Annual Sales Goals

SALES TEAM members are heavy lifters contributing to the success of their companies.

Therefore, it makes sense to prioritize an annual sales goal process as part of your business practice. These meetings offer a time to share the Company’s VISION MISSION, allowing TEAM members to know where they stand within the organization’s established benchmarked goals and objectives. And know if they are at Performance Standards, Below or a High Achiever.

Also of importance, it offers time to review the salespeople’s motivational desires they strive for before management cast out annual goal expectations.

This meeting process helps assure sales and management personnel on reaching obtainable revenue numbers they forecast and expect to achieve that alight with Company goals.

Need a process? Here’s a summary outline you may find helpful.

  1. Start with Group Messaging
    • Communicate the company’s current year-end (YE) results compared to goals. What went right and opportunities to capitalize on.
    • Review of the company’s longer-term Vision and Career Opportunities that avail. Include in careers, “What’s in it For Them” talk, facilitates retention plans and helps to attract the right people into the organization.
  2. One-on-One Meeting
    • Review with each salesperson their current YE sales revenue and personal income results.  Start now, project out to YE if necessary.
    • Compare their results with the goals forecasted to be achieved for this year.
    • Discuss in detail the metric measurements, controllable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that produced their sales revenues and income results.
    • Take time to define what they feel went well and what they would do differently to improve results.
    • Compare their contribution standing to the Company’s resulting Performance.
    • Goal Setting.  Discuss the income the salesperson wants to make for the coming year.  Tie the KPI metrics required to produce the level of sales revenue to generate their income goal.
    • Explore how sure they feel about the metrics required, and HOW they expect to accomplish.  Establish that both of you agree the sales revenues, KPIs, and income goals are obtainable.  If you or the salesperson feel they are too high or low, collaborate to reach a number you both believe is real.  It’s KEY for the salesperson and manager to agree on the income to sales revenue ratio and KIPs required are achievable.
    • Understand WHY the Income Goal is meaningful to them.  Knowing how they plan to spend their income provides a self-managing motivational tool.
    • Career Opportunity.  We all want to BE learning and growing.  Ask the salesperson what they want as the next step in their career.  Review with them the company’s projected growth and the Performance Standards representing this opportunity.
  3. Probe the commitment level they have for their goal ambitions.
    • Remember, people do things for their own reasons.  Knowing these reasons helps manage the process through the year.
  4. Support.  What will they need from you?  Be clear.  Is it training in sales, leads generation, product and/or service, greater depth on knowing the customers’ business, other?  Get specific.
    • Be sure to understand what THEY personally feel vs. what you feel they need.
    • This feedback clarifies what you are committing to when providing the needed support requirements.
  5. Check-Ins.  Standardize a Report Form they fill out to review Results Expected/Result Achieved.
    • Establish a time, weekly preferred.  If a new salesperson, daily.
    • Review successes and/or variances in the metric numbers and discuss strategy and tactic adjustment requirements of KPIs to achieve desired results.
    • If continually missing their metric KPIs, find out if their financial income goal priorities changed.
  • Note
    • This is a TEAM effort.  It’s important to stick with regular review meetings the salesperson and manager establish. 
    • Write and keep accurate notes of conversation agreements and commitments.
    • KPI metrics are controllable factors, must do requirements to achieve desired goals. 
    • Numbers can be readjusted during the year if they are off track.

If you have questions or would like a more in-depth conversation on framing a goal setting session, contact:

Jim Iden, CPC

713-927-3564

jiden@silverfox.org

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Silver Fox Advisors Receive Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston’s “Appreciation Partnership Award”

HOUSTON, TX (Nov. 2, 2022) – Joseph Tung, President of the Silver Fox Advisors, announced today that the Silver Fox Advisors received a “Partnership Appreciation Award” at the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston’s 30th Annual Awards for Excellence luncheon held at the Bayou City Event Center.

“The Silver Fox Advisor’s serve as judges for the Better Business Bureau of Greater Houston’s Education Foundation Award of Excellence Program.  The judging of the applications submitted by the Better Business Bureau’s members is one of the most rewarding projects the Silver Fox Advisors do all year. It is very impressive to see the quality of these applications. We can tell that the BBB members take this process very seriously, and it has become more and more competitive each year”, added President Tung. Several of the Silver Fox Advisors judges attended the Awards luncheon and joined Better Business Bureau of Houston members at their tables.

