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Client Story: Fiera Private Debt

Client Profile

Fiera Private Debt, a subsidiary of Fiera Capital Corporation, is a leading pan-Canadian private debt firm. It specializes in providing financing to developers, property owners, and mid-market businesses, as well as securing corporate and infrastructure debt financing.

Headquartered in Laval, Quebec, with offices in Montreal and Toronto, Fiera is renowned for its highly disciplined, credit-driven approach to investments that creates significant returns for their investors through collaborative, proactive financial strategies.

The Client’s Need
When Dino Fracassi, Managing Director, Business Finance at Fiera, started working with his new client, a leading supplier of custom products to brick-and-mortar retail locations, he knew that they needed to go in a new financial direction.

His client had already extended their credit beyond their means, and had been put into the “special loans” category at their bank. Needing additional working capital to stay afloat, they approached Fiera for assistance.

Dino reviewed their organizational structure and determined that for the company to transition back to traditional lending from their bank, they needed a significant adjustment to their current financial and operational stewardship. To accomplish this, Dino turned to The CFO Centre.

“Paul Nagpal, COO at The CFO Centre, was already part of my professional network, and our two organizations had successfully partnered on previous occasions. I offered him the chance to help with my new client, and gave him an idea of the perfect CFO for this file: someone with retail and B2B manufacturing experience who had a proven track record of successfully navigating companies through rough financial patches. Right away, he told me about Barbara Palmegiani, one of his company’s principals. After learning about her credentials and speaking with her directly, we knew we had found the right person to help get my client where I needed them to be.” – Dino Fracassi, Managing Director, Business Financing, Fiera Private Debt

The CFO Centre Solution

Barbara went into Dino’s client as the full-time, interim CEO with a mandate to restructure the company by assessing and resolving the cash burn, and work collaboratively with the executive team to make the necessary changes to return the company back to profitability. Her previous executive financial and operational roles gave her the experience to identify immediate insights into what needed to be done in order to improve their strategic direction and implement the appropriate operational and financial processes and controls for a company of their size, including:

  • Prioritize cash management best practices
  • Identify and fix challenges to Cost of Sales
  • Take control over expense management optimization
  • Create financial, forecasting, and budgeting tools and processes
  • Coordinate cross business collaboration to efficiently align with corporate goals, objectives, and strategic direction
  • Replace their dated technology with current, cost effective financial and operational systems to enable the executive team to formulate insights that enhance strategic decision-making
  • Identifying, monitoring, and reviewing key performance indicators (KPIs) and adjusting where necessary to help maximize growth
  • Strategically reallocate human capital to help increase cash flow
  • Improve procurement and inventory management processes

Two other critical issues needed to be addressed in order to return the company to profitability:

  • The company owned a subsidiary in China created to directly serve the growing East Asian market. The location was proving unsustainable, lacking growth potential, and costing too much money to continue operating profitably.
  • Their domestic operation was currently working out of a 150,000 sq. ft. space. It was determined that they could operate more efficiently and at a significantly lower cost with less than half this space.

“Barbara’s commitment to helping my client succeed was impressive. She took a deep dive into every aspect of their business, and quickly identified the roadblocks that were causing cash flow and growth issues. Barbara continues to work transparently with Fiera and the executive team, having earned and built our trust.” – Dino Fracassi, Managing Director, Business Financing, Fiera Private Debt

The Results

Barbara put her plan into action, which continues to yield positive results for Dino’s client.  They are now able to focus from top to bottom on fixing the smaller problems, having developed a strategy to tackle the bigger ones, including:

  • An improved workplace culture driven by collaboration
  • Streamlined internal processes with minimal waste and duplication
  • Increase in cash flow due to better financial processes and controls, as well as a reorganized workforce
  • Better financial accountability and strategic decision making through monthly financial meetings and reviews
  • Additional financial support from government-sponsored pandemic relief programs

Thanks to The CFO Centre’s vast professional network, Barbara was able to connect with overseas legal and real estate professionals who could help transition the client’s operations in China, which resulted in immediate savings.

Barbara’s extensive background negotiating with landlords enabled her to identify and execute a win-win solution for both Dino’s client and their landlord, which will significantly improve their bottom line going forward.

In less than one year, Barbara’s involvement with Dino’s client has already set them on the path to better long-term financial health and sustainable organic growth.

