Summer 2008

President’s Message
When in Rome. . .

My wife & I recently got back from a trip to Washington, D.C., my first time there, her first time since 8th grade. Our primary reason for being there was a close friend’s wedding, but we left plenty of time for sightseeing. We had a terrific time, saw lots of old friends, met some new ones.

The first thing you learn about D.C. in August is: It’s hot. And humid. If you’re looking to drop 10 pounds in a hurry, go there in August and do some sightseeing. But I’d caution you against wearing a suit to an outdoor wedding.

The next thing that struck me like an Ike Turner backhand was the seemingly un-ending number of National Associations. The National Paint & Coatings Association was directly across the street from our hotel. Then there’s the National Candle Association (Their website has an area called “Elements of a Candle” — seriously. Let’s see. . . wax, wick. . . ). And my personal favorite, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

As I was changing my sweat-soaked shirt for the third time before noon, I couldn’t help but wonder: How much of my tax dollars are getting appropriated to advancing the cause of Professional Pet Sitters? Or to explain the ever-complex “Elements of a Candle”?

Some questions are probably better left unanswered. And here’s another one: “What the heck is ‘The Small-Business CFO’ doing with Barack Obama???”

Yes, these, and other questions will have to be addressed another day, as there’s a lot going on right now at Michigan CFO Associates.

We’ve added a terrific resource in Dave Hawkins (see below). And check out the “What’s Happening” link for other exciting news.

Finally, watch your mailbox for a special fund raising event to benefit my new organization, The National Association for the Advancement of Professional Outsourced Controllers and CFOs (NAAPOCCFOs). We plan to relocate to D.C. soon.

Best Regards,
Todd Rammler, CMA
President

New Faces: Michigan CFO Associates Welcomes Dave Hawkins

After months of searching, I am pleased to announce that Dave Hawkins has joined Michigan CFO Associates. Dave brings a strong combination of finance and operations experience in his 18 years of helping business owners grow and manage their operations more efficiently.

Dave began his career with six years in public accounting, and then served as Controller and General Manager for an electrical contractor for four years. Since 2000, he has provided contract CFO services for numerous growing enterprises, including those in the Construction, Biotech, Food Processing and Manufacturing industries, to name a few.

Additionally, Dave has extensive experience in venture capital funding and served on the board of directors at New Enterprise Forum (www.newenterpriseforum.com) in Ann Arbor.

Dave brings a professional, no-nonsense approach with a clear focus on results. He is a natural fit with Michigan CFO Associates, and I am excited to have him on board.
Dave Hawkins can be reached at dhawkins@michiganCFO.com or (734) 368-0578.

Are You Worth $15/per hour? Getting Maximum Value Out of YOUR Time.

One of the things I see quite frequently with small business owners –particularly those that have experienced slow but steady growth — is over-involvement in non-value adding activities — or at least non-value MAXIMIZING activities.

Case in point: I worked with a client where the owner was continuously rushed, working 80+ hours a week, not getting half of what he’d like to get done, aggravating his family because of the amount of hours he was working. While this is true of many business owners, this was an extreme case.

Virtually every time I talked to him, he’d tell me how busy he was, how there was so much going on, how he couldn’t get caught up. This had been the case since we were first introduced.

When I was working on-site with this client, I’d see what the owner did all day. It was like being in a pinball machine. Constant interruptions, constant distractions, always jumping from one fire to the next. Never any time to work calmly through an agenda or a schedule, let alone any time to sit and think strategically about the business.

I’m not going to suggest that fire-fighting can be totally eliminated. But there are different sized fires. If a customer calls with an emergency, maybe it warrants your involvement as the owner. However, if an employee’s printer stops working, and you, the owner, happen to be a computer engineer, fixing this or similarly mundane problems around the office is not the best use of your time.

I can hear a few of you saying, “Yeah, but I need my employees to be productive.” True. But it costs the company more if you’re not productive (fixing printers) than if the employee is not productive.

