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Posts Tagged ‘CorpFin Cafe’

Questions From Colleagues & Preserving Sanity…

April 24th, 2017 Comments off

It’s always interesting to me how cycling manages to work its way into professional conversations, even with a population of folks that don’t participate in the sport with any frequency, if at all. However, there’s a certain curiosity to people when they learn that you are actually spending 350-400 miles a week “on that little seat”. Most often they say nothing, might make a passing comment, or sometimes ask how the training is going with an obvious sincerity.

I’ve always talked about how strong a correlation there is between the disciplines I practice in my personal life and those I practice in my professional life. Very seldom are the two very far apart from one another. However, I was asked a very interesting question by one of my prior colleagues at Cylance. Knowing how much I ride, and that my training rides usually started at 5.30a, I was asked “if the effort required for those hours and rides were worth it and did it provide some balance to the turmoil of life at a start-up?” It was a great question and one that I had discussed with folks on my direct team, as well as friends and vendors.

Simply answered…YES. It really is too easy to get caught up…or I should say buried in the weeds and lose your perspectives when the pressure is high, there is change coming at you from every direction, and there is usually a loosely defined direction that is dependent on tracking against a business that is difficult to predict. You can really get caught in an escalating pace of analysis paralysis. Analysis that has you running every possible scenario, discussing every possible outcome with trusted folks on your team, balancing the hourly or daily interruptions that occur “because you need to be in this meeting…” while never really reaching conclusion or final decision. I learned very early on during my time working in equity research to quickly synthesize information, inquire with a few trusted colleagues, and make the necessary decision…and move on. Not all decisions can be made in that manner, but the vast majority can. Exceptions occur when they are going to have a material and lasting impact on the P&L….hiring, capital expenditures, etc.

When those decisions tend to be more prolonged I always found that my time on the bike, in the early morning hours, would give me the opportunity to weigh the alternatives and think about my decision without the inevitable interruptions that come in the office. When you have hours on the bike you sometimes you pass a certain business, recall a pertinent conversation, or simply realize a new idea that would have never materialized in the office. When you are on the bike, and in the dark, the only thing out there is your commitment to achieve specific performance objectives on the bike…and the thoughts of what you need to accomplish in the office. As I mentioned above, those two are seldom far apart. One moment your making sure you are tracking against the wattage number your supposed to maintain for the 40-minute block you’re in the middle of…and the next minute your thinking about the utilization rate that was just reported by Services, what effect that is going to have on their margins for the Quarter, and recalling the last Quarters activities and the contributions to the performance of that group. Was there a specific project where billing was delayed…was it not properly quoted at the beginning? How are the two large Product opportunities progressing with only two weeks left in the Quarter…and there hasn’t been an update in the most recent few days. These are the things going through your mind in the predawn hours of that ride…

Sometimes those hours in the saddle can be with a key member of the team that might be struggling with a certain decision. Very early on our CEO was faced with making a decision to fully replace the first generation Sales team and basically start from scratch. He and I had know each other for years before he made the commitment to start Cylance so bikes were nothing foreign to the two of us. If we got out on the bikes it was never predicated on having a meeting or certain discussion…but only to get out for a training ride. Inevitably it usually went in the direction of business, as it had that day. There was a long discussion about the challenges and potential risk of making the change, but in the end he knew the decision that had to be made…it was only the process of rolling along at 20mph discussing the subject that made it a bit of a therapy session.

That’s exactly what cycling is for me relative to my chosen profession…it’s part therapy, part challenges, part perspectives, part bonding with friends…and one more way for me to quantify & measure my efforts. The conversation I’ve had with colleagues is not about the specific activity of cycling, but to choose any activity that can give you a similar parallel with your activities at work, provide those perspectives, and allow you to avoid getting so embedded in the weeds that you are unable to make effective decisions that are in the best interest of the company, your team, and the objectives that everyone is working towards. Whether it’s running, rock climbing, cross country skiing, or swimming….what’s that activity that is going to keep you healthy, your brain engaged, and sharp for the next stretch of hurdles that you face at the office?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

You Didn’t Have To Provide A Plan To The Board?

