Join me at the Winnipeg Franchise Expo on Saturday, March 25th for Don’t Forget the Numbers: What Non-Financial Leaders Need to Know
Many companies are led by people with strong technical or service backgrounds and limited finance knowledge; this can diminish the results that leaders work so hard to generate, such as financing, growth, and profitability. There are many financial literacy resources available on a personal level; however, the focus on business is really just emerging. Unlike traditional accounting education that is too complex or difficult to implement, this seminar brings a plain language approach to accounting and financial management. Focusing on the key areas that leaders need to understand, topics include how accounting “works”, financial statements, improving results, budgeting, forecasting, cash flow, and accounting roles and qualifications. Session participants will learn:
- How the accounting function “works”, in simple terms, as well as practical approaches that can be used to improve financial performance
- Tips for identifying the right team members, by understanding the various roles and qualifications in an accounting department
- Tips for avoiding the costly mistakes that leaders make, when it comes to seeking financing and capital, due to a lack of financial knowledge.
Details and registration are located here
Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision
Over the course of this series, we’ve considered a number of skill areas that are helpful to companies in the startup stage of development. Whether they realize it or not (and many will not), startup companies need much more than technical skills and enthusiasm to build a business that will grow and prosper over the long term. Some of the skill areas that we’ve identified include opportunity-based thinking, risk management, and the ability to handle and overcome rejection.
For those who are keen to find a young venture and start contributing, it often takes much more than skills and enthusiasm (sound familiar?) in order to find the right fit. Startup companies can flash and burn like a shooting star in the night sky, and it can be difficult to identify which way a situation is trending until you’re on the way down. Perspective is critical, and in order to ensure that you’re investing your valuable skills into the right situation, it’s important to understand some of the cold realities about start up companies.
- Most will fail: Bottom line, the vast majority of startup companies won’t survive, ranging from quick failure to becoming stagnant and fading away over time. Don’t be fooled by those who achieve quick notoriety or attention, as many a startup who graced the pages of magazines or TV screens went on to subsequently fail.
- They consume without apology: Like a young child that relies on adults to feed, clothe, and keep them out of harm’s way, startup companies are all about consumption. They can require (or ineffectively use) an abundance of resources, including human, financial, and time. If you’re not careful, a startup company can consume your time and energy around the clock.
- They often don’t know what they need: Many entrepreneurs are new to both their venture and running a business and are typically not in a good position to understand what they need in order to move forward. This is why so many advisors are able to earn a living (for those who seek help) and also why so many startup companies fail (for those who don’t). The category that the startup you join falls into can impact your future in a big way.
- The work isn’t glamorous: Building anything is a “hands on”, trial and error, messy business. Whatever the roles in a particular startup company might be, far more is required in order to keep moving forward. Recognize that joining a young company means performing lots of less than glamorous tasks, and if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty (literally), you will likely be happier doing something else.
- Things can change really, really quickly: Young, emerging companies require agility, in order to chase opportunities, stay ahead of market trends, and make modifications in order to get closer to customers. What the focus is one week can quickly change, requiring the team to quickly adjust, adapt, and move forward. Surviving in this type of environment requires comfort with constant change, as well as the ability to work within it.
- It happens in real time: For all the planning that needs to be done in order to develop and move a venture forward, managing the business is live, not a dress rehearsal. Teams are often small and they rely on individuals to have the ability to determine what is required and take action; there are no layers of checks and balances here. Although this might sound exhilarating to some, the reality is that startup companies face and endure risk every single day.
If this doesn’t sound like an environment for the faint of heart, that’s because it isn’t. Having said that, the rewards are many for those who are up for the task. Like the childhood fairy tale, you will likely have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find a prince (or princess!); that right startup opportunity. If you recognize that this is what’s required in order to get started, the focus can be on the journey to find “the one”, as opposed to being on the setbacks that emerge along the way.
Join me at The Canadian Golf Course Management Conference February 27th to March 3rd, 2017 in Victoria, BC, hosted by the Canadian Golf Superintendents Association. I am one of the educational speakers and will be presenting Green is the New Black: Better Budgeting and Financial Outcomes
Many organizations have people with strong technical or service backgrounds, but limited finance knowledge. This can present challenges, when finance related tasks that are part of managing any organization, such as budgeting, monitoring, and improving financial performance, are undertaken. Leaders and their teams have an opportunity to increase their financial knowledge to make their work easier and improve results, for the benefit of all involved.
This session will provide a plain language understanding of how the budgeting, forecasting, and financial analysis processes “work”, which can then be utilized to improve performance. Having this skillset can set individuals apart from their peer group, in terms of both ability and career advancement.
