virtual cfo Archives - CFO Centre Australia

4 Signs That My Business Might Need CFO Services

4 Signs That My Business Might Need CFO Services

I have recently been talking to business owners and executives who want to build more resilience into their business. They are considering adding a part-time Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to their team.  During these discussions, two questions usually come up.  “How do I know if my business needs a CFO?” and “what does a CFO do that my Accountant can’t?”.  I would like to share some thoughts on these questions.

The primary responsibility of a CFO is to optimize the financial performance of a company. This includes its reporting and accountability, liquidity, return on investment and long-term value creation.

A CFO has a forward-looking perspective. They look at interactions of the business with outsiders, acting as a diplomat and negotiator with third parties.  Often the strategies put in place by a CFO are not short-term fixes. Some may take months or years to be fully realised.

How do I know when my business needs a CFO?

As to the question of when a business needs a CFO, the following indicators may be helpful.

  1. Internal – When information that helps in making important decisions is not timely or reliable.
  2. External – When improved respect must be gained outside the business. eg from investors, customers, suppliers, labour markets, regulators etc.
  3. Rapid Growth – Growth requires an expansion of systems, and usually additional capital to finance the growth.
  4. Exit – When a business is preparing for a merger, acquisition, or business sale.

So, when the business is at the stage of increased external engagement and growth, a CFO can add significant value.

What does a CFO do that my Accountant can’t?

A CFO always works closely with the external Accountant. Having an accounting background, the CFO is well placed to understand the role of the external Accountant.  The external Accountant’s role is mostly concerned with compliance and transactional advice.  They work from their own offices and will normally attend the client’s business premises periodically.  External Accountants often have the skill sets to provide additional services. However, they are usually not involved closely enough in the running of the business to make this a sensible use of their time.

Functions such as the below will either fall to the CFO or some other suitably qualified resource will need to be allocated:

  • Budgeting and forecasting
  • Cash flow management
  • Financial reporting
  • Scenario planning
  • Internal controls
  • Insurance
  • Bench-marking and key performance indicators
  • Incentive schemes
  • Management of key suppliers
  • Accounting policies

If the business doesn’t have a CFO, the CEO or one of the Directors have to take ownership of these functions.  This means they are taken away from other important leadership and governance roles. They also may not have the depth of experience in the technicalities of financial transactions to handle these things well.

Some of the common misconceptions about a CFO

There are some common misconceptions about a CFO that are worth discussing.

The first misconception is that a CFO may have an excessive focus on short-term financial results ie this year’s profit.  Financial success of the business is undoubtedly the objective of any CFO. This, however, does not mean sacrificing long-term value creation for short-term results.  A CFO is interested in the success of all business stakeholders. This includes owners, employees, customers, suppliers, financiers etc. All stakeholders must be rewarded to ensure the long-term health of the business.

CFOs are therefore, likely to be just as interested in the business strategy as they are in the profit and loss statement. In addition, culture, reputation, governance, and risk management will be on their radar. A good CFO recognises that sustainable financial success is only achieved when all aspects of a business are working well.

Another commonly held misconception is that CFOs think in “black and white”. That therefore, they may not be comfortable with the various shades of grey that business and life deal up.  Whilst that may be true for some aspects of a CFO’s decision-making, good CFOs will look closely at the underlying issue.  For example, CFOs are often involved in analysing the performance of a business or even individuals.  In understanding performance, a CFO will often consider a range of underlying factors. This can include; roles and responsibilities, resources, delegated authorities, remuneration and incentive systems, behavioural assessments, management approach, and organisational structure and culture.  CFOs are first and foremost experienced corporate managers. They understand that people are usually the most critical resource in businesses. From experience, most CFOs are skilled at dealing with people issues sensitively.

If you’d like a confidential discussion about whether a part-time CFO could be right for your business, please contact us.

Allan Robb, CFO at the CFO Centre

Freedom – The Main Reason I got into my Business

Freedom – The Main Reason I got into my Business

“Freedom” is the most common reason small business owners started their businesses.

41% of respondents to a recent poll conducted by The CFO Centre Australia identified this as their primary reason.

When I started my business in 2003 I had this desire to be master of my own destiny.

And family was always the primary motivation for this freedom. A desire to be with my young family in their formative years. To share those sporting and other important moments as my children grew up.

But in my work as a CFO working with small business owners, the dream of being independent can often be just that – a dream.

The reality for many owners is they spend most of their time fighting fires. And working longer and longer hours as the business grows. Instead of getting more time with their loved ones, the demands on their time increases and they are at home less.

Business owners are often very good at working on the tools but lack the expertise in other critical skills. Without the business acumen or financial background to know what’s best for the business, they work longer hours trying to do it all.

