How to Evaluate Your Finance Department

Nobody knows your business better than you do. After all, you are the CEO. You know what the engineers do; you know what the production managers do; and nobody understands the sales process better than you. You know who is carrying their weight and who isn’t. That is, unless we’re talking about the finance and accounting managers.

Most CEO’s, especially in small and mid-size enterprises, come from operational or sales backgrounds. They have often gained some knowledge of finance and accounting through their careers, but only to the extent necessary. But as the CEO, they must make judgments about the performance and competence of the accountants as well as the operations and sales managers.

So, how does the diligent CEO evaluate the finance and accounting functions in his company? All too often, the CEO assigns a qualitative value based on the quantitative message. In other words, if the Controller delivers a positive, upbeat financial report, the CEO will have positive feelings toward the Controller. And if the Controller delivers a bleak message, the CEO will have a negative reaction to the person. Unfortunately, “shooting the messenger” is not at all uncommon.

The dangers inherent in this approach should be obvious. The Controller (or CFO, bookkeeper, whoever) may realize that in order to protect their career, they need to make the numbers look better than they really are, or they need to draw attention away from negative matters and focus on positive matters. This raises the probability that important issues won’t get the attention they deserve. It also raises the probability that good people will be lost for the wrong reasons.

The CEO’s of large public companies have a big advantage when it comes to evaluating the performance of the finance department. They have the audit committee of the board of directors, the auditors, the SEC, Wall Street analyst and public shareholders giving them feedback. In smaller businesses, however, CEO’s need to develop their own methods and processes for evaluating the performance of their financial managers.

Here are a few suggestions for the small business CEO:

Timely and Accurate Financial Reports

Chances are that at some point in your career, you have been advised that you should insist on “timely and accurate” financial reports from your accounting group. Unfortunately, you are probably a very good judge of what is timely, but you may not be nearly as good a judge of what is accurate. Certainly, you don’t have the time to test the recording of transactions and to verify the accuracy of reports, but there are some things that you can and should do.

  • Insist that financial reports include comparisons over a number of periods. This will allow you to judge the consistency of recording and reporting transactions.
  • Make sure that all anomalies are explained.
  • Recurring expenses such as rents and utilities should be reported in the appropriate period. An explanation that – “there are two rents in April because we paid May early” – is unacceptable. The May rent should be reported as a May expense.
  • Occasionally, ask to be reminded about the company’s policies for recording revenues, capitalizing costs, etc.

Beyond Monthly Financial Reports

You should expect to get information from your accounting and finance groups on a daily basis, not just when monthly financial reports are due. Some good examples are:

  • Daily cash balance reports.
  • Accounts receivable collection updates.
  • Cash flow forecasts (cash requirements)
  • Significant or unusual transactions.

Consistent Work Habits

We’ve all known people who took it easy for weeks, then pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline. Such inconsistent work habits are strong indicators that the individual is not attentive to processes. It also sharply raises the probability of errors in the frantic last-minute activities.

Willingness to Be Controversial

As the CEO, you need to make it very clear to the finance/accounting managers that you expect frank and honest information and that they will not be victims of “shoot the messenger” thinking. Once that assurance is given, your financial managers should be an integral part of your company’s management team. They should not be reluctant to express their opinions and concerns to you or to other department leaders.

5 Keys to a Successful Business

Business owners are some of the most optimistic, and often the craziest people in the world. No-one starts a business believing that it will fail. We are all absolutely convinced that our idea is a great one, that we will be successful (where others have failed) and that this business will change our lives for the better. If we did not feel that way, we would never take the risk to invest our own money, or borrow from others to start our business. The reality is however, that, according to the SBA, most businesses eventually fail and more that 50% do not survive beyond the first 3 years. Even if you manage to get that far, things can still go horribly wrong, as many seasoned business owners found out during the recession which hit us during 2009 to 2012.So, does this mean that you should not start a business at all? Absolutely not. I believe that your business can be an outstanding success, if you approach it in the right way, avoid repeating previous mistakes and impose discipline on yourself as the owner. Here are some of my suggestions on how you can make sure that your business succeeds:Discipline:Lets start with you. Successful business owners are disciplined people and more often than not, businesses fail because their owners fail. Your business must compete to succeed. There is always someone out there, trying to win over as many of the customers that you are targeting. Business is competitive and if you do not intend to work hard and discipline yourself, then don’t get into the arena. Anywhere there is competition, there must be discipline. You could have the most unique skill, or the best product idea, but your business will never achieve its full potential, if you do not have discipline.Discipline is a determination to work hard to get it right. It is not settling for mediocre results but rather working until you achieve the qualities and results that you need to compete. No-one will buy your product if it is substandard, or hire your services if you cannot deliver what you promise. Business discipline requires an eye for detail. I learned a valuable lesson very early on in my career. I was once required to do a financial presentation to a senior executive and felt that since I knew this stuff, I could get by with a minimum amount of research and preparation. I went to the meeting and had my presentation ripped to shreds. I was unable to answer questions that were obvious and fell way short on the detail needed to be credible and convincing. I left that meeting upset and angry, not with the executive, but with myself and vowed that this will never happen to me again. As a business owner you will not get things right every time. You will make mistakes and mess-up on occasion. But if your product or service fails, let it not be for lack of effort and discipline on your part, or that you were too lazy to do it right.Due Diligence:”A fool and his money are soon parted” – Dr. John Bridges
“All that glitters is not gold” – William Shakespeare
“There is a sucker born every minute” P.T. Barnum.These old sayings are trying to warn us that not everything we think is an opportunity or a good business idea, is likely to succeed. There are many con-artists out there, whose sole purpose in life is to deceive you into making financial commitments and who have no problem in robbing you blind. It is therefore foolish on your part not to do proper due diligence on any business idea, franchise or entity you intend to buy or invest in. This is where many business failures occur. At the very beginning.

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Due diligence is a serious matter for start-ups as well as on-going businesses. Large successful businesses are constantly doing “due diligence” on their internal processes (systems review, business process improvement, financial and strategic planning) as well as on any expansion thrust or acquisition they may contemplate. Start-ups need to do this as well, before they invest significant funds. Be wary of taking advice from people with vested interests in your decision. For example, you may be considering investing in a franchise. Don’t rely solely on the advice of the franchise vendor with its polished website and a persuasive story, to tell you what a great opportunity this is and how much money you will make. Get independent advice and do your homework before you invest.Many people start businesses based on a personal passion. While this a great plus factor for success, because your passion drives you to overcome obstacles, it does carry the risk of making business decisions with your heart rather than your head. Sometimes we are too close to the project to be objective and we become emotionally committed too early. This is where an independent expert like an experienced business coach or adviser comes in handy. Some would-be business owners need to hear the brutal truth (in a compassionate way), before they go on to make the mistake of their lives. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). Finally, don’t be taken in by those who pressure you into investing in “a once in a lifetime, limited space available” opportunity. Anytime someone says that to me, I take a step back, and take a good hard look, to see what I’m missing about the offer. It is better to miss out on a “limited offer” opportunity than to rush in and lose your money.Marketing:A well thought out and researched marketing plan is one of the most important ingredients that you need to succeed as a business owner. Unless you happen to own the only source of water in the desert, don’t expect people to automatically think of you and come flocking to your doors to buy your product. I worked in a corporate career as a CFO for many years before going off on my own. One of the biggest challenges that I faced when I decided to start my own consultancy business, was how to market my services. That is because, for many years, my job was about cleaning and cooking the fish that someone else caught. All of the businesses I worked for, had large, well staffed marketing departments, whose jobs it was to go out there and win customers. My job was to manage the money and make business decisions. That works fine if you are a part of a large well structured business. If however, you are the owner of a small business, marketing is not a secondary pursuit to be left to others, it is your primary point of focus. You may have a brilliant product or service to offer, but if you do not have a winning marketing plan, no-one will know about your business or care about what you sell. So, whether you are a small or large business owner, you must get involved and often drive the marketing function. You need to know the following:What specific need does my product or service meet?
Who are my customers, what do they want and how much are they willing to pay for it?
How sustainable is the demand for my product or service?
What is it about my product/service that makes it unique? How can I take advantage of this?
Who are my competitors and what are they able to do better than me?
How do I reach out to potential customers to persuade them to buy my product /service?
How much money do I have available to promote my business?
What specific marketing/promotion activities will work best for me?Answering these and other marketing questions would help you understand your product/service customer appeal and market potential and how it ranks against your competitors’ offerings. This forms the basis of your marketing strategy and business plan and is critical to your long term success.Capital:Raising sufficient capital to start and develop the business is very often the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs face. I have seen many, potentially successful businesses, grind to a halt because the owners did not have capital to take it from start-up, to sustainability. A business needs capital to acquire productive assets and fund its operations until the business itself can generate enough positive cash flow to continue as a going concern. Say as an example, you decide to start a restaurant. You would need capital to buy cooking equipment, furniture, renovate the premises to suit your needs, buy inventory, secure licenses and so on. This is what many people understand capital to be used for, the initial investment to start or acquire the business.However it may take a while for your restaurant to become popular and attract enough clients to provide the revenue to fully fund operating costs. In the mean time you have overheads to pay such as monthly rent, wages to employees, advertizing costs, replenish inventory (drinks you sell and food ingredients you serve) and so on. This is where many businesses fail. The owners hope that the sales they generate in the future will cover their operating costs from day one and do not properly estimate the time it would take for the business to become established, during which the owner needs to have additional capital to carry the business.Underestimating the point sustainability or “breakeven point” is a common and fatal mistake made by both seasoned and novice business owners. Before you start your new venture, you have got to realistically project your future cash flows and determine if you have sufficient capital to succeed. Here is what typically happens if you don’t do this. You start your new business by investing your life savings. Things go well for a while, but you soon realize that it is taking longer for the business to become established than you anticipated. Customers are coming in, but not in the numbers you first expected. A lower number of customers means less revenue to pay expenses and you quickly find yourself running out of money to pay suppliers and bills as they fall due. Next comes the juggling act of trying to figure out which suppliers to pay first and which ones you will stretch out far into the future. The calls begin to come in from creditors and you now find yourself working for free for a business that you love, but which is slowly dying, because it ran out of capital before it became sustainable. This is the most common reason for business failure and it supports the SBA statistic that it takes 3 years for a business to fail. That is the time the owner takes to realize the painful truth, that he/she never had sufficient capital to start the business in the first place.

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Faith:These four items, Owner Discipline, Due Diligence, Marketing Strategy and Adequate Funding are the main, universally applicable business ingredients needed to operate a successful business. There is however one more ingredient, which is personal to each business owner, and that is “faith”. I said earlier that business owners are either the most optimistic or the craziest people on earth. That is because we take risks with our capital as an act of faith, hoping for a successful outcome. It takes faith to start a business. But what is faith? It is an expectation that things will work out, or materialize, as we hope or believe. It is what gives substance to our hopes and dreams. The Bible tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Hebrews 11:1).As believers in Christ, we have already established a platform of faith in our lives. We believe that an unseen God, who controls the universe, has a plan and a purpose for our individual lives. This plan is made real in us as we place our faith in our Lord Jesus as our personal savior and leader. Now, to everyone else, this is absolutely nuts. But to those of us who have taken this step of faith, it is as real as the air we breathe. Once we get to this point, every additional thing we do that requires faith, is built on this platform. As a result, our decision to start a business, is not based on an abstract optimism that things will somehow work out, but on the trust we establish in our Lord Jesus to lead and guide us.I believe that when we become reconciled to God through faith in Jesus, an eternal destiny opens up to us. We who were all once distant from God, now draw close to Him and get plugged into His purpose for our lives. Our purpose for our businesses also transitions from simply being a source of personal wealth, to a tool that God uses to bless us and to bless others. As we actively cooperate with God as an act of unselfish faith, He leads us into decisions and opens doors for us, that we ourselves could not open, all according to His will and purpose. Being Christian business owners does not guarantee that we will all be rich and “successful”. It does however give our businesses and our lives an added dimension and very often, if we are committed to God’s processes, things work out to our benefit. Our role is to trust God for the unknown, follow His leading, even when this conflicts with our personal agenda and build our businesses on Biblical principles. When we take this approach, we have the assurance “that all things work together for good for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). This hope applies to our all aspects of our lives, including our businesses.I hope this information was useful to you and I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions about your business.Robert.
Website: http://www.christiancfo.com Email:rfullerton@christiancfo.com.

