The CFO & The Start-Up
The CFO & The Start-Up
The plan provides the basis for checking that the project is worthwhile and has a good chance of success. It provides waypoints to check the business’s progress and the basis for course correction if necessary. Without a written business plan a business usually loses 3-5 years of growth and development in the first few years.
Can You Afford To Lose 3 – 5 years Of Time And Capital In Your Business?
Will you even survive?
Many start-ups claim they are too early for even a part-time CFO. I dispute this assumption. I believe that CFO’S are vital for the survival of new businesses in the early stage of its life. So, what role should the CFO play in the start-up phase?
All start-ups have an idea for a new product or service. The CEO is passionate about this product or service and is keen to change the world. However, the business needs to have a written plan? The CFO is critical to the development of the business plan.
The plan contains the following sections and review process.
1. Prepare your business plan in writing?
a. What is your proposed product or service?
b. Who else supplies similar products/services to the market?
c. How big is the market?
d. How much of the market do you need to capture to achieve success?
e. Why will the market adopt or switch to your new product or service?
f. A sales and marketing plan will assist the confidence in the sales take up.
g. How many months or years will the launch process take?
h. Can you set out each step of the launch process with time estimates from start to finish?
i. What is the cumulative cost incurred between startup and receiving sales revenue?
j. Have you assessed all costs needed to complete the plan?
k. Is there a sufficient cost buffer to cover unforeseen costs?
These sections will ensure that the CEO considers each issue that they face getting their new product or service to market. It is important to cover everything. There will be gaps and unknowns. It is important to work on these areas to provide answers otherwise these can cause the business to fail. Failure is costly personally, reputationally, and financially. This should be avoided as much as possible and the plan will help reduce the risk of failure.
2. Test the Plan
a. What are your assumptions in the plan?
a. Are these assumptions:
iii. or realistic?
iv. Kick the tires for each assumption in the plan
b. What could frustrate or scupper each step of the plan?
c. What are the additional monthly costs for slippage in the launch plan?
This testing process is important to ensure that the optimism and confidence of the CEO are not misplaced. It will provide reassurance that the questions asked by investors, customers, and new staff can be answered confidently, in detail, and demonstrate that the new business has a high likelihood of success despite the uncertainties it will face.
3. Prepare a 3-year financial forecast
a. Build a 3-year financial forecast model based on the information above.
b. How long in months and years until you make profit?
c. How much start-up capital is required and who is providing this capital?
i. friends and family or
ii. 3rd party?
iii. Friends and family may require less detail to persuade them to invest.
iv. 3rd party investors will require more detail and will want to check and verify each
assumption in the plan.
d. Do you have enough capital?
e. If not, how, and where will you get enough additional capital?
The 3-year forecast provides a financial test for the plan. It ensures that all costs have been included or suitable estimates included for unknown or unforeseen costs that will occur. The 3-year time horizon will cover the pre-revenue period and demonstrate the cash requirements during this process.
It will reveal the assumptions both during the pre-revenue phase and the assumptions made to the revenue generation and their direct and indirect costs. These will show the time post-revenue the business takes to generate enough monthly sales to cover its monthly costs and the time that the post-revenue costs are recovered from profitable sales.
From this information, analysis can be undertaken as to the costs of delays both from the pre-revenue cost phase and the post-revenue income generation phase. These assumptions are often overly optimistic, and consideration needs to be given to dealing with the financial consequences should the plan’s milestones not be met, and additional costs be incurred.
4. Use the financial forecast as the 1st 12-month budget for analyzing actual performance
The plan forms the basis of the 12-month budget. The actual performance of the new business is compared to the budget. Decisions can then be made to flex the plan based on the review of actual performance against the plan. The CFO is critical to the review process.
The monthly reporting of the performance of the business through management accounts compared to budget is vital. The implications of the under/over performance need to be considered and the new information included in a recasting of the forecast for the next 12 months on a rolling basis every month. This identified changes to the future cash requirements as early as possible means that remedial action can be taken.
There are inherent risks in starting a new business. A CFO is critical to the creation, validation, and monitoring of each step of the plan. So, write a plan and find a CFO today.