What a CEO wants from their CFO

Hello.  My name is Dave C.  I…am a CFO.  That’s what I do well.  I fancy myself as meriting a few other monikers like Strategist, Leader and Adrenaline Junkie.  Are these appropriate qualities for a CFO?  If so, am I focused on the right output the CEO and the business needs to thrive?  Recently we asked our top CEO clients what information THEY want from their CFO.  130 of them eagerly responded, anxious to let us know what output they value from their CFO and the character traits they expected them to have.  This, part 1, deals with the output a CEO expects.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise for a CFO that number one is Accurate, Reliable, and Timely Financial Statements.  Years ago when I got my first shot at the CFO role I read a Deloitte & Touche pamphlet that should have been entitled, “Training wheels for the CFO”, but was actually called, “Breathing Lessons.”  They agreed with the CEO and labeled solid financial statements as the “dial tone”.  Frankly, without it nothing else a finance team does really matters.

Secondly our CEOs wanted a good Cash Flow Forecast.  Note I didn’t say, “Cash Flow Statement.”  Very few senior financial personnel would have ranked this #2.  They’d have ranked it as important, but #2?…not likely.  Too many of us focus on the income statement and the balance sheet and forget about cash flow.  To use my mother’s words, “Shame. Shame.”

Three (Budget to Actual Comparisons) and four (Key Metrics) are highly ranked as well, but then rest of the activities fall quickly off in the rankings.

Take note that three of the four explicitly (and truth be told, all four in reality) require analysis.  CEOs fully expect that we interpret the information we are feeding the organization.

And the fact that the other work we do is much lower in the rankings doesn’t mean that it is irrelevant.  A more proper interpretation would be that without these four deliverables, we aren’t delivering the basics of what the CEO wants from us. 

Happy analyzing.

David Chase has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 14 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

Advertisements

LIFE RULES

1. Integrity: Grandpa’s right, a handshake is all we need

Your name and your word…two of your most valuable possessions.  Do NOTHING to mar them.  Karl Maeser, an educator once said, “Place me behind prison walls-walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground-there is the possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!”

2. Complaining isn’t productive…Stop it.

A respected educator and community leader, Jeffrey Holland, once said, “No misfortune is so bad that whining about it won’t make it worse”.  Well said.

3. Never Give Up

Attack challenges like Jimmy Shea, Olympic Skeleton Gold Medalist.  Jimmy, had circulatory problems in one leg, which are so critical to the running start.  On the final run, he was behind midway through his run and went into the final turns: 13,14 & 15. The Doc had wanted to perform surgery before the Olympics.  Nope.  During that year leading to Olympics he walked every inch of the track every day looking for every advantage.  He found it in turns 13,14&15.

4. Risk it

Take chances in life.  As a risk-adverse person by nature, I kept on my office wall at work the reminder by the Great One,”100% of the shots you don’t take don’t go in”.  Wayne Gretzky.

5. Positive Attitude – Take sunshine with you everywhere you go

If there’s any big truth about life, it’s that it is shaped by your attitude. There is a story told about a stranger coming to town and asking if the town was friendly.  He was asked if he came from a similar town and when he responded that he had, he was told, “You’ll find the same here”.  Another stranger came to town and asked if the town was unfriendly.  He also was asked if came from a similar town.  When he responded that, yes, “my town was unfriendly”, he was told, “You’ll find the same here.” If, for example, you believe there is good everywhere and a silver lining in every situation, guess what? You’re probably right.

6. Give a gift to everyone you meet.

I’m not talking about a formal, wrapped-up present. Your gift can be your smile, a word of thanks or encouragement, a small touch, a gesture of politeness, even a friendly nod.  If you feel something, say something.

7. Assume people have good intentions.

Since you can’t read minds, you don’t really know the “why” behind the “what” that people do. Imputing evil motives to other people’s weird behaviors adds extra misery to life, while assuming good intentions leaves you open to reconciliation.

8. Forgive those who you believe wronged you

Mahatma Ghandi, preeminent pacifist, once said, “An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”  We all are imperfect and require forgiveness regularly…be cool, grant it as well.

9. Make a blooming decision would you!

Never let indecision impede your progress in life.  Though his name and thoughts at times were a little goofy, Yogi Berra had it right, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Mobile Learning

Years ago, when I was graduating from school I bought some sales 101 CDs to listen to on my drive to a new sales job.  Though the CDs are long gone and I’ve forgotten much of what I heard on those 6 CDs, I can still hear in my mind the words Brian Tracy, professional speaker and success expert, said about mobile learning…”Radio is like chewing gum for the ears.”

Whether out of shame or a desire to keep learning, in the intervening years, I have seldom let idle moments in my car go without listening to something of value.  Technology is making it easier and easier.  My current method of learning is to use audible.com through my smart phone.

I have also noted over the years that many of the successful people I know spend their travel time wisely and find ways to stretch and expand their professional knowledge.  Frankly, some of what I listen to is as much about what I enjoy, from early American historical figures to non-fiction adventure biographies (climbing, rescue, exploring, etc)…but even in these I find valuable experiences I can learn from.

Nurture your mind with great thoughts because you will never go any higher than you think.

 

David Chase has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 15 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

Bootstrapping Isn’t Dead

While lending is easing again, the lessons and reminders from a difficult borrowing environment these past few years should be remembered.

Savvy entrepreneurs realize that the most readily available and cheapest sources of capital are to be found inside their businesses…aka ‘bootstrapping’.

Finding, developing strategies for, and managing wisely the cash already in your business can carry you through difficult periods in your business driven by either constriction or growth.

