With a year of many firsts just completed, everybody is on the hunt for ways to ensure stability in the new year. Here are five New Year’s resolutions for Finance in 2009.
Some of us have already seen a few resolutions fall by the wayside, but there’s still plenty of time for your company to hit its benchmarks in the upcoming fiscal year.
Regardless of the size of your company — or the field you’re in — keeping your firm set on these goals will provide a solid framework for a successful year … as long you stick with ’em.
Find your focus. Most firms jump into the new fiscal year with a plan — “This year we’re going to focus our energy on shortening our revenue cycle.” Problem is, the plan is usually too vague. If your problem is the revenue cycle, whittle that problem down to its root. For example, if it’s the revenue cycle you’re addressing, what specific parts need the most work and will have greatest impact on your ability to boost revenue and meet long-term goals — the front end, core processes or billing? For every problem or strategy, ask: Can we break this down even further?
Keep your stars. The driving force of every successful company is its employees, namely its top performers. This year make a resolution to keep yours — no small task if your company can’t afford to grant lavish bonus or salary increases. Make sure to watch out for the red flags. Did your superstar stop speaking up about policies that aren’t being enforced across the board, or talking about the future? Is he or she making more mistakes than usual? If so, your top performer may be ready to bolt. But it’s not too late.
The best way to keep top performers is to understand what makes ’em tick, and then provide:
- challenging work
- opportunities for career growth
- rewards (even if they’re not monetary), and
- reinforcement — everybody likes to feel appreciated, and the more specific the praise, the better.
Instill confidence in your 401(k) plan. To put it mildly, most firms had a rough year in this department — and quite a few have had make drastic changes like suspending the employee match. So now what? There are plenty of ways to boost your staffers’ confidence and put their minds at ease without spending a dime. This year, make it a point to provide consistent reminders about your company’s plan, things like: changes to investments, if employees can borrow against their plan and any consequences for early withdrawal of pre-retirement funds. To allow your employees even more control, you may also want to consider changing your enrollment time frame (i.e. from quarterly to monthly). Another way to ease their minds: Offer lifecycle funds. Why? These investments get more conservative the closer the enrolled employee gets to retirement age.
Another often-overlooked tactic: Remind employees that the market is cyclical — and, if you can, show how well your plan rebounded from tough times in the past. This fact is hard to remember during times like these.
Get ’em to pay fast. When it comes to faster payments, these tactics go a long way for collectors: avoiding grace periods, calling during the right times (generally agreed to be between 9 am and noon in the customers’ time zone), and following the “two and up” rule — after failing to reach a specific contact two times, go after the next highest person in the company (i.e., A/P clerk, A/P manager, controller, etc.). Of course, given the current state of things, even getting certain customers to pay at all can be a challenge. But these strategies will exponentially improve your chances.
Green up your office. Even small steps can be extremely cost-effective. Example: Switching to more energy-efficient lighting, motors and drives, sensors, and metering could end up saving you approximately 30% in energy costs. And if that isn’t enough incentive, research has found that a mix of natural sunlight and energy-efficient light bulbs, instead of fluorescent lighting, could actually boost productivity and performance, as well as decrease absences (by 40%!). It’s also worth looking into these proven energy- and money-saving strategies: recycling more, installing freeware programs that lower Mac or PC power consumption, using laptops instead of desktops, not printing out e-mails and many others.