3 Rules You Need to Know About Finance & About Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Thu, Mar 17, 2016

My first real job out of BC, after returning from three years in the Peace Corps, was as a Purchasing Expediter working for Honeywell's new minicomputer group.  In a work-hard, work-harder, baptism-by-fire-environment in which you either performed or were fired, I quickly learned the realities of purchasing, inventory control and production.  A great education and a great company...even though they missed the whole mini-computer thing..which prepared me well for a long career at Becton Dickinson Medical Systems-another great company with solid management development programs allowing me to eventually rise through the ranks.

But, all through that development process with more and more training, and more and more education programs, the complexities of P&L's and balance sheets always eluded me, but since I had by then become president of various companies, I had the luxury of hiring the best CFOs at Datamedix (Bob Badavas, currently CEO of Plum Tree, is a superb example) who were much better in Finance than I would ever be.  

Those experiences led me to adopt a simple axiom that I use today with all of the managers in all of our customers:

"Your job is to hire people who are much better than you in their own skills"

Today, although I believe I'm now pretty fluent in everything Finance, my three simple Finance rules that always guide me to success are...

Finance1.jpg1.  Performance is always measured by consistency up and to the right". 
-Ed Saravia, CFO, Beacon Hospice

When I was Chairman of Beacon, Ed was our guiding light that steered us to a huge success due to his and CEO, Betty Brennan's, constant focus on performance... whether that was the financial performance of the business or the clinical performance of our patient care, where Beacon became the absolute industry standard of "best in class".  Measured performance became the rally cry in everything we did with the primary focus on taking care of terminally ill patients and their families.   In hindsight, also I learned another valuable lesson about finance and sales, and that is that the more you take care of your customers, the numbers will take of themselves.  Not entirely true, but a solid fundamental all the same.

2.  You need to sign more checks on the back than on the front

-George Simmons, Senior Partner, Derby Management 

A too-cute rule, but, when you're working in a startup or a company under constant cash pressure, this simple bellweather statement rings very loud on those days that you're paying the weekly bills.  

finance4.jpg3.  Never, ever hit the cash red line
-Doug Shattuck, CFO, OwnerIQ

Doug, one of our ex-partners at the firm, has been the steady financial hand behind the successes of both Bitpipe and The Q, both investments of mine and of Converge Venture Partners.  This statement of never hitting the red line of the related balance sheet ratios of debt and cash is much more exacting than the worn out, "cash is king" pablum that ends up emblazoned on the front page of every entrepreneurial handbook.

Simple operating rules always define absolute success, given the standard speed bumps in all of our businesses.  These operating rules often become the foundation of our future decision making and help us avoid the potential wreckage caused by swerving off the road when we weren't paying attention to the basics.  

Nowhere is this practice of simple rules more true than in the rapidly changing world of sales.

  • Strategy_Effectiveness_2015-3.png"Enough strategy-it's now basic blocking & tackling"
    -Mike O'Malley, well-known venture capitalist 
    & COO/CFO at Aviant Hospice

    Mike and I have done numerous deals together over the years, and when I was CEO of EarCheck, and he was my Chairman, I well remember his counsel...and his pressure...of making sure that I and my salespeople were getting out on the street and working directly with the salesguys.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, gives a manager the insight into what's happening in the real world more than traveling to accounts and doing windshield time with road warriors.   These are the most effecting coaching opportunities when you have the time to discuss not only the specifics of account activity planning and its related performance, but also the fundamentals of personal accountability and follow through.   

    The question here for you to think about is where do you feel that you fit on the matrix above?

    For a solid, easy-to-read blog on creating accountability fundamentals for your team, click here for an HBR Management Tip that arrived yesterday.

    Don't misinterpret this comment about tactical execution, selecting strategic choices is the essence of what it takes to become a successful manager at any level, but strategy without the blocking and tackling of execution is like...well, you know.
  • "Built on Trust"-
    -Roger & George Reiser, Reiser, Inc

    Reiser_Sales.pngRoger and George have built this highly regarded market leader by totally focusing on a very basic principles that  "everything that Reiser does must add value to the customer".  A very simple credo that has become the DNA of the company, its employees and the basic fundamental through which every decision is made at the company.  

    As chairman, it took me a bit of time to readjust my 40 years of management experience and training away from top line revenue and bottom line net income, and focus my strategic attention to what it takes to build trust and create customer value.  And yet, when I slowly allowed myself to slip over the edge of the cliff and trust that the numbers would take care of themselves if I focused on figuring out what it would take to create lasting customer value, I discovered that the results do, in fact, take care of themselves.  Is there a tremendous focus on details at Reiser? Sure, but the guiding principles always reflect the underpinnings of the question, "Does our doing this, make sense for and add value to the customer?"

  • sales_funnel_3.png"Solid sales execution is about process, helpful tools & and metrics"

    Given that I didn't start out as a salesguy and came up the ladder by working on the manufacturing floor and in the engineering labs, excellence in both efficient performance and increasing quality metrics was measured through executing strategic concepts such as Quality Circles and Lean Manufacturing. It worked perfectly then and continues to work today although the strategy specifics have morphed, and the technologies have dramatically improved.  

    Since I was never a very good relationship-sales kind of guy, I needed "something else". and that something else for me became better and better use of the simple concept of creating highly effective time management.  Since I quickly figured out that no one is born with a time management gene (although my parents, who were entrepreneurs, were by-the-clock perfectionists), I discovered that this was a skill that could be studied, honed and perfected with the use of technology tools.  Actually, pretty easy to do.

    When that simple concept of time management worked to my benefit the majority of time, the rapid adoption to sales and marketing processes, tools, technologies and real time metrics has been a somewhat natural evolution, especially since the world of sales continues to evolve quickly with even more improved processes and readily available technology tools.

    By focusing on the end point, which is not about making the sale, but on how to add measurable customer value, and then being able to work directly with salespeople on their use of specific tools that enable providing that value to their customers is a very rewarding coaching process.  Much more effective than all of the failed prior methods of just applying more and more pressure while reshuffling the deck of complex commission plans and spiffs that only seemed to worked 50% of the time anyhow.
As you're now thinking about winding up this quarter, you just may want to put aside a day during the first two weeks of April to refine and update your 2016 business plan, or at least your sales and marketing plan  To get you started, you may want to click on here and receive a downloaded copy of our Writing the Winning Business Plan, 2016 edition.

  Jack Derby 

 Head Coach  

 Derby Management...for 25 years
 -Sales & Marketing Productivity Experts
 -Business & Strategy Planning Specialists
 -Senior Management Coaches for CEOs & VPs

 Box 171322, Boston, MA 02117
 Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222 

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Tags: sales management, sales coach, sales management coach, sales management training, Sales quota