Mentoring for a Purpose

The world has changed and with it, so has the workplace, and how we manage and train staff.  Gone are the old days (circa 1985 working for a CPA firm) where cut and run was the norm.  We have evolved from 1985 and the pandemic has made us more aware and creative.  The culture of the organization is the key to the success of any employee related program.

The question really is, what do we, as small business owners, do to attract and retain great people?  Establishing a strong mentoring program is an excellent start.  Mentorship can work in many ways.  It is not a one size fits all proposition.  It is not a program that business owners can say they support without backing it up with something they honestly believe in.  Awareness and a willingness to embrace the program starting from the top is integral for the program to be successful for everyone. 

There is no one size fits all solution to developing a mentorship program that works.  Mentors can be used to open an opportunity to help others build self-esteem and confidence in their role, whether it’s due to a promotion, or just something another employee is struggling with. Mentorship at its very core is the sharing the gift of knowledge or an experience with another individual.  It should not be felt like it is an obligation by the mentor or mentee.  If that is the case, then one or the other is not quite ready to participate.

A mentorship program can be formal or casual or a combination of both.  Bill Danaher is the Director of Staff and Process at CEFO Advisors.  He suggests that employees should reach out to mentors under any of the four situations:

1) You “earned” a promotion but are being held back. Let us say you are highly effective in your role and your manager agrees, but they indicated to you that you need to improve in one select area. Perhaps you need to improve your presentation skills or get your reports issued in a timelier manner, and until you strengthen these skills, they will not recommend you for a promotion. Why not tackle that area and go after that promotion?

2) You notice a skill area that needs improvement. Maybe you recognize areas you would like to get better at. For example, my son works as a portfolio analyst at Fidelity. Early in his career he made a presentation at work which he was extremely nervous about and did not do well at. He recognized a weak area that needed improvement, so he signed up for public speaking with Toastmasters (they typically assign mentors). He stayed with Toastmasters for over 2 years and earned a Competent Communicator certificate. As a result, he was recently able to successfully complete a 20-minute virtual presentation to 800 colleagues. Think about it like this: you are either getting better or “treading water” and if you do not improve your skills constantly then you are falling behind your peers.

3) One of your peers points out an area where you need to improve. We all have “blind spots” in our careers. Those are areas you thought you had an acceptable level of skill, but others recognize immediately that you need improvement. For example, you are told that your relationship building skills lack diplomacy or a coworker says your time management skills need to improve. You may have always thought you were both diplomatic and efficient, so this feedback really surprises you, but you know that perhaps you should listen. Once someone points out a legitimate “blind spot” it is on you to address it.

4) Learn from the best. Have you ever seen that world class athletes have a strong support system? For example, major league baseball players have hitting coaches, strength coaches, mental skills coaches and so on. Pro golfers typically have a swing coach and sports psychologist. If these elite athletes at the top echelon of their profession rely on coaching to master their craft, then why not you? Don’t you want to master your craft? Perhaps one of the reasons they are world class is because of all the coaching they receive.

Consider signing up with a mentor that has demonstrated skills in the areas you want to improve in. Yes, it takes a bit of humility and willingness to try some new approaches. Change is hard; it is uncomfortable to learn new ways of doing things. But over time the results are worth so much more than the effort you put in. So, go for it! Build your confidence, build self-awareness, love your job, get a promotion and feel fulfilled at a job you love!

If statistics are your thing, here are a few (1):

  • 71% of Fortune 500companies have mentoring programs.
  • 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they were offered opportunities to learn and grow.
  • 67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring.
  • 55% of businesses felt that mentoring had a positive impact on their profits.
  • Mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level from 9% to 24%.
  • Top reasons for millennials wanting to quit their jobs are ‘Not enough opportunities to advance’ and 35% and ‘Lack of learning and development opportunities’ at 28%.
  • 71% of people with a mentor say their company provides them with good opportunities to advance in their career, compared with 47% of those without a mentor.
  • More than 4 in 10 workers who don’t have a mentor say they’ve considered quitting their job in the past three months.
  • 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence.

I have several local mentors that I call upon on a regular basis.  Bonny Boice, who is an Executive Coach, Theresa Agresta, Founder of Culture Talk and Denise Horan of Integrated Management Sales Consulting are several of the women who have become my mentors.  Trust me, they are total game changers!

(1)The Importance of Mentoring in the Workplace, November 20, 2019 by Nicola Cronin


Communication in the Workplace: Generational, Gender, and Role Differences

The common workplace certainly has adapted. It has to! (To keep up with the ever changing needs of employees and customers.) This means communication tactics within organizations have shifted as well. There are several factors to explore that have contributed to this shift in workplace communication, including the number of generations in the workforce and the evolution of technology. Despite the differences in generations, gender and professional roles, there are ways to navigate communication in the workplace successfully.

Generational differences in workplace communication – and how to bridge the gap.

For the first time in history, five generations are part of the workforce at the same time. Yes, five! Believe it or not, this is a GOOD thing and business owners have to use it to their advantage. Each of these generations have different communication styles based on their upbringing, experiences, values, and state of the working environment during their career. It’s important to recognize the general differences in communication styles among generations to learn how best to communicate across them. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

  • Traditionalists were born between 1925 and 1945 and make up the smallest part of the active workforce. This generation is most comfortable with communication face-to-face and via telephone. They started in the workforce when typewriters were commonly used.
  • Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and were the largest generation until that time. They were accustomed to communication with rotary-style phones and were part of the workforce when conference calls became commonplace.
  • Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1977 and experienced several major workplace communication innovations, including email, mobile and texting.
  • Generation Y (or millennials) were born between 1978 and 1989 and have officially surpassed the baby boomers as the largest generation. They have a reputation for being tethered to technology and their devices, and their workplace communication style comprises of smartphones and web meetings.
  • Generation Z members were born between 1990 and 1999 and are known for starting a movement back to traditionalist views. Their workplace communication style includes social media, workplace instant messaging, video conferencing and face-to-face meetings.

When communicating across multiple generations in the workplace, remember that language is ever-evolving, so meanings and interpretations of words or sayings may change. When in doubt, use simplistic language that you’re confident everyone will understand, and clarify if necessary. Just to be safe!

Especially when communicating digitally (e.g., text, IM, and email), tone may be difficult to interpret. We’ve all taken offense to an email before when it was hard to interpret tone…it happens to the best of us! When in doubt, face-to-face communication can eliminate any potential translation issues. If that’s not possible, talking can be better than text communication as it allows for a dialogue and the opportunity to ask questions. Even better? A quick video call where you can see the other person’s face, read their expressions and connect on a deeper level.

Everyone – no matter which generation they’re part of – wants to be accepted and make a good impression. (Remember that expression about only getting to make one first impression, so make it good!) The fear that others have a negative perception of them within a workplace with multiple generations is real, so address fears when communicating across generations.

To further complicate generational differences, add in the evolution of technology. In the mid-1980s, collaboration was introduced in the workplace. Since then, digital transformation has allowed for closer collaboration with tools like video conferencing, simultaneous document editing and unified communication (e.g., Google Drive, QuickBooks). These have enabled workplaces to connect on a larger scale.  

With the shift to more remote, work-from-home models, employees are being allowed to do their job on their own team as long as it meets employer expectations. They are frequently using their own devices (read: cell phones) to feel more connected at work when they’re not formally sitting at their desk. (Asynchronous collaboration means everyone can work at different times on the same project and synchronous collaboration means everyone is working on the same task simultaneously.)

Gender nuances in workplace communication – and how to navigate the differences. 

Men and women sociologically have different strengths in communication skills, which can be applied when interacting in the workplace. Because of the inherent differences (à la men “are from Mars, women are from Venus”), tips for effective communication between genders include:

  • Getting to the point quickly and concisely,
  • Standing your ground,
  • And playing to your individual strengths.

Women’s strengths include the ability to read body language and pick up on non-verbal cues, listening thoroughly, and effectively displaying empathy. Weaknesses *can* include being overly emotional, getting off topic easily and using non-authoritative tone and language. Strengths that are overdone can also become weaknesses when it comes to interacting with the other gender as well.

Men’s strengths include physical presence, to-the-point interactions, and powerful body language signals. Their weaknesses tend to include being too blunt and direct, too confident in their own opinion, and insensitive to audience reaction.

How to better communicate across different types of teams in the workplace.

Studies have reported recent growth in teamwork in the workplace. And while there are several team structures apparent in the workplace, the idea is that a team is striving toward a common goal and there’s ascribed roles that create individual and mutual accountability.

The types of teams you’ll see within a workforce include:

  • Cross-functional teams, which pulls team members from different functional areas across an organization to complete a task.
  • Taskforces are usually a group of specialists on a topic used to solve a specific problem.
  • Virtual teams are a group of individuals working toward a common goal from different locations.
  • Self-managed teams are a group of employees responsible for generating all or most of a product or idea and carrying out the execution of goal.

Teams frequently come under fire in execution; sometimes team members do too much or not enough. To best communicate within a group, use these pro tips:

  • Be interested in other people; ask questions that are genuine and actively listen to answers.
  • Show you’re decisive.
  • Make eye contact when you’re speaking to people.
  • Always keep a sense of humor.
  • Be positive and realistic.
  • Consider the message you’re trying to convey, why you’re communicating this message, and to whom the message is directed.
  • Assess the audience and the level of argument your message needs.
  • Be clear, concise, and use plain language.
  • Plan content carefully.

At CEFO Advisors, communication is an essential element of business as we have employees from a variety of different age groups, genders, and beliefs. Using our philosophy of strategy, finance, and culture, we are able to bridge the gap that may exist in the many facets of financial advising for our clients. As a small business, it is our job to use our business philosophy to create a continuation of healthy practices in communication to better interact with clients and coworkers alike.

Put Profit First: Make Your Business A Money-Making Machine

There is definitely not a shortage of business and finance-related books, and it can be overwhelming to pick the best one for what you’re looking to learn more about. Let me make it a bit easier for you and call out one of my absolute favorites that I recommend to every business owner I know – Profit First, by Mike Michalowicz.

Are you ready to learn why?

This book gives a step-by-step guide of how small business owners can be successful using a method called “profit first.” This system creates the opportunity for businesses to fund themselves. It allows your business to serve you instead of you always serving your business. MIC DROP! Who wouldn’t want that? Michalowicz wrote this book because he believes lack of cash reserves is the biggest source of entrepreneurial stress and depression – and he wanted to eradicate it!

Let’s dive into it.

The concept is that you pay into profit with every sale. There should be a predetermined percentage of each sale that gets earmarked as profit. This way you become profitable from day one; it’s not a milestone, but rather a habit. 

Of course, there’s more to this profit first concept than siloing funds. The anecdotes from some of the 175,000 companies that have found this method successful for them is what makes this book such a great read. There is a deliberate simplification of financial concepts – and other explanations of business operation concepts.

Did you start your business because you wanted to do something you love? Or maybe to not be under scrutiny of the common working-class system anymore? That’s great! But you still need to make money. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with your small business’s finances, try a profit first approach – and watch your business grow and thrive. In the words of Michalowicz, transform it into a “money-making machine.”

How Small Businesses Become Successful

What’s the secret formula to small business success?

We know that might be a loaded question but we have a few strategies up our sleeve that we know work. The overnight success of Facebook and Uber isn’t the same way most small businesses experience success. It’s critical to keep in mind that everyone’s journey looks different. Let’s explore the various ways your business can become successful and continue to grow and thrive, and what counts as a successful business.

Success or failure? And the in-between. 

There are two main ingredients to American overall business outlook that are admired by the rest of the world. These are:

  • Enthusiasm for the future and making things better through a business
  • An openness and willingness to change and adapt to accomplish goals

We should hold on to these! And there are other elements that go into a successful small business, such as an owner with determined organization and detailed record-keeping and a commitment to delivering good, reliable services to customers that become loyal (to name a couple).

