This week, I had the opportunity to interview Susan Richards, FCPA, FCMA, Virtual CFO, and Co-Founder of Numbercrunch & Givopoly.
Equal parts Accountant and Entrepreneur Susan is passionate about providing strategic financial guidance to Startups and SMEs with virtualCFO and accounting support services provided by her team at Numbercrunch (a forward thinking accounting support company featuring cost effective CFO/Controller/Bookkeeping team solutions with a specialty in SaaS).
In 2012 Susan co-founded Givopoly – an online gift delivery marketplace, launched in Ottawa and now delivering in Toronto and Vancouver. Givopoly provides gift delivery to discerning customers and offers organizations a cost-effective and fun Employee Rewards and Recognition solution branded as Gifts@Work.
I’ve had the opportunity to hear Susan speak at both the Carleton University Women in Business (CUWIB) Conference: Discovering the Catalyst and Perspectives from Female Founders & Funders @ L-Spark. Both times it’s been extremely interesting and entertaining so I knew I wanted to interview her.
Since Susan is a CFO and an entrepreneur, I wanted to get her perspective on finance from both sides – as a female founder and female in finance.
Female Founder Perspective:
Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance and what did you learn?
According to Tony Robbins, most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. Like most entrepreneurs, I have a tendency to think things will progress faster than they do. It is much more likely that revenue growth will not happen as quickly as you believe and therefore entrepreneurs have to plan for more conservative growth scenarios to ensure they mitigate risks around cash flow gaps.
I am learning to create contingency plans that ensure I’ll be safely covered if I achieve 30% less than I expect. This means being careful about the timing of financial commitments to mitigate risks.
Paolina: What advice do you wish you had gotten about finance when you were first starting your business?
I’ve had a 20 year career in finance before co-launching my business so I was lucky in that regard. I think I avoided many common pitfalls as a result. We’ve been very calculated with experimentation so that we fail fast to avoid the most costly mistakes and we were very intentional about our business structure, our pricing, and our alignment with informal channel partners. I think most financial issues suffered by start ups are a result of launching too quickly, without enough strategic planning. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs do not get strategic until they have run out of their initial start-up funding and they are forced to cut spend.
Paolina: What topics would you want to learn more about when it comes to finance and your business and why?
Since I have a financial background, I’d instead say that I think most entrepreneurs should want to learn more about how to understand if their business is truly performing financially well. Every industry has key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help owners stay on top of their business performance in a timely way.
Female in Finance Perspective:
Paolina: What is the most common finance issue you see within your business/with your clients?
Cash is to business what air is to humans. Although a business may not only exist to make a profit, without sufficient cash flow the business will not survive. The majority of my clients are chronically short on cash. Sometimes it is a result of insufficient planning and other times it is a result of unforeseen circumstances that arise; but, no matter what, a cash shortfall always creates multiple issues for business performance.
Paolina: What are three things that every business owner/entrepreneur should know/learn/understand about finance?
Every business owner should have a 24 month cash flow plan. Many businesses can be bootstrapped; but, any business that intends to grow revenues generally will run into cash flow issues during their journey.
Business owners should be able to read their Income Statement and Balance Sheet. These financial statements are used to communicate the financial performance to stakeholders and unfortunately most entrepreneurs are financially illiterate and therefore not understanding their own financial situation.
Business owners should understand how banks work and how best to prepare for growth funding by understanding how the bank or investor will perceive their business.
In addition to her work as a virtual CFO, and Co-Founder of two companies, Susan also volunteers as Chair Board of Directors for Invest Ottawa and Advisor to AmbiSHEous.