One of the best things about being a B2B CFO® partner is being able to connect with professional CFO’s from across the United States who share the same passion I do for helping businesses with their financial strategies and growth. This week, I am sharing an article written by B2B partner Anthony Valentino from New Jersey. I’ll bet you’ll recognize the scenario he shares (I know I did). Here’s to a good night’s sleep! – Mark
What Keeps You Awake at Night?
Starting out, the new business was stressful, but fun. There was not enough money or time, but things seemed to get done. Most of the time was spent taking care of the customers. There was a lot of satisfaction knowing that we could not only find customers but we could also do a better job than our competition. Looking back, words such as “excitement,” “fun,” and “killing the competitors,” were words we used to use with the few employees we had.
Sales increased more than we ever imagined. Our sales tripled, then doubled, and then doubled again. We actually had cash in the bank! Our customers were pleased with us. We would stay at the office late at night and dream of how we would continue to kill the competition. The ideas were creative and exciting. We saw a clear vision of the future and felt that we had unlimited energy to continue to grow the company. As the owner, I dreamed about finally buying that car that I had wanted for such a long time. That long vacation with the family seemed within reach.
Our company grew some more, and things got worse
Sales grew even more, but things seemed to change. I did not understand how we could have so little cash when our sales were almost ten times higher than the second year after we started our business. My instincts were to continue doing the things that got me to where I was at this level of sales. I found it harder, however, to interview all the new prospective employees, to manage cash, to sign all the checks, and to fire unproductive people.
I dreaded the endless meetings with lenders, accountants, attorneys, pension administrators, insurance agents, vendors, complaining employees, complaining customers, government auditors, etc. I used to spend most of my time creating ideas and spending time with my key customers. Somehow, these endless meetings drained my energy to remain creative. I feared meeting with customers because our quality somehow was not the same as when our sales were smaller.
We had no idea
We had no idea how difficult it was to deal with the Family Medical Leave Act, OSHA, workers compensation audits, sales tax audits, IRS audits, bank examiner audits, etc. The endless questions, the time, and the money we had to spend were frustrating beyond my ability to describe.
The employees who were so willing and eager to work long hours for a reasonable salary began to get a little greedy. They assumed our company was floating in cash because of the high sales volume. They always wanted more. More wages. More vacations. More profit-sharing money. More paid holidays. More health care. More dental benefits. More, more, more!
Even more frustrating, some of my people began to leave to work for the competition. One “loyal” employee left my company because he could get paid $500.00 a year more from someone else! I thought we should have a little more loyalty from some of the employees who left. We then not only had to replace these people but had to spend time trying to train them, all of which took more time and money than we ever expected.
Besides, where did all the cash go? I’m not getting paid that much more than I was a few years ago. In fact, I recently had to put money into the company to meet a payroll. My bookkeeper and other employees have never given me an adequate explanation where all the cash has gone. Is it possible that someone is stealing from the company? What do I have to do to help the bank understand that they should lend me more money?
Who is spending time with our customers?
Our sales started to decrease. Customer complaints were at an all-time high. It suddenly dawned on me that I had not spent any quality time with my customers in months. I had been trying to ignore some of them because I did not have the energy to listen to their complaints. Deep down inside my gut, I knew that our company did not have the resources to solve the complaints even if I was able to spend time listening.
I started to lose sleep at night when I realized that my competitors were spending more time with my customers than we were. I then began to feel significant stress when I realized that there was no time, money or energy to focus on new markets, new customers, and new ideas to help grow the company.
Does any of this seem familiar?
The above concerns are all too common with owners of closely-held companies. You are not alone if you have some of these concerns. In his book,“The Danger Zone, Lost in the Growth Transition,” Jerry Mills, Founder & CEO of B2B CFO® chronicles these and other issues growing companies encounter.