The global spread of COVID-19 has had some drastic effects on the way businesses function. Amidst all the confusion, CFOs have to suitably position the business by working closely with all other department heads to navigate through such times.
This article highlights steps CFOs can take across three major sectors: immediate recovery, short-term stability, and long-term improvements.
1. Actions for immediate recovery
A massive 140,104 companies shut their doors within the first few months. In addition, as supply chains across the world were affected, customers could no longer make discretionary purchases. Thus, in the act of preservation, a CFO’s top priority for immediate recovery should shift to stabilizing cash reserves for the uncertain duration of the pandemic.
In addition, here are four main actions CFOs can implement for immediate recovery:
Stabilizing current financial position
Quantifying the organization’s cash on hand and any forms of accessible capital is a great way to stabilize one’s financial position. CFO’s would need to map out cash collections with their respective sales projections. If multiple customers/vendors delay payments, doubling down on these collections will help the company remain solvent.
Tightening business and operational expenses
An essential element for survival would be tightening existing business and operational expenses. With cash shortages lying just around every corner, any additional penny saved can significantly impact the company’s profit margins. All this, combined with concise reporting mechanisms, can help track liquidity in real-time.
Evaluate and predict future scenarios
At a time of such heightened uncertainty, developing risky scenarios beforehand to prepare the entire organization would be a smart move. What would be of additional value here is if the forecasts/predictions could identify disruption in supply-chains, employee distributions, and cash leakages.
Over-Communicate to encourage internal compliance
The goal here is to ensure all stakeholders understand the pandemic’s projected and actual effects. This would help them prepare for what’s ahead rather than be overwhelmed when it happens. Additionally, CFOs can encourage department heads to relay the necessary measures the company has taken to protect and prevent the breakdown of operational and non-operational systems.
2. Actions for Short-Term Stability
Once the company has recovered from the immediate crisis, CFOs can suitably position the company to adapt to the new normal. The most critical tasks here would be to ensure productivity improvements, cleaning up business financials and balance sheets, and strengthening financial planning and analysis.
Start with improving financial productivity
A good start is to reallocate resources based on the evolving nature of business operations. Another move would be to automate laborious manual and error-prone tasks like expense management, payroll processing, and invoicing. This would result in increased productivity and accuracy and decreased errors and cash leaks.
Follow with cleaning up business finances
When every penny counts, businesses need to relook their finances and business decisions to match revised business goals. While CFOs can lead the show, here’s a handy list to get started:
- Ask department heads to present expenses their departments face and what measures they can take to optimize them.
- Automate crucial financial and accounting processes to ensure error-free reporting and analytics into expense data.
- Push Finance teams to understand the nuances of expense data to derive cost-cutting and saving opportunities.
- Encourage teams to move towards automation technology to drive productivity and sustainable growth.
While this may be difficult for your Finance teams to do manually, modern expense software decreases some burdens. They add a layer of accuracy and ensure no expense fraud or other financial leaks take place. They also come with advanced data analytics to help Finance teams find cost optimization opportunities with frequent vendors and more.
End with financial planning and analysis
Finance teams need to accelerate budgeting and forecasting to provide CFOs with real-time business information which can be communicated across departments to help drive critical business decisions. This enables executives to narrowly focus on high-level vital metrics that will guide the business’s decision-making process in the upcoming months.
3. Actions for long-term stability
CFOs need to sit down with other team leaders for strategic planning based on every insight gained from Financial Planning. Then, with support from the board, the team can plan to approach more investments and other channels that the company will explore in the future.
Here are two main activities that will have the most significant impact to ensure company stability in the long run:
Have a transformational mindset
The CFO and finance department would greatly benefit from adopting a transformational mindset when setting targets, managing performance issues, allocating budgets, or setting expectations on business growth or revenue.
Adopt digital technology to boost productivity
CFOs would play a crucial role in helping teams leverage technology to automate and streamline financial processes. This kind of active approach to an informed embrace of digitization would be invaluable for ensuring accurate reporting, sound decision-making, saved operational and business costs, and business sustainability.
Quick list of process automation CFOs can start with:
Establishing a financial decision-making framework backed by data and communication across the company ensures people are less distracted and aware of achieving business goals.
How long will this pandemic last? That is something we cannot say. But for what it’s worth, as businesses and employees try to adapt to the pandemic, a CFO can ensure that they thrive.