Monday, February 23, 2015

Market demands and the speed of business

While everyone talks about it, very few are doing more than survive it!  What is my subject today?.... speed!  Over the last twenty years Markets, customers and technology have led to unprecedented speed. 

Your customers expectations are:  1) You are simply waiting around with nothing to do, until they text, email, call or, as some Neanderthal still do, walk in; 2) they want it cheap; and 3) they want it immediately. This used to be the land of retail and now, B2B companies are feeling this pinch. 

So, what’s a B2B to do?  Let’s start with know thy self.  What does your company do and do you do it so well that no one else is your peer?  If you resemble this then why are you taking those customers/clients who suck you dry and reduce your ability to perform at the highest level? 

If you do it faster then you better figure out how to replicate that speed.  Again, who is it that sucks you dry and slows you down?  Do you have to specialize?  Not necessarily…. You do have to decide who is your target and who is not. 

If you are getting the distinct feeling that I think many companies try and take on customers/clients who are not in their wheelhouse, then you are getting my message. 

When is the last time you and your staff sat down and developed/updated your list or description of the ideal customer? When did you last sit down and made a list of who in your existing group of customers met the must haves on that list?  Who meets those requirements and is not your customer? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Organizing the Finance and Accounting Function

Today we have a guest blog from David Lightfoot:

The finance and accounting function in a business is ‘mission critical’ but it is rarely the owner/operator’s first priority or, sometimes, even something they understand. As a business grows in size and complexity, finance and accounting become more critical and the necessary functions grouped in this area grow in complexity.

The outside CPA is independent of the client company and is mostly concerned with tax compliance and the review or audit of financial statements. Some CPAs can provide good business advice but this is the exception rather than the rule.

Both the Controller and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) are not independent. The difference between a Controller and a CFO is that the Controller’s duties typically end at the financial statements. The CFO’s role is to ensure the integrity of those statements via a robust system of internal controls but that is only the beginning.

The CFO is the financial partner of the CEO. The CFO is involved in strategy and asking the hard questions. Questions such as, “Should we be in this business? Should we be doing it this way? Does this branch/store/subsidiary make sense within the context of our overall strategy?”

The other way I like to think about it is this: The Controller looks backwards. S/he has the responsibility for historical financial statements. The CFO looks forward. The CFO has the responsibly (with the CEO) for the future; for where the business is going.

When should a company hire a CFO? As ever, it depends on the circumstances, such as the complexity of the treasury function and the amount of capital the company needs. But usually, the best idea is to outsource the CFO function to a consultant until the business needs a full-time CFO. Most businesses under $50 million in revenue and under 200 employees will not need a full-time CFO. If a consultant CFO is used, when the business needs the consultant CFO two full days per week on a regular basis, it is time to hire a full-time CFO.

Ask yourself:
  • Do I have my accounting and finance functions properly organized?
  • Do I need a CFO?
  • Do I need a full-time CFO?

David Lightfoot
      David Lightfoot has over 35 years of accounting, finance and operational experience as Controller, Chief Financial Officer or Vice President of Finance for small and medium-sized businesses. He also has operations experience and has worked as a CEO, giving him a broad business perspective.

      Mr. Lightfoot is currently a Partner with B2B CFO, the world’s largest provider of CFO services. David’s clients range from start-ups to $50M in annual revenue. He specializes in professional services, real estate/construction, software and healthcare.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Breaking Down the Super Team Formula

Today we have a guest blog from Earl Bell:

If you would like to employ a practical model for increasing the collective effectiveness of your employees while enhancing a strong and vibrant culture, consider building a Super Team of employees at your company by using this formula to transform ordinary performance into extraordinary results:

ST = (E1*E2)*(TCCC)/BSF

Each of the factors in this formula is described below:

  • ST – Super Team.  Building a super team makes running a business easier, more fun and more profitable.
  • E1 – Employee engagement. According to both national and regional research studies performed in the last year, over 70% of employees are disengaged at work. If your company is an exception to the rule, then congratulations are in order.  If this is not the case, what are you doing as a leader to inverse this statistic?
  • E2 – Employee effectiveness. What are you doing to help employees become better and more valuable at their jobs?  A personalized plan for cross training, professional development, leadership and/or management training, and technical skills enhancement are all specific examples of what should be budgeted for and scheduled out over the calendar year.
  • TCCC – Team chemistry, commitment and connection.  How intentional are you at building vibrant company culture?  What are you doing to improve chemistry, commitment and connection between and amongst employees?  Absent a plan to develop and enhance company culture, you will witness drift from the founding culture to something that may be neither desired nor beneficial.  Don’t let this happen in your company.
  • BSF – BS factor. What are you doing to eliminate bull%^*$ from your company?  If you don’t know what BS is in the workplace… then you have a “Best Place to Work!”

