Category Archives: growth

Is Your Idea Worth Investing In?

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Every year, entrepreneurs spend countless hours planning and preparing for the perfect investor pitch. They research, practice, and pick apart every piece of their idea and/or business to find success in the form of an investment to propel them to the next level. However, all of this time spent preparing and practicing can be futile if there is not a strong foundation first; namely, “Is the business built on an idea worth investing in?”  

This is not always an easy question to answer with so much personal time, attention, and energy focused on developing that idea. Saying there is a little bias may be a rather large understatement. That’s where gaining further perspective allows you to assess whether it is, in fact, a “good idea” or not. And even if it is a good idea, exactly how good is it?  

To decide, you have to consider not only if it is a “good idea,” but if it is a profitable one—two very different matters. Profitability depends on many internal and external factors, only one of which is how good the actual idea is in the first place. And it can only truly be evaluated by looking at it from different perspectives. Understanding these factors from various perspectives, and how they influence profitability, will give your idea a stronger leg to stand on when under the certain scrutiny you’ll face in that investor meeting.  

Seven Questions and Perspectives to Evaluate Your Idea … Before the Pitch 

  1. What do you think makes your idea unique? 

Think about you as your own customer, not as an inventor and/or entrepreneur who spent months or years perfecting a product or service. Consider what specifically makes your idea unique and interesting. Why would you choose what you offer? Once you’ve identified your value proposition, use that as a baseline when considering other perspectives.

  1. What do others think make your idea unique? 

Now that you have your baseline, start asking others the same questions—family members, friends, strangers, fellow entrepreneurs. Record their answers and analyze where they fall according to your baseline. Look for any patterns or weaknesses and think about how to address them. Take the time to consider the results of your research and how they affect your baseline. 

  1. What is your competition doing? 

Once you have a better understanding of your customer perspective, take a thorough look at your competition. What are they doing differently? What are they doing the same? Similarly, look at trends in the market and your specific industry. Where does your business fit in? What pain point does it solve that your competitors are missing? What are your differentiators?

  1. If you’re not already in the market, how will your competition react when you enter it? 

Getting your idea to market is one thing, but keeping it there is entirely another. Consider the impact your idea could have on the market and how competitors might respond. This is an extremely valuable perspective to have when preparing for a pitch.

  1. What will critics say? 

This is often overlooked. Why? Because it’s unpleasant! We don’t want to hear the bad feedback. It’s so much better to relish in the compliments. But this is crucial. Think about the perspective of those who have negative opinions of your idea or business. Is there any validity to them? If so, how can they be addressed? Taking in the thoughts of critics is incredibly important for ensuring you are not missing the mark. If you don’t address them, your investors will.

  1. Do the numbers make sense? 

Numbers don’t lie. There is no gray area. Either your business can be profitable or not. If the numbers aren’t there, there is no hiding it. Consider the following:  

  • Are there holes in your research?  
  • Was there an error in the data?  
  • Is there any way to lower costs without affecting quality? 
  • Is there any way to increase distribution? 

Numbers are a massive factor in any investment. Ensuring yours make sense will go a long way with investors.

  1. How much sentiment is attached to your idea? 

Now that you’ve examined the perspectives of others, it’s time to reexamine your own perspective again, especially its weaknesses. One of the biggest mistakes someone can make when pitching an idea is getting too sentimental. Don’t get me wrong—you want to tell your story. It makes the most impact. But emotions and sentiment will never take the place of profitability. And if you are too sentimental, it may appear that you are trying to cover something up. It’s crucial that you are able to separate your sentimentality to the project from your logical stance on the viability of it as a profitable enterprise.

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, including helping to prepare for that ever-important pitch. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Growing Wealth … It’s Not Just for Companies

Growing Wealth … It’s Not Just for Companies 
What We Can Take from the Office 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

When you’ve been acting in some type of CFO capacity for as long as I have, you can’t help it—growth strategies, numbers, maximizing revenue, minimizing expenses, and leadership are a part of your DNA. And that DNA stays with you whether you are in the office, on a Zoom call, or taking care of your personal finances.  

I started thinking about the correlation between what we do in our “official” CFO role and what we do in our personal lives. I asked myself what we can learn about what we do in the office to take it home and help us build our own wealth. And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that many of the same principles apply whether we are strategizing for our companies or for our families.  

