PROSPER OR PERISH #9 by Stephen Gross. Click here to read past issues.
The system is overwhelmed, companies are failing, and unemployment is high (while it continues to escalate). In this webinar, Steve shares with the TCFOS team about the reality of the new COVID-19 economy, and what Trusted CFO Solutions is doing to help its clients emerge stronger.
Each of our clients will go through a difficult process. We’re helping them to survive, so they have future choices. We’re also helping our clients adapt to the new circumstances to succeed in the new economy. Finally, we’re supporting our clients through their reinvention process so they can prosper during and after the chaotic marketplace transition.
Stephen Gross, CPA, CGMA, CVA, CFE — EVP of Hegemon Holdings and Co-Founder of Trusted CFO Solutions — is a big picture thinker and connector, with 40 years of rich and diverse experience in the C.P.A., business consulting, and venture capital worlds. Steve was an early adopter and evangelist of cloud-based accounting, as well as the concept of a virtual C.F.O. or Controller as a method of outsourcing the position in small businesses and startups. Learn More About Steve…
Fairly Favorable In The Early Stages
Covid-19 Has A 14-day Incubation Period
Understand More Once More Time Passes And We Acquire More Data
COVID-19 Cases Increase Around The Country
Population Outside Of Highly-Vulnerable Groups Not As Vulnerable To Death
Nursing Homes And Retirement Centers Are Primary Locations Requiring High Supervision And Regulation
In Some States 40% – 50% Of Fatalities In Nursing Homes
Higher Percentage of Infection In Minority Communities
Anticipating An Evolution In Policy To Be More Attentive And Diligent With The Vulnerable
Allow The Rest Of The Population To Carefully Operate
B. REASONS THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY MOST CHALLENGED
Gunter Seeger, Good Friend, Michelin Star Chef, Head Chef for the Ritz Carlton Nationwide Is Back In Atlanta From New Your Looking At Reopening And Doing Something New. He Made A Good Point, “The Old Business Model Will Not Work.”
What Is The Bad News?
What Are The Available Funding Sources?
There Is A Permanent Shift In The Way We Live, Work, Play
How Deep And Wide Will The Shift Go?
When Will This Virus Leave?
People will track through the existing crisis or they will fail, and there will be millions of bankruptcies coming up. In light of that . . .
C. WHAT CAN WE DO?
STRATEGIES FOR RE-OPENING IN GENERAL
D. WHAT’S OUR ROLE AT TRUSTED CFO SOLUTIONS?
E. WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOR OUR CLIENTS BY
i. Help Them Adapt To The Cycle Of Changing Markets
ii. Offer Tools to Know What is Happening Now
iii. Help With The Process Of Government And Lender Funding And Access To Capital
iv. Help with What-If Planning
v. Help Them Identify New Opportunities Evolving Around Their Industry
i. We Plan, Encourage, And Stay Positive
ii. Economic Consequence With Much Bigger Emotional Danger
iii. When The Future Is In Doubt, Fear Leads People to Make Bad Decisions
iv. Let The Value Shine That We Bring To Clients
i. Help Create Action Plans
ii. Implement These Action Plans
iii. Provide Accountability And Reporting On The Process Of Completing These Plans
i. Extraordinary Levels Of Expertise And Experience Around The Country
ii. Access to Measurement And Planning Tools
iii. Help Clients Chart Where They And Competitors Stand
No One Should Ever Write A Net Check For The Use Of Our Services As An Element Of Overhead.
F. Questions To Ask Our Selves As We Work With Clients
Your Job Is To Help Them Help All Of Us Figure Out How To Make That Client More Profitable Than They Would Have Been Without Us.
Okay. We’ll start over again. And I’ll be a little briefer this time.
Basically, the commitment to reopen in stages is slowly gaining traction around the country. Some states are fighting it. Most states are trying something, some states are trying to reopen as quickly as practicable. In two particular states in Georgia and Florida, the reopening is happening a little quicker than the rest of the country. And what they’re starting to see is that the outcomes are fairly favorable in the early stages. Because there’s a 14 day incubation period, we really aren’t going to know what’s happening until more states are open and there’s more time that passes. But if we look around the country as a whole, the number of cases is increasing. Hospitalizations are not, but the number of tests and the number of reported cases are increasing and new hotspots are showing up that that require looking at it. But some basic conclusions can be made.
First, a major location of serious illness and death are nursing homes and retirement centers with a concentrated population of over 65 and a caregiving staff that comes and goes during the day, the opportunity of bringing in the virus and having it spread is intense. And we’re seeing in some states as much as 40 and 50% of all fatalities happening in nursing homes. So we can, we can say that conclusively nursing homes are very dangerous right now and need to be highly supervised, regulated, and paid attention to. The second interesting thing is that in the communities of minorities, there’s a higher percentage of infection than there is in the rest of society. So they’re trying to answer the question of why. Much of it might have to do with the concentration of the numbers of people in households. But, but overall, it’s still a great big question mark, and there’s a lot of political dialogue going on as to what the cause that is and why it’s happening. But there’s no question that the facts show it’s true. So we have elderly and minorities at risk, and then we have the morbidly obese and pre-existing conditions that are the third highly vulnerable group. And what I’m hearing from many of the healthcare providers is that that in walking through the hospitals with ventilators, they’re seeing an enormous percentage of them being obese and being elderly. And in the patterns, while anecdotal seems to make sense in the facts that are being reported. So in general, if we were going to have an ideal system, it would pay heavy attention to the elderly, to people with pre-existing conditions or morbidity in terms of obesity, and the minorities. And the rest of the population is not nearly as vulnerable to death. They certainly can catch it and many have. Many are asymptomatic. And it doesn’t seem to affect everyone, nearly the way it does those few groups. So I’m anticipating the evolution in policy To spend more attention and be more diligent with the vulnerable groups and the people who are most prone to danger with this virus and allow the rest of the marketplace or the rest of the population to operate carefully. And by carefully we mean frequent washing of hands, use of masks, social distancing, and other preventative measures to try and frequent disinfecting of surfaces that are commonly touched, pragmatic
steps to be as careful as we can, for as long as we can during this period. That’s the kind of the current reading of things and it could change anytime. We’re seeing a second spike in China, Spain, and some other areas where it had died down and now it’s coming back. So They’re not entirely sure what the progress of this is, it was assumed for a while, that if you got it, you developed antibodies and you’re then immune from getting it again. It does not look like that is true. So we will learn more as we go.
But our, our job here, you know, all of that kind of some social context. Our job is to fit in and help the clients that we have and the clients that we attract in dealing with the circumstances of reopening and doing it in a way that’s both smart in terms of complying with whatever regulations. But it’s also practical and common sense in terms of trying to keep not only our workers, our products, and our customers safe as we deal with each other. So there will be a lot of change in the world. People do things that I think are very interesting to watch as we evolve.
I will say in the restaurant space, it’s probably the most challenged. And because it depends upon shoulder to shoulder work in the kitchen, movement of service staff around crowded tables, and packing the most people in the most frequently possible to create turnover and volume in a restaurant environment, all of which are enemies of this current circumstance and won’t be allowed for quite a while. So the restaurants are going to have to adapt in a number of ways. And I in consulting with one of my former clients here in Atlanta and good friend, Gunter Seeger, who’s a Michelin star chef, that was the head chef for the Ritz Carlton nationwide operating out of the dining room in Buckhead, at the Ritz in Buckhead He went up to New York opened up a fine dining restaurant up there, and had to close it recently. And basically, he’s back in Atlanta and looking at reopening and doing something new. But his point was a good one. He said the old business model will not work. We cannot be dependent upon an extensive kitchen staff dealing with a packed house with frequent turnover. We’ve got to spread it out. And we’ve got to deal with creating a marketplace where people can come and buy things from us in a safe environment. We’ve got to create a takeout and delivery that is that attracts people to using us and it can be done in a practical, coherent way that people are receiving attractive plates that are being delivered to them that can be used quickly or reheated quickly or kits where people can, can take something from, you know, Del Frisco steakhouse, and have all the ingredients arranged with instructions in a way that it can be turned into something closely resembling the restaurant experience. And then in the restaurant itself, a lot of what we go to restaurants for is the experience, the camaraderie, the atmosphere, the ambiance. That’s going to be really tricky to take care of and recruit anytime soon, with social distancing with masks, with servers with gloves with, you know, trying to maintain practical distance and still have, you know, an enjoyable meal. It won’t be the ambiance, the romantic, dark lights, candlelight, everyone having a wonderful meal in the midst of all of our fellow friends. It didn’t even look like that for a while. So restaurants in their concept have got to figure out how to keep the kitchen busy, and how to how to serve as many people in a distributed customer base as possible. And, not be eliminated by the inability to fill their restaurants with enough people to pay their bills. So I just threw that out as an observation of one industry that’s going to have to totally rethink itself.
So I’ll get into my presentation here briefly. What I thought about putting forth for us is what are the strategies for reopening in general? What do people need to do to prosper, and if not prosper, survive, and if they can’t survive, perish in this new economy. So, people will have a track and it will either be a track taking them through the existing crisis or they will fail, and there will be millions of bankruptcies coming up. So in light of that, what can we do? How can we make a difference in helping them? First thing is what’s going on and what’s happening in the, on the ground. Some good things we can observe and first states are slowly reopening and protective measures are not being understood and understood by the public. Georgia, as an example, has seen cases and deaths decline and hospital admissions fall. As I drive around, I’m watching traffic and traffics starting to build again, which means that they’re going somewhere to do something. I know it’s not all going back to work, but they’re starting to resume activities. I know in New York, they opened up the beaches and started putting out little signs about how you had to be six feet apart. And suddenly there were 10,000 people on the beach and they just totally ignored any and all instruction So that kind of activity is going to have a consequence probably. And it will be delayed for a few weeks until we see what starts to happen.
Businesses are getting ready to reopen if only in phases. I look at ourselves and we’re currently working at home looking at tentatively getting started in June. And we’re starting to come up with what we think the policies and practices ought to be both in terms of cleaning and disinfecting the office, but also spreading people out so that there is natural distance in cubicles, and are requiring the use of masks and gloves while we’re in the office, dealing with each other. and paying really close attention to spaces like the kitchen, where foods being prepared and fluids are being you know, messed around on countertops, and the rest. So, we’re trying to figure out what it’s going to look like and how it’s going to work as we reopen, and that that will start happening more and more across different businesses. Cleanliness is the new standard and distancing and disinfecting are key elements. I’m seeing cleaning services now add a disinfecting process to their normal cleaning, where basically they’re wiping down all surfaces with probably propylene alcohol and misting a disinfectant to try and catch airborne particles and do what they can to disinfect not only airplanes but offices. And we’ll start seeing that the more of a protocol. Judy is ordering that from our cleaning service. We’re trying to figure out how periodically we need to do it. But I think that’s a common-sense standard as well. We talked a little bit about Congress proposing additional measures to help businesses survive. Not only is the $3.6 trillion proposal been made and passed in the House that will start a negotiation with the Senate and that will result in something. We don’t know what yet, but it will result in something. And they’re trying very hard to work with the SBA and redefining the guidelines on the forgiveness requirements, both in terms of the timetable that you can hire people and bring them back in terms of the expenses that you can incur in terms of rent, utilities, and other expenses. And seeing if they can extend the eight weeks to a longer period of time. We’ll leave it undefined there because they’re undefined. Also, landlords, lenders, and vendors are trying to help as best they can. However, I’ve seen data on mortgage delinquencies, auto loan delinquencies, and the like. These commercial alternative lenders like cabbage and others are being destroyed right now, by companies just refusing to allow them to take the payments made every day out of their checking account. Suddenly their portfolios are being discounted by a major percentage and they are financially in jeopardy as to whether they will survive this recasting of the deal. What I’m seeing is that each of these alternative lenders is going client by client by client, trying to renegotiate the payment terms to be assured that they’re going to get at least their capital back. But this is all precedent to the flood of bankruptcies that will occur probably 60 to 180 days out as people just finally give up and say, revenues not coming back fast enough, I’ve used up all my savings, I can’t keep it going, and I’ve got to shut my doors. That is going to occur and it will impact the viability of commercial office owners, mall owners, store owners, and vendors that work with everybody as to how well they’re going to survive this. The bad news is 38 million people are now unemployed and that number is going up. It hadn’t stopped. This past week or today, we came out with 2.8 million additional applications for unemployment on top of the 36 million that had applied in the three weeks prior. So the numbers are staggering, and it’s going to take a while for it to go down. So far, as Taylor has described, we’ve been helping clients with getting access to the PPP loans and are working with many on the seven D loans. And there’s also another program called Main Street lending, as well as traditional SBA financing, but the whole state system is overwhelmed right now.
The PPP finally has mostly caught up. But the seven D program is mostly silent. And we have seen the ability of companies to go in and apply for $2 million loans be slashed to the limit they will allow in that lending program today as $150,000. So they pretty much gutted its value in terms of business. And their reasoning for it is that they did not expect the kind of activity. They were expecting, you know, a few million companies to apply. Many, many times that suddenly rushed in, and they realized that they didn’t have nearly the funds that they hoped to be able to distribute around to small business and they had to cut everybody back. So that program is somewhat ineffective right now. Main Street Lending, as we know, is for the larger companies and clients and the loan has got to be at least a million dollars. There are corporate collateral and personal security or personal guarantee elements in that. So it applies to larger companies, many of whom are not clients of ours. So in that world, traditional SBA financing, 7B financing, and PPP, and Seven A financing are really the funding sources. And then any other normal commercial relationship that our clients have with their banks to see what else they might be able to do in terms of extending terms, offering lines of credit, doing whatever they can to support their client base. And we are hopefully working with each of our clients to figure out what’s possible and what’s practical. Supply chains have been disrupted. Now we’re hearing about 10s of thousands of pigs being slaughtered in the Midwest because they don’t have meat processing plants open to take the livestock to process it in terms of food for the pantry. That’s also true in the chicken world and in the beef world. And what we’re going to see are supply shortages showing up very quickly due to the lack of ability of the farmers to get their product to processors, processors to market, market to the grocery stores and into our hands. So I’m fully expecting there to be a real price increase and or unavailability of certain things that we’re we’re normally used to seeing. That’s also true of supply chains and virtually anything else. If it’s got to come from China. If it’s got to come from Mexico if it’s got to come from even factories in the Midwest, are they open? Are they producing? Ford shut down its automated making plant reopened it for two days shut it down again. Chevrolet and the rest of GM have been shut down. They’re trying to reopen. And many of the–Tesla’s in the middle of a fight with California to reopen its plants. And they’re threatening to put him in jail because he’s opened up before they have given their permission for him to do so. So all the way up and down manufacturing chains, pieces in parts of what always has been available to get everything put together organized in a logical way in a hurry to produce goods to get them on shelves, all of its been disrupted. And we’ll start to see the impact of that, coming up shortly.
I mentioned it before but some employees are receiving unemployment insurance higher than their lost wages and employers are having a hard time talking them back into coming home and going back to work. So the result of all of that is that millions, trust me, millions of small businesses will fail. And that will overwhelm the bankruptcy courts, they will be unable to deal with the volume of what’s going on here. And I don’t know what that will mean either in terms of the revision of bankruptcy laws, the expansion of courts to handle it, the staffing, but there will be a in the same way that there is consulting opportunity with issuing PPP loans, working with clients to assist them in filing for bankruptcy may be a consulting opportunity for us as well. Gotta remember bankruptcy doesn’t mean liquidation necessarily. It means stopping the vendors in their tracks in order to allow the company time to get back on its feet and renegotiating its lease, renegotiating its debt,. renegotiating with its vendors. That may be something that our clients go through and that we can be helpful with them in going through that process. In the same way, we’re trying to help them survive. The work at home and shop online trends have really accelerated, everybody’s doing both today. Zoom is ubiquitous, Amazon is you know, the volumes of deliveries are going through the roof. So people are now in doing their online banking are now online, working from home is second nature. So that we’ll have a permanent shift in a lot of things and we’re just not sure how deep and how wide it’s going to go. But it will have implications in terms of how offices are run, how retailers operate, how malls are configured. The live, work, home, the live, work, play model, we’ll go through probably technological upgrades and more synergistic working with each other within those communities. And the spread-out mall, the spread-out Strip Center, the office buildings detached from any other support services will get harder and harder to justify. So we’re going to see major demographic changes occur as a result of this. And the other the last point here is that the virus has not gone away and will not go away anytime soon. We’re going to have to live with coexisting with it being in the environment very much like the flu. Different than the flu, it can be dangerous to many different segments of society and when you have it, and it gets severe, it’s really a nasty attack on your cardiovascular system and on your respiratory system. So it’s not something to fool around with, but it but I do believe it’s going to be around for quite a while. They’re they continue to talk about vaccines. And then we read side by side that it’s morphed into 40 different versions of itself already. And that that’s an environment that a vaccines almost impossible to be totally effective. So I think that accepting the fact that it’s here with us and doing the best we can to stay away from it and avoid it is about the only thing we can do. So, what’s our role? And how can we help our clients? Basically, we’ve got to plug in and be a part of their strategy team in their tactical team and help them go through first surviving. And that’s getting over this enormous drop in revenue and depletion of capital and running out of resources to keep going. Secondly, after you know, assuming they can survive, and we don’t have to help them through a bankruptcy to come back out in a new version, they’ve got to adapt to new circumstances. And we talked briefly about this within the restaurant world, instead of having a sit down prefixed six-course menu with wine pairings in a confined space and doing two and three turns a night, we’re going to have to have something that looks a lot different, you know, market with takeout and delivery, market with the cook kits, market with possibly even ingredients. You know, one of the things I always appreciated is a store called Eataly in New York City, and it’s five acres of retail stores, restaurants, take out and, and craft products that can be like bakery items, and whatever. And people wander through and eat where they want to eat, buy what they want to buy, order what they want to order, and it’s like a city that has all of its amenities built into one footprint. Certainly, stores won’t have the luxury to do that. But if you look at a 4000, 6000, 8000, square-foot restaurant that’s now going to have to space people six feet apart, they can carve out certain segments of that retail operation and put in a marketplace that people can buy San Marzano tomatoes and fresh pasta and, and interesting grocery goods that may not be available in the local markets. They can start looking like a mini Trader Joe’s as well as a takeout restaurant and then have some space seating within the restaurant as opposed to being a dense, totally filled, and crowded space. So, they’re going to have to adapt and that adaptation, we can be a part of helping them think through. Then last, they’re going to have to reinvent how their income and expenses match up and think about what the new sources of revenue are going to look like. And how do you create an expense matrix to serve that, that winds up creating a profit. Right now to bring a restaurant back up online and fill that, put the kitchen staff back into place, bring the service staff into place, and have a third of the customers, that business model won’t work. So we have to help them reinvent what their cost structure looks like, as it relates to their new revenue streams, and make sure that there is a profit built in accordingly. So, first, you have to survive, gotta stay alive, then you’ve got to adapt to new circumstances, and last, reinvent the business model so it makes sense and so you understand it.
So what is our role and how can we help our clients? And we have a multiple of roles here, and we’ll talk about each of them. First, they’ve hired us to be an advisor. Every client we have bought into the idea that we were going to be giving them real-time information, and insights, and observations about what it meant and help them understand their numbers and how to run their business. So we’ve been accepted as an advisor. We need to expand on their vision of what that advisor means for real. First, among the group, we’ve seen market challenges before, even if it wasn’t like this. I’ve been through the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 2000 dot com crash, the 2008. This is another one, it’s different than all the rest and it’s probably got more consequence than the rest. But markets always have cycles. And you’ve got to be adaptive and be able to deal with them when they’re on the way up, and when they’re on the way down. Secondly, we’ve got tools to help them see what’s happening to them right now. If there’s ever a time that people ought to be in the cloud, and ought to be dealing with real-time information, it’s now. You cannot wait for numbers to be closed out at the end of the month reconciled and brought to management’s attention two weeks, three weeks after the fact. You’ve got to be looking at activity trends during the month and the end of the month should just be an affirmation of what you expected from what you saw coming along. Third, we’re plugged into and committed to helping them with the process of government and lender funding and assisting them with access to capital. You’ve got to know that the crunch is coming and you got to get ready for it. So helping them with loan packages, identifying who the active people in the marketplace are right now, and how to access them is part of what we need to be stimulating our clients to think about. We can help them with what-if planning, and that’s basically our forecasting, sensitivity analysis, plotting out the reinvention–what it could and should look like with how it should and could work, and then starting to chart numbers against that as we move into that reinvention period. So, we’re very important