Sunday, January 31, 2010

CFO Services – More than the numbers

Recently a client emailed me a complaint about two things:

  • That he is losing touch with his customers because he decided to delegate
  • Things are getting crazy, disorganized and disjointed. I liked it much better when we were more organized.

As an Interim CFO addressing these kind of issues is commonplace. Business Owners look to the CFO for direction and guidance.

With regard to my client feeling like he is losing touch with his customers I responded to him as follows:

In business you either go up or down. There is really no state of neutrality. Any business that does not try to grow usually goes down. If you strive for neutrality you are very likely to go down. Therefore you must continuously strive to grow. Having said that, as you grow you are going to continuously feel a disconnect with your customers. However there is a solution. It is called communication. I think on a consistent basis you need to call these "delegated customers" directly and get the feedback from the customer on how it is going and on how your company can do better. I know it is more work but it is part of managing the growing process. Your employees will never in a million years tell you that there is anything wrong with their service until it is blatantly obvious and then it is usually too late. Tell your employees in advance that you will be calling these customers and give these employees both positive and negative feedback as to the results.

With regard to my client feeling that his business is crazy, disorganized and disjointed and liking it better when things were more organized, I responded as follows:

I think you need to change your mind set a little bit here. When I was in the retail business I knew business was going well when things got a little crazy, disorganized and disjointed because that meant things are growing as planned. When things are not in that aforementioned state then believe me there will not be joy in organization there will be potential stress and loss of focus as being human we all get complacent. The challenge is as things get crazy, disorganized and disjointed to be ready with solutions and improvements so when the current set of circumstances happen again you will be able to avoid the crazy, disorganized and disjointed and move on to new things that cause more craziness, disorganization and disjointedness. Believe it or not that is the winning formula for running a successful business.

Being a Part Time CFO is not just about working the numbers, the metrics and the forecasts. Being a CFO means you need to have a thorough understanding of business ownership and in turn understand how the inner workings of business work.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Controlling Payroll Costs

As mentioned in a previous post the four major expenses for most businesses are payroll, rent, advertising and insurance. One way that the Interim CFO can work to control payroll costs is through the use of forecasting tools like CashTell. The beauty of using a forecasting tool for the purposes of controlling payroll costs is that you can optimize both the headcount and the labor hours for different levels of sales.

For example, when forecasting, several different possible business scenarios should be assessed and analyzed by both the business owner and the part time CFO. One of those many different scenarios is different sales volumes. When forecasting one must look at what happens to the model when different ranges of sales volumes are entered. A good forecasting model should be able to determine the optimum headcount and the optimum amount of labor hours for each level of sales. This is a great tool because with this information the business owner and CFO know in advance as sales go up or down how to schedule workers helping to maximize efficiency and manage payroll costs.

Many times when the word “labor hours” is used we think of mainly manufacturing, however managing payroll costs through labor hours can be done in all types of businesses. When I was in the retail business, store managers were given a set amount of labor hours each week for scheduling employees. They could not go over those allocated labor hours unless they had permission together with a logical reason. My forecasting tools determined those labor hours and then if at the start of the week sales were deviating from the forecast I would issue or withdraw more hours as needed. It was also interesting that although the store managers complained about the small allocation of hours that they got it was amazing how the job got done with more efficiency and no sacrifice on service.