If It Ain’t Broke …

Break glass

We’ve all heard the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in that. When you’ve implemented an efficient plan (i.e. a quick month-end close, financial processes that keep good data in front of you, etc.) it’s a good idea not to mess with it – to a point. But it’s never good to permanently rest in a routine that isn’t reviewed regularly. It’s then that we fall into a rut, otherwise known as a casket without a top.

And forgive the pun, but if you are not growing, you are dying. Growing requires the willingness to change.

I am working with several new clients who are making changes in their business. Change isn’t easy, but it is necessary to improve. It’s been good to see some of the positive outcomes from this process.

As I mentioned in a previous post, assessing your business regularly and recognizing the need to change is step one. Even if things are going well, the waterline is rising, and things can always be better. We need to continuously deal with any leaks, including new ones that may spring up.

So how do we do this?

I suggest a shift of mindset, based on a fabulous book I read many years ago: If it Ain’t Broke…Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World by Robert F. Kriegel and Louis Palter. Their advice shared in the early ’90s is timeless. We must have a mindset toward embracing change, innovation, and continuous improvement as keys to success in both personal and professional life.

Here are some key thoughts from the book, along with a question you can ask yourself in assessing how your business and team are doing when it comes to each theme:

1. Embrace Change: it’s important to be open to change rather than cling to established norms or practices. Change can lead to improvement and growth.

Question: What change in process did we recently implement or consider as a way to improve our productivity?

2. Innovation is Key: Innovation is significant in driving progress and success. When you encourage a culture of innovation, you’ll see breakthroughs and competitive advantages.

Question: Does my team feel comfortable bringing me new ideas?

3. Challenge Conventions: Rather than accept that “This is how it’s always been done,” encourage questioning and challenge conventional wisdom.

Question: What is something we have been doing for years that we should consider changing or eliminating from our processes or policies?

4. Risk-Taking: calculated risks are essential for growth and advancement. Rather than fearing failure, consider it a valuable learning experience.

Question: When did we take a risk in the last 3-12 months? If we haven’t been willing to take a calculated risk, why are we holding back?

5. Continuous Improvement: Individuals and organizations should always seek ways to evolve and enhance their processes and products.

Question: What are three key areas where we are working on improvements in the company? (i.e. personnel, environment, culture)

6. Adaptability: In today’s rapidly changing world, being adaptable is crucial. During the pandemic, we saw a critical need to pivot and adjust to new circumstances and challenges.

Question: While we are not in an active pandemic now, what other concerns threaten our success? How do we need to re-position ourselves to stay relevant?

7. Creativity and Experimentation: encouraging these can lead to new ideas and solutions not considered before.

Question: What is a problem we are experiencing that could use a creative solution? What ideas can we consider for a while without shooting them down immediately?

8. Leadership Role: leaders are the critical component in fostering a culture of innovation and change. They should lead by example, supporting initiatives that promote growth and innovation.

Question: How strong is our leadership team? Do we inspire growth and innovation, or are we stuck in our ways? What would our employees say if guaranteed anonymity?

Some of these questions may be uncomfortable, but I assure you they are important. Culture affects the bottom line. An unhappy, stressed out, unproductive team creates leaks that sink your business success and satisfaction. A team that has the freedom to bring up fresh ideas, evaluate processes objectively, and follow values modeled by their leaders will help create an organization that makes money and contributes positively to society.

Which would you rather have?

Progress and Growth: Things I Learned in 2023

What I learned

At this time of year, I’m usually pushing to finish strong, both personally and professionally. I’m helping my clients get ready for a quick year-end close and effective kickstart to the new year. I’m finishing my own planning and goal setting as well, because I like to start each year with a clear direction and strategy. I thought it might be helpful to share some of the things I learned and experimented with this year.

