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Posts Tagged ‘financial performance’

Financial Reporting, Coaching, & Supporting the Team…

August 9th, 2013 Comments off

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

Have You Overstayed Your Board Seat Welcome…?

February 26th, 2013 Comments off

For those that know me, I am a fiercely competitive individual and that competitiveness extends to not only my cycling, but to a different degree, the office. Depending on the environment and who I am dealing with, my competitiveness will be adjusted accordingly. The satisfaction I have gotten from my career has been the derivative of the environments I have hired into and being able to let that competitiveness play out in the form of driving improved financial results at all levels, thus improving the financial health of the company. Over the last few years the scope of my involvement broadened as pursued my first Board seats, both of which were with non-profits. Both were equally enjoyable and had satisfying missions.

One of those Boards, the Orange County Marathon Foundation, was dedicated to the organization and execution of the OC Kid’s Run, which is a peripheral event to the Orange County Marathon. The Board already had a strong line-up, but I was asked to participate on the Board and very quickly was asked to be the Treasurer, a nomination I gladly accepted. I decided to participate since there was a strong initiative to increase participation, address sponsorships, and a few other key items. Seemed like a perfect strategic fit for what I had essentially done at a corporate level in the past. I spent my first few Board meetings getting to know the broader team, as well as the past challenges they had to deal with in the past. Very quickly I found that it was a very capable crew. Yes, there were a few contributions I made, but I also came to realize that it really wasn’t the standard “restructuring” I was used to, nor was there really a need for any intensive financial planning. The expenses that the team was dealing with were almost entirely variable with the runner count for the event.

Now let’s rewind to that whole “Performance” thing that drives me in my personal life. Essentially the Board really only needed an accountant or bookkeeper to count the debits and credits. I also really started to question my contribution to the Board and whether I was adding value to the seat I was occupying at each Board meeting. It took a bit of time to admit, but I arrived at the decision to discontinue my involvement with the Board because I knew there was somebody else out there that would deliver much more value than I was, which ultimately, would benefit the kids that much more. With such a capable team behind the Foundation, I didn’t want to hold onto my seat strictly for the sake of having a placeholder on the resume.

Whether non-profit or your standard corporation, it’s the duty of Board members to ensure that they are delivering value and helping the team drive a higher level of performance that might not be there in their absence. If that is not the case then perhaps they should be rethinking their position on the Board. I received some feedback that suggested I should hold my seat until I found another Board, but that certainly wouldn’t have been appropriate, or fair, to the Foundation Board. I know that as I continue my networking efforts I will find that next Board opportunity that will allow me to leverage my experience and deliver the value I expect to.  Have you overstayed your Board seat welcome…?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Financial Legacy or Collateral Damage…?

November 30th, 2012 Comments off

Considering that the typical senior level Finance engagement has a lifespan of 3-5 years, I’ve always been cognizant of the “legacy” that I would leave when the time came to leave a company. Whether that departure was my decision, or that of others, I’ve always wanted to be able to look back at the results that I posted, or the processes that were implemented, and have a sense of pride for what was accomplished with the team. The last thing that I wanted was to create a situation where others might start taking a position of “what the hell was he thinking with that decision…?” or “that certainly didn’t leave us in a good position moving forward…”. Being the competitive individual I am, the goal has always been to establish a history of performance and change that were of a high enough level that it would be difficult to maintain if my replacement wasn’t on top of their game.

However, there’s a second part of that equation. The financial results, or the processes implemented, need to be of a sustainable nature and not of the short-term kind. They need to balance the needs of long-term growth while satisfying the needs of the shareholders, and ultimately deliver on the Plan that has been committed to. Perhaps this is why there has always been an inherent frustration working in divisional roles where there was a conflict of agendas, distribution of resources, and ultimately, a lack of equal accountability for results. Frustration you ask? For myself, the frustration would come from delivering results, improving on the “legacy” left by previous management, improving operational processes, instilling high levels of accountability with the team….yet not having any of that reflected by other divisions. Having to work in an environment where mediocrity is tolerated on a daily basis.

During my time with a company that developed critical infrastructure product, this was part of my daily tolerance. Driving the performance of our North American operations with the rest of the team and essentially seeing a “hall pass” granted to my colleagues in other regions. Although it was incredibly bothersome, I would ultimately finish my time with that company, my position eliminated in a merger, knowing that I had my foot on the gas all the way until that decision. No coasting and very little that I would have changed. The question we all need to ask ourselves as senior Finance leaders is whether we can really be proud of the work that we have accomplished, both in financial results, as well as the operational disciplines we’ve put into place. If you can look in the mirror and honestly answer the question of whether you’ve established a degree of financial legacy or left a trail of collateral damage.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael