How far would you get driving your car, but by looking only in the rear-view mirror? That’s what managing a business without a strategic plan amounts to. As a CFO of a midsize company, it’s easy to put planning aside while you confront everyday issues and challenges. Yet when it comes to moving forward in the right direction, a solid strategy is as vital to your business as a clear windshield and reliable GPS are behind the wheel.
The first four articles in this series (linked below) discussed how to develop a strong, defensible idea of your company’s value using our QuickValue process. We believe the insights gained from this close examination of your business should be at the heart of your strategic plan.
As a quick refresher, the process starts with identifying and rating the key qualitative characteristics, the value drivers, that make your business unique. You then aggregate and weigh the results to create a Value Driver Score. The next step involves determining the quantitative metrics, expressed as a range of EBITDA multiples specific to your industry. Finally, you combine these results to find your multiple, which, when multiplied by your EBITDA, gives you the value of the business.
Baseline Company Value
Your current value, updated at least once a year, forms a baseline for your strategy in two essential ways:
1. Measuring value creation. If your value was $151 million last year and increased to $174 million in your latest assessment, the insight you’ve gained by conducting the valuation internally with QuickValue will tell you where the increase came from, and why. This insight in turn will make your team smarter about planning for future value creation. As your team becomes more experienced with this self-valuation, the process becomes easier and more natural.
2. Improving value. Instead of casting about for piecemeal improvements, you can pinpoint specific value drivers that need the most work and create “mini plans” with clearly defined actions and goals. For example, if customer service is one of your value drivers and you only scored a 3 out of 10, you might set a goal of improving to a 6 within two years. These plans are easy to develop and monitor.
Begin by discussing with your team each of your essential value drivers. Consider their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and why you scored them as you did. This will help you uncover what can be improved. Focus particularly on those over which you have the most control. (Improving your customer service, for example, may be more doable than addressing market trends in your industry).
Develop Mini Plans for Each Driver
Once you identify which drivers to focus on, you are ready to build mini plans — to improve those that need work and to maintain momentum where you are already on a roll. Each mini-plan involves asking and answering three questions:
- What is our goal? Example: Improve the Market Share value driver score from 5 to 8 in three years.
- What is our objective? Example: Increase Market Share by five percentage points in three years.
- What is our action plan? Example: Spend $5 million on brand awareness advertising and reduce prices by 10%.
Here is how one hypothetical company uses a mini plan to target improving its customer service — the subject of frequent client complaints. The team sets a modest goal of improving its customer service score from 3 to 6 within two years. Here’s what their plan looks like:
Goal: Improve customer service
Objective: Respond to every client complaint within 24 hours and resolve any issues within 72 hours
- Hire three representatives to exclusively respond to customer inquiries
- Track every problem and report on how and when it is solved
- Hold weekly meetings to assess what is working and what is not
Note that mini plans, taken together, fit seamlessly into your overall strategic plan. They not only put a spotlight on your problem areas, but provide a road map for fixing them.
We began this series of five articles with this thought: value creation is arguably the single most important initiative for any company. Our hope is that these articles prompt you to measure the value of your company at least once a year if you’re not doing so already. You’ll not only help your company but will elevate your role as CFO. You are now able to measure value creation in real-time rather than wait for a valuation event such as a sale of the company. CFOs who know what their companies are worth, and why, are indispensable.
Reed Phillips is CEO of mid-market M&A firm Oaklins DeSilva & Phillips, and Charles Slack is a business and financial writer. They are the co-authors of the book, QuickValue: Discover Your Value and Empower Your Business in Three Easy Steps. Tables in this article originally appeared in QuickValue.
This is the final article in a six-part series about how CFOs can lead an internal team in determining their company’s value.
- Part 1: Are You Your Company’s Chief Value Creation Officer?
- Part 2: How Well do You Understand Your Company’s Value Drivers?
- Part 3: Finding the Multiples that Best Express your Company’s Value
- Part 4: Unlocking New Value for Your Company
- Part 5: Putting Value at the Center of Your Strategic Planning
- Part 6: A Q&A with Reed Phillips and Charles Slack