“Working with Barb has been fantastic. We asked The CFO Centre for what we needed in a theoretical sense, and they connected us with a perfect match. We wouldn’t have been able to do that on our own. I’m excited for the future of my client’s business as they once again become able to maintain profitability, and ultimately be able to return to working with the bank. Thanks to Barb and The CFO Centre, it’ll happen sooner rather than later.” – Dino Fracassi, Managing Director, Business Financing, Fiera Private Debt

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Client Story: Walker Homes Ltd.

Client Profile

Located in Port Elgin, Ontario, Walker Homes Ltd. specializes in constructing beautiful new homes that stand the test of time. Co-owners Ryan and Brooke Walker carry on three generations of family homebuilding tradition, helping to develop thriving communities with each new build.

Walker Homes goes the extra mile for its customers by guiding them through each step of the home-buying process, all the way to closing day. Your family can then enjoy the 9-foot ceilings, Napoleon Gas fireplaces, luxurious Canadian-made kitchen cabinetry, and brick exteriors that come standard with each Walker home.

The Client’s Need

Walker Homes had been steadily busy for a number of years in a strong housing market. However, the company was quickly outgrowing their financial system, which consisted of manually entering projects, revenue, costs, and other important data into Excel spreadsheets. They also handled procurement verbally without a purchase order management system, and tracked hired contractors by cheque stub.

This system offered no way to generate financial reports, budgets, or forecasts hampering business growth.

In January 2019, the Walkers discussed their concerns with their accountant, who suggested they contact The CFO Centre for assistance in getting their financial management under control.

“Brooke and I wanted our time back from working with a system that no longer met our needs, so we were intrigued by what The CFO Centre had to offer. When we were introduced to Byron Dyck, we were thrilled to learn that not only was he intimately familiar with the Port Elgin area, but that he also used to run his own construction company before joining the firm. We couldn’t wait to get started.” – Ryan Walker, Co-owner, Walker Homes Ltd.

The CFO Centre Solution

Byron drove out to the Walkers’ location for a fact-finding visit to learn more about their business, listen to their pain points, and pull from his experience as a construction business owner and a CPA to discuss possible solutions that would be part of their overall action plan.

“Byron paid close attention to where the business was now and where we wanted to take it. It was refreshing to speak to someone who knew our business, understood what we were facing, and could offer the advice we needed to succeed. We felt so confident that he was the one who could help us that we signed the engagement letter that same afternoon.” – Ryan Walker, Co-owner, Walker Homes Ltd.

Byron reviewed his clients’ goals and created scenarios in order to put together an ambitious financial strategy to move their business forward. The highlights of the plan included:

  • Decommission the use of Excel for financial recordkeeping
  • Install specialized integrated construction software
  • Fully revamp their estimating, invoicing, cost reporting processes system to better track projects
  • Increase financial report frequency to once per month
  • Put budget and forecasting processes in place
  • Hold monthly financial review meetings to discuss results, make changes where necessary, and track progress
  • Negotiate better payment terms with creditors

Walker Homes also enabled Byron to work remotely from his location, granting him network access to their system so he can mentor them through the implementation and use of their new software in real time.

Byron set this remote system up because The CFO Centre focuses on collaboration, and fosters strong working relationships with their clients to implement strategies completely customized to their needs. The ultimate goal is to keep CFO Centre clients competitive and well-positioned for long-term sustainable growth.

The Results

After working with Byron to implement the plan, Walker Homes has seen an increase of 300% in sales volume. In addition, by the end of 2019 they had pre-sold their entire 2020 inventory, and as of November 2020 they’ve sold a vast amount of their 2021 inventory, even under the current year’s challenging economic climate.

Behind the scenes, the clients saw results that improved the overall operation and financial health of their business, including:

  • Significantly improved financial management across the board
  • Improved scalability for increased volume of projects
  • Monthly review of financial statements to report on individual projects
  • Seamless record keeping and retrieval
  • Favourable payment terms from their biggest creditor, improving cash flow to stimulate growth
  • Additional funding secured in response to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Hiring of additional staff to support data entry work

Byron continues to work with Ryan and Brooke one day per week, on call to answer questions about their new systems and provide oversight to their entire financial structure. For almost two years, the strategic partnership between Walker Homes and The CFO Centre has solidified into a professional relationship built on trust and experience, something that the Walkers are quick to recognize.

“Byron is always there when we need him. All it takes is to send him a quick text and he’ll get on the phone or Facetime to answer a question or help us solve a problem. We’re happy with the results and the ongoing support from Byron and The CFO Centre as we keep moving our business forward. In fact, we think of Byron as more than part of the team – we consider him family.” – Ryan Walker, Co-owner, Walker Homes Ltd.

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