12-Week Year Process
For the last two quarters, I’ve been using the 12 Week Year process. I love the idea of shrinking the year into 12-week segments, and then further breaking it down to weekly actions that are measured and tracked weekly. I had a hard time with this in the beginning. I had some bad weeks. But overall, it was a great way for me to see progress on a couple of projects that would not have gotten done if I didn’t have a precise focus. I recommend this book by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington: The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)
I’ve utilized AI for some writing help. It simplified some complicated memos, clarified business process instructions, and enhanced some of my more creative writing efforts. I learned it certainly does not replace the human touch in writing, and you have to customize it for the situation. But it’s a big help in avoiding “Blank Paper Syndrome.”

Microsoft Co-Pilot
I anticipate this tool having a big impact for me next year. I am always looking for new approaches and systems to up my capability. AI add-ins for MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will be great additions to their product suite, and will certainly help me produce better presentations.

First Principle Algorithm
Inspired by Elon Musk’s “first principal algorithm,” I scrutinized and optimized business processes, emphasizing the elimination of unnecessary tasks before automation. This philosophy, encompassing questioning, deletion, systematization, acceleration, and automation, has become a guiding principle in enhancing operational efficiency for myself and my clients.

Client Challenges
In general, I have great experiences with my clients. But like anyone in business, there are times when challenges come up. Hindsight is 20/20, and I learned some things to do differently in the future. I learned that being assertive and direct is often necessary for handling difficult conversations. Make sure expectations are clear on all sides. Make mid-course corrections and stay committed to communication to avoid misunderstandings.

Food / Exercise Discipline
I worked on living a low/no-sugar lifestyle this year. I started a no-dessert policy. I find that cutting a food altogether works better for me than moderation – you have to know what works best for you. And, I’ve been logging all my food intake. Writing it down helps me stay on track. I found myself less disciplined about logging my workouts, and guess what – I ended up skipping many days and my intensity plummeted. I got back to my daily log this last quarter and it proved again to me that what gets measured gets done.

Meditation and Journaling
I generally get up at 5:00 am to do a morning ritual that includes a meditation practice. This year, I increased my practice from 10 minutes to 20 minutes every day. I noticed a big difference in the rest of my day. I also have been journaling daily for the last six months. This took me some time, but it has been really helpful to cultivate ideas, and handle issues. I have better focus, mindfulness, and clarity.

We’ve been building a new house over the last two years. It’s amazing to create something new, but the number of decisions involved is incredible. Add the stress of falling behind schedule and going over budget – it can get overwhelming. I am fortunate that my team (i.e. my wife) stepped up to lead the project so I could focus more on business. The process has taught me a great deal – not only about construction and project management but also leadership, negotiation, teamwork (delegation?) – and stress management!

As I look ahead, the lessons learned and practices adopted promise continued personal and professional growth in the coming year. Ask yourself the following questions, and let’s both look forward to more progress and resilience!

What is your next bold move?
Are you committed to certain disciplines for the new year?
Where can you up your skills?

Contact me for help streamlining your financial processes next year!

Keep the Bathtub Full: Understand Your Numbers

Most business owners went into business to do what they love and do what they are good at –  and they hoped to make a living and improve the business’s value while doing it.  Most started their careers as employees, so they tend to carry an employee mindset vs. that of an owner, entrepreneur, or CEO.  As a result, some business owners have created a high-stress job for themselves, not a business.

Successful business owners create a vision of the business and think like a CEO.  Smaller business owners may wear several hats, but in order to become a better CEO, they must strive to delegate responsibility and create sustainable processes to deliver customer value consistently. Employee vs. CEO.  There is a big difference.  The successful business owner also understands their numbers – the balance sheet, the cash flow drivers, and the income statement as well as their overall performance scorecard. 

I’ve had many business owners tell me over the years tell me “I am not an accountant.”  True, but you ARE a business owner and you need to understand your numbers!  That means learning how to read and understand financial reports such as balance sheets and income statements and understand how they relate.  You need to understand your working capital needs and cash flow drivers.  Most business owners know how to read a P&L, yet have no idea where their cash is going. They wonder, “How can we be tight on cash when business is booming and sales numbers are growing?”

It is a common perception that reading and understanding financial statements is difficult.  Some of the problem is that many of the system-generated reports of many ERP systems are too detailed and difficult to read.  But also, business owners haven’t invested the time to learn how to read financial statements and interpret what the numbers mean.  I find it generally makes sense to simplify.

It reminds me of the bathtub illustration I learned from a banking CFO back in my KPMG days, used to explain the bank’s cash flow statement.  He said, “Cash is like a bathtub of water.  Cash comes in through the faucet and goes out through the drain.  The trick is to understand the flows in and out and keep the tub full of water.”

One way to gain confidence is to review your financial reports regularly.  Develop a weekly scorecard and review your financial statements with your controller or accounting team monthly.  Notice trends in key areas like new customers, sales, average transaction value, gross margin, cash flow turnover, and operational efficiencies. What are the financials telling you?  Are you increasing your company’s valuation or are you just sustaining a high-stress job? 

Spending time on this will help you avoid “reaction” mode (daily firefighting) and allow you to work more in “ready” mode. Ready mode is working on needle-moving activities, the kind that will truly grow your business in all the right ways.

If you spend time with your numbers, you will get better at understanding them. In addition to studying your reports, take a course. Read blog posts like these.  Prepare or update your business valuation.  Get people on your team that know financial stuff well and can help YOU understand it.  Trust me, everything you apply time to, you get better at.

Contact me for additional help!

Planning for a Successful Year

goal setting

What a year! We said that at the end of 2020 and as a business owner or executive, you’ve had your second challenging year in a row. Finding good staff, dealing with supply chain delays, PPP loans, etc. Things have continued to change; I hope you’ve been able to adapt your business to thrive.

Pandemic or not, it’s the time of year to block out some time for next year’s planning and get your forecasts done. For many of my clients, we have scheduled a 1 or 2-day offsite planning meeting with the senior team. I have another one this week.

At these meetings, we review the current year, noting what did we do well, where we failed or came up short, what we learned, how we are progressing toward our 3 and 10-year targets, what condition our culture is in, where we can improve, what our next big initiatives are, and what the team should look like next year. From this, we come away with a synched plan and goals for the new year.

I love this process. It gets teams fired up and ready for the coming year – which is just around the corner.

I use a somewhat similar process for my own business and personal planning. I don’t set New Year resolutions, but I do set solid goals and plans for next year – broken down by quarter. (I’m not saying this is the best or the only way, but it’s what works for me.)

My process starts in December and then is solidified during the week between Christmas and January 1st. I’ve adopted the following approach from several mentors and high performers I follow.

Review, Reflect, Recognize

I start with a full-year review. I reflect on the good and the bad. What went well? What didn’t? I make a list recognizing all my successes and failures. I document 5-10 bullets of the wins and the losses for the year. I process each, then move forward. This allows me to celebrate the wins and no longer dwell on the failures.

15 years ago, one of the businesses I owned had a really lousy year and the company was suffering. We had a couple of large projects go upside down causing a fairly large loss, we had an unexpected workers’ comp audit bill, and we were dealing with an ongoing sales tax audit. The loss and low sales were causing cash flow problems and wondering how to cover payroll was keeping me up at night. Ultimately, we decided to sell the business. Based on all these factors, we got crushed on the valuation. We sold anyway, and the four shareholders took sizable losses.

That year I got stuck in a failure loop, asking myself How could this have happened? Why me? yada yada. This went on for months until I realized these are not failures but life lessons. One of the biggest lessons of this for me was the importance of using the 13-week cash flow forecast. I started perfecting my approach and have used it ever since.

I also started the practice of recognizing and capturing failures and determining what can be learned. Then, I could intentionally put them behind me, leaving the past in the past. It happened. I learned. I’m moving on.

Revisit, Re-affirm and Revise

After spending this time reflecting, and then turn toward revisiting the “why” of my business. My approaches to business have changed slightly over the years to keep up with the times. (That’s the revise part). But the “why” hasn’t. I want to help businesses and business owners be more successful, make more profit, increase cash flow, and increase their business’s value. (In keeping with that purpose, I added an easy-to-use Business Valuation product this year.)