Another owner I know insists on doing payroll himself. I told him, “You know you could hire a clerical person for $15 an hour and get that off your plate. Along with 29 other things that you insist on doing, just because you did them when your company was much smaller. Is your time only worth $15/hour??? Because that’s effectively what you’re paying yourself.”

Same issue at another company. Two partners hire our firm to help straighten out their manufacturing cost data and get their reports out faster every month. Turns out one of the issues slowing down the process is that one partner likes to do some of the job cost updates himself. The problem is, he has no time, because he needs to be out on the floor, or in front of customers. So the reporting process grinds to a halt until he has time to get his spreadsheets updated.

I told him the same thing: hire a clerical person to get all this updated daily, and not only would the information be ready faster, it would contain fewer errors.

But he likes to do it himself.

As a business owner, it’s important to step back and be honest about where you can add the MOST value to the company. If what you’re spending time on could be done by a clerical person — or anyone who would free up your time for higher value adding activities — you should hire that person and spend your time doing things that maximize your value to the business. Things like marketing, sales, product development, management, growth — whatever. Not fixing printers, doing payroll, and updating spreadsheets.

As you go through your workday today, ask yourself: ” Am I MAXIMIZING the value of my time right now?”

What You Don’t Know — Or Share — Can Hurt You

How important is sharing information with an organization? Can hoarding information be detrimental? According to just about every employee survey, hoarding information is identified as a huge barrier to optimal productivity and morale.

Most employees are used to succeeding as a result of their performance and the knowledge on which it’s based. When job security or power is at stake, people hoard information as a means to protect that security or power. This phenomenon can be rampant throughout an organization, at all levels. When employees hoard information, an open, information-sharing culture is nearly impossible to attain. And, because needed information doesn’t reach the right people in time to act, companies fail to meet deadlines, revenue or productivity goals; some people even lose their jobs, and others get discouraged and look for employment elsewhere.

This is where communication advocates can make a real difference in the success of both the company and employees. By raising awareness about the advantages of sharing information, communication advocates will help others achieve their goals and the company’s goal.

Below is some food for thought the next time you want to offer real answers to this prevalent business problem.

  • Understand why people hoard information — A company will never have a truly collaborative team if leaders and managers don’t demonstrate a willingness to share information. If senior managers aren’t providing employees with information about reorganization, or managers don’t share information passed along to them from their supervisors, that sets a negative example for the entire company.
  • Exercise the advantages of information sharing — Think of ways to share and demonstrate the benefits of effective information sharing. For example:
  1. Be a star: Seek out and recognize employees who share information, and highlight how the company and the employee benefited.
  2. Know that two heads are better than one: Share tips, tools, learning’s and ideas with co-workers, your leadership team and anyone else who would benefit from the information. Ask for and acknowledge ideas from others.
  3. Maintain security: People maintain power and security by sharing information. The more you make people feel good about their work and help them perform, the more likely they will want you to retain your position in the company.

Effective information sharing benefits everyone. By understanding (a) that the information hoarding phenomenon occurs, (b) why it occurs and (c) why it’s damaging, communication advocates will be better equipped to develop programs that offer true solutions to one pervasive business problem.

Contact Michigan CFO Associates, Inc. for more information on a mid-year checkup.

What’s Happening? Exciting News at Michigan CFO Associates!

Upcoming Book: I am co-authoring a new book entitled “The 30 Day Total Business Makeover” in which I will be highlighting the strategies we use every day to assist clients. In addition to the financial side, there will be contributing experts from other fields offering their strategies for the total business makeover.

The book is expected to be released in late October/early November and will retail for $20. If you would like to pre-order a copy, I will make it available for only $10, but you must email me with your request before 9-15-2008.

TV Appearance: In mid-September I will be taping a half hour interview with Tara Kachaturoff, host of Michign Entreprenuer Television. The program is designed to support and build entrepreneurship within the local community as well as throughout the State of Michigan.

Michigan Entrepreneur Telivision can be seen in Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township on Channel 15 and Birmingham, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, and Franklin on Channel 18.

I’ll send an announcement when the show air dates are released. For more information visit www.michiganentrepreneurtv.com.

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