CEFO Advisors welcomes new CFO, Tim O’Connor

CEFO Advisors is excited to welcome Tim O’Connor to the team as CFO. Tim brings over thirty years of experience in finance and operations leadership to CEFO Advisors, and has worked across varying industries. Tim will be working with clients on financial oversight, help in the development and understanding of KPIs that lead to continuous improvement, and provide support for their growth and expansion strategies.

“I am excited for this opportunity to join the CEFO team. They share my passion for helping companies reach their full potential. The emphasis is on being a true partner with every client. We are able to offer a support system that is designed to fit the needs of each client and their respective cultures. One size truly does not fit all, and we recognize and embrace that,” O’Connor said.

Tim’s experience in industries such as manufacturing, distribution/logistics, wholesale/retail, e-commerce, and multi-site entities will serve him well in his role with CEFO. “I have been fortunate to work for some great companies, who had significant growth and evolution while I was there. I also had the opportunity to work on the operations side of the business, which gives me a much better perspective when providing financial support to the clients. I have seen the business from A-Z and I am excited to use that experience to help growing companies continue to reach new heights.”

Why Hire a CFO?

Why Hire a CFO?

Many businesses reach a critical point in their growth where they need not only financial guidance but overall business guidance. As a small or midsize business, it’s not always feasible or even necessary to hire a full-time, internal CFO or financial team. In fact, as a business is growing they often only need specific support, at varying times throughout the year. It’s not only cost-effective to have a contractional CFO but a time hack as well for busy entrepreneurs.

We recently had the opportunity to speak with CEFO Advisors client, Dave Borland of Grow Exceptional. Dave shared:

“As a business coach, I work with entrepreneurs and leadership teams of small to mid-sized entrepreneurial companies around the United States. While most of them can’t afford or don’t need a full time CFO, I often find that a business owner tries to elevate a bookkeeper into a CFO role, or worse, also takes the “CFO” role themselves while employing CPA’s only at tax time.

That’s often a disaster, as bookkeepers rarely have the financial education or strategy to be able to truly advise on the strategic level, and yet cannot afford to have a CPA around constantly. Real, growing companies moving out of the “mom and pop” stage have to have a true CFO, someone to regularly advise them on big financial decisions, to set up true financial best practices, and to find the best areas to maximize company profits.

In those times, I recommend CEFO Advisors. They are a staff of true professionals including CPAs and strategic advisors, and fill the CFO role affordably, part time and virtually. Best of all, my business owners get their life back. I trust them completely, and my clients have seen amazing results. “

To learn more about working with CEFO Advisors, schedule time with Founder Amy Roman here: https://calendly.com/aroman-6/30min

How To Attract the Right Investor at The Right Time

CEFO Advisors Founder, Amy Roman sat down with Palette Founder and Purveyor of Fun, Catherine Hover along with Palette Partner and Investor, Steve Gonick for an amazing conversation on attracting the right investor at the right time! We chatted about the role CEFO Advisors plays when identifying the right investor and building a relationship with them, as well as what you need to consider when moving forward with an investor partnership. Listen in and schedule an introductory call with Amy here: https://calendly.com/aroman-6/30min?month=2020-11

Plan your exit strategy now

Now might not be the best time to execute your exit strategy, but it is the perfect time to define it. From day one of your business, you should be thinking about how your exit strategy will look. If planning it seems daunting, you’re not alone. But it’s worth the time and thought, especially during this uncertain time.

The pandemic has shaken the very core of our economy. Whether you follow Nouriel Roubini (who believes that a depression greater than that of the 1930s will hit in the middle of the current decade) or George Gammon (who believes we’ve been in a depression since 2008), the facts remain the same: Economic uncertainty is real and now. But, being prepared will give you peace of mind.