In business, there are plenty of ups and downs. If your purpose or “why” isn’t solid, you’re going to have problems when things get rough (which they will). I love Elon Musk’s answer when asked what words of encouragement would you give an entrepreneur. He said, “If you need words of encouragement, don’t become an entrepreneur.” I am not certain I completely agree as we all need some encouragement to keep going when the going gets tough, but I also understand his premise. I find that revisiting my “why” helps me push through the tough times.

Realign, Ready, and Record

After the reflection and reaffirming comes a new alignment of goals and readiness for the new year. This includes recording my intentions because research shows that written goals reviewed frequently move the needle. I know that really worked for me this year. Written and reviewed often.

I break my goals into four segments with one big goal and 4 ‘subgoals’ for each with targets set for each quarter related to:

Wealth and Financial
Skills development
Personal Enrichment

Some of my goals are achievement-based (I will do “x” by “y” date), some are habit goals. (I will do “x” every day.)

I then consider some really big goals with firm completion dates. I love Grant Cardone’s idea of 10X goal setting. Set your goal, then multiply by 10. 10X everything. Why can’t a 10-year goal be completed in 1 year? Why not try?

I write the goals down, trying to be as clear as possible. This is the deliverable, this is the deadline. I write down the key motivations and why this goal is important to me, the next steps, and a reward I’ll give myself when I accomplish it.

This yearly process helps me celebrate the progress I’ve made and prepare for the next 12 months. I want to be ready for a super-successful 2022. How about you?

Interested, or Committed?

I was listening to a podcast the other day discussing what is necessary to be a high performer. The host posed a thought-provoking question to the guest:

“Are you interested in high performance, or are you committed to high performance?”

There’s a big difference.

This question prompted me to increase my intensity now in order to get my Q4 projects wrapped up by December 31st.

Here are a few things I’m committed to now that may inspire you:

  • Time Blocking
  • Budget Wrap-Up
  • Process Documentation
  • Business Valuations

Time Blocking
I’ve returned to blocking time on my calendar to devote to projects – essentially making appointments with myself. I’ve done this in the past, but it seems that my day gets eaten up quickly with video calls and meetings, and I don’t schedule time for the other important things I need to get done. The simple act of blocking time on my calendar for projects as well as meetings has helped immensely.

Wrapping up 2022 budgets.
Most of my client’s 2022 budgets are very close to being solid. For smaller organizations this can be a quick and painless process, but as companies grow things become more complex. Why? Because we need to get other departments involved, the sales pipeline is fuzzy, new business segments are soaring/sinking, logistic and product costs are increasing, and there are questions about what is the fed going to do with interest rates. The key is to get the plans started and get the team engaged even with some incomplete information. Targets need to be aggressive, but also realistic (arguably). I just scheduled several working meetings and company presentations to kickoff 2022. Getting these dates on the calendar now helps get the budget solid by the end of the year.

Completing Process Documentation
As I’ve discussed before, I’m a huge advocate for writing procedures with the intent to simplify and improve. Documenting these can be an arduous process, but it helps with staff alignment, training, and process improvement. I’m working with one company now that wanted to focus on developing “best backroom practices.” The notion of best practices can be somewhat deceiving. Once we deem a procedure a “best practice,” we tend to stop looking for improvement or a better way with that particular procedure. Since organizational learning and process improvements need to be continuous, I instead encourage “better” practices. Best practices imply they have reached the endpoint. We should always be looking for better practices. So in this case, I guided them to change their mindset.

Business Valuations
Verbeck Associates has a license agreement with BizEquity to enable us to provide an efficient and accurate business valuation. Last month, we did three business valuations – one for a business sale and the other two to develop a value baseline. For those two, we are developing plans to increase the relevant key performance indicators with the goal to double the business value. These business owners are making better choices by simply understanding the things that increase their company’s overall value.

What are your big projects to wrap up by the end of the year? Set the deadline, block the time on your calendar, and commit to getting these done. If you want to achieve big things, you have to be more than just interested. You have to be committed. I am, and I can help you be, too. Contact me for help with any of the initiatives mentioned above!

Fourth and Final – Finish Strong and Be Ready

fourth quarter

The fourth quarter has started – the final quarter of the year.  In this fourth-and-final quarter, there are four things you should do in your business to stay strong and successful.

Get Your Team Energized to Finish the Year Strong and Be Ready for 2022

With most of my clients, I am focusing on helping them have a solid Q3 close and a strong finish to 2021.  In the quarterly review meetings, we are looking at the numbers and ensuring that everyone understands the business’s vision and long-term strategy.  I find that, generally, everyone is 70% aligned. We use the opportunity to increase that percentage by having an in-depth discussion of the historical quarter’s results, and then looking at the rest of the year and going into 2022 to align the teams’ vision and long-term strategies. Knowing where you stand can give you motivation and energy for what needs to happen next.

Ensure a Solid Q3 Close

If you’ve established effective processes and routines, your accounting staff should be keeping up with the necessary tasks to ensure you have accurate numbers and information for future decisions. If not, focus on getting these procedures polished (checklists are a great help to this) and getting your staff on board with doing them well EVERY month.

Get Your Short-term Targets in Focus

What are you hoping to see happen in your business during the fourth quarter? Write these goals down, narrowing them to be realistic, measurable, and fitting for your team.

Start the Budget Process

2022 will be here soon so you’ll need to have your budget in place to ensure an effective transition. It may be a simple matter of copying and tweaking this year’s budget. Or, you may have to revamp if, for example, some areas of income didn’t match your expectations. Get input from your staff. Consider cost-cutting measures or redirection of funds to more effective endeavors such as product development or marketing for next year.

Bonus Task

I find it interesting the statistic that 98% of business owners don’t know how much their business is worth.  Their business is their most valuable asset, yet most have no idea of its value until they decide it’s time to sell. I know several owners currently looking to transition out and “retire,” but the offers they are receiving are substantially less than they anticipated.   

In addition, not knowing the current value of your business makes it harder to intentionally increase it over time with well-informed decisions.

I suggest all business owners do a business valuation every few years. If you haven’t done this, let’s arrange to do one now. Our valuation process is inexpensive and efficient and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how the information helps you as you head into 2022.

Discretion or Open-Book: Is There a Better Approach to Culture?

The culture of a business emanates directly from its primary leader(s)—the business owner, CEO, or leadership team.

In my work with a variety of companies, I help provide an atmosphere for high performance primarily through improving financial and operating plans, performance driver tracking and accountability. Even though I bring in my own system for making these improvements, my framework needs to fit into the overall culture of the company. I also personally choose to not work for businesses that don’t have a positive, trustworthy and “desire-to-improve” culture.  Beyond those core principles though, I find that companies have cultures that vary.

Two distinct cultures I have noticed are what I call “Trustworthy Open Book” cultures and “Trustworthy Discretion” cultures.

The Trustworthy Discretion Culture

One of my longest-running clients sold her business last year (which turned out to be perfect timing.) She’d been very successful running it, and enjoyed the satisfaction of selling it at a premium.  Her approach to culture was “trustworthy discretion.”

She was very protective of the company’s numbers, even with the top leaders.  The company was primarily blue-collar with a strong family culture.  Everyone trusted her as owner to do what was best for everyone.  When she pulled me in to help (which provided the discretion of a third-party non-employee working with the numbers) we were able to double the size of the company.  It grew to roughtly $80mm with strong EBITDA, thus commanding a premium selling price.

The Trustworthy Open-Book Culture

I have another client who has gone to an open-book format. All numbers are discussed with the teams and we hold a monthly all-hands meeting to discuss monthly results whether they be good, bad, or ugly.  Everyone is seeing everything and all oars are in the water rowing the same direction. Sales and profits are at an all-time high.

Does that mean either culture can work? Yes, provided three things are in play:

  1. The top leader/leaders set the bar of being completely trustworthy.  In both examples above, the leaders were trusted. One for how she ran the company, the other for how open he has been about the state of the company.  Both built trusting relationships with the people who work for them.
  2. The culture remains consistent.  Inconsistencies lead to lack of trust, even if they aren’t intentional. If you have an open-book culture, then shift slowly OR suddenly to hiding more and more information, you are going to break trust with your team. Alternatively, if you suddenly open up, your team may take a while to feel comfortable with the approach or even feel unsettled that there are going to be other major changes to navigate.  Whatever you choose, be consistent.
  3.  The approach is relevant to the type of business.  Some industries lend themselves to open-book more easily than others. If you are manufacturing a proprietary product, your discretion with bookkeeping may be crucial, too.  If you are non-profit needing donations, being transparent about what the money goes for—a more open-book approach— may be appropriate.

