EVENTS: Winnipeg Franchise Expo

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

EVENTS: The Canadian Golf Course Management Conference

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!

Getting Started: Preparing for the world of entrepreneurial adventure (Finance & Business Acumen)

Hand and aces

Published by CPA Canada in Careervision

You’ve spent a good portion of your career in the business world, working with those who manage, keep track of the numbers, and hopefully understand it well.  In addition to this practical experience, you’ve probably spent a number of years completing formal business and finance study.  It’s easy to take management and finance for granted, when it’s a big part of what you and those around you do on a daily basis.

Although entrepreneurs tend to end up in the leadership role in startup companies (often by default), most lack actual business experience; this is particularly true in terms of finance.  The bulk of the emphasis tends to be placed on the product, service, or technology (entrepreneurs are typically guilty of this!), resulting in the business and finance aspects that are so important to any company being overlooked.  This can also be a function of entrepreneurs simply preferring to spend their time on what they love, and it isn’t accounting.

Those who have formal education and experience in these areas have knowledge and skills to offer to startup companies, to a degree much more than they realize.  What’s important is to understand what the real needs are and why, so that the opportunity to prepare in advance isn’t missed.

Why it Matters

As already explored in this series, startup companies lack the stability of more established businesses, and one of the main areas of risk is cash flow, closely followed by the challenge of attracting investment capital to support growth.  Non-financial entrepreneurs typically don’t realize the degree to which their venture is at risk in financial terms, nor do they understand the needs of early stage investors, when it comes to raising capital.

As a result, startups often find themselves in double trouble: (i) short of cash and the skills to manage it; and (ii) an inability to provide the financial oversight and reporting that investors require.  The outcome, too often, is a predictable death spiral, where these two factors get caught in an endless loop, resulting in the business running out of cash and being unable to generate what’s required in order to stop the plunge.

Get Started

Chances are that you have underestimated just how much the business and finance skills that you have learned and practiced are of value to startup companies.  Put a lid on the typical excitement and hype associated with new technologies and opportunities and focus instead on accentuating the value of what you have to offer:

  • Become acquainted with the “hands on” finance role: Since startup companies are small, the “accounting person” often has to do it all: transaction entry, generating financial statements, and dealing with billing and banking matters.  Recognize that startup work is much more involved than a lofty oversight role and that the buck will truly stop with you.
  • Map out routine processes: Make the most of limited time by developing checklists to guide task completion, including on a weekly and monthly basis.  Most entrepreneurs don’t have the financial experience to do this and it will make everyone’s life easier, as well as provide the discipline that investors seek.
  • Revisit financial accounting, in reporting terms: Recognize that internal reporting and recordkeeping often differ from what external parties expect to see.  In order to keep investors and financial institutions happy, ensure that you’re able to produce monthly financial statements in the standard financial accounting format.
  • Master cash flow management: Being able to manage cash with confidence is critical, and may not be a skill that is practiced much while working in a larger company.  Cash flow management is not an area to be learned on Day One of working with a startup, so get lots of advance practice now.
  • Learn about what investors require: Early stage investors look for a qualified person in the Finance Chair, as it’s this individual who will take care of their investment.  Recognize this and seek to learn about their particular needs, in terms of reporting and ongoing operation of the finance function.

Early stage investors recognize that the majority (if not the vast majority) of startup companies fail.  There are a variety of reasons for this, including products that aren’t competitive in the marketplace and an inability to attract enough customers.  What’s more typically the problem, however, is poor execution on the part of Management, in terms of not running the business well.  At the core is often a lack of financial acumen, resulting in the company running out of money before it even had a chance to get started.

Accounting for Business Growth and Transition Course Now Available!

I’m pleased to announce that my new course, Accounting for Business Growth and Transition, is now available!

Growing companies are dynamic places and there are a number of specialized issues that could arise during the lifecycle of a business. These include the complexities related to expanded operations, entering new markets, and undertaking business transactions.  It’s critical to understand these areas proactively, as well as how to add value to the company during the process.

Too many companies barely manage to do the minimum; resulting in the accounting function being little more than a place where transactions are recorded and reports are filed away.  The opportunity to learn how to develop and manage an accounting function that not only helps to improve operations on a day-to-day basis, but also provides a valuable support in times of transition is a powerful one!

This course addresses a range of areas that might be encountered during the evolution and growth of a company. Topics include organizational structures, consolidated financial statements, foreign exchange, due diligence requirements, and understanding approaches for structuring a business transaction.  Those who work in the accounting function will gain an understanding of how to take a leadership role in creating a value centered department that can play a key role in not only a company’s current operations, but also in whatever the future might hold.  Register today!

 

 

Fiscal Responsibility: Understanding your club’s financial position

Published by The Canadian Society of Club Managers in CMQ (Summer, 2015)

It’s been said that money “makes the world go ‘round” and looking around the room at many clubs often reveals an impressive display of successful members who have accomplished much.  Money is typically equated with success, and generating it over the long term isn’t just about bringing in sales, as sustainable results are often much more about managing the “bottom line”.  This can only be done by keeping a watchful eye on expenses, among other things, which isn’t always as easy as one would think.

