very important or important, yet only 22%
felt that their companies were excellent at building a differentiated employee
experience. Of those same responders, more than half were either not ready or
only somewhat ready to address the challenge.
In lieu of a true
strategy that focuses on understanding and implementing modern actionable solutions
to promote a positive EX, employers are using perks like casual Friday, free
ice cream and an occasional “bring your pet to work day” to solve the problem. Companies
use these perks in an attempt to build a great culture without any actual
thought to what creates a great culture.
Jacob Morgan, the author of
The Employee Experience Advantage, analyzed over 252 global organizations to
understand the attributes that promote EX and drive employee engagement. The
top 3 companies that excel in this area are no surprise: Facebook, Google, and
Apple. We’ve all heard about some of the amazing perks these companies offer, but according to Morgan, leadership in these
organizations has focused on the bigger picture to yield positive results. They
focused in areas that really matter to
employees: culture, technology, and physical space.
Culture is a nebulous word and people define culture in a variety of ways. Morgan describes culture as a side effect of
working for an organization. Are your employees frustrated and burnt out? Do
they have a voice and an opportunity to present ideas or provide feedback
without fear of backlash? Is there role clarity and a clearly defined path for
growth? If you’ve heard negative chatter,
you likely have a culture problem impacting the EX, which will ultimately
impact the engagement level of your employees and your customers.
Employees should have
access to technology that supports their function. Technology should be a help
not a hindrance to employees. They should be able to work successfully and with
ease with the help of technology, but sadly, many companies have convoluted
systems that don’t sync, resulting in
errors, rework and duplication, all of which are time-consuming, costly and put
not only the employee experience at risk but your company as well. Leaders who
fail to stay current with new technology and upgrade the employee experience
through exposure to more advanced technology risk losing those employees to
companies who do make such investments.
Lastly, a great employee
experience is dependent upon the physical space in which employees work. Is
your office well lit, clean, free of clutter? Do you participate in initiatives
that support a healthy workplace? Are employees situated in an environment that
supports their tasks? For instance, if call centers are placed next to
employees who must utilize quiet focus to get their job done, then you likely are going to have some unhappy and frustrated
Companies that invest in
the development of a focused EX have seen improved results with attracting and
retaining skilled employees who are passionate about the company and the brand,
and play an active role in the ongoing success of the organization. Employees
want and expect to develop their skills as the company grows and adapts to
market demands. Maintaining stale, obsolete skills is the ultimate morale
Although developing a
focused strategy has not been a priority to organizations, of the 252 global
organizations analyzed by Jacob Morgan, only 15 companies, or 6%, have created
a winning employee experience; companies that don’t focus their strategy are at
risk for both employee and customer churn.
Focusing on long term
solutions means taking the time to engage employees to understand their needs,
wants and expectations and work to align tactics with developing a winning experience.
In the end, you get happy, productive employees who bring tremendous value and
drive positive business outcomes.
Are your business outcomes
meeting your expectations?
Where is your focus, the CX
or the EX?
Have you invested in your
Employee Experience or paid it lip service?
Barker Associates will help you review and understand opportunities to enhance your Employee Experience – the work environment, use of technology and company culture. Together we can design and implement employee experience solutions that yield happy employees and positive results. Contact us today at (904) 394-2913 or by email at here.
Founder-itis is a serious condition that occurs when one or more of the founders have remained in their position in an organization for far too long. They have remained physically, mentally and emotionally in a position that is preventing the organization from healthy growth. This condition can occur in small to very large organizations. I have witnessed very strong impacts of Founder-itis at large companies.
The cure for this condition is an emotionally evolved founder-turned-leader to fight against their natural tendency to hang on to what is comfortable, what worked in the early stages of the company to catapult its growth.
Long-term CEOs of successful companies such as Jeff Bezos at Amazon and Howard Schultz at Starbucks have broadened their horizons as the company has grown.
Successful founders who transition to long-term leaders by avoiding Founder-itis have learned these four key qualities.
Deals with ambiguity – When an organization starts out the management team may find themselves working around someone’s dining room table, in a basement or their garage. All the stakeholders communicate and keep each other up to date in real time because they can, literally, reach out and touch. Modern-day conference software works for small teams as they start a business. During this stage, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is engaged in very detailed decisions and aware of every move that is made. When it’s time to move effectively upward with a growing organization at some point, the CEO must effectively delegate those detailed tasks to move up to a more strategic role with the organization. Details they knew off the top of their head intuitively will have to be delivered to them in a report that is generated as a result of a quality process. The CEO must learn to deal with some ambiguity and trust the management team is effectively executing their responsibilities. Founder-itis comes in when the CEO will not let go of knowing small details and continues to micromanage staff. This is not an effective use of CEO or staff time.
Hires well and timely – CEOs of high growth companies hire professionals for positions that will challenge them and help develop the strategy as well as successfully execute it. If the CEO lets Founder-itis slip in and only hires puppets who will execute only on what they are told without challenging the status quo, they are holding the organization back from the ability to grow effectively. I recently heard a private equity partner state that is one of the things that holds back the execution of the strategy that fuels growth.
Leads and supports rather than controls and micromanages – If a CEO constantly talks about how easy a certain task is and should be with 1980s style processing; is not open to a suggested change in process, upgrade to a new system or hiring enough staff to complete tasks, they are choking the organization. Two examples I often see of this are processing payroll internally instead of outsourcing and gathering paper receipts and matching against a paper credit card statement. You may think that only happens in smaller companies; however, it has happened in companies that have over $50 million in revenue and operate in most of the fifty states. Such situations persist because one of the Founders thinks that since they had always processed payroll manually when it was their responsibility, it’s just not a big deal.
I also have seen recently where a very young company got hit with an $8,000 fine from the state department of revenue related to incorrectly processing unemployment. This happened as the founder wanted to save money and not incur the payroll processing fee. The fee was taken from their bank account before the receipt of the letter that explained the error and related fee.
Embraces pivots – Founders who believe they can keep doing what got them to their first $1 million in revenue are not pivoting. Founders need to realize their role has changed and it is essential for the strategy of the organization to change. The world is changing so fast – just when an organization is up to date with technology, it is time to change again. Embracing that change and the short term disruption it causes is not easy, but it is essential if the organization is to remain relevant, keep talented and engaged employees and execute sustainable strategy.
Leadership and sustainability go hand-in-hand and truly make a difference in a growing organization. Especially with today’s low unemployment, leaders must recognize part of their strategy is to provide a working environment that will keep top talent engaged. Expecting employees to be happy that they receive a paycheck while you expect them to deal with 1980s technology and stone age processes will lead to high turnover and unnecessary chaos and is a sure symptom of Founder-itis.
My first CFO job was working for a relatively small organization with an administrative assistant who still used a typewriter and refused to have a computer on her desk. She had been with the company since its origination and she knew where everything was located. She had all the contracts, historical Board reports and legal agreements in a file drawer. If you asked her for a document, she could stand up from her desk open one file drawer and hand it to you within 3 minutes tops.
The truth is, in today’s environment, to locate corporate, financial and administrative documents when they are needed can cost organizations unbelievable amounts of money.
Betty did not like me too much when I became CFO, as she thought I was taking a job away from a man. My approach to this and all discrimination I have experienced in my career is to analyze the situation and determine if I could make it better by doing such an awesome job no one could ignore me. If that was not possible, I would have changed my geography.
When she came to some of the first C-level management meetings, she would ask all the men in the room what they wanted to drink and skip over me. I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss who would then follow her out of the room and tell her what I would like. I quickly realized that if I wanted to be successful in this position, I had to figure out how to win Betty over so that I could get to those documents and of course get a cup of coffee at the management meetings.
Who’s Job is it to Manage Corporate Documents?
Times have changed and the days of Betty or any administrative assistant asking if you would like something to drink or logically organizing documents have gone the way of the rotary telephone.
Businesses have, for the most part, eliminated the administrative assistant position as they feel the position is not needed now that professionals have email and all the APPs and tools a computer provides. Even if there is an administrative assistant, the job description generally will not include managing and maintaining corporate documents. I frequently ask when I begin a new job with a company who has this responsibility; C-Level executives of small and large organizations look at me just like I asked them what kind of cheese is on the moon. They have no idea.
Failure to follow a document management process costs your organization in the following ways:
The C-Level executives do not have a clear line of sight to the contract terms they are bound to as they are carrying out their corporate responsibilities. This can lead to losing major customers, noncompliance issues with regulatory bodies and lawsuits that take a tremendous amount of time to litigate.
Creates negative relationships with vendors. I once spoke with a professional who had served as a manufacturer’s rep for an organization for several years. The management of the company changed, and when the manufacturer’s rep came to meet with the new management, they were told: “I looked in the file drawer, there was not a contract, so I am terminating our relationship today.” The manufacturer’s rep had a long-term relationship with the company and its customers in a very closely held industry. Once the new management realized the mistakes they had made, it was too late. Not only did the contract had a 90-day termination notice clause, but the rep was well-loved by many customers. The negative ethical behavior on the part of company management left the rep unwilling to work with that company.
I have seen many a deal fall apart, and the potential investor or buyer walk away, before due diligence is complete. When a company’s documents are distributed in corporate and personal emails, shared corporate drives, personal drives, even the email files of terminated employees, locating them takes valuable time in which the potential buyer can find a lot of other things that interest them, causing them to move on to another deal that is ready to move forward.
Compliance issues are not dealt with on an ongoing basis. As a new CFO at an organization with government contracts, a governmental agency called me to report my organization was out of compliance with the terms of the contract. I pulled the “I am the new kid on the block” card and asked to call them back. It was shocking how long it took to locate the contract after I hung up the phone and even more shocking to learn the terms of the contract to which we had agreed. It was apparent to me that our organization had failed to thoroughly read and understand their contractual obligations. When I appealed to the agency that the terms were not reasonable, the agency basically said, “Well you (meaning the organization) signed the contract and you will be compliant, or we will terminate the contract.” This was not the welcoming present I was looking for.
Who is Your Betty?
If I had a nickel for every time someone sent me a contract they considered final, but was not fully reviewed and executed with all signatures, I would be inviting you to my corporate yacht this weekend. Betty would never have filed an incomplete document in her precious filing system without all the signatures, dates, notary stamps and corporate seals. Honor Betty and her memory, as she now rests in peace in the clouds; put someone you trust in charge of finding and organizing all the corporate documents and maintaining them. Your organization will be better for it.
Barker Associates has the unique ability to work with all sizes of organizations and building infrastructure that matters. Contact us today!
Mindy Barker, Founder & CPA | Jacksonville, FL 32256
(904) 394-2913 or (904) 728-2920 | CFO@MindyBarkerAssociates.com
When you scale you need to have a more analytical approach of targeting and segmentation, but in the beginning, it’s more much qualitative.(Pavel Malos 6/11/18, uxdesign.cc)
Chief Executive Officers, Board Members, and Investors have a fiscal responsibility to ensure an organization can handle planned growth. For-profit business leaders must back up the strategy with the right level of working capital and financial infrastructure. Nonprofit leaders must make certain they have the right financial and fundraising data to analyze and plan effectively.
QuickBooks and other simple financial programs have elevated the confidence of professionals, not trained in accounting, past their competence. These systems allow you to process the basic information easily; however, the non-accountant may not have applied the required strategic thought process to the design of the infrastructure that a trained and experienced financial strategist would apply. Some entities can be run effectively in QuickBooks, and the financial data can be analyzed if the infrastructure is set up properly in the beginning.
All organizations need to have financial information, in proper segments in the General Ledger and make sure there are proper period end procedures. Lack of proper information can lead to performing services or selling product at a loss, non-compliant reporting and a lack of proper cash flow. All of these issues can lead to an untimely end to any organization, for-profit or nonprofit. We have all heard of employees showing up for work one day to find the doors locked and an abrupt end to their job and paycheck. Sometimes these employees learn their employers have not remitted federal income taxes, deducted from their paychecks, to the IRS and they have to pay the taxes again. Leaders of organizations should listen to their financial leaders when they request upgraded systems and more people to account properly for the organization’s financial data.
Leaders who make it a priority to set up, manage and monitor metrics have thought through configuring their reporting infrastructure. Leaders without such foresight run through their day-to-day life worrying about how to make payroll and pay bills, with little to no awareness about which decisions are working and which are not working to scale growth to new levels.
Barker Associates has the unique ability to work with all sizes of organizations and building infrastructure that matters. Contact us today!
Mindy Barker, Founder & CPA | Jacksonville, FL 32256
(904) 394-2913 or (904) 728-2920 | CFO@MindyBarkerAssociates.com