January 20th, 2017 Comments off

BUDGETOne of the benefits and enjoyments I get from updating my blog are the questions that I typically received from people asking for certain clarifications. This comes as no surprise since the original intent of my blog was to bring a little more transparency into how the Finance department operates relative to every other functional area in the company and what might be driving the actions or decisions of the Finance department.
With that said, I received a follow-up yesterday on the update I wrote on planning within a hyper growth environment. One of the main messages in yesterday’s post was that you really can’t plan, or at least effectively, in a hyper growth environment. With that message I was asked how the Board would accept that an operating plan wouldn’t be presented to them for the year. I have to say I was a bit amused at the question, but completely understood why it was asked. Not to mention, the Board would never allow such a hall pass from any team. There is ALWAYS an operating plan that is highly thought out, detail oriented, and usually has a number of additional scenarios that will convey what the impacts will be to cash and profitability if targets are missed or exceeded. For ballpark references, you might have the base scenario, as well as a +20% and a (20%) view. For a more mature company these ranges will obviously be tightened up when you have a higher degree of predicability and more history to base the plan off of. When you’re really just a handful of Quarters into a trajectory, which you are anticipating to double, and the trajectory starts looking like a 6-8x, then you have an entirely different beast to deal with.
So how do you plan for such a scenario? Again, as I mentioned yesterday, you really don’t “plan” for it, but you react to it and adjust the allocation of resources to support that new growth trajectory. As with any business, you have key indicators you look to gauge the health of the business and whether you are tracking to achieve the commitment made to the Board. The elements below are certainly not all inclusive, but are merely a sampling of the items that could be watched when encounter a growth rate that is entirely unplanned.
Billings & Revenues: While this is the key driver on which all spending decisions are made, the total number is not the overriding driver. There’s further review that should be done on the quality of that revenue, what the concentration is, and whether there are any key areas that are potentially missing against Plan. In the case of Cylance, we were constantly watching what our price per endpoint (PPN) was at every level. What that PPN was at a macro level, a channel level, a vertical level, as well as what they were for the duration of a deal. Looking to this number would indicate what the true health of the business was. Was there a single customer that accounted for a disproportionate share of the Quarter business, which in turn, might prompt a tapping of the brakes to ensure that hiring and spend weren’t getting ahead of themselves relative to the Plan and a normalized trajectory. Prudence should always reign supreme.
Gross Margin. Definitely a key indicator, but it also depends on what the structure of the billings are and how the terms being written may be influencing GAAP-based reporting. For a situation where multi-year deals are being done, it might be best to look at early results on a non-GAAP basis if a disproportionate amount of the activity is headed for the balance sheet as deferred income.
Headcount. For me, this was one of the key indicators as it related to our burn and this is certainly not just a single macro number, but a more complex element to dive into. First, what is the overall cost per head and what is the trend line on that figure? Are you’re costs per head staying constant or are you seeing an increase in that number, which might be tied to incentive plans that aren’t aligned with results, increasing benefit costs, or all of the above? Second, what are the average billings and revenues per employee? While the overall headcount might be increasing, this number should also be increasing with the results that are being achieved in excess of plan. It’s not a problem increasing headcount over the Plan, so long are you are seeing the achievement or increase in this planned metric. Third, what is the distribution of the headcount by functional area? Did the original Plan call for 12% within the Marketing area and now the revised number puts Marketing at 18% of the headcount? Is there a disproportionate growth in any one area because that functional area has successfully lobbied for additional staff that is not consistent with industry norms?
Facilities. This area is obviously heavily influenced by the increased headcount that is occurring to accommodate the unplanned growth. If historically Rent expense has been 2% of your operating expenses then this is the approximate metric that needs to be followed in order to stay consistent with the Plan. If you’re exceeding Plan and need more staff then this number, while increasing on a constant dollar basis, should still remain at approximately 2%. As an example, you’re planning a $25M year, which would allow for approximately $500k in rent expense. If the new trajectory is now $100M, then theoretically you would have $2M to spend on rent to accommodate the additional headcount needed to support that growth. Ideally you also start achieving economies of scale where you can actually see that number go down as a percentage of spend. If you fail to miss you billings number, hire all the folks, commit to even more rent expense…then you’re going to find yourself in a bit of bind. It’s akin to “I’m going to get a big raise next year so I’m going to buy my second home and a new car for my wife and I…”. And when it doesn’t happen?
Systems. This is another area that needs to be heavily strategized and managed in a hyper growth environment. There will be unplanned upgrades that will necessitate spending in the $500k-$1M range that, while necessary for growth, were previously balked at due to their cost and the original trajectory you thought you would be on. You might have thought you had another year…or two…to bring them online, but now seeing a 6x freight train coming at you there is no other choice than to starting throwing a ton more coal on that fire and get up to speed.
Culture. We’ll discuss this in another post…or posts.
This barely scratches the surface of “planning” in a hyper growth environment. It’s more about regulating the health of the patient, making sure the vital signs are remaining healthy, keeping your finger on the pulse and knowing how to respond. It’s the doctor that has decades of experience, treats every patient the same, only to realize he has misdiagnosed the patient and either administered the wrong medications…or too many. It’s about collaborating with the broader team in making key assessments, discussing with the team their needs, and ensuring that the resources (MONEY) are properly allocated and within the range of the original Plan that was discussed.
Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

When You’re Lucky Enough To Love What You Do…

April 16th, 2014 Comments off

I often talk with friends and colleagues about my career path and how fortunate I feel to have found a profession that I thoroughly enjoy and receive so much satisfaction from. Not only from the day to day activities that I engage in, but the countless colleagues I work with daily, as well as the great group of vendor partners that I have been able to establish over the years.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with companies ranging in size from the start-up I’m currently working with…to the large multi-national firms headquartered in the U.S. and France. Those companies have ranged from Apparel, Retail, and Footwear firms to critical infrastructure and now, cybersecurity. While there has typically been some pretty heavy lifting in each one of these opportunities, I’ve had the opportunity to either work with, or build, some pretty amazing teams. With those teams, we’ve been able to achieve some pretty amazing results.

The fun part about the journey I’ve had since my first CFO position has been the variety of “opportunities”, or as some would like to refer to, the problems I’ve had to deal with at each one of those companies. While not always enjoyable, I’ve always embraced each opportunity for what it represented….a fantastic opportunity to learn and continue the progression of my career. From the implementation of $100 million payroll systems, to complete brand turnarounds, SAP implementations, & ground zero start-ups….it has been an absolute blast. For those that know me, there is also a great correlation between the competitiveness and focus I carry in my cycling to the personal characteristics I bring into the office. Fiercely competitive, fiercely driven, along with a strong commitment to team and the achievement of results.

As a CFO who really tries to lead by example, as well as deliver the promised results to those I report to, it’s really a great affirmation to receive the recent recognition as a Finalist for Orange County CFO of the Year. Regardless of the outcome I might experience that evening, it was enough to participate in the dinner that evening as a Finalist and the amazing quality of peers that were in attendance.  It’s been a path of results and value creation that I look forward to continuing.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

 

18-months & Marking The Milestones…

February 4th, 2014 Comments off

While I try and provide updates on the path we’ve been on at Cylance, it’s also a bit difficult in that we are still a private entity, work in a space that demands confidentiality, and have still been in the development stages of bringing our product to full commercialization. However, there are also the sporadic announcements that allow us to celebrate and share in the recognition that this team has received. Not to mention, we are also celebrating our 18-month anniversary! While that may not seem like a major point, in the world of start-ups, it’s definitely a milestone to move past…as will be 2-years…and then 5-years!

