Category Archives: growth

Non-Profit Mergers: It’s Time to Close. Now What?

Non-Profit Mergers: It’s Time to Close. Now What? 
Beyond Planning & Due Diligence 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last month, we talked about the initial considerations of a non-profit merger, as well as the critical due diligence phase. After finding unity of purpose, reflecting on the relevant issues and deciding that a merger aligns with your goals and mission, you engaged in an extensive due diligence process, examining all legal, financial, logistical, and human resource documents and processes. At the conclusion of due diligence, the board of directors of each organization developed and approved a Plan of Merger consistent with applicable state laws. At long last, after months of preparation, meetings, discovery, approvals, and planning, the time arrives for merger implementation. Essentially, it is finally time to close the deal. However, this is only the beginning of the end

As with the previous phases, planning and organization are crucial for a successful implementation. While it would be nice if we could sign on the dotted line and all issues magically resolve, we know that is not the case (it never is!). This process, like the others, will take time, patience, and an in-depth understanding of the logistical steps that must be achieved to effectuate the merging of two different organizations. The following checklist can be used as a guide through the final steps of the merger. 

1. Appoint a Merger Transition Team. This group of three to six individuals will spearhead each logistical step of the merger. They will assign tasks, set timelines, and keep the merger moving forward at a reasonable pace for the new nonprofit. 

2. File Appropriate Documents with the State. Each state has its own requirements for filing with regard to non-profit mergers. All documents should be filed with the state of organization/incorporation, following those particular guidelines and requirements. Note that although the merger is legally completed once the state accepts the documents as filed, many more steps must be taken for actual completion.  

3. Develop Integration Plan. Due diligence should have previously identified duplicative positions, departments, and resources. This plan will identify what is being removed and what is surviving in the new organization. The plan should also identify any issues in the short-term due to the merger and provide for analysis at one month, three months, six months, and twelve months.  

4. New Board of Directors Established. The new board generally consists of previous board members from each of the non-profits prior to merger, but can be entirely new. They should establish their new meeting schedule and implement new by-laws as soon as possible. 

5. Schedule Employee and Volunteer Training. How will the new departments, responsibilities, and tasks differ from the previous ones? What do employees and volunteers need to know about the mission, vision, and day-to-day operations to effectively perform their duties? 

6. Determine Human Resource Needs. Establish a new payroll system, health benefits, vacation and sick pay, and hiring and termination protocols. 

7. Finalize any Facilities Management Issues, Vendor Contracts, and Insurance Coverage. What contracts need to be rewritten in the new organization’s name? How will insurance coverage transfer without lapsing? 

8. Develop Communication Plan. This plan should involve internal and external communications and ensure consistent messaging throughout. This may include the launching of new branding, the name and logo, and a marketing campaign. The new website and social media accounts must also be established and maintained. 

9. Finalize Financial Transactions. Transfer assets, close and open accounts, as needed, and integrate accounting systems. 

10. Implement Technology Solutions. How will technology, phone systems, and databases be integrated? What is still required? What can be eliminated? 

While the entire process can take between twelve and eighteen months, depending on the size of the organization, this Closing Checklist enables the Merger Transition Team to keep the merger on track, heading toward a successful completion.  

Need more assistance? Barker Associates has extensive experience working with non-profit organizations as they implement and finalize mergers. If you are considering this strategy, use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for a free 30-minute consultation. 

Top Five Tips to Help Choose the Right ERP System

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

Last week, we talked about the strategic planning of an ERP system implementation, with factors to consider in both the planning and implementation phases. This week, we pivot to how to choose the right system for your organization. 

The decision has been made. You and your key stakeholders are ready to automate and streamline the workflow and day-to-day tasks. You’re more than ready to increase efficiency and productivity with one resource for data centralization, workflow management, and tracking. You’re moving forward, but quickly become overwhelmed, not with the process of implementation itself, but with the vast variety of ERP system options available.  

Taking the time to ensure there is a good fit is crucial for success. In fact, implementation failures often occur where there was never the right fit from the start. However, this should not discourage you from pursuing a transformational strategy that will provide a competitive edge.  

The following are the top five tips that will help eliminate the confusion and move the process along to help you choose the best system for your organization. 

1. Thorough Process Review and Analysis. Prior to looking at any system, you should determine your current needs, as well as those needs that are likely to arise in the foreseeable future. Start by documenting your current processes, strengths, and weaknesses. Ask yourself the following: 

  • What is working?  
  • What is not working?  
  • Where are the gaps in the current system and processes?  
  • What should the system look like now?  
  • What should it look like going forward? 
  • Do I actually need a new system?  
  • What problem am I trying to solve? 
  • What functions are “must needs,” and which would just be a bonus? 

After you answer those questions, create a document that shows the core objectives, needs, and gaps; what essential functions, solutions, and automation capabilities a new system should provide; the budget; timeline; and a list of key stakeholders. This document should present a clear picture of the criteria you require in an ERP system. 

2. Determine Budget and Research Costs. You’ve determined your needs, but now you need to know what budget you have and the related costs of the various systems. An ERP system implementation is time-consuming and a large investment, so you want to ensure you are comfortable with your budget, as well as all of the associated costs up front. As you research ERP systems, you should have a good understanding of all the costs involved – not just for implementation, but long term. You may want to consider: What are the licensing fees? Are there costs for training? Are there support, maintenance, and upgrade fees? It is up to you to discover any “hidden costs.”  

3. Review of Current Infrastructure. Before proceeding, you want to have a clear understanding of your current information technology infrastructure. An ERP system is software, and you don’t want to start down a road with a possible solution only to find out later that it does not align with your current technology. This is a large enough undertaking of resources. You do not want to have to worry about investing in a new technology system as well. Involve your IT department from the beginning to confirm that the new system will be compatible.  

4. Evaluate Systems. Narrow your requirements and criteria to the five or ten that are priorities. What exactly are you looking for? Use a chart or Excel spreadsheet to list out each and to keep all of the details organized. Then research systems via Google, social media, reviews, and recommendations. Verify all claims made through independent research and 3rd party reviews, and consider all options to start. It is not prudent to choose one because you’ve heard the name before or because it is what competitors are using. Instead, ensure it will meet the needs you identified in your process analysis. 

As you analyze your potential new partner, you may want to make the

following inquiries:  

  • How many implementations have you performed? Any in our industry? 
  • Who will be responsible for different parts of the implementation? What experience do they have? Will you use a third-party for any phases? What is required from my team? 
  • Is there a guarantee or warranty? 
  • Are training and support offered? 
  • Is it customizable? Mobile friendly? 
  • Is there cloud storage? If so, what are the data limits? 

As you gather information about each system, plug it into your criteria chart, so you can easily compare the systems, their functionalities, and their solutions. Additionally, check on the system’s scalability. This is a long-term investment. You don’t want to outgrow it in the foreseeable future. 

5. Meet with Stakeholders to Make a Decision. Having everyone’s buy-in on the system that is ultimately chosen is critical to its long-term success. Management teams should be involved – anyone who will be impacted during or after the process. You will need their support during planning and implementation. Choose the one that offers as much of the functionality your organization requires as possible, and don’t be swayed by extra features that you don’t need. Finally, look for longevity and a proven track record with other organizations similar to yours.  

Remember no one system will be a 100% perfect match for all of your needs or requirements, but it should be an overwhelmingly good fit for your organization. Barker Associates has extensive experience with ERP system implementation plans, assisting organizations achieve increased productivity and efficiency. Use this link to my calendar to choose the best time for your free 30-minute ERP consultation.

Could Due Diligence Impair Your Exit Strategy?

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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 believe in 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 on a 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 commitments or demonstrating compliance with 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 investorplay 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 easy to 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! 

To eat eggs or not – that is the question.

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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.

Leave Behind What is Not Working

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.

Leave Behind What is Not Working
Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

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.

The Last 60 Days – Evaluate Envision Execute

Danielle Moga, Barker Associates

The Last 60 Days – Evaluate Envision Execute

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.

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

“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 this year?

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 ahead.

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 appreciation event?  

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.

Increase Cash Flow – Add Women to the Board

Wanted: 3,732 Women to Govern Corporate America

(By Jeff Green, Hannah Recht and Mathieu Benhamou) 3/21/2019 Bloomberg.com)

If the headline wasn’t enough to get my attention, the statistics from Bloomberg made me do a double-take:

As a woman leader in the world of finance, it was no secret to me that women are underrepresented on boards of directors. But where did +3,732 come from?

It turns out that last October California law SB-826 Corporations: boards of directors (2017-2018), (sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners), was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. The law requires publicly traded companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors. KQED public radio reports that of the 445 publicly traded companies in California, 25% have no women on their boards.

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 sought include:

  • 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? With only one-fifth of US board directors being women, it could take until my daughter’s children have children for female board representation to reflect the workforce.

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.

6/19/19 Jax Chamber Professional Women’s Council Luncheon, Walking the Work-Life Balance Tightrope. The first 10 people that forward their ticket receipt to this event will receive a free copy of my book and reimbursement for the ticket.

7/22/19 Women Business Owners Dinner Meeting, Guest Speaker, Insanity or Financial Infrastructure – Your Choice.

10/22/19 Women Who Count National Accounting & Finance Conference, Keynote Speaker, Money Knows No Gender and Neither Should Your Business Value.

When Business Leaders Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

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.

When Business Leaders Confess That They Don’t Know What They Don’t Know

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”:

  1. I do not receive financial statements each month timely and I do not understand why.
  2. 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.
  3. The new revenue recognition guidance is required, and I do not know where to begin with implementation.
  4. The organization needs to raise capital and I do not know what the right type of investor is for our organization.
  5. 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 options?
  6. 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/

Start with Happy Employees – Gain Happy Customers

Danielle Moga, Barker Associates

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.

Happy Employees

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 distinctive.

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

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.

Technology

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.

Physical Space

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 employees.

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 killer.

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.

The Cure for Founder-itis

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.

How to transition in business from founder to leader.

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.

 

Schedule a consultation with Mindy Barker Associates today for help with: