Enough of all the theoretical posts! Here is a more interesting, operationally focused case study. I think that my previous posts have theoretically highlighted various aspects of being an eCFO but what does it mean for operational reality? In order to further highlight this I was able to get permission from one of our venture teams to write about them in this post.
Here a quick description of the business model:
FolienKnecht (German for “PowerPoint slide servant”) is focused on providing high quality outsourcing services. Its first line of business is creating, designing, and improving PowerPoint presentations. (www.folienknecht.de; Spanish: www.ppt-express.com)
Its second business line has recently gone online with a video creation/design offering (www.videoknecht.com) and it also provides a range of other outsourcing services through www.165euro.de. The business was initially tested through an intern and eventually bringing it into fully operational mode through incubating it within our company (www.etribes.de).
Timeline of development
FolienKnecht was incubated in the beginning of January 2012. We found a very capable management team consisting of two guys. One is the intern who developed the project and the other is an experienced entrepreneur. Both were willing to take this project forward with the eventual goal of founding a company and creating a business outsourcing company with multiple revenue lines from various business services.
Operationally, they received support from our incubation structure but this case study will focus specifically on the financial aspects. If you are interested to read a case study from another perspective you can find additional insights (sorry, in German only) here: http://www.kassenzone.de/2012/05/30/powerpoint-malerei-outsourcen/
eCFO tasks for a new venture
As the eCFO in our holding company it was my responsibility to take care of the financial aspects. In this role I helped the management team to develop a strong financial understanding to ensure that the company eventually developed into a financially strong independent entity.
Within the team responsibility was shared between the two founders. In start-ups everybody does a little bit of everything to make sure that things get done quickly. This is necessary and a good starting point but fairly quickly set roles should be developed. I asked the founding team to provide only one contact point for all financial questions, analysis, and data points.
Our incubation services take care of all central basic services. This ranges from office space, to laptops, water/lots and lots of coffee and other basic things you need to run a business. In addition, we take care of central services such as accounting, HR, recruitment, and legal consultation. These services are initially provided free of charge to speed up the incubation process. However, it is important to make sure that the entrepreneurs are aware of the actual (expensive) services the venture incurs. The company therefore needs to track these expenses and needs to start to implement liquidity controls, budgets and financial planning. This is best done through an Excel spreadsheet that mirrors an actual P&L statement.
Initially, we determined the basic costs incurred by running FolienKnecht and set clearly defined goals we needed to reach in order to move all activities from our incubator into the new entity. Spreadsheets and preparation of financials are also important controlling functions. Here it was important that once a clear goal had been defined, the necessary measures were put into place to ensure that it could be tested on a monthly basis whether or not the venture was successful. We came up with a simple P&L statement that showed expenses, income, and sales funnel in an excel spreadsheet. This is a quick, slightly dirty, way of preparing the necessary financial information. In addition, we provided access to our billing software so that every bill can be generated by the management team but, more importantly, so that they can understand payment cycles and all connected liquidity concerns. If you are incubating a business within an already existing structure, you need to make sure that from the get-go the management team feels the same constrictions and problems it would feel as an independent business.
eCFO Tips: Especially in a start-up environment do not get bogged down in the details. If you are looking to establish financial goals do not say EUR9,287 because your business plan spits out that number – instead just define easy to remember goals e.g. we need EUR10,000 revenue per month with at least 30% EBIT. Do that for 3 months in a row and this business starts to be viable. This is an easy rule for not only you to remember, but it also sets a financial target the management team can work towards.
To be continued in the next post …
Here you can find an example of their work: