When I started a corporate internship 25 years ago, I was (naively) thinking that sales is the most important activity in each company – it generates cash, the other departments are only back office, consuming cash gathered from sales. So I was perceiving:
- Accounting dep’t – as a pain in the back, asking for all those invoices, bills, proofs, signatures, POs etc.
- Finance department – as somebody asking questions about the deviations from budget, and always unhappy with results, cutting bonuses
- Audit and compliance depts. – nightmares – always unhappy, always too theoretical, repeating the word – procedures, without “practice in real life”
And my thoughts have been supported by Sales staff complaining about all those in the back office.
When I worked in BIG-4 Audit, the approach started to change – all the procedures and processes became reasonable and I found all those complaints were an overreaction,
But my optics changed dramatically when being FD that had to take care about business efficiency, compliance and procedures. And then, I finally understood
- Why processes and compliance are so important.
- CEO or Sales Director and their beautiful ideas should be challenged by Finance, if the Business is to survive.
- Why it is better to resign from sales with a margin not covering costs.
- Why budgets should not be overoptimistic
- Why in a long run, the most important is bottom line profitability, not big sales.
WOOLSTREET has been created as a result of my experience of operational efficiency in the accounting/finance department. In all of the positions I have been working on – FD, CFO, Audit Manager, SOX/internal controls manager, I have noticed 3 things:
- how big problems may be caused by a badly organized accounting /finance department: (reporting errors, delays, lack of proper information/controlling reports, lack of challenging the sales and operational managers, too many products on offer, too many generals, too few Indians, and finally cash shortages) losing chances for market success, growth, development
- how a big, positive impact on company operations may have been the optimization of existing processes/operational activities of the accounting/back office and finally the front office, making company management easier and allowing focus on core product development
- Even if the procedures and processes had been perfectly designed and working at the beginning, after a couple of years, the system becomes inefficient as the environment changes, new staff comes and starts cutting corners, etc. Finally the originally optimal system comes to the situation described in point #1 above (big issue).
The above refers to all types of business in all cultures – European/US, in Asia, Middle East and Africa). It is always easier to manage any business if the procedures are optimal, proper controlling information is being provided, staff is properly cooperating and working efficiently the whole working day, instead of thinking “why do I have to do that stupid task?” and staying long hours with rising tiredness and frustration.
If somebody asks me what types of services I provide, I have a problem, as saying that “I’m optimizing the clients business” or that “I’m enforcing efficient corporate governance”, doesn’t sound very attractive. To avoid that, I’ve prepared a simplified lists of services (you can find it HERE). All of them relate to the same area (finance, controls and accounting), but in details there are so many different activities, that it may seems impossible to be done by one person. I present it like that anyway, to make your life easier when considering whether you need that type of service or not yet.
At the end of the project, there is a final meeting, and I’m thanking the management for their cooperation, the Management thanks me for project completion, which is always nice. But what motivates me the most is to see the smiling faces of the line staff, happy that unnecessary tasks are no longer performed and that finally they know what they are doing and why it is so crucial and that the good results of their efforts are so visible
When Project relates purely to the business restructuring, there is no better motivation, seeing the company that was just about to get bankrupt, start to recover and gather new clients and better results, by focusing on the core business and cutting or outsourcing (if necessary) all other activities. Of course the smiles on the face of staff whose jobs were saved is the cherry on the cake.
Woolstreet products are tailored to all customers that see or only feel, the problems in their daily operations and they ARE determined to change it to focus on growth, to cut all the “lines” preventing them from flying higher.
DETERMINATION is the key word here – it is crucial that the client is ready for change and determined to implement it.
Working for the client that is still not convinced about the change is difficult for both sides. Without this decisiveness there is no action – so the Client doesn’t see progress, therefore the motivation drops and as a result – the changes are moved to al never-happening future. For such clients, I can offer, the identification/confirmation of problems and a preliminary remediation plan. Or I recommend waiting for a moment until the decision is final and the necessary determination exists.
To summarize – without proper determination of the Management/Owner, positive results are not achievable
Some people may think that my work is a kind of a Project Manager role, only controlling if the required task is done (of course by other people) and putting a tick in the control sheet. That view is far from the reality. To identify the real problems your organization is facing, I am going to the bottom line staff and shadowing them to find the real issues which cause the problem. I believe that even asking them to describe what they do on a daily basis, is not enough, as everybody in such a case is trying to present himself as well as possible. Instead I have to see and test their real activities, and then I’m starting to ask the simplest questions:
- Why are you doing that?
- Why are you doing it in such a way?
- What is the biggest pain in your daily work?
- How would you like it to be done in most optimal way?
You would not believe how those questions are useful to solve the issues, but 70%- 80% of my project time is relating to those activities.
I’m not spending my time on preparation of polished Power Point presentations, calls, management meetings, hand-shaking, etc. Of course these activities are important and necessary, but they are not the key to a successful ourcome.
Once again – the most important for proper identification of the problems and for successful change is shop floor work.
Woolstreet is a freelance company and I’m providing services to my clients based on my 20 years of practical experience in many business types, in various cultures.
When the project requires different areas of expertise (six sigma, taxes, special valuations), I cooperate with friendly companies, that may assist me to cover my limited experience in such cases.
When a team of staff dedicated to do simple but important tasks is required (controls testing, transfer of data, etc), I will organise such a team.