Category Archives: staffing

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.

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.

Who is Your Betty?

My first CFO job was working for a relatively small organization with an administrative assistant who still used a typewriter and refused to have a computer on her desk.  She had been with the company since its origination and she knew where everything was located.  She had all the contracts, historical Board reports and legal agreements in a file drawer.  If you asked her for a document, she could stand up from her desk open one file drawer and hand it to you within 3 minutes tops.

The truth is, in today’s environment, to locate corporate, financial and administrative documents when they are needed can cost organizations unbelievable amounts of money.

Who is Your Betty?

Betty did not like me too much when I became CFO, as she thought I was taking a job away from a man. My approach to this and all discrimination I have experienced in my career is to analyze the situation and determine if I could make it better by doing such an awesome job no one could ignore me.  If that was not possible, I would have changed my geography.

When she came to some of the first C-level management meetings, she would ask all the men in the room what they wanted to drink and skip over me.  I was fortunate to have a wonderful boss who would then follow her out of the room and tell her what I would like.  I quickly realized that if I wanted to be successful in this position, I had to figure out how to win Betty over so that I could get to those documents and of course get a cup of coffee at the management meetings.

Who’s Job is it to Manage Corporate Documents?

Times have changed and the days of Betty or any administrative assistant asking if you would like something to drink or logically organizing documents have gone the way of the rotary telephone.

Businesses have, for the most part, eliminated the administrative assistant position as they feel the position is not needed now that professionals have email and all the APPs and tools a computer provides. Even if there is an administrative assistant, the job description generally will not include managing and maintaining corporate documents. I frequently ask when I begin a new job with a company who has this responsibility; C-Level executives of small and large organizations look at me just like I asked them what kind of cheese is on the moon.  They have no idea.

Failure to follow a document management process costs your organization in the following ways:

    1. The C-Level executives do not have a clear line of sight to the contract terms they are bound to as they are carrying out their corporate responsibilities.  This can lead to losing major customers, noncompliance issues with regulatory bodies and lawsuits that take a tremendous amount of time to litigate.

 

    1. Creates negative relationships with vendors.  I once spoke with a professional who had served as a manufacturer’s rep for an organization for several years.  The management of the company changed, and when the manufacturer’s rep came to meet with the new management, they were told: “I looked in the file drawer, there was not a contract, so I am terminating our relationship today.”  The manufacturer’s rep had a long-term relationship with the company and its customers in a very closely held industry.  Once the new management realized the mistakes they had made, it was too late. Not only did the contract had a 90-day termination notice clause, but the rep was well-loved by many customers.  The negative ethical behavior on the part of company management left the rep unwilling to work with that company.

 

    1. I have seen many a deal fall apart, and the potential investor or buyer walk away, before due diligence is complete.  When a company’s documents are distributed in corporate and personal emails, shared corporate drives, personal drives, even the email files of terminated employees, locating them takes valuable time in which the potential buyer can find a lot of other things that interest them, causing them to move on to another deal that is ready to move forward.

 

    1. Compliance issues are not dealt with on an ongoing basis.  As a new CFO at an organization with government contracts, a governmental agency called me to report my organization was out of compliance with the terms of the contract.  I pulled the “I am the new kid on the block” card and asked to call them back.  It was shocking how long it took to locate the contract after I hung up the phone and even more shocking to learn the terms of the contract to which we had agreed. It was apparent to me that our organization had failed to thoroughly read and understand their contractual obligations.  When I appealed to the agency that the terms were not reasonable, the agency basically said, “Well you (meaning the organization) signed the contract and you will be compliant, or we will terminate the contract.”  This was not the welcoming present I was looking for.

 

Who is Your Betty?

If I had a nickel for every time someone sent me a contract they considered final, but was not fully reviewed and executed with all signatures, I would be inviting you to my corporate yacht this weekend.  Betty would never have filed an incomplete document in her precious filing system without all the signatures, dates, notary stamps and corporate seals.  Honor Betty and her memory, as she now rests in peace in the clouds; put someone you trust in charge of finding and organizing all the corporate documents and maintaining them.  Your organization will be better for it.

 

Barker Associates has the unique ability to work with all sizes of organizations and building infrastructure that matters.  Contact us today!
Mindy Barker, Founder & CPA | Jacksonville, FL 32256
(904) 394-2913 or (904) 728-2920 | CFO@MindyBarkerAssociates.com

Would You Purchase a $200,000 Piece of Equipment That Does Not Work?

WouldYou-shutterstock_271781597What kind of question is that … of course you would not purchase a piece of equipment that does not work! Yet you may be doing exactly that if your hiring practices have not grown and evolved to support the growth of your company.

 

As the founder or CEO of an entrepreneurial growth, or family owned company, an honest evaluation of your hiring practices might highlight if you are investing in employees who do not “work.” In this context, “work” means they are not suited for the current stage of your company, prompting the question, “How did I not see this happening inside my own company?”

 

Entrepreneurial growth founders and CEOs tend to hire friends and family at the early stages of startup, relying on people who they trust, and with whom they have an existing relationship. This type of employee tends to be fiercely loyal to the founder, willing to put in the hours to help get the startup moving in the right direction. My observation has been the founder has enough day-to-day interaction with all employees to fill in the gaps and correct shortfalls that result from hiring based on relationships versus skills and qualifications.

 

As your company has evolved, perhaps these types of employees are no longer team players; or possibly your superstar employees have become discouraged as the company has grown and changed, so they are leaving and taking valuable company intelligence with them.

Companies that survive three years in business and realize success in their revenue goals also find that the needs of the organization have changed. Hiring practices require more structure and objective measures, which means additional up front planning when considering a new hire. Here are my recommendations for putting in place that structure and objectivity:

 

  1. Complete job descriptions for existing and new positions. Since this process has Fair Labor Standards Act (and other regulatory) implications, refer to a source such as the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM: http://bit.ly/1pJUinA), for guidance.
  2. Use the job description to create a job posting, describing the new position and the criteria for candidates to apply.
  3. Make certain you have an organization chart that clearly illustrates everyone’s relationship within the company.
  4. Properly communicate to existing employees you are hiring a key team member and explain the reason for the hire and eligibility requirements for applying for the new position.
  5. Prepare a template of key metrics the employee must have for the position before you identify the first candidate. Metrics such as job skills, education level, and experience should be included.
  6. Reproduce the template for each candidate you interview. Use it to evaluate all candidates during the hiring process to help you stay focused on the essential needs of the organization – rather than letting your emotions get away from you and hiring someone you really like but is not suited for the position.

 

During the actual interview, the founder/CEO and select team members, trusted advisors or others, should be involved in interviewing candidates using the interview template for that position. Final applicants should be vetted with a background check, confirmation of all certifications, degrees and employment verification, prior to making a formal, written offer to the selected candidate.

 

If you have suddenly realized that it’s time to implement more formal structure and hire key executive positions for your growing business, contact Mindy Barker & Associates to find out how we can assist with the process. From developing the criteria for key executive positions, to working with firms to source qualified candidates, we will not only lead you through the process, but also leave you with a documented procedure to follow as your company continues to grow.