Eating our dogfood

23-Apr-2017



Eating your own dog food, also called dogfooding, is a slang term used to reference a scenario in which a company uses its own product to test and promote the product. ( Wikipedia ).

We have developed a great new product. We go into a business and do an evaluation of key performance and processes. This gives them critical information, information that's difficult for most businesses to find, to allow them to take their business to the next level.

Packaging up services is the very thing that I often advise clients to do, so it was well past time that we walked the talk. And the results have been amazing. It's not so much about what changes, although a hell of a lot does, it's about the obstacles that fall away.

In the past it has sometimes been a little difficult for us to articulate outcomes to potential clients, we could see it but they are usually the sort of thing you have to see for yourself. And sometimes, when we did start working togeather, clients would be unsure about what to do first - from the long list of things we might do togeather. Sometimes too, clients might not be a good fit for us, but it was hard for us to know that in the beginning.

If you've been wondering how you might make changes in your business, to package up services and establish recurring revenue streams, I hope you find what we did interesting. I'm more than happy to share details with you if you want to give me a call.

What we do now, what has changed everything for our clients, and for us, is a fixed-price, 2-Week CFO Program.

We now show potential clients what their diagnostic report will look like in advance, and clearly explain what they should expect. At the end of the 2-Week Program, they can decide if they want to use us for ongoing services but they don't have to. We get to make recommendations based on solid data and investigations. And the cool thing is, leaving aside that it's great value in itself, we can recommend any ongoing services with real clarity.

The 2-Week Program starts with us spending time with the client and gathering information from a number of sources, then taking time to look at different aspects of the business.

Some of the big picture things we look at are:

  1. cash flow
  2. margins
  3. reporting
  4. systems
  5. data & processes
  6. profitability
  7. people
  8. risks


Richard has very strong systems and process skills, me more of the tactics - the who/what/why stuff. It's blissful to have a great technical partner that takes care of the how so well. Thanks, Richard. He's a whiz when it comes to reporting too.

So, together, we assess the business, prepare a written 40 odd page diagnostic report. It contains the results and our recommendations, and then we sit down with the client to go through it in detail.

It's designed to help the business get an outside view across a broad range of important items; and whilst we acknowledge that we look at problems primarily from a CFO’s perspective, we think that’s not such a bad thing sometimes. It's packed full of useful stuff, and our clients are loving it.

Some of this diagnostic report deals with housekeeping items, some with strategy, but most of it is concerned with on-the-ground tactics learned from years of working as CFO’s inside different types of businesses.

We often recommend better management reporting, but also, the equally important, regular time put aside each month to review and interpret the results. Data and analysis that can better facilitate sensible adjustments to your operations as circumstances change.

This might seem like someone that's good with a hammer thinking every problem is a nail, but we have been around long enough to see good reporting as a major contributor to many a success story. And the opposite, the absence of control, all too often associated with years of bumping along the bottom. It's important to note that good reporting does not mean complex reporting. It should be elegant. Elegant as in: “pleasingly ingenious and simple”. As complex as it needs to be and no more.
And whilst this diagnostic report is not just about reporting, it's just one aspect of the many sections. Still, we are unashamedly strong believers in reporting. In establishing robust and simple reporting regimes and then sticking to them for years - so that it becomes part of a shared language of the organisation. In our view, there is nothing worse than needlessly chopping and changing.
The first step in the 2-Week Program is us preparing a concise financial model of the business. It's information that's required if we are going to make meaningful recommendations. All part of not giving advice before we have data and have asked some solid questions. We've all seen the alternative.

The model gives us a powerful tool to see what income streams are making money now, and what they might make in the future if changes were, or were not, made.

It allows us to see when the business can employ people, as well as important KPI's like cost of customer acquisition and long-term customer value. Plus we get to know the business inside-out, that means we can be even more helpful. For example, we like to use a model to determine the best way to format management reports.

Ongoing, it is a fairly simple matter for us to update the model when circumstances change, allowing us to give quick answers to questions down the track.

We are finding that the 2-Week Program is a great way to establish a long-term relationship, by getting a big lump of work done for a fixed amount, that otherwise would have been done over many months on hourly rates.

At the end of the 2-Week Program, we offer up a number of recurring services.

Firstly, Richard and I now doing monthly, and weekly if required, operational reports for clients. Particularly professional services firms, and especially ones that also package services and/or have recurring revenue. Or want to start doing that.

We usually recommend our monthly reports in our diagnostic, as an outsourced service for them. And they look amazing. Ongoing it is usually just a couple of hours a month for us when it would take most companies days to do what we do. Plus, with respect, they would have to know how to do it.

With this reporting service in place, most businesses up to 50 people only need an outsourced bookkeeping/BAS/tax return package (and we know people that do this well for a reasonable cost). The client has us for all the who/what/why/how stuff once a month or as needed, something they don't usually get from a staff member. So then, there is usually no need for then to have an accounts person at all. Instead, they can have an all-purpose administration person. Perhaps doing a lot of sales support. This a solution that is getting great results for our clients.

Another ongoing service we offer; is having one of us go through the reports with the client once a month. An important thing to make time for in most businesses.

Or a business might want specialised, one-off, help such as cash flow or systems. The important thing is that they can make informed choices.

We sometimes recommend third party providers if we think one of them might be the client needs. It's not a formal thing. If you want to have a chat about being on that list, give us a shout.

Thanks for indulging this long, slightly promotional post. I hope some of you find it useful.

Of course, it's what we do to pay our bills, but we are genuinely excited about the results we are getting for clients with this 2-Week CFO Program. And it's a really satisfying for us to do them. One of the nicest things is clients not wanting to rush meetings because they know it's a fixed price. We can all take the time to consider things. We love that too.
 
Cheers,
Thomas

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