How to finance commercial and industrial endeavors
Are you overwhelmed by the types of financing that are out there?
Whether you need money to start a new business, expand an existing one, build a new facility, purchase inventory or upgrade your equipment, Bank of American Fork has money to lend. We’re prepared with an experienced team of loan officers who can help you obtain the right loan for your business.
Here’s how you may want to prepare:
• Familiarize yourself with some of the types of financing that may be available for you. Use the handy guide below (or the PDF version here: Commercial and Industrial Lending) to look for some of the loan terms that would work best for you, including length of repayment, rate options and more. To search for the type of financing that may fit your specific need, try using the “find” function in your web browser (Ctrl + F) to search for a word, like “equipment” or “real estate.” Your web browser will highlight the word you’re searching for, and you can look at the chart to see the type of financing that may be effective. For example, if you find “equipment,” you’ll see that leasing may be a good option. Knowing a little bit about the types of financing available and what the terms might be may help you feel comfortable as you’re making decisions.
• Make sure you’re looking at the 4 C’s that lenders look at: Cash Flow, Credit, Collateral and Character. Learn more here.
• Prepare to qualify for a loan by evaluating your financial fitness and preparing or updating your business plan. If you feel like you’re still on this step, here’s a great resource.
• Get to know your loan officer. Even if you are still overwhelmed by the financing options available or confused by some part of the loan process, our experienced loan officers are ready to answer your questions and walk you through the process. Call 800-815-BANK or contact a business banker.
Bank of American Fork offers some of the nation’s leading merchant services technology through TransFirst®, which offers proven, reliable systems in use by more than 200,000 merchants. Merchant services allow you to enjoy reliable business banking with a bank you trust. With merchant services through Bank of American Fork, you can accept a wide variety of payment types with highly competitive processing rates, available next-day funding and free 24/7/365 U.S.-based merchant support.
Here are some of the highlights about merchant services offered through Bank of American Fork:
Accept all major bank cards at one low rate—with American Express® already bundled in! Process Visa®, MasterCard®, Discover®, and American Express® and PayPal™ payment card, all at the same rates. Most merchant services providers only offer American Express Card transactions as a separate contract, statement and rate, but with Bank of American Fork merchant services, all of your major bank card transactions will be on one statement, with one settlement and at one price.*
If you need in-store, mobile, wired, wireless and Internet-based processing, we have a variety of solutions for you.
• In-person or in-store payments – Whether you have terminals, a tablet, a cash register, a bar code scanner or other, we offer tech-forward point of sale (POS) transaction processing systems that work reliably wherever you need to go to make the sale.
• Online – A virtual terminal can be used to process credit-card and ACH transactions from any computer with Internet access anywhere in the world, allowing you to securely and efficiently handle a series of additional tasks including the verification, reporting and processing of credit-card and ACH payments.
• With your mobile device – Accept card payments with your smartphone or tablet so you can do business almost anywhere.
You’ll also be able to accept payments like checks, ACH and EBT. CrossCheck® provides for electronic processing and settlement of checks at the point of sale. ACH payment is a tool that electronically debits a customer’s bank account instead of using paper checks. With Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), electronic benefits from the government are administered via payment cards to tens of millions of recipients each month, includes programs such as SNAP (formerly food stamps) and TENF.
In addition to offering the merchant services you need to keep your business successful and running, we have made sure that security is the foundation of our electronic processing. We offer our merchant services through TransFirst® because of their state-of-the-art data security technology and our committment to keeping you and your customers safe from the very real threats of credit card fraud and identity theft.
For more information or to get merchant services, call 800-815-BANK or visit our website.
*Merchants that process less than $1,000,000 in American Express annual charge volume may be program-eligible (some restrictions and exclusions may apply).
Trademarks referenced above are the property of their respective owners and are not necessarily affiliated with Bank of American Fork or TransFirst.
