Friday, February 25, 2011

CFO Services – Guidance to the Entrepreneur with an Idea

As a Part Time CFO who performs multiple CFO Services I very often come across entrepreneurs with an idea. It is great to see the enthusiasm and the passion the entrepreneur possesses about their new idea for a product or service. I do not call these situations start-up companies yet because they are just an idea and not something that was put into motion. To me a start-up company is an idea that had been put into motion.

One problem I notice very often is that the entrepreneur thinks that the idea is sellable to an investor as an idea. For example, an entrepreneur has an idea for a new widget that will solve a particular problem in the medical industry. However, it is just an idea. There is nothing tangible. Oh sure, there may be a bunch of doctors that were polled who will say that it will work, but there is no prototype of the widget therefore an investor will question whether the widget can actually be produced. The investor will also question the costs the widget can be produced at because since it has not been produced no one has any idea of what manufacturing challenges exist that may escalate costs. The idea doesn’t even have a contract manufacturer lined up to at least identify someone who can possibly produce this widget. I could go on but the bottom line is that the entrepreneur must take their idea and create as much tangible evidence as possible to support the success of the idea.

The objective of an entrepreneur with an idea is to create as much tangible evidence as is humanly possible in order to convince an investor to make a maximum amount of an investment in exchange for the least amount of equity. The more holes in your idea the lower an investment you will attract if any and ultimately you will give up the most amount of equity. Investors do not invest in ideas. They invest in solid business plans and business models with strong management chock full of tangible evidence that they will get a return equal to 5 to 10 times their investment in five years.

The Part Time CFO can help the entrepreneur develop the business plan, prepare the forecasts and the financial section of the plan, be a strong part of the management team, help develop the strategic plan, find investors, help pitch the deal to investors. These are essential CFO Services.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

CFO Services - Financial Numbers Can Play Tricks

If a baseball bat and ball together cost $1.10 and I told you the bat costs one dollar more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Most people say the ball costs 10 cents. The right answer is the ball costs 5 cents with bat costing one dollar more than the ball or $1.05 for a total cost of $1.10.

The reason why I bring this example up is because financial numbers can play tricks on you. It is the job of a Part Time CFO to understand all of the tricks numbers can play and help the business owner understand and interpret the financial statements properly so better business decisions can be made.

Reading and understanding the financial numbers on financial statements can play tricks on you. Many times a company is making money so the P & L looks good, but they have poor cash flow. This is the case usually because the cash cycle is too long (The cash cycle is the time frame between the outlay of cash for inventory (and material and labor) and the ultimate receipt of cash from customers). These time frames need to be compressed. Some of these issues to compress the cash cycle involve negotiations with the trade for better terms as well as stricter company credit policies for faster accounts receivable turnover. Sometimes a solution can also be extending payroll from weekly to bi-weekly or even monthly where it is legal to do so. Some clients also need an inventory purchase and receipt plan as they may be overbuying inventory.

To understand better how profit does not equal cash watch the following six minute and 30 second presentation:

Profit Does not Equal Cash Presentation

Another trick that financial statements and financial numbers can play is in understanding the equity section of the balance sheet. This is the section of the balance sheet that values the difference between assets and liabilities. A high equity balance can be deceiving if a high percentage of assets are made up of intangibles like goodwill, non-competes or patents and trademarks. A high equity balance can also be deceiving if a high percentage of assets are made up of machinery, equipment or other fixed assets that depreciate in actual value faster than the accounting depreciation calculation.

Accurate gross profit margins on your P & L can play tricks on you. Understanding what needs to go in cost of goods sold and what is a direct cost of the product or service is very often done incorrectly. For example many business owners in the trades such as construction, electricians, plumbers etc… and who are in manufacturing do not put direct labor in cost of goods sold. This is leaving out a direct cost of the product or service and without it will inaccurately overstate gross profit margins which can lead to poor business decisions.

Helping the business owner read and understand their financial statements in order to make better business decisions is a CFO Service that needs to be done early in the process. Remember, financial numbers can play tricks on you.