It’s definitely felt like a path measured in dog years, but it’s been incredibly rewarding, and made easier due to the quality of our team. Coming in as employee #7, it’s been quite a ride to the 60-employees we now have. We’ve lost a few along the way, but then again, not everyone is wired for the pace that start-up life represents. There is no free lunch…you want to eat…you need to go find your prey. While we practiced it at DC Shoes, the life of a start-up demands that you deliver on what you promise….and there is no place to hide. But when you have a solid team and you’ve hired the right folks, there’s little need to hide….we’ve all been getting it done.

That “deliver on what you promise attitude” has recently resulted in Cylance being named a finalist for the RSA Innovation Sandbox program, which is dedicated to encouraging out of the box ideas and the exploration of new technologies that have the potential to transform the information security industry. What is exciting is participating with a team that has truly created a disruptive approach to how companies can deploy and manage their security. We talk about “disruptive” companies in business school, but it’s a completely different view to actually be in the midst of one. While we are still a few weeks out from RSA, the team is full throttle and focused.

As we move into our next phase, the external recognition bestowed on the team provides a nice boost as we keep the pace high. While we all know what we need to deliver, it’s always nice hearing from those outside the circle that you’re achieving what was previously believed to be impossible.

Hats off to the team and I’m truly looking forward to the coming years and participating in the continued evolution of Cylance.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Are You Managing Your Risks…& Your Expenses?

November 21st, 2013 Comments off

I often discuss the need to have strong partners for all areas of your business. While those partners may not always necessarily be the most economical, there’s the comfort that the services or product they deliver will provide the quality and protection you need so you can stay focused on the business. In the case of our company, as we have continued to expand the profile of client we are dealing with, we have had to increase our corporate insurance levels in order to meet certain vendor requirements.

Although we had previously reached coverage levels that would be sufficient for any of our clients, we were also faced with an environment of increasing risk premiums. In fact, in the October-13 edition of CFO, they cited that “the average expense that corporations incurred for risk management jumped 5% last year”.  It was pretty satisfying to proceed with our most current renewal and see a double digit decrease in our premiums while receiving more robust coverage levels. Nor did we achieve the decrease by going with lower quality insurers either as we continue to engage with A-level insurers highly recognized in the market.

It’s examples like this that become a nice testament to the quality of a network and the results they are able to deliver. Do you have the same quality and commitment within your own network? If not, it might be worth a bit of homework to harvest some of those hidden savings.

Thanks for reading.

Jeffrey Ishmael

Do You Have a Compass For Your Journey…?

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve written before about the criticality of having  not only the right systems in place, but having them planned and configured in a manner that will yield the highest quality information that you can use to make your daily decisions. Although I have always worked in relatively lean environments and have always had to have a strong level of self-sufficiency, I’ve come to appreciate the quality of good information even more working in a start-up environment and having to ensure that every resource deployed ($$$) is being done so in the most productive manner.

For our company, our biggest asset, or conversely, our biggest liability, is the people that have come to work for us. We are still a small enough company that every hire must not only have the appropriate experience and skills, but also be able to integrate in with the rest of the team. Even then, the need to hire must be quantified as much as possible and have the appropriate data and long-term plan to support each new position. While this might seem a pretty simple and somewhat rhetorical point of view, its application is a bit harder in a start-up environment. While there has always been the specific business plan in place, many of the early hires were done so at a “gut” level with the belief that they would support the mission and make the necessary contributions.

As the company has moved from living room start-up to growing revenues, it’s been extremely satisfying to be able to have the data that honestly supports the hiring of new positions. Data that is the product of systems that were planned, implemented, and have evolved with the growth of the company. Data that looks at everything from the opportunity pipeline that Sales is working on, to projects currently being scheduled for delivery, the manner in which our consultants are spending their time, to the necessary time our consultants support the Sales team.

