Mid-year signifies the start of summer with family vacations, sunshine, beaches and margaritas creeping into some of our plans. Taking time away to recharge is important for all of us, but what’s just as important is how you emerge from your time off. The end of the second quarter in the calendar year also marks the end of the first half of the year, and no matter how well the first half of the year went, there’s always room for improvement.
Consider the timeline of your strategic planning and finance processes. You spent the fourth quarter of the previous year planning and developing a budget to keep everyone on the same page and give business partners a framework to work within. Your company then develops data-driven strategies to pace accordingly to the targets and key performance indicators (KPIs).
Similar to how great sports teams make halftime adjustments, mid-year adjustments are necessary for companies to keep pace or hit the accelerator to hit the targets while there’s still time. High-performing companies conduct mid-year business reviews by collecting and analyzing data from the results of the first half to inform decision-makers and equip them with the necessary strategic insight to close the gaps.
Conducting a monthly or mid-year business review of your company is like taking a long hard look in the mirror. There will be things you are satisfied with and others you wish you could improve immediately. The key is to not overwhelm yourself with concern if there’s much to be done or fall complacent and set things on cruise control. Instead, find that happy medium of insight that keeps the business objectives in sight for business units.
Finance is responsible for more than managing the company metrics and reporting on performance. Your detailed analysis and business review influences strategies by revealing what drives your business and any indicators behind the trend should be the focal point. Whether the trend is up or down, your management team and business partners need to know where they stand and what requires course correction.
Consider monthly variance analysis, where you measure past performance against the expectations set in the annual budget and highlight the percentage variance between the actuals. Presenting the variance total and percentage is a must, to make a true impact on the business, you need to examine variances at a detailed level and provide necessary context to inform decision makers.
If the last time you heard of or did a SWOT analysis was back in college, this one's for you. Finance professionals that analyze performance and metrics conduct some portion of SWOT analysis. However, conducting a thorough SWOT analysis provides a framework so that you have a repeatable and well-understood methodology that everyone can work from.
Having that structure in place will reduce the burden accompanying some analytical processes and lead to greater efficiency, so capacity is saved for high-value analysis rather than repetitive tasks or additional communication efforts due to confusion.
A SWOT analysis is not meant to be another finance-specific exercise. It should be cross-functional, where budget owners examine their past results, how those results track against forecasts and dive deep into the details of strategies and results. If your business isn’t already performing some myriad of SWOT analysis, pitch the idea during your next meeting with your CFO, or executive team.
As a rising finance rockstar, this is a great opportunity to show management that you have a business mindset and your analysis features strategic insights aligned with the values to sustain or grow the business. For founders and executives, it’s a change to display your understanding of the necessary drivers and levers to pull.
You want to double-down on your past successes, which might call for you to add more fuel to the fire (anyone else craving grilled meats at this point). If you’re seeing a healthy return on ad spend, with low customer acquisition costs that lead to revenue from a certain channel, it might be best to allocate more budget to that specific channel to ensure pipeline growth. Keep in mind that doesn’t mean you have additional budget available that wasn’t planned for. Instead, you’re adjusting allocation, where one channel is receiving less budget going forward while the other is seeing a steady increase.
As difficult as the exercise can be for some, the quicker you can pinpoint your weaknesses, the better your chances are to change course and right the wrongs. There’s no finger-pointing or blame needed; it should be an honest assessment of what simply hasn’t worked and an explanation of why. You should also evaluate what hasn’t been tested yet, or what requires additional resources to have a more profound impact. Sometimes, a business unit’s greatest weakness is simply not trying a strategy or having the necessary insight to make an informed decision. This is where finance must partner with decision-makers to facilitate strategic insights as a guiding light.
To identify opportunities, you’ll need to partner with business unit leaders and budget owners with direct knowledge of its innerworkings. Additionally, industry-specific trends and developments can lead to a wealth of opportunities. For example, new regulations requiring a specific format, structure, or output could lead to the potential to develop a tool or automation for enterprises to quickly adapt to the new regulatory requirements without a hitch. This is the chance to partner with budget owners and help guide their strategies for the second half of the year to ensure no stone is left unturned in the pursuit of the targets.
The antithesis of opportunities lies threats to your business. The two most obvious threats to growth are competitors and dwindling cash flow. Those same industry-specific trends and developments can be threats if you’re not prepared. Taking a step back and identifying what risks lie ahead will position the company to weather an oncoming storm. Planning for multiple scenarios using driver-based strategic planning requires you to examine the variables, adjust assumptions across the board and help budget owners remain agile in their decision making.
Remember, finance ensures everyone in the company is aligned and working towards the objectives for the rest of the year. Finance should develop a game plan for future scenarios that could play out and partner with business units to not only advise but see strategies through. As a business partner, you should support the needs of budget owners and jump in to lend a helping hand as needed.
The opportunities and threats to your company are plentiful. Whether you are a mid-size multinational or a smaller growth company, there are numerous risks to cash flow, many of which are macroeconomic factors that are out of your control, but you can't overlook them. Impacts like sustained inflation increase your input vendor and labor costs, ultimately driving up your expenses, and interest rate increases leading to less availability of cheap capital can rapidly eat away at your available cash needed for operations.
Despite these uncertainties, never lose sight of the targets set in your annual budget, which should operate like a scoreboard for all to adhere to and be held accountable for. Your management team should have visibility into these results and the ability to dictate strategic decisions to drive the business forward for the remainder of the year and beyond.
If you’re seeking proven finance methodologies and business intelligence acumen, consider the FutureView Systems. Our FP&A solutions and team of experts can rapidly transform your finance function, or build one out, to offer tremendous value and make a true impact on the success of your business.