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We made the list! “Top Workplaces” awards RoseRyan for the third straight year

For three years running, RoseRyan is being recognized as a Top 100 Workplace! This year, we’re ranked 11th in the small companies category, surging up the Bay Area News Group’s Top WorkplacesTM list by 25 spots.

What did it take to get here? It’s all about our employees—they filled out confidential surveys and gave us high marks. Their votes of confidence in our organization is affirmation of our distinctive culture and how we do things. The survey takers concluded RoseRyan has strong overall organizational health and job satisfaction.

Finding the right fit

It feels right. When consultants join our firm, that’s the sense they get. They’re in the right place, at the right time in their career. They’ve accumulated the level of skills and experience in finance and accounting to seamlessly become a valuable part of finance teams in some of the world’s fastest moving companies, leaning on their past experience to deftly solve problems and tackle tricky transactions. Our consultants come in at just the right time to bridge a gap or to help clients get things done. We help companies build solid finance foundations, take the next step forward, meet their milestones and make the right finance moves.

Top Workplaces 2017

The sense of accomplishment our gurus feel as they get things done in the field is just one of the many reasons why our employees are happy here. And it contributes to why, even in this tight talent market, we are able to attract so many new consultants to our dream team.

A magnet for top talent

At RoseRyan, our consultants work in the best of both worlds—stimulated by a variety of challenging assignments at cool companies while also taking part in our own firm’s culture that’s open, supportive and connected.

This year’s Top 100 Workplaces survey results highlight three stellar strengths about our workplace:

  • Alignment: It’s all about teamwork and positive attitudes. Our culture is built upon a clear set of values. Employees feel their work is appreciated and meaningful.
  • Connection: We have a distributed workforce—most of our employees are continuously embedded in various client sites—but we all manage to keep bonded and well-informed about what’s going on, thanks to regular communications from CEO Kathy Ryan and a variety of employee-led special projects and activities.
  • Effectiveness: To achieve the best possible results for clients, we actively encourage different viewpoints from consultants. It’s a smart way of carrying out due process on a solution—and it keeps fresh ideas flowing when employees know their opinions are meant to be heard.

We have a reputation for helping with the right finance skills at just the right moment to calm the chaos or restore order when needed. Perhaps a company is going through a rough patch or needs a gap filled on the team. Our gurus’ natural tendency to “get things done” fast and efficiently from doing it so many times before translates into happy clients. And the positive feedback our consultants receive adds to their job satisfaction.

We love getting things done here in Silicon Valley and it shows. We excel at helping innovative companies reach their milestones, shift gears quickly and surge ahead. And we’re thrilled it’s getting noticed.

Like what you see here? If you think you’d fit right in with the RoseRyan culture and you have the right stuff, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always on the lookout for top talent—full-time and part-time. Contact Michelle Hickam at mhickam@roseryan.com.

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Don’t go it alone—why every cannabis company needs the right set of partners

It’s all about who you know. In the high-velocity world of cannabis companies, this mantra is so true. When starting out or expanding into new territory, with limited resources and an uncertain future, companies often don’t have all the knowledge, skills or talents they need in-house. A well-built ecosystem provides a solid network of trusted partners that can help them thrive, guide them through sticky situations and offer them levels of expertise that fall outside their internal capabilities.

Solid partnerships are a must for fast-moving companies poised for growth. There are so many strategic decisions on the table that they need to tread carefully at every step. We’ve seen a lot of ingenuity to date with cannabis companies planning for the legal adult-use market in terms of developing promising partnerships, with tight supply chains tying together growers/cultivators, manufacturers, distributors, dispensaries and the like.

In our series of blog posts on the cannabis market so far, we’ve covered strategy setting and lessons learned from other industries. Another critical success factor is identifying the right set of strategic partners, to develop symbiotic relationships that will help the company move forward fast, stay agile and maintain the level of integrity to make it in this increasingly legalized sector. The host of regulatory, compliance, finance, accounting, HR and other issues facing this industry make it essential to easily access experts, specialists and consultants where and when you need them.

Order of the day: A well-rounded support system

It’s not a matter of doing a search on Yelp for the best attorneys in town—professional services are word-of-mouth businesses. You need to find the right partners—accountants, tax advisors and other pros who are a good fit for your company, know your industry and can work well with you for years to come.

To develop and nurture an ecosystem that will be flexible to your changing needs and growth, keep the following principles in mind.

