I joined a southeastern US based client of ours last week for their quarterly offsite management retreat, a regular exercise they have pursued in the interest of keeping their goals current and relevant and their managers focused on working as a team to meet the goals. The process and the outcomes were invigorating for everyone, and my observations are the subject of this post, perhaps with the thought that our readers might find the motivation to try a similar approach to team building.

The client is a small but growing company with strong goals and a financial plan that is on track to grow revenue by about 50% this year. They are opening branches in several cities where the demand is strong and their high customer service record is expected to enable them to take market share from less responsive competitors. But all of that growth requires a strong team effort, and as successful entrepreneurs know, lots of working capital to finance growth – especially true when the growth includes building and guiding remote management teams.

The meeting facilitator, a seasoned leader of such events, created a series of group-think exercises that challenged the team to develop function-based action plans around the company’s goals, working in teams on areas like marketing initiatives to develop a flow of leads, building a sales force to close those leads, the needed closing rate, and the internal resources that would be needed to support all that outreach. All in two days. The walls were covered with charts of action items developed around the assigned goals, while the facilitator gently nudged each group to keep focused and aware of the direction the other groups were taking.

Our group was focused on finance – how to make sure we had the team and financial resources to support the company-wide activity. One of the issues that came up was the difference between what we could afford to spend money on and what we needed to spend money on to support the goals. The point had to be made that the two are not the same. If spending money we don’t currently have would further the growth in very profitable ways, the challenge has to be how to attract the needed capital, not how to restrain our activity to the amount of cash on hand. Easy to say, not so easy to accept, especially if you think your CFO should be committed to restrained spending regardless of the cost. In the end, we identified ways to attract the needed capital – bank borrowing, SBA-backed loans, outside investors – that might be viable options to finance profitable growth. The message from our finance group was clear: when projected profits are rich enough to pay for the cost of additional capital, the company should establish an action plan to bring in the capital.

And when all the groups presented the results of their group-think efforts, the synergy of their efforts was truly impressive. While our firm doesn’t organize or facilitate such events, we know people who do. My advice to company CEOs: If you have an understanding of:

  • The strength and ambition to go after more than you already have,
  • The opportunities to grow rapidly in profitable ways,
  • The internal changes that may be needed optimize your chances of success, and
  • The understanding of the risks involved and how to deal with them,

Then do it! Those of our readers who have worked with us will recognize those bullets as the paraphrased elements of a SWOT analysis that every company should undertake before developing a strategic plan. Our client’s preparation for last week’s event showed they understood that and were prepared. And we were too, because…

We are Your CFO for Rent

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