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Financial Reporting, Coaching, & Supporting the Team…

August 9th, 2013

After taking a few days off this last week and having some time to think over a few of the companies I’ve worked with, it occurred to me that there is a distinct difference between many of the finance colleagues I have worked with and the approach they bring to their position. For some, and without trying to hyper analyze how their childhood is affecting their work approach, it seems that the process of reporting the monthly results & highlighting the deficiencies of others is something they enjoy a bit. What has puzzled me about these individuals is that they are also part of the same team and should assume a more vested interest in partnering with each area to ensure that their colleagues have the proper tools and information they need to succeed and deliver the expected results. It’s really a matter of balancing the needs of consistent financial reporting, enforcing accountability across the organization, and partnering with each area to ensure that you’re giving them the support they need.

For myself and my work with Cylance, there is a huge correlation between the Services business I reported on and partnered with at MGE. At MGE, we had over 150 field engineers and reported on almost 340,000 labor hours annually. While a mature organization, there was still the need to develop and refine our ability to accurately report on that portion of our business and have the information to make business decisions that would help us continually improve our performance. It’s no different here, except that we are a 1-year old start-up that has a smaller staff. We have incredible talent who bring a wealth of experience from some of the top companies in the security space, but as a start-up, it takes time to deploy the necessary tools and provide them all the necessary information. While it took a bit of time, we do have that information and are constantly using it to measure the business and make informed decisions.

Managing the Finance side of the organization, it’s not just my responsibility to throw a set of numbers on the table at the close of each month, but to partner with our Services team and ensure they have the proper reporting and can focus their efforts on customers and project management. I want to provide them the information so they can audit and tell me the system isn’t properly reporting…or it is and they can adjust their business as necessary. It’s not just hindsight reporting, it’s about a complete performance picture:

  • What is the current utilization rate and what are the trends you’re seeing over time?
  • What is the estimated proforma utilization based on the bookings pipeline being reported?
  • What is the current hourly cost rate and how do the actual results compare to the Plan?
  • Is the existing skillset of the staff aligned with the bookings that are being recorded?
  • What is the average billing rate and how does that compare to the Plan?
  • What is the cadence of new bookings and project kickoffs relative to available staffing levels?

In the end, the responsibility of Finance should be much more than publishing revenue or margin results. It should be an ongoing partnership with the areas that significantly influence the results and helping them optimize those results. When it comes to working within a start-up, we are all vested parties and need to drive towards the best result possible.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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