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James Solomons

Accounting, Business & Technology; Advocate, Entrepreneur & Educator

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Accounting

Back to Basics for CFOs

Exclusively published here at The CFO Magazine on June 15, 2020 https://cfomagazine.com.au/back-to-basics-for-cfos/

Read Time: 3m 30s 

The pace of change at the end of 2019 was ever increasing. But few could argue that the speed at which change was forced upon the entire world over the past 4 months has been nothing short of unimaginable. If predicting pandemics is something only the likes of Bill Gates can do, how could even the sharpest of CFOs have had any chance to ‘forecast’ this sort of economic shutdown. 

What airline CFO would have dreamed that almost every plane in their fleet would be grounded, not able to generate revenue. How does someone park that much cash away in a ‘pandemic fund’ to be able to survive. For businesses with their wings clipped, but not in the magnitude of airlines, what could or should they have done to protect against this. What will they teach at university in the years to come as they consider why some companies failed and some survived.

Without downplaying the decimating impacts of Covid-19, the answer is quite simple. It is getting the basics right. Whilst we may never see a pandemic like this again in our lifetime, it is this writer’s opinion that ‘business as usual’, according to the finance team, will be very different moving forward.

Certainly for the astute readers they will know that cash is king. Every business is different but the core underlying metrics that apply to every business always comes back to liquidity.

And so, messaging to the rest of the business in what will be ‘the new normal’ could look something like this:

To protect, as best we can, against something like this happening again, we will be building a pandemic fund. We will do this by shaving a % off all spending budgets for the next few years. Our focus will be on generating at least the same revenue with slightly less investment and if we achieve this, we can re-invest some of the profits into increased spending budgets. Please submit your revised budgets for review by 30 June. Kind regards, your very stressed out Finance Team

Of course, this may, indeed, it probably will, be met with fierce competition with arguments centered around capturing an opportunity in a recovering economy. But now more than ever, the focus must be on the basics of fiscal responsibility. No doubt it is going to be a balancing act.

But isn’t this just the basics you say. Wouldn’t all businesses be operating this way? Well, the impacts of the pandemic on businesses have proved many are not.

There are always outliers in this discussion, like startups who knowingly spend more than they earn until cash flow breakeven is achieved, but they more than any other business have to understand their cash flow runway. Hence why many businesses may have reverted to the ‘start up’ approach during this pandemic.

And so, a non-exhaustive list of basics to consider is:

  • Cash is king, so what is your runway if you saw a drop in revenue of 50% either overnight or gradually over 6 months. Could you survive for 6-12 months without major cost changes? If not, what changes will you make to protect cash
  • In normal operating conditions what cash flow metrics & indicators are you tracking and what happens when one falls below target? How do you recover lost cash flow?
  • Are your systems & tech up to scratch to find cash flow issues quickly so they can be addressed?
  • What is driving decisions in the business? Gut, historical data, forward forecasts, or something else. There is a place for taking risks, but even these risks are supported by numbers.
  • Are your pricing models properly incorporating all costs, or is it conveniently forgetting your sunk, opex and other costs? Is this approach sustainable?
  • Is your finance team humanising the numbers? Most divisions outside of finance tune out when metrics appear in a busy spreadsheet. What is your finance team doing to translate the numbers into a language every division can understand?

If you can’t answer these questions, or if you know the answer and it is not what it should be, then now is the time to use the pandemic as a catalyst for change to get the basics in order.

 

 

 

Macquarie Uni – ACCG3015 Accountants in the Profession – Online Lecture

After 6 years of face to face lecturing in my industry partner role at Macquarie Uni, last night was a new experience as I recorded my first online lecture. Whilst I have done plenty of online webinars before, in this instance it was a bit strange not having a lecture theatre full of undergrads in front of me either listening, falling asleep or chatting away at the back ! And nobody was online to laugh at my accountant jokes !!

It was also a welcome break from what has been happening in the business world. It could have been easy to say that at this time I am too busy but just like my commitments to my clients, my team at Xref and to my colleagues, I am committed to ensuring the next generation of our industry is given every opportunity to be ready for what lies ahead as they start their career

And so if it is of any interest, please feel free to watch the recording of my lecture, Accountants in Finance and Commercial Organisations (Fast Growth Start Ups)

https://xref.zoom.us/rec/share/u-1XL_atq3tIY7PAtUfkff4aIaXcaaa8hydIqPsNyEqNKkGD-TqxnrUiv4mfbE1j?startTime=1585560878000

It took me back to the time that I started the “Get Connected” series in Jan 2016 ! (And yes, I used that name before Quickbooks did ! https://jamessolomons.com/?s=get+connected

Re-Post – Seasonal sales: What you need to know to manage cash flow

As the Christmas period come around again I thought a repost of this article I did with PayPal back in 2016. All still very relevant ! Happy reading.

Keeping customers happy is a year-round essential, but keeping your business healthy and yourself in good cheer through the spikes and surprises of the festive season takes know-how. So how do you keep control of your cash flow and steer clear of those common December–January speed bumps?

Continue reading “Re-Post – Seasonal sales: What you need to know to manage cash flow”

Recognition – Advancement to a Chartered Accountant Fellow (FCA) – Video & Transcript

On Wednesday August 1st I had the privilege of delivering the guest address at the Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand (CA ANZ) New Member certificate presentation & merit award recipient presentation. The night also held special significance for me personally as I was presented with my CA ANZ Fellowship Certificate.

Being advanced to Fellowship of CA ANZ has been a humbling experience as it recognises the contribution I have made to CA ANZ and the entire accounting profession since being admitted as a Chartered Accountant in Oct 2007.

Continue reading “Recognition – Advancement to a Chartered Accountant Fellow (FCA) – Video & Transcript”

An interview with XingDong & Judith from AccountingPod

It was great to be interviewed by XingDong and Judith from AccountingPod on career pathways for CFO’s and Public Practice Accountants in the future !

https://accountingpod.com/tech-and-future/

HR & Finance – An Unlikely Power Couple

As CFOs at the helm of two high-growth HR tech organisations, Xref’s James Solomons and Kristie Langley-Gliddon from Expr3ss! – Software that Simplifies Staff Selection, are perfectly placed to discuss the evolving relationship between finance and HR.

Here they share their views on everything from the financial implications of hiring decisions, the hidden costs of a bad hire and how they ensure their finance team is seen as more than just bean counters.

Continue reading “HR & Finance – An Unlikely Power Couple”

Choose the front foot in the face of change

I remember the moment I became head of accounting at Xero in 2014; it was pretty life changing to be honest. When Chris Ridd made that announcement on the stage of Xerocon, it was the start of something incredible. And when I look back on the past three years at Xero, some interesting numbers stand out.

Continue reading “Choose the front foot in the face of change”

Introducing Light Touch Advisory Services

Someone, somewhere has probably told you to consider offering advisory services. It’ll help boost revenue and keep you relevant to today’s small business market, so the logic goes. But in practice, advisory services aren’t always easy to introduce. Don’t worry. There’s a simpler way.

James Solomons – Co-founder, Aptus Accounting

James runs a popular Australian advisory practice and works as head of accounting at Xero. He gives his advice on how to build out your service offering.

Continue reading “Introducing Light Touch Advisory Services”

Getting your finance in order for EOFY

The end of financial year or EOFY: it’s plastered across all the shop windows and circled in your calendar, but for some small businesses, the focus on finalising accounts and entering accurate tax returns can be a daunting prospect.

In truth, a little preparation and can a long way. And there are plenty of people and technologies out there to help you. Once you have all your EOFY information to hand, make sure you use it to your advantage. Look back on what you’ve achieved and think and plan for the year ahead,

So what steps can you take to prepare your finances?

Continue reading “Getting your finance in order for EOFY”

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