Strategy – why do we even bother with all of this? (a)
So, why do we even bother with all of this? Initially, you need to make sure that your business performs well, does not run out of money and that financials analysis and data points support operational decisions. All of that you can do but if you are a serious eCFO this is probably not the stuff that makes you get out of bed every morning.
What really should get you excited is building a healthy, growing and extremely successful venture. Your operational measures will support that but more importantly you should be influencing the strategic development of your company – if you are not doing that you chances are you will never be more than a glorified accountant.
In order to make a strategic decision you will need a strategy. This may sound a little too simple, but ask some start-ups about their strategy and often you will find that they either do not have one or are unclear in what it is they are trying to achieve. How much time do you think an operationally involved management team has for strategic discussion, decisions and evaluations? From my personal experience: very, very little. Daily business and the demands of a growing venture will eat up all available time.
This in turn means that your role becomes more important. As an eCFO you can provide plenty of data and input for creating a strategy. Often you will also be more shielded from client demands and product needs than the other members of the management team. Make sure you that you add a discussion about strategy every now and then to the weekly/monthly meeting agenda.
Formulating a strategy will require a highly customized approach as your business will have individual needs, goals and problems. Nevertheless, I can assure you that if you have implemented the measures discussed on this blog, than you have all the necessary tools, processes and data to support and drive a successful strategy formulation and implementation process. This in turn will help the entire management team to make better business decisions. I have chosen a couple of strategic measures that can be undertaken to provide examples of what I consider to be strategic decision for an eCFO. As I said these are just examples and you should think long and hard about strategic elements for your specific business situation.
So let’s assume that business is going well and money is flowing in. Operationally, you have fixed most major issues and business is good. With the money comes a totally new perspective for a start-up. You have to decide what to do with a refilling pool of cash – should you distribute to hardworking employees, enrich your shareholders, reduce prices for your valuable clients or invest like crazy? Again there is no perfect answer to this but a sound financial analysis will help you to make a better decision. You should start to think about concept such as ROI calculations to evaluate which return perspective each of your investment/payment decisions has. Furthermore, you need to open a dialogue with all of potential stakeholders to find out what exactly there demand and needs are. Often you will be surprised by stakeholder expectations. Note: it might be dangerous to communicate too much to each stakeholder on, as this may raise unrealistic expectations which then lead to disappointment.
eCFO Tips: Communication, communication, communication… when it comes to strategic decisions never assume that you know what each stakeholder wants. You will most likely approach a decision from a financial analysis perspective – most other (normal) people will not think that way – so make sure you talk to everyone and do not assume anything. Often you will be surprised – sometimes pleasantly and sometimes not so J.