Small business owners are all different, but we all share common skills that help contribute to your success. Persistence, patience, and commitment are all attributes apparent in business owners. And let’s face it, it’s hard to survive in entrepreneurship without those three traits. A positive attitude toward your business, and life in general, contributes to resiliency. You know better than anyone that it requires sacrifices in your personal life when establishing a business (balance….what is balance??). But, good planning and organizational skills, with a dose of flexibility and strong analytical skills, will help direct you down the path to successful small business ownership.

Setting a strategic business plan that clearly describes your business concept, mission, and philosophy will absolutely ensure you start off on the right foot. And setting personal and business goals is important for motivation and measuring success. A proper business plan should detail specific strategies and timelines to attain goals. At the outset and for continued success, be aware of your competition and either appropriating or improving upon their successful tactics.

A well-developed organizational structure will help you work toward the same goals. Your organizational structure should inspire all employees to perform to their utmost capabilities and reward those who excel in their contribution to the business. Just the same, your structure should allow for corrective actions and discipline should employees deviate from acceptable behavior. As part of your organizational structure, business owners must define positions, tasks, duties, and responsibilities and routinely measure performance. *Key takeaway: Everyone preaches it, but you must also practice it: Employees are your most valuable asset!* Treat them as such with ongoing training, job enrichment programs and incentive compensation. Listen to the type of recognition they want – and follow through. It’s also important to understand their learning style and what communication model motivates them to succeed. This is made much easier at CEFO Advisors with the help of the CultureTalk Survey System, which unlocks the archetypal patterns in your organizational culture and the individuals who influence it. We like to call this our secret sauce!

Both financial and nonfinancial, and whether manual or automated, an operational support system makes activities of an organization efficient and relieves management of many day-to-day routine activities. A solid support system will allow small business owners to be strategic thinkers and track critical information on sales, cash flow and other financial performance data. Afterall, that’s why you’re in business! This ensures owners become aware of red flags before the problems become unmanageable.

How long will it take for a small business to become successful? (Spoiler: The 4th year is when “overnight successes” are discovered.) 

Most small businesses take 2 to 3 years to be profitable and 7 to 10 years to be “successful.” The truth lies in the statistics: approximately 20% of businesses fail in the first two years, 45% fail in the first 5 years, 65% fail in the first 10 years and only 25% of small businesses are successful after 15 years or more.

For patterns that may foreshadow success, read on.

  • Year 1: In the first year, there should be many small successes in getting the company off the ground. These may include starting a website, gaining social media attention, growing a client list, and being able to pay personal bills from early profits. Making it through the first year puts you in the 80% of successful businesses.
  • Year 2: Initial success may begin to wear and cash concerns or dwindling capital may lead owners to borrow money this year. Be sure to not allow the stress of debt to run your business though. Instead, realize early customers are not necessarily long term. You should start to see opportunities for expansion during this second year.
  • Year 3: This is the year that fine-tuning begins. Breaking even or making a profit shows you’re headed in the right direction and you can see the light at the end of a tunnel. Figuring out which areas of the business can grow and recruiting a solid team to help you get there should be part of your plan. Get more sophisticated by planning for risk, working on leadership, and analyzing the numbers (including where expenses can be cut and what customers are driving business).
  • Year 4: This is when overnight successes are actually “discovered.” You may still be plagued with small steps forward and sometimes steps backward, but you’re honing in on what is successful within the business. You’ll have sharper brand positioning and improve marketing that leads to a refined customer acquisition process. Your management team will be more efficient in operations and you’ll produce better products. You’re figuring out what customers really want.

You made it through the hard stuff. Now what?


