The 2023 Outlook + Strengthening Your Business

Recession is on everyone’s mind these days. The current economic climate, characterized by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions, and general economic uncertainty, has raised concerns among business owners and individuals. As an advisor to numerous business owners, I am often approached to provide insight into the situation. However, given the scarcity of available data and the dynamic nature of the situation, making accurate predictions can be challenging. Rather than share our predictions, we would like to provide practical advice to help business owners prepare their companies for economic uncertainty and navigate any potential financial distress. Here are seven steps to build resiliency and weather any storm that may come your way:

1. Communicate with Your Stakeholders

In times of uncertainty, the quality of your relationships with key stakeholders can make all the difference. Do you know who your key stakeholders are?  What do you need from them?  What do they need from you?  Some examples are listed below with questions to ask:

  • Customers and Vendors – Do you understand their pain points? Are you aware of how they build their schedules?  What their capacity is?  Do you have relationships with multiple decision-makers?  Do you understand their financial strength?  Do you regularly meet with them to touch base?
  • Employees – Do your employees understand the vision of your company and its goals? Are they aware of how their actions have an impact on those goals?  Do you have a rhythm of communication with employees?  Do you use key metrics to communicate performance?  Do you conduct regular employee surveys?
  • Bank – Do you meet regularly with your banker and their team? Are you proactive in telling them about any potential changes to the business?  Do you regularly update them on any changes to your financial forecast?  Remember, your bank is a partner, and you want to keep them informed.  You cannot over-communicate with them.  To read more about managing your relationship with your bank, see our post, How to Engage a Key Stakeholder: Your Bank.

2. Build a Strong Leadership Team

Having the right team in place is critical, especially during a challenging situation like a recession. Ensure that your leadership team understands their roles and responsibilities, is held accountable, and has bought into the company’s vision and goals. In one of our previous blogs, Effective Leadership In a Crisis, we discuss how your response in turbulent times will define you as a leader.

3. Utilize a Robust 13-Week Cash Flow Forecasting Model

Understanding your cash flow is crucial in times of economic uncertainty. In one of our previous blog posts, How to Preserve and Improve Liquidity, we discuss how a strong cash flow forecasting model (CFFM) will help you accomplish these primary objectives:

  • Predict cash flow and collateral week over week for at least the next 90 days.
  • Improve decision-making at the transaction level.
  • Improve communication with key internal and external stakeholders.

4. Incorporate Scenario Planning and a Rolling 24-Month Forecast

A rolling 24-month forecast model that includes a profit and loss statement, balance sheet, and statement of cash flows can help you run scenarios and see the impact of various factors on your business. By incorporating covenant calculations, you can forecast any potential compliance issues with your bank. The models should be constructed so you can run scenarios (lower sales, higher costs, extended terms, etc.) and see the impact. For more information, see our previous blog post, Business Resiliency Through Scenario Planning.

5. Understand Your Cost and Pricing Structures and Review Regularly

Many businesses do not have a process in place for regularly reviewing costing and pricing data, identifying opportunities for improvement, making those improvements, measuring the impact, and repeating. With all the disruption in the supply chain, increase in labor costs, and inflationary pressures it is critical that you truly understand the cost to produce goods or provide services and that you are regularly working to reduce these costs. Additionally, you must ensure that you are capturing cost increases and passing them on to customers when appropriate. Be sure to look at our blog about Understanding Your Cash Conversion Cycle for more info.

6. Look for Opportunities

Change creates opportunities. This may be in the form of the opportunity to acquire a competitor or supplier. It could be discounted equipment or employees that become available when another business is struggling. It could be increased volumes when another supplier can’t meet their obligations to a customer.  Whatever the opportunity, you want to make sure that you are correctly positioned with the staff and resources to pursue these opportunities.  For more information on distressed investing, view our webinar on Key Considerations for Purchasing Distressed Assets.

7. Don’t Wait to Ask for Help

Finally, make sure you’re not waiting to ask for help with any of the items above or other challenges you may have in your business. Lean on your advisors and business network for help preparing for the challenges that might lie ahead. It’s essential to remember that these steps are not just for preparing for a recession; they are sound business practices that can help your company to thrive in any economic climate. By focusing on strengthening your business fundamentals and taking a proactive approach to managing risk, you can set your business up for long-term success.

 

As a group of financial and business professionals, DWH offers expertise and support so companies can embrace change for the better. Built on a core philosophy that every stakeholder matters, we listen to those who shape a business and guide that business to its best value, outcomes, and opportunities.

 


This post was written by Ben Borisch
bborisch@dwhcorp.com | LinkedIn

All companies experience change.
Plan for it with us.

 

 

 

Create a Turnaround
Plan in 4 Steps

No company is without its challenges. In moments of distress, however, the need for serious change can be vital. This is where a turnaround plan can be pivotal. It’s a process of renewal – one that not only identifies key underlying issues within the company but actively implements change at the deepest levels in order to restore health to an organization.

Making decisions that involve change can vary depending on the types of difficulties a company is facing. The turnaround plan should start with the goal of maximizing the value of a company for all stakeholders while transforming it from an underperforming company to a performing company. There are numerous ways to accomplish this which include doing an out-of-court workout, acting as the chief restructuring officer, being a court-appointed receiver, and/or filing for bankruptcy. No matter what option you choose to accomplish your plan, every plan contains these four core steps:

 

1. Identify the underlying issues affecting the company

  • Assemble a team of advisors/advocates for the company. This may include a financial advisor, a CPA, a debtor rights counsel, an appraiser, and/or customers.
  • Assess the Situation. This includes leadership, finance, operations, sales, and marketing. Talk to key stakeholders. Implement a rolling 13-week cash flow model to provide further insights into the company’s financials.
  • Communicate findings with leadership and stakeholders so they can understand, commit, and support the discoveries.

2. Develop a clear, realistic plan that creditors will support

  • Identify ways to raise cash. Options include A/R collections; new sales; vendor payment plans; expense reductions; reduced inventory – sell and don’t replenish; ownership cash infusion; and sale/leaseback of property.
  • Evaluate the company’s lending situation and options such as a forbearance agreement; over formula on the line of credit; and other financing.
  • Stabilize the company – utilize customer communication and relationships; key employee retention plans; maintain employee relationships; communicate with the bank; leadership changes (if appropriate); operational issues addressed – safety, equipment, process improvements, etc.; and financial issues addressed – current financials, inventory costing, etc.
  • Considerations – take into consideration the long-term stress the company has been under; customer frustration; vendor frustration; that COD/Prepays are most likely in place; and an over recognition of the environment in which the company is operating.

3. Validate the plan by ensuring buy-in from stakeholders

  • Stakeholders – revisit who key stakeholders are; present the plan to stakeholders and explain how they will benefit; articulate what the company needs from stakeholders and determine what stakeholders need from the company.
  • Communication – develop a communication rhythm that may include a weekly call with the bank, a weekly review of cash flow, daily/weekly check-in with the leadership team, daily/weekly call with key customers to discuss quality, delivery, and/or funding needs as applicable or daily/weekly call with key vendors.

4. Execute the plan with a sense of urgency

  • Assign responsibility and accountability with due dates
  • Conduct daily/weekly meetings with leadership on plan status
  • Weekly review of rolling 13-week cash flow to drive decisions and actions
  • Measure progress and make adjustments as needed

 

All companies experience performance challenges at some point. If your business finds itself facing some immense challenges, just know that you’re not alone. We work with clients who have questions about what this all means for them, what options and conditions for support or exemptions apply, what implications are for team members, how to mitigate business value erosion, how to manage communications with banks/creditors/vendors/customers, etc. All that to say, we’ve seen businesses make successful turnarounds when they choose to implement a plan.

At DWH, we’re here for you. Feel free to reach out for a conversation on how we can be of assistance as you focus on thriving and not just surviving.

 


This post was written by Heather Gardner
hgardner@dwhcorp.com | LinkedIn

All companies experience change.
Plan for it with us.

 

Understanding Your Cash Conversion Cycle

Group of financial analysts

CCC: What Is It?

The Cash Conversion Cycle (“CCC”) is an important metric used to determine the number of days it takes a company to convert cash outflows (purchase of inventory, manufacturing expenses, etc.) into cash inflows (collections of receivables).  The longer a company’s CCC, the more working capital it will need to fund operations.  This metric is especially important when a company is evaluating the working capital needed to fund expansions, new projects, or growth.

How Is It Measured?

There are three components of the CCC. They include Days Inventory Outstanding (DIO), Days Sales Outstanding (DSO), and Days Payable Outstanding (DPO). The formulas for determining these are below:

  • DIO = (Average Inventory on Hand / Cost of Goods Sold) X Days in the Period
  • DSO = (Average Accounts Receivable / Revenue) X Days in the Period
  • DPO = (Average Accounts Payable / Cost of Goods Sold) X Days in the Period

Days in the Period are determined by what information you are using to do your calculation. For example, if you were measuring your CCC using numbers that reflected an entire year, the period would be 365 days. If you were measuring just a month, the period would be 30 days. Once you have determined your DIO, DSO, and DPO, the formula for your CCC is:

CCC = DIO + DSO – DPO

How Can I Improve My CCC?

It all starts with understanding your current state. What is the first thing you do when you are about to embark on a new journey? You look at a map and figure out where you are relative to where you want to be. You will never be able to measure progress if you do not know your starting point. Calculate the CCC for your company using the most recent financial data and the formulas provided earlier. This is your, “You Are Here,” marker.

Can you recall a time in your company’s history when cash was NOT tight?  What was the CCC leading up to and during that period? How does that compare to your current CCC? How does your CCC compare to the standards within your industry? Use the answers to these questions to guide the goal-setting process. Taking steps to improve your CCC leads to improved efficiencies for the company by converting inputs into cash. The goal is to free up working capital, and with the CCC method, you’ll be able to ensure your business has enough cash for when you need it most.

Identify & Quantify Cash Levers

As you begin to establish cash conversion goals, you will discover a variety of “levers” that can influence cash flow. Some common levers are listed below. After reviewing this list, decide which levers are most relevant to your business. Quantify the impact of each lever to determine the potential impact on cash conversion.

Sales & Marketing Levers:

  • Early Payments – Will any of your customers offer accelerated payment terms? Offer early payment discounts, as necessary.
  • Demand Planning – Can you engage with your customers planning and purchasing departments to ensure you have access to the most reliable product demand information? Structure your agreements in ways that allow you to level load your operations.
  • Discounts & Promotions – Do you have opportunities to offer discounts or promotions on slow-moving or obsolete inventory? Are there brokers available to provide immediate cash for this inventory?  Can any of this inventory be re-purposed for other sales channels or product lines?
  • Selling Excess Capacity – What areas of the business have excess capacity? Use this information to offer discounted pricing as needed to fill this capacity.

Supply Chain Levers:

  • Extended Payment Terms – Request extended payment terms from your key vendors. Remove any early-pay discount programs as applicable.
  • Material Lead Times – Evaluate long-lead material items, seeking alternate sources with shorter lead times, or assist your vendors in reducing these lead times.
  • Optimize Order Sizes – Review your planning and ordering process to ensure you are ordering in the most economical batch sizes.
  • Optimize Order Triggers – Establish parameters around raw material on-hand quantities to prevent excessive buildup of inventory. Set up replenishment systems, or vendor-managed inventory systems that allow you to reduce your liabilities.

Production Levers:

  • Production Lead Times – What are your internal production lead times for your highest-cost items? Look for bottlenecks in the process and find ways to eliminate this buildup of inventory.
  • Minimize Finished Goods Inventory – Establish parameters around finished goods inventory, highlighting areas where completed product is sitting on your shelf for more than a few days.
  • Increase Throughout – Are there bottlenecks in your production process? Use this to determine where you might need to add more capacity (human or capital resources).  Find equipment that is under-utilized, working with the sales team to bring in work that can fill this capacity.

Financing Levers:

  • Asset Management – What assets are available that can be used as collateral?
  • Negotiate Advance Rates – Negotiate with your bank to find the best inventory and receivable advance rates.
  • Micromanage Collection Process – Maintain proper oversight over your AR collection process to limit past due invoices that might become ineligible.

Make a Plan

Decide on a goal and create a path that moves you toward that goal. As with any good plan, make sure you have identified key milestones and assigned appropriate ownership to key elements of the plan. Each element should relate to the identified levers. Work through all the levers you previously identified, adjusting your plan as more information is gathered and as progress is made. Maintain clear and consistent communication within your team ensuring all opportunities are fully explored and executed.  Document and measure your progress along the way. As movement is made, priorities will change and new levers will come into play. Re-establish your current state, set new goals, and repeat the process.

Conclusion

Monitoring your cash flow can often be a daunting and nebulous task. You can use the Cash Conversion Cycle measurement as a tool to objectively monitor your company’s effectiveness in managing cash. Using the tools and steps above can help to significantly improve the liquidity of your business and reduce future risk.

 


Originally posted on June 1, 2021, by Jeremy Cosby
jcosby@dwhcorp.com | LinkedIn

All companies experience change.
Plan for it with us.

 

5 Qualities to Look for When Choosing a Financial Advisor

Over the past 18 months, many businesses have experienced financial stress.  This may be due to COVID-related slow-downs or shut-downs, supply chain disruptions, or even from tremendous growth.  If you have found yourself in this position, you may have been urged to or required to get some help and may have been provided a list of names to call.  But how will you know who to choose? By cost? By personality? What qualities do you look for? It can be difficult to know what you need if you have never been in this situation before and the stakes are high.

 

The 5 Qualities


Core Values

A good financial advisor devises strategies to maximize the value of a company and proactively communicates a clear strategy and its benefits to each stakeholder. This will minimize unnecessary conflicts, which erode value through the consumption of time and money that could otherwise be allocated to value-creating activities. Ask potential advisors how they work with other stakeholders such as vendors, customers, employees, and lenders/investors.  Try to determine the advisor’s experience and likely credibility with each of these stakeholders.  See if their approach aligns with your values.

Experience
Navigating financial challenges involves more than financial models and analysis. A financial advisory firm should possess a breadth of business competencies and experience successfully guiding the business through the specific challenges you are experiencing.  Ask potential advisors about their experience with situations such as your own.  Ask for references.  Also, a financial advisor who has a team with real-world experience allows them to empathize with your challenges as they assist in developing and executing the best path forward.  So, make sure you ask about the experience of the people who will work on your project.

Capacity
Speaking of team, it is important to make sure your advisor has the capacity to support your business in the time frame you need them to. Make sure you clearly articulate what your expectations are and ask them to provide you a scope of work and timeline in writing.  Ask the potential advisor how they would support you if the timeline needed to be accelerated or the scope expanded.  Ask them if any additional resources would be brought in that were not part of the advisory firm’s normal staff.

Ability to Listen and Understand
Your financial advisor’s ability to listen and understand rather than talk over you with a lot of material is important. Their ego should be left at the door. They should be willing to listen to the issues you are facing and then develop a comprehensive plan to address these issues.  Does the financial advisor ask probing questions and listen to your answers?  Does the advisor speak in a language that is easy to understand and relate to?

Seeing the Bigger Picture
You need a financial advisor who can understand and frame the issues within your broader operations and mission. What other issues are there? What sub-issues exist? What are the goals? How will issues impact other stakeholders? Are the recommended solutions an approach that is sensitive to all stakeholders? Don’t win the battle – win the war. Make sure your advisor is asking questions that show they are focused on the overall business success and not just solving the immediate issue.

 

Choosing the right financial advisor can be intimidating and overwhelming but remember the five topics described in this article when you meet with potential advisors.  This can help you select an advisor who will best represent your interests in a way that is aligned with your core values.

 

All leaders experience performance challenges at some point over the life of their business. You are not alone. We can help. At DWH, we’re here for you. Feel free to reach out for a conversation on how we can be of assistance as you focus on thriving and not just surviving.

 


This post was written by Heather Gardner
hgardner@dwhcorp.com | LinkedIn

All companies experience change.
Plan for it with us.

 

Recognizing the Need for a Chief Financial Officer

Knowing the role of a Controller vs. a CFO

Controllers primarily focus on reporting and compliance in the finance and accounting areas. They manage and maintain accounting controls and related systems (the debits and the credits).  Controllers also manage and/or produce monthly financial reports, year-end reports, and other financial reporting. Their responsibilities often extend to handling tax compliance for federal, state, and local income taxes, as well as payroll, state sales, and property taxes. These are essential components to strong financial controls, which are critical for the growth and success of a business.

A Chief Financial Officer, on the other hand, is primarily focused on the future of the company. They’ll use financial, operational, and sales information to plan and forecast, allowing them to provide the company leadership with the information necessary to make decisions around direction and strategy. Additionally, the CFO should be spending a lot of time ensuring that the business has excellent financial controls in place so the information that is created is timely, relevant, and accurate. Because of this focus on the business at a high level, the CFO becomes a powerful strategic partner to the owner and other business leaders.

Another important role for a CFO is to spend significant time on external relationships in an effort to provide the business with the best information and resources available. These can be relationships with professional service providers like the company’s Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firm, banks, legal advisors, and risk/insurance providers. These could also be relationships with specialty providers like outsourced IT firms, software programmers, HR management firms, or consultants. CFOs are also often asked to develop relationships with key community partners.

Knowing when to bring on a CFO

“When should we consider a Chief Financial Officer for our business?” is a question we are frequently asked by clients. For every company, it can be different, and our firm does a very thorough analysis of a company before making a recommendation, but here are some scenarios where adding a CFO can be incredibly advantageous.

Scenario #1 – When leverage is increasing
Having just a controller makes sense when a company has a strong balance sheet and low leverage.  As the leverage increases, more care needs to be given to the balance sheet, forecasting, cash management, and external relationship management. This is where a CFO can help.

Scenario #2 – When business complexity or risk is growing
Perhaps your company is looking to acquire a business, implement a new ERP system, take on an equity partner.  All of these events create complexity and risk for the business and require someone with strong financial and analytical skills to properly plan for the events, forecast the impact of the event, solicit the appropriate outside advice, and support the business. This is the role of a CFO.

Scenario #3 – When financial information is lacking
Often, as a business grows, the financial information does not keep up. Larger businesses often need very specific information or forecasts in order to make strategic decisions. Sometimes the business doesn’t even know what information it needs! Having a qualified CFO to anticipate and create timely, accurate, and relevant information to support decision-making is critical for businesses to grow.


 

If you still have questions and would like to talk, please feel free to contact us.