Culture is dependent on the CEO and the leadership team. Trust, no matter which type of culture you choose, is the KEY.


Inspired to Innovate

Don't Believe Everything You Think

I get inspired and motivated by working with smart, driven business owners every day.  They have been forced to be innovative to drive their companies and be successful in constantly changing unpredictable times.  Working with them forces ME to be innovative too, which I love.

I don’t like to get too comfortable. I believe we need to be constantly improving and developing our capacity.  Don’t believe everything you currently think.  Sometimes we need to think differently and not do things the same way they’ve always been done anymore.

Some business owners get stuck in their growth path. Maybe it’s the obstacles in the path to progress. Sometimes it’s stubbornness or a desire to stick with the comfortable.

Take a typical organizational structure for example.  As companies grow, the typical structure adds management layers – some which are necessary and important.  We are all very familiar, and often comfortable, with the idea of an org chart.  Don’t forget though that these hierarchical organization charts were developed back in the 1800s as a way to handle the now growing, larger organizations developing from the industrial revolution.  We needed to create more production in factories.  We needed supervisors to make sure the workers were doing their jobs. We needed managers to make sure the supervisors were doing their job. We needed the directors to watch the managers, the VP’s to watch the directors, etc.

Today we need different thinking.  Now, we need to trust our employees and help them develop their capacity to act, which helps improve everyone’s capacity. Equipping our employees doesn’t necessarily mean adding more task-work. Now, it’s more about helping them develop their skills so they can make wise productivity choices.  It’s a different way of thinking that also involves helping our employees understand the culture and environment we want for our organizations. What are our core drivers? Who is our real customer? How can each of us be an important part of a synergistic team?*  We want them to be an active part of moving the company forward, not just respond to a list of tasks daily.

Not only is our thinking changing, but our environments are also.  Many of us had to address re-opening our offices – how to layout the office with proper distancing, adapting smaller meeting rooms, spreading out cubes.  Many companies are still questioning the rationale of returning workers to the office full-time.  I know several business leaders who had been very strongly against remote work who were planning to come back to their office as soon as they could.  Now that they see their business working well (some very well) with employees being more productive, collaborative, and happy working remotely, their growth path has shifted and they are intentionally growing their business with remote teams.

As we focus on a strong finish to Q3 in a very strange year, get ready to look at year-to-date results, re-examine your team, and how you’ve adapted in 2020.  The 2HYBP may need to be freshened up for the fourth quarter to finish strong. Be inspired to innovate!

*By the way – here’s a fantastic book on improving your hiring process so you can get the employees that will respond well to growth.  Who, by Geoff Smart and Randy Street.

Tips for Communication with Outsourced Pros (including the Human Side)

All CEOs, business owners, and finance execs (CFOs, VP Finance, and controllers) hire and manage outside experts.  Auditors, lawyers, turnaround consultants, IT consultants, HR experts, sales consultants, business consultants, executive coaches and virtual assistants are just some of the roles being filled by independent contractors.  Our current world is opening the door more and more to this type of “gig economy” and the building of virtual teams, some members of which may not be your employees.

In fact, I’m one of those “outside experts” brought in to improve the company’s overall performance. I’ve also worked with hundreds of experts over the years, and I know the importance of working effectively with independent contractors.  For me, it’s all about setting proper expectations and communication – and in today’s world, both are more important than ever.

Having been on all sides, both being hired and doing the hiring for a wide range of projects, I’ve had mostly good experiences, but also a few bumpy ones.

On the good side, an internal control evaluation project I was managing proceeded extremely well.  The project came in on budget, on time and right on scope.  It was a pleasure working with the expert I hired to help with the project.  He was professional, showed up on time, handled the company’s employees well, and delivered a final product that made me look good.

