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What Accrual Basis Accounting Can Do For You

by Tom Aiken on Sep 29, 2017 10:59:45 AM

Many early stage companies and small businesses use elementary cash-basis accounting, a simple method by which income is recorded when cash is received and expenses are recorded when cash is paid out. Often, there can be a significant time gap between recording the action (sale or purchase) and its result (payment or receipt of money).

While a small business may prefer cash-basis accounting, Trilogy Partners recommends using accrual accounting if it ever seeks additional investors, bank loans, or contemplates a sale, merger or acquisition.  In this case, the company will need historical financial statements, prepared on an accrual basis, in compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).  Typically, these financial statements are required for the three preceding years and are also necessary if the company is required to be audited by a public accounting firm.

The complexity of recreating historical financial statements in compliance with GAAP can be both costly and time consuming especially when combined with a public audit. Any delay can prevent a timely closing of a strategic transaction and can exacerbate a cashflow problem. It is more prudent to initiate accounting methods and prepare GAAP compliant financial statements from the very beginning.  Thereby, the company will always be ready for any future financing or strategic transaction. Financial statements prepared for tax return purposes typically are not prepared on an accrual basis and will not suffice.

Consider ABC Company whose accounting records were being maintained for tax purposes only.  They acquired two companies in two years and never recorded the purchase accounting.  In addition, they utilized office space and other properties owned by the CEO and did not record the liabilities.  Subsequently, there was a downturn in the industry resulting in a liquidity crisis and ABC decided to sell the business. They found a buyer who required, among other due diligence, audited financial statements.  ABC Company attempted to engage an audit firm, however there were no financial statements prepared in accordance with GAAP. After defaulting on bank loans and paying high fees for accountants to create GAAP financial statements reflecting proper accounting for the two acquisitions, an audit was successfully completed.  During that period, the prospective buyer provided a bridge loan at punitive rates.  After four months of attorneys, outsourced accountants and auditors, ABC successfully closed a deal however, the sale was at a significantly lower purchase price all because they did not maintain financial statements that could be audited in a timely manner.

At Trilogy Partners, we believe it is better to plan for the future and BE PREPARED for opportunities when they arise.  If you’d like to learn more about accrual basis accounting and GAAP, contact me at taiken@gettrilogypartners.com or (609) 688-0428.

Trickle Down Metrics© and Why Companies MUST use Data to Drive Growth

by Jeff Bruno on Sep 06, 2017 11:59:14 AM

How do you stay competitive and manage growth? Trilogy Partners encourages its clients to rely upon data to analyze business trends. The purpose of data is to create an ongoing analysis of intelligence and the outcomes can provide impactful insights for decision making. I maintain that the key for any owner is to be able to clearly identify which Trickle Down Metrics© are the most critical drivers for their business and to focus their limited resources on monitoring these for the best outcomes.

The Trickle Down Metrics© of a company are the key performance indicators that permeate throughout all aspects of a business and drive the company towards the ultimate goals of the CEO and the organization.

Consider ABC Company, an application development company that creates custom software and applications for small-to-medium businesses at a fixed fee rate. The CEO built the company up to $2MM in revenue and $200K in annual net income within a few short years with grit, direct sales, and gut calls. His goal is to expand his team and diversify product offering within two years by increasing revenue, maintaining or increasing profitability, and reinvesting those profits into the new revenue channels.

Before acting, ABC Company identified its Trickle Down Metrics©, the data that would be used to drive decision-making:

  • Utilization Rate of Direct Labor – the percentage of a person’s total hours used to generate revenue and how much money is lost via unutilized hours
  • Booked Sales – total value of contracts closed within a given period, more pertinent to long term business health and long-term cash flows
  • Gross Profitability by Project – the gross profit of each project available to satisfy overhead expenses (total billed per project less all direct costs)
  • Billed Sales – total of value of contracts billed within a given period, more pertinent to short term cash flow

The CEO analyzed billable versus non-billable labor hours and found that his Utilization Rate of Direct Labor was around 90%, higher than industry average and an indicator that they would soon be overwhelmed. The CEO used this knowledge to confirm his decision to hire new direct employees.

The CEO then hired a VP of Sales and a Sales Administrator to ensure that his new employees would have consistent work. The two new hires spent six months closing an acceptable number and revenue of Booked Sales, however they mistakenly miscalculated the fixed fee contract.

This pricing error began to eat into Gross Profitability of Projects and some of the smaller projects weren’t profitable at all! However, by monitoring the issue over time, the CEO could isolate the issue and act before it worsened. The CEO hired a project manager sooner than originally planned to handle the estimation duties and keep labor costs down.