Unless you’re independently wealthy or have been left a huge inheritance, you have to build your own wealth, just like a company has to build its revenue. While inflation and growing debt may make it seem like this is futile, with the right principles, strategies, and habits in place, your financial growth will strengthen. So, I’ve compiled the top five habits to help you grow your wealth … from a CFO perspective. 

1. Don’t spend more than you earn 

This may seem intuitive, but for many individuals, it’s anything but. It’s critical to be aware of our spending habits and have discipline to live within our means. This does not mean depriving ourselves of full lives, as some may think. Rather, it comes down to making choices. 

A few tips to help along the way: 

  • Take advantage of automated savings (i.e., pay yourself first). 
  • Eliminate frivolous spending. 
  • Create a budget and stick with it. 
  • Stop comparing your spending with others (especially from social media posts).  

2. It’s never to early (or late) to invest and save

Far too many younger individuals just entering the workforce think they don’t have to worry about saving for retirement or investing. They figure they have years to think about all of that. But I would argue there is no time like the present. Investing is a great tool to help build wealth, but to truly do so takes years. So, the sooner we start, the better.  

Additionally, when we start younger and don’t yet have a family or other major expenses to account for, we can invest more and solidify some strong financial habits before incurring additional, often larger expenses. On the opposite side, others think it’s too late, so why bother. It is never too late. You may not have exactly what you had hoped for as you approach retirement, but at least you will have something. 

Financial planning should always include both short-term and long-term goals. This includes having an emergency fund, so when those inevitable life experiences come up, our savings accounts do not get exhausted. It also includes taking advantage of matching retirement plans, such as 401(k)s. 

3. Use debt strategically 

Many financial experts will say to avoid debt at all costs (pun intended). However, I urge my clients to first consider the type of debt they have and also the importance of having some debt. To start, in order to build credit, it must first be established by incurring debt. This does not mean you should max out credit cards and pay insanely high-interest rates (actually an example of the bad debt we want to avoid). But if you are responsible with the debt you have, and make payments in full on time, you will build credit. With regard to the type of debt, consider lower rates on mortgages, home equity loans, and federal student loans. This can help establish credit and free up cash to invest.  

4. Diversify income 

Just like a company needs more than one product or service to offer, we need more than one source of revenue to truly build wealth. Now, you may be thinking that you already work a full-time job or have a business to run, with no time for anything else. However, there are many passive income opportunities that can help generate additional revenue with little time and effort.  

When we diversify our income sources, we minimize the risks associated with losing our jobs or closing our businesses. Other benefits to having additional sources include:  

  • saving more and investing, 
  • paying off bad debt, or  
  • taking a long overdue vacation. 

5. Remember knowledge is power

This is a leadership principle that pertains to any industry and organization, and it applies equally here. We must always make a commitment to continuous learning. While expanding financial knowledge can be overwhelming to some, continuously educating yourself is the key to becoming more financially stable—from new tax laws to interest rates to investment opportunities.  

Resources can be found almost anywhere—blogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, mentors, and coaches. How you do it is up to you. The important piece is to be prepared, ask questions, and learn something that will help you navigate the path to reaching your financial goals. 

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Beyond the Numbers – More Than Ever, CFOs Need a Strategic Mindset

Beyond the Numbers – More Than Ever, CFOs Need a Strategic Mindset 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I don’t think anyone would doubt the importance of the CFO role (or at least I hope they wouldn’t!). But what many don’t understand is the magnitude of this role’s transformation over the past several years. It’s not just about financials. And it’s much more than tracking and compliance, as some may have thought. At the base of this transformation is an increased emphasis on having a strategic mindset.  

Organizations are facing unprecedented challenges in supply chains, labor supplies, and overall skills gaps that must be rectified, or at least minimized, at every level and in every department. CFOs are plagued with the continued uncertainty these challenges bring, as they attempt to align the organization’s current and projected finances with the organization’s growth goals and strategies. 

So, how can CFOs exceed expectations and sustain organizational growth? What separates the good ones from the great ones, especially in light of today’s challenges? What are the successful CFOs doing differently? Simply, they have the required financial acumen and leadership skills of most, but also a strong, developed strategic mindset. 

Strategic Mindsets Lead to Success 

CFOs look at the drivers of business growth to deliver both short-term financial gains and sustain long-term organizational growth. But to be successful at both requires a strategic mindset. In a recent Forbes article, a strategic mindset is listed as one of the top attributes of successful CFOs. “A strategic CFO understands that success tomorrow depends on creating the right financial structure today. The right person will work alongside the CEO to create a viable financial plan that will carry the business through future growth stages. This includes thinking several steps ahead to minimize risk.” 

With a strategic mindset, CFOs often consider these types of questions: 

  • How much cash do we need on hand at any given time? 
  • How much should we have in reserves? 
  • Where can we reduce costs? 
  • What actions should we take to increase revenue? Short-term? Long-term? 
  • Are our financial processes ready to scale? If not, what do we need to do so they are? 
  • At what point will we be able to position ourselves for a merger or acquisition? 

Seeing beyond the numbers to both the opportunities and risks that can only be found “in between the lines,” a successful CFO becomes a trusted strategic business advisor to the CEO. And a strong relationship between the two helps the financial and operational strategies stay aligned. “Strategic leadership from the CFO’s office in these scenarios can keep the company moving forward. When the chemistry between the CEO and CFO is right, their unique leadership traits will sharpen each other and work in tandem to get the best possible results for the company.” 

As with much else in life, this comes down to strong relationships. Without the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively with others, a strategic mindset alone will never move the needle. We are at a time where everything in business is seemingly connected. Leaders can no longer operate in silos—there is simply too much at stake. 

For example, the CFO should take that same strategic mindset to collaborate with the Chief Information Officer with respect to technological advances and data, with the Human Resources Director to manage the organization’s culture and employee experience, and the COO to decide where the most effective operational investments can be found. In this way, CFOs are about entirely more than the financials. In fact, they are the drivers of organizational transformation.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance and outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Knowing Your Worth – The Value of Executive Coaching

Knowing Your Worth 
The Value of Executive Coaching 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last week, we spoke about mentorship and the important role mentors can play in someone’s personal and professional development. It seemed appropriate that this week, we dive into another crucially important role – an executive coach.  

The world of executive coaching has undergone a staggering increase in popularity over the past few years. Factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and The Great Resignation have greatly altered the employee-employer relationship and, in many instances, widened the skills gap in the workplace. These circumstances have left employees feeling as if they are out in the cold – many debating if they should stick it out or try to find something more fulfilling elsewhere. But there is another option for the millions of Americans in this situation, and it lies in coaching. 

Making an Investment in You 

Executive coaching is one of the most valuable investments you can make in yourself. It helps you understand the significance of what you bring to your organization, and also helps develop the skills that will allow you to meet your goals and advance your career further. But it’s even more than that. Coaching combines skill building with getting at the heart of what’s holding you back in setting up strategies to get “unstuck.”  

Simply, executive coaches help you create outside change from the inside. They work with you to reexamine your professional narrative by taking the time to learn who you are, including your strengths and your weaknesses. Once they have a complete picture, they can provide the most individualized strategy to help you move forward by identifying what is keeping you from your full potential.  

Know Your Worth 

As an executive coach, I have the extraordinary ability to witness firsthand the benefits coaching has on an individual. Last year, a CFO reached out to me and asked to begin a coaching arrangement. She had seen a colleague use executive coaching to achieve major advancement in their professional development and she wanted to see if she could obtain similar results. She was ready to quit a job she loved because she didn’t feel valued or that she was getting paid what she was worth. She was in need of validation, direction, correction, encouragement, and the knowledge that dysfunctional experiences are not failures.  

We began weekly coaching sessions, starting with examining what was important to her and her goals. The timeline for the goals was approximately six months (tip – goals must always be attached to dates). Her goals were:  

  1. Establish her value,  
  2. Earn respect, and  
  3. Negotiate a raise.  

Each week, we discussed her stories, her disappointments, and her vulnerabilities. I worked with her to transform her perspective to view these instances as normal – just like everyone else goes through, and to feel capable and empowered. There were some weeks where we struggled a great deal, but struggle is always a part of the process. Learning to handle tough times and emotions is essential for life, both in and out of the workplace. It’s all about shifting that perspective and learning to create better boundaries. On weeks when we’d make strong progress, we emphasized keeping that momentum to work toward something new.  

