Why A Monthly Financial Review Meeting Will Change Your Business
If you are not holding monthly financial review meetings, you should. One of the most important best practices for every business is holding a structured monthly financial review meeting. If you are just reviewing your financials every month and think you are covering your bases, you are cheating yourself and leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.
I’ve fallen into the trap of self-guided reviews. I am a CEO with a CFO background, and it’s easy to think I am on top of things. As entrepreneurs, we do self-guided reviews because we often think we know what is behind the curtain of the numbers. But, that is not always the case and that is exactly the reason why a financial review meeting is essential. It’s like reading your own writing; it’s harder to catch flaws because you know what it is supposed to mean.
Successful companies have a standing monthly meeting to review all financial aspects of their business. It’s a time to not just look at how you did last month, but to step back and think strategically about the company. A financial review meeting provides a structured opportunity for the leaders of the business to get together to have an open dialog about the performance of the business. If you are disciplined and structured in how you run your financial review meetings, they will also have a transformative effect on your business.
3 Transformations Your Business Will See with a Structured Monthly Financial Review Meeting
- Better KPI Management and Performance: There’s an old Peter Drucker saying, “what gets measured gets managed,” which should be an overarching theme for your financial review meetings. It’s a good time to review how you did last month and also step back and strategically think about the story your numbers are telling about the business.
- Management Team Alignment:
Financial review meetings are great for transparency. They provide the framework for reviewing the monthly financial results compared to the operating plan and identifying issues. By pulling the management team together on a monthly basis to review and openly discuss the company’s financial performance, you also take any potential mystery or speculation out of the equation. Annual operating plans are great, but every entrepreneur can tell you things don’t always go according to plan. By hosting a monthly financial review meeting, the company’s leadership will align on issues and more importantly, action plans to move the business forward.
- Better, More Informed Decisions:
Informed decision-making is the hallmark of successful business owners. I hear way too many business leaders come for accounting help because they are flying blind. Informed decision-making has to be ingrained early and often into your business. I’m not saying you need to look in the weeds at every detail, but this is the data age. Decisions need to be backed not just by a survey or gut feel but by accurate and timely information. A financial review meeting facilitates the flow of information in a structured and consistent way to support good decision-making.
How to Run a Good Monthly Financial Review Meeting
A good financial review meeting results from structure, personnel, and openness. The wrong structure, personnel, or culture within the meeting can totally derail your success.
For small businesses, financial review meetings should be 60 to 90 minutes. Start with an hour and see if you consistently leave wanting more time. Typically, they are led by the CEO or the senior financial employee, but it’s important that the meeting is collaborative by design. Next, a good financial review meeting has two components I call the rearview mirror component and the windshield component.
The rearview mirror component is focused on prior month results and includes:
- Actual v. budget analysis. This is a review of departmental operating results compared to budget and includes specific budget variances, trends, and any necessary actions.
- Balance sheet review – Review the balance sheet compared to the prior two months and discuss any significant changes. You should also review your accounts receivable and accounts payable and discuss any issues and important trends.
- Analysis of cash flow – In order to understand cash flow, you have to go beyond the income statement and incorporate changes in the balance sheet. A review of your cash flow is a natural extention of your balance sheet review. Take the time early on to educate your team on how balance sheet changes can significantly impact cashflow.
- Dashboard review – Your financial review meeting should end with a review of your company KPIs. These are the most important metrics for your business, and you should take time as a group to review the most recent results, discuss trends, and agree on an action plan for those KPIs that need attention.
A windshield component that is focused on where the business is heading and includes:
- Forecast review/update – Use this time to update the team on the current forecast and share important business updates that will need to be considered. Whether in the meeting itself, or as a follow-up to the meeting, it is important to incorporate all of the updates and share the projected results with the team. The forecast itself is an invaluable planning and decision support tool the leadership team should leverage.
- Current or anticipated business issues – This is an opportunity to surface any other issues that should be discussed and addressed by the leadership team.
- Review action plans and cascading messaging – An effective financial review meeting ends with a review of the action items the team identified in the meeting and a plan for any necessary cascading messaging to others in the organization.
Financial results are typically shared with the executive or leadership team. These are the key leaders of the organization, and they should have direct access to and accountability for the results. Depending on your views on open book management, consider sharing sections of the financials with other key stakeholders as well. These people are probably already looking at these numbers, but having a structured time to review and discuss is important. You may also consider including other key contributors such as senior people managers, product leads, or senior sales leaders. If your meetings are becoming stale, doing a drill down on a particular KPI and adding a non-executive leader can renew the meeting.
My team subscribes to a philosophy of radical candor introduced through a book by Kim Scott. Financial review meetings have to be open to discussion to be productive. Here are the types of openness I advocate for in a financial review meeting.
- Openness to questions – Make it clear and lead by example that questions are a welcome part of the meeting. Some of the most productive financial review meetings I’ve experienced started with a thought-provoking question.
- Openness to challenges – I love it when someone looks at a good KPI metric and then challenges it after digging deeper. Don’t be afraid to ask for other opinions and stay open-minded to different perspectives.
- Openness to change – A good finanicial review meeting should result in change, even if it is only a small change. Strive to create a culture where your team embraces the concept of continuous improvement.
About the Author:
Tom Gabbert CPA – Founder/CEO of Milestone Business Solutions
Tom Gabbert has been a pioneer and thought leader in the outsourced accounting industry since 2003. He is a successful entrepreneur who loves helping fellow entrepreneurs realize their dreams. Tom understands the unique challenges of starting, growing, and exiting a business. Not only has he done it twice himself, but he has guided numerous clients over the years through successful exits. Along the way, Tom has also helped his clients raise over $250M in growth capital (seed, Series A, Series B). He has a unique background that combines extensive financial and operational experience with a proven track record of client success.Tom is a Certified Public Accountant and holds an undergraduate degree in Accounting from the University of Notre Dame.
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