Don’t Call It Your Dream, Call It Your Plan

open notebook with a captain on the inside

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” Charlotte Bronte

Business-owners the world over have spent the past year or more searching keenly for silver linings around the pandemic cloud. It can be hard to decipher the wisdom in Ms Bronte’s words when we haven’t always felt free to make our own decisions.

What Bronte’s words can do however is remind us why we’re here in the first place: to live our lives as fully and as satisfyingly as possible.

Life through a lens

One of the toughest challenges for owners of SMEs is to be able to stand back, to look at their business through a wide-angle lens and identify what it is they really have.

Because quite often, the day-to-day distractions and diversions that inevitably surround the running of a successful business get in the way of sensible, objective evaluation and strategic decision-making. Crucially, that can mean that really important opportunities to grow and develop go at best un-exploited and at worst, un-noticed.

This is where the role of Finance Director/Chief Finance Officer becomes so vital. And where the specific advantages of joining forces with a part time (and often virtual) FD or CFO are brought sharply into focus.

Allow yourself to dream…

What does your FD/CFO do for you as the owner of an SME? With a bit of luck they’ll make sure that everyone gets paid the right amount at the right time; they’ll do their best to keep things square with HMRC; sort out your internal reporting, compliance and tax planning, and probably run your relationship with your bank.

While that (along with a few other bits and pieces) is probably enough to keep a business ticking over, it’s not a reasonable platform on which to base a sound growth strategy.

Of course, things might look even worse if you don’t have an FD/CFO on your team. Whatever your business and whatever your own specific talent, it’s almost certain that you didn’t get into business to spend your life doing cashflow projections or dealing with HMRC! No dreaming for you – you’re more likely to be waking up at 3am in cold sweats.

An FD/CFO can help make your dreams come true

When you started your company, you almost certainly allowed yourself to dream – every successful business operator needs ambition. But as we’ve seen, all too often those aspirations become bogged down in the everyday grind of keeping a business afloat.

The CFO Centre team provides FD and CFO expertise of a very high calibre – the top 1% of talent in the marketplace. These are people who know their stuff – the operational finance stuff, which keeps the wheels in motion and the strategic finance stuff, which brings the dream to life.

In many cases they’re able to draw on their own business success to guide others.

An FD/CFO will help decode the dream and turn it into a plan and be the one to hold you to account to make it happen. He or she will bring forward the target by showing you how to come at it from a different angle. Great FDs/CFOs are catalysts and can help you break the pattern of linear growth and get you what you really want on an expedited timetable. And that’s essential if the dream is still to come true.

The CFO Centre ‘Entrepreneur Journey’: our ‘secret sauce’

All our FDs/CFOs operate within an environment that provides comprehensive support and expertise. The FD & CFO Centre has a global network – a Collective Intelligence Engine – of more than 700 individuals, each of whom has achieved success as an FD, a CFO and often as an MD or CEO, themselves. What’s more, they are uniquely able to access and deploy the limitless potential locked up in your business model. And they talk to each other, share expertise, experiences and contacts.

In brief, a CFO Centre FD/CFO will guide the entrepreneur on a three-stage journey to achieve clarity about what it is they really want from their business. To take them from where they are now, to where they want to be.

And to be clear: ‘where they want to be’ is an individual choice for the business owner. It might involve scaling up significantly; it could mean launching new products in new markets around the world; perhaps it means ratcheting up your multiple as you prepare for exit. Whatever form it takes, it’s invariably about making that dream a reality by refashioning the plan and making sure it actually happens.

Stage One on the journey covers the process of achieving operational excellence. In other words enabling an organisation to do what it does best, to the best extent possible.

Stage Two, strategic opportunity, involves preparing the springboard. This is where the strategy to achieve those dreams is forged. Perhaps it’s a question of entering new markets; evaluating risk, raising new funds. Whatever the strategy, it’s based on sound experience and, yes, that ‘secret sauce’ that blends the logic with a little magic and know how.

Stage Three, game-changing performance is, simply, what happens when stages one and two are complete.

The dream is achieved by developing a concise roadmap based on what the business owner wants to achieve. The role of the FD is to identify and unlock that potential – thus freeing the dream and making it a reality.

Fly like a bird

Of course this is not to suggest that success comes easily. Business challenges are usually complicated and risky. That’s another reason why potential isn’t always realised; why many business owners end up working late nights on mundane tasks.

So one of the first conversations an FD will have with a client is to understand what it is that motivates them to be in business, and what they want to achieve from it. What really matters to them. There are numbers, many numbers, in the life of an FD or CFO. But it’s identifying and understanding the numbers that really matter in the client’s life that is crucial.

In the UK, after a year of battling with three sets of increasingly stringent lockdown restrictions, things finally look more positive. Many businesses have a lot of ground to make up however. An FD/CFO can help to structure a clear and effective path toward realising dreams that may have temporarily been put on hold.

Charlotte Bronte’s passionate cry tells us that we should never allow ourselves to be ensnared, to be dragged down by the minutiae of life. A CFO Centre FD/CFO aims to unlock that potential and give wings to the dream.

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