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Created in 1992 by Drs. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) is a revolutionary way to handle strategy management. Notably, it centers your vision and strategy around four distinct measures: Customer, Internal Processes, Financial, and Learning/Growth. Essentially, the Balanced Scorecard allows you to get your whole team on the same page with organizational goals in a clear and understandable way. Although it started out being used primarily in the private sector, you’ll now see the Balanced Scorecard in healthcare, non-profit, government organizations, and a number of other types of associations. [Clear Point Strategy]
Here are 10 examples for different types of businesses – click here
This the Balanced Scorecard for Barclays Bank
About half of major companies in the US, Europe and Asia are using Balanced Scorecard Approaches. The exact figures vary slightly but the Gartner Group suggests that over 50% of large US firms had adopted the BSC by the end of 2000. A study by Bain & Co finds that about 44% of organisations in North America use the Balanced Scorecard and a study in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria finds that 26% of firms use Balanced Scorecards. The widest use of the Balanced Scorecard approach can be found in the US, the UK, Northern Europe and Japan.
Even the most brilliant strategy is worth nothing if it isn’t executed well, especially by your front line — the employees who interact daily with your customers. Unfortunately, these employees are regularly asked to execute strategies that others developed and that they may not understand, never mind feel committed or connected to. In fact, according to Robert Kaplan and David Norton, the founders of the Balanced Scorecard, only 5% of employees understand their company’s strategy. This makes successful execution nearly impossible.
Watch this video, how well would your employees do if you asked them about strategy?
#isitok – to just be a really good management accountant?
I never really knew what I wanted to do for a living, just that I was good at maths, economics & geography which pointed towards some form of business occupation. I did a degree in Accounting & Financial Analysis at Warwick Business School, without truly knowing what accounting was. After graduating I just did some temp work in an accounts office (they hired me full time within a few days) before a recruiter sat me down one day and said I needed to get my act together and get qualified if I wanted a proper career. It didn’t need much research to work out CIMA was the route to go. Following this route enabled me to become a Chief Accountant, Financial Controller then Financial Director within a fairly short space of time. All of this was in the small company environment and I was involved in every key decision, which was fascinating and rewarding! But the politics were rife and the hours were long!
The question – How can I do all the fun stuff, the analysis/reporting/decision support/director mentoring without selling my soul to the business? My answer was to go freelance and try and emulate what I had done before but across a number of businesses in different sectors. This just reinforced what I’d previously thought – I had found my vocation in life – working with owner managers or MD’s of smaller companies, understanding their aspirations, delving into the businesses, providing the right information, making a difference, adding value, finding solutions to problems, evaluating everything for them – but not taking it home every day.
During all of this I entered into the CIMA Members in Practice world, a place full of very successful people, a mix of high flying entrepreneurs, some more traditional accounting practices offering compliance as a lead service, some specialist consultants, but as far as I could see not so many freelancers like myself. At the annual conferences in the midst of all these success stories I’ve quite often sat back and thought ‘Am I doing something wrong?’ My worry was that I had no desire to build an ever expanding business, I had no appetite for compliance work, I didn’t possess a specialism where I would stand out from the crowd and I didn’t feel I needed the best looking website or my own app (or certainly couldn’t afford it). On reflection, the last 15 years has confirmed to me I’m not doing anything wrong, it’s actually ok to focus on what you feel you’re really good at.
#isitok – to just be a really good management accountant? – I think it is.
Mark Tomsett, Avalon Management Accounting Limited
Celebrating 15 years as a Freelance Management Accountant
It just occurred to me the other day that I think I’ve found a good work-life balance. Being a freelance management accountant gives you freedom to work from home and plan your own day but you also need to engage with people at your customer sites to stay in tune with how businesses thrive and survive. You also need to have some flex for the urgent customer requests, keep your education on track, fit in your business admin and plan some midday slots down the gym (it’s less busy and there are less biceps and six packs to be compared to).
Nearly everyone has key elements to their job that if balanced well could make for a better work life.