Manage Stress In Business To Succeed

Business has its crests and troughs. Naturally, there is an element of stress in business. When you do not do well, stress can accumulate and bring you down even further. Therefore, a successful businessperson is one who is able to manage stress. You can never avoid stress. Managing stress is the key to becoming successful in business. I have shared some methods that can help reduce stress during the course of this article.

Relieving Stress

First, money is important, but not everything in life. You will have to learn to take the losses in stride. It is easy for anyone to preach. Nevertheless, one can reduce stress by having an open mind. This open mind allows us to absorb the losses as part of life. If you manage to do this, you have won half the battle against stress.

Ascertain the facts:

When you are suffering losses, something has gone wrong somewhere. It is advisable to ascertain the facts and analyze your mistakes with a cool head. This will enable you to plan well. When you realize your mistakes, you will not repeat them. Thus, you can find ways to beat the stress.

Identify the cause of the stress:

Stress can be of two types. When you start worrying about things you are afraid of or do not wish to happen, you accumulate ‘Bad Stress’. At the same, when you stress over real issues, you experience ‘Good Stress’. Distinguish between the two stresses and prioritize your fight against stress. This will make your life easier.

Take the advice of experts:

When you take the advice of others, you are simply sharing your burden. Your shoulders become light thereby enabling you to think fresh. At the same time, you get a third party perspective on things. A financial expert can suggest some beautiful ways to get away from financial stress. Taking the advice of such people is always beneficial to you in the end.

Pause and proceed:

This is one of the time-tested methods of relieving stress. Taking a pause or a deep breath can help you analyze things with a cool mind. You usually end up finding the solution to your problems almost immediately. Relaxing your mind and body is essential. If possible, take a break and go for a nice holiday to recharge your batteries.

Take care of your health:

There are many things in life more important than money. The sooner you realize and accept this fact, the better you will start to feel. Your health plays a great role in relieving stress. Taking care of your health is of paramount importance.

The Advent of Modern Technologies

The advent of modern technologies has undeniably brought so much comfort to the lives of people. It has supported major industries in so many ways that production has become so large scale enough to meet human needs for agricultural and industrial produces. But one drawback caused by technological advancement is overshadowed by these comforts, and that is depletion of the natural resources. Awareness has been raised regarding this condition that have lead to a revolution in the use of natural resources have been made and brought the enhancement of energy-technologies.

What are the two energy sources renewable-energy? Basically energy resource is either renewable or nonrenewable. An energy source is considered renewable resource only if it is replaced by natural processes and is replenished with the passage of time.Renewable energy on the other hand are resources with sustainable yields. Sadly,the major sources of energy that is used to manage technology are nonrenewable, meaning they can be depleted. They include gasoline, coal, natural gas, diesel, and other products derived from fossil fuels which are non-renewable. The depletion of nonrenewable energy source will be inevitable because it is not replenished. Because of this, attentions are gradually shifted to the use of renewable-energy-technologies.

Sustainable energy which is often regarded as renewable resources is the provision of energy that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. They include plant matter, solar power, wind power, wave power, geothermal power and tidal power. It usually also includes technologies that improve energy efficiency otherwise called renewable-energy-technologies.

