For the last two weeks we’ve been discussing the questions you should ask yourself to confront your business’s harsh reality. Read about Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. This week, we’re going to ask ourselves the next two questions your should be asking.
5. Am I protecting the financial integrity of my company during downturns so that I am prepared to profit during better times?
Bad financial times prompt too many managers to take the turtle mentality. Don’t put your head in your shell until things turn up. Take the opportunity to see what is inefficient in your business by eliminating loss leaders and reducing inventory, and increasing marketing and sales expenses in high profit-margin areas. By shoring up problem areas during a downturn, you prepare your company to run lean and mean at all times.
This is not an excuse to avoid monitoring, evolving and preparing during good times, though. Many companies ride the wave of what’s working and worry about problems after the wave crashes on the shore. That’s the wrong approach. As long as you know it’s a wave, you know it will end. Come smoothly onto the shore, long since ready for the next wave. Companies that ignored this advice (not that they asked me) were satellite TV companies and Blockbuster. They both road their waves until they crashed into the shores of cable television and Netflix.
Speaking of crashing, if all of your assets and capital are invested in one area, and a problem occurs, operations will grind to a halt. If you have a Big Gorilla – one client, customer or product that accounts for 25% of more of your sales – you need to rethink what you’re doing. Along these lines, don’t bet the ranch on other opportunities; remain grounded in your decision making. In our experience, Big Gorillas are one of the top five reasons companies experience crises.
As above, consider the advantages of protecting your company’s financial integrity for more profitable times. There are always competitors who have issues, and if you keep cash or credit lines available then you can take advantage of someone else’s mistakes, acquiring new product lines or growing old ones.
6. Do our financial departments have sufficient controls and a fraud awareness policy?
75% of the fraud I discover is from first time offenders. That means the people who ultimately commit the fraud are not those who will come up in criminal background checks. Therefore, when working with your auditor, integrate sufficient checks and balances.
As the CEO you have to have a constant feel for your business financially. Walk the company and manufacturing floors – be hands on. Don’t let your guard down by taking your tie off and lounging in your office. Stay involved.
I once had a BBQ at 1 a.m. for a production crew at a company that ran 24/7. While doing this I discovered a multi-million dollar fraud. Do what would be considered out of the ordinary, and you never know what you’ll find.
One thing I recommend without exception is making your CFO/Controller take a two week vacation once a year. Don’t even let him in the building. Sit at his desk, or have someone else do it, and see what happens. You’ll be surprised every time as you find duplicate expenses, continued payment on cancelled leases or sold equipment, and perhaps personnel that don’t exist.
I hope these 3 posts about the 6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Confront the Harsh Reality of Your Business have been helpful. I’d love to know the answers to any of them if you care to share or questions that you would add to the list and that help you confront your harsh reality. Please share in the comments section below.