Strategy – why do we even bother with all of this? (b)
Your balance sheet – yes, you have seen it when the yearly accounts were prepared but it really did not matter to your start-up. For you the one and only key was liquidity in the beginning, followed by profitability but what now? Yes, those accounts become important eventually. What do I mean by that – well, once you have established your strategic goals you will need to optimize your balance sheet accordingly. If you are preparing for a sale, potential investors (and their highly-skilled forensic accountants) will look at your accounts. Are you planning to change your debt to equity ratio and work with more capital? Will a bank lend you money? Are you going to build / buy your next office or remain a humble tenant?
There are a lot more questions to ask and you are now playing with the big boys. A Fortune 500 CFO will be very concerned with her balance sheet and watch movements in these accounts closely. As an eCFO of a start-up this is a new area for you and you should slowly get into it as your business develops.
In summary a balance sheet can also teach you lots of interesting things about your business and serve as an important stepping stone to your business’s next growth / development stage.
eCFO Tips: Do not be afraid to think about new things. If you are working in an innovative start-up there might be lots of balance sheet optimization questions that nobody has really thought about. Are facebook fans in generic groups that are rented out for advertising assets? Should the initial investment into these groups be on your balance sheet and depreciated over time? How do you value your investments in other start-ups? What happens with your old, cancelled projects? Make sure you have good advisors and get lots of support when tackling these questions.
Strategy can mean a lot of different things depending on your situation but as a general rule of thumb I would suggest that you consider anything that is not based around daily operational tasks as “strategic”. Given your unique position in the business and access to information, you have the opportunity to support the other management team members in occasionally taking a look around and consider the bigger picture, away from the grind of daily demands. This is were you can add a lot of value and a sound strategy will help the business to develop faster and to reach goals that you did not think possible only a short while ago.