So I’ve created a formula for my ideal work life balance as a planning tool for my own work;
My Weekly Work Life Balance Formula is:
WWLB = 2.5C + 1.5H + 0.25A + 0.25E + 0.5F
© 2015 Avalon Management Accounting Limited
C = Day working at Customer Site
H = Day working at Home
A = Day of Business Admin
E = Day of Education
F = Day of Flex (for anything unplanned – if not required for work use for Marketing)
This formula can be applied in any order during the week and the days at home, on admin and education can be partly early morning or in the evening to allow extra social time during the usual “9-5” working day.
Have a think about your ideal formula.
Mark Tomsett, Avalon Management Accounting Limited
Celebrating 15 years as a Freelance Management Accountant
Whilst consulting down in London for a client, I pop out quite frequently for lunch at a small local Cafe / ‘Wrap- bar’. The establishment is only about 8.5 square metres in size, and customers queue outside in long lines sometimes to get served. Obviously the wraps they serve up at lunch time are very good, but it the process that the proprietor has established, that has struck me as so novel.
Thanks to http://www.freedigitalphotos.net
One of the great joys of working as a ‘CIMA MiP’ (“Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Member in Pratice”) is that we are generally dealing with ‘small’ and ‘micro’ client firms (micro defined by EU regulations as firms with less than 10 employees/ £2m turnover; small defined as firms with less than 50 employees/ £10m turnover) and that we become involved in an enormous breadth and depth of subjects.
One of the less welcome challenges however is that as far as most small and micro business owners and managers are concerned, one accountant is the same as any other and this includes the myriad unqualified accountants who practice their particular brand of accounting services at rock-bottom rates. Indeed it is rare that I have been asked whether I am a ‘qualified’ accountant, and is rarer still that I am asked what that qualification is (in fact I cannot ever recall being asked that question by a client). The client generally assumes that because one calls oneself an ‘accountant’ then one can ‘do accounts’ and that accountants are all the same.
My particular practice specialises in manufacturing clients and most new clients have come from existing client referrals. Fortunately I do not need to be a great sales person to convert a prospect into a new client when (a). there is a recommendation from an existing client and (b). we appear to ‘speak the same language’. Clients generally put this down to my having owned and run manufacturing firms and to some degree that is true, but is is also because of my CIMA training.
If you’re looking for year end accounts, audit, or tax computation then you will likely be talking to a ‘Certified Accountant’ or ‘Chartered Accountant’, but where they will be reporting back to you on how well (or otherwise) you did overall last year and what your tax liability is, the CIMA ‘Chartered Management Accountant’ will be working with you to establish what activities made money and why, and whether you can do more of it, and of course which did not and how to avoid this in future; indeed the focus is very much ‘future’ as much as ‘past’.
In terms of the client business, it’s not difficult to see that helping the client to understand their business is a valuable element in managing, changing, and improving the business, and this is something which CIMA qualified people have to offer any business, so it’s a great shame that Chartered Management Accountants tend to be employed by big businesses who understand the difference between the different accounting disciplines.
None of this is to say that a Certified Accountant or Chartered Accountant could never do what the Chartered Management Accountant does, but it is not what they have been trained to do and equally as a Chartered Management Accountant in practice for twenty-two years I provide a ‘full service’ including year end accounts and tax returns for my clients, albeit the main focus remains helping them to improve their business.
I would urge Chartered Management Accountants to seriously consider a career in the small and micro business sector which accounts for 99.3% of the 4.7 million businesses in the UK (source: BIS 2013) and 47% of private sector employment (source: FSB 2013) and which is a vital part of the UK economy: whether in practice servicing a number of clients, or a full-time employee of a particular firm, I am sure that you will find the experience very rewarding
I would equally urge owners and managers in that sector to become aware of the differences between the main accounting bodies and the relative strengths of each, and to be sure that whoever they engage with will meet the needs of their particular business.
Paul Driscoll is a Chairman of CIMA MiPs in South West England and South Wales, a director of Central Accounting Limited, Cura Business Consulting Limited, Hudman Limited, and a number of manufacturing companies, and is a board level adviser to a variety of other businesses.
