Back From the Brink:  How CFOs Contribute to a Turnaround

Back From the Brink:  How CFOs Contribute to a Turnaround

The October 2015 CFO Leadership Council event in New York City featured a panel discussion titled “Back from the Brink:  How CFOs Contribute to a Turnaround.

The panel was moderated by Ken Dutcher, EVP and CFO of HealthSTAR Communications.  The panelists included James Gansman, Managing Director of Sherwood Partners; Amit Mui, EVP & CFO of Wisdom Tree Investments; and Allen Shaw, Independent Board Member for VIVUS, Inc..  The panelists were able to comment on turnarounds they experienced at both private and public companies. 

Here’s a brief summary of the key points made by the panelists.

The CFO’s Role in Turnarounds?

The CFO needs to sound the alarms, be objective, and help companies navigate difficult times.  The CFO also needs to analyze whether the challenge is a micro issue or a macro issue such as the Telecom “bubble” bursting in the late 90s.  In a macro industry collapse such as this, there are many uncontrollable factors.  

Another panelist discussed his experience during another macro issue: the Financial Crisis of 2008.  He commented on the need to be realistic with forecasts and expectation-setting with stakeholders during a turnaround.  Focus on retaining key employees at the same time you are cutting costs.  

How to Build Bridges with Operating Staff?

Make sure the CEO is fully engaged and is not disconnected from day-to-day operations.  The CFO needs to ensure that there’s alignment between the board and the executive team before reaching out to engage the operating management and staff. 

External alignment with investors and customers is also important during a turnaround. Honesty and transparency are key, and sales staff need to be out in front of clients during a market downturn or crisis.

How to Manage Through Fiduciary Obligations?

A big issue for mid-market companies is tax filings and payments (FICA, Sales Tax etc.)  Taxes should be paid immediately; delaying payment can become a dangerous spiral.  Awareness and management of international division obligations is also key.  CFOs need to have credibility with stakeholders in order to provide realistic expectations and guidance.  Highlight the steps that are being taken to address the situation.

Financial stability is key to retaining clients.  Maintain a positive image with clients during a turnaround and ensure the wrong messages don’t get out.  Keep sales staff focused on clients and selling, not standing around the water cooler discussing rumors.

Who Should Be “In The Know” During a Turnaround?

Water cooler gossipThe panelists had mixed views on this topic.  One said that transparency is necessary to ensure that all employees are steering in the right direction.  This allows people to channel their energy into the right tasks instead of churning the rumor mill.  Some companies utilize retention bonuses to keep key staff, even re-pricing stock options that are underwater.  Have the strategy finalized before it’s presented to the employees.  It’s critical to be consistent in strategy and message during a turnaround.

Another panelist commented that their executive team wanted line managers to stay focused on clients and launching new products and services during a turnaround, so they limited communications to senior and middle management.  The operating committee was released from internal obligations so they could put more focus on clients.  Out of 300 employees, less than 10 people were really involved in the turnaround.  They had weekly calls with owners to update on progress and monthly calls with bankers.

What’s the Impact of a Turnaround on Day-To-Day Tasks?

The executive management team should be fully engaged in all turnaround issues, especially cash flow management and employee retention.  The executive team needs to be aligned, making sure everyone understands key decisions and actions.  Cash flow management is critical during a turnaround.  Key decision makers, especially the marketing department, need to be aligned on how cash will be spent.

Managing Cash Flow

Liquidity is key during a turnaround; keeping the lights on is essential.  A number of panelists recommended using a 13–week rolling cash forecast to run the business during a turnaround.   The CFO should take responsibility for cash flow management and forecasting.  Most panelists suggested leveraging weekly forecasts and monthly meetings with investors through the turnaround.

It is also necessary to keep vendors at bay, maintain communications, and set expectations.  Reset payment terms or provide equity opportunities if needed. 

Lessons Learned and Final guidance for other CFOs

  • Maintain integrity and objectivity. Stay intellectually honest and authentic. 
  • The CFO is not alone; build a support team and a lifeline to provide help.
  • Transparency is key. Communicate with all stakeholders to get help and support.  Maintain integrity; don’t over-promise.  
  • Leadership is also key. The CFO needs to step up and be the leader in steering the ship and guiding the team in the right direction. 
  • Courage is essential. As the situation and facts unfold, act on them. Bring them to the CEO and lenders to drive decisions. 

Providing the critical information required to manage a turnaround, such as a 13-week rolling cash forecast, can be challenging when using spreadsheets.  Many organizations who have outgrown spreadsheets, are turning to cloud-based EPM solutions in order to improve accuracy and control over their planning, forecasting, and financial reporting.  To learn more about how Planful’ Cloud EPM Suite can help your organization navigate a turnaround, check out this white paper titled “Predictability Through Planning Agility”. 

Download the Free White Paper

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Spreadsheet Budgeting Karaoke

Spreadsheet Budgeting Karaoke

I recently had the pleasure of attending Karaoke night at Bub City, a bar in Chicago, after the Planful Future of Finance event there.  I hadn’t been there before, but the place was packed after the Chicago Cubs had won the NLDS.

What was cool about this Karaoke night was that there was a band that played along with the Karaoke sound track and the singer.  They had a drummer, bass and guitar players on the stage along with the open mic.   At one point in the evening, Jim Belushi even made a guest appearance – singing “Sweet Home Chicago” and playing harmonica with the band.  Crazy night.

Anyway – prior to this visit, I had heard that the most popular Karaoke song in America is the duet “Picture”, sung by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow.  Sure enough, among all of the other country songs that were sung, two different duos took the stage to sing “Picture”.

Given this is budgeting season, it got me thinking – what if Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow were financial analysts working on their budgets and struggling with Excel spreadsheets.  What would the song sound like?  Well, here’s what I came up with.

Spreadsheets – Sung by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow

[Kid Rock]

Livin’ my life in a slow hellBub City Chicago

Stuck doing my budgets in Excel

I ain’t seen the sunshine in 3 damn days

Been fuelin’ up on donuts and coffee

Wish I had a boss who would help me

Lord I wonder if I’ll ever change my ways

I put my spreadsheet away

Sat down and cried today

I can’t look at my screen, ‘cause my eyes are turnin’ red

I put my spreadsheet away, sat down and cried today

I can’t look at my screen ‘cause my eyes are turnin’ red

[Sheryl Crow]

I saw you last night with your PC

Trying to consolidate spreadsheets

But the time you put in tells me

Somethin’ just ain’t right

You’ve been stuck in your cube like a jail

Collecting data via Excel and Email

You haven’t slept a wink – in 3 damn nights

You put your spreadsheet away

I say for crying out loud

Why don’t you drop Excel and do your budgets – in the cloud

You put your spreadsheet away

I say for crying out loud

Why don’t you drop Excel and do your budgets – in the cloud

[Sheryl Crow]

I saw you yesterday with an old friend

[Kid Rock]

It was the same ole spreadsheet that I dread

[Both]

With that spreadsheet approach – your hair is turning grey

[Kid Rock]

I’m thinking ‘bout brighter days

[Sheryl Crow]

The cloud is a much better way

But you better change fast

[Kid Rock]

Or I’m gonna drink my life away!

[Both]

I’ve been using Excel for a long timePicture

Can’t seem to get it off my mind

I can’t understand why we’re living life this way

I put my spreadsheet away

I swear I’ll change my ways

It’s time to call Planful – and get to the cloud

I put my spreadsheet away

I swear I’ll change my ways

It’s time to call Planful – and get to the cloud

It’s time to call Planful – and get to the cloud.  [End]

I hope you enjoyed the song.  If you’re stuck in spreadsheet hell during budget season and feel like it’s time for a change, download this free white paper, “Top 5 Reasons to Stop Using Excel for Planning and Performance Management”.

Download the Whitepaper

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What’s Brewing at Peet’s Coffee? Finance Transformation in FP&A!

What’s Brewing at Peet’s Coffee? Finance Transformation in FP&A!

What does it take to transition a small but growing publically-traded business into a rapidly growing privately-held business?

That’s a good question, and one that the folks at Peet’s Coffee & Tea is more than capable and willing to discuss. Peet’s went through this process, and came out a winner. Founded in 1966, Peet’s went through an IPO in 2002. The business continued to grow, though not as fast as possible, until 2012, when it was taken off the public market and bought by private investment firm JAB Holding Company for just shy of $1 billion.

Peet’s Coffee has four different business units, which they refer to as ‘channels’ of business. These include their retail stores, CPG (or consumer packaged coffees for sale in grocery stores and supermarkets), a web-based home delivery service, and wholesale outlets (licensed partners which operate in places like airports). The wholesale business also includes an office coffee and tea supply business.

According to Adolfo Romero, Senior Manager and Corporate FP&A for Peet’s, there were three parts to the finance transformation: transformation of the business processes for scalability, transformation of the technical tools used for analytics and forecasting, and transformation of the people on board to support the growth JAB proposed for Peet’s Coffee. Here is how each part of the transformation worked.

Finance Transformation Through Better Business Processes

Peet's Coffee ShopWith the right processes, tools, and people in place, Peet’s could grow their coffee and tea business without sacrificing the service and quality that their devoted Peetniks have come to expect.  

In order to grow a business rapidly and successfully, the business process has to be efficient. This means simplifying the work, streamlining the processes, and implementing structured and standardized processes where there were none before. This allows for more work to be done easier, faster, and with minimal staffing, so as to maximize profits without sacrificing the speed and quality of customer service.

Finance Transformation Through the Acquisition of Better Tools

Before the transfer from public to private, Peet’s Coffee depended on old, outdated software systems and Excel spreadsheets for reporting purposes. The company desperately needed to modernize with a faster system that would support better decision making. Of all the options available, Peet’s Coffee selected Planful Cloud EPM Suite. This tool allowed them to get access to data quickly and to have more confidence in the accuracy of the data. Better data and analysis allowed the finance team to provide better recommendations to their leadership, which was a huge factor in Peet’s inevitable success.

Finance Transformation Through the Acquisition of the Right People

Financial transformation meeting

The tools and processes aren’t worth much without the right people in the right places to use them to their full potential.

Tools and processes are nothing without the right people. One of the most important parts of Peet’s transformation from public to private company was getting the right people with the right backgrounds into the right positions. With these teams in place, they could focus on the most high-value work. The right head count helps support profitable growth.

With the right processes, tools, and people in place, Peet’s Coffee & Tea has developed a devoted following of customers, lovingly called ‘Peetniks’. Headquartered in the San Francisco Bay area, lovers of Peet’s uniquely roasted coffee are scattered far and wide across the United States.

For more on how Planful Cloud EPM Suite has helped Peet’s Coffee transform Finance, listen to this webinar replay.   This is your free gift from Planful, your catalyst for business intelligence and strong, healthy growth.

Watch the webinar replay

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For the small business, Excel is a fantastic tool. It allows for a reasonable amount of reporting, budgeting, analysis, forecasting, etc., is inexpensive, and is widely understood within the finance industry.

This means that most employees are already trained and comfortable using it. These things make it a practical choice, at least until the business grows. But once you begin adding complexity to the business with operations overseas, acquisitions of other businesses, or the in-depth reporting required to satisfy the interests of venture capitalists, Excel for financial consolidation and close management quickly becomes unable to keep up. Here are five ways to know when you’ve outgrown Excel for financial close and consolidation and it’s time for EPM software.

 

1. Closing in Excel is Too Time-Consuming and Tedious

As the business grows and expands, Excel spreadsheets quickly become too large, cumbersome, complex, and error-prone to close out with confidence.

Enterprise performance management

When you begin the process of closing, you start by exporting trial balance data out of the general ledgers or ERP software and collect the data into spreadsheets that have to be reviewed and processed manually. As the number and complexity of these spreadsheets grow, the process soon becomes too time-consuming and tedious to do by hand. When the close process stretches into weeks of long hours and laborious effort, you know you’ve outgrown excel and it’s time for EPM software.

2. Data in Excel Isn’t Necessarily Accurate

Excel is inherently manual. Usually, as long as a single person or a small group of people are working with the data, charts, formulas, etc, it can be kept reasonably accurate. However, as the number of people who work with these spreadsheets grows, more and more errors are introduced into the data. Many companies proceed as if the spreadsheets are accurate, even though about 88% of all business spreadsheets used for close and consolidation contain errors. When errors become a problem (and errors always become a problem in Excel as the business grows), it’s time for EPM software.

3. Excel Isn’t as ‘Smart’ as Enterprise Performance Management

Excel has formulas, and when smart people use handy formulas, the program seems really smart. In fact, Excel is not smart at all, the users provide the smarts. EPM software, however, has logic programmed into the design. The built-in formulas, templates, etc. have an inbuilt understanding of the finance rules behind the operations. It understands how to apply debits and credits, calculate income, expenses, variances, etc. When the accounting standards change or the company alters its guidelines, these changes can be built into templates and applied across the system instantly. When you need this kind of intelligence and power behind your finance software, it’s time for EPM.

4. Excel is Inherently Insecure and Difficult to Audit

Excel spreadsheets can't be audited

An EPM system can’t be emailed or stored to an insecure consumer cloud service. This means that your data is kept within your business’ control.

In Excel, all the data is visible to all of the users. A spreadsheet can easily be emailed, which is a huge security risk. Spreadsheets are also easy to upload to consumer-grade cloud storage, such as Google Docs, which simply does not have the enterprise-grade security necessary when handling sensitive corporate documents. In EPM, you can control where the data is stored and who has access to it. It’s not only more secure, but it also establishes a clear and easy-to-follow trail for auditors.

5. Excel is Inflexible Compared to Enterprise Performance Management Software

In Excel, making changes means going through, trying to find and identify each instance of that issue in all of the complex spreadsheets, and hoping all the changes were found and changed, without introducing more errors into the data. In EPM, however, changes are made in a single location and are automatically applied throughout the software. EPM can even handle things like multiple currencies, partial entity ownership, and chart of accounts translations.

If Excel isn’t handling it for your business anymore, it’s time to upgrade to EPM. To learn more about why it may be time to upgrade to an EPM software solution check out our free white paper.

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What Role Should the CFO Play in Data Security?

What Role Should the CFO Play in Data Security?

For most people, the topic of data security would seem like something of primary interest to the CIO of an organization, right?  But increasingly, the topic of data security is being added to the agenda of the CFO, and for good reasons.

A recent CFO.com article addresses this topic, starting with the definition of “data security” vs. “data privacy.”  Data privacy is defined as an individual’s ability to control the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.  Closely related, data security is defined as security measures that companies have in place to protect that data once they have it.  Data security is what maintains the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data within your possession, custody, or control.

Data privacy and security are both required from a regulatory compliance perspective.  Failure to pay attention can result in penalties and fines.  But often more importantly, a failure in data privacy and security can result in potentially huge losses in consumer confidence and brand value.

Understandably, then, the article goes on to highlight how investors and potential acquirers are paying more attention to the potential risks in data security and privacy.  This is now being included as part of the due diligence process along with tax, environmental, intellectual property, and other aspects of financial health.

Data security and privacy are impacting companies in all industries, not just those that collect credit card information and other personal data from customers.  The process is further complicated by the variety of systems being used to collect data – financial systems, human resources systems, customer relationship management (CRM), manufacturing, websites, and others.

Because of the issues mentioned above – compliance risk, impact of a security breach on consumer confidence and brand value, and the due diligence implications – CFOs need to pay more attention to data security.

The article recommends 6 steps that CFOs can take to get more involved in data security:

  1. Stay informed
  2. Plan ahead for investments
  3. Plan ahead for divestments
  4. Keep data risk at top of mind
  5. Embrace compliance as your new best friend
  6. Create a culture

You can get the details behind each of these recommendations in the CFO.com article.

Unquestionably, CFOs are getting more involved in data security and evaluating their current portfolio of business applications.  In the process, they may find themselves questioning the security of applications deployed in their own data center vs. those delivered by cloud vendors.  The interesting point here is that the industry is beginning to realize that cloud-based systems are often actually more secure than on-premises applications.  We highlighted this trend in a prior blog article – “Worried About Financial Data Security?  Better Get to the Cloud.”

