Klein Hall CFO Services are a game-changer for small business.

For the owners of small to mid-sized businesses, the role of CFO has always been a catch-22.

On the one hand, hiring an in-house CFO is an expense that most businesses can’t afford. In-house CFO salaries range from $150,000 to $500,000. Then again, with the challenges of today’s business world, how can you afford not to have a dedicated financial leader, someone who understands your business objectives and knows how to get there?

As a business owner, you are left with a tough choice. Do you spend hundreds of thousands on an in-house CFO, money that could be invested in other areas of your business? Or, do you take the risk and try to survive without one?

Here is a better question: What if you didn’t have to choose?

Klein Hall CFO Services offer an innovative financial management solution. For the owners of small to mid-sized businesses, it offers access to business advisory that, until now, has been prohibitively expensive.

Here is how it works:

Rather than hiring an in-house CFO, you partner with a dedicated Klein Hall financial expert. They perform all the standard services of a CFO, from financial planning to cash flow budgeting and financial statement analysis.

This is why business owners love it:

    • Affordability. A Klein Hall CFO costs a fraction of the salary you would spend on an in-house CFO. Plus, there is no overhead.
    • Continuity. When an in-house CFO leaves a business – or any in-house employee who handles the finances – it can be devastating. Often, these employees have established certain practices and procedures that only they understand, and the next employee you hire will have to start from scratch. That’s not the case with Klein Hall CFO Services. Our practices and procedures are consistent, organized and thoroughly documented – saving you valuable time and resources.
    • High quality. When you hire an in-house CFO, you are giving them access to your financial world. You need someone you can trust. Instead of attempting to vet a CFO on your own, partnering with a Klein Hall CFO means you are working with a qualified financial leader who is backed by a respected firm.

Want a stronger, faster business? Start Benchmarking.

Southwest Airlines had a problem. In the 1990s, they were already the fastest airline, in terms of refueling. But they wanted to be faster. Faster refueling means less time on the ground; less time on the ground means better margins. In other words, of course they wanted to be faster.

So, what did Southwest do? Invent a new technology? Hire faster employees? No. Instead, they used a business tactic that has been around as long as business itself, a tactic that is coming back into fashion:

Benchmarking.

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing one of your company’s systems to a similar system within or outside of your organization. The goal is to identify best practices and apply those practices to your own business.

(Note: We say “system,” but really you can benchmark anything: a product, a service, a methodology, etc.)

There are three different kinds of benchmarking: 

#1. Internal Benchmarking – comparing two of your company’s systems to each other.

#2. Competitive Benchmarking – comparing one of your systems to a competitor’s system.

#3. Functional Benchmarking – comparing your system (or simply an aspect of it) to a similar system outside of your industry.

Since they were already the fastest refuelers in the market, comparing Southwest Airlines to their competitors would not have been helpful. So, they turned to Functional Benchmarking.

To improve their own refueling process, Southwest Airlines looked to an industry very different from their own, an industry where speed is everything and refueling happens in a matter of seconds:

Formula One racing.

In F1 racing, drivers travel at speeds of 200mph. Refuelers are expected to keep up. (At least, they were, until the league ended refueling in 2009.) By auditing F1 pit crews and analyzing their systems, Southwest Airlines identified the best practices of the world’s fastest refuelers. Then, they applied those practices to their own refueling process.

The result? Faster refueling, less time on the runway, and a better bottom line.

That is the power of benchmarking.

So, how can your business tap into it?

Start by partnering with a business advisor you trust.

For benchmarking to be effective, work with a trusted 3rd-party who understands your challenges and knows the ins and outs of your industry. Look for creativity, personability, and most importantly, deep expertise.

Partner with an advisor who has a broad range of business advisory skills and extensive experience in your industry. To find creative solutions, they must understand your business.

They will work with you to identify your areas of improvement.

Your business advisor will work with various members of your organization to determine the systems, services, products or methodologies that need attention. They will help you focus on the areas that directly influence your bottom line. (In the case of Southwest, the refueling process was identified as a critical area.)

Your advisor will perform a comparative analysis.

At this point, your advisor will compare your system to similar systems within your organization and your competitors, identifying best practices along the way.

Or, if your situation is similar to Southwest Airlines’ predicament, a truly creative advisor will turn to examples outside of your industry.

They will bring the results to you.

An effective advisor not only gathers information. They perform in-depth analysis, extract actionable insights, and communicate their findings in a way that helps you improve your business.

Your advisor will help you apply the insights to your business strategy.

They will work closely with you and various stakeholders to apply the best practices to your organization. As your business grows and new challenges emerge, they will perform regular benchmarks – always measuring, always evolving. This gives you an edge over competitors and empowers you to continually fine-tune your operations.

…And that is just the beginning.

At Klein Hall, we know that today’s world is rapidly changing. We are here to help your organization get ahead through a wide range of business advisory services. Benchmarking is just the beginning.

Click here to learn more about our comprehensive business advisory services.

Your Small-Business New Year’s Resolution: Stay Cash flow Positive

In the 1960s, a young entrepreneur named Phil Knight began selling Japanese running shoes to retailers and track teams in the Portland area. He was doing well. His business was profitable. His customer base was growing. And demand was rising for his latest shoe, which was designed with a waffle iron. The future looked good. And then, suddenly, he nearly went out of business.

The problem with Mr. Knight’s business was that, although it was profitable and ready to grow, it was “cash flow negative.” In other words, he was investing more money in inventory and other expenses related to growth than he was taking in. Again, he was profitable. In a long-term sense, he was machining money. But too much cash was flowing out of his business in the short term, while not enough was flowing in – and, like most small-business owners, he didn’t have a large volume of capital to support a major cash deficit. When this happened month-over-month, Mr. Knight nearly lost everything. Fortunately, he eventually solved his cash flow woes, renamed his company Nike, and is doing well for himself.

Mr. Knight’s cash flow situation is not all that unique. Businesses of every industry encounter cash flow issues, especially small businesses, which often make major investments on new inventory and equipment without a solid safety net of cash. When those big investments are combined with fixed, regular expenses, like payroll and overhead, businesses can lose large volumes of cash in a short period of time – whether or not they are profitable. (A cash flow crisis can happen fast.) This problem is amplified by unpredictable delays in income, such as the business’ client invoices, which may be paid months after submittal, as well as delayed or unexpected costs like taxes and credit bills, which may come at a time when cash is already tight. If several of these factors combine to create negative cash flow, and this occurs for an extended period of time, an otherwise healthy business can find itself unable to meet payroll and forced to close shop.

…So, what is a small business to do?

First, begin monitoring your cash flow in real time. Cash flow problems are typically intense, short-term issues that are impossible to track if you are only analyzing your cash flow annually. Having a tight, monthly budget doesn’t solve this problem, either. While your budget can help monitor profitability, it is only a rough estimate of cash flow. A budget does not account for month-by-month disparities. It does not consider delayed invoices, credit bills and inventory expenses caused by rapid growth. And it will not tell you whether or not your business has the cash-on-hand to survive. For that, you need real-time cash flow projections.

Pay estimated taxes every quarter. Instead of paying a large volume of taxes in April – Who knows what your cash flow situation will be? – be proactive and pay quarterly. (Also, keep in mind: If your business is growing, so is your revenue, and so are your taxes due. Be sure to account for changes in your revenue stream when calculating your estimated tax payments.)

Prepare for the unexpected with a cash cushion. By nature, small businesses are going to encounter challenges and expenses that no one could have predicted. Maybe a new competitor disrupts your industry. Maybe you are the victim of a cyber-attack. Maybe you partner with a major new client, and you need to grow your staff, fast. As a small business in a dynamic financial world, you should always have some emergency cash on-hand for unanticipated expenses and investments (at least enough cash to meet the next payroll period).

Analyze your business’ historic data. Take a look at your company’s cash flow history and look for trends. Are there certain times of the year when you tend to be cash flow negative? Could you prepare for these seasonal droughts by saving cash? Are there opportunities for additional revenue streams during your off-season? There are many potential insights in historic cash flow data, and the knowledge gained there can be essential to your strategy.

Encourage prompt invoicing. Even the best clients can be sluggish and fickle with invoice payments, and this can cause serious problems with your cash flow. What if your biggest client is months late with a payment? You will be left without cash until they finally deliver. To prevent slow, inconsistent invoicing, streamline your clients’ payments. Don’t send paper invoices, which are time-consuming and energy-intensive. Instead, use software that makes payments as easy as possible for your clients, and remind them when they are late. If that doesn’t work, begin charging late fees.

The most important thing? Plan for the future. In addition to your short-term cash flow projections, which are critical, small-business owners should create a holistic, long-term cash flow strategy that incorporates future investments, taxes, the timing of invoices and bills, market trends, business growth, new expenses, and any other factors that can or will impact your cash flow. Instead of attempting to do this yourself, partner with a financial expert, an advisor who understands your business and has guided clients through similar situations.

Managing your cash flow is complicated. It requires expertise, diligence and proactivity, but it is essential to protecting your business today and planning for tomorrow.

Preparing for your financial future is challenging, but it is always worth it. As Phil Knight has said, just do it.