in helping them with that what-if planning Since we’re in the marketplace with all these other companies doing other things, our antennas should be up looking at what creative things other companies are doing to adapt to this circumstance and bring them to the attention of our clients. Lastly, in this advisor role, help them identify new opportunities that are evolving around their industry, either their location where they are or peripheral to their customers. We’re working with a number of companies now that that started to open up a cleaning service company that now has added disinfectant to their offering and went beyond that to offer to the landlords and their office owners a process as people come into the building where they’re immediately temperature checked and administered a five minute, at least once a week, a five-minute test, which is a fingerprick, that in five minutes will tell you whether you’ve had it, whether you have it, or whether you don’t have it. And then an App along with that, that one of our clients has developed that would give you in effect an authorized green light for 24-hours that you’re allowed to be in the building, allowed to go to the offices, and demonstrate that someone has checked you out and that you’re okay for the time being. So that business model from just being a traditional cleaning service which was mostly staffing is now turned into a highly valuable and lucrative business by looking at the problem and coming up with additional solutions. I challenge us all to do the similar things with our clients that we have now. What could they be doing? What is an opportunity that’s near them? And how could they adapt to that opportunity?
Secondly, we’re coach, we help we plan we encourage, and we constantly stay positive.
The reason for this is that what everybody’s going through here has got an economic consequence, but it’s got a much bigger emotional danger. This is scary stuff. When the future is in doubt, fear is a major motivator and a lot of people make bad decisions when they’re fearful or when they’re afraid. So we can serve the role of being a positive influence in the process. Stress planning, relentless execution, looking for opportunity in the chaos, and encouraging them that all things will pass at some point. Now, and I make the point, now’s the time for our value to shine. If we’re the light in the middle of the chaos, rooting people on, helping them with plans and actions, and keeping everybody spirits up when this thing passes, we will be so much more valuable to them than we ever were before. And this is what creates sticky clients that never leave you for, you know, generations of the business and their families. So don’t miss the fact that this is a great opportunity to become far more valuable with your clients than you were before.
Okay. Third, we’re an extended member of management, invited to work with them and helping create action plans, implementing these action plans, and providing accountability and reporting on the process of completing these plans. We should be proactive, not reactive. We don’t go into meetings and just kind of hang out and see what happens and see how it can be helpful. We go into the meetings with the information that we have making observations about what we see in terms of weaknesses today, potential weaknesses tomorrow, and some thoughts about how we think things can be improved, and what we can do to help them with new plans and new strategies. So, now’s not the time to be a shrinking violet in the background, trying to be helpful and give them good numbers. Now’s the time for us to stand up, show up, start performing as members of management with something at stake. This is the essence of the value that we sell going in. And this is a great opportunity to deliberate as we come out of this, or hopefully will come out of this. So, reinforcing management processes over and over again is another part of both being an advisor and coaching. We want to help them plan, then execute the plan, then evaluate the success of the plan. So, and that’s a loop that continues in circles constantly in our meetings. We want to identify the problem or opportunity, develop an action plan to address it, and then assign responsibilities for the success of that action plan. Then get it going, put it in motion, achieve the changes, and empower those in charge to contribute to change. We want to execute and then take a look at the results of that execution. The evaluation includes measuring those results, holding those responsible for the success to achieving their goals. And, if the plan was flawed or not complete, or didn’t quite achieve its goals, change the plan, start over again. Plan, then execute that revised plan. and evaluate its success. But this is the process of organic healthy management. It always starts with planning and executing and then evaluating. The last thing that I would like to say is that we need to coordinate and collaborate with each other. We have an amazing variety of experiences and depth of experiences within the team members that we have, not only with lead Dixie and myself but also with the new people that we have and Chiara and Mark and others that are recent members joining our team. We’re spread out around the country now, but the level of expertise and experience is pretty extraordinary. So, not only do we have those experiences in business and industries, but we’ve also got measurement and planning tools.
We’re using profit stands for trend analysis. We’re doing a lot of modeling, through Lee’s leadership. In terms of sensitivity analysis, we can do quite a number of things to help them chart where are they in terms of not only their business but their competitors as well. And I emphasize that we have a variety of industry experiences here. So, if you get involved in something new, ask around, does anybody have any experience in oilfield service companies or in real estate investment companies or medical service operations or nonprofits? I’ll guarantee you that we’ve got individuals, if not a number of individuals in the firm that have deep experience in any and all of those that can give you help in getting on top of industry expertise.
Last thing point I’ll make is that everybody needs to accept one personal charge that I’ve made my entire career, first to my clients, then to the staff working in the accounting firm, and now to us. No one should ever pay a penny for using our services. Let me say it again. No one should ever write a net check for the use of our services as an element of overhead. Once we’re inside and looking around, we have every opportunity and the responsibility of saying, hmm, what can I do to improve the business, increase profits, lower costs, and come up with a better strategy reaching more customers than are currently being reached and help clients move from where they are to a better place in a short period of time. If we are charging somebody $5,000 a month, and we can’t save them over $60,000 in their business, they should fire us. We have no place on their team. And I say that with all seriousness. So everyone looking at working with and providing services with the client has to have in the back of his mind, how am I justifying Trusted CFO being here? What am I doing to improve their profits, lower their costs, increase their market share, add to revenue? What am I doing that makes a difference in this business that I can demonstrate and measure and show them? So when it comes time to move from $5000 a month to $6000 a month and they go well, we can’t afford that. Wait a minute. We brought you this, we brought you this, we brought you this, which are two or three times what our charges are. Certainly, I think that that you can help us with our increased cost by raising our fees a bit. But it’s always a cost-benefit justification. Clients only think that way. They never mind a kill what you eat environment where you give them ten and they’ll pay you one. They never mind that. But they hate to say I’ll pay you one, and if you keep time and hours and you charge me two, I’ve got to pay that, but I have no idea what benefit you’re giving me. They hate that which is why we never designed Trusted CFO to do it that way. So I double underline the charge for everybody on the call. Your job is to help them help all of us figure out how to make that client more profitable than they would have been without us.
So that’s my presentation for today. And I’ll throw it into everybody else’s arena for comments, thoughts, additions, challenges, whatever you’d like to like to share with the group. Lee, can I hand it back to you to take over this next section?
Steve, this is Eva.
I think this was a great call. There were a lot of things I didn’t realize about COVID. I mean, so, all of us in this office are working on different sides and aspects of this whole project with our client. So, there are some things that we’re exposed to and there are some like some of this stuff I didn’t even know. So, I think this was great and I like the fact that you are encouraging all of us. We should all have that attitude of looking out of how to make all of our customers with the company great, and I think that’s a great attitude to have. So, thanks.
Thanks. I guarantee you that if we have that attitude and we perform on it we will be by far the most successful member of the client accounting services niche, not only in Sage Intacct, but also CPA dot com in the industry. And, if we achieve that space and demonstrate that distinction, this will not only be a very successful company locally but regionally and nationally as well. The customers want to hear it, they want to receive it, they want to participate in that kind of value exchange. And, If we can do it as a coherent hole, learn how to teach it and share it, and then spread it around the new, the evolving CAS community, we could be a big player in this.
This is Joe, I just have one comment. I really love your statement about making sure the client sees the value we’re bringing to them and if they don’t see it, they should fire us. I think that is really brilliant. I think that was exemplified by Patrick’s note that he sent to Beth. I think he has come full circle in that and embraces that attitude. But, I wonder–that’s not something you can go into a client, right off the bat, and say this is what we are going to do for you. So, what kind of time frame do you think it would take a client to reach that point and embrace that idea, and believe wholeheartedly that we are doing that for them, we are saving them that money.