Silver Fox Advisors are proven business leaders who advise, consult, and mentor business owners, CEO Roundtables, and entrepreneurship programs. For more information visit: www.silverfox.org

Really Understanding Financials: A Key to Small Business Success

In talking with small business owners, I am surprised how many have trouble off the top of their head responding to simple questions like what are your revenues, how much is in your bank account, what is your cash flow? Research studies find over 80% of the time poor cash management or poor understanding of cash flows contributes to the failure of a small business. 

Another way of describing this predominant problem is a lack of funding or working capital.  It is amazing how many people just jump into business without planning and understanding their working capital needs.  Even the term working capital is foreign to their vocabulary. So, if you don’t know, it is the capital in the business used for short term operations.  You take what is current assets such as cash in the bank, receivables, and inventory less the current liabilities and obligations you need to pay out in the short term considered less than a year.

You need to know more than what is working capital. Somehow accounting leaves many with that deer in the headlights look. In many ways, I understand. Even though I have a master’s in accounting, it was never my favorite subject.  But I also understood back then when getting my degree accounting is the language of business and a necessity for running businesses.

In teaching a Corporate Strategy course to undergraduate business school seniors, far too many of the students didn’t understand balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements even though they had introductory accounting courses.  It’s hard to execute a strategy without understanding the underlying economics.

Now to the purpose of this article. In my 4 Stage Growth Model for small businesses, those with this lack of knowledge on the basics of accounting and financial planning are generally in the Development Stage with revenues under one million dollars.  My focus here is on the second and third stages of Growth and Take-Off with revenues generally from two to ten million or more. I will also give some additional profitability concepts for the Expansion Stage.

Margins and Overhead

If you look at a basic income statement, it is made up of revenues and costs.  Revenues bring cash in, and costs take money out of the business. In understanding how to run the business, you need to break out the income statement into more useful concepts like margins.  Gross Margin is Net Revenue (i.e., Revenue minus adjustments like refunds and discounts) minus Cost of Goods Sold.  Cost of Goods sold refers to direct costs to produce the goods, that is material and directly involved labor.  For Service Companies, this would involve cost of direct services. Service Companies do not always need to calculate a margin particularly if all the salaries are fixed.

Gross Margin tells you how much you have left in revenue to run the business.  Often, you will want to turn this into a % by dividing the gross margin by the net revenue.  If you have a large percentage, that is a good sign you have an attractive offering.

Your operating expenses beyond Cost of Goods sold such as administrative salaries/costs, rent, utilities, and the like are referred to as overhead.  The higher your gross margin and the lower your operating costs the more income you make.  It is important to keep a close eye on your overhead costs that can get out of hand.  In other words, the margins do not support the overhead and income/profit is underwater.

Again, most small business owners in the Growth or Take-Off stages fully understand their gross margin and overhead expenses.  You should have a financial plan for the year that targets Gross Margin and Overheads.  Obviously, if the Gross Margin falls below the target, you will likely need to reduce overheads.  There is a tendency to say these overhead costs are in the budget and just keep spending.

Key Performance Indicators

As the name implies, these indicators are about how the business performed.  Not what you did to obtain that performance.  However, as the performance looks strong or improves that is a clear sign you are doing things that make a difference to the company’s profitability.

The word key highlights that these indicators are very important in achieving your business objectives.  A natural key indicator for Growth and Take-Off stages is revenue growth, particularly as a percentage. Gross Margin percentage (of revenue) is another indicator of the health of the business. As the company enters the Take-Off stage, understanding how this Gross Margin percentage compares to your competition gives insight into the competitiveness of your offering.

Don’t ignore net profit which deducts depreciation of your physical assets like equipment and amortization of your intangible assets such as computer software.  As you become more sophisticated, also determine your return on investment. In simple terms, it is your net profit after tax divided by the capital (debt plus equity) you have invested in the business.  That is a reasonable measure of the overall performance of the business. A similar measure is return on equity that excludes longer term debt in the denominator.  That gives you a sense of how much your investment in the business is making that you can compare to other options for your money like interest on savings.

