Assessment

“[Your] capturing and holding the attention
of a group of very independent thinking
CEOs … made for a great session.”

Clyde Johnston,
CEO Roundtable, Second Thursday

The first step towards gaining control of your company’s finances is getting solid, effective financial information – the product of your financial department’s efforts. That information should be accurate, relevant and timely. You should be able to rely on it and the people who produced it when it comes time to make decisions. But what if you can’t? What if the information you get isn’t sufficiently accurate, isn’t relevant and understandable, or is so late it’s no longer useful?

Even after you make clear to your finance/accounting team what you want but still don’t get it? What do you do? Ask yourself: is the problem:

  • the person in charge?
  • the abilities of the people who work for that person?
  • the systems and software they are working with?
  • the work habits and processes they follow?
  • or, do you just expect too much from them?

How do you know where the problem lies, and what the best path to a lasting solution looks like? How do you get numbers and advice you can count on, every time?

Well, if you have an illness that you can’t cure by yourself, or a pain that won’t go away, you go to see an expert, your doctor, for a diagnosis and, hopefully, a cure. This works the same way. We offer an independent, expert diagnosis and opinion about why something isn’t working and what it will take to get it working again. And just like your doctor, you can take the advice and fix it yourself (assuming an aspirin or bed rest will do it) or ask us to help you fix it. Your option.

Why do we do this?

Because we know you can’t run a business when you can’t rely on the work product of your key departments, and accounting is a part of your team that sometimes gets overlooked in the process of building a company. We know that CEOs and business owners can carry a sense of their company’s financial health in their heads for a while, but at some point it doesn’t work anymore. Things get missed, overspending gets overlooked until it’s taken a big bite out of profits, or the bank is no longer willing to trust your numbers for that next loan you want. And your accounting department hasn’t kept up with the needs of the company. Perhaps because they’ve been there for many years. Perhaps because they’re familiar faces who loyally show up every day and do their job steadily, just as they’ve done for years. But it’s no longer good enough and you don’t know where to begin.

We’ve done this for years. We know where to begin.

First, you get Gene. Every assessment engagement is conducted by our firm’s founder and president. With five decades of experience in finance, accounting and financial management, he quickly recognizes strengths and shortcomings that make the difference between strong performance and underperformance. He will conduct the study, comparing what you and your senior management team feel you should be getting with what you are actually getting and how they differ – a gap analysis, if you will. After collecting lots of information he will produce a written report that outlines in detail the results of his review, findings, recommendations, and conclusions. You get to then decide what you want to do. Perhaps you can make the changes yourself now that you know what to fix. Or perhaps you want help from our team, as so many other companies have chosen in the past. Or perhaps you want to stay where you are (Hint: virtually no one picks this option, but it’s available).

Gene will start by asking you for some advance materials – resumes, chart of accounts, representative financial reports, etc. – the background information that lays the groundwork for the interviews to come.

Then he’ll meet with you and your key executives – the people who rely on accounting reports in doing their jobs. He’ll meet with your accounting management team as well, and listen to what everyone has to say:

  • what you don’t get that you want and need,
  • what keeps Accounting from providing it,
  • what they think they need in order to perform better,
  • and all the rest.

Effective listening typically means he gets the stories and the rationalizations and the complaints and the finger pointing. And that’s a good thing, because it gets to the root of the problem pretty quickly. He’ll note the differences between what is produced, what is needed, and what is desired. And it’s good to keep in mind that what is desired is not always what is needed most – sometimes there are options and solutions that you might not even realize are possible. But somewhere else it’s been done and done well, and that’s the end goal.

The data collection phase typically lasts a couple days. Then back to our office where the data gets analyzed, studied and digested. A series of specific findings is developed, along with possible recommendations for correction. But before they are finalized, another meeting or phone conference will be held with your accounting team leaders to make sure our facts are right, opinions were properly interpreted, and issues are correctly presented. All of this may take a couple weeks to complete, fitting into people’s schedules, triggering re-thinking, then perhaps tweaking the findings and draft recommendations.

Finally a report is prepared. It will contain:

  • a description of the process that was followed for your company,
  • a description of the issues we found along with an estimate of what might have caused those issues,
  • a set of specific recommendations for each issue, spelled out in clear fashion – because you may want to take the report and implement its recommendations without our help, always an option.
  • Suggested next steps in the process of resolving all issues using our team for support (this is more than the marketing part, although it is that. It’s the part that guarantees our recommendations will be implemented and will produce the results that are necessary to the success of the business.

And that’s how it works.

When a disconnect arises between top management and its key source for operational financial information, it’s critical that the lines of communication flow smoothly, that issues move quickly from definition to resolution. We’ve been on both sides of the table here. Our team, from Gene to the newest member of our team, has been behind the desk in a corporate accounting department, and in front of the desk as the outside expert helping to understand what has gone wrong and what lessons from their years of experience in other companies are needed to quickly resolve the issues. Every one of our team is an accounting expert, a management expert, and a great listener. You can’t get that blend of experience in-house, and you probably can’t get it from your CPAs, your bankers or your attorneys. They haven’t been there as we have.

Please feel free to contact me at gene@cfoforrent.com for an exploratory conversation with no obligation.  I will be glad to hear from you.