To keep making forward progress and grow your business, try these pro tips to take it to the next level:

  • Build word of mouth for your business. Encourage advocates to share their experiences and honestly respond to negative reviews.
  • Focus on customer service. Simply put, it will set you apart. The way word travels, you don’t want to be on the wrong side of it.
  • Expand your marketing efforts. There are so many avenues to market (so it can be overwhelming), but the best way to expand your efforts is to test.
  • Build your online presence. It’s where business happens now. Even if you’re a brick-and-mortar retail store, consumers expect to be able to learn more about you without leaving home. (This is especially important in these pandemic times.)
  • Go mobile. Being digital is only the first step. Ensuring you can be found from a smartphone is the next – otherwise you’ll miss out on a huge customer segment.
  • Cut your business costs. In the same way added revenue contributes to more profits, so does decreasing your expenses. Take a good, hard look to see what you can eliminate.
  • Get in the cloud. Digitizing your business gives it a competitive edge and makes life easier for owners and operators.
  • Hire and retain the right employees. You’ve heard it before: Employees are your most valuable asset – this is especially important in small businesses. Don’t settle. Be sure they’re a good culture fit and someone who has an interest in contributing to your businesses’ future success.
  • Update your business plan. Just like people’s preferences change, so must your company. Start with amending your plan.
  • Stay balanced. It’s easy to get burnt out being a small business owner. You’re often wearing multiple hats. It’s important to take time away from the business to recharge.
  • Make this year your best year ever! Take time to re-energize and focus each year. Recommit to your business. Business ownership isn’t easy but renewed passion will get you through.

At CEFO advisors, we partner with our clients to help them become the successful small business owners they aspire to be. Through our business philosophy of strategy, finance, and culture, we have been able to better help our clients understand how our business works and how they can be successful using a similar strategy. Join us today.



FreshBooks. “How Long It Takes for a Small Business to Be Successful: A Year-By-Year Breakdown.” FreshBooks, FreshBooks, 23 Oct. 2019,

Normand, Robert A. “4 Reasons Why Small Businesses Succeed.” Business Know-How, Business Know-How, 16 July 2019,

Seabury, Chris. “9 Tips for Growing a Successful Business.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 16 Sept. 2020,

 Ward, Susan. “Here’s What to Do to Make Your Small Business More Successful.” The Balance Small Business, The Balance Small Business, 4 Dec. 2019,

Pivotal Business Year

How Are You Dealing in This Pivotal Year for Small Business? 

For the rest of history, 2020 will likely be known as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although outbreaks, like the 1918 Spanish flu and 2014 Ebola epidemic, are remembered in history books, we never really hear about the economic and social consequences that came along with them – or how society came together to rebuild. What do you think will be the story that goes along with this last year’s challenges?

I am so grateful to have such an inspiring and tight-knit team at CEFO Advisors, and even with all of the challenges 2020 threw at us, we emerged stronger than ever. With the ups and downs of the pandemic, clients pivoting and evolving and personal challenges, it was not an easy year but that doesn’t mean we didn’t move into 2021 with new lessons and a greater appreciation for what we have.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, business trends have changed greatly – from remote work and consumer shopping behavior to global advertising spend and essential industries (like food, medical, travel, and transportation).We even saw new businesses emerge and many businesses thrive during this time. Who else has taken full advantage of grocery delivery?? As a small business, how have you been affected? And who can you partner with to help keep your business thriving – or surviving?

Let’s talk about the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. What resources are available to overcome this economic downturn? The repercussions may not yet fully be known, and long-term ripple effects may surprise us later on. But here are some actions we can take as small business owners to stay in business now and prepare for the future! 

How can small businesses fight back against the pandemic?

According to JPMorgan Chase, more than 99% of businesses in the U.S. are small businesses and these companies employ one-half of the population. Small businesses often operate with a lack of cash reserve so many can’t deal with a month-long interruption – and the pandemic has carried on for more than eight months at this point. This has resulted in job cuts, financial strain and failing businesses.

The initial outbreak in China in late 2019 disrupted the global supply chain and global economy. Then the week of March 14, 2020, saw 3.28 million Americans file for unemployment in panic that followed the spread of the virus. Companies that have been most affected are hospitality, travel, restaurants and bars, and construction. The fear heading into the future is a greater possibility for start-up depression as well: a lack of new companies being founded and growing the job market.