Billed Sales had increased 40% to $2.8MM, but ABC lost slight profitability in the short-term due to the estimation issues. Outside this slight bump, they are on track towards their goal of maintaining profitability and reinvesting cash into new revenue channels.

At Trilogy Partners, we believe that with data, decision making is focused and deliberate rather than subjective and arbitrary. If you’d like to like to learn more about using Trickle Down Metrics© to drive growth in your business, contact me at jbruno@gettrililogypartners.com or (609) 688-0428.

Strategy – What’s your ONE Idea?

by Mark Hodges on Jul 31, 2017 2:46:29 PM

It may not be a surprise that business owners often juggle multiple strategies when planning for the future. What I have found is that having many strategies can create inconsistency, ambiguity and misalignment within an organization. As an Alliance Partner at Trilogy Partners, I urge owners to focus on one single idea to drive decision making and growth.

In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins supports this approach stating that organizations are more likely to succeed if they focus on one thing and do it well. Collins contends that answering three questions is essential to creating an effective, unifying strategy for any company. They are the keys to making a great company out of a merely good one.

#1 – What are you deeply passionate about?  All of us know that to succeed in any business, you must be passionate about it, particularly in the competitive world in which we operate. But what specifically are you passionate about as you lead your company? Is it customer delight? Creating a great place to work? Designing unique products? Achieving operational excellence? The task here is not to create or inspire a new passion – it is to discover what truly makes you passionate about your business.

#2 – What can you be the best at?  No business leader wants to be “pretty good” at their business, but few have a deep understanding of their company’s strengths, core competencies and, most important, potential for greatness. As you create a strategy for your company’s future, you must come to a deep understanding, not only of what you want to be the best at, but what you can be the best at.  This awareness will provide the unique competitive advantage that can propel your company’s growth and prosperity. It will require honesty, courage and determination to make the changes necessary to achieve “best in industry” performance.

#3 – What drives your “economic engine”?  There are countless benchmarks for measuring your company’s economic and financial performance. What is most important is that you must select the single driving economic denominator from which all your strategies and tactics will derive. Is it pure bottom line profit? Profit per product line or per customer? Many possibilities exist based on your operating model, financial resources and long-term goals. Selecting your economic denominator is an essential step in building your growth strategy as your future investment and tactical decisions will be made accordingly.

Trilogy Partners can help you answer these questions to shift your company from good to great. If you need guidance unifying your strategy, contact me at (609) 688-0428 or mhodges@gettrilogypartners.com.

 

 

Seize the Moment: Recognizing how Initiative can Grow your Organization

by Marc Celentana, PhD on Jun 30, 2017 2:05:29 PM

“Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.” – Victor Hugo

Who in your organization has the requisite initiative associated with high performance?  Do any of your employees and colleagues seem to lack initiative?

If either of these questions resonate at some level, it may be time to identify and develop leaders that can create the organization you envision.  Often, tension is associated with ensuring that we have the right people, on the right projects, at the right time.  Failure to properly attend to one or more of these variables can render even the most well-intentioned effort a money loser, morale crusher, or worse, a death knell for the organization.

When you have high performing, motivated employees engaged in meaningful, transformational projects, those who are holding the company back are clearly recognizable. Simply stated, cultivating the strengths and talents of those who demonstrate high initiative is the best insurance for sustainable organizational success.

The descriptors of high and low initiative are provided below so that you may begin to assess those in your organization on this important construct.

High initiative

Seeks responsibility above and beyond the expected
Will go the extra mile to help others
Strives to add value in all that they do
Follows through on tasks with consistency and tenacity
Appreciates the need to take reasonable risks

Low initiative

Requires considerable specific direction
Frequently adopts a “not my job” attitude
Prone to reacting to situations rather than anticipating them
Fails to persevere when faced with challenges
Postpones decision making and misses opportunities

In his book, How to Be a Star at Work: 9 Breakthrough Strategies You Need to Succeed, author Robert Kelley suggests that taking initiative involves more expansive thinking than going after ideas that make you more productive at your own job. It is a desire and willingness to move beyond a job description to reach a goal that benefits the team. Kelley asserts that an individual can be evaluated for performance on any given project by the following five standards:

  1. Doing the job well.
  2. Ensuring that others benefit from their efforts.
  3. Understanding how the project pleases customers and clients while proving profitable to the organization.
  4. Developing focus on increasingly high-level efforts.
  5. Appreciating the potential payoff in light of risks and costs.