In 2008, I was working on a merger with a large European company. It was moving forward seamlessly, until it just wasn’t. The day after Congress approved the $700B bank bailout, affectionately referred to as TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program), the European company backed out of the deal. These things happen, and I wish I had the wherewithal then that I have now. It’s never too early to plan, track, listen and reserve:

  • Plan your exit.
  • Track the economic cues, such as gross domestic product (GDP), unemployment rates, interest rates and the stock market.
  • Listen to your advisors and mentors.
  • Establish a reserve that will tide you through six to nine months of expenses.

Before you can define a plan, you need to consider the current state of your business. Here’s how.

Define your story. Your story that existed on February 1, 2020, may not be the story you tell on February 1, 2021. That’s OK! Stop and evaluate your business. Craft a new story if you need to – and believe it, own it and win.

Know your numbers and key business drivers. How are you trending? What was normal six months ago versus what is happening today? Then ask yourself:

  • How resilient is your business?
  • Does your current value proposition resonant clearly with your customers? When was the last time you checked in on your customers?
  • Where are you burning cash? Have you set aside reserves to get through the toughest times? Have you secured an adequate line of credit? Are you in over your head? The time to find a lender and get a line of credit is always before you need it. Many lenders are being cautious and not lending as they did pre-pandemic.

Evaluate your culture. Communicate with your teams regularly. Be open and receptive to cues and nuances that something is not as healthy as you thought. Engage with a Culture Talk Partner to help measure your organizational culture. Awareness is key.

Hire an experienced Advisor to guide you through the process. A Certified M&A Advisor will help you define and understand how to get from today to your eventual exit.

You have spent years building your business, but have you thought about how you want to exit? Start defining it by asking yourself these questions.

When was the last time you had a business valuation prepared? If it’s been a while, you should consider having it updated. Then think about these questions:

  • How close are you to your ideal exit valuation? What do you need to do to get there?
  • Work with your advisor to put together your roadmap, including a five-year forecast and milestones and metrics to hit that forecast.
  • How have the current economic conditions affected your business? If you’re on an upward trajectory due to opportunities presented because of COVID-19, you may be better off exiting sooner rather than later.
  • Is your current business model sustainable? Do you need to change your business model to conform to the new challenges brought on by the pandemic?

What are your financial needs and expectations? Think about whether your goals are attainable. If you’re concerned about a second Great Depression, consider lowering your financial expectations or adjusting your planned exit timeline. It’s also smart to get outside advice.

What is your dream after you exit? Define it – and get excited! It may be closer than you think.

CEFO Advisors is located in Saratoga Springs, NY. We work closely with small business owners defining their exit strategies and hold them accountable. For more information, call Amy Roman at 518.693.7446 or email aroman@cefoadvisors.com.

Complimentary Session with CEFO Advisors PPP Expert

The forgiveness requirements under the Paycheck Protection Program are confusing and the SBA continues to make changes.

  • There are safe harbor rules that are in place which will help your business qualify for full forgiveness even though it may seem that you can not based upon the formulas in place.
  • What is your actual FTE count and what are the right dates to use to perform this calculation?
  • Which coverage period is more beneficial for you to use?
  • Did you use the funds properly?
  • When should you file for forgiveness?

CEFO Advisors wants to help you better understand the forgiveness requirements issued by the SBA under the Paycheck Protection Program.  We are offering a free 30 minute consultation with our PPP expert to small businesses looking for support.

*By signing up for CEFO Advisors complimentary PPP forgiveness sessions, you are also signing up to receive marketing information. *

PPP

The Current Picture of Your Business: What Are You Painting?

We can paint two distinct pictures to evaluate the progress of businesses as they begin to recover from the setbacks of the past few months. One would illustrate what the data, numbers and business results show. What is in the bank and on the books? And while it is always important for owners to understand this information, right now, creating clarity is critical. The second picture would show the people. This one may be more complex. As forced shutdowns changed our business dynamics overnight, the impacts on people have been profound. From employees and their families, to customers and the wellbeing of owners themselves, the moving pieces of the pandemic response have left an emotional toll. For business owners, it’s equally important that this picture become clear.

For me, one story that uncovers the impact hits close to home. My dad, quickly approaching 85, is a physician who, after retiring from his practice at age 70, continues to work reviewing medical files for the state. He loved going into the office 2 to 3 days per week. His computer skills were minimal and in his line of work, that used to be acceptable. Overnight, he was forced to learn how to use a Microsoft laptop instead of an Apple desktop computer, had to trouble shoot printing and navigate ZOOM meetings, and work within these new protocols without the benefit of an IT resource on stand by. He still loves his job, but the last few months have been a big challenge.

Like my dad, it’s the people inside our businesses that have had to learn to expand, grow and quickly shift strategies to insure survival and continued profitability. And, for the first picture to show healthy business results, how we paint the second one will make all the difference.

These dual skill sets — and the ability of business owners to strategically navigate them — will separate the entrepreneurs that come successfully out of this downturn and those that may need to close up shop.

Create your own luck.

When we get into economic crisis mode I commonly see business owners stop, freeze and believe their business will be safe if they just hunker down. They believe that it’s too late to create a disaster recovery plan. And while it is true that the best time to plan for downturns is during the good times, there is no time like the present to set the ship aright. I encourage you to focus on the potential hiding in the shadows. The pandemic has provided many businesses the opportunity to evaluate costs and strategies. I say opportunity because it has forced us all to take a hard look at our businesses and determine what functions are working well, what functions need some improvement and what functions are not working at all. This honest assessment needs to include a review of systems, customers and staff. This is a daunting task when times are good, i.e. pre-pandemic, we so often find excuses to put it off. And after all, sales cure all, don’t they? Or do they?

Evaluate your systems.

Can you get the right information/KPIs from the systems you have in place? Are your systems efficient? Consider that since you’ve been living with them, you may be like a frog in a pot of water… unable to recognize that it’s started to boil. You’ve gradually developed work-arounds that eat time and profitability, but you think the cost or learning curve of newer systems is prohibitive.

The best time to evaluate and make changes is NOW. Make sure that as you migrate, the systems you choose interface with one another, i.e., banking and credit card transactions should load into your accounting system continuously or through a push function. The same is true with timekeeping and invoicing systems, as well as marketing and sales software to track prospects and customers.

Choosing the right systems will save you much more than your initial spend. You will be amazed how much you will save over time in both dollars and staff efficiency. What could you achieve by refocusing your staff to higher-level tasks and projects? The ROI is likely much better than you think.

One way to solidify this new behavior and thinking is to measure the outcomes. Do they match or exceed your estimates? Does the benefit align with the expenditure? Did you select the right system for the right price and an appropriate amount of effort? Consider hiring an expert who understands your business and can help you choose the right, industry specific system.

Understand Your People

The relationships between businesses and people are intricate. And let’s face it; businesses need all kinds of people, from the right employees to strong leaders and a loyal stream of customers. Take advantage of the changes brought by the downturn to take stock of the people who contribute to your success.

Ask yourself; have I spent enough time communicating with my clients or customers? Do I really know how their businesses are doing? Have I checked in on their emotional state or the status of their families? Take the extra time to continuously provide value in every interaction. Be ready and willing to switch to a plan B, understanding how to be more helpful, whether that means special pricing, a payment plan or a reduced contract. When you show up as a partner and invest in the relationship, they will continue to be there to support your business as well.

Take seriously the contract you’ve made with your employees. Once they are hired, you have an obligation to ensure their gainful employment and support their ability to contribute to their family and personal needs. The pandemic has created new realities for almost everyone; from remote working challenges like my dad is navigating, to health fears and safety concerns, childcare obstacles and eldercare duties. It’s time to factor in the responsibility you bear for both their physical and psychological safety as part of your team.

