What is the hardest decision you have made in your lifetime?


[ t h i n k ]

STOP. START. CHANGE. CONTINUE.

  1. Direct reports (as a team) come up with a list for their Supervisor for each of these categories:
    1. Things we want you to STOP.
    2. Things we want you to START.
    3. Things we want you to CHANGE.
    4. Things we want you to CONTINUE.
  2. Direct reports discuss the list with the Supervisor who takes notes during the discussion.
  3. Supervisor emails the discussion notes to the team (direct reports) to ensure he/she got everything and got it right.
  4. All parties take a week to think about it, and then meet again to confirm and move forward.
  5. OPTONAL: Supervisor and team review [STOP, START, CHANGE, CONTINUE] list quarterly (or mid-year). Then they meet at the beginning of the year to see what progress was made (or not).

Build Your Own Dashboard of Key Indicators

dash

by scott pickard

One of the most important responsibilities of the CEO is to communicate the current and projected future performance of the organization. A well accepted technique for this is called a “dashboard of key indicators.” If you sit on a Board of Directors, you want to see regular updates of key indicators in an easily accessible, simple, visual format. I’ve found that Prezi provides a perfect platform to do this.

Corporations have the capital to purchase and deploy fancy enterprise systems (or cloud-based systems) and the financial staff to take care of this kind of thing. But if you’re an entrepreneur or small business person, you’ve got to figure out a way to do this for yourself. I will show you a way to do this using Prezi and other common off-the-shelf tools (software) that you probably already have access to.

But first, let me show you what the end product can look like and talk about the benefits of using Prezi.

The beauty of the Prezi dashboard

Online, anytime, anywhere, on any mobile device: I think this benefit is pretty self-explanatory. Click on the following link and it will take you to a public dashboard which we can use as a demonstration:

https://prezi.com/ot85bbsaiqon/dashboard

The picture below shows you that a Prezi dashboard looks great on any device: PC, laptop, iPad, and smartphone.

The infinite whiteboard: Prezi is famous for what they call the “infinite whiteboard” concept. The navigation functionality made possible by this is what makes it so powerful and appealing as a presentation tool.

The first thing most users will do is click on the home icon along the right-hand border of the window which will pop the entire dashboard inside the window giving you the big picture overview of the dashboard.

From this vantage you can navigate one of several ways:

Click on the full-screen mode icon and a slide will fill the monitor screen (similar to presentation mode in PowerPoint). This is the preferred mode when making a presentation to an audience.

The user can either manually advance through each slide by clicking on the right or left arrows on the bottom of the window; or, the user can set “autoplay” to one of several different timing intervals.

On any given slide, the user can zoom in or out at will thanks to the “infinite whiteboard” of Prezi. Back-and-forth, zoom in and out, pop back to home, this is the kind of easy flexibility a user wants when navigating a dashboard.

Privacy: You can share online your dashboard using Prezi’s three-level privacy functionality:

  • Private: only you can view and edit.
  • Hidden: you can view and edit. Collaborators can view if they have the link.
  • Public: it can be viewed by the world if they have the link.

DIY dashboard

To get started you need the following:

  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheet
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Adobe PDF maker
  • Prezi

Creating the graphs: Microsoft Excel gives you everything you need to set up all of your key indicator data and then convert that data into visually impactful graphs and charts. Each chart can be copied and pasted into a PowerPoint presentation file as an image.

Once all your slides are transferred into PowerPoint, you then need to “save as” the PowerPoint file as a PDF file. It is true that you can directly import a PowerPoint file into Prezi but I have found that sometimes formatting of the slides can be lost. By converting it to a PDF file, the formatting of each slide is “locked” and when you import the PDF file into Prezi, each slide comes out perfect.

Next, you import the PDF file into your new Prezi presentation space which you have created online. When you do this, Prezi magically unbundles each slide within the PDF file and arranges them separately in their correct original order.

And finally, you click “edit path” in the lower left-hand corner of your Prezi window to then click on each slide in the order you want them presented, and then click “done”.

You have now created a world-class dashboard!

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cash

cash

by scott pickard

Cash is king, as the old saying goes. It is the one resource a company cannot survive without for any length of time until the doors are closed, voluntarily or involuntarily, which is why the CEO must find or develop a method to reliably understand and predict the company’s current and future ability to generate the cash it needs to pay all of its bills.

Forecasting cash flow is much easier than it used to be, thanks to the convenient number-crunching power of PCs and spreadsheet software which allows one to build an Integrated Spreadsheet which links a projected balance sheet and income statement for the business. The Integrated Spreadsheet is a tool that will give any CEO the positive direct control they must have over the financial rudder of the business.