  • Establish relationships early. Things can change fast, so you need an ecosystem of trusted advisors you can call upon when needed. Once you firm up a relationship with someone you trust, you’ve got a go-to source for references for other partnerships. Ask the professionals you trust who they trust!
  • Look for the kind of partners that can grow with you. Your needs are going to change at every stage of growth. So, look for people who have worked not only at startups if that’s where you’re at now, but also larger companies. Be sure the people on board have worked at different size companies across various levels of growth and lived through different milestones. An IPO or merger may seem light years away, but you want people who will help you think of such future possibilities for when the time for a mega transaction does arrive. You don’t want to hit a roadblock just as you’re trying to go forward.
  • Be sure they’ll give you real-world advice. When you’re in an industry that’s in the midst of gathering real steam, news about competitors is hard to come by. Some service providers are just now getting their heads around the industry following California’s approval of adult-use cannabis in November 2016. Potential partners who are already in the trenches are your eyes and ears as to what others in your field are doing.
  • Seek out a mix of experiences. How much experience does your partner have with cannabis companies like yours? How much attention do they pay to the industry and the regulations that affect it—not just state regs but the FDA and other compliance issues? You want to partner with people who have worked closely with fast-growing startups, such as tech companies, and highly regulated industries, such as biotech and life sciences companies, and know the likely challenges you’re going to face on your journey.
  • Prioritize transparency. Trust is huge in this space. You need to know who you’re dealing with as you develop any tightly wound partnership. Get the answers you need to ensure that you can trust what they’re doing for you now and later on.

Gather a well-rounded team

View the network of partners you build around your company as a strategic team. Do these partners have your back? Will they work alongside you and keep your best interests in mind at all times—or do they have an “us vs. them” mentality?

You’ll probably appreciate a partner in each of these categories:

  • Tax: You want to keep on top of reporting and filing deadlines at the federal, state and local levels, and be sure the information you provide can stand up to an audit.
  • HR/benefits: Outsourced benefit providers can keep you honest by ensuring you pay employees properly and meet your payroll tax obligations. Also, they best know the labor laws and what you need to do to be in compliance.
  • Legal/compliance: It would be a mistake to wait until you hit a legal snag to call in the lawyers. Many questions arise—protecting intellectual property, making sure that you’re making moves within legal limits, hiring and firing employees appropriately—and you need someone you can trust to bounce off ideas and get actionable advice in return.
  • Finance and accounting: A solid finance foundation will set apart cannabis companies. Finance experts can lay the groundwork for financial discipline and a workable set of internal controls, reliable reporting, and a mindset that’s ready for investors.

Partner up for the future

The challenges facing cannabis-related companies are huge. You need to be agile in an ever-changing environment, set up a strategy and foundation that will last and grow, all while getting your product out there, keeping watch on compliance matters and operating efficiently. Partners that know what you’re going through can guide you on the best moves to make. They have you covered for what you don’t know.

In an industry that is still half in the shadows—legalized only in parts of the country and not yet at the federal level—companies that can show they have always had a solid reputation will differentiate themselves. Be sure the partners you choose are highly professional with values and principles that match yours. The connections you forge now should be seamless, with you and your partners having the same goals in mind—to help you reach your milestones and achieve growth.

Maureen Ryan, vice president, heads up business development at RoseRyan. From the early startup to the large enterprise, she has seen the emotional rollercoaster of finance challenges at cannabis businesses, tech companies and other fast-paced organizations. Maureen spent her early career in various engineering, sales and marketing roles at Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, Quantum Corp. and General Dynamics.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting consulting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos at any stage. He can be reached at cvane@roseryan.com, or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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Building a strategic roadmap: 6 questions every new cannabis business needs to ask

A giant window opened up when Californians approved the adult use of cannabis a few months ago. Startups and companies looking to expand are taking advantage of the opening, but they have to act fast. As time goes on, it’s going to keep narrowing and could completely shut down once big businesses start streaming into the market.

That’s just one of the many threats facing entrants to this space, where it’s illegal at the federal level, legalization is limited to a handful of states for now, financing options continue to be finite, and tax questions will persist for some time. Amid the risks lies real potential, and we’re running a series of blog posts on how cannabis businesses can set themselves up to fully embrace it.

During this exciting time, it’s essential for these companies to set a solid foundation that includes realistic assumptions about their viability and the competitive landscape over the next five years. To get started, we suggest folding in the following six questions as you prepare for a successful entry or expansion into the cannabis industry.

1. What’s the vision?

Work out a strategic vision and develop a roadmap to get you where you want to go. Here’s where you plot out how big and fast you hope your business will grow based on a host of assumptions. These assumptions need to be realistic and include plans for bumps along the way. Reach out to experts who know the space and have experience navigating similar territory.

2. What’s your value proposition?

You’re entering a hot market and the rivalry is going to be tough. Your value proposition needs to be defensible, to not only win over investors but to be sturdy enough to withstand a dynamic environment. Think of the roadblocks potential rivals will put in your way. Can you stop them with what differentiates your company and product from the rest?

Zero in on the unique value your company adds to the sector, and consider how that may evolve as you prepare to go to market. Without understanding your true value, you will be lost in the ever-increasing competition.

3. How can you build in agility?

From the get-go, aim for a corporate culture that practices strong operational and business know-how and can handle rapid change. Volatility is going to be with this industry for awhile, so build up and plan for nimbleness that can handle these change drivers:

  • Scalability: When the time comes, will what you’re developing be able to scale fast? Why or why not?
  • Competition: You’ve got a great idea and so do a lot of other entrepreneurs. Factor in realistic competitive pressures and how you’ll beat them or ride them out.
  • Deals: Opportunities and markets will open up—and when they do, you’ll need to be ready so that you can act fast. Be sure your house is in order so that you’re able to quickly take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
  • Complexity: It’s an ongoing reality—regulations for one thing are uncertain and will change. As your business grows, so will the challenges you’ll face. How will the business stay on top of regulatory changes and adjust when necessary?
  • Unexpected risks: When operating in uncharted territory, expect the unexpected, and prepare to pivot. That’s exactly what a Bay Area nursery did after their crops were stolen twice—the founders shifted their model from harvesting buds of cannabis plants to selling clones. This move differentiated them in the marketplace and gave them a way to get their product to market faster.