Look for redundancies before you bring on new staff or bring your team back from furlough and remain aware of right-sizing workloads to create a sustainable balance for each person. That said, do be continuously recruiting for the future. This is different from overstaffing. Network for the future as your company grows or people exit, looking for new energy, ideas and skills in people who are a good fit for your culture.

And don’t forget yourself. We only have so much gas in the tank and when we run hard for 4+ months — it takes its toll. I think that’s where many business owners are today. Worn out, weary and with a tank that is on E. Take some time to slow down, step away, and truly give yourself some recovery time.

Know your profitability

Sometimes relationships with clients get in the way of making profitable business decisions. If you run a service business, there are specific metrics you need to track to measure the profitability of every client. What are those drivers for your business? If you are not sure, seek data from industry peers or financial professionals.

Begin by understanding what standard accounting reports and metrics tell the story of your business. Many owners are looking at the wrong line items, or focusing solely on cash flow as the key indicator of financial success. You’ll also need to customize reports that automatically pull data that track against the goals you have set for your team.

With this information in-hand, sort your clients/customers in buckets based on what you uncover; A, B, C, & D. As challenging as these decisions can be, you need a plan to migrate out of clients/customers in the D bucket. This is your least profitable business and it’s likely you need to free your time and energy for better-fit prospects.

For non-service businesses and those with multiple revenue streams, evaluate your profitability for each revenue stream. Work toward eliminating any revenue streams that are not profitable. Work smarter; not harder.

With these tools at the ready it becomes easier to read trends and forecast future earnings and profitability. Which, in turn, helps you to manage your cash and assets more effectively today. The sooner you get these things in place, the better you will recover from the current downturn and increase your chances of thriving in 2020. The business owners who make proactive, progressive decisions will come out on top.

What will your pictures show?

Fight for Your Business and Survive Coronavirus

The daily challenges of running and growing a business take the full focus of business owners. The hardest thing you’ve had to face most recently has centered around finding qualified help rather than how to manage employees remotely or put them on furlough.

I hear you. The forced changes to, and even temporary closure of, your business could well be the worst pill you’ve ever had to swallow as an entrepreneur.  But the best way to minimize damage is to face the hard realities head on. You need to reduce your exposure quickly. While this may be challenging to consider today, this crisis could actually push you toward healthy business decisions you should have been planning for all along.

If you had a contingency plan in place prior to the coronavirus, high marks for you. You’re among the business owners best positioned to come through this intact. Continue to work your plan and read on for additional tips.

Use the following checklist to institute changes and preserve your business:

  1. Cash is king. While it’s important all the time, it’s imperative now.
  • Prepare a basic cash scenario over a 3-month horizon to evaluate best and worst case outcomes. We start each of our clients with a 13-week cash flow analysis tool. CEFO clients live by this. With a minimal amount of training, you will be able to see your cash position at a glance, make adjustments and course correct as needed Please contact us for a complimentary, virtual training session to get your 13-week cash flow forecast tool set-up and customized for your business. While our offer is valid at any time, it is particularly important right now and we stand ready to help business owners in our community.
  • Immediately get on top of collecting receivables. This is always a best practice, however it could be a do-or-die strategy now. At the same time, remember that many businesses and individuals are sharing your pain. Review your accounts and be willing to extend grace periods and negotiate terms. Consider being pro-active and offering your clients a discount, using your 13-week cash flow as your guide. Pay it forward. Investing in the mutual success of your loyal customers builds strong connections and will benefit you in the long run.
  • Pick up the phone and begin an honest conversation with vendors, bankers, landlords and service providers. Negotiate a delay in payments or change in payment plans. Many lenders have already communicated these options and stand ready to work with you. They understand that cash conservation needs to be your first priority.
  • Temporarily change appropriate large vendor payments from check to credit card.
  • Delay your 2019 US federal tax payment. The IRS has extended filing six months and will forgive interest and penalties allowing you to “finance” your taxes due.
  • Suspend shareholder distribution payments.
  • Implement a temporary 10% or 20% employee pay reduction and as the owner, communicate you have led the way by cutting your compensation first.
  • Pursue grant or loan options from the SBA. New low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital were put in place last week specifically for small businesses and private nonprofits suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the coronavirus. Here is a link to review eligibility requirements and apply.
  1. You need a lifeboat strategy. Although the immediate crisis may recede in a few weeks to months the effects will be felt for much longer. Many of your assumptions about customers, sales cycles and revenue are no longer true. In some cases, you should even evaluate your business model.
  • Make an honest assessment of the minimal things you need to keep your company alive and what you need to leave behind.
  • Segregate expenses between direct (expenses necessary to produce goods or services) and indirect (general expenses necessary to operate your business). Attack the indirect expenses to significantly reduce or eliminate costs. Be sure to eliminate monthly costs for phone lines, data storage, software subscriptions and virtual planning tools for those who have left in good times or through necessary layoffs. If revenue starts to flow the day you reopen your doors, than a freeze on variable spending, such as hiring, staffing, marketing and travel, may do the trick.
  • Eliminate perks and programs that drain cash.
  • Evaluate your product and market fit for the ‘new normal,’ even though you are hoping that it is temporary. Can you change your delivery model to online? Can you provide consulting services via video? Do you need new sales messaging to address immediate points of pain that may not have existed last month?
  • Cut prices. We are all aware of customers that want to do business with us, but have not been in a position to purchase. When you are trying to keep afloat, offering significant discounts on products or services may be just the ticket. Use your 13-week cash flow analysis as a guide to understand how far you can go and still meet minimal goals.
  • Develop a contingency plan early to manage the worst-case cash scenario. For service businesses, the reality is that revenue may still come in the early days of the crisis, but slow to a trickle as weeks and months unfold. You will be able to see this in your 13-week cash flow. Unfortunately, it means that will probably need to stay in the lifeboat longer.

 

  1. Address staffing levels. Employees are your biggest expense; cutting them is often the most painful challenge. But if you cannot avoid layoffs, failing to act quickly could be fatal. Don’t leave it for last.
  • Plan, communicate and act with compassion. Be completely transparent. Your employees are scared, too. Your leadership skills and emotional intelligence will be under a spotlight and you need to get this right. You may also benefit from counseling on how to handle any layoffs from a legal perspective.
  • Consider job-share options for hourly employees if that works for your business. By reducing hours from full time to two days a week, employees may be eligible to collect several days of unemployment each week as well. This strategy could minimize their financial pain and keep them engaged until you are able to bring them back full time.
  • When considering whom to cut, keep your team and culture front and center. The reality for many businesses is that not all hires are created equal. One potential benefit of a layoff is the opportunity for a do-over on a hire that is a poor fit for your team, or someone who does not share the core beliefs that are central to your culture.
  • Reserve enough cash to offer two-weeks compensation to anyone you need to let go, if at all possible. This is another reason to act early.

 

  1. Preserve your culture. You worked hard during the good times to instill core values and behaviors as a foundation for your business. Lean on your culture now to guide you through the challenges.
  • Over-communicate and be consistent, using the core language of your culture as you consider and share important decisions.
  • Double down on teambuilding. Create opportunities to connect, share feedback and relieve stress. If you’ve made layoffs, don’t forget that the remaining people are grieving, could feel guilty and may be concerned that they are next.
  • Consider the personalities of each employee. Each will benefit from personal check-ins and may need direct reassurance and guidance from you.
  • Create a clear charter for moving forward.

At this early stage in the crisis, the only thing that we know for sure is that there are more surprises ahead. You may need to consider this list more than once as you navigate through new territory. Remember that you are not alone. But you are the one person who can stand up and fight for the survival of your business. And if you need assistance or have questions, please reach out to the team at CEFO for a free consult.