Saturday, March 6, 2010

CFO Services from One Piece of Paper

In a previous post on metrics I pointed out the importance of metrics and some of the metrics a business owner can calculate and track. However what I did not point out is how the CFO can use these metrics or key performance indicators to help the business owner literally manage their business from one piece of paper. A Financial Dashboard if you will. Many CFO’s help their clients identify the key performance indicators in which to manage their business. Many CFO’s use financial dashboards and share them with business owners. I am just not quite sure if the CFO is showing the business owner how to use this tool to more effectively manage the business. It takes time and patience but really explaining to the business owner how to use the financial dashboard and to instill the discipline to use it at least on a monthly basis can go a long way in improving the productivity of the business and also the productivity of the business owner. Managing the business from the financial dashboard not only provides more simplicity to complex business problems but it also helps anticipate problems and circumvent trouble.

For example, I showed a client recently how a trend in a simple metric called overhead per labor hour can show how well the business owner is managing their overhead costs commensurate with managing their payroll costs. Looking at the way this metric trends can give you a quick indication on whether you are maximizing your overhead and payroll expense controls. Using graphs is a very productive way to visualize these trends.

Finding benchmarks are ok but in my view they can only be taken so far. Benchmarks means finding service or statistical bureaus that compile metrics from other companies in the same industry so that comparisons can be made with others in the same industry. This is certainly interesting information, and it can be useful to a point but I am of the belief that no two companies are really alike even if they are in the same industry. Overall I believe that the benchmarking should be done internally and the CFO, business owner and advisory board should get together to first determine the most productive key performance indicators to track, the target goals for each key performance indicator and the way the business owner and CFO will use them to manage the business. Certainly look at the benchmarks, but do not use the benchmarks as the target.

Getting the business owner to understand and on board with using metrics to manage their business is one of the more effective CFO Services that can be provided.