It’s not all about growth and income.  Ultimately, you need to understand the very fundamental flow of cash in the business that can signal issues of sustainability.  A key indicator is your net cash flow defined as net cash flow = cash flow from operations + cash flow from investing + cash flow from financing. 

We already discussed working capital which gets impacted by net cash flow. Many Development Stage companies have a difficult time maintaining positive working capital which puts a strain on paying wages and vendors. As you grow, this working capital indicator needs to be positive.  If you have robust growth, that will necessitate cash flow from financing.

Your debt-to-equity ratio will help give you an understanding of your ability to borrow.  If this percentage is high, banks will be reluctant to give you more money. You may need to bring in investors to help grow if you are already highly leveraged.  Having a low debt-to-equity may give you the capacity for acquisitions to accelerate your growth.

And for many companies, days receivables are outstanding triggers action to speed up cash flow.  Other accounting metrics may also be useful for understanding your business’s performance. You may want to use variations of these financial indicators that fit your business better, but this should give you some ideas if you don’t already have these KPIs.

Break Even Analysis

What we have discussed so far is basic financial accounting.  Managerial accounting can give you more insight into strategies and decision-making to enhance the company’s profitability.  There are many specific costing concepts in managerial accounting often applied to larger companies, but for me break-even analysis can be very helpful for a small growing company that has unit product sales.

The concept is like gross margin analysis we discussed earlier.  The distinction is in the nature of the cost.  Some costs are inherently fixed such as rent. They generally remain constant regardless of changes in the level of activity.

Other costs vary with the level of activity and are termed variable costs. Examples are production wages, material, shipping costs, sales commission and so forth.  The difference between revenue and variable costs is termed the contribution margin.  You can then determine a contribution margin per unit of volume by dividing the contribution margin by the number of units sold.

To get the breakeven point, you then divide the fixed costs by the contribution margin per unit.  That tells you how many units to sell to cover fixed costs or in other words break even.  As you can visualize, the fixed cost per unit goes down as the number of units sold grows.

This break-even methodology can prove a fruitful modeling analysis by changing volume, contribution margin per unit, and fixed costs. You can get a real sense of how to improve your business performance by seeing how these changes impact your profitability.  Obviously, there are a lot of cost nuances such as semi-variable costs and so forth.  Overall, understanding contribution margin analysis can give some real insight into the business.

Value Drivers

Break-even analysis is one form of understanding value drivers.  Unlike key performance indicators, value drivers deal specifically with operational activities that create value for the company.  Sometimes, these are not controllable by you but knowing how they impact the business can improve your decision making.

In Shell’s downstream manufacturing business, we followed closely what was termed the light-heavy differential.  In simplistic terms, heavy crude requires a lot of coking or cracking to break down the molecules into usable products such as gasoline. Lighter crudes can be turned into gasoline with a lot less sophisticated and less costly equipment.  If the spread between light and heavy crude is large, then the “cokers and crakers” will be very profitable.  That can influence heavily the decision to invest in this type manufacturing equipment.  Thus, this light-heavy differential is a significant value driver for refineries.

Other value drivers you can control directly.  You might find that the number of calls from your call center has a significant impact on your revenue generated.  You can plot the relationship and determine the profitability impact not unlike break even analysis for such a value driver.  Likewise, number of returned items or redoes could be a value driver in that the lower the activity the higher the profit.  A similar concept is zero defects as a value driver.  The point is these are the operational activities you spend time understanding and acting on.

Value Metrics

Certainly, as you enter the Take-off Stage, you will want to follow indicators of how your company will be valued by potential investors or acquirors.  The concept of EBITDA should become part of your vocabulary and following.

The acronym stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.  Ultimately valuations come down to cash generation.  EBITDA is a proxy for cash generation.  There are many factors in valuing your business; in a typical industry you often hear multiples of EBITDA like five times. In high growth high opportunity industries, the multiples will be much higher and low growth stagnant industries will likely be lower.

Similarly, revenue is another barometer of value.  There is no value unless the business can generate revenues. You will hear metrics like one times revenue as a measure of the company’s worth.  High potential industries will have much higher multiples.  In the Take-off and Expansion stage, you will want to keep up with the going value of your business.

Discounted Cash Flows

In the Expansion Stage of the growth model, you will want to become familiar with discounted cash flows as a measure of value.  EBITDA and historical revenue relate to the past and are only proxies of the future. The true value of the business is what it can generate in the future. The concept of discounted cash flows is based on forecasting the future and then valuing the cash flow stream.

The forecasting you do goes out a number of years like ten and then you set a terminal or sale value at that point as the final cash input. The key concept is that cash today is worth more to me than cash in the future.  Why is that so?  Because I could invest cash today and get a return on that cash. You include not just the projected future cash generated but the cash outflows you must make.  The major investment usually occurs in the beginning and is not discounted as it is in the present.  It represents a negative cash outlay that must be overcome.

The return on the cash is the discount rate much like the ROI discussed earlier. For any year out into the future, you apply the return multiplicative to the number of years out in the future.  What you find is the value out ten years is much less than the value generated a year from now.  The higher the rate of return, the lower the value of future cash generated.

Using this technique, you can determine the exact rate of return on the future cash flows you projected for the business.  That occurs when the rate of return causes the present and future cash flows to equal zero. Some people refer to this rate as the earning power of the business.

By the time you consider using this concept to value your business, an acquisition opportunity, or a large investment in the business, you may have determined your cost of capital. There are many definitions you get when you do an internet search.  Simplistically, it is the minimum return you want from making an investment in an acquisition or big expenditure.  From the capital markets standpoint, it is the weighted average return of what it costs you to borrow or have stockholders invest.

It is very useful to know your approximate cost of capital.  Venture capital companies have a much higher cost of capital expectation because they are taking on more risk. It is somewhat similar for angel investors.  Debt is almost always cheaper as they will have the rights to your assets in the case of default.  If you can get debt, that is generally the preferred option as it lowers your cost of capital.  When the risk is too high for the bank, you will have the higher cost from investors.

If you have determined a cost of capital, then that rate can be used to discount the present and future cash flows projected.  There will be a discounted cash value that may be positive or negative. If the value is negative, then you reject the outlay as the projected value does not meet your cost of capital. If it is positive, then from a financial standpoint the investment is worthwhile.  The resultant is called present value profit.

As you grow and have more investment alternatives, it can be useful to determine profitability index by dividing the present value profit by the initial investment.  This enables you to compare the attractiveness of these various alternatives.

Wrapping Up

None of these measures are without problems and issues.  Discounted cash flows would be very exact if you could in fact accurately estimate future cash flows. Thus, you may have to run various cases. ROI does not incorporate the future and so forth.  Most of the financial indicators are snapshots in time.

The combination of what we have discussed is much better than flying by the seat of your pants as is often done in the development stage.  The more you know and understand these concepts the much greater your chance of growing a successful business. 

What you use of these financial concepts should grow as your business grows.  You must understand working capital as fundamental.  As business develops, get a grip on your margins and overheads.  With maturity into the Growth Stage, managing the business with KPIs can be very helpful.  To continue to grow, understanding your value drivers will be key.  Break-even analysis can be helpful in this understanding. As you reach the Take-Off stage think more about valuing your business.  At first, that will be traditional measures like EBITDA and revenue multiples.  Then as you expand, discounted cash flows can provide more insight which is why large companies use this technique.

How to Sell Your Business to a Buyer You Like

By: Herb Kalman, a Silver Fox Advisor

June’s job out of college was with a distribution company selling small widgets.  After a few years, thinking that there was more money in large widgets, June approached a large widget manufacturing company to represent their products in her market area. 

Twenty-five years later, with the business thriving, June started to receive inquiries regarding her interest in selling the business or selling part of the business.  She had discussions with prospective buyers, investors, and with colleagues who had sold their businesses.  The common theme of the sellers was regret.  Regret about selling too soon.  Regret about the changes to the company.  Regret about how the employees were treated.

The Employee Stock Ownership Plan (“ESOP”) was designed to allow business owners to sell stock indirectly to their employees by using a trust.  The initial ESOP occurred in 1956 in which the Profit-Sharing Plan of Peninsula Newspaper in San Francisco received a private letter ruling allowing it to acquire the Company’s stock from Company shareholders.  ESOPs are now part of ERISA and provide tax benefits for sellers in some cases and for the Company owned by the ESOP. 

June learned about ESOPs from her financial planner.  After consulting with the financial planner and her CPA, she decided to sell one-third of her stock to an ESOP.  Because the corporation was a “C-Corp,” she was able to defer taxes on the gain on the sale to the ESOP. 

June investigated the sale of 100% of the company to the ESOP with her team of a financial planner and CPA and an investment banker that specializes in ESOP transactions.  However, June decided to sell a minority interest and continue to grow the business.  Key managers have stepped up and assumed more responsibility.  The Company’s productivity has improved, and the annual value has been increasing.

June is now considering a second transaction to increase the ownership of the ESOP.  She has complete flexibility as to the number of shares she wishes to sell.  This transaction could be 100% of her remaining shares, which would make the ESOP own 100%.  Or it could be a smaller number of shares so that she could remain in control.  Or she could transfer control to the ESOP.

June has recently received calls from colleagues seeking an exit to learn about her ESOP experience.  She answers that she is selling the business to people she likes and has no regret of her decision.

Increasing the Pricing of Your Products and Services

Over the past several years I have written articles regarding product and service pricing and have made recommendations to my clients regarding the pricing of their products and services. These suggestions were based on my belief and experience that most businesses can pass on at least a 2 to 3 percentage price increase in their respective products and services to their customers each year and should do so annually at the same point in time, say January 1st.

Few customers if any will even notice that small an increase. If you are not doing this type of systematic pricing increase, your bottom-line profitability is going to suffer because the costs associated with running your business are increasing. If you don’t increase your pricing, you are simply absorbing the increases in your expenses (wages, insurance, rent, utilities, taxes, office supplies, advertising, and, the list goes on).  

An Example

One example I like to use to demonstrate this point is to take any year-end income statement for your business and add 3.0% to your revenue figure; see what that does to your gross profit margin and your net profit margin. Most business owners I ask to do that exercise will come back and tell me they are amazed, and they all wish they would have done something like that sooner.

What prompted me to write this article about increasing pricing for products and services is the present inflationary market we are experiencing. With the last published inflation rate of 9.1% (a 40 plus year high), if you are not increasing your product and service pricing right now by at least 9.1% your bottom line will be greatly affected in a negative way for 2022. I would almost guarantee you that you are experiencing increases in almost every expense item, like the ones I mentioned earlier.

Avoid the Wait

Further, if you wait until next year to increase your pricing, we could be operating in a much different business environment, perhaps a recession, and then it will be very difficult to pass product and service pricing on to your customers.

I recently heard of one business that decided to do a 25.0% increase in its service fee and add a 5.0% monthly fuel surcharge to its pricing, and it experienced had no questions or complaints.

I know and understand passing a double-digit price increase on to your customers might not be possible in every situation due to differences in competitive environments. But I would guess you could pass the inflationary rate of 9.1% on to your customers as a fair increase.

Lastly, I also know and understand that by increasing your product and service pricing you might feel like you are adding to the inflationary spiral. However, if you don’t increase your pricing as stated above, you will be simply absorbing the increases yourself in the goods and services that you have to pay. A simple saying, I have stated over the years might apply here: “Do you want to pay your mortgage payment, or do you want to pay someone else’s”?

Understanding the Bigger Energy Picture

With average gasoline prices in the United States passing $5 per gallon this month for the first time ever, energy has really captured the headlines showcasing the very real impact on many people’s pocketbooks and way of life. This has reenergized the dialogue and debate over oil’s usage, the primary feedstock for gasoline, and politically the need to switch more quickly to wind and solar.

Unfortunately, our modern information world of cable news, twitter, and other forms of media showcases unbalanced snippets.  Having spent my career in the energy industry, over the years I have found it rather appalling at the naivete and lack of depth of understanding for such a complex energy/environmental system that fundamentally powers our standard of living.

In my blog of October 25, 2021, on Understanding the Energy Quagmire, the focus was on climate change highlighting the issues around renewable energy and fossil fuels.  My overall conclusion was we needed a more thoughtful balance of the risks and rewards of different courses.

Then in my blog of March 4, 2022, we looked at the concept of energy security being made up of economic security, national security, and environmental security. In other words, energy security plays a major role in the other three primary securities which are central to daily living. Today, we are seeing the impact on economic security which doesn’t receive much attention until energy prices rise significantly.  In the blog, I referenced a presentation that I had given in August of 2021 before Russians invasion of Ukraine.  I made the point in that presentation that we were underplaying the role of energy security in terms of its potential impact on national security, in other words, a lack of balance and foresight.  The Russia/Ukraine war has brought this reality to the forefront.

Today, I received an e-mail from Scott Tinker, Director, Bureau of Economic Geology & State Geologist of Texas who is a Professor at the University of Texas.  I met Scott through my role at the University of Houston’s Global Energy Management Institute at the Bauer College, and my leadership role in the GHP’s Energy Collaborative.  He is incredibly knowledgeable and insightful on the energy/environment complexities and recently produced a YouTube video entitled TEDx-The Dual Challenge: Energy and Environment. 

Scott really addresses the bigger energy picture in a balanced way. He has requested us to share this 17-minute video with friends, colleagues, and social networks.  It will give you much greater insight into the big picture reality of energy beyond simple snapshots through the media.  Please listen to his insight:

Highlighting Rich Hall

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Rich Hall has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2020. He currently serves as a Board member, Chair of the Membership Committee, and Facilitator of two CEO Roundtables (The Woodlands area and in partnership with Houston’s Better Business Bureau).

As the founder of Rich Hall Group, he works with small business owners and leaders to help them achieve their vision of success for themselves and their company. He has extensive experience with family-owned businesses looking to grow, transition to the next generation, or prepare for a successful exit.

In addition to his advisory and coaching services, Rich is the proud father of 3 boys, Jeremy, Mark, and Daniel, and husband to his beautiful wife, Jamie. They’re active members of The Woodlands Methodist Church, and parents to pandemic puppies, Bucky and Riley.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Hall, or Silver Fox Advisors, see our website at www.silverfox.org/directory

Highlighting Our Members – George Connelly

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

George Connelly has been a valued member of Silver Fox Advisors since 2000.

As a member of the Tax Controversy and Litigation section of Chamberlain Hrdlicka, George is recognized as one of the leading federal tax litigators in the United States.

In addition to his legal work, George is on the Executive Committee of the Better Business Bureau’s Board of Directors, and served on the Board of Houston Public Media for 13 years, including President and a year as Chairman of the Board, Advisor to CEOs through Silver Fox Advisor’s Roundtable program, and much more.

If you would like to learn more about Mr. Connelly, or Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website below.

Featuring Mary L. Kole

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Mary Kole is the founder of ML Kole, LLC, a consulting practice focused on assisting leaders of public and private companies with the development and implementation of strategies to achieve company or organization objectives. Mary is a professional Business Leadership Mentor, former Chairman, President, and Vice President of Silver Fox Advisors.

According to Silver Fox Advisors founder, Monte Pendleton, “Mary is the most capable person I have mentored in 30 years. She can do anything and do it well”.

If you would like to learn more about Ms. Kole or joining Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website.

Dr. Ken Wells

Featuring Dr. Ken Wells

Silver Fox Advisors is proud of our members and would like for you to get to know them better.

Dr. Ken Wells is one of our newest members. He is a seasoned executive with extensive corporate health experience spanning clinical medicine, health benefits, public health, and pharmacy. He is an Army reservist, flight surgeon, and pilot.

Ken serves as Vice-Chair of our CEO Roundtable Committee and an active participant in several of our programs including our recent Lunch & Learn on April 7th when we returned to an in-person gathering at the Houston Racquet Club. Ken joined a panel of other Silver Fox Advisors and updated those in attendance with information about “Hot Topics Facing Business Today.”

If you would like to learn more about Ken or join Silver Fox Advisors, visit our website.

UPCOMING EVENTS
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