What do you really want your business to do for you?

Does your business provide the freedom that you expected when you first set it up?

Are you stuck in the operational space with little time left over for what you really want to be doing, both in the business and personally?

I’ve seen this time and time again with business owners that we have worked with. At The CFO Centre we help business owners see the big picture.

This 2 minute video  (click the big pink play button) shows some of our clients’ stories – from where they were to where they are now.

Written by Peter Crewe-Brown – CFO at The CFO Centre – Sydney Team.

How to Scale Your Business for Growth

How to Scale Your Business for Growth

Scaling your business depends on two factors: your company’s capability and its capacity to deal with growth.

To scale up your business, your company must be capable of dealing with a growing amount of work or sales and of doing it cost-effectively.

You need to know that your company can achieve exponential growth without costs rising as a result. It’s vital too, that performance doesn’t suffer as your company scales up.

You also need to be sure that your business systems, employees, and infrastructure can accommodate growth. For instance, if you get a sudden surge in orders, will your company be able to cope? Will you be still able to manufacture and deliver products or services on time? Do you have enough employees to deal with a surge in work or sales?

Scaling a business requires careful planning and some funding. To be successful, you’ll need to have the right systems, processes, technology, staff, finance, and even partners in place.

Identify process gaps

Audit your business processes (core processes, support processes, and management processes) to find their strengths and weaknesses. Find the process gaps and address them before you start to scale up.

Keep the processes simple and straightforward. Complex processes slow things down and hinder progress.

Boost sales

Decide what your company needs to do to increase sales. How many new customers will you need to meet your scaled-up goals?

Create a sales growth forecast that details the number of new clients you need, the orders, and the revenue you want to generate.

Examine your existing sales structure and decide if it can generate more sales. Can you increase your flow of leads? Do you need to offer different products or services? Is there an untapped market? Do you have a marketing system to track and manage leads? Is your sales team capable of following up and closing more leads?

Make sure you have enough staff to cope with an increase in sales. If you don’t have enough staff, consider hiring new employees, outsourcing tasks, or finding partners that may be able to handle functions more efficiently than your company.

Forecast costs

Once you’ve done the sales growth forecast, create an expense forecast that includes the new technology, employees, infrastructure and systems you’ll need to be able to handle the new sales orders. The more detailed your cost estimates, the more realistic your plan will be.

Get funding

If you need to hire more staff, install new technology, add facilities or equipment, and create new reporting systems, you’ll need funds. Consider how you will fund the company’s growth.

Make delighting customers a priority

To reach your sales forecasts, your company will need loyal customers. You’ll win their loyalty by delivering outstanding products or services and customer service every time you interact with them.

Invest in technology

Invest in technology that will automate tasks. Automation will bring costs down and make production more efficient.

Ensure that your systems are integrated and work smoothly together.

Ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help from experts who have experience in scaling up companies. In an interview, Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, said, “I’ve never found anybody who didn’t want to help me when I’ve asked them for help.

“I’ve never found anyone who’s said no or hung up the phone when I called – I just asked.

“Most people never pick up the phone and call; most people never ask. And that’s what separates, sometimes, the people that do things from the people that just dream about them. You gotta act. And you’ve gotta be willing to fail; you gotta be ready to crash and burn, with people on the phone, with starting a company, with whatever. If you’re afraid of failing, you won’t get very far.”

Need Help with Your Cash Flow?

Need Help with Your Cash Flow?

Cash flow problems put your company at risk.

Unless your company manages cash flow effectively and uses regular cash flow forecasts, your company is in jeopardy. Cash flow shortfalls mean:

  • You can’t pay suppliers on time
  • You can’t make debt repayments on time or at all
  • You can’t buy new inventory to meet customer demand
  • You can’t pay staff wages
  • You can’t compete for new contracts
  • You can’t advertise to attract new clients
  • You can’t hire new staff.

This will have a knock-on effect on your company’s profits, market share, and brand reputation. It could even result in your company going into liquidation.

One US bank study found that 82% of business failures are due to poor cash management.

How to Fix Your Cash Flow Shortfalls

Fortunately, most cash flow problems can be resolved with help from the right people. They will help you to identify the causes of cash flow problems in your business and advise the best way to fix them.

To find out how to fix your cash flow problems and prevent them from recurring, grab your free copy of the “Cash Flow” report NOW!

Causes of Cash Flow Problems

Conditions that can impact your cash flow include:

  • A fall in sales or a decline in gross profit margins. This could be a result of changing economic conditions (such as the most recent global financial crisis), increased competition, or a drop in demand for your product or service.
  • An unprofitable business model
  • Using a negative cash flow business model. You offer customers or clients credit terms of anywhere from 30 days to 90 days (or longer).
  • Having excessive debt
  • Having inadequate stock or credit and debtor management.

