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Thriving in the New World Strategist

Thriving in a New World Strategist

In the introduction to our CFO Contribution Series, Thriving In the New World Strategist, we suggested that most business owners may not be well served by high-level, third party driven, divergent strategic exercises. Certainly, there is significant value in undertaking far reaching, blue sky thinking. Most small to medium size organizations will be better served by incorporating their own foresight into targeted, most probable future scenarios developed by highly engaged participants directly linked to the success of the business.

There can be no doubt the Covid 19 pandemic has led to unprecedented change for most businesses. Revenue levels have plunged for some firms while others are experiencing unexpected increases in new customers and unforecasted demand levels. Supply Chains have been disrupted. Optimizing employee productivity and satisfaction have become more art than science. Short-term cash availability and long term capital requirements are highly uncertain. Even the most confident experts are reluctant to make a call on the economic climate we are likely to experience a year from now or even six months from now.

Success in this uncharted New World requires business owners to make effective decisions to address today’s challenges and to establish a strong market position in an uncertain future. We call this Future Proofing your business. The path forward will be unique for every enterprise. For most businesses, the contribution of an integrated senior financial leader can be a major factor in making the best decisions for steering the business towards a successful future.

Owner operators will particularly benefit by injecting their full time or part time CFO into idea

generation and implementation planning to future proof their business using the following four-step process.

Developing Most Probable Future Scenarios

The insight of the CEO along with sales and market-oriented management will understandably be

essential to develop and select three or four most likely market scenarios. Important dimensions for assessing your business’ future would include revenue outlook, new revenue sources, changes in access to customers or preferences of customers, competitive forces, regulatory factors and assessment of staff effectiveness. Identifying these factors specific to your business and your industry should be considered in conjunction with the team’s projections of potential future operating environments.

Involving a holistic professional with the ability to stretch the team’s future thinking to include the full spectrum of potential obstacles often leads to more robust, more complete future scenarios. Team members should expect the organization’s financial leader to embrace the uncertainties inherent in guessing at potential futures while also expecting them to act as a catalyst to describe the leading scenarios with sufficient clarity to facilitate resiliency testing and implementation planning.

Leveraging Emerging Technology

The pace of change over the past five to ten years combined with the recent accelerated societal and economic changes linked to the pandemic forces all businesses to adapt and respond quicker and more intensively than ever before. Adapting and responding effectively requires timely and appropriate application of emerging technology solutions to uncover new connections to customers and to unlock methods to streamline and enhance business processes.

A few of the more pervasive and perhaps highest potential technology trends destined to shape the future are Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain Technology and Internet of Things. Finance leaders bring essential analytical skills, as well as opportunity and risk assessment expertise. These attributes will help the business select the most advantageous solutions and deploy these applications to deliver favourable returns.

Stress Testing Scenarios and Strategies

Once the business has collaboratively generated their high probability future scenarios and articulated corresponding strategies to maximize results; a critical need emerges for disciplined evaluation to ensure the selected paths forward can stand up to expected obstacles and deviations.

The CFO’s involvement in scenario testing is likely to be most accepted and welcomed by the business owner and the future proofing team. A New World CFO is one that passionately embraces uncertainties and optimism while maintaining their proven ability to rigorously apply a check and balance approach to the team’s chosen future scenarios and strategies.

Commitment to Highest Impact Initiatives

The hardest decision for many organizations undertaking future proofing activities during today’s tumultuous environment will be to commit the necessary financial and human resources to those chosen few initiatives expected to best position the business over the next six months to five years.

Creating the internal and external confidence to act now often hinges on the development of concise, compelling business cases to define the initiative, its costs and expected profits. The involvement of your financial leader in the entire future proofing process will significantly enhance the quality and effectiveness of these strategic business cases. In situations where the organization is seeking external financing or participation from partnering organizations; the voice of an informed, engaged, credible CFO will be a significant factor in securing the desired external support.

Business owners and their management teams have the responsibility to navigate the firm through today’s urgent challenges and opportunities. They also bear the greater responsibility to establish direction and take action to prepare the organization to succeed for many years ahead. A New World CFO welcomes this responsibility and possesses the knowledge and dedication needed to deliver results today and in the future. Discover more.

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Business Risks analysis | The CF Centre Canada

Understanding Business Risk – How to Avoid the Road to Ruin

Entrepreneurship means taking risks, such as launching new products, entering new markets, or using new processes. Because this involves uncertainty, there are always chances that things will go wrong.

Our experience at the CFO Centre has been that the most successful companies take the time to understand the downside of the risks they take, and then find a way to compensate for those downsides.

As the CFO Cente’s book “Scale Up” says, a lot of business owners spend an unhealthy amount of time worrying about what might go wrong, but don’t have a formal risk management framework in place.  One of the most dangerous positions to be in is not knowing what might harm you. That’s why “Scale Up” suggests starting with a comprehensive risk analysis, to identify potential risks to your business.

This post talks about how you can understand the risks your company faces, and develop a way to manage those risks.

Why is business risk analysis important to you?

Business risk analysis is an essential part of the planning process. It reveals all the hidden hazards, which occupy the business owner’s mind on a subconscious level but which have not been carefully considered and documented on a conscious level.

Not understanding the risks your company faces can bring your company to its knees, as a 2011 report, ‘The Road to Ruin’ from Cass Business School revealed.

Alan Punter, a visiting Professor of Risk Finance at Cass Business School, said the result of a detailed analysis of 18 business crises during which enterprises failed revealed that directors were often unaware of the risks they faced.[1]

“Seven of the firms collapsed and three had to be rescued by the state while most of the rest suffered large losses and significant damage to their reputations,” he said.

“About 20 Chief Executives and Chairmen subsequently lost their jobs, and many Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) were removed or resigned in the aftermath of the crises. In almost all cases, the companies and/or board members personally were fined, and executives were given prison sentences in four cases.”

“One of our main goals was to identify whether these failures were random or had elements in common.”

“And our conclusion? To quote Paul Hopkin of Airmic, the Risk Management Association that commissioned the research: ‘This report makes clear that there is a pattern to the apparently disconnected circumstances that cause companies in completely different areas to fail. In simple terms, directors are too often blind to the risks they face.’”

A lot of business owners spend an unhealthy amount of their time worrying about what might go wrong but don’t have a formal risk management framework in place. It is dangerous not knowing what might go wrong.

What are the risks facing your business?

Business risks can be broken up into the following:

  • Strategic risks – risks that are associated with operating in a particular industry
  • Compliance risks – risks that are associated with the need to comply with laws and regulations.
  • Financial risks – risks that are associated with the financial structure of your business, the transactions your business makes, and the financial systems you have in place
  • Operational risks – risks that are associated with your business’ operational and administrative procedures.
  • Market/Environmental risks – external risks that a company has little control over such as major storms or natural disasters, the global financial crisis, changes in government legislation or policies.[2]

The ‘shoot, fire, aim’ approach favored by many entrepreneurs is great for making things happen quickly but often jeopardizes the long-term stability of the business.

What is needed is balance.

Once the business understands the risks, it means that it can move forward decisively and confidently. It’s hard to do this when there is a cloud of confusion hanging over the business.

Where to start?

You need to assess your business and identify potential risks. Once you understand the extent of possible risks, you will be able to develop cost-effective and realistic strategies for dealing with them. Consider your critical business activities, including your staff, key services and resources, and the things that could affect them (for example, illness, natural disaster, power failures, etc.). Doing this assessment will help you to work out which aspects of your business could not operate without.

Identify the risks

Look at your business plan and determine what you cannot do without and what type of incidents could have an adverse impact on those areas. Ask yourself whether the risks are internal or external. When, how, why and where are risks likely to occur in your business? Who might be affected or involved if an accident occurs?

Assess your processes

Evaluate your work processes (use inspections, checklists, and flow charts). Identify each step in your processes and think about the associated risks. What would stop each step from happening? How would that affect the rest of the process?

Analyzing the level of risk

Once you’ve identified risks relating to your business, you’ll need to analyze their likelihood and consequences, and then come up with options for managing them.  You need to separate small risks that may be acceptable from significant risks that must be managed immediately.

You need to consider:

  • How important each activity is to your business
  • The amount of control you have over the risk
  • Potential losses to your business
  • The benefits or opportunities presented by the risk

Conclusion

By managing the company’s risk profile and the risk profiles of the shareholders the whole business can be brought into alignment and can operate as a unit rather than as a set of individual parts.

This is actually one of the most critical roles in any business and your part-time CFO will support and guide you through the process.

At the CFO Centre, our CFOs have an intimate understanding of every conceivable risk that growing businesses face. This means that we can help you build a much stronger business by knowing how to navigate through the growth stages of the business cycle confident that you are equipped to meet the challenges as they present themselves.

It is never possible to eliminate all risks in a business, but it is possible to create a framework and implement systems which lower your exposure to risk. That, in turn, allows you to focus primarily on growing your business.

Knowing that you have a framework in place to mitigate risk means that you can free up time and mental energy.

Lower your risk today

Let one of The CFO Centre’s part-time CFOs help you with business risk analysis. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time CFOs just click here.

 

 

[1]The Road to Ruin’, Punter, Alan, Financial Director, www.financialdirector.co.uk, Aug 18, 2011

[2] Source: https://toolkit.smallbiz.nsw.gov.au

 

 

 

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