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Category Archives: growth

Who is Your Betty?

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.

Who is Your Betty?

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:

    1. 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.

 

    1. 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.

 

    1. 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.

 

    1. 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

An Analytical Approach to Scaling Growth

An Analytical Approach to Scaling Growth

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

The Playing Field Levels

Entrepreneurial growth companies, nonprofit agencies, and governmental organizations are all becoming alike in one way – they are seeking capital to carry forward their mission; however, they also compete for the same pool of high net worth individuals, venture capitalists, and private investors.

From this evolution comes the new challenge for each American – to step up and grasp their responsibility in this new world. To take responsibility, we all must accept the impact of this change: no longer can social and business issues can be addressed separately when funding involves the same pool of resources.

Entrepreneurial growth companies are led by individuals who have left the corporate environment to start a new venture, in part to do good for the community.  They are social-minded, routinely volunteer or get involved in nonprofits one way or another.  Generally, these entrepreneurs are seeking capital to push forward and provide the product or service they are selling.

On the flip side, nonprofit organizations are beginning to realize that they have to perform as social entrepreneurs, seeking funds from donors as if they were investors.  Historically they have sought funds from governmental entities through grants; however, this avenue is becoming increasingly difficult to pursue, as the governmental entities do not have enough money to fund the nonprofits.  Governments struggle to hire and maintain employees and provide services to the community so elected officials can remain in good favor and get reelected. The constraint of human and monetary resources leads to a direct hit to the nonprofit world.

For example, nonprofits struggle when they have multiple grant managers within the same governmental organization with a different interpretation of the impact of the grant guidelines.  The result is that nonprofits find themselves funding services they expected to be reimbursed from the government, only to learn that they must raise the funds from donors to maintain sustainability because of misinterpretation of the rules.

In both the nonprofit and the entrepreneurial growth companies one of the major funding sources – the high net worth individuals and donors – are more insistent on monitoring outcomes for promised results from their investments.  Both types of organizations must have the right infrastructure and process to capture metrics that support the promised result.

Upcoming Webinar 

If you are a for-profit business professional reading this post, consider serving on a nonprofit Board or Finance committee.  Learn more about the differences between for-profit and non-profit financials by participating in my free webinar, Financial Stress or Success, Which is your Nonprofit?  then with your new-found knowledge, go out and volunteer.

The CFO – Your Financial Strategist

A CFO has the financial birds-eye-view to develop forward-looking strategic thinking; they understand different cash management policies to help through challenging times; they help prepare a company for both the known and unknown or unexpected financial obligations, using strategies that make sense for the circumstances.

The CFO - Your Financial Strategist

Do you launch bleeding-edge products? If so, you understand it’s not just about product design, sales, and marketing – the CFO is the team member you need to help with the financial aspect of a new product, such as how to price it, is it making money, should we discontinue an old product.

Want to offer new employee benefits? How much will that idea cost over time?

Considering expansion to a new city, or buying up a competitor? Where do you start?

These are areas where the CFO provides financial strategy and leadership throughout the process.

So, what was your question again – why do you need a CFO? That’s why.

Barker Associates, CFO Strategists, works with entrepreneurial growth companies, established corporations and nonprofits to develop positive cash flow and increase the value of your company. We can be contacted at cfo@mindybarkerassociates.com or 904.728.2920.

Deal Killer

Deal Killer

Have you ever prepared for your workout but realized you had not done laundry, so you had no clean clothes or you could not find your tennis shoes?  Were you still motivated to go for the run after you did your laundry and found your shoes? Many of us would have lost interest due to the time delay.  The same concept applies to a deal.  Time kills deals when too much of it passes.  

Start with the end in mind. Every business owner should begin building their business with the idea of seeking investors or selling in the future, which means laying your due diligence foundation.   

Have at hand the due diligence essentials.  Investors will ask for them – do you know what they are? Do you have then available at all times, are you solidly prepared for due diligence, are you in a position to secure investment?  Email me at cfo@mindybarkerassociates.com to get the list.

Then get your due diligence folder ready and keep it current.   

 

Can Your Investor Become Your Trusted Advisor?

Last October I offered advice on finding the right investor for entrepreneurial businesses. Today I am writing about trusted advisors (the theme for March) – the investor is a special kind of trusted advisor.

 

As with any business relationship, finding the right fit with your investor is the first step in a long and successful association. This may sound like dating advice, as there are many similarities. For example, identifying potential investors through word-of-mouth or introductions from mutual friends has a better chance of success than selecting the first name your search engine delivers.

But don’t stop there, ask your acquaintance why they recommend this or that one. Understanding your goals is critical with whomever you choose to ask for money.

 

With potential candidates on your list, think of a few “speed dating” questions to narrow it down. You should know yourself well enough to already know which questions/answers are deal-breakers. What do I mean by that? Let’s say you want a silent investor who is hands-off.  Ask how they work with their current clients – hands-on, hands-off or somewhere in the middle.

 

Other filtering questions might include:  who are some of their other clients (besides your referring friend); are they local; in which industries do they specialize? Are they a solo investor or in a group? What type of client do they prefer – are you that client?

By doing your due diligence you have reduced the risk of having to break up with your new investor sooner than planned.

 

One of your goals in securing an investor should be that once they have reached their goal with your business, they stick around as your #trustedadvisor. You just may need them again when your successful business is ready to rise to the next level of success!

 

Building trust takes time and an investment from both parties. At the end of a successful pitch to gain an investor, the trust clock with that investor starts ticking.  You both must deliver now on the promises made during the courtship; nothing builds trust quicker than doing what you said you would do. And when you follow through, the role of trusted advisor just naturally evolves.