Jane Farr was 64 years old when she and her husband decided to build their own home. They weren’t just designing the house and handing over plans to a contractor—they were going to be responsible for physical labor, including roofing, framing and more. Since their marriage a few years prior, the Farrs lived in a basement apartment and looked forward to one day being able to host family, especially when Farr’s children came to visit from the Philippines.
They applied for and were approved to participate in Self-Help Homes, an organization that coordinates funding and resources to help five to 12 individuals or families at a time in helping to build each others’ homes. Farr and her husband would be responsible for at least 35 hours of work a week and she was a little worried about how they would complete it, “in their old age.” Her husband, Ron Farr, was confident that they could do it together with the help of volunteers, family and friends.
Three days before they were going to break ground on the project, Ron passed away.
Farr wondered if she would be able to complete the project. Her husband was gone and she was still responsible for the same number of hours of work. Especially now, she wanted to have a home where her children and other family could visit. Inspired by Ron’s confidence in themselves, the Self-Help Homes process and the supportive community they were to be a part of, Farr moved forward.
“I was blessed with kind and supportive supervisors and four other families who were understanding of my limitations,” Farr said, less than a year later, during the open house for the four completed homes. “There were many times I felt protected during the program. I felt Ron was there for me. With my success in the Rural Housing Develop Corporation Mutual Self-Help Homes program, I could say to all that it is never too late to dream!”
Brad Bishop, the Utah director for Self-Help Homes, says it’s watching people like Jane Farr change over the course of the program that make it worthwhile for him. He’s been with Housing Authority of Utah County since 2000, and with Self-Help Homes since they started the program in Utah in 1998.
“The families that come in are different families than those that come out,” Bishop said. “I love seeing that change.
Bishop credits Self-Help Homes’ success in Utah to a commitment to building good, long-term homes that elevate the neighborhoods where they build. They use current plans and update them to make sure the style of the homes will fit in and be an enhancement to the neighborhood.
“Even if someone is a little resistant to new housing built through Self-Help Homes at first, by the end they realize that the people building homes in their neighborhood are their kids’ teachers, people they go to church with or are just like their own aging parents,” Bishop said.
In fact, an estimated 42 percent of Utah County would qualify for a program like this, according to Self-Help Homes.
With a high percentage of individuals and families who qualify for some type of aid in getting into a home that fits their needs and a home-buying landscape that has changed over the last 50 years, more and more people, businesses and organizations are coming together to help. In fact, one project by Self-Help Homes and the Provo City Housing Authority, the Maeser School and surrounding homes in Provo, brought together 17 different sources of funding to complete.
Bank of American Fork assists in programs like these by helping to obtain Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant funds—for Self-Help Homes the grant funds are used to buy lots for upcoming neighborhood builds. The bank also donates time, tools and other equipment.
Self-Help Homes isn’t the only program benefitting from AHP grant funds. Bank of American Fork has helped other organiaztions like Northern Utah Neighborhood Improvement Project and Springville Senior Housing to obtain grant funds and has participated in programs like the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle’s Homestart for more than a decade. Homestart provides grants to qualified home buyers to assist them with their down payment or closing costs.
All of these programs and organizations work in different ways to help individuals and families, but one thing is the same—people are helping their friends, family and neighbors.
Bill Swadley, a vice president and business development officer at Bank of American Fork, originally became involved in community reinvestment almost three decades ago. Along with others at the bank, most of his job is spent finding groups like Self-Help Homes, Habitat for Humanity, Homestart and more for the bank to help support. He then figures out what type of contribution will change lives—support in obtaining a grant, financial support from the bank, tools and equipment or something else. He also spends time matching up employees at the bank with specific skills to programs or organizations that need financial expertise on their committees or boards.
“These programs give people chances they may not have had otherwise. It allows more people to enter the free market system through homeownership or through starting a business. Individuals, families and our communities are strengthened,” Swadley said. “Bottom line, for me—it’s just the right thing to do.”