4. What’s your fundraising strategy?

Founder and family cash can run out mighty quickly. Be sure you know your cash flow for the next one, six and twelve month time frames for your operations. Map out a strategy for getting you through the ups and downs of the start stage and propelling you toward the growth phase.

Think through who you want your investors to be, how you’ll find them, and your expectations for what you want from them. Investors look for management teams that possess strong financial discipline. How efficient can you be with your use of funds—how will you make the most of it?

5. How can you ensure you always have an “A” team?

Throughout the lifecycle of your business, your skills needs will shift, but you’re always going to want top talent. When you’re not at the point of hiring full-time employees for all spots and specialties, you can lean on outside assistance to ensure that you have the right talent when needed, you don’t burn out the people you have, and outside assistance can fold in best practices for knowing when to hire up.

This isn’t a dilemma that should weigh you down with worry—in fact, it should bring relief. Get to know top-notch consultants who can expertly guide you on when a position should be outsourced or brought in-house.

6. How are you building in room to grow?

Everything feels “here and now” when you’re starting up a new venture, but long-term value is a goal you’ll want to start climbing toward ASAP. How can you build up a loyal client base and keep expanding it? How capital efficient can you operate to withstand the unexpected twists and turns ahead?

Create tight partnerships with a built-out ecosystem of specialists and experts (look for growth partners who have the expertise to help you expand and grow quickly) to help you make smart choices.

Ready to hit the gas?

What’s needed now is a clear picture for how the company will progress over the next few years. If it’s hard to envision on your own, experts who have followed similar journeys can work with you to develop a roadmap that clears the way forward. It should be built on best practices, clear checkpoints and helpful guidance. And leave some avenues open in case you need to course correct.

Use these questions to look past your present demands and adopt a forward-thinking mindset, and access the kind of knowledge and expertise that can help you make sure you’re going in the right direction.

Maureen Ryan, vice president, heads up business development at RoseRyan. From the early startup to the large enterprise, she has seen the emotional rollercoaster of finance challenges at cannabis businesses, tech companies and other fast-paced organizations. Maureen spent her early career in various engineering, sales and marketing roles at Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, Quantum Corp. and General Dynamics.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting consulting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos at any stage. He can be reached at cvane@roseryan.com, or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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Beyond rev rec—planning ahead for 2018 financial reporting

I get it—implementing the new revenue recognition rules has consumed a lot of your technical accounting team’s time, as it has at my company. The new standard likely has a steady spot at the forefront of your audit committee’s accounting concerns as well. It’s a big deal, but other new rules issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board last year deserve attention, too. They must be implemented in fiscal 2018 if you’re a public company in addition to rev rec.

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Planning ahead and maybe even early adopting these new accounting rules could make your life easier a year from now. Presumably (I hope!) you are well on your way in implementing the new rev rec rules, so now may be an ideal time to consider adoption strategies for the other new rules on your plate.

If that concept sounds daunting, take solace in this: You can pick up on the “lessons learned” from your rev rec implementation and apply it to these other implementations, including identifying what new data (and data sources) are required, as well as ensuring you have appropriate internal controls over adoption of new standards. For example, all adoptions require companies to determine if the effect at the adoption date will be material. This requires the computation of the effect to be accurate as well as a process to make sure you have identified the complete population of affected transactions.

Ready to dive in? Here is the next round of accounting changes you need to consider.

1. Changes ahead to cash-flow statements

Let’s start off with ASU 2016-18, which deals with how companies present restricted cash and restricted cash equivalents in the statement of cash flows. It’s not a difficult change to apply, it improves the user’s understanding of a company’s cash position, and it can be early adopted. So, if you have either restricted cash or restricted cash equivalents this year or in previous years, why not adopt now?

The standard can be adopted in any interim quarter. Keep in mind it must be applied retrospectively—whether you do it now or in Q1 2018, you are going to have to restate your statements of cash flows for prior years.

While you’re at it, ASU 2016-15, which also deals with reporting in the statement of cash flows, allows early adoption with the same retrospective transition rules. It makes sense to adopt both ASUs at the same time as users would likely prefer to see all changes reflected at once.

ASU 2016-15 is worth a review to see if any of the eight cash transactions it specifically calls out apply to you. The transaction types are not all infrequent among the companies I work with—two, for example: amounts paid to extinguish debt, including prepayments and payments for contingent consideration in a business combination. If you’ve got those, you may have some changes ahead of you.

And early adoption is not just an idea for public companies; it might also make sense for private companies as they will have to adopt no later than 2019. If you’ve got an IPO in the future, adopting now is one less change you’d have to make before taking on public-company GAAP.

