C. Lynn Northrup, CPA, CPIM

Coaches Make the Difference

June 9th, 2017

Coaches can be the difference between winning at business or losing. Every small business owner should have one. They keep you focused on the game. Coaches provide:

  • Guidance
  • Support
  • Accountability
  • Encouragement

I can hear small business owners now, saying “I’d like those things, but I can’t afford a coach.”

It probably should be the other way around, “you can’t afford to not have a coach.” Coaches facilitate transition, change, and success. Here are some tips for success:

  • Take total responsibility
  • Risk sharing your thoughts and feelings with others
  • Bring your beliefs to a Conscious Awareness
  • Develop an Awareness of Character and Persona
  • Listen to Feedback
  • Consider finding a Coaching Process
  • Be Flexible

The job of owning a small business is a lonely place and there is no substitute for have a sounding board and receiving good advice. Some of the challenges facing small business owners include:

  • What do I need to learn?
  • Commitments to grow as a leader?
  • What resources do I need?
  • Potential Problems or Obstacles?
  • Timeline?
  • Measures of success?

Coaches are not teachers but they teach. They provide attention to all the little details that go wrong when you are trying to achieve peak performance. Coaches put more of the things we do into a routine so we can focus on results. They listen closely and keep you on track by providing feedback and let you know where you are falling short. A good coach breaks down performance into its critical individual components and then gets you to focus on the fine details that make a difference.

The essence of good coaching is to get you to think, and about the right things. When you find a coach that is the master of both the skill and coaching, the resulting impact tends to be enormous. Top athletes have coaches! Hire a coach and gain the winning advantage.

In addition to coaching support, I can deliver a full range of advisory services representing a more affordable and efficient solution.

Saving Time – 5 Keys to Results

June 7th, 2017

Saving time is the pathway to greater productivity and profitability. Small business owners realize that time is money and both are precious resources. It’s what makes the engine run.

The 5 Keys to Results:

  1. Set Goals
  2. Create a Plan
  3. Set Priorities
  4. Be Realistic
  5. Track and Measure Results

Setting daily to-do lists on what you want to accomplish is one of the main keys to achieving results, day in and day out. I use 6” x 9” spiral bound steno pads to keep my to do lists and notes. They keep everything bound and in one place giving me a chronological record of what I did each day.

Creating a plan keeps you focused on your goals and when you’ll need to accomplish them. Plans provide a roadmap letting you know if you’ll need help, acquire supplies, or add equipment. The small business plan should also document the results that are expected from your effort.

Planning forces you to set priorities. It spells out what get done first and how much time will be needed. Prioritization addresses the most important thing to get done. Some things will have greater urgency and force some tasks to be done at a later date.

Address larger projects and break them into a more realistic workload to avoid getting overwhelmed. Be realistic to avoid trying to put 10 pounds in a 5-pound sack. Knowing your capabilities and limitations is critical because small businesses always will have more work than time.

Tracking results and measuring performance sounds like an obvious step. It often gets put aside because small business owners have a tendency keep things in their head. There is no substitute for measurement. It forces a focus on results. It is essential to have a clear idea on what you’re doing, how you are doing and adjusting accordingly. This is where an accounting system can prove to be invaluable in avoiding mistakes and wasting time.

I think these five keys will help keep you and your business on track and focused on better results.

6 Rules for Managing Risk

May 18th, 2017

Rule 1: The first rule of managing risk is to understand the value of today and how the future could impact those values. It is essential to measure how future change will create different scenarios and how they will impact today’s values.

Rule 2: is to decide on reasonable time horizons that fit your situation. Each situation will have a different impact on the time horizon. Getting the right fit is essential in making choices for the future.

Rule 3: is selecting a range of scenarios and possibilities that describe possible future events. This step means exploring both negative and positive possible outcomes. Try to assign values to each scenario in addition to the likelihood that it could happen.

Rule 4: is picking a benchmark for performance. This will help you evaluate the range of scenarios.

Rule 5: is weighing all the possibilities to determine the potential impact the scenarios might have on future values.

Rule 6: boils down to deciding on how much risk you are willing to accept after applying the various scenarios to future and current values.

Some thoughts and considerations:

Think about the possible upside to any decision in addition to the downside. Consider what could happen, the impact it could have, and the likelihood that it could happen. This step means really digging into the full range of possibilities. Most people don’t go far enough with this step.

What is your attitude toward risk? Is it high, medium, or low? This requires honest evaluation about the reality of your attitude.

Focus on the future – Not the past. The past might provide clues to the future, but things are never going to be the same. Change will occur. The past is over and your concern needs to be on the future. This is why it is essential to project yourself into the future.

