Being CFO As Well As CEO

I am a lone wolf in my company at the moment.  I am not just the CEO, I am also the CFO.  CFO stands for Chief Financial Officer and it is a position with an extreme amount of responsibility.  As the CEO, I can have a vision for my company, a grand and glorious one, and I can work with my “Senior Staff” to see if it will work and decide how to implement it.

As I sit in the conference room with the senior members of my staff, my CFO, CIO, and several Senior Vice Presidents I explain in detail what my vision is.  My CFO speaks up and says that it sounds like an expensive idea.  He would have to crunch the numbers but we might have to come up with several thousand dollars beyond what we have coming in as income.  Where will we get the money?

Now of course I am the CFO, so I have to play both parts: The CEO and CFO, which often have conflicting rolls.  The CEO is dreamy and exciting, the CFO is down to earth and realistic.  And how does a corporation get money it doesn’t have?

Well the corporation can do one of the following:

1. Increase income
2. Borrow money from the bank
3. Sell shares of stock
4. Sell bonds
5. Sell assets

Included in these options is the possibility that the CEO will purchase shares of stock from the corporation, if he or she has some extra cash to invest.

Often the CFO doesn’t have the choice to say “No, let’s not do that”.  Sometimes the corporation goes from profit to loss, and although adjustments will be made to plug the leak, there will be near term losses to deal with.  Sometimes the CFO will have to choose whether to try to make a go of it by juggling receivables, payables, and any other asset or liability, or if he wants to try to raise outside money somehow.  There may actually not be a choice here either, as the board of directors may prevent selling new shares of stock or borrowing money.

The CFO may also have to deal with tax consequences of his money management.  For instance, I found myself with a pretty big profit this year, so I took action to push my profit into 2011.  The problem with trying to do this is that I don’t have a whole lot of cash to work with and could not raise outside money, except from myself, by directive of my board of directors.  In other words I could not sell shares of stock to non-family members.  I also could not borrow money from the bank.  So, I bought shares of my own stock and did my best to increase my accounts payable float.  By the way, I had cash flow issues because my accounts receivable is pretty big and my accounts payable is pretty small.  No problem getting paid, it just takes a while.

Once I am on the other side of 2011, as we are today, I can take action to pump up my profits and worry about the tax issues at the end of the year.  With any luck I will have tax issues, and maybe I’ll just book them in 2011.

If you wonder how I “push profits into 2011”, generally this involves investing in such as way to create an expense in 2010 and new income in 2011.  I did this by advertising right at the end of the year.  My advertising is an expense against income, but my advertising will produce income, hopefully, after a few months.  There are probably many other ways to do this, although many investments are expensed over time, such as equipment or buildings, so you have to use the right investments.

More About Being A Bean Counter

Last week we talked about calculating a return on investment (ROI) from your recruiting costs, whether you are recruiting customers for your product or resellers.  Of course our return on investment calculation is just an estimate based on less than all the facts.  It is still an important calculation, though, and worth the exercise even if ultimately it is way off.  Why?  Because ultimately you want to know what your real return on investment is and you can’t wait for all the facts to come in.  So, you make an estimate based on what you believe, then you revise your number as reality sets in.

Why do you even care what return on investment is?  Return on investment is an important measurement for deciding if you time and money are being spent in the right way.  As a rule of thumb, a 20% return on investment is good for investments with substantial risks.  You can consider a business investment a substantial risk because there will be good times and bad times, and you might now be in a good time (in fact I think now is a great time).  So today your real ROI may be 20% and tomorrow it might be -5%.  So 20% is a good rule of thumb for ROI.

You might want to adjust this ROI for your risk level.  Let’s say that your ROI for new resellers is 18% but it’s likely their business will grow.  So 18% may be a very good ROI.  If your ROI is 8% instead, it might be a good ROI if your investment is US Treasuries that will always pay 8% (i.e. ultra safe).  But it would be an extremely poor ROI if your investment had any risk at all.  So risk is a factor in whether your ROI is a good number or not.

Your ROI is an important number to determine how much money you’ll need before your business begins making a profit.  For instance, you invest $100 per month for a year and your ROI is 20%, meaning you’ll make $20 per month or so.  It will take 5 years to begin making a profit if you never increase your investment.  If instead you sink your profits back into your business, you will earn $100 in revenue before hitting the 5 year mark but you’ll always lose $1200 per year.  You’ll need to back off on your investment to earn a profit.

If you do want to invest $100 per month in your business and reinvest the revenues for 5 years, how much money will you need?  $1200 per year X 5 years or $6000.  Do you have $6000 or can you get it over 5 years?  If not, you will need to borrow the money or find investors.  So the ROI is also important to determine if you’ll do it all by yourself or if you’ll need to seek help from others.  It’ll do this before you actually need the money, giving you time to work with your bank or pitching your relatives on your new business (to drum up investors).

So your return on investment number is important to estimate, then correct, as you initially grow your business.  What other calculations are important?

I Blew It Big – Poetry Saturday

I just got my first check from all the work we finished
Was a lot but you won’t believe what I did
Bought the bar a double-round of Crown
Now there’s nothing left to show my wife and kids

I have to pay my crew but I don’t know how now
The bank loan is coming due can’t make the payment
Learn from my lesson don’t let it happen to you
Don’t be suffering under a mountain of debt

I blew it big… Ya I blew it all
Now I don’t even have a quarter to make a telephone call
When you’re in business you have obligations
And it’s a long way down to fall
Oh I blew it big, I blew it all

My wife forgave me again like she’s done before
Then I have a few drinks to muffle out the crying
I might be an alcoholic my friend but I can’t quit today
In the morning I won’t be feeling so fine

I blew it big… Ya I blew it all
Now I don’t even have a quarter to make a telephone call
When you’re in business you have obligations
And it’s a long way down to fall
Oh I blew it big, I blew it all