2. Got a deal coming up? Is it a “business” or an “asset”?

ASU 2017-01 defines a business as opposed to an asset in transactions involving acquisitions, transfers, or disposals of a set of assets and activities. It’s another of the FASB’s projects for making transactional analysis more efficient by narrowing the definition when applying the rules for business combinations.

This one is also required to be adopted in 2018—prospectively—so it will apply to transactions on or after the adoption date. But if you expect to have a transaction sometime during the rest of 2017, definitely take a look at whether this new standard will affect your accounting in a way that makes more sense for your company’s situation.

Pundits are predicting that more acquisitions will be accounted for as acquisitions of assets, rather than business combinations. The differences in accounting are significant—for example, transactions accounted for as asset acquisitions will not have goodwill recorded but will require you to capitalize transaction costs.

While this is the first in the FASB’s project to define and clarify what a “business” is, keep in mind that the definition of a business also comes into play for identifying reporting units for goodwill impairment tests and consolidation.

3. Impairments and intangibles

Segueing into the subject of impairment, simplified rules for impairment analyses of intangibles, including goodwill, in ASU 2017-04 are also available for early adoption this year, prospectively, for any impairment measurements performed in 2017 for financial statements not yet issued.

The new rule removes the requirement to perform a hypothetical purchase price allocation, which involves determining the fair value of the individual assets and liabilities. Now, you can do a much simpler measurement by comparing the fair value of the reporting entity as a whole to its carrying value.

4. An accounting change for some equity investments

To fill out the rest of your technical accounting implementation work plan for Q1 2018, ASU 2016-01 affects accounting for equity investments classified as available for sale, which is not an uncommon investment.

It requires companies to record all changes in fair value, including impairments, in the income statement—not in other comprehensive income as we do today. This is going to mean more variability in earnings, so investors will need to be educated about why they’ll see changes.

Know that this is the one ASU on this list that cannot be early adopted. The standard has other provisions you should take a look at, too.

 

Do the work now, thank yourself later

With all these changes, keep in mind you may have more than just rev rec and the new accounting rules for leases affecting your ongoing SAB 74 disclosures, as well as planning for disclosures required under ASC 250 when adopting any new accounting standard.

My best advice? Plan ahead, and do what you can to be in front of the work. Keep your team and audit committee informed of what to expect. This way you’ll avoid surprises and an overwhelming workload for first quarter 2018.

Get the scoop on the accounting changes in store with the RoseRyan Technical Accounting Group’s fast-paced 90-minute webinar session, “Our Take from the Trenches on the Latest FASB Updates and What You Need to Know.” Go to bit.ly/FASBupdates to register for this webinar taking place Thursday, June 15, 10am-11:30am PT. 

Julie Gilson is a senior consultant with RoseRyan and a CPA (inactive) with over 15 years working in finance and accounting with fast-moving public and private technology companies. 

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Deal flow in the PE market continues to move—here’s why

What’s hot in the deal world at the moment? The fintech sector continues to generate steam and so is another industry, the wine business. Private equity investors’ interest in turnarounds has diminished somewhat, and they are instead prioritizing growth and control in their investment strategies.

These were just some of the noteworthy learnings and interests expressed by private equity firms during the Association for Corporate Growth’s (ACG) West Coast M&A Conference in San Francisco this spring. As they networked, attendees said they’re seeking deals that typically have 10% of revenue EBITDA or a total of $3 million to $15 million of EBITDA at a minimum. Optimism is high with expectations that we’ll see deals continuing to flow but possibly slow down toward the end of the year.

Here are the highlights of what’s on dealmakers’ minds at the moment—most of the conference attendees represented firms seeking deals in the $5 million to $100 million range. The firms represented at least five states including many from New York, Massachusetts, Arizona, North Carolina, Connecticut and, of course, California.

An active market

Deal flow continues to be strong, and everyone is seeing lots of activity, according to participants of the keynote, who included Dipanjan Deb of Francisco Partners, John Kim HIG of Growth Partners and Dave Welsh of KKR.

The overall belief is that the past two years have been particularly fruitful, and that opportunities will slow down toward the end of the year as a result. The innovators of the fintech market are getting attention, leading to one of the most robust deal areas as the entire banking system is disrupted by these strong niche players.

Success vs. failure

There are some big deals to be had in the PE space. Darren Abrahamson of Bain Capital emphasized that the talent of the management teams is a critical factor in the success or failure of a deal. Everyone during a panel that included Abrahamson, Heather Madland of Huron Capital, Greg Clark of Symantec and Mark Grimse of Rambus hit on this theme: No matter how big the transaction—the outcome ultimately comes down to management’s ability to execute pre and post deal.

Moreover, they went over what derails some deals—inadequate systems and processes can take much of the blame. The panelists emphasized that successful companies need a strong understanding of their core competency (high value add) versus other strengths of their business.

A different varietal of M&A

The wine industry has had a tremendous number of deals over the past year, and owners believe it’s hitting a peak. This industry is extremely “high touch” and relationship driven due to the family nature of ownership, noted panelists who focused on this topic, including Adam Beak of Bank of the West, Pat Roney of Vintage Wine Estates and Richard Mendelson of Premium Wine Properties.