Details about the conference and how to register are located here See you at The Canadian!
Eight years ago today, I was fortunate to be in Washington DC for the first inauguration of Barack Obama. How and why this came to pass is something that is known and understood by those who are closest me, but it suffices to say that a decision to be an active participant in history was a big part of it. It is an experience that will always be with me, and is, perhaps, one of the most important things I have ever done. Words seem insufficient to describe the magnitude of what it means to be a witness to history; it is truly humbling.
It is equally difficult to begin to describe what that sunny day in Washington was like; one that seemed less about political parties and more about people, community, and the new days ahead. Although not everyone had voted for the incoming President, the sense of excitement and pride was clear. I’ve never seen so many exuberant people in one place; teary eyed, with open hearts, raising their voices to be heard.
From my vantage point on the parade route, I listened to the ceremony as it echoed over the speaker system, alongside tens of thousands of others. I remember thinking that the solemn silence of the crowd at that moment seemed almost eerie, as if in some other world, time, and place. Maybe, they too where thinking about being in the presence of history that children would learn about hundreds of years from now.
How much our world has experienced since then. I recently listened to the archive of a radio interview that I did on that day and was struck my comments: so much happiness was in the air; pride, togetherness, inspiration. The call to action and responsibility for making the world a better place were met with careful contemplation. “What’s it like to be there?”, I was asked. “It’s great”, I said “people are so excited. What more can I say?”, I wondered aloud.
I remember observing people of all ages connecting with one another in a way that I hadn’t seen before and haven’t seen since. The crowd wasn’t one of strangers; it was humanity, and they were there to be humbled, to bear witness, to celebrate. The roar on Pennsylvania Avenue was so loud as the motorcade approached, I could barely hear the reporter’s questions, but yet, I can remember it all now like it was yesterday (my time at the National Press Club moments later left me feeling equally awestruck, but that’s another story).
As an advisor, I’ve found that groups have a much better opportunity for success when they can find common ground; areas where they recognize that they are more similar than they are different. In adversarial times, it can be difficult to find this state of mind, and I’ve been met with more than one blank stare or dead silence over the years when suggesting “why not collaborate?”, “why not talk to them?”, “why not listen?” What’s inspiring, though, are times when those around the table see this opportunity, understand it, and are motivated to take action. This mindset, even in some small way, reminds me of what I saw between strangers in the crowd on that special day, all those years ago.
As a business advisor and speaker, I meet lots of people. Many of these are leaders; of companies, organizations, and other groups. One of the first things that I notice about people is their receptiveness to two things: learning opportunities and good advice. I’ve found through experience that the most effective leaders are receptive to both of these things. Why is this the case?
Simply put, smart leaders:
- See opportunity everywhere. There is a way to get success in every situation, you just have to find it. Sometimes, the answer is relatively easy, while other scenarios require more thought and imagination. Opening your mind to the ideas of others or new ways of doing things is essential for progress.
- Are not afraid to say “I don’t know”. Anyone who gives the impression of knowing everything lacks credibility and is easily detected from others. Recognizing when knowledge is needed is the impetus to learning, and being able to say “I don’t know” is a part of moving forward, turning vulnerability into productive action.
- Recognize that every situation is a learning one. Leaders who cast off interactions as irrelevant or beneath them aren’t benefiting from the powerful mindset that has the ability to learn at any time. This approach recognizes that lessons could be modified to apply to a particular situation or passed along to team members who could benefit. An open mind looks for ways to make knowledge useful, not the opposite.
- Are not threatened by successful people. Talented individuals bring strategies and knowledge that can accelerate progress and benefit others. Being in the presence of accomplished people is an opportunity, not a threat, and smart leaders would never pass up a chance to learn from this type of experience.
- See what hasn’t yet been achieved. Leaders who rest on their laurels or think they have every base covered don’t see what is left to be done. Taking this approach can be dangerous for an organization, resulting in a blindspot to challenges that exist, falling into complacency, or being surpassed by those that are willing to put in the effort. An open mind seeks out the strategies and tools to climb the mountain that is on the path ahead, as opposed to ignoring it.
If you’re in a leadership position, or aspiring to get there, how open is your mind? Are you learning everything that you can or falling into the trap of not being open to opportunity? Smart leaders know there is only one answer. Do you?
Published by Divestopedia
Every day, business leaders who have been at the helm of their company for many years have fleeting thoughts about what the future might hold. How long do I want continue to work? Should I sell my business? Who could manage my business? Is it time to make a move? Perhaps the biggest question may be this: how do I even get started with addressing these questions?