 

At Mindy Barker & Associates we help entrepreneurial businesses prepare for meeting with investors to pitch their business and obtain funding. If you think you need an investor, but don’t know where to start, contact me at cfo@mindybarkerassociates.com to set up a no-obligation 30 minute discovery call to discuss how we can help.

 

My final word of advice: this process should begin the minute you start a business – not when you need the money.  If you are trying to raise money at a time you are getting ready to lose money – you lose leverage.

On Demand Must Eventually Result in Profit

Countless Americans seem to have an insatiable desire for immediate gratification. This drive for gratification has led to an increase in “on-demand” start-ups, such as Uber, one that is frequently in the news these days. These start-ups address needs such as transportation, food, entertainment and beauty treatments. The short-term euphoria derived from the instant gratification meets a perceived (or even real) need, resulting in billions of dollars being available to fund these companies. Investors have bet the companies will build enough revenue and momentum to go public. With an opportunity to exit through an Initial Public Offering (IPO), they can get a great return on the investment. The IPO market has allowed some unprofitable, high-growth companies to pass through the gates and create hope for others – including Amazon and FitBit.

shutterstock_317626964 Prathan Chorruangsak / Shutterstock.com

 
History often repeats itself – there were many “on-demand” start-ups during the dot.com boom in the 1990s that were unsuccessful, including Webvan, known as poster child of the dot-com “excess” bubble, according to techcrunch.com. My belief is that the initial euphoria of immediate gratification is then seized by the control freak in us who wants to choose our product. For example, when the apple from the grocery delivery shows up with a bruise or we cannot communicate with the office manicurist, the urgency for immediate gratification dies and we drive to the grocery store to pick our own perfect apple or to the spa to get the manicurist of our choosing.

 

The success of Uber has given the on-demand space an extra surge of enthusiasm and creativity. Many riders frequently use Uber because they appreciate the experience and the price. On the one hand, this is a great business outcome; the fact remains, the company eventually has to make money. Uber continues to struggle with growing regulatory issues that will eat into revenue, create higher operating costs and, ultimately result in higher rates. I recently landed in the New Orleans airport and requested an Uber car at the airport. An immediate and distinctive pop up on my phone alerted me that all Uber rides were $75 from the New Orleans airport due to city ordinances. This is compared to a $15 cab ride to my client’s office. I cancelled my Uber request and went to the cabstand.

 

The message to entrepreneurs and business owners is that we can learn from history, and basic business fundamentals are clear – you have to make money selling the product. Investors expect a return on investment, and at some point will be unwilling to continue to fund a losing proposition. Keep your books and records current to ensure all your products are making money or, by default, you could be making the decision to fund a loss leader.

Falling in Love with a Unicorn

Sunday began the week with the Holiday of Love – St. Valentine’s Day. How do love and emotions influence our decisions about business and investing?

 

Many people have used the services or read about a Unicorn or a Unicorn “wanna be” without even knowing it. Fortune.com defines a Unicorn as a once mythical, now reality, start-up business valued at more than $1 billion and includes Uber ($62.5 billion), Airbnb ($25.5 billion) and Snapchat ($12 billion)*.

JacLoveAUnicornksonville-based Fanatics is a local Unicorn valued in excess of $3 billion that is putting Jacksonville on the start-up map according to a First Coast News report (http://fcnews.tv/1om5Exd)

 

Speed to market for a unique new idea is critical for start-ups. The exuberance of growing a company fast can generate more endorphins than the Boston marathon, while the adrenaline rush can lead an enthusiastic business owner to burn through huge amounts of cash in an attempt to gain market share. This cash burn must show traction – is the cash you are investing to gain market share paying off? Are the dogs eating the dog food or, in other words, are you acquiring as much of your target market as you project or need to justify continuing to increase the value of the Company and command the incredible valuations such as in the previous examples?

 

The basic principles of running a business, i.e. the eventual need to generate enough revenue to create a profit remain a core value of building a business. For example, if the cost of production plus acquiring market share is more than what you are selling the item for, that’s a no-win situation down the road. Using metrics and projections, founders and owners must continue to evaluate building enterprise value in order to provide a return on the investment to shareholders.

 

My experience serving as the Principal of a Private Equity Firm and as a CFO of small and large entities provides a depth of experience that can help with the analysis your business needs to understand if you are on the right track for building enterprise value. Please contact me to discuss your unique situation.

 

* http://fortune.com/unicorns/. Note these are estimates of the companies’ enterprise value based on the latest rounds of private financings. These companies are private and it is difficult to find the exact valuation.

Driving High Revenue is the Goal of all Businesses – But Wait – Is it Really?

Is your high-cost customer providing high revenue?

Is your high-cost customer providing high revenue?

The entrepreneurial community tends to speak to investors and stakeholders about the value of their business based on revenue and revenue growth. When an investor begins to ask about gross profit, net profit or EBITDA, often the business owner makes a face similar to when you have caught a teenager in a fib.

Revenue produces cash flow and pays the bills. Revenue is a key goal and business owners should constantly strive to identify and close more customers to drive more sales. Besides these vital aspects of revenue, proper analysis of revenue is equally critical to identify customers, vendors and products you should walk away from.

Walking away from revenue is a bold move; however, at times it is the right move to take your company to the next level. I recently helped a client determine that a relationship with a vendor was unprofitable and to make the difficult decision to cease the relationship, which represented over 50% of the entity’s revenue. Proper cost accounting for products and services can be detailed and time consuming. My experience serving as the Principal of a Private Equity Firm and as a CFO of small and large entities provides a depth of experience and can help with the analysis your business needs to understand revenue and profitability. Please contact Mindy Barker & Associates to discuss your unique situation.