Joe, it’s a great question and I would say that every client is different. What they do when they engage us is they give us an opportunity to show us and start making a difference. Usually, what happens early in a client is they go through a valley of despair where we are showing them and installing changes on how they do things day-to-day. It’s new, it’s change, it’s disruptive. There is friction, they’re concerned they’re anxious, they’re uncomfortable. And until we get through what I call, not the implementation stage, but the integration stage, where we train them, we babysit them, we help them get comfortable with the new way of doing things and the new ability to gain access to information. Until we are in that upward swing of trust with each other. It’s going to be difficult for us to try and toot our horn when they’re more worried about whether they should have done this in the first place or not and they haven’t started seeing, feeling, and experiencing the benefits of the decision. So, you have to pick your spot. And, once you are coming out of that and people are calming down and they’re really getting used to a new environment of information available, information analyzable, uh, us assisting them with dashboards and looking at things in different ways, you’ll know that your relationship with the client is starting to level off and they start to now agree this is the right decision and they should have done it. From that point on, you’re going to be looking at what are my additional opportunities here and what is the impact of our having made those changes. Not for any other reason but to start looking for your argument to develop that we’re beginning to save you money. It could be in the early stages in the reassignment of staff, it could be in the not having to revise servers, computers, and applications that second year when we came in and replaced all that. It could be in the strategy meetings for the first few months. You start getting a handle on their business and the things you can do to improve it and you start getting involved in those improvements. But, as you first are comfortable that we are making a difference, you start to accumulate the information demonstrating that we are, not only to yourself, but also in the future be presented to them. When you’re deeper into it, probably 6 months out, and they do trust you, you are a part of these meetings and/or you are part of preparing for these meetings, looking at it through that lens, you’ll start to see obvious weaknesses of clients they shouldn’t be servicing that keep getting 90, 120, 160, 180 days old, cut them loose. You start looking for things that as an advisor you can help them make decisions that will start cutting losses and increasing profits. As you are doing that you just start taking notes–helped with the reprioritizing accounts receivable and credit limits, spurned a collection campaign that brought in 200K of 120 day and older accounts. You just start accumulating what you see the impact of you having been there is and look for an opportunity to share some of your thoughts as to the progress you’re making. Not to toot our own horn necessarily, but say we are really excited about our ability to participate with you and are happy that we helped you with this, with this, with this and we see a growing amount of synergy with our firms working together. All of which he gets to look at and think about and accept. So, there is no formula to it and there is not a report to develop. It’s understanding what your contribution is, documenting it for yourself and for others, and then having it available when it comes time when either he challenges you–when he says this is too damn expensive, ba, ba, ba, ba. Well, let’s go back and review the things that have occurred and how we’ve helped and what the benefits have been. So, you’ve constantly got that in your back pocket, either for an offensive purpose, meaning going after ad additional module, more services, a higher fee, whatever the ask might be, or defensive purposes, our presence, our value, and why he should be really happy that we’re with him. Does that answer your question?
Yea, I think so.
I was giving a full speech not realizing I was talking to myself. I apologize I was on mute, but what I wanted to say to Steve and really relate it to Joe’s question. The question is how do you measure where you stand with a client with respect to their perception of your value that you’re bringing to the table. And, obviously, we have ways that we can show ways that we’ve reduced costs and put that to a metric, or show where we helped enter into new markets from a revenue standpoint. Yes, you can do those things. But really, for me, I need to feel it in different ways so I’m always looking for points in our relationship to understand where I think they think of us. The most recent example of that is with our existing client base is that we have right now specifically in the SIAP side of our business. When this crisis started coming up, across the board, every single one of our clients looked to us immediately for help, and advice, and advisory, and for us to help them understand the situation. We were trusted enough in their world and in their minds to come first to us. That makes me feel great. And then throughout this whole crisis that’s been going on for the last couple of months, three months, however long it’s been, we get calls from our existing clients every single week, at least five times. The owners of the business looking to us for help, advice, and guidance. It allows us the opportunity to not only be there for them in that regard, but also to produce new tools and product ties, services for their benefit and also for the benefit of our service line. That’s mine kind of tell-tell with where we stand in that we are looked at and have been looked at throughout this as a most trusted advisor and part of their team and family. So, anyway, that’s just one barometer that makes me feel good for all of us for the way we’ve been viewed throughout of all this most recent times. That’s all I have there.
Any more questions?
Thanks, everyone that attended today. There will be a recording on this available upon request if you want to go back and hear some other key points. I just want to say thanks again. Let’s everyone have a super day, super weekend, memorial day, get a little rest relaxation and get ready to attack next Tuesday.
Content by Stephen Gross-Co-Founder, Trusted CFO Solutions
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