Swadley is just one of the many people at Bank of American Fork who are passionate about community reinvestment. Bill Swadley, Gary Sell, Richard Gray and Kelly Palmer are all involved in projects like Self-Help Homes. Their involvement includes a wide breadth of projects that help many segments of the communities the bank serves, including seniors, migrant workers, single-parent families, persons overcoming addiction, special-needs families and more.
“We exist to strengthen our communities,” said Swadley. “We live and work here, too, so we have a vested interest in seeing our neighbors, friends with small businesses and the economy thrive.”
More than 415 individuals or families are in homes partially funded by AHP grants that Bank of American Fork helped obtain. Another 63 are currently underway.
Sixteen of those in-process homes are part of a neighborhood in Elk Ridge. While some of the community was a little resistant to the idea of people building their own homes, they’ve quickly warmed up and now the city has even helped fund a playground in the neighborhood (that the new residents put in themselves, of course). The people that make up the Elk Ridge home-building group have proven that they are enhancing the neighborhood. They’ve proven that they’re just like their new neighbors. To celebrate, they had an open house to share stories from the building project and officially open their new community.
“There’s this electricity at the open houses,” said Gary Sell, vice president and mortgage loan officer at Bank of American Fork. “I love going because I get to hear two or three individuals talk about their experience. The whole neighborhood is made up of people who worked together to build their homes so there’s this energy between them.”
Bank of American Fork’s involvement in community reinvestment goes beyond community development loans for organizations like Self-Help Homes to help build houses. Bank of American Fork also makes more low-to-moderate-income mortgage loans than many of its peer banks. In making loans to small business owners, Bank of American Fork has helped create many jobs in our communities.
In addition to the many projects for which Bank of American Fork is the sole sponsor in obtaining grant funds, the employees at Bank of American Fork don’t hesitate to help obtain grant money for projects that are only partially supported by other banks. Sell describes his thought-process in taking on projects to nominate for AHP grants as, “whether it’s a new project or an existing one that needs support, let’s help wherever we can.”
In 2014 Bank of American Fork was one of only 41 banks in the country that received an “outstanding” rating for community reinvestment from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The examination included a thorough look at the bank’s involvement in community-development lending compared to peer banks, low-to-moderate income loans compared to peer banks, the amount of community-development contributions to qualified organizations and the number and volume of employee hours spent serving in community-development organizations.
These programs work because of the people. People are behind all of the mechanisms that are building our communities, piece by piece. The people building their own homes, who, like Jan Farr, might come in a little unsure of their abilities, but come out very able and confident. People like Brad Bishop and Karen Weatherspoon at Self-Help Homes who run the program, find potential homeowners and show them they can build a safe and beautiful home. And then there are people like Bill Swadley, Gary Sell and others at Bank of American Fork who are passionate about reinvesting in the community.
With so many people who want to see Utah’s communities grow and the people prosper, Jane Farr was right when she said, “With courage, persistence and determination, you can win.”
Whether you’re thinking of yourself or investing for employees, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or discouraged when you start thinking about or reading about retirement savings. Even if you’re thinking this topic is a little heavy for what you want to focus on today, give it a chance. Opening an Individual Retirement Account (or IRA) may be easier than you think. Read this short article for an overview of how to get started, with the tools to do it built right in.
First, decide which type of IRA you want to open. Here are the types Bank of American Fork offers:
• If you think you’ll be in the same tax bracket upon retirement and you want to pay taxes on the income later, consider: Traditional IRA. Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution.
• If retirement isn’t in your near future but you want to save a little from each paycheck, and you anticipate an increase in your salary as you get closer to retirement, consider: Roth IRA. Allows contributions of after-tax income, if qualified. Qualified distributions of principal and interest are tax-free. After retirement, distributions are not required.
• If you’re the sole owner of your business, consider: SEP IRA. SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It allows a business to make contributions toward its employees’ retirement using IRAs. These are especially popular with sole proprietors, where the business owner and the employee are the same person. SEPs allow a higher maximum contribution (25% of compensation up to $50,000) than a Traditional or ROTH IRA.