We can now look at the time that our folks are spending on both internal and external projects and make informed decisions on when to hire and what specific skills need to be hired in order to support the current team and developing opportunities. It’s certainly a win for the entire team when you can make a decision that is based on data and not based on gut or hope that an expected event will transpire. Although the timing may not always be ideal and the existing team might be taxed a bit longer, you’re ensuring that when the resources are finally deployed and you bring in a new employee that they will be there for the long haul and become part of the “family”.  After all, working in a start-up is no cakewalk and it’s the long days, accomplishments, and team camaraderie that ultimately deliver the success that everyone shares in.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

The Unconventionals….Assessing Team Additions

October 10th, 2013 Comments off

One of the larger challenges of managing the Finance side of the organization, which includes A/P, A/R, Accounting, and in some cases, HR and IT, is the multitude of personality and skill sets needed for each position. In some positions, say in the case of Controller, there is a typically a defined educational or work history that is required.  In other cases, the position may allow some level of latitude in the candidate hire with respect to their work history or absence of certain credentials. I’ve had a number of these hires over the previous companies I’ve worked with and I call them The Unconventionals. Unconventional in the respect that if the sole qualifier was the content of their resume then they probably wouldn’t make it to the interview stage.

With respect to my background, I might have been considered an unconventional hire when I joined MGE since the majority of my experience was in the Retail & Apparel industries and not Technology. I was also going to be tasked with the implementation of the IFRS reporting for the North American operations, for which I had no previous IFRS experience. However, I had an executive team that saw past that and look at other accomplishments and my personality to know that I would get the job done. Not only did the job get done, but we excelled in our continued performance during the 3+ years I was with the company. Perhaps it was this experience that has prompted me to adopt a similar approach in the identification and hiring of candidates.

While working at MGE, I had an opening for a Financial Analyst position. This position would typically call for 2-5 years of experience. However, I was introduced to a potential candidate who really didn’t possess any substantial finance or accounting experience. However, what I recognized was that he was a Marine and had worked with munitions. What I saw was not a candidate, who didn’t have the requisite experience, but someone who had a great work ethic, an attention to detail, and a commitment to team work.  I knew I could bring him up to speed and could trust that he would be a great ambassador internally for the team. In the following years, I hired him into a separate company I had subsequently moved to as a Finance Director, and most recently, he secured his first CFO position with a small action sports company.

While tasked with the turnaround of a small footwear company in San Diego, I had the need to bring in a staff accountant that would also oversee A/P and A/R. I was presented with a number of well qualified candidates. However, the one candidate who had the least amount of experience, with predominantly tax preparation history, was an Olympic level track runner. Knowing the work ethic and dedication required for the athletic endeavor, I knew she was my candidate. Over the subsequent years she not only excelled at that small company of $30 million in revenues, but moved to a larger action-sports company overseeing all accounting for the Canada entities. During this time she also secured her CPA certification and has become the Assistant Controller for an OC-based manufacturer.

At my current company, I had a drastic need to hire a Business Operations Analyst that could support me in the implementation of operating systems, HR functions, and the myriad of other financial reporting I was responsible for. I had a candidate recommended to me, who had previously done some project work for me at DC. On paper, he was green and a recent graduate from UCSB. However, I knew that based on the project work he had done for me that he had a solid work ethic and would likely be a solid team player if given the opportunity. He also had great attention to detail, which was critical since he’d be working quite a bit independently and I couldn’t afford slips in this area. He’s not only done fantastic work, but become a respected member of the Cylance team as a result of his contributions and work ethic.

Ultimately, these candidates have a much higher burden to perform as they have to be willing to go the extra step to earn the respect of the surrounding team. They’re held to the same level of accountability, and if they don’t perform, are also subject to potential dismissal. Although there is a first for everything, and I’m prepared to, I have yet to hire a non-performing candidate I’ve had to dismiss.

