Tag Archives: Gross Margin

How Do You Fund Business Growth? Four Observations

Situation: A company is looking at options to fund growth. These include selling a stake in the company, bank financing, organic growth. or partnering with another company. There are trade-offs to each option. How do you fund business growth?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • There is a question that should be answered before talking about funding: what is the vision for the business?
    • Think about building the business that the founders want to run. What size company feels comfortable from an operational perspective? What does it look like?
    • Does the company have the right people and infrastructure to support planned growth? Are current direct reports capable of taking on additional projects and monitoring both current facilities and additional sites?
    • As the company grows, can the bottom line be increased as fast as the top line?
  • Commit the 5-year plan to paper. Before deciding how the company will grow, determine the vision, the growth rate to support that vision, the organization required, and the strategic plan to get there.
  • The funding decision is an investment decision. What’s the return for a multi-million-dollar investment?  What incremental revenue and earnings will it produce?
    • Estimate how much revenue the investment will generate in 5 years. At the current gross margin, what is the incremental gross margin per year.
    • Given this estimate, what is the projected EBITDA? Does the annual EBITDA represent a reasonable rate of return on the investment?
    • The investment ROI must be known – both from the company’s perspective and for any lender or partner who invests in the planned expansion.
  • How high do the company’s relationships extend in key client companies? Do client upper management realize how critical the company is to them?
    • If the answer is not high enough, develop these relationships. This could open new funding opportunities.
    • For example, if the CEO knows the right people at a key customer, let them know that the company may want to build a facility near them. The customer may be interested in partnering with the company to finance the facility.
    • A multi-million-dollar joint venture plant investment is a modest investment to a large customer if it gains them a strategic advantage.

Does Your Company Have the Right Focus? Three Alternatives

Situation: The CEO of a specialty service company is curious about whether they have the right internal focus to drive their business. Their internal focus statement is to the most competitive, most responsive company in their market with high profit per job. One school of thought calls this focus the Main Thing driving the company. Does your company have the right Main Thing or focus?

Advice from the CEOs:

  • Look at the tie between your Main Thing and your financials.
    • Determine an appropriate measure of efficiency – for example, billable hours per field worker per day.
    • Look at cost per field worker versus efficiency.
    • Ask what will generate the profit to grow to the level that the company has established as the revenue target.
    • If you can boost the gross margin on services, this provides far more benefit than merely cutting expenses.
    • Look for market niches that support higher prices without a parallel rise in either expense or risk exposure.
    • Do leadership and staff have the right skills and talents to support growth objectives? What can be done to enhance skills and talents?
    • Consider the following – By increasing efficiency and margins from 16% to 20% on $10 million of job revenue, the company can increase the operating margin by $400,000. If certain staff cannot work within a more efficient structure, you may want to move them to jobs that are less critical to the business. Having the right staff in the right seats is critically important to bottom line results.
  • Look at the company’s customer selection criteria. Using the 80/20 rule – 20% of customers generate 80% of revenue and/or profits. How do you improve customer selection?
    • Rank all customers on measures of profitability of their business, payment time, and most importantly future business potential. Focus on customers with the highest scores, and “fire” low scoring customers.
  • Focus on cash flow: Look at early pay options or discounts to speed payment from large customers.
    • Incorporate a schedule of values in all contracts as an addendum to prompt earlier payment.
    • In proposals, include a payment schedule and finance the receivables through a factoring company – particularly in the case of slower paying or less desirable customers.