Thursday, June 26, 2008

The CFO and Business Forecasting

As I see it Business Forecasting is finding the right number of what if scenarios in order to identify enough possibilities of what is going to happen. A lot of business owners think that forecasting is like being a soothsayer in that business forecasting identifies exactly what is going to happen. No one can predict the future and there are too many different things that could happen to a business that will throw off the most sophisticated of forecasts. As I see it the role of the Chief Financial Officer in forecasting is to identify the top 7 or so likely scenarios and do a what if analysis on those 7 scenarios. One of the 7 scenarios should be a best case and a worse case. The proper forecasting tool to use is one that has a Profit and Loss, a balance sheet, cash flow, inventory plan and sales forecast all in one. These schedules can be broken down by quarter, month or even by week. Of course it needs to be adaptable to retail, manufacturing, distribution or service depending on the type of business the CFO is forecasting. The model also needs to identify where the risks and opportunities are and incorporate the key metrics. The great thing about this model is that as one number changes anywhere in the model all the numbers adjust. Next Step CFO uses this tool in business forecasting as a part of its CFO Services. It shows the business owner all of the risks and opportunities associated with any scenario and it allows for more thorough decision making and a reduction of risk for the business owner.