How to Do a SWOT Analysis

Dear CFO,
My company is embarking on its first ever strategic analysis and planning session and I’ve been asked to help the team start with a “SWOT analysis.” I am not sure how to do a SWOT analysis or where to begin.
Needing a first step in Amarillo

A first-time strategic analysis and planning process can be intimidating. It’s hard to start with a blank sheet of paper to stimulate meaningful outcomes. But, as with many business planning processes, there are tricks of the trade to help you get off to a productive start. One of the best strategic analysis tools is a SWOT analysis.

Continue Reading →

How to Manage the ERP System Selection & Implementation Process

Dear CFO,
Our company is looking for a new ERP system. My CEO just informed me that I am leading our ERP system selection process as well as participating in the implementation team once we find the right fit. I’ve purchased accounting software in the past but selecting an ERP system seems like a BIG job. Can you give me some tips to help in the process?
ERP System Searching in Idaho

First, let me congratulate you. Obviously, your CEO believes that you are capable of leading the team through the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system selection. You’re right—ERP system selection and implementation is a big, and important task. You’ll need to do plenty of homework to select the best system for your company.

Continue Reading →

Acquisition Integration Project Management & Planning

Recently, a Project Manager in St. Louis asked me about due diligence and acquisition integration. They were coming into the acquisition process with no previous experience. First, we addressed the due diligence process, but the other piece of the acquisition comes during the integration. Integration project management and planning is vital during this step.

Informing the Project Manager that the company is targeting an acquisition puts the manager in a positive place; this means there is time to prepare for the integration. Keep in mind, while targeting and completing the transaction aren’t the same, if the CEO is actively seeking acquisitions, it’s likely a transaction and integration will happen eventually. So once you get the heads up, you should start considering the integration plan.

Continue Reading →

The Importance of Due Diligence in Acquisitions and Mergers

Dear CFO,
Management is currently targeting an acquisition and I’ve been told I will be in charge of the project plan for the acquisition due diligence and subsequent integration of the business. This is a new experience for me and I am not sure where to start.
Finance Manager in St. Louis

It is wise to seek help during the acquisition process. The good news in your question is that management is just targeting an acquisition.

Continue Reading →

Why Should You Forecast the Balance Sheet?

Dear CFO,

Whenever our business does forecasts, the owners only care about the P&L (Income Statement). As the Controller, I want the business forecast and budgets to include a balance sheet. How can I convince them it’s equally important to forecast the balance sheet?  I also need to develop a model to forecast the balance sheet, once I convince them.
Expanding my forecasts, Baltimore

It seems like most entrepreneurs only focus on the income statement. In my experience that sets up the scenario of unexpected cash flow problems for the business.

Continue Reading →

Understanding the Difference Between Debt and Equity

Dear CFO,

The business I run needs an infusion of cash. I asked my controller to analyze the best way to obtain it and he referred me to you. I run a growing small business and in my budget for next year, I am projecting a need for capital to support sales growth and product development. 
Growing too fast for cash flow, Minot, ND

As you’re finding out, growth can be expensive. It does sound like you are at least ahead of the curve by thinking about it now.

Continue Reading →

How to Set Up a KPI Dashboard

Dear CFO,
My boss recently came back from a seminar and was excitedly going on about setting up a KPIs and dashboards. Is this a new flavor of the day or are the KPIs and dashboards valuable tools for running the company? It seems it’s my job to start the process of collecting and presenting the key performance data.
Wanting to Make a Meaningful Contribution in Kansas City

I can relate to the “flavor of the day” business conundrum, but KPIs aren’t one of them. The term KPI (Key Performance Indicator) has been around for quite a while.

Continue Reading →

File Naming Conventions: Best Practices to Save Time (& Money)

Dear CFO,
I am an accounting manager at small injection molding company. I’m also over the IT administration. Many of our employees complain they can’t find files in the system when they want them, myself included. I also have concerns about the security of some of the files. I am wondering if there are tips for filing best practices in a small company that might make this easier.
Can’t find it, Detroit

That has a familiar ring to it. In the small company I ran, finding files and information was a common problem until we established standard file naming conventions and filing procedures.

Continue Reading →

How to Make Inventory Easier on Your Business

Dear CFO,
As the controller in a very small manufacturing company, taking inventory is the worst job in the world (ok, maybe not the worst, but certainly tedious). The process itself is hard, but the reconciliations are even more difficult. My team uses information provided by the shop floor and sometimes I’m not sure if they really counted. What can I do to make inventory easier?
Inventory Not Managed in New England

You aren’t alone in your frustrations. New ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems can make inventory easier with real-time tracking. But keep in mind, these ERP systems are still dependent on good information. You know the old saying – garbage in/garbage out?

Continue Reading →

How Can a CFO Establish Formal Closing Procedures?

Dear CFO,
I am the CFO of a mid-sized manufacturing company with three divisions. I am required to have “final” numbers to Senior Management by the 5th workday. It’s like pulling teeth to get the required information from everyone involved. I’m the one who looks bad when the numbers are late. How do I get the accountability without much authority?
Tired of the battle, Scarsdale, New York

I can empathize, having been in a similar situation. In my case, I was at Corporate and the division accounting people reported up through the division presidents; therefore, I had no direct authority to address the problems.

Continue Reading →