HIRING A VIRTUAL CFO
It’s a new year, mid-January, and if you’re anything like me you’re ready to hit the ground running and make 2017 the best year yet for your business. If you’re ready to take it to the next level these seven things will help to get you there.
1. HIRE A VIRTUAL CFO
A common refrain amongst SME owners is that they don’t have time, or the inclination, to stay across the finances of their business. Typically they’ll keep an eye on the cash at bank and perhaps watch the invoicing going out, but they won’t be looking at the broader picture, nor will they be running budgets and forecasting the financial picture much further than the next month. This is usually due to a mix of being time-poor and a lack of interest. They also know that hiring a senior finance person isn’t the best use of resources in a small business especially when they are already paying for a bookkeeper and an external accountant to handle their tax.
This is where a virtual CFO can step in. A good virtual CFO will handle a variety of senior finance tasks each month so you know they are being taken care of without the expense of an extra senior member of staff. Such tasks will typically include:
- Regularly reviewing the accounts – is everything correct? Are there any worrying trends?
- Maximise cash flow by helping you forecast and implementing best practice systems
- Help set and monitor financial KPIs for the business which are aligned with your business goals
- Set budgets for your business that should align with your growth plans and your staff capacity
- Regular reporting on the financial data that matters
- Advice on-tap during the month as and when you need it most
Many of us have good intentions when it comes to managing the finances of our business, especially at this time of year, but if you’re serious about growth and being able to focus on the areas where you can personally make the biggest difference then outsourcing this function might be the way to go.
2. SYSTEMISE YOUR OFFERING
I’m a huge fan of Michael E Gerber and his E-Myth book from 1995. His ‘treat it like it’s gonna be a franchise even if it’s not gonna be a franchise’ approach to running a small business is a real eye-opener. If you’re not familiar, the basic deal is to create a manual that documents all the processes that make up your business. Everything. HR, finance and accounting, sales and marketing, service delivery, etc. The theory goes that if you have everything documented clearly it can be easily repeated by your staff and this means that you are, in theory, no longer needed. This can remove a significant bottleneck from most small businesses – that is, the owner getting in the way of their own success!
Start with the key processes around how you service your customers and clients. Write the process down, use software to make it easy on the eye, run it by your team, test it, do everything to get it clearly articulated and repeatable. Then let your team get on with it! With a little testing and occasional quality assurance, you can rest easy it’s being done the same way every time, just how you like it.
3. STREAMLINE YOUR SALES & MARKETING
Many small businesses grow via word-of-mouth because they are doing a great job and have happy clients, but there is no real system in place, it just sort of happens. This is great, but it’s not able to be leveraged easily when you decide to take things to the next level and really ramp up your growth. I’d suggest the following processes get ironed out in your business so you can ensure a steady flow of new clients to support your growth plans.
- Leads – how are you actively seeking new leads? You could try networking, paid advertising, listing in trade magazines, inbound marketing, asking for referrals from existing clients, hosting events, direct mail, etc. There are a zillion options, try some and see what works for your business.
- First contact – do you have a clear and professional system for when a possible new client calls? Or is it an ad hoc approach? Develop a system so things are consistent and so that possible leads aren’t slipping through the cracks.
- Proposals – these need to be professional, engaging and informative. Don’t scrimp here! Get a professional designer to help you put something together. There are some great online software packages to help with this now which will also help to remind you to follow up on outstanding proposals.
- Contract – if your proposal isn’t also your client contact make sure to issue one that is clear and then walk the new client through it so they understand everything (including what you’ve quoted on and how/when you’ll be invoicing) and then get it signed and stuck on file.
4. SET SOME TARGETS (AND ACHIEVE THEM)
We’ve spoken about this HEAPS here at Better Business. How do you know you’ve achieved success unless you’ve defined what success means to you? Here are some posts that will help you along here:
- How to set KPIs for your business
- What are your long-term business plans?
- How much revenue should your team be generating?
5. MOVE TO THE CLOUD
If there has been one technological change in recent years that has caused a massive boost in productivity is the explosion in cloud software providers offering tools to help business owners get on with the running of their businesses. The benefits of cloud software are numerous and we’ve discussed some of them here.
Some of our favourite pieces of cloud software for business owners include the following. And what’s also brilliant is that most of these talk to each other meaning no more entering data twice.
- Xero – for managing your accounting and payroll needs. Bank feeds make data-entry a breeze
- ReceiptBank – for taking the hassle out of keeping your receipts
- WorkflowMax – for managing jobs, issuing invoices, keeping on top of time and much more
- Asana – the ultimate digital to-do list that works well with teams which are collaborating on projects
- Google – the combination of Google Drive with GMail and the various Google office apps is a fantastic solution for document creation, management and storage for small business
6. CREATE AN ADVISORY BOARD
It can be an isolating experience running a business by yourself. Even owners who are able to articulate their vision for the future and get it down in their business plan can get into trouble when it comes to actually implementing the plan. You might find yourself second guessing the plans or unsure of how to bring your team along for the journey. This is where a well crafted advisory board comes into play.
An advisory board isn’t like a normal board of directors. Being on an advisory board isn’t a legal position nor is it one of governance. As the name would suggest, members of an advisory board are there to advise and guide a business owner on a regular basis to help them achieve their business goals.
These boards tend to meet monthly (somtimes quarterly) and they provide a safe and collaborative environment for the business owner to get advice and re-jig plans so they are constantly moving in the right direction. It helps to keep you about the progress being made (or not being made as the case may be) which can be hugely beneficial as when the only person you have to answer to is yourself it’s pretty easy to make excuses.
A good board will typically consist of 4-6 people. Usually the business owner(s) and 1-2 advisors. You’ll want to get someone to handle the secreterial duties, appoint a chairperson and organise a quiet, private space to meet so the attendees can really focus on achieving the objectives of the board outlined in the boards charter – that is to support the owner to achieve the goals of the business (and not spend half the meeting chatting about the weekend and getting bogged down in the minutiae of the day-to-day operations of the business).
7. IMPLEMENT CLEANER WORKFLOW
One thing that can trip up your growth plans is failing to manage the work you already have in an effective and efficient manner. Post-it notes, random emails, notes on your hand, none of these are going to cut it if you want to grow and not create a giant headache for yourself.
Investing in a good job manangement package doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. We tend to recommend WorkflowMax, but there are a few others out there including Harvest that do a great job. These programs can act as your client database, invoicing system, manage jobs and timesheets and then report back on everything and it’s the reporting which is invaluable to owners who are looking to ensure they are maximising the returns for their hard work.
So that’s our top 7 ways to really take your business to the next level in 2017. If you’d like to learn more about our virtual CFO service you can click here, or if you’d like to tee up a free meeting to discuss how it might help your business you can click here. Any questions, just drop us a line. We’d love to help.