The business model of three-tier distribution comes into play as well as cash flows that can be varied across different properties. Money is not the only thing that is driving high valuations—brand and locations are key factors as well.

The road ahead

This M&A Conference had a positive tone. Deal flow this year is very strong due to the low cost of capital and the overall optimism in the economy. Overall the PE market continues to chug forward as the cost of money and quality of deals are favorable. There are some niches doing particularly well (fintech) and few areas are struggling. Valuations seem to be both beneficial to both the PE firms and companies.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads business development for this finance and accounting consulting firm’s high tech and cleantech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos with precision finance at any stage. He can be reached at cvane@roseryan.com, or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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Live and learn: Passing on wisdom from the tech sector to the cannabis sector

The pressure is always on. In Silicon Valley, we’re accustomed to tech startups moving at the speed of light to get their innovative products to market. All while fending off tough competition, being careful with their capital and acting nimbly to meet and exceed expectations.

Now, many businesses in a fledgling California industry—cannabis businesses—are running fast out of the gate on a similar path to growth. Ever since voters approved the recreational use of cannabis here in California, opportunities keep opening up as state regulations continue to be crafted. In addition to the inroads companies on the medicinal side have made so far, an expanding mix of opportunities exist along the cannabis value chain—from cultivators, processors and manufacturers to retailers and logistics providers and, yes, even tech companies.

Consider that last year, California made up 27% of the legal market in North America, according to 2016 stats by The ArcView Group, which invests in cannabis-related businesses. California businesses are expected to triple the United States’ legal industry, which stands at $6 billion, according to research firm Cowen & Co.

Which of the companies involved in this emerging industry will repeat past entrepreneurial mistakes, and which ones will flourish and gain market share? Much depends on whether they’ll take the time to learn the lessons from companies that came before them.

Take a page from the tech industry’s playbook

Many of the challenges faced by cannabis-related businesses resemble what rising tech startups dealt with before they reached their stardom (or demise—it’s estimated that 90% of tech small businesses fail). In order to succeed, at least to start, these new businesses need a niche to set them apart from the competition plus access to funding and, of course, a realistic plan forward.

So, for companies that want to add on to their offerings by expanding into the cannabis market or entrepreneurs starting a new venture, they need to factor in the following similarities they’ll have with the high-tech sector:

No need to re-invent the wheel: It’s tough out there for any new business. But the startup stage can be made easier when you can pull wisdom from the past. Pick up best practices from another industry where entrepreneurial spirit reigns and rapid speed is a necessity. High tech businesses have set precedents for thriving even with scare resources and uncertain futures. Build off what has worked for them, and create relevance by tailoring best practices to the cannabis industry.

There’s a thin line between planning and pivoting: The ability to change as needed and knowing when to vector typically separates the companies that can grow even in chaos from those who are destined to languish. How will canna-business entrants rapidly adjust to unexpected market conditions? Are they built to withstand changing regulations as well as increased competition?

Flexibility is always a must, but it’s especially critical in the early days when cash burns fast. Course corrections without credible cash forecasts are where many emerging growth companies can go wrong fast.

It takes a village to birth and grow your baby—your company: Just like tech companies get good advice from their peers, canna-businesses need places to turn to strategize on their next moves. You can’t run your business in a vacuum. Experts are needed along the way, for guidance, consultation and strategic advice. Lean on trusted advisors and specialists who have guided young companies from shaky beginnings to solid ground. Look for pros who are adept at powering through uncertainty, shifting compliance situations and a fast pace.

We’ll continue to closely follow the developments of the cannabis industry as it unfolds (look here for future blogs on this topic as well) and new businesses and strategic partners continue to take part. Here’s what we know with certainty: The courage and tenacity of entrepreneurs play a big role in their ability to be successful. They’re breaking into uncharted territory. Fortunately for those in the cannabis industry, they do have a roadmap to follow. They can make it their own by learning from other startups’ mistakes and adopting proven best practices.

Operating their business amidst the numerous issues facing the cannabis industry (regulatory constraints, banking roadblocks galore, tax questions, among other issues), the entrepreneurs at this level must be strategic. This begins with carefully managing resources, shaping a network of experts who can help guide you, and knowing where to turn for the best advice.

Maureen Ryan, vice president, heads up business development at RoseRyan. From the early startup to the large enterprise, she has seen the emotional rollercoaster of finance challenges at cannabis businesses, tech companies and other fast-paced organizations. Maureen spent her early career in various engineering, sales and marketing roles at Nortel Networks, Bay Networks, Quantum Corp. and General Dynamics.

Chris Vane is a director at RoseRyan, where he leads the development of the finance and accounting consulting firm’s cleantech and high tech practices. He helps fast-moving companies calm the chaos with precision finance at any stage. He can be reached at cvane@roseryan.com, or call him at 510.456.3056 x169.

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SOX is ever-evolving: 5 ways to shore up your controls program

Talk about mixed messages. The new presidential administration wants what they consider “costly and unnecessary regulations” wiped out. At the same time we have continued pressure by regulatory agencies to strengthen and improve internal controls over financial reporting (ICFR). Anyone who is involved in SOX compliance has to wonder: Is the almost 15-year-old law part of the discussion in Washington? And what should we all be doing in the meantime?