The goal of course is to increase the Super Team factor in your company. To do this, increase E1, E2 and TCCC. Reduce the BSF.

Will you invest the time to individually assess each employee in terms of how they score within each of the Super Team factors?  Will you develop a plan to rid the company of toxic employees so that investment of time and money into the development of productive employees produces tangible benefits and results?  Who will lead this charge?  How will you determine appropriate investment of time and money?  How will you measure Return on Investment?   My advice is to get excited about undertaking this very important initiative and get started today.  

Everyone will have fun along the way and be thrilled with the results when employees congeal and become a Super Team!


EARL BELL is the author of, Winning in Baseball and Business, Transforming Little League Principles into Major League Profits for Your Company, which provides a roadmap to success for leaders that desire to build thriving companies in a very competitive 21stcentury business environment.  Earl believes that “everything you need to know about business, leadership and team building can be learned from Little League baseball.”

Earl conducts workshops, coaches and consults with owners, business leaders and their teams, teaching them how to dramatically reduce the time it takes to improve profitability, customer experience, employee engagement and company value, while simultaneously increasing discretionary time and reducing both stress/employee burnout.  He believes the secret to winning in baseball, business and life can be summarized in a simple formula:  Winning = Service + Humility. His motto is that Winning in Business is a Team Sport!

Earl has served in the Chief Financial Officer role for numerous companies throughout North America. His personal passion is youth sports and he has coached 28 teams since 2002.  Earl is a CPA, graduated from SU (Seattle University) with a BA in Accounting and from the MILL (Mercer Island Little League) with a Master’s in Youth Baseball.

Earl Bell can be reached at and 206-420-5946

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Power of “Not Yet!”

This winter, I am undergoing my usual:  I have a plan for improving my golf game.  It includes a certain number of lessons at an indoor golf range and practice sessions.  What I did not initially grasp is that it would require me to embrace the concept of “Not yet”. 

You see, as I completed my fifth year of playing golf, I thought that I was going to be working on nuance and refinement of my swing.  (you can skip the next paragraph if you don’t golf)

I walked in to the first lesson and heard myself declare, “ I am hitting my driver 200-225 yards.  I may as well put it away and just hit my 3 wood.  I hit a 3 wood  about as far and more accurately.”  My instructor asked, how far I wanted to hit my driver and I answered by saying that on longer courses my second shot was not a 7 iron but a wood, or at best a rescue club.  This means that my strategy of being on the green in two is significantly reduced.  My accuracy and the likelihood of parring the hole go down if it takes me three strokes to get to the green.  To hit with better golfers, I needed to hit the drive 250 yards. 

What my instructor offered was to get me to hit my tee shot farther by spring and as, or more, accurately then I was when I hit it a shorter distance. 

What I have had to confront is failure.  I confronted the possibility that I can’t hit a golf ball longer.  To avoid the frustration of failing, I have undertaken a mantra, “not yet”. 

How many times have you said (or heard others say), “I can’t do that”.  The truth of the statement is self-evident and self-defeating.  By exchanging the above words for “not yet”, I get to take failure off the table. 

In business this is often critical.  To succeed, we have to try things that we have never done and have no data to support our accomplishing.  We have staff/teams who get stuck by saying, “We can’t do that!” and a simple substitution is to exclaim, “not yet!”. 

If you can get your teams/key employees to embrace “not yet” you are half way home to achieving a goal.  Your mindset will shift.  You still have to take action, accomplish your goal.  What is removed is the hurdle of telling yourself, as you work toward that goal, that you are failing.  Try it and let me know how differently you feel? 

What mindsets do you create to increase your and your team’s odds for success in a project or new endeavor?