After six months of coaching, my client was able to achieve all of the goals she set at the beginning of our time together. She let her company know that she loved her job, but that she would need to be paid fairly or would be forced to move on. She even provided a specific number because she had the confidence to know she was worth it. Her company agreed to her raise, and she is now getting paid what she deserves as CFO. She also feels that she is more respected as a leader, collaborator, and strategist, and is better at handling her responsibilities. 

I am honored that I was able to help her not only stay in a role that she loved, but also help her get to a place of peace and happiness – those results extend far beyond the office. We have now set new goals focused on company growth and corporate standards. It has been a pleasure to watch her grow both personally and professionally and I am thrilled to see what she will do in the future. 

Keep in mind that there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to reaching professional goals. Everyone has different strengths, that must be amplified, and weaknesses, that must be improved. Coaching can be hard work, but don’t we have to work for anything of true value? And what is more valuable than shifting your perspective when you need to, developing your skills, and finding the peace, happiness, and value you truly deserve?  

Barker Associates provides executive coaching to CFOs and other C-Suite executives. We provide the guidance you need to navigate your professional development. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

Beyond the Numbers: Mentorship in Finance

Beyond the Numbers: Mentorship in Finance 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We all strive to be successful. And in our effort to do so, many of us spend time on professional development. We use the tools and resources available to us, we invest in continuing education, and we download the latest apps all in an effort to help us be more effective and productive in whatever path we are pursuing. But how often are we relying on one of the greatest resources we could have—a mentor? This is particularly true in a financial career, which can be difficult to navigate for unseasoned professionals—the rules are complex, the technology can be convoluted, and there are often extremely high stakes involved. 

Why Mentorship? 

We all understand generally that mentorship is a unique relationship between two individuals where one possesses more experience, knowledge, and connections than the other and has the ability and willingness to pass along what they have learned. However, many people confuse mentors with coaches. And while similar, there is a significant difference in that coaching focuses on performance, where mentoring focuses more on the person’s development.  

A mentor will generally form a long-lasting relationship with their mentee, providing them with advice and support in navigating their professional path. And the results speak for themselves. In fact, according to a case study at Sun Microsystems, mentees are five times more likely to both advance in pay grade and receive a promotion.  

Benefits of Mentorship in Finance 

While a mentor can help an individual in a variety of ways across a myriad of industries, they can be especially advantageous when it comes to finance, where access to industry experience and technology expertise is invaluable. Mentoring and support are often ongoing in this field, rather than merely in the early stages of someone’s career. 

A mentor will help the mentee pave his or her path right alongside them by calling out the challenges in advance and providing possible solutions based on past experiences. Additionally, many finance mentors can provide networking connections through opportunities in their own network and other events or conferences in which they have found value. These opportunities generally don’t surface for someone new to the industry. 

How to Find a Mentor 

It’s crucial that a mentorship starts out strong with a mentor and mentee who have the right fit, not just in experience variances, but in personality. Just like any other relationship, mentorships are best when founded on a personal connection and are mutually beneficial to each party. Similar personalities, working styles, goals, values, and life circumstances are all attributes that can indicate a potential fit and form solid bonds between a mentor and mentee.  

As you begin your search for the right mentor, consider the following: 

1. Know What You Want 

It’s important that you understand not only who you are and where you want to go professionally, but also the type of people with whom you work best. This will help you decide what attributes are most important to you as you search for a mentor. With that being said, you should never go into a mentorship just because you feel as if you have to or to find a cheerleader. A good mentor will support you wholeheartedly, but they will also be tough on you when you need it. You need that honesty to grow and develop. 

2. Start Forming Connections 

A strong personal connection is the foundation of a successful mentorship. Reach out to your professional circle, whether it be someone you work with, an old boss, or a respected family friend. See what you have in common. Remember, you are not interviewing this person for the position of you mentor. You are getting to know them and beginning to build a personal connection. Many mentorships are formed organically, with the mentor and mentee simply falling into their roles.  

3. Don’t Give Up  

Finding the right mentor can be a process, but it’s better to take your time rather than have the wrong person mentor you. Developing meaningful relationships is difficult in general, let alone in the professional world. Some people are fortunate and have their perfect mentor without even trying. But others have to work more for it and take the time to find the right one. If you can’t find anyone in your professional circle, there are also mentorship programs you can join to connect with mentors ready to help.  