Taking on more responsibility, active problem solving, taking risk and adding value are behaviors we want to promote and develop. If you want to learn more about how leveraging initiative can advance your most important projects and your organization, please contact Trilogy Alliance Partner Marc Celentana at (609) 688-0428 or mcelentana@gettrilogypartners.com

Shut Up and Lead!

by Bill Ehrhardt on May 31, 2017 9:38:36 AM

Have you ever thought, this would be a great place to work if we didn’t have any employees? Truthfully, it has crossed my mind on a few occasions over the years. How can any leader have such thoughts about our most valuable assets? The answer is simple, we shouldn’t. John Maxwell states “a leader is one who knows the way; goes the way; and shows the way.” Effective leaders will model the expected behaviors through actions, not words, leading to the concept of “shut up and lead.”

During the early 1990’s, Zenger-Miller published The Basic Principles for Success. Since then, I have adapted these principles as the foundation for professional relationships and the paradigm for expected organizational behavior. The principles are truly basic in concept but often difficult to achieve. They require faithful modeling from the highest level within the organization for success.

Principle 1: Focus on the work process, issue, or behavior, NOT the person. It’s human nature to make things personal in the workplace but this automatically brings emotion into the equation. Principle 1 will drive an objective approach allowing for better problem solving and decision making. My observation is that Principle 1 is more difficult in closely-held and family businesses however the results are often more powerful when practiced consistently.

Principle 2: Maintain the self-confidence and self-esteem of others. Leave sarcasm at the door! It is the greatest form of aggression in the workplace and highly demotivating. Contributing fully and risk taking is easier in a climate of trust and acceptance.

Principle 3: Maintain strong partnerships with your internal and external customers. Everyone knows how they want to be treated as a customer. Think about the potential if every employee within the organization was a customer of each other. How about other strategic partnerships and connections? The possibilities are endless for constructive and effective relationships.

Principle 4: Take the initiative to improve work processes and partnerships. Don’t only take the initiative, encourage others to do the same. Acknowledge and respond to all initiatives so your employees know that you welcome ideas and feedback.

Principle 5: Hold yourself and others accountable for commitments. Make sure there are identified positive and constructive consequences and be consistent in all interactions.

Principle 6: Lead by example. Employees want you to “know,” “go,” and “show” the way through your actions, not words. Leaders have much to gain when they can model the needed actions and attitudes to deal with the demands of business and relationships.

Effective leaders strive to practice The Basic Principles in their daily interactions. I have found that adhering to these principles will allow you to “shut up and lead” more confidently and with greater optimism to achieve your desired results.

If you are interested in implementing these principles to create an atmosphere of trust, cooperation, and positive action, contact Trilogy’s Alliance Partner Bill Ehrhardt at (609) 688-0428 or at behrhardt@gettrilogypartners.com.

Driving Accountability in Your Business

by Rip Tilden on May 01, 2017 12:05:56 PM

One of the most common concerns raised by business leaders is the desire to strengthen accountability in their organization.  When Trilogy Partners examines this concern with them, we often discover that each business owner has his or her own definition of accountability, and they all have very different views on what accountability looks like.  Let’s take a closer look at what the term means and the leadership behaviors you can focus on to strengthen accountability.

We define accountability as accepting responsibility; disclosing results in a transparent manner; being candid about your actions and the actions of others.  We recognize that defining the term is much easier than bringing it to life inside an organization.  The place to start is to look in the mirror.  Are you creating a team environment where accountability will flourish?

Patrick Lencioni, author of The Advantage, has defined four disciplines to help build healthy teams.  We turned these into four key questions that you should ask yourself as you examine the level of accountability in your organization.  If you can say “YES” to each, you will be driving accountability:

1. Have you built a cohesive leadership team?

To create an environment inside your company that will foster accountability, you must start at the top – by assembling a healthy leadership team.  That is, a team with a high level of trust and mutual respect, a team that lives by a set a well-defined core values and that is comfortable with healthy conflict.  A team with those qualities is passionate about addressing the truly tough issues facing the business and resolving them.  Team members believe in using data to drive their decisions, and they focus on team results more than individual accomplishments.

2. Are you creating clarity?

Have you answered these questions with your leadership team?

  • Why does our company exist?
  • How should we behave with each other, our customers and our vendors?
  • What is our core focus?
  • What does good performance look like? How will we succeed?
  • What is most important to do, right now?
  • Who must do what?

3. Are you overcommunicating clarity?

About the time you feel your answers to those questions have been well communicated, your team is just beginning to hear you.  It is essential that you define consistent answers to those questions and that you never stop asking and answering them.  In Lencioni’s words, you must be your own “Chief Reminding Officer”.

4. Are you reinforcing clarity?

You will reinforce your clear messages if you recruit, hire, orient, evaluate, compensate and reward your team members around the core values you have defined, and constantly discuss the answers to the questions listed above.

If you want to answer “YES” to these questions, contact Trilogy’s Alliance Partner Rip Tilden at rtilden@gettrilogypartners.com or at (609) 688-0428.  We have tackled the issue of accountability with many clients and as one noted, “Trilogy has helped our firm build a culture based on truth, knowledge, constructive debate, a passion to win, and the courage to face and fix mistakes.”

 

Ownership Transition – Key Things to Consider

by Peter Lachance on Apr 02, 2017 8:50:33 AM

All of our clients own businesses, and a recent Washington Post article claimed that sales of small businesses hit a record high in 2016.  From time to time, business owners get to a point in their lives when they want to map out an effective exit strategy for at least two reasons: 1) they would like to enjoy themselves while they’re still in good health; and, 2) they want to ensure their company’s legacy for the sake of their employees (and customers).

Trilogy Partners is currently working with a number of clients to transition business ownership either to internal hands (remaining owners, employees and/or relatives) or external hands (other companies or entrepreneurs).  In both instances, the owner is usually interested in maximizing the sales price, while also ensuring that the business can afford to survive.  In my experience, what’s not obvious to most business owners is that they must work themselves out of a job in order to maximize sales price and let others take over their legacy where they left off.

The idea of working themselves out of a job – even to maximize the sales price – is a tough pill to swallow for most business owners, especially for founders.  It’s not that the founder’s talent, skill and knowledge go unrecognized; it’s just that the new owners want to run the business, and they really can’t have anyone standing in the way.  Your mere presence may cause confusion to employees and customers.

Your business has to be sustainable without you in it if you want to achieve the best sales price and the best contractual terms as well as to ensure that your legacy will live on.  The business buyers you desire will view your business as a stream of cash flow, so the more confident they are that the stream won’t dry up, the more your business is worth to them.  Obviously, remaining successful will require that your best employees stay on to operate the business.  Smart buyers will provide incentives to those employees to entice them to stay on, and they won’t micromanage them.  If you value your legacy and your employees as much as you value protecting your net worth, keep this in mind when selecting a buyer.

Is Your Company Ready for Your Departure?

Here’s a simple test to discover how ready your business is to sustain itself without you in it: If you died today, what would become of your business?  Be honest with yourself (and write it down).  List what you must do to achieve a better outcome.  Don’t be surprised if it looks daunting.  With good professional help, and plenty of willpower on your part, you can create a sustainable business that runs without you in it.

Get Professional, Experienced Help

If you want to ensure that your legacy lives on and take a vital step towards maximizing the sales price of your business, get experienced help to prepare your business for sale.  At Trilogy Partners, we work with clients to ensure they have a sustainable business strategy, an organizational structure designed to implement that strategy, and the right people in the right seats.  We also help our clients clarify personal motivations and goals which in turn helps them to make better decisions when navigating the complexities of selling their ownership interest.

If you are considering a future transition and want to know how Trilogy Partners can help, please contact Peter Lachance at 609-688-0428 or at plachance@gettrilogypartners.com.

The “DIY” Approach to Business

by Sal Levatino on Mar 03, 2017 10:54:12 AM

Most people who start a business, particularly a small business, begin with just themselves.  They typically take on all key roles and areas, including attorney, accountant, marketing, sales and operations.  It’s usually justified based on cost since money is tight and every dollar not spent is a good thing, right?  Given the internet resources available, it seems that this concept is perfectly reasonable.  This is the Do-It-Yourself approach to business and there are some owners that can succeed with this model, but unfortunately, most do not.

As the business evolves things begin to happen that will change that model.  Perhaps the owner is successful enough so that his/her taxes become too complicated or maybe some legal or insurance issue comes up and internet resources prove totally inadequate so the owner calls on outside experts.  Outside of these kinds of specific concerns, many small business owners still expect themselves to be everything else for their business.  Over time, frustration and burnout occur and many owners find themselves losing traction.

As an alternative to the Do-It-Yourself approach, forward-thinking business owners begin to identify areas in their business where their time is not well spent.  Either because it is a low value task or it is outside their ability to perform it at a high level.  Sometimes they just need help implementing the great ideas they never have time to incorporate into their business.  They begin to see relative value in various tasks and, in order to free up their time, consider making an investment in some services.  They begin to think about spending time working “On” their business, not just “In” their business.  That’s the beginning of turning a business from Good to Great.

Trilogy Partners specializes in helping business owners shed the Do-It-Yourself approach.  We have a wide range of highly competent professionals who can guide business owners on the path from Good to Great. Take a look at these seasoned Alliance Partners on our website and make the first step to being on that journey.

A Wake-Up Call About Selling

by Ted Federici on Jan 31, 2017 8:59:09 AM

Sometimes we make business far harder than it is.  We over-think our strategy, complicate our product line, and worry too much about our staff.  These are all important issues to be sure, but they pale in significance to the one area of business that contributes most to success: Time spent daily on SALES.

Sales should be the absolute center of what your company does every single day.  Ignore it at your peril.  As the founder of IBM, Thomas Watson once remarked, “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”

I have mentored many business owners and when I see a business not performing, it’s primarily because they are not spending enough hours in the day on the sales process.  Specifically, they are not refining how they sell and aren’t getting out there face to face with potential customers.  My philosophy is that owners should not be involved in the internal processes of the business except to occasionally check in with trusted employees to verify that the business is on track.

So, how much time should you spend on sales?  If you are running a new business, at least 80 % of your day should be devoted to sales.  If you are an established business, at least 30% of your day should be devoted to the sales process or connecting with customers.

Does that sound too extreme?  It shouldn’t.  What else could you be doing that is more important?

Here’s an exercise worth trying: Sit down and work out the average amount of time you and your sales team spend each week, either directly selling or on improving the sales process. Then set a goal to triple it, starting next week.

You may say you’re too busy. You may protest that you have too many other things to do.  But if you can bring yourself to drop these excuses and try this technique, you will be stunned at how quickly your business improves.

When you spend most of your time selling, opportunities quickly arise as doors open, checks get written, and good things happen. When you stay in your office talking to your staff, pontificating over product details, admin and minutiae, your business may progress, but you won’t greatly increase your revenue.  You are merely tinkering on the peripheries of success.

If you’re not happy with how fast your business is growing, this is the area you should focus on, first, second and third. Get out there and generate more business opportunities. It may seem difficult at first so if you need some support, know that Trilogy Partners has helped business owners create process around selling, deal with the emotional side of letting go and maneuver through change.

The Real Secret to Success for Business Owners

by Hal Levenson on Jan 04, 2017 12:43:01 PM

Our experience has shown that the three most common areas that business owners need to address to fulfill their vision and ensure success for their company are:

  • Fundamental Business Disciplines
  • Human Behavioral Dynamics
  • Change

We have found that many business owners do not focus on all three areas which can lead to inefficiencies, culture issues, and stagnation within the business.  Understanding and directing efforts in these areas make for a more robust, holistic organization that can better adapt to challenges.

Let’s take a look at each.

Fundamental Business Disciplines reflect the objective side of business such as winning new customers, manufacturing products, creating processes, etc. and can be expressed in the following categories:

  1. Growth: Strategy, Sales/Marketing and Organizational
  2. Sustainability: People, Financial and Processes

Human Behavioral Dynamics are the emotional and subjective aspects of business such as interpersonal and group relationships which can be ranked as:

  1. Foundational: Trust, Conflict, and Communications
  2. Results: Accountability, Courage, and Passion

Change is inevitable (like it or not) and can be broken down into the following points:

  1. Willingness to embrace change
  2. Ability to handle change
  3. Rate of change

Now that you’re familiar with these areas, we would encourage you to ask yourself the following questions.  Give yourself 1 point for each question that you answer “No”:

  • Do you have a clear, concise written strategic plan that is realistic and aligned by all members of your team?
  • Do you have a current and future Organizational Chart that reflects where you want to be and outlines expectations, gaps and opportunities for advancement?
  • Do you understand what is “behind” your numbers and utilize a financial dashboard to help guide your decisions and increase your bottom line?
  • Are your processes effective at the lowest level, being updated, and making you more competitive?
  • Are you encouraging and having healthy conflict to get the best ideas from different points of view or is there avoidance?
  • Are you holding each other and yourself accountable to specific, measureable results on a consistent basis?
  • Do you and everyone in your organization have the courage to make tough decisions, willingly make mistakes and happily own them?
  • Is your company open and excited about change or does it resist and fear it?
  • Do you know how much change your company can handle with your current employees, processes, technology and resources?

How’d you do?  Be honest.  If you scored 4 or above, do you think you’ll be able to take your company to the next level or be scalable while not addressing these vital points of business?

We believe that business owners who attend to these areas will indeed achieve their vision, become financially independent and have profitable and sustainable companies.  We’ve seen firsthand the positive results from our clients who do so.  Although it can seem daunting at first, it’s worth taking the journey to success.

If you would like to know how Trilogy Partners can assist you in these areas, please contact me at hlevenson@gettrilogypartners.com or call us at 609-688-0428.

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