It’s not uncommon for business leaders to meet with their advisors from time to time; to develop their personal post-sale financial plan, establish family trusts, or work through tax planning strategies. Although all of these are necessary and important tasks, there is often one very important component missing: how to bridge the gap between a post-sale retirement plan and the current state of a company. In other words, business leaders might be good at planning for life after selling their business, but are not so good at undertaking the succession planning process. Why is this the case?
One reason could be so simple that it isn’t fully appreciated: many businesses don’t do a very good job of planning, period. Annual budgets: we don’t need that. Business planning: too much trouble. Sales planning: all sales budgets are too inflated to be useful, right? Technology planning: we just buy the new stuff every few years. It’s no wonder the succession planning process never gets off the ground.
Here’s the problem with businesses that don’t plan: since planning is a process that is developed through practicing it, these companies don’t have the opportunity to generate competency in this important area. A disciplined planning process, starting with shorter term and more straightforward plans, such as an annual budget, can help staff members develop the competency to approach more complex initiatives, such as business and succession planning. What’s more, the corporate history and financial results that are compiled during the process represent an information base that is integral to succession planning.
So, in the spirit of walking before you can run, here are 5 ways to get the planning process started in your company today:
- Get the right assistance—as with any new task, it can be much easier to design a process and overcome roadblocks by engaging the right advisory expertise. Business advisors that have helped companies work through the annual budgeting or business planning process can provide valuable insight into establishing an appropriate approach and avoiding common pitfalls. This course of action typically brings far more value to a business than its actual cost, in terms of time savings and identifying best practices for use over the long term.
- Develop standardized documents—as with any key process, taking the time to develop templates and documents that can be used repeatedly is a much better approach than starting from scratch every time. A standardized budget template, including information to be collected, supporting calculations, assumptions, and financial statements in the proper format can greatly expedite the process and help users become more productive when undertaking a new initiative.
- Assign roles and responsibilities—the planning process should be the responsibility of all key management team members within a company and not just a task relegated to a particular department. Ensuring that roles are clearly defined and that a number of people are responsible for providing information to be included in the budget, for example, has benefits of at least threefold: better information, planning training across the organization, and enhanced “buy in” of the result.
- Set (and adhere to) timelines—like any other initiative, the planning process requires formal deadlines that are not simply kicked down the road if they are not met. Planning can sometimes take a backseat to other activities that are considered to be more relevant or immediate, and maintaining this type of attitude will not enable a business to develop the competency that is required to support more complex initiatives, such as succession planning.
- Keep planning relevant—one of the fundamental mistakes that companies make is failing to keep the planning process top-of-mind, resulting in budgets and other plans becoming quickly irrelevant as soon as they have been developed. It’s critical to ensure that actual results are compared to plan consistently throughout the year (monthly is ideal) and variances investigated and resolved. It’s no wonder that companies that fail to do this find little value in the planning process. Even more, striving to meet or beat the plan is the real challenge, so don’t miss out on this valuable opportunity to enhance corporate performance.
Although this might seem like a lot of work, think of it as an investment. The key is to start today, take a gradual approach, and build planning into your regular business routine. Doing so will get you one step closer to starting the succession planning process, as well as actually implementing your post-sale financial plan.
Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision
It’s been said that some people see the glass as half empty, while others see it as half full. Some people don’t even see the glass, much less believe that it actually exists! Related to this idea are people in the business world who assume the role of naysayer; nothing is good enough, no idea will work, the road ahead is a minefield of challenges and despair. This is perspective that the last thing that a startup business (or any company, for that matter) needs.
People who hold this “no glass” perspective are focused more on why things won’t work instead of why they will. While it’s true that startup companies, rich with new ideas and ways of doing things, might face more challenges than the average business, it doesn’t mean that that success can’t happen. It can, does, and there are startup companies out there who find success every single day. The key is bringing the right perspective to “get to yes”, and in doing so, make the world your oyster. Sounds a lot more interesting than doom and gloom, right?
Why it Matters
Since there is no shortage of people who can tell you why things won’t work, those who see otherwise are of real value. What’s more, people who can find practical ways to advance an initiative or resolve a problem are extremely valuable. Any seasoned executive, who’s been there and done that, recognizes just how true this “getting to yes” skill set is.
Think about the last time you were in a situation where good, or at least, interesting ideas were put on the table, only to be quickly shut down by others. What could have been the outcome if even one of those ideas had been further investigated to find a workable solution? Even more compelling is a situation where you see a competitor move forward with an idea that you had considered, but didn’t invest the time to make something of it. Your competitor ended up with money in the bank, while all you were left with was a missed opportunity.