In that post, we highlight the increasing adoption of cloud-based applications in Finance and the rigorous steps we take as a cloud-based vendor to ensure the security of our customers’ sensitive financial data.

To learn more about the Planful approach to data security, download a recently updated white paper on this topic.

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Companies and football teams both have goals, objectives, strategies, tactics, employees and other resources, competitors, stakeholders, customers, and outcomes.  But the biggest lesson I think we can draw is how to review performance mid-stream and execute mid-game adjustments that create a better outcome – winning.

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Leveraging EPM in the Life Sciences Industry

Life Sciences is a dynamic, fast-changing market that provides both opportunities and challenges for Pharmaceutical manufacturers, Biotech companies, and Medical Device manufacturers.

A new white paper published by Planful provides an overview of how cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) solutions are helping companies in the Life Sciences industry address the challenges they face and take advantage of new market opportunities to drive growth and profits.

Challenges in Dynamic Markets

Companies in the Life Sciences industry are facing major challenges. On the positive side, aging populations, chronic/lifestyle diseases, emerging-market expansion, and treatment and technology advances are driving growth in the Life Sciences sector.  However, efforts by governments, health care providers, and health plans to reduce costs, improve outcomes, and demonstrate value are dramatically altering the health care demand and delivery landscape.

Deloitte’s 2015 Life Sciences Industry Outlook Report reported that “it is becoming increasingly evident that the global Life Sciences sector is operating in an era of significant transformation. A dynamically changing clinical, regulatory, and business landscape is requiring that pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical technology companies adapt traditional research and development (R&D), pricing, supply chain, and commercial models.”

Despite these challenges, Deloitte believes that the global Life Sciences industry still has the potential for significant growth. It’s up to each organization to determine how it can build and sustain new strategic business models. Those focusing on operational and financial performance are quickly becoming the most agile of organizations. They’re also, as a result, set up for long-term success.

Enter Cloud-Based Enterprise Performance Management

In a recently published Planful white paper titled “Enterprise Performance Management in Life Sciences,” we document how leading Life Sciences companies are turning to cloud-based EPM software to help address many of the challenges outlined above.  The white paper highlights several ways cloud-based EPM software can help Life Sciences companies survive and thrive in a dynamic and demanding industry:

  • Effective Budgeting & Planning – Cloud-based budgeting and planning software enables Life Sciences companies to create more dynamic budgets and rolling forecasts that can be updated in real-time based on changing business drivers. The modeling portion of the software enables business analysts and financial analysts to model different business scenarios.
  • Streamlining Financial Close and Reporting – Cloud-based consolidation and reporting solutions enable Finance departments to spend less time collecting data and more time analyzing results – before they’re delivered to internal and external stakeholders.  In addition, the results can be delivered faster through standard reports, an Excel-based interface, and presentations and board books that can be automated to eliminate rekeying of information and improve accuracy.
  • Scorecarding – Getting Everyone on the Same Page – Web-based scorecarding is helping Life Sciences companies create clear metrics that can be shared and monitored across the entire organization. Scorecards allow each employee within a Life Sciences company to clearly understand the key drivers to profitability while providing employees the ability to track their performance against company goals.
  • Dashboards – Delivering Timely Insights – Executive dashboards serve as the shop window to the business for key executives. The window provides graphs and charts on how the business is performing at any given moment. A dashboard can provide a summary of sales by region, R&D costs, drug development and approval progress, operating costs by region, and other metrics.

Real-World Customer Examples

In this white paper, we document how several companies – Physio Controls, Tandem Diabetes Care, and Jazz Pharmaceuticals – are using Planful Cloud EPM Suite to improve their agility in the dynamic Life Sciences market.  This includes a summary of the business challenges faced by these companies, how they deployed the software, and the benefits they have achieved.

To learn more about how Planful is helping companies in the Life Sciences industry to navigate dynamic markets, download the free white paper.

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