Post 2: Avoiding WTF!? How to Establish Effective BvA Cadences
New Series: How to Drive Smart Growth
Welcome to the second installment of Driving Smart Growth–insights for finance leaders on making tough decisions in f*cked up markets 😅. If you missed the first post, you can read How Finance Leaders are Re-evaluating their Financial Models for crazy times here. If you want the full guide, subscribe below.
Avoiding WTF Moments
One of the questions I get from finance leaders when I tell them I meet with company department leads bi-weeklyto review BvAs is something along the lines of… “why”?
My answer is simple: I want us all to avoid suffering that WTF feeling.
We’ve all been there. You think you’re aligned with the business when something mysterious shows up on your dashboard or your AP inbox. WTF. WTF is when budgets, expenses, growth goals–any key metrics are meaningfully departing from our models, and we’re going to look bad in front of the CEO or board–or worse–cause damage to our organizations. Frequent BvA reviews mitigate this risk.
They allow you to:
- Build strong relationships - leading to better information transfer within the organization, and better, more real-time decisions
- Identify wasted spend
- Capitalize on opportunities faster
- Make smarter, more data-driven decisions as a unified team
(Want more on building strong relationships? Read The Growth Finance Guide: 9 Practical Tips for Strategic CFOs Operating in F*cked Up Markets)
The 3 Key Review Cadences
All the above benefits are why we recommend meeting on the following cadences:
- Weekly with the executive team
- Bi-weekly with department leads
- Monthly with the CEO and some executives
You won’t need to share the same data in each meeting. We've found the following to be effective:
- With Executives: Once each week we’ll do a summary rundown where we’ll review 1. Growth numbers, 2. Summary expenses by each account, 3. Status against monthly projections, 4. Cash. The goal of this meeting is to do a quick pulse check on the top 15-20 metrics that impact the company. To the extent possible, review these metrics in relation to the weekly goals that were set.
(Review post 1 for the importance of creating independent modular models in dynamic markets. )
- With Department Leads. The bi-weekly meetings with department leads gives both sides an opportunity to double click on a few things you don’t need to dive into in front of the CEO. You can review how spend is tracking against forecasts, taking time to review top goals and expenses so that department leads understand what has been accounted for and what hasn’t. Finance can also get a sense about how things are going at a qualitative level.
- Monthly with the CEO and some executives. This is where you review the GAAP financials, bridge any metrics between cash and GAAP, and check in on overall burn and strategy.
The goal of these meetings is simple: Improve the speed and effectiveness of good quality decision-making.
After a few iterations, only a fraction of the meeting will be devoted to reviewing past outcomes. Most of the meeting should be spent discussing future scenarios, whether that be hiring, growth, increased vendor spend, or other priorities on those teams.
More data driving decisions + clear communication = less WTF across the organization.
"Right now we’re sitting down with our marketing team twice per month. We review upcoming vendor payments and major projects in flight.
The goal is sharing information both ways on a regular cadence so that we are all making informed, data-driven decisions. It’s helping us all to maintain alignment and stay focused on our core strategy and north star metrics"
Ben Ingard, VP Finance, Appcues
In other words, BvA reviews are helping Ben avoid WTF.
Sudozi makes it easy to get these insights, with real-time dashboards that share budget vs actuals across your departments.
Dos and Dont's
Here's a few tips we've found to be effective in our cadences.
- Meet at least monthly (ideally bi-monthly) with key departments and their leadership (e.g., VP, Sr. Manager, Manager)
- Set expectations about when finance should be alerted. For example, if something is working super well and needs more budget. Or conversely, if something isn’t working well, and the budget will be reduced, but so will the outcomes.
- Focus on insights and next steps (not just reporting)
- Bring sufficient data to the meetings to inform conversations
- Come with questions, suggestions, proposals
- Feel compelled to have fully closed books for every meeting
- Overly scrutinize—the goal is better strategic decisions, don’t make the meetings feel like a bi-monthly expense report
- Be the C-F-No. Be open to ideas…at least listening to them. Remember, you want to incentivize your business partners to share information with you. If you shut them down regularly, they will find a way to get around you and go directly to the CEO.
Finally: have patience. Like any process, it may take a few cycles to get right and it’s all about the trajectory. Have patience and continue to build strong relationships. All this adds up to fewer WTFs and smarter growth.
Next Up: How to Develop Effective Day-To-Day Cadences and Request Workflows with your Team (sign-up at the link below to get notified when it drops).
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