Leadership Transition -- Harder Than It Looks

Graham Group was hired by a small professional services firm with one senior partner and two junior partners. They were initially hired to consult on improving monthly financial reporting to the partners, improving cash flow by speeding up the firm’s billing cycle, and streamlining workflow among administrative staff.

One day, the senior partner announced his retirement. At the time, he was the key contact for most of the clients and brought in most of the accounts. He also organized, delegated, and oversaw completion of most of the firm’s projects.

Although anticipated, this loss of senior leadership had the potential to put the firm in crisis. The junior partners quickly realized that they were not adequately prepared to assume the responsibilities of leading the firm and feared it may not survive without additional know-how on their part. At this point, they asked Graham Group to step in and help them plot a course for a successful transition.

Becky Graham established a transition plan that could be monitored and coached the two junior partners on the types of skills they needed to be successful, including organizing and delegating client projects, learning how to bring in new work, and overseeing the administrative operations of the firm.

She paced the project to meet the needs of the partners, breaking what was a large undertaking into a series of more manageable tasks that could be tackled one at a time.

Growing Pains

A family saw an opportunity to introduce Portland’s growing food scene to the unique cuisine of its native land. The restaurant grew in popularity and reputation, leading to its maturation into a busy, burgeoning eatery.

With growth came challenges, however. The restaurant’s building strained to meet the needs of its growing patron base. The owners decided they would like to make improvements to their restaurant and open another location, but these moves seemed just out of reach without a financial boost. Unless the owners could improve their profitability and cash flow, they could not obtain the necessary financing to grow.

As they identified the barriers to their growth, they realized they needed to upgrade their financial reporting systems. They brought Graham Group in to help produce accurate, timely financial statements, implement a strong budget process and implement a cash management program.

Working with the restaurant’s accountant, Graham Group oversaw the cleanup of the accounting records, guided the management team through an in-depth budget process, established a number of new financial policies and procedures and provided basic financial statement training to key members of the team. The business has identified a lender and is poised to secure financing in the near future.

All in the Family

A husband and wife team started an industrial business. Over time, it grew, and they hired all of their adult children to work in the business. The parents and children worked side by side for years, but without a clear understanding of their unique roles or areas of responsibility. Furthermore, compensation and advancement were not tied to accountability.

The business continued to grow and non-family members joined the team. When the parent-founders decided they wanted to semi-retire, it became apparent to all involved that additional clarity regarding each person’s role and responsibilities was needed.

The business owners hired Graham Group to assist them in clarifying roles and responsibilities of each team member, playing to the strength of each. Where there were short-comings in practical knowledge but a will to learn, Becky Graham coached the management team members on their new responsibilities, providing them with the practical skills and confidence they needed to manage and run the company.

A couple years after the completion of the first project, the business owners again called on the Graham Group to work directly with a family member whom they planned to transition into leading the accounting/finance function of the company. Becky Graham coached this individual, providing customized training in areas where understanding needed to be expanded. She tailored the discussions to the family member’s style of learning and used actual transactions of the business as examples. At the completion of the transition, the new accounting director had a thorough understanding of the inner workings of the accounting process and was able to present financial results clearly and confidently to the rest of the management team.

Bottom Line

A small, closely held professional service firm had been in business for several years but the owners were not satisfied with the financial results of the firm - - specifically the profits available for distribution to them.

The owners hired the Graham Group to review their financial results and make recommendations on how to improve the bottom line. In a short period of time, Becky Graham was able to compile a list of suggestions for the owners on how to focus on the key drivers of the business. She established a simple, high-level budget and broke that down into monthly and weekly revenue budgets by individual to stay on track. In addition, she suggested ways to reduce the administrative burden from the owners, freeing up more of their time to serve (and bill) customers.