Our crystal ball isn’t any less cloudy than yours, but here’s some advice. Keep in mind SOX’s goal—to have in place a strong ICFR system that prevents a material misstatement of the financial statements. To what extent this is mandated may be in flux, but the benefits of such a program are foundational. It’s good for your valuation, as well as management, employees, investors and anyone you do business with.

To keep your SOX program doing what you need it to do, know that it needs to evolve. As your business expands, its interests and risks shift, and leaders come and go, your SOX program needs tending to as well. Here are five ways to make sure yours stays up-to-date, no matter what happens on Capitol Hill.

1. Pay attention to your culture.

Culture plays a huge role in ICFR. What are the expectations for ethical behavior in the workplace? Are these embedded in your workplace culture? Is the pressure to deliver results so great that a blind eye is turned to questionable behavior? These are important questions to ask regularly, as the answers may change when leaders come and go, and the company grows more complex.

No matter how strong your design of controls, without a healthy ethical environment, your ICFR program will be fighting an uphill battle. Tone at the top matters. “In most cases of alleged financial fraud, the CEO and CFO are named in the complaint,” according to a March report from the Center for Audit Quality. “[Securities and Exchange] Commission staff noted that the driver of earnings management—the catalyst for most fraud cases—is often top management, such that the focus on the CEO and CFO is not surprising.”

In addition to the tone set by the senior leadership at headquarters, look at the culture of remote offices, both foreign and domestic. Take into account both the local tone at the top as well as customs and practices and any incentives offered to local leadership for achieving performance goals.

2. Revisit your company’s risk profile.

Business risks change. Are you staying current? Identify anticipated changes in business processes, systems and key personnel, and make sure you are addressing any known areas of risks that need attention. Even if your internal environment is stable, assess how your business risks may have changed due to external factors.

3. Adopt a quarterly review process.

Keep the people responsible for key controls engaged all year long. By carrying out quarterly self-assessments, control owners can get a quick read on areas that are changing and controls that no longer serve the organization. These evaluations can also help prevent surprises when it comes time to test the controls.

4. Seek alignment with your external auditors.

Expectations can change, so stay fluid. The regulatory landscape will continue to evolve as new leadership takes shape at the SEC and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, and their priorities and interests are passed down to auditors. Understanding changes in your auditors’ expectations and having clear, proactive communication can make all the difference in your ability to retain an effective SOX program.

Some of the more recent areas of focus by your auditors may include IPE (information produced by the entity) and the related scrutiny to ensure that the data is complete and accurate. In considering the completeness and accuracy of information used in the execution of a control, it is important to pay attention to the relevant data elements.

5. Fold in insights from experts who bring another perspective.

When your external auditor asks for additional controls, how can you tell whether it’s a check-the-box request? What’s a reasonable risk-based response? You can use a co-sourcing finance team as a sounding board to help you formulate the appropriate answers. Experts who work with a variety of companies can offer a broader perspective of what is going on in the industry.

And for smaller companies that need to rely on a single employee for subject-matter expertise, outside experts can fill in knowledge with their “second set of eyes,” such as by evaluating the design of controls or reviewing a complex, nonstandard transaction.

Regardless of whether SOX as we know it goes away or is here to stay, savvy companies will want to keep the benefits of strong, right-sized internal controls.

Pat Voll is a vice president at RoseRyan, where she mentors and supports the dream team, and heads up client experience, ensuring all our clients are on the road to happiness. Pat previously held senior finance level positions at public companies and worked as an auditor with a Big 4 firm. 

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Culture and innovation trailblazers—how 5 companies are defining a new path

There’s nothing quite like working in the San Francisco Bay Area. Innovation is happening all around us—and as consultants, we get to see it in person every day working with our clients. Tomorrow’s must-have apps are on the drawing board, some awe-inspiring ecommerce service is about to go live, and life-saving devices are going through their approval paces all the time.

Dig deeper and you’ll see innovation on many fronts beyond the products. These businesses are also disrupting the norms of the traditional workplace, adopting different definitions of what “work” looks like and creating notable cultures.

We saw it play out during the recent NewCo Bay Area festival, a multi-day distributed conference where we got to visit some of the most innovative and meaningful businesses in the Bay Area to see and hear what makes them tick. The five companies below have created engaged workforces and cohesive cultures.

Adobe

Adobe’s marketing and document solutions have enabled creativity for countless companies.

During a panel discussion at Adobe’s San Jose HQ, we heard a range of viewpoints on “the future of work,” with speakers from several organizations, including Adobe, General Motors Advanced Technology and even the mayor of San Jose.

The talk brought up a newer challenge for any team tasked with attracting and retaining in-demand talent. Today’s job candidates are not prioritizing money or profitable businesses—they are seeking meaning in their work (a common theme of NewCo companies). Passion vs. paycheck is a constant query for those on the job hunt.

Plum Organics

Acquired by Campbell Soup Co. in 2013, this 10-year-old company makes nutritious organic snacks and meals for babies and toddlers.