Solar energy is a form of renewable-energy which supports technologies. Solar energy is the energy derived directly from the Sun. It is the most abundant source of energy on Earth and the fastest growing type of alternative energy. Renewable-energy-technologies through solar energy use the photovoltaic cell. It converts sunlight directly into electricity. The Sun yearly delivers more than 10,000 times the energy that humans presently consume.

Wind power is another replenishable source. It derived from uneven heating of the Earth’s surface from the Sun and the warm core. Renewable-energy-technologies supported by wind power is generated by electricity gathered via converting the rotation of turbine blades into electrical current by means of an electrical generator.

Hydropower is a very common resource used to run renewable-energy-technologies. The power is derived from the movement of water in rivers and oceans, which can be used to generate electricity using turbines, or can be used mechanically to do useful work. Another renewable source is geothermal power which is produced via directly harnessing the natural flow of heat from the ground.

Importance of Supply Chain Management in Modern Businesses

Supply Chain Management (SCM) as defined by Tom McGuffog is “Maximising added value and reducing total cost across the entire trading process through focusing on speed and certainty of response to the market.” Due to globalization and ICT, SCM has become a tool for companies to compete effectively either at a local level or at a global scale. SCM has become a necessity especially for manufacturing industry when it comes to deliver products at a competitive cost and at a higher quality than their competitors. Here are some of the reason SCM has become important to today’s manufacturing industry:-

Competitive Edge through Core Competencies

Today’s business climate has rapidly changed and has become more competitive as ever in nature. Businesses now not only need to operate at a lower cost to compete, it must also develop its own core competencies to distinguish itself from competitors and stand out in the market. In creating the competitive edge, companies need to divert its resources to focus on what they do best and outsource the process and task that is not important to the overall objective of the company. SCM has allowed company to rethink their entire operation and restructure it so that they can focus on its core competencies and outsource processes that are not within the core competencies of the company. Due to the current competitive market, it is the only way for a company to survive. The strategy on applying SCM will not only impact their market positioning but also strategic decision on choosing the right partners, resources and manpower. By focusing on core competencies also will allow the company to create niches and specialization of core areas. As stated in the Blue Ocean Strategy outlined by Chan Kim, in order to create a niche for competitive advantage, companies must look at the big picture of the whole process, and figuring out which process can be reduce, eliminate, raise and create.

As an example stated by Chan Kim, the Japanese automotive industries capitalise on its resources to build small and efficient cars. The Japanese automotive industries gain competitive edge by utilising their supply chain to maximise their core competencies and position itself in a niche market. The strategy works and now Toyota Motor Corporation, a Japanese company, is considered to be the number one auto car maker in the world beating Ford and General Motors of the United States.

Value Advantage

SCM has allowed business nowadays to not just have productivity advantage alone but also on value advantage. As Martin Christopher in his book, Logistics and Supply Chain Management: Strategies for Reducing Cost and Improving Service’ states, ‘Productivity advantage gives a lower cost profile and the value advantage gives the product or offering a differential ‘plus’ over competitive offerings.’ Through maximizing added value and also reduce the cost in the same time, more innovation can be added to the product and process. Mass manufacturing offers productivity advantage but through effective supply chain management, mass customization can be achieved. With mass customization, customers are given the value advantage through flexible manufacturing and customized adaptation. Product life cycles also can be improved through effective use of SCM. Value advantage also changes the norm of traditional offerings that is ‘one-size-fits-all.’ Through SCM, the more accepted offerings by the industry to the consumers would be a variety of products catered to different market segments and customers preferences.

As an example, the Toyota Production System practiced in Toyota, evaluates its supply chain and determines what is value added activities and what is not value added activities. Non added value activities are considered to be ‘Muda’ or waste and therefore must be eliminated. Such non added value activities are overproduction, waiting, unnecessary transport, over processing, excess inventory, unnecessary movement, defects and unused employee creativity. The steps taken to eliminate waste are through Kaizen, Kanban, Just-in-time and also push-pull production to meet actual customer’s demands. The Toyota Production System revolutionise the Supply Chain Management towards becoming a leaner supply chain system that is more agile and flexible towards meeting the end users demands.