To combat the effects of the pandemic, here are some steps to keep you moving forward:

  • Assess your essential functions to best prepare for continued stressors.
  • Dedicate time to planning (the best you can) to make sound business decisions.
  • Accommodate changing consumer culture by adjusting your offerings and service as needed.
  • Continue providing a healthy work environment and supporting employees through the pandemic. Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outline for employers and employees, including daily health checks, hazard assessments, facemask regulations, social distancing, and ventilation recommendations.
  • Consider outsourcing a chief financial officer (CFO) or certified public accountant (CPA) to do realistic accounting. CFOs/CPAs can provide access to new, recurring revenue and maintain free cash flow by creating a year-round paid relationship. Your business will no longer have to rely on the seasonality of tax filing. It will allow your business to become more profitable, promote growth, and achieve business and personal goals.

How can you secure funds to get through hard times?

Yelp estimates that more than 132,000 businesses on their platform have closed since the introduction of pandemic, and more than half will not reopen. Spikes in cases have caused the reclosure of many small businesses that did reopen. And most businesses that have reopened are just breaking even or are in “survival mode.” They are getting by on the bare necessities and have had to take on additional expenses, like personal protective equipment (e.g., air filters, hand sanitizer stations, gloves, plexiglass shields).

But there is some help! Government grants are available for small businesses, offered by federal, state, and local governments. A small business grant is free money given to a small business (with fewer than 500 faculty per location) to help launch, develop, or expand. Government grants are usually given in phases (typically three phases in two years) to support businesses in the long-term.

Federal government grants can be found online at:

  • gov
  • gov
  • gov (U.S. Small Business Administration)
  • gov (U.S. Economic Development Administration)

Part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is the main stimulus for small businesses, is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). More than $659 billion has been funded under the Small Business Administration (SBA) for the CARES Act. Specifically, under the PPP falls the Business Loans Program Account, which provides business loans to cover up to eight weeks of payroll, as well as other costs to help small businesses stay afloat.

PPP resumed April 24, 2020, following approval for funding by the U.S. government. Loans under PPP are available for companies worth less than $10 million or 2.5 times a company’s average monthly payroll. Every cent of a PPP loan can be forgiven if specific spending guidelines are followed. The passage of the PPP Flexibility Act 2020 relaxes many previous PPP loan guidelines as well. Both PPP and economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs) are available for small businesses; you can apply for both directly through SBA-approved 7(a) lenders.

With the new wave of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program comes questions and uncertainties, but CEFO Advisors is here to help you and your business!

Sign up for your free consultation with CEFO Advisors for help with the second round of PPP for your business. We’ll help you with:⠀

– Identifying if you qualify for PPP⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

– Navigating the application process⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

– Educating you on what qualifies as an acceptable expense for PPP funds⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

– Filing for forgiveness⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀


Reach out to to begin the process.


Alexander W. Bartik,  Marianne Bertrand. “A Way Forward for Small Businesses.” Harvard Business Review, Harvard Business Review, 14 Aug. 2020,

Brown, Courtenay. “Small Businesses Are Spending to Reopen, Even as More Coronavirus Shutdowns Loom.” Axios, Axios, 27 July 2020,

 “Coronavirus Business & Economy Impact News.” Business Insider, Business Insider,

“COVID-19 Forcing CFOs to Become Change Agents and Strategists.” StackPath, 31 Aug. 2020,

 “COVID-19 Guidance: Businesses and Employers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 May 2020,

Probasco, Jim. “Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).” Investopedia, Investopedia, 29 Aug. 2020,

Rushton, Charlotte. “Advisory Services in the Pandemic: A Mutually Beneficial Right Thing to Do.” Accounting Today, Accounting Today, 17 Sept. 2020,

Schooley, Skye. “Government Grants for Small Businesses.” Business News Daily, 10 Aug. 2020,

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:

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:

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

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?