Your cash flow problems can be due to any of the following:

Late paying customers When a customer doesn’t pay on time, your business can experience cash shortfalls.

Poor debt collection processes Not issuing or chasing up invoices in a timely fashion can result in reduced cash flow.

Low prices If your prices are too low, but your expenses are rising, your company is almost certain to experience cash flow problems.

Low sales Too often business owners try to resolve poor sales by looking for new clients. But this incurs more costs in areas like advertising and marketing to attract those new clients.

Too generous payment terms Allowing customers to pay in arrears for goods or services received is a bit like giving those companies short-term, interest-free unsecured loans.

Overtrading Rapid growth means your company will have to invest in more stock, equipment, or hiring staff to meet demand. If you don’t have sufficient working capital, the company will experience cash flow problems.

Too much stock Every dollar or pound you have in inventory is a dollar or pound you don’t have in cash.

Too much debt If you’re overleveraged (when you’ve borrowed too much and can’t pay interest payments or principal repayments or meet operating expenses), you’re likely to experience cash flow problems.

Cash Management

Cash is vital to your business. Without it, your business won’t be able to pay suppliers and creditors and to meet its payroll obligations.

Finding and fixing the cause of your cash flow problems in your business and putting systems in place to manage cash effectively is vital for your company’s survival.

Strategically Outsource to Maximise Efficiency and Productivity

Strategically Outsource to Maximise Efficiency and Productivity

If you’re looking for a quick way to cut costs, boost efficiency and improve productivity then consider outsourcing one or more of your business’ support processes.

Outsourcing has many benefits and can give you a greater competitive edge in your market. It allows you to tap into a large international talent pool and benefit from external expertise. Your outsourced providers can provide services, innovative approaches, and the latest technology along with cutting-edge solutions that your in-house team might be unable to provide.

It also allows full-time employees to focus on your company’s core competencies. And it means you have lower operational and recruitment costs. The cost savings you achieve with outsourcing can help you to release capital for investment in other areas of your business.

But outsourcing does have its downsides. For example, there’s a risk in allowing outsourced providers to handle confidential company data. Whether that’s the details of employees or customers or competitive information. Under the GDPR, companies will be held responsible for any third-party data breaches. The penalties for such breaches will be stiff. What’s more, any data breaches will dent your company’s reputation and damage your brand.

Then there’s the risk that the output will be sub-standard or that delivery time frames will be stretched. Both would damage your company’s reputation and possibly result in lost sales. And there’s a danger that unless the outsourcing is carefully managed, the expected cost savings won’t materialise. This was the case for the UK government. Its programme to outsource back-office functions ended up costing taxpayers £4 million. Officials had predicted the programme would save up to £400 million a year. But after two and a half years, it had saved just £90 million but cost £94 million.

If the outsourcing is well-managed, the benefits will far outweigh the risks.

Take the Alibaba.com e-commerce website, for example. Today, it’s known as the world’s biggest global marketplace. But in its early days, its founder Jack Ma had to outsource the website development to a US company. At the time, he couldn’t find development talent in China whereas developers in America had the skills he needed. It also allowed him to overcome the Chinese government’s tight internet restrictions.

Google is another giant that also outsources work to IT specialists, developers and virtual assistants. At one point, Google outsourced phone and email support for AdWords, one of its top-grossing products, to about 1,000 external representatives.

The founders of the hugely popular WhatsApp Brian Acton and Jan Koum also hired the services of external providers. In their case, they used the services of an iPhone developer Igor Solomennikov for the core development work on the app.

What can you outsource?

You can outsource any or all of the following:

  • Administrative tasks such as data entry, typing, travel arrangements and scheduling.
  • Lead generation and customer service including cold calling
  • Marketing including content writing, direct marketing, website design, brand development, press releases, social media, blogging and search engine optimisation
  • IT Directors
  • Sales Directors
  • Legal Directors
  • Human Resources including recruitment and the management of employee benefits
  •  Accounting and financial duties including bookkeeping, invoicing, accounts payable and receivable, payroll processing and financial reporting. You can, for example, hire a part-time Finance Director who knows how to finance a business, deal with growth, present meaningful monthly numbers and get the best deals from banks.

It means you get a highly experienced senior CFO with the experience and knowledge to help you plan, manage and control business growth. The CFO Centre will provide you with an CFO with ‘big business experience’ for a fraction of the cost of a full-time CFO. A virtual CFO option is also something we offer if you are in a more remote area.

To discover how an CFO Centre part-time CFO will help your business, contact us now on 0808 164 8902. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time FDs, just click here.