“I fired all of them,” said the Canada-based condominium developer I was helping to optimize his business. “Wow,” I said. “What happened?” The developer continued, “You said you wouldn’t work through a bunch of layers, so I fired all my vice presidents. And you know what I found out? They were keeping things from me. If I hadn’t done that, my business would have been out of working capital within six months. Now you have to help me navigate out of this.”
I told him in a nice but direct way: “I blame you, not them. It was your job to know for yourself what was and wasn’t happening at your company. We’re going to fix that, starting with getting you to a much better-designed box org chart.”
And we did just that.
Unfortunately, this is a story I’ve heard all too many times over nearly 20 years of one-to-one consulting with contracting clients. The owner would delegate responsibility for the financial position to someone only to discover all kinds of impropriety once that person went on vacation, departed — or the bank or creditors started calling!
The financial manager role is one of two roles you can never give up; the other is marketing manager.
What you need to understand is these roles are the two most important boxes on your organizational chart.
This chart, what I call the RIGHT Box Org Chart, shows all the boxes it takes to run your contracting business. If you’re like most contractors, your name will be in a lot of those boxes; your goal is (or should be) to give those boxes to someone else. And that’s a great goal, except for those two roles you can never give away — financial manager and marketing manager. Here’s why.
It’s your money! And you can never forget that.
Using real-world accounting
Let’s talk about the financial manager box first. The problem with delegating this financial role is you can be cut off from the truth because it’s buried in reports that hide where you are when it comes to money. Financial reports that are right, delivered on time and you can trust are vital. It’s the only way to know where you stand so you can make good financial decisions in real time.
People also need to know you are watching what is going on closely, which sends the message that you will catch anyone who tries to play games.
Know that the financial manager role is so much more than how much in taxes you’re paying, which my friend Ellen Rohr calls “accountant accounting.” The type of accounting your accountant does is really important as they tend to focus on minimizing and delaying the taxes you pay and keeping you out of jail.
That’s good and necessary, but Ellen also says trying to run your business with that type of accounting alone is like driving your financial car by looking out your rear window. (Spoiler: It doesn’t work.)
To be successful, you have to drive that car by looking out the front windshield with real-world accounting. This type of accounting requires you to understand basic budgeting and accounting terms. The great news is it’s not that hard! Real-world accounting is what allows you to establish and maintain what Ellen calls your known financial position (KFP) so you can make sound financial decisions in real time to help run your company the right way.
To maintain KFP, you as the financial manager are responsible for monitoring the key numbers in real time (sales, expenses, cash flow, etc.), as well as for ensuring each month is closed out in a timely manner.
Note: If these or other financial tasks are done by others at your company or by an outside vendor, you need to check in and make sure they are happening and be prepared to take corrective action if they aren’t. It’s that important!
Like every other box on the organizational chart, there needs to be a Financial Manager Manual along with manuals for supporting roles such as accounts receivable, accounts payable and office manager.
Keeping the phone ringing
You need to remain in the marketing manager box because marketing is absolutely vital to the health of your company.
There were times at my family plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical company when the phones weren’t ringing — or at least not often enough. I’d literally pick up the phone to check that they were working. (That is actually a procedure in the CSR Manuals I’ve taught clients to do!)
The thing is, you could do everything else right at your business —planning, operations, staffing, sales, sales coaching, and even financial (these are six of my seven “powers”) — but if you flunk at marketing, you’re going out of business. That’s why it’s always the owner’s job to be the marketing manager.
As the marketing manager, you are responsible for making sure your company does what I call the “Three Rights of Marketing.” They are:
To be clear: You don’t need to be the one to create or execute the actual marketing and advertising. What you are responsible for, however, is the creation of a Marketing Manual that spells out things such as:
You have an even better chance at success as a marketing manager if you possess a Marketing Manager Manual and a Customer Service Representative Manual, as both roles directly affect your ability to maximize your marketing efforts.
By taking and maintaining control of the financial and marketing managerial roles at your company, you ensure that you are the only one at the wheel of your company car. That will greatly increase the chances you’ll get to your destination — success — as soon as possible.