Regardless of what age you are or stage of career you are in, a mentor is a key resource in helping you get to where you want to go in your career. Mentees have an incredible competitive advantage, as their mentors help them avoid common roadblocks, as they guide them toward future growth.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to your personal and professional development. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

The Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Team’s Financial Literacy this April

The Top 3 Tips to Increase Your Team’s Financial Literacy this April 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Financial literacy is an essential skill for navigating the worlds of both personal and business finance. However, many Americans have not received proper financial education, if any at all, leaving them extremely vulnerable to the pitfalls that can occur when one lacks requisite knowledge.  

A financial literacy study conducted pre-pandemic noted, “Individuals need at least a fundamental level of financial understanding. This knowledge, paired with financial decision-making skills, can best ensure an individual’s financial capability.” Yet, the same study found 66% of Americans were unable to answer more than three of five financial literacy questions correctly. This deficiency in knowledge about one’s own financial outlook has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing financial instability throughout the country.  

Lack of proper financial knowledge can be damaging for both individuals and businesses. That’s why April has been designated as National Financial Literacy Month – a time to focus on financial education for both adults and children. Financial Literacy Month began as part of the National Endowment for Financial Education (“NEFE”) more than two decades ago, as Youth Financial Literacy Day. In 2000, it was expanded into Financial Literacy for Youth Month, and when the Jump$tart Coalition took over for NEFE, it was eventually retitled “Financial Literacy Month.” In 2004, it became nationally recognized by a senate resolution.  

Financial Literacy for Your Team 

Financial literacy does not begin and end with the finance department. Whether we like to admit it or not, money is at the foundation of much of business. In fact, without it, we wouldn’t have businesses at all. But when it comes to your team, it’s not just about their financial decisions within your company. What about what they’re doing when they go home? The financial wellness of your individual team members is just as valuable as the financial wellness of your company. Setting them up for success when they get their paycheck by giving them the tools to relieve financial stress and achieve their goals is more important than ever.  

Employer financial wellness programs have become increasingly popular in helping employees reduce their overall stress by forming better financial habits that lead to financial wellness. And less stressed employees equate to more productive teams. Additionally, creating a financially literate team can aid in flailing recruitment and retention efforts, serious problems facing many businesses today. Letting your team know that you care about their overall wellbeing, including finances, has become progressively more valuable. Simply, their personal success is your business success.   

Top 3 Tips for Employees 

Financial Literacy Month is a great time to introduce financial education to your team. Here are our top 3 tips to get started:  

  1. Assessing Finances 

Introduce financial assessments to your team, but switch the focus from business assessments to personal ones. A personal financial assessment is a useful tool for team members to begin thinking about the strengths and weaknesses of their finances. It also provides a framework for team members to take action to improve their financial health and achieve their goals. You should be aware that this exercise can spark anxiety in some, as they fear learning the reality of their situation. However, once they realize that ignoring it will only make it worse, they will begin to have comfort in gaining knowledge and making small steps to induce big changes.  

  1. Setting Up Online Financial Education Programs 

Once your team has targeted their financial weaknesses, it’s time to give them the financial knowledge to implement change. Online video education is the easiest way to help them learn financial principles that they can use for the rest of their lives. Give them some time during the day to make use of tools like Udemy, Coursera, and YouTube – all of which have high quality training and educational videos. Or provide a few lunch and learns with speakers. These types of courses will give them the strategies for navigating their finances on a variety of topics from learning to create a budget to investing in the stock market to saving for retirement.  

  1. Making Financial Resources Available 

The members of your team will invariably have different goals. Similarly, financial resources are rarely a one-size-fits-all solution. Creating a weekly/monthly email or a team document where you can show various resources for different goals, such as debt elimination, homeownership, family planning, or retirement, creates a system where every team member has access to resources that are helpful in achieving their individual goals.  

We can do better, as a country, in helping others understand their finances better. And business owners can play a large role in increasing this financial literacy by taking some time to educate their teams. Remember, the more your employees understand their own finances, the better they will handle yours.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to your team development in financial literacy. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

How Remote Work is Influencing Financial Recruiting and Retention Strategies

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Over the past few years, we have learned that we are entirely more adaptable than we ever thought possible. We’ve learned that we can not only survive, but actually thrive in extreme disruption. And much of that adaptation and success is based on the ability to work remotely.  