In short, these strategies usually amount to the following:

  1. Actively managing the collection of cash owed to you by customers, rather than passively letting it come in;
  2. Minimizing the amount of inventory you carry;
  3. Carefully analyzing and controlling the payments you make to your vendors.

Each of these very general strategies has many options to consider, but some are more impacting than others.

The available information on the internet to help educate entrepreneurs on the strategies to manage their cash for growth is almost endless.  Nevertheless, here is a link to a well written piece by Scott Bergquist of Silicon Valley Bank and posted on CFO.com.

Another source that holds a tremendous repository of articles to help guide entrepreneurs manage their cash is Inc.com.

David Chase has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 14 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

Understanding Your Business Through Trend Analysis

 

 

Trend analysis is a critical, and all too often overlooked, element of understanding what is happening in one’s business.  Far too often we see that companies are looking only at the unformatted, current period financial statements.  By doing so, they are missing a valuable opportunity to be educated by their financials statements about the current period performance, but also the likely near-term performance of their business.

 

Business cycles vary widely by industry, but typically, a one-year look by month (graphically where possible) at the key financial metrics of a business is ideal.  Identifying the key financial metrics to measure is a critical step as well that shouldn’t be glossed over.  In addition to a one-year look, a more detailed trend analysis of the past 3 months and a comparison to the same period from the prior year are two other great comparators and teachers.  Below are some examples:

 

There are many ways to accomplish and view these trends including: reporting software packages (local or in the cloud), accounting software, or simply excel, to name a few.  Some are better than others, but as long as you’re looking at the data in the right way, you’re learning.  Here is a brief but helpful ehow.com treatise on the subject.

Image

Image

 

13 Week Cash Flows – An Effective Tool for CEOs and CFOs

The 13-week cash flow has emerged as an indispensable tool to help our clients actively managing cash flow in businesses where cash flow is tight.

By the way, this does not mean that a business is in trouble – rapid growth is just as likely to cause a cash flow crunch as is operating at a loss.

Unlike the common practice of backing into an estimated cash flow based on high level working capital assumptions, the 13-week method is built upon a strong understanding of the underlying cash sources and uses in a business.

Fundamentally, the 13 week cash flow estimates detailed weekly receipts based on revenues, offset by weekly cash expenditures organized by type (e.g. payroll, inventory purchases, taxes, other vendor payments, etc.).  Experience with our clients has taught us that the most important step in creating a 13-week cash flow is to perform an estimate-to-actual comparison each week against the just completed week.

An increasing number of savvy investors and finance institutions are asking for, or even requiring, 13-week cash flow forecasts…an indication that a business has a good handle on short-term cash needs and is less likely to be caught by surprise – a very good thing in the mind of a bank or investor!

There are many websites discussing the merits of 13-week cash flows and the one from wikicfo.com is just one good example.

David Chase has experience in small to medium private companies and large public companies as a senior operational and financial leader.  With 14 years in finance, a CFO of multiple entities and divisional EVP experience, Dave has a breadth of experience.  Dave has led or been instrumental in raising multiple rounds of equity and debt in excess of $450 million.

Before Seeking Funding, Ask these 3 Basic Questions

Many start-up companies are looking for funding to help them achieve their dream of creating a commercially viable company.

Before seeking funding these 3 basic questions need to be answered.

1 – Does It Work?

It’s a simple question, but it is really critical to ask up front. Many good ideas end at the idea stage. Before an investor will write a check, you have to prove that your idea works, be it technology, a new service or a new product.

Proof of concept means more than just a white paper or your own research. It really means you need to have third party validation. Sometimes you can have outside research firms contribute to the proof, but the best source is a customer that is willing to pay cash for your product or service.

Determining the market size is also part of this research. If you are trying to sell into an existing market, some of that data may be readily available, but that is when you really need to prove that you can differentiate yourself from the competition.

One of our past clients is Skullcandy, they sell headphones and earbuds – lots of them! This was not a new market – there were lots of companies selling headphones. They were able to differentiate themselves from other headphone companies by becoming one of the best marketing companies around and targeting their marketing to their core customer base. It is critical for you to verify that your business actually has a market and that the identified customers really will buy your product or service.

2 – Is Your Idea Protected?

If your idea can be protected through a patent, trademark or through other intellectual property, investors feel much more comfortable about making the investment. It is critical that you have that protection in place before exposing your idea to the market place.

Some ideas cannot be protected and the strategy is simply a “land grab” and an attempt to gain market share. Skullcandy did not have IP on its headphones, but they did a great job of marketing to a specific niche that allowed them to obtain significant market share. Your strategy has to be identified up front and executed effectively.

3 – Who Will Manage The Company?

You must show investors and lenders that your team has the experience and knowledge to manage the investment. Having highly-qualified, experienced team members who have demonstrated success will go a long way to helping you secure the investor’s trust and then their money! Your core management team members, employees and consultants / advisors have to demonstrate that they have experience in the industry you are pursuing.

It is critical that you have a CEO who is experienced in the industry. If you are a technology company, you have to have a CTO who has experience in the industry. Naturally, your CFO has to be a very seasoned veteran who can help you provide timely and accurate financial reporting as well as key performance indicators (KPI). Your KPI’s should include financial and non-financial information about your business.

A solid financial forecast is also critical to be a financial roadmap for the management team. This tells lenders and investors that the Company and its team understand their business model and are able and prepared to monitor and act on key information to therefore manage the business and achieve success.

Starting a business and raising capital is not easy but if you take the right steps to get customer traction, properly protect your concepts and have the right team your journey is more likely to lead to the desired destination!

JB Henriksen is with Advanced CFO Solutions, L.C. With over 500 clients served and  experience with financing transactions totaling over $600 million, Advanced CFO Solutions is Utah’s largest  and oldest provider of  out-sourced CFO and Controller services.