Most club managers know, on at least an intuitive level, that finance is an important aspect of running a successful club.  But, with so much to do to ensure that service offerings are great, staff members are doing what’s required, and facilities are in top shape, financial management tends to find itself on the backburner.  If left unattended for too long, it becomes the proverbial pot that boils over.

There is a lot that club managers need to know when it comes to keeping tabs on a club’s financial position, and although most have at least some knowledge, how much is truly understood?  There are many areas to address, including managing cash flow, tracking expenses, budgeting, and understanding which areas are making money (and those that are not!).  Although it might be relatively easy to monitor information on a frontline basis (such as in the case of food costs), understanding where a club is at on an overall basis, and where it’s heading, isn’t so easy.  Seasoned leaders wouldn’t dream of lacking skills and attention in the finance area, as they truly understand that the buck stops with them!

Trouble in the Club

In a competitive world, it’s critical that all businesses have products and services that customers want and for which they will pay (the more, the better).  In the case of clubs and similar establishments, it’s also important that they are places where people want to be.  As a result, there is often a lot of time and effort expended on achieving this ideal; however, in the process of doing so, there are things that can get lost in the shuffle.  One of those things is money.

Like the successful members that keep clubs in business, their managers need to be equally savvy in making the most of the financial opportunity.  This means being on top of a club’s financial position at every moment, as well as having a good sense of what the way forward looks like.  In order to do so, it’s not just about a casual perusal of what accounting staff produce; rather, it’s about setting and maintaining expectations around how the accounting and finance function is established and operates, in a consistent manner.  Technical skills are important, but the approach and belief that financial management truly matters are equally important.

Failing to do so can lead to a host of problems, including incomplete (or incorrect!) information, staff members that lack the necessary accounting skills to do the job properly, and poor application of policies and procedures.  The result is too often financial information that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, despite the fact that club managers rely on it to manage a critical aspect of their operation.  This is a frightening scenario with potentially disastrous outcomes.

Leading Large

Remember the saying, garbage in, garbage out?  It’s never more true than in the accounting world.  Skilled leaders recognize the importance of the accounting and finance function, and wouldn’t make the common mistake of downplaying it as “not that complicated”.  Here’s how to ensure that you’re well equipped to lead the financial aspects of your organization:

  • Recognize what you don’t know. The biggest mistake that a leader can make is to marginalize accounting as “just processing” or “not that important”. It is true that accounting departments do record transactions and pay bills, but there is so much more that can be achieved from a value perspective.  This means: (i) knowing how to process transactions correctly; and (ii) developing and producing reports that communicate the right information in an appropriate manner.  Many accounting functions do not do this well, leaving leaders with a false sense of security, especially those without a finance background.  Recognize that this is a learned area and don’t assume that you “know enough”.
  • Hire the right people. Many leaders have difficulty understanding the type of help they need in the accounting area, mostly because they don’t understand the particular roles or what accountants actually do (closely followed by marginalizing the importance of the accounting function!).  People who work in this area, especially those with professional accounting designations, such as the CPA, understand that there are standard roles and tasks and that candidates can differ significantly based on their particular experience and qualifications.  Getting the right people in place usually means seeking the input from someone who understands this, so don’t go it alone.
  • Insist on timeliness. Financial information has its highest value at the point in time when it actually happened.  Like that delicious cream sauce that can quickly lose its appeal, financial information isn’t particularly helpful if it arrives a month or two after when it mattered.  Organizations can find reasons to delay generating financial information to when they get around to it; insist on timely month end reports, ideally delivered to you two weeks after the end of the previous month.
  • Ask questions. Financial reports are complex, especially for untrained readers. In order to fully understand what a financial statement or report is communicating typically takes years of education and practical experience.  Receiving information and filing it away is of little value; rather, the usefulness is in conducting a thorough review with your accounting manager, understanding what the club’s financial position is, and taking these findings to a front line level with your management team.  The process doesn’t stop with receiving the report; that’s only the beginning, as the real opportunity is to make the necessary adjustments to generate better results going forward.  This is how sustainable financial performance is achieved.
  • Utilize advisors well. Experienced advisors can help to improve the financial performance of your organization through various means, including reviewing current results and recommending improvements, assisting with budgeting and forecasting, and training your senior team (many of whom might not have a finance background) to better understand financial management.  The outcome is this: a higher level of financial acumen across the board and better results.
  • Invest in professional development. As a club manager, you hold the key to putting your organization in a position to move forward with strength.  If the accounting and finance area is not functioning well, get help!  Make a commitment to improve your skills in this area and let it permeate throughout your team, as it is an investment that will benefit your organization, as well as your own career.

Having been involved with numerous senior level management recruitments over the years, leaders who understand both what their organization does and the financial aspect of doing so are in high demand.  The supply is short.  Stepping up your financial acumen is good for the club, but it’s undoubtedly great for those who lead.