Today, remote work has become a priority for most employees … in some respect. In fact, in the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, 75% of workers said they wanted to work at least part of the time remotely, and 34% said they would quit a company that didn’t allow remote work.  And those who work in finance or accounting departments are no exception to these numbers. 

While our new remote or hybrid workforce has been around for two years now, it is no longer about logistical prowess to achieve social distancing in a global pandemic. Rather, it’s about the reprioritization among us all that includes increased flexibility and enhanced employee experiences. And while these are incredible benefits for candidates and employees, CFOs and other leaders aren’t lacking in advantages either – namely, a massive widening of the talent pool.  

In the same survey, 35% of finance and accounting leaders said they expanded their searches geographically to find the right candidates. Having employees across time zones also leads to the ancillary benefits of nearly automatically increasing the organization’s customer service, while helping with work-life balance at the same time. Consider an employee on the east coast who no longer has to solve a problem at 7:00 pm because they have a west-coast colleague who can easily take care of it within business hours.  

Realizing our remote world is not going anywhere, CFOs are now considering how to revamp their recruiting and retention strategies around it. It’s no secret that competition is fierce. To successfully recruit top talent and keep them, they need to have structured strategies that have been adjusted to our new realities.  

Recruiting 
When recruiting for finance or accounting positions, there are, of course, the “typical” qualifications and skills needed – certain degrees and designations, attention to detail, accuracy, confidentiality, ambition, embracing continuous learning, and problem-solving skills. That’s not changing. But now, more recruiting efforts are shifting to look not merely at the skills for the specific position or the necessary education and certifications, but the skills needed to work in a remote environment successfully.  

To work remotely, CFOs need to look for candidates who can exhibit discipline, initiative, and the following abilities to:  

  • stay focused,  
  • be a self-starter,  
  • work well without supervision, and  
  • work well under pressure.  

Additionally, by the very nature of remote work, they need to have more advanced technological skills or, at a minimum, be willing to learn them quickly.  

Retention 
So much of retention is based on organizational culture – whether we are in-office or remote. And the flip side of the flexibility advantage that remote work provides to employees is isolation, especially when some employees are in the office and others are not. Remote workers could feel less appreciated or valued, or think that they will be passed over for opportunities since they are not directly in front of their leaders. They can also start to feel detached from their work and those with whom they work. 

To ensure the organization has a people-first culture, these fears (real or perceived) must be minimized. Leaders should ensure remote workers are getting the time and attention needed – that they are acknowledged, promoted when justified, and provided equal opportunities to training, continuous learning, and resources, including access to the financial tools needed to do their jobs efficiently. Proactively sharing information, providing peer mentoring or coaching, and focusing on clear, timely communication, with opportunities for feedback are other helpful ways to keep them involved. Essentially, it comes down to the human connection, even when you aren’t physically together. Remember, technology is great, but alone, it will not build a culture your employees won’t want to leave.  

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow, especially as it relates to using the right strategies to keep your company running efficiently. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Be the Most Positive Person in the Room – From Leadership to Clients to Pitching Investors, Positivity Pays

Be the Most Positive Person in the Room 
From Leadership to Clients to Pitching Investors, Positivity Pays 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We’ve experienced burnout and a mental health crisis like we’ve never seen before. Truthfully, we’ve had a rather bleak outlook for a long time. For business leaders and/or entrepreneurs, there are even more stressors. Not only do we have to worry about ourselves and our families, but also our teams, clients, and potential investors. Despite feeling like we’re stuck in a rut, we know there is power in positivity.  

Contrary to what some may think, positivity is not the opposite of reality. You can be realistic, acknowledging challenges and struggles, without allowing them to diminish your attitude and deplete your energy. You can even be cautious, as long as it doesn’t slowly morph into pessimism.  

American philosopher and psychologist William James once said, “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” And what company doesn’t want to be powerful? As business leaders, we want to build strong companies, not weak ones. Positivity has the power to build energy and resilience, and improve decision-making. Simply, it has the power to create a stronger, more resilient company. Here are three ways you can be the most positive person in the room:

  1. Positively Leading a Team 

Positivity is a crucial component of leadership. No one wants to follow someone down a path of despair and despondency. Your team needs optimism. They need to feel encouraged and energized. And it is up to you to provide the impetus for those feelings. Remember, positivity is contagious (as is negativity).  