Startup companies need people who can apply creativity, ingenuity, and a positive attitude to make things happen. Seeing the glass as excitingly half full takes practice, something that can change your mindset over time. Getting started is as easy as adding these approaches to your to do list:
- Let every new idea have a life: Make it an unspoken rule that any idea that can be clearly articulated has a life; even 10 minutes of time will do. Talk about it, consider who could utilize the outcome, what success would look like. Keep track of the concept, so that you can rank it in priority in rational terms, as compared to other things that could be pursued. If you can’t make this change in your current workplace, try doing so on a personal level.
- Practice seeing the other side: Every good debater knows that there is more than one side to any situation, and solely focusing on the position of personal choice won’t advance the argument. Have an opinion, but take the time to thoroughly understand alternative viewpoints, as this can be valuable to finding solutions to move forward.
- Take on a project: In situations where others dump an idea, consider exploring it a bit further on your own. You might be surprised what you find, resulting in the opportunity to take a more fully developed concept forward at a later date. Don’t be surprised if others are impressed by what you’ve been able to achieve.
- Learn how others get it done: Successful entrepreneurs and executives are skilled in finding ways to get things done, as they understand how valuable it is to be able to do so. Work closely with them to learn what they know; it will be some of the best experience you ever receive.
In a world that so many see as stacked against them, you can set yourself apart by shedding light where they see nothing but grey. Even better, once you have some examples of initiatives that have been successfully advanced, despite the odds, others will begin to take notice. “Yes” is the word, indeed.
Published by CPA Canada in CareerVision
One of the fundamental ways that a startup company can find success is by focusing on opportunities. This could include new ways of doing things, a better solution, or markets where demand exceeds supply, to name a few. Being successful in this regard requires a special perspective, one that understands customer needs and wants today, and also in the future. It requires the ability to look beyond the company at hand and pay greater attention to the marketplace, outside your window.
Corporate jobs are often more about focusing on what’s in front of you, ranging from tasks that relate to the past (think audits and tax returns) or immediate future. Although you might look forward from time to time, as in the case of budgeting, forecasting, or planning initiatives, sitting back and considering what the future might look like and the opportunities that could be created isn’t typically in the mix. This is a much different range of view and represents a successful entrepreneur’s golden time.
Why it Matters
You might have been asked at some point in your life to “read between the lines” or observe “the negative space”. Both of these concepts require a person to see what isn’t obvious at first blush, and some people find it quite difficult. It requires looking past what’s in front of you and connecting the dots to arrive at what could be a very different answer or idea. Apply this concept to a startup company (or any business looking to expand its horizons, for that matter), and you will begin to understand what opportunity-based thinking is all about.
Businesses need people who can bring this important perspective, in order to be successful over the long term, as many simply do not have this ability. Missing opportunities in the marketplace has led to the failure of many companies, as well as career setbacks for a host of business leaders, entrepreneurs, and senior team members. Prepare in advance by learning how to make the marketplace your new BFF, providing access to the powerful opportunities that await!
In a world of glancing in the rear view mirror, you can begin to practice the key skill of looking forward in advance of when it’s actually needed; here’s how:
- Take on forward looking projects: Bring a new approach to organizing your workload, by separating tasks or projects that require a past or present perspective, as compared to those that look forward. You will likely find that you have far more work that involves looking backwards or at what’s in front of you, so seek out projects that look ahead to balance the scale. Projects that involve budgeting, forecasting, and planning can be a good place to start.
- Trend is your friend: Taking on tasks that involve research or an external focus will help you to understand what drives markets, key trends, and where the opportunities are. Once you spend some time doing this type of work, it will become obvious just how different the perspective is.
- Look outside of your own organization: Challenge yourself to spend a portion of every day thinking about what goes on outside of the four walls of your organization, such as with customers, competitors, and industry/market developments. Start with 20% of your time and progress upwards from there to develop a meaningful external perspective (and, no, 50% is not too high!).
- Check in on a regular basis: It might be relatively easy to make some changes in routine for a short period of time, but seeing opportunities that will propel a company forward only starts to happen after you’ve developed the necessary skills to do so. Whatever you call it; a mind shift, a fresh perspective, or creative visioning, it won’t happen unless you “check in” with yourself periodically to ensure that you haven’t fallen back into a focus characterized by short term, internal matters. Change your perspective for good.
The ability to look forward in advance of when it’s needed spells opportunity, no matter how you slice it. What’s more, it can lead to opportunities for you to play a key role in the startup companies that need this perspective more than either of you know.