Then, decide how much you can afford to contribute right now and out of each paycheck. Variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with either a $500 or a $5,000 minimum opening deposit. Either way, Bank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you’re guaranteed a steady return and are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee.
You can open your IRA by visiting one of our 14 branches or by calling 800-815-BANK.
Once you decide how much you can afford to contribute each month and set up an automatic payment (your banker can help you set that up), give yourself a few months to get used to living without that money in your pocket each month. Once it feels normal, increase your contribution.
Saving for retirement might feel overwhelming, but getting started by simply opening an IRA and setting up a contribution will put you on the right track. You’ll feel more prepared and be more prepared.
Near-field communication makes it difficult for fraudsters to exploit using debit and credit card numbers.
We are pursuing Apple Pay™ with our credit and debit card processors so we have the cards available to use with Apple Pay once Apple’s® upcoming roll-outs happen. We anticipate being able to offer Apple Pay processing during the first or second quarter of 2015.
This new technology aims to increase the layers of security in place to keep your money secure. Here’s how it works:
Apple Pay uses near-field communication (NFC), which is difficult to eavesdrop on, and debit and credit card numbers are not shared with merchants, lessening the risk of fraud using those numbers. Although fraudsters are always looking for new ways to exploit, we are also constantly looking for new and improved ways to protect our customers.
Users can pay by holding their iPhone® 6 near a merchant’s contactless reader. Users can also use Apple Pay to pay within apps. Near-field communication is a form of short-range wireless communication where the antenna used is much smaller than the wavelength of the carrier signal. The very short range of NFC is what makes it difficult to eavesdrop on.
iPhone’s Passbook® will store debit and credit card information for users. With Apple Pay, instead of using actual credit and debit card numbers when a card is added to Passbook, a unique device account number is assigned, encrypted and stored in a dedicated chip in iPhone. According to Apple, these numbers are never stored on Apple servers. When a purchase is made, the device account number and a transaction-specific dynamic security code are used to process the payment—instead of the actual credit and debit card numbers. This is one more layer of security for Apple Pay users.
We’re as excited as you are, so we’ll be sure to let you know when it’s available!
Are you a business owner who would like to offer customers the ability to make purchases using Apple Pay? We can offer the technology and the near-field communication (NFC) reader equipment you need to accept Apple Pay. Call 800-815-BANK for more information about accepting Apple Pay and for a quote on merchant services including Apple Pay.
Apple Pay is a trademark of Apple, Inc. The Apple logo, Apple, iPhone and Passbook are registered trademarks of Apple, Inc.
You’ve probably spent some considerable time thinking about how you can improve efficiency in your business next year. Have you considered what you’ll do to improve the working environment for your employees? A recent study shows that employees who are happy or feel satisfied are 12 percent more productive.
So what can you do to make or keep employees happy and satisfied?
Make sure work areas are comfortable. A study by Staples shows that office ergonomics can improve productivity and well-being. A whopping 86 percent of people report some discomfort from office furniture and equipment. When you consider the cost of upgrading work stations to include ergonomic chairs or standing desks (since studies show that sitting might be the new smoking), remember to weigh it against the benefit of happier, more-productive employees.
Consider allowing telecommuting or more-flexible work hours. Employees who are given flexible hours or allowed to telecommute may be more loyal, according to this study. When you consider the high cost of turnover, it may seem worth it to make room in your policies for flexibility and telecommuting.
Eliminate office politics. Making the lists of top reasons people quit over and over again are things like: not feeling respected by coworkers or supervisors, not getting along with coworkers and other office politics. Consider how you can improve the environment in your office and help people to get along. This may be the hardest change to make—just figuring out what the problem is can be tough. Try starting with an employee survey. Encourage employees to be honest with their answers. Then, make sure you do something about the issues they feel are important.
This year, consider improving your office environment to increase productivity. You may end up happier and more productive yourself!
Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder
My past two articles stressed the advantages of open-book management. In the first, I discussed the importance of identifying and regularly displaying key performance indicators (KPIs) to fully engage employees in delivering desired business outcomes. In the second, I suggested a few essential metrics from the income statement. Today, I want to address a few equally critical KPIs regarding cash flow. These deal primarily with your cash conversion cycle.
The cash conversion cycle is a function of key metrics taken from both your income statement and balance sheet, through which a handful of crucial ratios are calculated. The combination of these ratios gives a strong portrayal of any company’s ability to service its current obligations—and the working capital required to do so. They include the following:
Receivables Turns: Annual Sales
This gives the number of times receivables turn over each year. For example, a company with annual sales of $1,200,000—and $200,000 in receivables—turns over its receivables 6 times a year.
Days Cash Tied Up in Receivables: 365 (days in a year)
Receivables Turns (from prior ratio)
This shows the average number of days it takes your company to collect its receivables. Using receivables turns (6) from the prior example, it takes 61 days, on average to collect monies due.
Inventory Turns: Annual Cost of Sales (COGS)
This ratio gives the number of times inventory turns over each year. For example, a company with COGS of $600,000—and inventory of $200,000—turns its inventory 3 times a year.
Days Cash Tied Up in Inventory : 365 (days in a year)
Inventory Turns (from prior ratio)
This shows the average number of days it takes your company to sell its inventory. Using inventory turns (3) from the prior example, inventory sits on the shelf 122 days before being sold.
Payables Turns: Annual Cost of Sales (COGS)
(payables associated with COGS)
This gives the number of times trade payables turn over during a year. For example, with annual COGS of $600,000—and $50,000 in payables—your company turns over its payables 12 times a year.
Days Cash Freed Up in Payables: 365 (days in a year)
Payables Turns (from prior ratio)
This ratio shows the average number of days it takes to pay your bills. Using payables turns from the prior example (12), it takes 30 days to do so.
We now use each of the “days ratios” together in constructing your cash conversion cycle. The formula for that important metric is:
Days Cash Tied Up in Receivables
Days Cash Tied Up in Inventory
Days Cash Freed Up in Payables
Using the numbers from our example, the cash conversion cycle for your company would be 153 days (61+122-30). Knowing this, we can calculate the working capital required to finance the business. This is based upon the company’s annual sales of $1,200,000, or an average of $3,288 per day. By multiplying sales per day by the cash conversion cycle days, we come to a working capital requirement of $503,000.
Beyond the value of knowing the working capital required to run your business, this information provides critical KPIs to be shared in your use of open-book management. Because the cash conversion cycle is a function of lagging indicators, it can be improved—if we understand leading indicators that drive it.
Under an open-book environment in the example above, our AR and purchasing personnel would likely take action to improve the KPIs for both days receivable and days inventory. AR might reduce days receivable to 50 days through more aggressive collection processes, and purchasing—through a new “just-in-time” system— might achieve a 20% reduction in inventory. Assuming no change in how we pay our bills, the cash conversion cycle would improve to 117 days (50+97-30), a reduction of 36 days. This equates to of $118,368 less working capital required—and a company with a much healthier cash position, much improved liquidity, happier bankers, and owners who now sleep better at night!
Anyone who runs a company knows that “cash is king”—and that owners and officers of businesses sweat bullets over the cash in their companies. That said, too many don’t share that concern with their employees—and empower them by openly sharing the both leading and lagging KPIs. Armed with this information, open-book managed companies almost always find that employees contribute in new and significant ways to both the profits and cash flow of their businesses.
Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models
Bank of American Fork VISA® Business Rewards credit card
With the Bank of American Fork VISA® Business Rewards credit card, you can have the convenience of a global card, with local service. If you’re looking for a credit card with points for business purchases that add up quickly and rewards that actually make sense for you, this card is competitive.
Here are some of the rewards that make it just a little easier to run a business:
• One reward point for every two dollars spent
• Reward points can be redeemed for merchandise and/or travel
• No specific airline you have to use for reward travel
• No blackout dates on reward travel
• No cap on annual rewards earned
• No fee for rewards
• Other perks include concierge service, up to $1 million automatic travel accident insurance and fraud monitoring.*
Our VISA® Business Rewards credit card is also ideal for international travel. You’ll save money with better currency exchange rates and can use the card anywhere in the world VISA® is accepted.†
Most businesses today use a credit card for their business expenses. Why not use a card with a low, fixed rate and a rewards program with no annual fee?
There is no cost to obtain a VISA® Business Rewards credit card. However, the following rates and fees apply and is subject to credit approval:
• Fixed 9.90% rate on purchases
• Fixed 14.90% rate on cash advances and balance transfers
• Late payment fee: up to $30.00 late fee every 30 days until the account is brought current
• Return-payment fee: up to $25.00
• Cash advance fee: The lesser of $30.00 or 4% of amount advanced ($3.00 minimum)
• Foreign transaction fee: 2% of each transaction in U.S. dollars
• Expedited mail request fee: $25.00 per credit card
• Over Limit Fee: $35 per month
• There is no grace period on balance transfers or cash advances.
* Limitations apply. See Guide to Benefits.
†Fees may apply.
VISA® is a federally registered trademark of Visa.
Guest post by Ken Burnett, VP/ Director of Training and Business Development, Bank of American Fork
This series is written from experience and is part of Bank of American Fork’s training program. The program embraces the philosophy that training is a skill-based job, and managers need to learn specific skills to be successful.
Training professionals have limitations in the types of training they are able to single-handedly provide. Content may be very complex or specific or there may be too many training sessions to handle on your own. It may be helpful to have others in your organization assist in the process, but be sure you’re still involved in consulting with and helping your associate.
Often, a subject matter expert training without assistance will skip to the parts of the topic that are cool or difficult. They may be so comfortable with tasks that they don’t remember to include context or the basic sequence of a task. Just like you, a training professional, wouldn’t be in charge of the accounting or auditing process without guidance, your associates should be in charging of training without some guidance.
However, it is critical that you maintain good relationships with your business partners. Meet with them on a regular basis to understand their pain points and how you can help. Be prepared to add value to what they are trying to accomplish. A job aid, job analysis or performance analysis can provide stand-alone value for any department. Most importantly, let them be involved in the training process.
For developing and delivering training, there is a scale of involvement from other groups within your organization. First we will look at partial involvement and second, training that requires another department in your organization to take the lead. For training to be successful, many different departments need to contribute. The following table will help guide you in determining what role the training department and other departments will play.
Type of training
Cross-department request for technical skills or knowledge training
Use organizational resources as subject matter experts from many areas and develop the content. Train each area to perform its part, and then make each area aware of the entire process.
Provide specific content information and needs that should be addressed for your area. Review the final product/approach so your department’s needs are met.
Core skill (everyone in the organization needs the skill or knowledge at some level)
Make sure you provide the same message to all parts of the organization.
Provide department specific examples and context to make the training more effective.
Use scenarios provided by other parts of the organization and fit them into the job aid.
Provide scenarios and situations that apply to the interaction skill.
Highly-technical function or specific skill training
Organize content into job aids and facilitate classroom training as needed with a subject matter expert from other department.
Teach the technical part of the class with the training department providing the facilitation.
Management or leadership training
Understand the outcome of the skills needed and use a facilitation discovery-learning technique
Provide the situations that apply to the leadership skill that people in the organization are struggling with and make sure the conversation is getting at the real issues.
Communication of information that doesn’t require a change of skill, but is new information or knowledge.
Get content or technical detail from other department, and use the information to assist with constructing a communication piece or a job aid.
Provide the technical detail.
Sometimes the training department will be unable to assist in developing training. Make sure you have templates available for job aids, communication and facilitator guides ready for others to use. You should also set aside time to work together to
o Describe the objective of the training,
o Understand why employees are not able to perform the task as assigned and
o Discuss the basic structure of training.
While involvement by other departments is important, be sure to have a facilitator who is not the subject-matter expert. Consider a time when you’ve met someone who is an expert on something—nuclear fission, baseball cards, fishing—and how the conversation likely went beyond territory you understood. Well-meaning, marginally-crazy subject-matter experts skip context and the basics in favor of the interesting, cool or difficult parts of their subject.
Allow the expert to develop the training, but facilitate the session. Lead the witness, so to speak. Be sure you’re helping to:
o Provide context for the task (why is the organization doing this and what is my part in it?),
o Recap conversations and provide transitions,
o Re-state questions and answers for clarity during a discussion and
o Cut off conversations that become too technical or off-topic.
Ken Burnett is vice president/director of training and business development for Bank of American Fork. He is responsible for training more than 300 employees on a variety of topics, including coaching and feedback for dozens of senior managers within the organization.
Guest post by Richard H. Tyson, CEObuilder
In my last article, I shared the merits of adopting open-book management. As discussed there, each business should identify and regularly display key performance indicators (KPIs) to fully engage employees in creating desired outcomes.
While some of these will be unique to each business, there are a handful of KPIs that should be employed in every for-profit enterprise. Among those are a few critical metrics from the income statement. They include:
• Revenue (sales)
• Cost of goods sold (COGS or cost of sales)
• Gross profit
• Operating expenses (general and administrative expenses)
• Net profit (earnings before interest and taxes/EBIT or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization/EBITDA)
Each of these income-statement metrics focus on aspects of running a business profitably. Notice that I have not included any measure of earnings after interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Why? Because these items have nothing to do with the operations of the business. Interest expense is a function of how the business is financed, taxes don’t have anything to do with how well the company is run, and depreciation and amortization are accounting conventions that have nothing to do with operations.
Also notice that each of the KPIs mentioned is a lagging indicator; that is, it is the result of other factors that create that outcome. These other factors are also often measureable, and are known as leading indicators. With lagging indicators, open-book management raises several essential questions:
• How can we increase revenue?
• How can we reduce COGS?
• How can we increase gross profit? (An answer to the revenue and COGS questions will provide the answer.)
• How can we reduce operating expenses?
• How can we increase net profit? (As the ultimate lagging indicator on the income statement, answers to the preceding questions will create a favorable answer here.)
As management and frontline employees discuss these questions, they should recognize that not all income-statement dollars are created equal. An additional sales dollar ($1) is decreased by the COGS associated with it (let’s say $0.50) and by the operating expenses that might correspondingly be costed against it (let’s say $0.40). In this example, an additional sales dollar contributes only 10 cents to the bottom line ($1-($0.50 + $0.40)).
If, however, you discover cost reductions of $1 (in either COGS or operating expenses), the entire dollar goes to the bottom line. In other words, to get the same impact of a dollar of cost savings, you would have to sell $10. The investment in cost savings literally increases profitability faster than does increasing sales!
That said, revenue should not be ignored. It’s often a first instinct to reduce price to increase sales. While this might bring in new sales, it must be recognized that reducing price without an equivalent reduction in COGS hurts gross profit unless the volume of sales increases significantly.
Price reduction is an easy answer, but the better solution to revenue enhancement is generally to improve product or service quality (hopefully without an increase in COGS), thereby enhancing the ability to sell the value proposition inherent in the product offering.
The answers are not always clear cut, but one thing is clear: before any of these KPIs can be optimized, employees need to better understand the existing metrics. This can be done through the use of dashboards that measure and display leading indicators that drive financial outcomes. Some executives will choose to share metrics expressed in dollars, while others will opt for ratios, percentages, ratings or scales. Whatever the measure used, executives need to start engaging their team in the process of improving financial outcomes. Newcomers to open-book management often find that their income statement is a very good place to start.
Richard Tyson is the founder, principal owner and president of CEObuilder, which provides forums for consulting and coaching to executives in small businesses. For 22 years, CEObuilder has successfully brought about an outstanding financial return for CEO and executive clients through providing leading-edge content in the areas of strategizing, team-building, problem-solving and managing for results, as well as the use of proprietary learning and coaching models.