On the bad side, there have been occasions where the professionals I hired didn’t perform anywhere close to where I expected. In one case, they embarrassed me in front of my client’s leadership team.  Then they gave me a bill that blew my socks of, for an incomplete project not even close to what I expected!

I discovered that the most important element for successful projects is clear communication.  I now ensure I have crystal clear objectives with weekly status meetings to ensure everyone is on the same page.  I also continually re-evaluate the situation.  Here are some practical tips to help you navigate your relationship with your outside experts (or manage your relationships with your clients) well:

  1. Start with a clear engagement letter, statement of objectives, or memo of understanding.
  2. Define expectations on all sides so everyone is on the same page.
  3. Conduct a regular review of past, present, future, and future priorities.
  4. Establish a timely invoicing structure. Some outside pros are famous for billing delays which lead to large “lump billings” which can shock a client. (It shouldn’t, but that’s another topic, and even so large billings months later are not best practice.)
  5. Evaluate regularly to make sure the contractor is still adding value, or that you are continuing to add value to the client.  For me, I try to show 10x my fee in better profits for the client. For the virtual executive assistance I contract, we meet almost weekly to discuss objectives and ideas, and she is willing to mention if I’m not making use of a routine service her team is doing for me.  Ensure both sides determine the value and the results and make changes accordingly.

If you’re an outsourced pro, you need to make doing business with you easy and pleasant. You’d want the same from a pro you hire.  Clear expectations and procedures help both sides.

Bonus – since so many of us are working virtually, here are a few additional tips for the human side of communication.

  • Invest time to get to know them your outsourced pro. Start meetings with a bit of chit-chat about how things are in their world.
  • Make them feel part of the team. Ask advice. Include them in team meetings if appropriate.
  • Give feedback on performance – positive or negative, on a regular basis.
  • Understand their other projects. Most outsource pros have more than one client they are serving. Don’t be afraid to show interest and respect to them as a business owner.
  • Pay them market or better – don’t skimp on paying what they’re worth.  You get what you pay for.

You can have extremely successful relationships with outsourced professionals (like me!) if you handle communication intentionally and regularly.

Do you need outsourced CFO help? Contact me!


Halftime Report: the Value of Mentoring

2020 is half over.

For many, it’s a “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out” attitude. Filled with so many unexpected, and primarily negative things happening in our country and world, it’s no wonder many of us would like a do-over.  Technically, we DO get a “do-over” multiple times per year. The halfway point of the year (no matter how good or bad it’s been) is a good time to evaluate and reset ourselves in goals, priorities, and values.  Sometimes, it’s particularly helpful to have a mentor involved in that process (or be one.)

I have felt incredibly inspired lately to be able to be a mentor and coach in some capacity to several of my client controllers and finance team members.  It’s our responsibility as leaders and experts to provide a trusting, enthusiastic and continually developing work environment to the new generation.  I’ve enjoyed passing along my experience and ideas to them, hoping to help them avoid mistakes and make decisions with wisdom and trustworthy information.

But you can’t just immediately jump into a mentor/mentee relationship without developing trust. It’s a process that goes both directions – me with them, them with me. It involves doing what you say, being transparent and honest, delivering results, and confronting some harsh realities.  You have to be willing to establish clear expectations and hold each other accountable. Sometimes that involves having difficult conversations.

I have set weekly meetings with several of my key client controllers to insure I set clear expectations for the immediate,  and quarterly meetings to focus more on the long-term.  The quarterly meetings are where we dive deeper and I provide bi-lateral candid feedback, using a simple checklist to help me help them review both theirs—and MY leadership and management.  The process is remarkably effective to build trust and accountabilty. I’m also working on my listening skills so I can better understand the other person’s perspective.

Mentoring and coaching is about leadership and guidance.  I find sometimes the teacher becomes the student and I’m loving it.

How about you? As you make a halftime report to yourself, can you consider getting involved in a mentor/mentee relationship to help you grow in your leadership skills the second half of 2020?