When Convertible Notes Make Sense for Consumer Companies

Great piece by Ryan Caldbeck, CEO of crowdfunder CircleUp, on using convertible debt to grow early stage consumer product companies.  Shorter version: It helps defer valuation conversations when you have solid revenue, but the current revenue does not reflect the company’s potential.  For the full article, click here.

If you are interested in investing in early stage consumer product companies, I highly recommend CircleUp.  They have a number of great investment opportunities.

Job Swapping and Career Development

As a middle market CFO, one aspect of my past experience at large corporations that I miss is the ability to develop talent throughout the accounting and finance team through job swapping and promoting from within.  In fast growing middle market businesses, there is ample opportunity for career development, but it stems from the growth of the company and the need for each person to wear multiple hats.  In larger corporations, you need to rotate people through different positions to diversify their skills, improve operations and prevent boredom.  In middle market companies, it’s not as easy or as necessary, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

If there aren’t enough positions within your accounting and finance team to make it happen, consider temporary job swaps with other departments.   Your financial folks might bring a new perspective to the sales or operations divisions and vice versa.  It will promote better teamwork, develop your talent pool and keep people engaged, just like it does at large corporations.

Kickoff of Budget Season

The chill in the air, the smell of brats and burgers wafting through crowded parking lots, the excitement on the painted faces of rowdy fans… it can only mean one thing:  It’s time to kickoff Budget Season.

The quarterback sneak, the triple option, the end around, the hail mary and the punt – these are all moves managers make throughout the budget approval process with varying degrees of success.

What tools do you use for budgeting?  Do you rely solely on Excel spreadsheets or do you use a more sophisticated budgeting software such as Microsoft’s Management Reporter or do you use a hybrid approach such as Vena Software? The advantages of going beyond Excel include the ability to manage workflow throughout the process, to make your individual budgets more consistent and structurally secure and to roll them up easier for automatic visibility to the big picture.  Most companies start out using only Excel spreadsheets and eventually evolve to a more structured format.

Regardless of the software you use, your budget should typically include the following components:

(1)  A schedule of dates and deadlines that clearly spells out who is responsible for what and by when.

(2) Payroll by employee including open positions and additional headcounts – this schedule should roll forward into the budget to calculate labor costs and benefits and may also be used to allocate expenses between departments.

(3) Fixed Assets and Capital Expenditures – this schedule should roll forward to the P&L for depreciation and to the Balance Sheet/Cash Flow Statement for capital expenditures.

(4) Comparisons to current year and long term plan.

(5)  The aforementioned “Cash Flow Statement” should be part of your budget.

I have to get on a plane now.  What other components should be built into a good budget?

E&Y Study Shows Private Equity Backed Companies Crushing Public Markets

A new study released by Ernst & Young examined 539 Private Equity deals that exited from 2006 to 2012.  These are my key takeaways from the study:

  • PE backed firms crushed public companies and have done quite well in spite of the recession.  The PE exits from 2006 – 2012 outperformed investor returns on publicly held companies by a multiple of 5.4 over the same period.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, many of which were entered into prior to the recession, annual EBITDA growth averaged 11.8% compared to 5.5% in public markets.
  • Organic revenue growth is increasingly the primary driver of growth in EBITDA.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, organic revenue growth (as opposed to EBITDA growth through acquisition or cost-cutting) accounted for 45% of the growth in EBITDA versus 39% in the pre-recession years of 2006-2007.  In 2010-2012 alone, organic revenue growth accounted for over 50% of the growth in EBITDA.
  • Multiples, which were depressed during the recession, have rebounded.  For PE exits from 2010 – 2012, EBITDA growth accounted for 70% of the PE returns with the other 30% being from increasing multiples.
  • Holding periods are up.  For PE exits in 2012, the average holding period was 5.1 years, up from 3.4 years in 2006.

Here is the link to the full study: EY PE Study 2006 to 2012

Follow Up on Social Media Metrics

PrintA few weeks ago I posted an entry titled “Do Social Media KPI’s belong on the Management Dashboard?”  As a follow up, I refer to a recent post on the Gooddata blog that highlights six key marketing metrics to track and report.

They list them in the infographic to the left.  A few of the key KPI’s they list include:

  • Engagement: Not just the number of followers or friends, but how much engagement are you getting in terms of the number of shares, likes and comments.
  • Conversion Rate: Not just the number of visitors to your website, but the rate at which the visits are converted to sales.
  • Click Through: Not the number of emails you sent out, but the number that responded to the emails by clicking through to the website.
  • Cost per Customer: Not cost per click or cost per lead but cost per customer, or better yet, cost per dollar of sales.

In addition to picking the correct social media KPI’s, as with all KPI’s, it is important to report them on a consistent basis and track the results over time compared to targets.

Your Company Is Only as Good as Your Writing

HBRAn article from the Harvard Business Review on the importance of good technical writing skills and why it should be a company-wide endeavor.  It even comes with a complete handbook.  No time for all that?  Here’s the shorter version:

  • Know your subject matter & your audience
  • Be clear, concise and well-organized
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
  • Review your work, edit and omit needless words

Accounting Humor – It’s Accrual World

prepared TB balanced babyA few accounting and finance jokes….

What did the accountant use for birth control?  His personality.

What do you get when you cross an accountant and a jumbo jet?  A Boring 747

Things overheard at a recent CPA mixer:

“With friends like mine, you need an allowance for doubtful accounts.”

“I consider myself a recovering CPA.”

“I’m a CPA.  A Certified Party Animal.”

“No, Irving.  Obamacare’s individual mandate doesn’t have anything to do with you going out to dinner and a movie by yourself.”

Please share your favorite accounting and finance joke in the comments section of the blog or the LinkedIn discussion group.