We got a private tour of Plum Organics’ newly remodeled Emeryville office space. It aims to be a healthy, happy workplace that entices employees to want to spend their time there—not just because they’re expected to show up every day.

While some companies tiptoe around the concept of a distinct culture, in reality they are focused on actually having one (sounds familiar to us!). Plum has a collective vision of who they want to be and how they want working there to feel. To pull it off, they encourage “shout-outs” of praise across the company that can be made by anyone (not just management) and an empowered workforce that manages their own time. They also follow four core value: BYOS (bring your own self); lead with heart; fight the good fight; and use business as a force for good

As longtime followers of RoseRyan’s core values, we admire Plum Organics’ dedication to nurturing and developing their culture.

Foundation Capital

This venture capital firm has supported the fast growth of companies like Netflix, MobileIron, ShorTel and others in the fintech, marketing technology and enterprise tech spaces.

In the firm’s San Francisco office, general partner Steve Vassalo told us why he was specifically hired for his design background. We think this is an interesting development in the tech industry. Their firm foresees an uptick in the number of designer-founded startups, and predicts their unique experience will lead to better user experiences all around. Consumers will see the effects of this trend as the Internet of Things continues to take off in the many appliances we use.

Like other firms that are transforming the concept of culture, this VC firm believes a focus on love and trust in the organization enables growth—rather than solely focusing on growth itself.

Stimulant

A creative interactive design agency turns static physical spaces into dynamic interactive environments.

As Darren David, CEO of this San Francisco firm told us, people are seeking experiences more than attaining things. That’s why there’s a heightened interest in virtual reality. However, the VR industry has mostly focused on creating a silo experience that shuts out users from reality and anyone in real life while they wear those nifty headsets.

Stimulant wants to create alternate realities that can be experienced together, therefore bringing people together. How do environments encourage collaboration? Stimulant is asking this question as companies benefit from figuring out how to drive more face-to-face interactions between their workers.

WeWork

Providing work environments where remote workforces can go for a change of pace, meetups and a collaborative atmosphere.

We checked out WeWork Transbay, seven floors of coworking space and amazing views of downtown, the Bay and lots and lots of sunlight. The open floor plans, glass office, community area and weekly social events foster collaboration among coworkers and people working from entirely different companies. Imagine the chance meetings and creativity that naturally bubbles up around today’s version of the water cooler—the entrance to a meditation room.

At RoseRyan, our consultants get to work alongside some of the most innovative tech and life sciences companies in the Bay Area, becoming an essential part of their finance teams, such as when we’re controllers for emerging growth companies or helping with a liquidity event. No matter what we’re doing, we are guided by our firm’s distinctive culture and fascinated by the shifts in work trends we see evolving.

Tracey Hashiguchi heads up RoseRyan’s emerging growth and small business team, a dedicated group of consultants helping companies launch and grow. She develops RoseRyan’s strategy, programs and consulting team for helping startups get to the next level. Before joining RoseRyan, Tracey worked at Deloitte.

Our marketing coordinator Lauren Kershner keeps the marketing engine humming at RoseRyan. She joined the team in 2016 and runs our campaigns and programs, digital marketing and more, and she brings lots of positive energy to the office.

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Tales from the front lines in CFO and controller recruiting—what’s expected these days

A CFO who is good at financial integrity management but struggles with assessing situations and being visionary won’t be a CFO for very long. I see CFOs facing this challenge in companies of all sizes, from Fortune 500 companies to startups.

In my role on the RoseRyan management team, which includes interviewing candidates, and as a CFO consultant at various companies, I get the chance to interface frequently with other CFOs and recruiters. It’s a great way to stay on top of trends in senior finance roles. CFOs who take a strategic approach to the position have been in demand for awhile now at the largest of companies, and now smaller and medium companies are following suit. And controllers, another key role in finance organizations, are expanding the skills they need as well.

Starting at the top

During a recent FEI event in San Francisco that focused on the state of the market for Fortune 500 CFOs, executive search recruiters revealed that, not surprisingly, these companies take a different approach to recruiting CFOs than smaller companies. Many of them, in fact, recruit from within. Today’s recruiters spend more of their time assessing talent than finding it. This makes sense, because today more than ever, CFOs need to be strategic and analytical.

And CFOs aren’t the only ones getting held to a new standard. Controllers need to acquire these skills, too. Basic accounting has become so automated that the art of being a good controller has changed from just closing the books to understanding and interpreting the information at hand and navigating through lots of different situations.

In many cases, controllers and CFOs need to gather new information to help with their decision making. Technical skills are in great demand—but “technical” in this instance means the ability to gather and interpret new data from various databases and other sources. Needless to say, great communication skills are essential for anyone wanting to secure a senior finance role. To build a well-rounded and influential finance team in any organization, such capabilities are a necessity.

The takeaway for smaller companies

Fortune 500 companies that recruit from within focus on placing CFOs who have a proven ability to build relationships. This isn’t usually an inherent skill—it can take a number of years to achieve. They also look for a CFO’s understanding of the internal machinations of the organization, and they want a good cultural fit. These are all areas that smaller companies should consider, too. I find that a lack of cultural and emotional alignment is the biggest reason CFOs fail in companies, which is why recruiters take those elements into account up front.