While perhaps unconventional, these hires are a direct reflection on me and my ability to deliver on the commitments I have made to the rest of the Executive team or the Board. The hiring of these candidates are a reflection on my department and my effectiveness in assessing candidate potential. When I take this approach, I have to have a comfort that any candidate I’m willing to support will be able to deliver and excel after I’ve brought them up to speed. Not only deliver on my requirements, but also be resourceful enough to potentially support other members of the Executive team. While I do all I can to keep my turnover low and promote internal candidates, there’s nothing more satisfying then seeing these same folks depart into a more prominent position.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Life In The Start-Up Lane: When “Standards” Keep Changing…

September 25th, 2013 Comments off

As I’ve mentioned in some of my prior posts, whether it’s just another day in Finance or within the life of a start-up, there is no normal day. Take that a step further and you’ll likely find that there is no level of “normal” reporting that you can rely on to measure what is happening with the business.  At least not the “standard” level of reporting that you would have relied on at a prior company, which was likely much larger and more mature. As we are about to kick-off our sixth fiscal Quarter, the reporting that we relied on two Quarters ago is far different than what we are using now, and what I expect to be using in another few Quarters.

Part of the challenge within a start-up is balancing the integration of new systems while developing the rest of the business. This is not a sequential sequence of events, but a series that run parallel, often forcing business decisions based on experience and gut instinct. This is probably where I highly value the time that I spent in equity research covering 20 different retail and apparel companies. Monthly comp sales unleashed a flurry of data that had to be quickly assessed, reported on, and subsequently disseminated to clients. It had to add value, and above all, it HAD to be correct. Making business decisions in the absence of data, or at least incomplete data, is a very uncomfortable position for most folks.

So how do you measure the business when the standards are constantly changing? The absence of standards is not indicative of an absence of accountability or transparency, but part of the evolution that naturally occurs within a start-up. Yes, there is a Budget that is developed and based on certain assumptions, but it’s not long before that Budget becomes a distant reference point as you begin compiling data and assessing the potential trends that are developing within the business. However, one to two Quarters of data certainly is not a “trend” within a start-up, but it sure helps in refining the assumptions used in the Forecast. As with our business, while we are cognizant of the metrics that we will ultimately be using to measure our performance, some of those metrics are simply meaningless at this point since the business is still young and there isn’t enough data yet collected. That doesn’t mean that we’re not tracking our bookings, revenues, margins, and other macro indicators, but the detailed view is in a bit of a holding pattern at the macro level until we can drop down to the next level for more meaningful reporting.

As our business continues to grow and prosper, I absolutely expect a fundamental shift in our reporting abilities as we collect more data. We’ll move from the “spirit” of building the business to “fine tuning” the engine and driving increased performance through the data distributed to our key internal stakeholders. In these early stages of a start-up, it’s a delicate balance between giving the teams the latitude they need in developing the business, tracking their activities to the Budget, and determining whether their invested time and expenses will deliver an ROI in the immediate future. In the initial phases, that ROI may come in the form of customer satisfaction, referrals for new projects, potential new hires, and if all are executed properly….bottom line profitability.

Living the day-to-day life of a start-up is not the black & white mechanical structure most are used to working under. It necessitates the development of comfort in change and knowing that will be the case for quite some time. However, at the end of day, just take a step back, look at the evolution of your bottom line results, the trend in customer engagements, customer feedback….and you’ll know exactly how well you’re performing.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Start-Up Fun. A Fiscal Year Review…

July 25th, 2013 Comments off

I think I have been living the adage of “time flies when you’re having fun…”.  I realized yesterday that it had been almost a full two months since my last blog entry and I was a bit mortified. Especially when I try and keep a strong discipline in all aspects of my life. However, when I look back on what has been happening the last 60-days, it’s easy to see how that could have happened. With the final wrap-up of an ERP implementation and the closing of our first fiscal year, it’s been a crazy few months. But it’s not just the last few months, it’s the satisfaction of looking back over the last year and seeing what we have been able to accomplish as a team. While I’m obviously not going to share financial results or product development achievements, the growth and operational achievements are something for the team to be proud of.

When I first started with Cylance, we were all of 7 employees, I was given a laptop with Quickbooks installed on it, and the company had signed on with a PEO to administer our payroll and benefits. The company’s founder, Stuart McClure, had just started to implement his vision and we were working out of a living room. At that point, you couldn’t have asked for a cleaner slate to move the company forward. Fast forward to now and you realize how much of a transformation this company has gone through.

