Meet David. A self-made entrepreneur, he never went to college. David had no formal training for his painting business. Instead, he learned everything on the job. Unfortunately, nothing could prepare him for what happened this spring. Coming into 2020, David and his team were riding high.
In just a year’s time he doubled size of his business. The economy was strong. Things were going well. It would seem David’s entrepreneurial dreams were paying off. Earning $400K a month, David had a big backlog of jobs to take him through the summer and onto the fall and winter months. Life couldn’t be better.
And then the COVID-19 tragedy struck, taking lives and devastating families. The pandemic whirlwind quickly wreaked economic havoc, shuttering restaurants, closing business’ doors, and spreading fear.
Soon, dismal unemployment reports flooded the news cycle alongside rising mortality tallies. As the stock market collapsed and the economy contracted David saw his life’s work crumble before his eyes.
Within a matter of days, David learned 50% of his sold work (his backlog) was being postponed or canceled. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep from worrying about what the news meant. This disaster would soon destroy not just his livelihood, but the fortunes of his beloved employees.
(A quick word about David’s people.) For years, David cultivated an excellent team of painters and staff. In the same way he received a powerful apprenticeship preparing him to succeed in his industry, he mentored others. Some of these folks had been with David for close to a decade. They were like family. More than that, their own families depended on David’s business for not just their salaries, but also their healthcare insurance.
With horror, David contemplated what it would mean to lose the people who built his company alongside him. As more jobs dried up, he also had to face the reality he might lose his business as debt obligations threatened its existence.
Now, what I haven’t told you up until this point is my relationship to David. The owner of Blueprint CFO, my company leverages accounting data to increase our clients’ cashflow. While most accountants dwell on the past, we focus on the future, tracking what’s working — and what’s not — to grow revenue.
David hired me in 2019 to strategize ways to be more profitable, never dreaming of the crisis to come. From the beginning of our work together this spring, David surprised me by his commitment to his people. More than anything, he was out to do right by them. He knew if he could get the right strategy in place, he knew he could save their jobs and his backlogged work.
I felt the same way. Even before receiving my designation as a Certified Turnaround Professional (CTP) hired by major banks, like Wells Fargo, US Bank, HSBC, and Comerica Bank, I was an optimist by nature. Just a few weeks ago, Forbes interviewed me for a piece on the economy. In it I expressed my view that we can reframe this opportunity to create a great future.
Armed with this mindset, I devised a strategy for David. (Luckily, he’s an optimist too.) Key to our efforts was our shared belief we could go from earning $400K revenue monthly to $200K while not losing people. How? By creating a blueprint for success.
First things first, I knew we had to stop the bleeding. To do so, we made plans to reduce David’s rent obligations and payments on debt. This bought us time. Next, we had to find ways to shore up cash. David had tried to secure the Paycheck Protection Program on his own to little avail. His current lender, a major financial institution, gave him the runaround, wasting time and money. (Neither of which he had.)
Using my connections, I introduced David to a small community bank with the bandwidth and appetite to get him needed funds. Once our application was approved we also negotiated a credit line increase to get through the next few months.
What happened? Did David go under? Did he lose his valued people? Nope. Not a one. Together, we saved David’s business without shedding a single employee. Even better, I am proud to report his business is back to earning $400K a month.
I tell you this story not to pay myself on the back. Instead, I mention it because there is a lesson for us all. Entrepreneurs are especially guilty of not thinking enough about the future. Even when they pay attention to their financials, much of their attention is backwards-looking. There isn’t enough emphasis on strategy.
Clearly, David’s business isn’t an outlier. Businesses all across this country face the same dilemma David did this Spring. Without a strong blueprint in place — and needed execution — more companies will not enjoy the same happy ending as David. They will go under.
The good news is America is opening again for business. The clouds are lifting at the same time as stay-at-home orders. Those companies wishing to put a plan in place to not just survive, but thrive, would do well to get their blueprint for success ready now.
If you are looking for a fractional CFO to create your profitability strategy — and execute it, I encourage you to email me @ email@example.com. Let’s make this our best future ever.