The trend of CFOs becoming more strategic and analytical is well cemented in recruiters’ handbooks. The need for controllers to be strategic and analytical may not be as widely known, but it’s also becoming a trend. In my view, this trend will accelerate over the next few years. RoseRyan is already taking into account these skills and how the market has moved in our recruiting activities. Candidates need to have technical, strategic, analytical and soft skills to get hired, as our clients smartly demand these in today’s market. This demand is only going to increase.

Looking for a change? Do you have the mix of skills to fit in with the RoseRyan dream team and the fast-growing finance teams around the San Francisco Bay Area? If so, we’d love to hear from you. We’re always on the lookout for top talent—full-time and part-time. Contact Michelle Hickam at mhickam@roseryan.com.

Stephen Ambler is a director at RoseRyan, where he oversees the CFO practice area and handles client CFO requests. He has over 30 years of experience helping a wide range of companies with their financing needs. His interim CFO stints at RoseRyan have included a social media company and the management of the financial integration process at a company acquired by Oracle. He previously held the CFO position for 13 years at NASDAQ-listed companies.

 

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5 tips for finding financing with the right investors

Companies are under the microscope from the moment they attract a key investor. “Potential investors are making assessments and determinations throughout the whole process—not just right at the start,” RoseRyan director Stephen Ambler warned during a recent webinar. “You’re under the spotlight for quite a period of time,” he added.

For private companies on the funding hunt, their quest is especially tough during the early stages of searching for investors and the process for connecting with them and winning them over. It’s an infrequent occurrence for the team involved, who has to pull their attention from their day-to-day work. And it’s a process that’s rife for possible setbacks as a mismatch could add to the time the company has to wait for much-needed funding.

Here are just a few of the tips Stephen offered in his webinar:

1. Start early.

A last-minute, desperate search is more likely to lead to a bad deal—or no deal at all. Securing financing can take a long time, between three and six months. Build in time to both prepare your company to find the right investor (or a few—as a deal may fall apart), and undergo detailed scrutiny when you do.

2. Get your house and business plan in order, and be prepared for an open conversation.

You should have both up-to-date documentation and your business plan for the next two to three years in place. Not only do you want to show you have good records, but you want to show potential investors a plan, with support, that is attractive, realistic and achievable. They won’t invest unless they see that.

You also need to lay out any dirt you have for possible inspection. No one expects a perfect world, so be open and honest. Investors will not be pleased to find out about a lawsuit after they’ve agreed to work with you. Potential investors want to know where the possible holes are in your business, and they want to be fully aware of any reputational risks they’re taking on once they sign the dotted line. “No investor wants their name in lights,” Stephen said.

3. Seek out the perfect match.

Many investors will only go with companies that fit within the boundaries they have set up for themselves. They might consider only late-stage companies, for instance, or companies that are in a particular industry or already have a rigid exit plan.

Fortunately, many investors explain their parameters right on their website. You can also ask around, to your current investors, board members and trusted advisors, for recommendations. A warm introduction is ideal—cold calling around for your next investor will be time consuming and is less likely to be effective.

4. Make a good first impression.

Professionalism goes a long way with investors who want assurance that your company is on the up-and-up. That first meetup is where the first impression truly counts. A company once called Stephen for help in frustration that they couldn’t get financing. Part of the problem: They had a habit of dulling investors with over two hours of slides. Nearly 60 pages, in fact!

“Your key facts should not read like War and Peace,” Stephen said. “No one wants to see that—it sends a bad signal.”

In just 15 professionally designed slides, you can fit in essential details while showing off the passion the team has for the company, its mission and prospects.

5. Be ready for an onslaught of scrutiny.

If investors are interested, that’s when the real questions will begin as they conduct their due diligence. This is where any prep work you did ahead of time can help tremendously.

Investors want to see key metrics to fully understand how the business is managed and whether they can stand behind it. In addition, you will need basic information that’s up to date and at the ready to keep the potential deal on track—including management accounts, revenue by product, receivables and payables.

Talk about a huge undertaking! Finding and securing investors consumes more time than many executives new to the process realize. They can save some valuable time and increase their chances of making a promising investor match by checking in with trusted advisors who have helped with similar deals and are on top of the trends in the investment community.

The right investor could be just around the corner—you just need to know how to find and keep their interest.

What happens after you find the right investor? Listen to the online webinar Attracting Funding: What Does an Investor Look For?at your convenience to hear Stephen’s advice before signing the term sheet and learn important tips about what investors look for as they scrutinize potential investments. This event was originally broadcast on December 15, 2016 and was hosted by Breakaway Funding.

Stephen Ambler is a director at RoseRyan, where he oversees the CFO practice area and handles client CFO requests. He has over 30 years of experience helping a wide range of companies with their financing needs. His interim CFO stints at RoseRyan have included a social media company and the management of the financial integration process at a company acquired by Oracle. He previously held the CFO position for 13 years at NASDAQ-listed companies.