Create Win/Win scenarios. This requires finding minimum payoffs that provide a positive risk-adjusted value that motivates another party to agree to the terms of the deal.

Effective utilization of these six rules allows you to be less likely to be surprised by unexpected outcomes. It is impossible to anticipate everything, but a more systematic approach to risk management helps to prevent disastrous results. Applying the 6 rules represents a better way to make tough choices.

Make Smart Choices

May 16th, 2017

Not too long ago I spelled out the Five Steps for Better Decision-Making. While these five steps provide some guidance, the process of making smarter choices needs to be expanded. The first step in making smart choices and decisions is to create and clarify any uncertainties surrounding the decision.

Take time to think about your tolerance for risk. Just how much risk are you willing to assume. Link your decisions to gain an understanding of how one decision might impact another decision. Also, understand how the choices you make today will impact the choices you make tomorrow. Fast forward to future possibilities and consider the uncertainties regarding these alternatives. If things don’t work out what are the alternative options you can exercise and implement.

Gather as much data and information as possible when planning decisions. Go through the five step process in your decision planning process to gain clarification on the possibilities and the outcomes. Try not to place too much emphasis on the initial information received and gathered. Things can change as you dig into the issues. Finally, avoid the tendency of status quo which is protecting the present because the future is uncertain.

Another factor is to avoid falling into the trap of reaching quick conclusions regarding the accuracy of evidence gathered in the decision-making process. Try to avoid recalling what happen in the past and in overestimating the impact of a decision. This will help you achieve a sharper sense of awareness of the ramifications and possibilities of a decision.

Combining Five Steps for Better Decision-Making with these tips will result in better decisions and smarter choices.

Training for Profitability

May 5th, 2017

Expanded knowledge of financial management can dramatically increase business profits. Accounting and finance remains a mystery to many small business owners and non-financial managers. Just relying on your CPA isn’t enough. You need to know the right questions to ask and when to ask them.

Financial and business training is the pathway to greater profitability. The trouble with training programs is that they are expensive and time consuming. Imagine an affordable self-paced learning system that will increase your knowledge and skills and get right to the point.

When businesses increase their knowledge and skills it produces greater success. CPA’s can provide an added value service to clients by giving them access to effective training programs. This produces happier business owners that in turn results in faster business growth and greater profitability.

Training for Profitability is a great investment that will produce amazing returns. My vision has been to convert my knowledge and experience into training programs that will help business owners and non-financial managers gain an edge over the competition. The new self-paced education programs are designed to take the mystery out of accounting, finance, and business terminology and skills.

I offer essential accounting, financial management, and basic business skills training courses that are focused on getting results. In addition, I also have created reference tools and resources that will help you manage your financial function more effectively.

Management Tools for Success represent a small investment for a profitable future.

Five Steps to Better Decision-Making

April 24th, 2017

Making good decisions is one of the secrets to success. Application of these five steps allows you to leverage our Management Tools for Success with greater consistency. This systems oriented approach results in better decisions and greater efficiency.

Big decisions should include the following five steps:

  1. Define the problem.
  2. Clarify your objectives.
  3. Develop creative alternatives.
  4. Consider the consequences.
  5. Analyze the trade-offs.

Defining the parameters of a problem is essential. Dig into the issues and make sure that you are focusing on the right things. Be flexible and evaluate all the parameters of the issue and be willing to shift based on changing circumstances.

You need to understand what your decision should accomplish. It is critical to know your objectives, your goals, and needs. This step will help guide your evaluation of information and the possible alternatives. It is helpful to write down your thoughts and concerns to narrow the focus on questions and concerns. Try to tighten your objectives in terms of the end result and be clear on why they are important.

Having creative and imaginative alternatives is the way to avoiding making past mistakes. There is a tendency to repeat what we did in the past. Making minor changes doesn’t work; you need to develop a range of options that can make a difference. Try bouncing the issue off of others and then try and come up with new slants and perspectives. You just might come up with something new and a better solution.

Take time to think through all the consequences of results from possible decisions. Project yourself into the future and try to imagine each of the alternatives and their impact. Go through an analysis of the possibilities and compare the results and understand how they would affect you. Write down the alternatives so you have a clear understanding of the range of possibilities. Greater clarity in your thought process results from writing down and documenting the array of possibilities.

The last step is evaluating the trade-offs resulting from a decision. You will need to consider all the advantages and disadvantages resulting from the alternative decisions. In some cases you will have a clear idea as to a result and in other instances there will be uncertainty. These are the instances where you’ll have to make some judgments and weigh the different possibilities.

A component of decision-making is to understand your appetite for risk. This is a time when you need to think ahead and have contingency plans. Engaging in serious future thought regarding potential outcomes and results is a key component of any decision-making process. Face the reality of what could happen and think carefully about the outcome. Be ready to deal with things that don’t happen as you imagined and understanding how to react accordingly. Be ready to embrace adversity.

In summary, see the reality of possible outcomes and not just the outcome you want to see and be prepared to deal with them.

Plan to Do Better?

April 17th, 2017

We’ve just finished up paying our taxes for the year. Maybe you had to pay more than you wanted and had to scramble to come up with enough cash for the payment. You might have looked at the numbers and wondered why we didn’t do better. There could be lots of scenarios to the story.

Reality is that many businesses don’t really know how they are doing and wonder how they can do better. This is an all too familiar theme for most small businesses. It is essential for businesses to take time to consider their options.

Here’s some signals that maybe your business could use some help:

  • Gross margins have decreased.
  • You can’t identify your product margins.
  • Profit margins are too low.
  • Your cost structure is out of line with the competition.
  • You’re borrowing too much.
  • You have declining trends over the past few months.

Maybe you need a tune-up:

  • Has income declined over the last three quarters/
  • Are sales declining?
  • Are you satisfied with your overall results?
  • Do you have a plan to maintain your rate of growth?

Here’s some signs that things need to turn around:

  • Are you starting to lose money?
  • Do you have too much inventory?
  • Can you recruit new help?
  • Do you have too much debt?
  • Do you know where you are making profits?
    • By customer
    • By product or service
  • Have you lost business to competitors?

Crisis questions might include:

  • Can you meet payroll?
  • Will the bank lend you more money?
  • Have good employees quit?
  • Have vendors stopped shipping goods to you?
  • Have you had time to think and strategize?
  • Have any of your customers who don’t pay on time stopped ordering?

Maybe you just think your business should be doing better and you don’t know why. Whatever the reasons, there are things every business should and could be doing to make things better. My blog post on Biggest Business Problems explains and discusses these issues.

The first thing businesses should do is step back to reflect on what you have done and where you want to go. Businesses fail to engage in “Strategic Thinking” and they fail to effectively “measure their performance” on a regular basis.

These are what I call the Management Tools for Success that are critical for growing and increasing profitability. Business owners need to spend the time and effort to learn about accounting and measurement. In addition, they need to then learn how to apply these tools to making their business more successful.

My goal is to provide business owners with the knowledge and tools they need to be successful. Take advantage of my consulting experience which are offered as resources for businesses on a subscription basis and as toolkits and checklists which can be downloaded from my store.

A good way to get started is with The Guide to Strategic Thinking and The Strategic Thinking Toolkit and creating a plan for Profit Enhancement. The key is doing something rather than just thinking about it. So go make it happen.

 

New Tools

March 5th, 2017

New teaching and collaboration tools were added yesterday. I am now up and running with Adobe Connect so that I can work and interface with anyone anywhere. This has been in the planning ever since the conversion to the new Word Press web site began, but it is now a reality. This tool enables me to teach and share my knowledge in live webinars.

Business owners can now receive live consulting support through the meeting room capability offered by Adobe Connect. The ability to share files, of any type, combined with virtual communication in the meeting room is exciting. It represents a huge leap forward in my capability to teach, coach, and share knowledge.

My plan is to immediately begin scheduling webinar conference sessions in accounting, financial management, and basic business skills. I’ll record the initial sessions to make sure everything flows smoothly.  These sessions will be recorded and made available on the web site. Once we get past the initial stage, the webinars will be live as well as recorded.

The initial learning conference sessions will be presented over the next few weeks. There will be a total of 14 webinar learning sessions cover the three conference topics. Each session will be recorded and the recording link will be available to those who sign up to participate in the three learning programs. The three topics are:

The sessions are described in detail by following the link to the web site.

After these initial programs, we will have an ongoing series of presentations covering a wide range of business topics. We will be providing the latest guidance on managing risk based on COSO’s new exposure draft on Enterprise Risk Management. Other topics will include strategic planning, change management, lean six sigma, and cost accounting techniques.

While specific learning topics will be offered, I will offer one on one coaching sessions on request. In addition, special webinar presentations will be offered on current topics.

The new Adobe Connect webinar and meeting capabilities offer an exciting range of possibilities that I was only able to provide through seminars and consulting engagements. Because I am so excited about the new tools, I am offering a free Accounting Basics for Business eBook to the  first 5 people who sign up for the new learning programs.

The initial presentations will be accessible by the end of next week March 10, 2017.

Business Resources

February 25th, 2017

The New Business Resources offers membership access to exclusive training webinars in addition to some outstanding financial and business management reference material.

These new offerings are exciting. The Reference Guides are a new concept. Business owners can gain access to extensive financial knowledge and reference material just by subscribing for each Guide. There are three Guides offering a full range of guidance and support on managing a financial function:

  • Controllership Guide
  • CFO Guide
  • Cost Management Guide

These Guides provide complete references and directions on implementing and operating a business financial function.

Detailed explanation of the contents of each Reference Guide is provided. The membership fee is $49.95 for a full year (12 months) of access. The material is easily accessed and available when you need reference information or an answer to a question.

The Controllership Guide addresses the accounting function, financial analysis, and internal control. The CFO Guide deals with a wider range of financial management issues such as debt and equity structure, financing, and levels of financial analysis. The Cost Management Guide provides an abundance of specialized information on cost accounting, cost management, and techniques for performing cost analysis.

Retirement Resources is a great tool for retirees and those considering retirement and is based on my work in the areas of retirement planning and elder care. It provides an abundance of information on a wide variety of retirement topics. There are also links to web sites that I researched during the course of developing multiple study programs and my Navigating Retirement book.

My new eBook Accounting Basics for Business is focused on detailing accounting basics for business owners and managers. The eBook gives them the information needed to understand and utilize accounting systems. Another eBook, Basics of Business Financial Management, addresses financial management and analysis and the use of accounting reports. Based on my experience from teaching MBAs, I created Basic Business Skills outlining the basic business skills needed to cope in today’s business environment.

The store also features toolkits and checklists to assist in managing business financial functions. Check out business tools, retirement resources, and the store. I think you’ll find the information and knowledge to help you achieve success.

Free eBook

January 26th, 2017

Building Business Value© is my new eBook that will introduce you to Tools for Success and the launch of the all new www.northrupcpa.com. We’re giving you this eBook free just for signing up to receive our newsletter.

This new eBook spells out the components of business success using Strategic Optimization. This is the foundation of my Knowledge Center and the content available from the Store.  Along with this great resource, I have created several eBooks, Toolkits, and Reference Guides designed to create success and take you and your business to new heights.

Strategic Optimization is based on seven basic principles that are critical in building a successful business. Building Business Value© describes the following seven steps in detail:

  1. Have a Strategy
  2. Effective Sales and Marketing
  3. Create Effective Processes
  4. Measure Results and Progress
  5. Have Visionary Leadership
  6. Effective Change Leadership
  7. Effectively Utilize Technology

While these steps are common sense, it’s amazing how often they get ignored. These steps represent the foundation of every consulting project which I have used to assess a multitude of companies. I think that business owners can do their own self-assessment to get them on the track of increasing the value of their businesses. I have the tools to help achieve that objective.

 The Self-assessment Toolkit is available in the Store. In addition, The Building Business Value Toolkit is also available. Combining these tools with the free eBook gives business owners a significant edge on their competition.

The New Knowledge Center is my focus for the future. Business owners and managers can gain access to Reference Guides and Training that will provide the tools needed to continue to build business value and to increase profitability.

The Building Business Value© eBook provides the foundation for effective utilization of the Tools for Success. The 10 Step Process links Strategic Optimization to the action steps required to achieve business growth:

  1. Get to the point of pain experienced by the business
  2. Scope out what needs to be done (corrective action)
  3. Orient the business to the reality of economic and market conditions
  4. Manage the scale of the business to fit current and future reality
  5. Structure debt to maximize cash flow
  6. Maximize assets to get the biggest bang for your buck
  7. Optimize products and services
  8. Improve employee effectiveness
  9. Improve profitability
  10. Change the right processes for the right reasons

Common sense tools and methods represent exactly what businesses need as they face tougher and increased amounts of competition. Tools for Success don’t represent silver bullet fixes, just common sense applications of what can work to make the difference between success and failure.

Businesses need to guard against complacency where they can get trapped into a state of denial and deception regarding the reality of the necessary action steps to get things on track. Conducting an effective self-assessment can be the difference between Success and Failure. The Self-Assessment Toolkit provides a solid framework of instruction on how to conduct an assessment combined with checklists and questionnaires.

Another area where businesses struggle is the development of effective strategic thinking to make the business vision and mission become reality. The Strategic Thinking and Planning Toolkit guides business owners through the process of defining their business future. You gain the tools to ask the right questions such as what business could we be in and what business should we be in? Also, there is the question as to what business shouldn’t we be in? You gain the tools to determine your unique strategic profile and to develop effective value propositions.

The New web site sets direction with Building Business Value©, the Knowledge Center, and eBooks  provide the foundation for developing action plans. With these invaluable tools, you will receive the guidance to determine what needs to take place and the specific steps or actions needed to get there. Use these tools and take your business to new heights and greater profitability!

Remember to sign up for your copy of our FREE eBook here.