While I continued to use Quickbooks for a short amount of time, we put tremendous effort into bringing a sales management platform online to manage the opportunities we were already seeing coming into the company. Once we had the confidence we had effectively installed the first phase of our automation, we moved on to implement an additional platform aimed at the management of our professional services business. How do you make effective business decisions if you don’t have the ability to measure your business? A rhetorical question I know, but those needs can easily be lost in a hectic start-up environment. Once we were about halfway through that effort, we already knew that we were going to have to upgrade the Finance side of the house so we could have seamless integration of all three platforms. Hence, the process started to interview ERP candidates. I started having bad flashbacks to the SAP implementation I had carved myself out of a year prior. However, we aligned ourselves with a great partner and the calendar was set to bring the final piece online. As with everything else, we committed to the calendar and executed to the exact day and brought all elements of the business online with platforms that will support us for years to come.

Time for a break…right? Not even close. The next big step, with a VERY underestimated effort of what it would take, was to extract ourselves from our PEO parent on payroll and benefits and bring that entire effort in house. This might have been more painful than the SAP implementation, but a worthwhile endeavor. Again, a full interviewing of partner candidates. In the end, we were able to achieve savings, enhance our benefits offering to employees, and be the master of our destiny with regards to program management. We successfully brought our benefits offering online and on time, as well as bringing all payroll processing internal.

What a year it’s been. But wait…there’s more. Toss in the scouting for a new corporate office, 3 different office moves before we settled permanently, an increase in our employee count from 7 to 60, the development of a remarkable team, customer base, and marketing results that would make most established companies envious. Ok, now for a break….right?

We’re not just knocking on the door of our 2014 fiscal year, but we’re kicking it in. It’s still a target rich environment and the task list is longer than Santa’s naughty & nice list in December. At the end of the day, you need to look back on the day, the week, and ultimately, the last year and feel satisfaction with what you’ve accomplished. Start-ups are not for the faint of heart and you need to stay motivated and driven. It’s easy to stay that way when you have a mission you’re committed to and a team that is equally committed.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Are You Part Of The Solution or Part Of The 62% Non-Operators?

March 28th, 2013 Comments off

If you have read my blog over the years, you know how much I have advocated the involvement of CFO’s in the day-to-day operations of a company. Maybe not necessarily leading the charge with the assumed role of COO or VP of Operations, but collaborative involvement with other members of the Executive team who oversee this area. When it comes to developing the budgets and forecasts of a company, it needs to be more than just a spreadsheet exercise. It needs to be based on a solid knowledge of the flow of resources through a company and what levers can be pulled to improve the operating results of the company.

This is why I was a bit surprised by a recent poll posted on CFO.com, which perceived most CFO’s to be poor operators and having very little involvement in that area of their company. A surprisingly high 62% were only “somewhat involved” or “had little or no involvement”. Regardless of whether you are overseeing a services-based firm and your operations involve labor productivity metrics & similar KPI’s, or you’re part of a manufacturing entity with a dynamic flow of resources, it’s your obligation as a CFO to be involved and have an intimate knowledge. If you have a COO or VP of Operations on your team, it’s your obligation to work EXTREMELY closely with that individual and not only ensure they have every level of support they need to perform to plan, but they are transparent in their results with you so that you can accurately forecast the results of the business.

With the companies that I have worked with, it has not been the home run sales contracts that have typically allowed me to report stellar annual results, but more the sustainable changes in operations that have led to an improved bottom line. Those changes will obviously be different for every company, but it’s diving in and analyzing all of the individual contributors and how they can be improved. If you’ve assumed the CFO role within your company, you are not in a position where you can just sit back and wait for the results to post. You have a team that you should be working with, supporting, and identifying the areas that can be improved, thus influencing the bottom line. If you’re part of that 62%, expect an eventual lesson in Darwinism and don’t be surprised if you’re no longer part of the herd.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael