Michael Citroen, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the Thames Valley (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Michael Citroen is 59 years old and a 14-year veteran of the part-time portfolio job world. The former Group Finance Director of a large privately-owned company relishes the challenge and excitement of working with SMEs in his role as a part-time FD.
“The FD Centre is very focused on helping its part-time FDs to win new clients”, Michael says. “I could never have done as well as I have if I’d had to do it on my own as I had no idea about marketing when I first began.”
Like many people starting out on the part-time path, Michael had initially been worried about giving up a salary with all the perks. “To begin with, I felt a little insecure giving up a regular job, but the role was becoming increasingly political and I wanted to take back control.”
He quickly discovered that the financial return you get from this way of working is dependent on the amount of energy you’re willing to expend and the number of clients you take on.
He realised early on that the new lifestyle would enable him to spend more time with family whilst maintaining a good level of income.
Surely, if Michael’s still buzzing about this way of working after 14 years, it’s worth finding out a bit more about it. Isn’t it?
Neil Methold, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the Thames Valley (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Neil, 54 has found the move into the part-time portfolio world beneficial in so many ways. Not only has he been able to enjoy more family and leisure time, but he’s also had the pleasure of coaching and mentoring people working within his clients’ companies. Neil now also mentors new Principals joining the FD Centre to help them at the start of their journey to a portfolio career.
“My greatest satisfaction comes from coaching and mentoring people within these companies so they become self-sufficient and can do more and more of the work themselves.
“I see it as my responsibility to ensure the work is done – not necessarily to do it all myself. I think that has a significant impact on client retention.”
Neil has found the move from the corporate world extremely refreshing.
“You can’t go in and be all corporate. SMEs don’t want that. They want someone they can trust and rely on and build a good relationship with. A friendly face. Not just a very clever big shot. You need to be down to earth and people-focused.”
The relationships you have with clients are what help to make this such a rewarding way of life. Neil talks openly about the genuine respect that he has with his clients, which gives him a great deal of job satisfaction.
Kate Wright, portfolio FD at the FD Centre (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Kate Wright, previously worked as Head of Finance and Operations for a NASDAQ-listed company, but moved to a more flexible role as a portfolio FD, later-on joining the FD Centre, the largest provider of part-time FDs in the UK.
She was wanted to leave the corporate world, to work with Entrepreneurs and was willing to take a pay cut to do so. However, she’s been pleasantly surprised with the remuneration.
“Although part-time FDs aren’t eligible for bonuses or equity, they are well-paid for the work they do.”
The benefits far outweigh the negatives as Kate carefully structures her time.
“You do have to be very organised and very focused. I quite often spend half a day with one company and half a day with another. It’s very important to make every client feel as if they are the most important.”
Being a part-time FD enables Kate to earn well whilst maintaining control over her diary.
“It’s a long way towards the holy grail of work life balance. I feel it’s the future.”
Caroline Dodds, portfolio FD at the FD Centre (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Caroline Dodds, used to work with FTSE-listed companies but threw in the towel to work with Scale-Up businesses for the FD Centre, the largest provider of part-time FDs in the UK.
Being in control of her time is one of the best things about being a part-time FD for Caroline. It gives her the flexibility to strive for the illusive work-life balance we all crave.
Rather than work as a sole trader, there’s the added benefit of a network of experts to bounce ideas off. Being able to communicate with FDs from around the world is something Caroline finds very useful especially as she has clients in China and Hong Kong. “I love networking and working within a team. The FD Centre and the wider Liberti Group offer a massive network.”
“I wanted to have colleagues that I could bounce ideas off. You can’t be a master of everything by yourself. If there’s something I’m not sure about, I know there will be someone who will have come across that issue.”
So, Caroline is living proof that work-life is possible. Is it really possible? OK, without another few hours in the day, we all know it’s tricky but one step closer has got to be good, right?
Steve Wilden, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the Thames Valley (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Steve Wilden has been with the FD Centre for 8 years. After a successful and eventful FD career with many tales to tell, Steve had amassed a considerable range of experience across many industries.
While his time in the Corporate world was extremely fulfilling, the pressure started to take its toll. Steve made the decision to move to portfolio working in the hope it would provide the change of lifestyle needed.
With portfolio working, there’s the buzz of tackling a wide variety of business situations.
Working with many owner-managed businesses allows Steve to share his commercial acumen far and wide – implementing fundamental changes that make the world of difference. In reality, having a number of businesses to help can be more rewarding than the full-time, traditional way of working.
And life is less stressful.
Principals are masters of their own destiny and they control their own portfolios. They are supported to seek out clients in the sectors they want to work in, using their areas of expertise and deciding how much work they want to commit to each month.
Tony Lewis, portfolio FD at the FD Centre in the South East (part of The CFO Centre Group)
With 30+ years’ experience in the corporate world, both in the UK and globally, Tony has been there, done that, got the t-shirt. But by working for one of the top management consultants and supporting many US-listed companies, it’s very easy to be known for one particular type of situation.
Then there’s always the next client waiting for your support and advice.
Of course, it’s good work and he’s proud of what he achieved. But when the appeal wears off and there’s no time to really enjoy the important things in life, something’s got to change.
Tony was ready for a new challenge. He wanted more time and space to have input into family life – to reduce the time he was travelling and help to settle his children.
For this reason, he approached the FD Centre to become a part-time FD.
And he has never looked back to the big job in the City and the international travel.
For Tony, the flexibility the role provides has meant the world to him. He can enjoy a challenging & rewarding professional life balanced with time for family, friends, sports & hobbies.
He also finds the role extremely fulfilling. Good practice and insightful advice aren’t just expected, they’re really appreciated.
“Instead of spending my time worrying about multinationals, I’m now helping a family-run business improve profit & cash generation. We’re talking livelihoods and real people. And it’s so much more rewarding.”
Zara Merricks, portfolio FD at the FD Centre (part of The CFO Centre Group)
Zara works as a portfolio FD for between five and 10 clients at a time. She works for the FD Centre, the largest provider of part-time FDs in the UK and is delighted to see the rapid difference she makes to companies she works with. Since joining the FD Centre over two years ago, Zara is enjoying the opportunities that have come her way.
Although Zara’s keen to tell us that it’s the best career move she’s ever made, she’s also honest about the need to become extremely organised.
“I recently started doing virtual FD work as well as well as portfolio work. I might spend a day a month in a client’s office and the rest of the time working from home. The virtual FD work I plan six months in advance and the portfolio work I plan six weeks in advance. So, you do have to have time management skills.
Working with five clients at the same time, it can be a little challenging deciding who takes precedence. But that’s a minor downside.”
And apart from feeling like she’s making a difference… what are the other reasons for Zara’s happiness?
The flexibility of course. Being in control of her diary, not missing out on ‘the important things in life’ and making adjustments to support her own well being.
Surely, that’s worth getting organised for, isn’t it?
If you consider what sets companies like eBay, Alibaba, Netflix, Google, Starbucks, Apple, Cisco and Dell apart from other companies, their ability to continuously innovate and create high growth will probably come high on your list.
So should the fact they’ve all successfully transitioned from start up to scale up status without losing their ability to be dynamic and entrepreneurial.
Then there’s the fact they’ve helped create thousands of full-time and part-time jobs throughout the world. Twenty-three-year-old eBay, for example, employs 14,100 full- and part-time employees while Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. has 88,100 full-time employees.
In his book, Scale Up!, the FD Centre’s Chairman Colin Mills defines scale ups as companies which have grown by 20% a year for a minimum of three years and which started the three year period with a minimum of 10 employees.
Scale ups disrupt and revolutionise entire industries, according to a Deloitte & THNK report. “They embody ingenuity, innovation, and foresight,” its authors concluded after studying 400,000 enterprises worldwide.
There’s a common misconception that only start ups can be innovative, dynamic and entrepreneurial. Yet as scale ups like Google and Alibaba illustrate, that’s far from the case.
Perhaps start ups attract more attention because there’s so many of them: it’s estimated that there are 300 million start ups globally. By comparison, only a tiny fraction of start ups ever survive long enough to make the transition to scale up, according to the authors of the Deloitte report.
“Our research shows that the chances of a new enterprise to ascend as a scale up are around 0.5%, which means that only 1 out of 200 surviving new enterprises will become a scale up. ‘Unicorns’ make up the even smaller subset of scale ups; only 104 start ups are valued over $1 billion.”
Those companies that do become scale ups help to boost local, national and international economies. They provide direct, ongoing employment and that, in turn, creates more consumer spending which in turn stimulates the economy and expands the tax base.
Or as business guru and venture capitalist Daniel Isenberg says in Scale Up!, “One venture that grows to 100 people in five years is probably more beneficial to entrepreneurs, shareholders, employees and governments alike, than 50 which stagnate at two years.”
Contrary to what many policymakers believe, start ups don’t help economies to flourish or cause per capita income to rise.
“The relationship between per capita income and entrepreneurial activity is generally negative, rather than positive as is often believed,” wrote Scott Shane, Professor at Case Western Reserve University, in Entrepreneur magazine. He referenced a Gallup Organisation survey which compared per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the fraction of the population that reported being self-employed in 135 countries. It showed that the self-employed fraction had a negative linear relationship with the log of GDP.
“That is, self-employment rates are lower in rich countries than in poor ones.”
But growing a company past the start up phase is not without its share of challenges, whether they are related to employees, sales and marketing, operations, administration, or finance. Most importantly, if growing companies don’t have the right infrastructure to support their expanded operations, those challenges can become increasingly severe.
“While on paper, they may have the revenue, the manufacturing base or customer reach of a substantial business, the culture, the controls, the processes, the personnel and the leadership remain those of a much smaller business that they were a short time before,” says Mills in Scale Up!.
“Worse, they haven’t yet accumulated the resources to build and maintain that infrastructure.”
If the situation is not resolved, the business will outrun itself (cash reserves will dwindle as it tries to meet the expanded demands) or get stuck (as the owner and employees find themselves unable to cope with the problems).
But if you revise your business model, you can overcome these challenges or even avoid them altogether.
“You need to consider your whole business model, because if you have a terrible business model, then the last thing you want to do is to start scaling it,” says Mills.
The FD Centre’s part-time FDs or CFOs help clients revise their business model using a framework known as the ’12 Box’ approach.
It has three levels:
This refers to finance operations and focuses on two key aspects: cash and profitability. There are four boxes: Cash Flow Management and Profit Improvement (which generate money), and Internal Systems and Reporting (which generate time for management).
This involves your finance strategy: how are you going to finance the business to achieve future cash and profits? The four boxes in this section cover: Risk Assessment, Strategic Funding, Strategic Activities and Exit Planning, and an Implementation Timetable.
This involves crucial tasks such as compliance, tax planning and legal issues, banking relationships and outsourcing. In the case of The FD Centre’s FDs (and the CFO Centre’s CFOs), they don’t carry out the tasks but instead, manage the work on a client’s behalf. They’ve built relationships with the right people in each country where they operate so that they can connect clients with the right supplier at the right cost when they need it, and then manage the work on their behalf.
To help you identify which one of these 12 areas is a potential current or future pain point for your business, the FD Centre/CFO Centre has created a quick assessment form known as the ‘F Score’. (It will only take nine minutes to complete.)
The F Score features a series of questions built around the 12 Boxes, designed to identify your areas of strength and those which represent a gap. When you’ve completed the questions, you’ll receive an eight-page report which will reveal your current or future challenges. It will not only rate the performance of your company’s finance function but also uncover untapped opportunities for non-linear growth.
To discover how the FD Centre will help your company to scale up, please call us now on 0800 169 1499 or contact us here.
Congratulations to our client Kent Catering Service Limited who have won the Sheppey Business of the Year two years running for 2017 and 2018.
Kent Catering Service Limited have continued to grow their business off the back of their commitment to a localised and timely service provision. The business continues to progress in a sector dominated by larger national players, with their key differentiator being their quality of service delivery.
At the 2017 Swale Business Awards, Kent Catering Service received the coveted accolade of Sheppey Business of the Year. Now the Sheerness-based business once again have won the award. The 20+ strong business has continued to go from strength-to-strength as they offer the supply, servicing, installation and cleaning of all commercial catering equipment including Gas, Electric and Refrigeration. KCS also offer maintenance agreements along with kitchen canopy and extraction services. Evelyn Irwin, Media Manager at Kent Catering Service stated: “All our staff and most of our clients are Kent-based which allows us to be pro-active with the way we respond to our clients. Whilst being able offer rapid-response times and emergency call outs (within 1-2 hours if required), we also aim for a first-time fix and try to make sure next day repair is aimed for”. By providing the complete package of service KCS have adapted to become a one-stop-shop solution at their clients’ door steps.
KCS has had an incredible journey over the two decades, starting as a one-man band running from home and progressing to be a nationally recognised, industry leader. Over the last 19 years, the business has grown its reputation across a diverse customer base in the public and private sector, which includes schools, universities, hospitals, industrial kitchens, restaurants and hotels. Evelyn continued, “Over the years we have carried out a variety of works for nearly 2,000 customers and one of our sites has over 1,500 appliances. Regardless of whether our clients have a service agreement, we have sustained 95% of all our clients – some for as long as 17 years. Building long-term relationships, supporting and contributing to each other’s successes is beneficial for great value and service at both ends.
“The company ethic is about providing customer satisfaction and a large part of our success is down to our highly driven and dedicated staff whom we invest and care for like a family business”.
The business has plans to add even more staff to their expanding team and to grow both their customer base and office space, all from their Swale location. “We continually strive to provide equal partnerships with all our customers by being a service-orientated company,” Evelyn said. “We aim to work with the speed and personal touch of a local business, whilst embodying the skills and experience of a far-reaching organisation to make sure that all our customers receive consistently high-quality service”.
Evelyn discussed the changes that had been taking place in the business since they picked up the Sheppey Business of the Year award in September. “Within the last few months KCS has been awarded a position on The ESPO Public Sector Procurement Framework 98. The benefits customers can receive from using companies with an ESPO position include discounted rates and a full assessment of companies’ financial stability, track record, experience and technical and professional ability”. Through gaining a position KCS have added more new customers and have carried out a larger amount of works for existing customers with implementing stricter working policies to maintain high levels of service.
Finally, Evelyn spoke about winning the award “Winning Sheppey Business of the Year at the last Swale Business Awards has been the perfect example of our impact in the Kent area and we are extremely grateful for the recognition we have received. We will soon be celebrating our 20th year in business and becoming a finalist and winning an award is invaluable. It means that our long-standing business plan in this industry is continuing to be successful and it is a grand reflection of how the loyalty of all our staff and clients furthers our success”.
When your company is facing yet another cash flow crisis caused by late paying customers, it can be hard to believe there might be a solution.
But there are steps you can take to overcome the problems delinquent payments cause and to avoid them happening again.
Late payments are something that hundreds of thousands of SMEs experience. Of the 1.7 million SMEs in the UK 640,000 say they have to wait beyond the agreed terms for payments, according to Bacs Payment Schemes.
Nearly 40% of them spend up to four hours a week chasing late payers and 12% employ someone specifically to pursue outstanding invoices.
Late payments can threaten SME’s ability to trade, and stifle appetite for growth and recruitment, says Ian Cole, Head of Invoice Finance at Siemens Financial Services. In worst cases, it can lead to insolvency. Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses, said if payments were made promptly, 50,000 business deaths could be avoided every year.
So too could the problems that late payments cause. Of those SMEs facing late payments, 16% struggle to pay their staff on time, while 28% of company directors reduce their own salaries to keep essential working capital inside their businesses. A quarter (25%) rely on bank overdrafts to make essential payments, and 15% find it difficult to pay business bills like energy, rates, and rent when they’re due.
Late payments take an emotional toll on business owners and CEOs too.
Over a quarter (29%) of UK SME owners struggle with depression, anxiety, increased stress, and other serious mental health related issues caused by the worry of late payments, according to research commissioned by The Prompt Payment Directory (PPD).
The survey polled 1,000 UK small to mid-sized company owners who all suffer from poor cashflow due to late or outstanding invoice payments.
More than a third (34%) regularly lose sleep over poor cash flow caused by clients paying late and 7% even claim to have lost their hair because of the anxiety, the PPD revealed.
Nearly a quarter (21%) struggle to pay their mortgage or rent or have been forced to sell the family home. The consequence of these late payment pressures is also destroying people’s marriage, family, and social lives.
The amount of time SMEs are kept waiting beyond their previously agreed payment terms is a big issue. Almost a third of companies face delays of at least a month beyond their terms and nearly 20% are having to wait more than 60 days before being paid.
UK businesses with turnovers of under £1million wait an average of 72 days for payment of invoices, according to the Asset Based Finance Association, the body representing the asset based finance industry in the UK and the Republic of Ireland. By comparison, businesses with an annual turnover of between £1 million and £10 million wait about 53 days and businesses with £500 million-plus turnovers wait about 47 days.
Fortunately, there are measures you can take to protect your company from the worst effects of late payments and to ensure you are paid promptly in future.
Research prospective clients
Before accepting a new client, carry out a credit check and find out if the company has a reputation for paying on time.
Agree prompt payment terms
Get clients to sign a contract or agree to terms and conditions that specify when they must pay your invoice and late or overdue fees. Include your payment terms on every invoice.
Send invoices promptly
Don’t delay in sending out invoices. Check that the details are correct to avoid delays.
Offer a range of payment options
Make it easy for customers to pay you by offering them a variety of payment options such as Direct Debit, PayPal, and credit card. If your clients are based in a different country, accept payment in their currency.
Use invoice finance
Invoice finance will give you essential working capital (90% of the approved total invoice) while you wait for the outstanding invoice to be paid. You’ll receive the remaining 10% when your client pays your invoice.
Use an invoice tracker system
You’ll receive an alert when invoices are overdue.
Keepto a schedule
Invoice on the same date every month so that your clients known when to expect your invoices.
Set up internal invoice reviews
Hold regular weekly or monthly internal finance meetings to review your invoices.
Don’t back down
If you have late fees for overdue invoices then make sure you follow through and charge them. By law, you can claim interest and debt recovery costs if another business is late paying for goods or a service.
If you haven’t already agreed when the money will be paid, the law says the payment is late after 30 days for public authorities and business transactions after either:
the customer gets the invoice
you deliver the goods or provide the service (if this is later)
You can agree a longer period for payments from one business to another—but if it’s longer than 60 days it must be fair to both businesses.
Hire a part-time FD
For a fraction of the cost of a full-time FD, the FD Centre will provide you with a highly experienced senior FD. Your part-time FD will assess your company’s cash flow position and take the following steps:
Identify and address all the immediate threats to your business. It might involve chasing late paying customers, using invoice financing to give the business an immediate cash injection, or arranging short-term loans or overdraft facilities with your bank.
Determine where improvements and savings can be made.
Instigate the use of regular cash flow forecasts. This way you’ll know in advance if your company is going to face a cash shortfall and can make arrangements for extra borrowing, or take other action.
End your late payment and cash flow problems now by calling the FD Centre today. To book your free one-to-one call with one of our part-time FDs, call 0800 169 1499 or just click here.