Monday, October 27, 2008

The Importance of Business Forecasts

It is an essential and responsible CFO Service and CFO duty to perform business forecasts. Many clients of Next Step CFO ask what purpose forecasting serves. Traditionally the CFO has been an historian, meaning telling the business owner what financial results happened in the past. Telling the business owner what the historical results have been. Business owners need to know in what direction they are headed. Tell the business owner what is going to happen in the future so that you can tell the business owner when it is going to be cloudy instead of telling them when it is raining. For the most part business owners already know where they have been. Today the Chief Financial Officer needs to tell the business owner in what direction the business is going in the future.

So what is the major question the business forecast answers? The major question answered by the business forecast is whether or not the existing business model is going to achieve the desired results. If not, you need to change the business model. A good CFO can prepare a forecast on the existing business model and then if that model does not work can prepare a forecast based on a model that does work. In order to do this the CFO must have knowledge of the industry and a sharp overall knowledge of business through having experience in owning a business. The CFO must also have accurate forecasting tools at his/her disposal.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Diversity in CFO Services

In todays business world I think it is important for the Chief Financial Officer or CFO to be diverse in their capabilities. Since everything in business revolves around money and it is an important CFO Service and an important CFO duty to be responsible and manage money, the CFO really has to know a lot about business and business ownership compelling the CFO to be diverse. Even though the CFO is not an expert in marketing, manufacturing or in other aspects of a business it is helpful if they have knowledge in those out of focus areas of business. One way the CFO can do this is to develop a deeper knowledge in a particular facet of those out of focus areas.

For example, one area the Part Time CFO can provide some insight and really help clients is in certain aspects of marketing, particularly website marketing or Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A good SEO strategy can help the business obtain top positions on Google and other search engines giving the client an internet presence enhancing their current marketing strategy. Once again this is an example of the importance of diversity of a CFO.

One SEO strategy that will help you get top positions on Google is the use of an RSS Feed. An RSS feed allows new fresh up to the minute content to go into a website. A good example of an RSS Feed is Reuters who services many news related websites with up to the minute news around the world through an RSS Feed. The best way for a business to use an RSS feed is to start a blog about their business and write articles daily about their business using key word rich content. Most Blogs have an RSS feed connection and connect the RSS Feed from the Blog to your website and every time you write an article about your business and post it to your blog it will change the content of your website. When you change the content of your website the search engine crawlers index your site. The more you change the content the more you get indexed by the search engines and indexing increases your search engine ranking.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The role of a CFO (Chief Financial Officer)

I feel the need to always come back to the basics as sometimes the role of the CFO can get clouded by the demands placed on the role. The Part Time CFO has even more of a challenge to address what is a critical need in the business as well as addressing the basics.

The basic CFO Duties and CFO services that a Chief Financial Officer should focus on are as follows:

1. Drive the bottom Line
2. Project profitability
3. Enhance systems, improve controls and processes leading to operating efficiencies
4. Manage cash and cash flow problems
5. Optimize operations
6. Drive results
7. Contribute to business development
8. Shape financial strategy
9. Understand, identify and assess the risks of business ownership.
10. Accomplish something for the business in an area that the business owner does not expect a CFO to accomplish something. (i.e. help the company with search engine optimization enhancing its internet presence.)

If the CFO excels in these areas he will add tremendous value for the business owner.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Risk in Partnerships

When two or more people get into business together there is risk that needs constant assessment. Partners in business together must have the following characteristics:

1. Must be logical in their thinking. It is not all about one partner. Sometimes the logical business decision can disadvantage one partner over the other(s). It is critical that the partner being disadvantaged is logical in their thinking to separate what is right for the business from what is right for the disadvantaged partner.
2. Must eventually be at peace with all decisions. Although it is healthy to have different opinions and constructive arguments, eventually all partners must understand that a decision needs to be made and although it may be contrary to one partners opinion the dissenting partners must be at peace with the decisions.
3. Partners cannot be bitter if they get diluted. There are many times when a business needs more money and the partners have to ante up. Sometimes there are partners who do not have the money or do not want to invest in their business at the particular point in time when money is needed. These partners who do not participate financially cannot be bitter when their stock ownership gets diluted. If it only fair to the partners who are risking the additional capital that they get stock for the risk they are taking.
4. Partners must understand the rough and tumble world of commerce. Partners must be prepared for troubled times in the business. Exemplified by, lower salaries, difficult cash flow problems and personal guarantees. The character of the partners must be in harmony during these periods.
5. Only one person can run the company. It is a good idea for one partner to take the lead role in the business. Be viewed by the suppliers, customers and employees as the point person. Sometimes this can make the partners not taking the lead role feel inferior and bitter.
6. Not all partners are created equal with regard to salary. Partners must understand that different partners take different skills to the table. Some of those skills are more valuable to the business than others. The business needs to pay more money to the more valuable skill sets. You would not pay a store manager the same as a CEO. If one partner brings store management skills to the table that is valuable, but can be replaced with another store manager if the salary is out of hand. This is difficult for many partners to understand.

The CFO sometimes is called upon to act like a mediator of sorts in dealing with partner disputes, but partners need to go into these business deals with their eyes wide open.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Risk in Equipment

There are three key areas in understanding the risks associated with a companys equipment:

1. Age. How old is the equipment and does the output from the equipment still meet good quality standards. In essence, is the equipment obsolete?
2. Repairs. Is the equipment susceptible to breakdowns and big repair and maintenance bills?
3. Productivity. Is the equipment still meeting efficient production standards?

One important CFO Service is to assess the risk associated with equipment. The cost to purchase equipment or a lease to acquire equipment is a major capital expense and an untimely purchase of equipment can cause cash flow problems. The CFO must perform an analysis on equipment performance for both quality of output and for production efficiencies. In addition an analysis of the repair and maintenance costs of the equipment must be made. Once these analyses are complete a comparison can be made as to what the monthly carrying costs of the equipment are and what the cash availability of the company is versus the repair costs, quality and production standards. Then the risk of the equipment can then be assessed as to whether or not to buy or lease new replacement or upgraded equipment.