A wise time investment for CEO’s
A company’s cash flow at any point in time is a juxtaposition of payables, receivables, debt service, capital expenditures, sales/repurchases of stock, and other factors. An Integrated Spreadsheet handles this complex financial interaction with electronic precision. Using this tool, a CEO can more carefully predict where the company is heading. That’s powerful planning and peace of mind for the executive/owner that shoulders the burden of consistently meeting payroll and staying current with suppliers on all bills.

  • The Integrated Spreadsheet gives the CEO a rational way to appropriately pace capital expenditures, quarterly (or even monthly) bonus payments, and sweeps of excess cash into less liquid but higher-returning financial instruments at the earliest possible time.
  • The Integrated Spreadsheet allows the CEO to look at the effect on cash from big-picture business initiatives such as acquiring a new business, selling off a division, developing and staffing a new department, or launching a new product line.
  • Using an Integrated Spreadsheet helps the CEO disclose mistakes that are sometimes made in monthly financial statements from either miscoding or a faulty accounting interpretation of a particular transaction.
  • With an Integrated Spreadsheet the company always has a three-year plan that is built on actual operating numbers, but fine-tuned to reflect management’s best judgment of future revenues and expenses.
  • The Integrated Spreadsheet can easily generate an unlimited number of graphs to analyze past performance and predict future performance which is often the most effective way to communicate financial data to employees, directors, shareholders, and the bank.
  • An Integrated Spreadsheet will demonstrate to the bank, board, and investors that the financial management and budgeting of the company is under control which promotes confidence in the officers and the business by its internal and external constituents.

DIY

Assuming the user knows their way around a spreadsheet and double- entry accrual accounting, the structure of an Integrated Spreadsheet can be set up in a few hours. It will take a day or so to input the previous twelve months of operating data; a day to input informed estimates of revenues, expenses, and capital expenditures for the next twelve months and to fine-tune those estimates; and a day to train all users who will have access to the Integrated Spreadsheet.

If the CEO cannot spare the time, this task can be delegated to inside accounting staff or subcontracted to an outside accountant or consultant. If this project is delegated, it is still important that the CEO be trained in the use of the Integrated Spreadsheet so that he or she can perform what-if analyses and generally watch over the constantly revising forecast of the financials of the business, a function that should be owned by the CEO. Financial forecasting involves hundreds of experience-based estimates of highest-probable outcomes of revenues, expenses, capital expenditures, debt service, equity inflows and outflows, extraordinary gains and losses, and other income and expenses, by someone that has the overview of the business. The CEO has this overview as it is part of the responsibility of the position.

Basic structure of the integrated spreadsheet
It is important for the user to have a general understanding of how the spreadsheet is laid out and functions. The integrated spreadsheet has three major components:

  • Balance Sheet
  • Income Statement
  • Cash flow adjustment

These three components are linked or integrated so that they balance or tie out in accrual accounting terms. These integrated accounts are highlighted in various colors as shown on the diagram below:

cashflow

The major points of integration are identified by the matching colors. For example, the link between “depreciation” on the balance sheet and “depreciation expense” on the income statement is shown in brown, since these two entries must be identical in double-entry accrual accounting. There are in fact numerous links between the income statement and the balance sheet as a result of the double-entry methodology. The beauty of the spreadsheet is it affords the user the flexibility to add/subtract/modify at will and build increasing sophistication into the integrated spreadsheet enabling a more realistic modeling of the financial dynamics of the business.

I’ve posted a power point presentation on prezi that leads you through the basic construction of the integrated spreadsheet. The secret sauce in this process is the synching of a cash flow adjustment (plug) at the bottom of the spreadsheet below the income statement as shown in the diagram below:

2slides

By wiring together these key accounts to calculate the actual cash flow for each month, this will cause what’s known as a circular calculation in the spreadsheet which is normally a no-no, but in this case it is a good thing! The user simply needs to go into “settings” and set the automatic calculation to 100 iterations and the spreadsheet will automatically recalculate and balance the statements after each new value entry to a cell.

Using the tool

Once the integrated spreadsheet is set up, using it effectively involves inputting the actuals from each monthly financial statement as they occur and reforecasting the numbers going forward from the most recent actuals. This process repeats itself every month — inputting the most recent actuals and reforecasting ahead — and as each month goes by and the user gains experience in using the spreadsheet and making experience-based judgments of how the numbers will track, the integrated spreadsheet becomes an expert system that does a better job over time of forecasting the financial fortunes (or misfortunes) of the company. The key point is that all of this boils down to one most important account: cash flow.

Once the process of updating actuals and forecasting ahead is complete,
the CEO looks at the impact on cash and then develops a financing plan
that optimizes the uses of working capital in the next six months and beyond.
If the projected cash flow shows surpluses being generated, the CEO can
decide how that excess cash could be used today and in the coming months
to:

  • Reduce payables
  • Reduce long-term debt
  • Make capital expenditures
  • Make other long-term investments

If the projected cash flow is negative, the CEO must plan for how the
minimum working capital requirements for the business will be generated to
carry the company through tight cash periods by a combination of:

  • Drawing down cash surpluses
  • Deferring certain operating and capital expenditures
  • Extending the payables cycle for a brief period within acceptable bounds
  • Making a draw on an operating line of credit
  • Securing additional long-term financing
  • Raising equity capital through the sale of common or preferred shares

Summary

If the CEO can build the integrated spreadsheet for the business and start using it each month ( if not each day), learning by doing is the most efficient user’s manual. The CEO will quickly discover the many dimensions of value that are derived from the integrated spreadsheet aside from the very tangible value of forecasting cash flow. The integrated spreadsheet causes the user to think about every aspect of the business, across all accounts, across time, across strategies, by looking back to look forward. And at the end of the exercise instead of saying, “I hope we’ll have the money in the bank when we need it,” the CEO can say, “We expect to have the cash we need, and here’s how.”

That’s powerful business confidence!

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Seven Excuses CEOs Cite for Not Creating a Board of Directors

board

by scott pickard

No company is too small to create a board of directors, and no company is too large and sophisticated that it cannot improve upon its board because directors have the potential to add significant value to management and the company in countless ways.

Here’s how:

  • Directors can give good advice insiders might not hear otherwise.
  • Directors can be frank in a way employees won’t or can’t.
  • Directors ask, “Why would you do that?”
  • Directors help management network into important strategic resources such as partners, talent, capital, and markets.
  • Directors bring new ideas.
  • Directors double-check management’s plans and make them accountable.
  • Directors check for compliance to ethics, laws, regulations, and just plain common sense and good judgment.
  • Directors bring experience – they’ve been there, done that, and there’s no sense reinventing the wheel because that consumes time and money; and, there’s no sense in making mistakes because that’s painful.
  • Directors pitch in and help during periods of rapid growth or crisis.

That said…excuses, excuses

There is no good argument (generally) against using a board of directors, yet owners and CEOs continue to cite the following excuses:

1. I don’t have enough time

There are certain high-leverage activities for CEOs and owners that they must put at the top of their priority list because even though these tasks do take valuable time to plan, prepare, and execute (e.g., financial audits; a strategic planning retreat; a performance review with a key employee; a board of directors meeting), these activities hold the potential to make a substantial positive impact for the business. Executing these high-leverage tasks as a business leader is simply something you have to do, so you make the time.

2. I can’t afford it

The cost and complexity of a board of directors scales to the size of the company. In a large or public company you can expect to attract sophisticated directors and they will expect a compensation package commensurate with company size and the commitment required.

But if you are a start-up company and only a few people are involved, you most likely won’t be attracting public company directors that expect big fees. But you can attract successful local people that were once in your shoes and know what it’s like to start and build a company and they’d be pleased to serve on your board as a way to give back – sometimes only for the price of a dinner and a few beers.

3. I don’t know anyone to ask

Many people say this initially but if they take a few minutes to reflect, they can always think of someone to invite to be a director. Also, they usually know someone who could be an intermediary to a director candidate. Good intermediaries can be a friend; a relative; a business colleague; your accountant, attorney, or banker; a professor; the Chamber of Commerce; a valued and trusted key supplier or client.

There are also organizations that foster better corporate governance and directorship that can match directors looking for board assignments with companies looking for good directors. For larger companies there are search firms that specialize in recruiting directors to large and public boards.

4. I don’t know what value they would bring – I know what to do

An executive with this kind of attitude most likely feels this way about many things, not just a board of directors. This kind of insulated, ivory-tower attitude only limits new opportunities for management and the company.

The objective evidence indicates that boards do provide real value to management and shareholders. However, it is true that boards also hold the potential to screw up royally and there are many examples of that from both for-profit and nonprofit boards, big to small. But that is not because the value proposition of a board is not valid, only that those particular boards were dysfunctional and acted irresponsibly. The overwhelming majority of boards do great work for their constituents.

5. I don’t want anybody to know what we’re doing

It’s a valid concern for many companies, but you cannot operate inside a top-security box forever. You need a few select trusted advisers that you can lean on and use as sounding boards so that your thinking and decision making does not become inbred and myopic. Directors can give you fresh and unbiased insights and they will respect and maintain the confidentiality of your plans and intellectual property.

6. I don’t know how to set up and manage a board

If you can create, manage, and grow a company, you can create and manage a board. Most attorneys are very helpful in making sure you cover the legal basics. Experienced directors themselves will be very helpful and patient as you proceed and learn on the job.

There’s a wealth of good books and training programs at your disposal. In essence, a board meeting is just like any other meeting where you set a prioritized agenda, meet, discuss, and get things done.

7. I don’t want any outsiders involved – this is a family business

It is a truism that there is family, and then there is everyone else. Experienced directors understand this as it relates to the dynamics of a family business board, and still you would be surprised how effective (and refreshing!) an outside director can be inside a tight-knit family business and board.

Family members are constrained in so many ways from being totally honest with each other. The outside director is unconstrained and sometimes the only one to tell it like it is. This can be an invaluable resource for a family business.

Just do it

If you’ve been dragging your feet to develop a board, just get on with it.

At the outset of building a board you will find that you can learn quickly with the help of the directors themselves. In a year’s time you will be the expert. You will find that your directors may refer you to other non-competitor CEOs who are looking for good board members. This is one of the primary ways the community of directors populate their ranks.

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Adversity Drives Innovation

by scott pickard

Businesses face adversity from time to time which directly impacts profitability, such as:

  • From man-made environmental and safety situations that precipitate regulations requiring costly compliance measures; e.g., the fuel efficiency and general safety regulations imposed on the automobile industry
  • The water and wastewater treatment regulations imposed on manufacturers by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
  • Acts of God and natural global conditions such as drought which is currently affecting much of the agricultural land in production across the world

Each era in our history has had its challenges. The automobile industry has been able to respond to the adversity imposed by fuel standard regulations and over time, improve the quality of the cars and their competitive advantage. Manufacturers have been able to respond to the adversity imposed by water and air-quality regulations from EPA to build new corporate cultures that embrace green and sustainable practices requiring innovation along the way while building goodwill, brand, and competitiveness in the market.

Today, drought is one of the most serious and pervasive adverse challenges facing farming and farm communities worldwide. Instead of waiting for it to finally rain, the farm industry must pursue innovation in several key areas:

  • Storage of water
  • Recycling of wastewater back to subsurface ground and storage
  • Efficient use of water to grow next-generation crops requiring less water

Research is ongoing in all of these areas and when successfully applied, innovation will sprout wherever drought is an issue.

History teaches us that adversity at first may seem like a direct attack to profitability and the sustainability of our businesses, and this typically instigates a stubborn defensive reaction in the beginning. But history also shows us that when companies face adversity head on, people rise to the occasion and solve some very difficult problems and those solutions benefit everyone.

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Building the Integrated Cash Flow Forecasting Spreadsheet

Why is this guy the #1 ranked CEO in the world?

Management and Best Practices CEO CEOs make 300X more than workers, but are they doing 300X the work? performance evaluation What are the metrics for the top performing CEOs? > Board  Is the CEO in touch with the employee rank and file?  Does the CEO have employees' respect? Does the board require the CEO to complete a self-evaluation?  Has the board benchmarked the strategic performance of CEOs at peer companies?  Is the board responsive to the concerns of shareholders about the effectiveness and responsiveness of management?  On what grounds is the board considering firing the CEO? (a) poor company performance; (b) strategic disagreement with the board; (c) personality clashes; (d) consolidation of control due to merger; (e) unwillingness of CEO to comply with a board mandate; (f) personal problems; (g) illegal/improper behavior succession Promoting insiders is a strategy to maintain consistency, whereas hiring outsiders is a strategy for change. Sessions Has the board challenged the heir-apparent to be compared against external candidates?  Has the board been able to observe and evaluate the heir-apparent in representative trial assignments?  Is competition among internal candidates getting out of hand?  Does the board have a healthy collaboration with the incumbent CEO in the succession process?  Has the board established clear performance benchmarks and an exit timetable for the incumbent CEO?  Is the incumbent CEO attracting, hiring, and developing key employees worthy of succession candidacy?  Is there a turnover problem with top management candidates?  Does the incumbent CEO restrict access by the board to top management?  Should the board consider removing the incumbent CEO from the board?  Is the board developing and maintaining a familiarity with top succession candidates within and external to the company?  Is retirement of the incumbent CEO being delayed by lack of a successor? For the incumbent CEO close to retirement, has the board structured a compensation package to incentivize cooperation with a successful transition? interim CEO Does the board have a plan for an interim CEO in the event of a sudden and unexpected departure or death of the CEO? Does the board need to consider an outside turnaround specialist to manage the current crisis in the company? interviews Are we getting continuous improvement after each interview process? | interviews: Conversations from the Corner Office | videos: CEOcast  books/movies, articles, blogs: Steve Jobs: book, movie | CEO Succession Carey | Effective Succession Planning Rothwell Intersections | Poverty/income gap