There’s no doubt that it can be a struggle at times. It’s difficult to lead with positivity when you have mounting team challenges or are experiencing trying times. Here are a few tips: 

  • Embrace uncertainty  
  • Focus on resilience 
  • Focus on what you can control 
  • Stay calm and objective 
  • Remember the importance of connections and relationships 
  • Practice empathetic, active listening 
  • Move quickly past failures 
  • Celebrate small wins 

  1. Positivity when Working with a Difficult Client 

We’ve all had clients who aren’t the easiest to work with. Maybe they’re pessimistic. Maybe they’re obsessed with control. Maybe they’re simply not nice people. However, if we focus on the strengths of the relationship, we begin to see more opportunities and less challenges. Listen to them and support their needs, where you can. Your positivity may even start to rub off on their rough exteriors. Through it all, ensure that you have boundaries firmly in place, so their negativity doesn’t start rubbing off on you.

  1. Positively Pitching an Investor 

Investors hear hundreds, if not thousands, of pitches. And if you want to stand out among all the rest, it will come down to your story and how you are telling it. When you are preparing to pitch, make sure optimism is woven throughout your story. Of course, you never want to forget about the importance of the numbers, but don’t be scared to humanize them with an exciting narrative or even a joke (where appropriate). 

Yes, your nerves are probably rattling in your ears, your hands might be shaking, but try reversing your thought process. Instead of thinking about trying to win them over, think about them trying to win you over. And if you’re smiling and laughing a bit here and there, they’ll remember you long after you walk out the door. 

In any scenario, one of the keys to being the most positive person in the room is gratitude. Be thankful for everything you have – the business, your team, those difficult clients, and investors and the opportunity to pitch them. Focusing on what you have and what you’re thankful for will only bring more positivity into your business … and your life.  

Choose energy. Choose creativity and innovation. Choose positivity. Otherwise, you and your business may get left behind.

Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

Shifting Five Thoughts for a More Strategic Mindset

Shifting Five Thoughts for a More Strategic Mindset 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

We’ve talked about the transition workplaces are going through – from employees resigning in record numbers to the emphasis on employee experiences to the shift in hiring philosophies that prioritize skills over experience. Many employers are working diligently to fill the consequential gaps from those who left and advance those who stayed. And while those who are advancing are eager for the new challenge, the question begging an answer is – do they have the right strategic mindset to successfully transition into their new roles? 

Becoming a strategic leader is about much more than the new title or position. It is about broadening the employee’s perspective from focusing exclusively on one area of expertise to focusing on the organization’s bigger, future picture. A strategic mindset simply cannot have a narrow focus. 

Many avoid the transition from task oriented to strategy oriented when making this move. And it’s not that surprising. Task oriented roles and responsibilities are often more fulfilling in the day-to-day. There is instant gratification in many instances, as checking tasks off a list can be very satisfying. In contrast, you generally do not see the needle moving from a strategic perspective until months or even years later. And, as a society overall, we tend not to favor delayed gratification. However, to successfully make this transition, the strategic, broad, forward-thinking mindset must be embraced wholeheartedly. 

Crossroads to Shift Your Thinking  

For those who are at this crossroads, here are five shifts you can make today to begin having a more strategic mindset: 

1. Think long-term instead of short-term. Instead of looking at your daily list and identifying what tasks you can cross off, think about the organization’s future. Ask yourself: 

What are the possibilities for the future?  

What are the opportunities available?  

Where do we want to be as an organization in one year? What about in five years?  

What can we do today to help us get there? 

2. Think bigger rather than smaller. Think about how the tasks on those daily lists impact the company’s overall strategy. Are the things getting done today aligning to the company’s strategy and future plans? What are the long-term impacts of decisions that are being made and actions being taken today? 

3. Think about opportunities instead of challenges. Some of the most innovative solutions (in any industry) have been brought about during tough times. It is only when we can no longer do the things we’ve always done that we begin to scratch the surface of alternative methods. And often, those alternatives open various new doors of opportunity that would have otherwise remained closed. 

4. Think about future trends, not just the here and now. Join think tanks or find other resources that focus on market research. Ask yourself:  

What is happening the industry?  

What is happening in the marketplace overall?  

How will the events and trends outside of the organization impact the organization’s future? 

5. Think about spending time on strategic planning, not just current responsibilities. This is often the biggest challenge for leaders. As noted in a Harvard Business Review article, “How can you avoid getting overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks that feel so urgent, at the expense of game-changing initiatives that are truly important?”  

Higher-level strategic thinking needs time, space, and dedicated focus. The most effective strategic leaders recognize this and block time on their calendars consistently to devote to strategic planning. 

Cultivating a strategic mindset is crucial for those transitioning into a leadership role. It’s not always easy, but it is attainable by shifting these thoughts. Barker Associates provides strategic guidance to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of strategy your company needs to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.  

When It’s Time to Outsource a CFO

Graph on document with pen
Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

I often get asked about why companies should outsource CFO services. As small- to medium-sized businesses grow, they need additional financial resources, including data and expertise to help them better understand the company’s financial health, plan where they can feasibly go based on that health, and improve performance overall. In the past, many companies reaching this phase would bring on a full-time Chief Financial Officer (CFO). But, as we all know, times change … and so do needs and resources. Now, more businesses are deciding to forgo the large salary expense and still get the expertise by outsourcing those financial services.  

You may need high-level financial strategy, but you may not need, or maybe you can’t afford, a full-time employee. Essentially, the finance function of your company can be outsourced to a third-party service provider who acts in the same capacity as a CFO.  You gain expert financial insights, advice, skills, and resources that will help you grow your business, without the huge paycheck that historically goes with it. 

Why Outsource to a CFO? 
The reasons you may decide the time is right to get someone in your financial corner are plentiful. However, as I touched on above, your company experiencing rapid growth, such as the development of new products or market expansion, is one of the most common reasons. Growth like that needs cash for manufacturing, distributing, and marketing. Does the company have enough? Where will it get the money from over time? These are the questions a CFO can help you answer. 

Other reasons to bring on an outsourced CFO include resolving a financial challenge (cash flow, inefficient processes), scaling systems to handle the complex transactions aligned with rapid growth, and needing an accurate, up-to-date financial forecast for budgeting, restructuring, or funding purposes. These major decisions and company crossroads require a financial expert that many companies do not have on staff. 

How an Outsourced CFO Helps 
An outsourced CFO will take their knowledge and broad experience to analyze the company’s financial picture and provide strategic planning and solutions to move forward with the best financial footing. Equally important, they will help ensure the company has the checks and balances needed to keep stakeholders accountable as the company grows. For example, if the company needs to secure additional funding, prepare for a merger or acquisition, or increase oversight to minimize the risk of fraud.  

While each set of circumstances and needs vary, an outsourced CFO can: 

  • Develop a financial roadmap to navigate the company’s future 
  • Help make the numbers more understandable  
  • Help overcome obstacles to business growth 
  • Implement reporting for financial and accounting functions 
  • Oversee financial controls  
  • Identify weaknesses and capitalize on strengths  
  • Develop KPIs and metrics 
  • Develop forecasting and budgeting models 
  • Provide strategies to move forward  
  • Put accounting and reporting systems into place 
  • Provide regular financial reporting  
  • Manage cash flow  
  • Help acquire funding from investors 

The End Benefits of Outsourcing a CFO 
It’s appropriate that the largest benefit of outsourcing a CFO is cost savings. And while many people believe that the costs are actually higher, according to an article in Forbes, the idea that outsourcing is too expensive is a fallacy. In the article, they compare the salaries of full-time CFOs (companies with approximately $10 million in revenue) to the costs of outsourcing. The full-time CFO earned about $200,000 to $250,000 per year as a base, plus bonuses, benefits, taxes, overhead, and long-term incentives (equity), adding up to $300,000-$400,000 per year or more. However, an outsourced CFO for the same size company averaged $7,500 per month, or $90,000 per year (assuming they were retained every month, all year, which is not always the case). The outsourced CFO was about a quarter of the cost of the full-time CFO (at the higher end). 

In addition to the cost savings, an outsourced CFO provides access to a financial expert with various experiences, and the flexibility to utilize that expertise only as needed. The relationship can start part-time or be project based and, as the company grows, so can the services and time. But in either case, you can get back to the business of your business. 

Barker Associates provides outsourced CFO services to companies of all sizes. We can provide the higher level of financial analysis and strategy your company needs to get to grow. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100.