The Strategic CFO

“How many businesses find their data to be a complete mess?” Christie Kelly, former CFO of JLL Real Estate questioned as she and a panel of high-profile CFOs discussed the changing landscape for financial leaders at an event held by the National Association of Corporate Directors.

In today’s world every business now seems to be in the game of being a technology business. That means that a new importance is placed on data, especially for CFOs.

“How do we transition to turn it (data) into insights, and how does that change finance to have more technology, process, and Six Sigma?” Kelly said.

The role of the CFO has evolved, due to the accelerated pace of the digital age. How? A strategic CFO drives transformational change. A CFO must not only understand a business from start to finish to provide financial excellence, but also must predict what is coming from a strategic standpoint and be ready to evolve.

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Organizational Change Is Fast With Alignment & Autonomy

Organizational transformation is a sore spot for many businesses who resist change. When evolution is desperately needed, they dig their heels in and cling to inefficient systems and outdated technology. This weakens their competitive edge, slows their go-to-market opportunities, and can wreak havoc internally. The end result is that these organizations remain stagnant, which is further fueled by a lack of internal alignment and frustration amongst employees who are not empowered to make decisions.

But how can organizations swiftly respond to change and come out on top? What are the key ingredients for business transformation success? Martin Danoesas, a partner of the BCG financial institutions practice, explains in a TED Talk how change is needed in today’s workplace. The old-school-way organizations were built meant “thinkers” were at the top of the org chart, and “doers” at the bottom. That model doesn’t hold up in the era of technological adoption and disruption.

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In M&A Deals, An Interim CIO Starts IT Systems Integration Planning Early

IT department leaders are usually left out of the early M&A meetings during the pre-merger or pre-acquisition phase. “IT systems integration” discussions do not include IT managers until it’s too late. This phenomenon is all too common when it comes to understanding the full scope of IT priorities and what each organization brings to the tech table to ensure successful M&A experience for employees and customers.

According to the 2018 Deal Value Curve Study, only 19% of M&A professionals surveyed believed there was sufficient due diligence on IT systems and assets before a merger or acquisition. This pitfall may stem from the fact that decision makers do not fully grasp the complexity of IT. Worse yet, they may fail to realize just how dependent the organization’s business goals are with IT systems.

Surprisingly, IT system integration is not top of mind during M&A discussions. That’s detrimental for two reasons:

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Poor System Integration & Company Culture Misalignment Leads to M&A Failure

In a merger or acquisition, discord of company cultures and disparate systems can cause the demise of a once-promising partnership. About 70% of acquisitions fail when post-acquisition results don’t meet pre-closing expectations. Many of these M&A failures are caused by poorly executed integration.

What’s surprising is that M&A failures are avoidable with careful integration planning and strategic post merger integration. Pre-acquisition, it takes a lot of forethought on how company cultures might clash and how their systems will integrate. Post-acquisition, it takes a ton of strategic elbow grease to rapidly align systems (and eliminate some), retain productive employees, keep customers, and make stakeholders happy.

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Jumpstart 2019 With a Health Checkup on Your Business

Lose weight. Exercise more. The new year’s resolutions are in full gear right now. Whether it’s getting to the gym, reading more, or eating more greens, January usually begins with a reflection of how we did and what we can do more, better, faster this year.

We focus so much on being proactive in our health and personal care. But what about our business health? Is it just business as usual, again? Or do we have bigger business goals for 2019?

Talking to company owners and investors over the years, we have discovered a lot less proactivity than you’d expect and a lot more complacency. We don’t mean activity – everyone has lots of to-do lists – where busy work mask over big or growing problems.

We often get calls when the house is on fire: cash is draining away from the business, employees are jumping ship, frustrations are mounting, or lack of fresh thinking, innovation and true leadership have led to stagnation in the market. Owners say to us my ‘business is failing, what do I do’.

It’s hard not to think how many sleepless nights could have been avoided for an owner if they would have just acted sooner. We mean solve the issues not just by trying to dive in themselves or harangue the management team more, but instead through resources or tools that could extend their capabilities and help make vision a reality.

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What is My Business Strategy? Owners Need a Game Plan

No organization is immune to challenges, not if it has any ambition. But how do we as owners and leaders put our strategy hat on to see down the road, or attempt to see, to predict where markets will go, how customers will act and react? To play the great game of chess in the real world – which is strategy.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. The eloquent Mike Tyson put it so well when he said, “everybody has a plan until I punch them in the mouth.” We would do well to remember how limited our brilliant strategies in fact are, how fragile in the face of ambiguity, uncertainty and future black swan events.

Just look to history to see how companies have been blindsided with the punch they never saw coming. Kodak invented the first digital camera in 1975, but put launch on hold in fear of cannibalizing their film business. We all know the story from there….Kodak who? Or take Blockbuster – which failed to pivot when Netflix showed up. And then Borders and Barnes & Noble, crushed under the Amazon onslaught. And the examples of business strategy gone wrong go on…

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Family Offices Use Interim CFOs to Improve Operations and Make Sound Investments

There’s no question that the number of family offices is on the rise. A recent study by Campden Research revealed that there are over 5,300 family offices worldwide. About 2,200 of the family offices are in North America. About 67% of family offices that exist today were established after 2000.

There aren’t hard and fast rules on what a modern-day family office looks like. A single family office typically has over $150 million in private wealth and is one family. In recent years, multi-family offices have increased. In multi-family offices, families — related or not —  have shared interests, investment goals, infrastructure needs, or operational requirements. By coming together, they save resources. This way family offices can focus more energy on portfolio growth and increasing net profit margins.

Over the past decade, the way family offices invest has evolved. In the past, family offices stayed in their comfort zone, by acquiring operating businesses in their business sector.

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It’s not uncommon for private equity portfolio companies to double or even triple growth thanks to merger or acquisition. Albeit positive, rapid growth brings new operational challenges that can stop the upward momentum in its tracks. Interim executives bring the expertise needed to enable growth on a massive scale.

“Sometimes a business will start with $40 million in sales, and through acquisition will be two or three times that size. Often that creates an environment where you need to add to the management team, whether that be the CFO or the CEO,” said Forest Wester, a Partner at Trivest Partners that leverages interim executives to enable growth.

Private equity funds use interim executives in a variety of scenarios. However, these scenarios are typically problems that need to be solved such as the abrupt departure of a CEO.

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How an Outsourced CMO Enables Business Growth and Builds Brand Power

More than ever, a consistent brand that customers trust is critical to business growth. Whether product or service-based, B2B or B2C, local or global-focused, a strong brand with a great reputation is what enables a company to expand successfully.

Behind every powerful brand, stands an innovative Chief Marketing Officer. An experienced CMO can strategically plan and scale marketing plans during periods of business growth.

But not all companies can afford to hire a full-time CMO on a permanent basis. Many startups and midmarket companies reach a tipping point where they either expand or stagnate. All too often, the rate of business expansion they want to achieve outpaces their available operational resources and time.

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Signs Your Struggling Business Needs Help

We were having a conversation with an executive recently who shared about their experience parachuting into a business that was struggling with operational inefficiencies.

This executive, like many interims, kicked off the assignment by meeting face-to-face with the management team and employees to learn how the business functions, what’s working, and what isn’t. Their findings would turn into an operational roadmap of the business, where they would set out and implement a go-forward plan. When meeting with one team member and learning about what they did, the executive pointed to a process they had in place asking “why do you do that?”

 The answer: “Because we’ve always done it that way”

 (Alarm bells begin to loudly ring)

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