Pricing is an area many businesses struggle with. It is part science, part art and part psychology. Confident pricing is as much about how we feel about our business and our product/service, as it is about rules and processes.
Many businesses will stick to a cost plus method of pricing. They will add up all the components of a job and add a percentage for profit – job done (?). However, this approach takes no account of the market in which they are trading or the value of their product/service to the customer.
If you don’t know enough about your market you run the risk of overpricing by using the cost plus pricing method. If other suppliers are providing the same product/service as you and charging less than you, you need to know! If you constantly loose work it may be that you are pitching to the wrong type of customer for you.
Alternatively if you don’t understand the value of your product/service to your customer, you could be regularly underpricing. Take, for example, an instance which happened to me a couple of months ago. We had just had new carpeting through out the upstairs of our house. You know how it is, for a micro second everything looks great until… the cat gets trapped in one of the bedrooms and rips up the carpet in front of the door!
I phoned our lovely carpet guy who came along and patched in some of the offcut left over from the original fitting. He did such a good job that we cannot actually see where the join is. Obviously for me this job had a good deal of value because our carpet is pristine again. But he priced on a cost plus basis and so only charged me £15! He probably left over £80 on the table because the job was worth at least £100 to me.
Now cost plus as a starting point is not bad, because at least you ensure you get the minimum price you need to cover your costs – as long as you have a very good idea what those costs are. But relying on it alone will mean that you undercharge clients for whom the value you provide is more than the costs of providing it (plus profit).
For effective pricing you need to do your homework. You need to understand the market you are in; who your ideal customers are and what they value; and you need to have a very clear idea of what you need to achieve to make a profit.
For many businesses the last few years have been really tough – and the next couple may be just as challenging. Although we are, in theory, out of recession the financial difficulties which come from an economic downturn will continue to be felt way into the future.
If you own a service business there are things you can do to make yourself as resilient as possible and I include my take on the most important ones below:
In a service company the level of customer spend can be quite high. For this reason it is vital that you review the level of credit you are prepared to give clients and stick to it. My payment terms require that clients pay either by monthly standing order or on date of invoice. Even if they don’t pay immediately at least I can chase from the earliest possible point.
Ensure you invoice promptly after work is completed, and, if the job spans several months, agree stage payments with your client so they don’t owe you more than 1 months worth of work.
Bare in mind that none of us really knows what is going on in another company. A seemingly sound company can be on the verge of collapse due to cash flow problems. Credit checking services can help you assess the credit worthiness of a business, but remember their information is out of date to some degree and they don’t pick up the full picture. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to collect the money owed to you as quickly as possible.
Remember, even the banks are reluctant to be banks at the moment – so don’t fall into the trap of acting like one!
A key way to survive the recession is to provide the BEST service you can and be as close to your customers as possible. I see many service providers who think they can get away with average service and who assume clients will stick with them regardless. This is an arrogant assumption which will lead them, quite rightly, to lose good clients to much more customer orientated businesses.
For any business, but particularly for service companies, the relationship you have with your clients is king. A client who knows you well, and believes you are giving him the best, most focussed service available, is unlikely to shop elsewhere, even if he has the possibility of getting the service ‘cheaper’.
Build your referral network
We all know that people buy from people. You are much more likely to engage a supplier who has been recommended to you by a trusted advisor/contact than one you have met fleetingly at a networking event.
For this reason I think it is important to build up a network of people around you who:
– although they are not competitors to you, have the same types of customers as you do.
– understand exactly who an ideal client is for you so they can spot one when they meet them
– understand exactly what you do and the problems you solve for your clients
– are people you would be happy to refer to your contacts so the relationship is mutually rewarding
If you have a strong network you can be much more focussed in your marketing and will be much more likely to get the type of new clients you need.
At the end of the day those businesses which will remain standing will be stronger than they were before the recession, because they will have grasped exactly what makes a great business. The prize for getting it right is not only survival, but the opportunity to achieve great heights once business becomes easier again.
A report in the Telegraph on the 14th July 2014…
Dozens of NHS executives face possible investigation by HM Revenue and Customs after they refused to answer questions about their tax arrangements, it can be revealed.
An investigation has identified 86 senior health service officials paid off-payroll who have refused to give assurances to their employers that they are paying the correct level of income tax and national insurance.
They are paid through service companies – arrangements that allow public sector employees to be paid as contractors through private companies, potentially cutting their tax bills.
Monitor found 30 foundation trusts had issues to resolve in their report of the 10th July 2014:
- 20 foundation trusts have 1 or more senior employees paid through an off-payroll arrangement, and they are waiting for responses after asking those employees for assurance about their tax arrangements
- 23 foundation trusts (including some of the 20 above) still have at least 1 board member or senior member of staff with significant financial responsibility employed through an off-payroll arrangement
- of these 23 trusts, 9 are facing wider issues relating to their performance which they have explained is affecting their ability to recruit and retain permanent skilled staff; this resulted in the need to use interim off-payroll contracts to attract high-performing staff to help improve the foundation trust’s situation
- as a result of their performance issues, these 9 trusts are facing current enforcement action by Monitor, which is unrelated to their use of off-payroll employment
- out of those 23 trusts, the other 14 which are not facing enforcement action have plans to end off-payroll arrangements by the end of the year
Will this end the use of PSC’s in the NHS?
Running your own business can be the biggest thrill you will achieve in your working life, or the most stressful and demoralising experience you can imagine. On some days it is both!
However, I have come to realise from my own experience, from talking to business owners, and from gurus such as Ron Baker, Peter Thompson and Steven Covey, that running a successful business is all about minding your Ps and Qs.
Given the stresses involved in running your own business it is vital you are passionate about your product or service. Let’s face it, it is much easier to engage with potential customers if you can show passion for what you do.
Once you know what you want to do, you need to have a robust plan. We business owners are often knowledgeable about our product or service but avoid those business areas we struggle with – often marketing, sales or finance. The process of creating a business plan forces us to review ALL the areas of our business which are crucial to our future success.
We need to present ourselves to the market. If, like me you run a service lead business, one of the best ways to do this is to network. People buy from people they trust so you need to be out there meeting, and getting to know, local business owners.
Consulting professionals to help in areas you are not expert in is wise. Very few of us are instinctive business people and there will be one or two areas we struggle with. Interesting it is often more cost effective to get an expert in to do an efficient job than to try and do it ourselves.
To me a key element of a quality service is communication – this means listening and responding to clients’ concerns. Even if you sell a product there is a service element to what you do and this will be your contact with your customer.
Effective communication will allow you to qualify a potential client’s needs and what they particularly value. Having established value it should be fairly easy to give them a price.
To close, your business will not be measured by the outside world on what it is but on what people perceive it to be. So keep your ear to the ground and ensure peoples’ perception matches your reality.
Many business owners, especially if they are a sole trader, struggle to know whether they are doing well or not.
The reasons for this are as follows:
Firstly, many business owners do not have a plan for their business. This means that, even if they have up to date profitability figures in front of them, they don’t know if the figures are good or bad. It is only by having a robust plan, covering several years and based on your own goals, that you can judge whether your business will meet your goals, or not. A business which does not meet the owners’ goals is not doing well – however much profit it might be making.
Secondly, many business owners do not have up-to-date financial information. This means that even if they know their goals, they have no idea if they are meeting them. Some business owners keep a pretty close eye on sales/turnover but leave the rest to sort itself out. However, sales are just part of the picture. If you don’t control your costs or your cashflow, your business will struggle.
Thirdly, it is vital to know who’s definition of ‘doing well’ is important. For me, the only measure which is meaningful is YOURS. I see business owners struggling to match someone else’s ideal, rather than their own.
Finally, if you don’t know whether or not you are doing well, the chances are you will via to one extreme or the other. You will either believe you are doing far better than you are, or you will believe you are doing far worse. The first delusion will probably mean you come across quite unexpected problems with cash flow. The second will leave you feeling disillusioned and demotivated.
So, do yourself a favour and make sure you have a robust business plan, which you are updating with current financial figures. That way you will know for sure if you are doing well.