In less than a month in the role I found out that the company was about to stop payments…..
And there I was staring through the window, wondering whether I should quit or not. The task ahead was daunting.
I had recently been hired as a Chief Financial Officer of an SME. The founder told me that he was looking to enhance the Finance team that, at the time, was made of junior profiles with no PQE. The company’s activity was soaring.
I was not told about the real financial situation. In less than a month in the role I found out. There was no cash to make all the mandatory payments owed the following month. Accounts receivables had been overlooked for months and outstanding debtors was closed to one year. Invoices were being consistently returned by customers alleging incorrections. A key customer owing nearly some €300k had just filed for temporary receivership, the accounting was lagging behind. Further, the following month an extra payroll was owed and company tax return was due amounting to some €500k. The company had barely suppliers as it was a body-shopping IT services provider.
The more I thought about quitting, the less appeal it seemed though, despite the fear I had facing the daunting task ahead.
My passion for challenge (in this case it could be considered borderline with masochism) made me jump onto the task.
First, I checked the tax legislation to understand what deadlines there were. I remembered from the tax audit reviews I conducted at Deloitte that during July and August, tax payments could be delayed until September. This was still the case. So I could delay employees tax return and VAT payments but not the company tax return as this latter was due in another tax jurisdiction.
I directed the Finance team to update the accounting records and the customer balances as well as filtering the top clients complaining about invoices accuracy.
In the meantime, I arranged for a meeting with the client that had filed for temporary receivership to look for an advanced payment. Any little thing would count.
As soon as the top clients with invoices complaints were filtered, I asked to produce the invoice as per the customer’s understanding. I discussed the differences with the Operations Director and asked him to get customer approval on the figures he was also happy with. He had the timesheets data so he could get a final agreement with the customer. As soon as the final figures were agreed, the correct invoice was produced and sent to the client’s finance department with a request for factoring.
This way I managed to overcome the cash flow issue and the insolvency threat on time for the extra payroll and company tax return.
Then, I worked with the Operations team to improve the billing process, reinforcing the accuracy and timeliness of the activity figures sent to the Finance team.
Additionally, I established a regular customer management process to ensure outstanding days was never larger than two months.
Re my passion for challenge, I have tried many times to abate it with little success. I am now accepting it as it is and looking for ways to compensate like a holiday week in a spa after successfully adressing the threat of insolvency.