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Lynn is the owner of Data2Profit Consulting. He helps small to medium-sized companies make more money with their data by using financial ideas and tools he learned at Procter & Gamble. He has a unique ability to help clients think big picture, while at the same time digging into the details of their results. When you feel you have a lot of numbers around but no answers, Lynn will make those numbers work as hard as you do, and turning your data into profit.
There are lots of different people out there who help businesses keep their finances together. What makes you different?
There are lots of part-time accountants out there, there are lots of types of bookkeepers, you get your part-time CFOs and where they’re focused oftentimes on the preparation of your finances, and taking a very traditional view of here’s your income state, here’s how you look at it, here’s your balance sheet, here’s what it can tell you, what I do is take those numbers and reverse engineer them to not only be able to tell people what happened, but why it happened, and more importantly, give them recommendations about what you should think about doing next. That is a completely different perspective than I think a lot of business owners get from their accountants and their CFOs.
In one of your blogs, you said that what accountants report isn’t enough. Can go talk about what you meant by that?
Absolutely. It really comes down to what the accountants give you is a score, right? It’s where are you at, at the time. What happened last month and what were your results over the past year? And they give you that which is good, but again, it doesn’t always give you an idea of what you should be doing going forward because the perspective is getting a gap financial statement. You’re your business owner, and you can always say “Okay, how much profit did I make that month?” But the real question is where’s the profit because you can’t spend what’s on the balance sheet. What is your profit, how did it get there, most importantly, where is it, and finally, when can you actually spend it? I can say that I made all this profit by selling this stuff, but if nobody’s paid me for it, yet, I can’t spend that money. Or if I look at my bank statement today, it may say I have $10,000 there, but it doesn’t tell you five days from now you may need 15,000. So what will happen with the other 5000? It’s a moving piece that if you just rely on that static perspective, without both and understanding how you got there, and where you’re going, what’s coming up, then you’re really missing a big chunk of what’s going to impact your business results.
I’ve heard you you say that the numbers that business owner should look at are more than dollars and cents. What else should business owners be looking at?
Everyone says that their sales are growing, but the question is, why or how? And again, you could look into very easily say these customers, or this particular region or this product line, but when you put that all together, who are your most valuable customers? How many most valuable customers do you have? I worked with a business for a long time and they said we love all of our customers and while that is true, everybody loves all their customers, you may not love them all equally. How many of them really depend on that? How many times are they buying? What’s their average purchase order spend? How many lines are they buying? What number of products are they actually buying? When you look at your gross margins, there are seven different groups of people within your company that can impact your gross margins. Which one is it? Is as your customers? Is it your salespeople? Is it your marketing people? Is it the logistics people, the manufacturing people, the purchasing people, or is it just simply a mix? And so you really have to dissect a lot of the numbers that you look into and look at the activities that people are doing and that’s really what it comes down to? How else can you look at the activities and what is occurring in your business? Because, at the end of the day, all finance and accounting do are assign numbers to the activities that people have done. How many sales calls are they doing? How many sales calls are your people making to the best customers? What are they talking about? There’s a lot of qualitative information that you can mind to get an understanding of where your people are coming from. So when you really get into it, that’s part of what I like to do is talk to them about the non-financial numbers that you could be or, should be looking more at in terms of the activities of your business?
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you’ve had?
I’m one of those people that actually loves meeting people. In fact, my current coach has told me, “Lynn, you have to stop having as much fun.” I’ll talk to anybody about networking because I think people are fascinating, and there are so many different opportunities out there for people that if you’re not networking, you’re just really not learning as an individual about the world around you. So when you think about networking, you’re really building a network of people that you meet, know, and can refer to each other. Once you get really into this, I met a banker once and she said, “Oh, you have to meet Angelica, she’s forming this group called go givers.” I joined and we’re all basically people who help support small businesses. If they need me, they should need another accountant base, you need a lawyer, they should need a banker, they should need a coach, or are a part-time HR group. I met a part-time CFO through that group who recommended me to a client. I was able to help this client do what I was hired to do, but they also said, “By the way, you should meet Jeff. He’s a specialist in r&d tax credits.” All of a sudden, they hook up because now I’ve made the introduction and three months later, my client find out that they’re going to get over $100,000 returned to them from r&d tax credits because I became that trusted business advisor who recommended somebody else. When you look at somebody, you can really help somebody in a very tangible way like that is important to me.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture the relationships you’ve created?
That’s one of the biggest challenges that I’ve come to realize I was not doing a great job of. I am now actively designing and building that system, and that capability. I’ve tried all different kinds of things on my own, and unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of really interesting people, and probably some of them may have been more valuable contacts, but I let those relationships drop. This was really before I began to truly appreciate the value of it. I would say right now, if you’re beginning to network, figure out a way that works for you to really keep in contact with these people. I’ve spent a lot of time on occasion going back and realizing that it’s been a long time since I have checked in with certain people, and so I have now got my sales process outlined or my contact management process outlined, and am beginning to build that. I made that early mistake of not having a great system to be able to do that so I’m playing a lot of catch-up right now.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
I would be more intentional and have a life plan that gave me a little more direction because I allowed myself to accept things that came my way without really exploring what else was out there. For example, when I look back and see what I really enjoy doing now, I probably would not have gotten into corporate finance. But that’s where I interviewed with P&G, I did a temp job with them. They interviewed and over the next 14 years, I moved through P&G and moved up in PNG to the point where I had to ask myself if this was really what I want to do for the rest of my life? I decided that it wasn’t so I went to work for a smaller company, which I did a lot of that same stuff. But then I got into marketing and sales and I found out that this is really where the fun is when you’re getting closer to the customer and what they’re doing. I’ve really gotten to the point where I believe that this is what I was meant to do. I enjoy the challenge of meeting people and finding out how I can help them. But at the same time, I could have gotten here a long time ago. Here now, I feel like this is like the second career for me. All my friends are now retiring, and I started a company three years ago.
Do you have any final words of advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
You’ve got to own it. Not very many people come reaching out to you, and yes, there are people who are reluctant to engage in those situations. But it really is an opportunity to step out of your own little comfort zone and meet some really cool, fascinating people that otherwise you never would have. You have to get out there, and particularly, if you’re a business owner, whether you are networking within your own industry segment, or a different direction, just get out and do it. Don’t be afraid to be that one in the room that steps into a group of four or five other people to introduce yourself and to ask a very unique question about them. Remember, it’s not all about you, And believe me, that’s that was my rookie mistake. You will mess up, you will make mistakes, you will say the wrong things, but you know what? You’ve just got to get up and do it again and once you get comfortable with the idea, it really can be a lot of fun.
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