With his CPA license and MBA under his belt, management consultant Lou Piccolo understands the value of CEOs keeping their eye on the money.
Lou has many years of experience advising leaders and turning businesses around. He helps them to stop feeling alone in the universe with a hands-on approach, and I’m sure his unique perspective will offer great insight.
Without further ado, here’s Lou.
David: If you could advise business owners to take one action to improve profitability, what would it be?
Lou: Sit with your CFO once per month and carefully analyze every single line item in your financial statements to ensure that each number falls within the company’s budgetary parameters. As part and parcel of this exercise, the CFO MUST prepare an agreed-upon budget at the beginning of every fiscal year, followed by a forecast, which updates the budget every quarter. This one action, divided into steps, will allow the business owner to suffer no surprises in the form of falling margins, burgeoning expenses, and declining revenues. It allows for immediate remediation of any financial problems which may be lurking around the corner.
David: If you could advise business owners to take one action to reduce the stress brought on by their work, what would it be?
Lou: In addition to regular exercise, take a mental health day once per month. No phones, no emails, etc. Get out of the office and spend a quality-filled day on the golf course or with loved ones or just hiking with a friend. Do not spend it alone for you will mull over all manner of office details in your head. I have a client who has followed this prescription for the last twenty years, and his life/work balance has improved immensely.
David: What is the biggest misconception you encounter about business in today’s world?
Lou: It pains me to state that much of today’s society views business as something sinister. They consider businesses and the people who run them to be exploitative, brazen recipients of corporate welfare in the form of unfair tax breaks and free governmental incentives. While there may be some truth to this claim with respect to some of our largest corporations, by-and-large, small-to-medium sized businesses are operated by extremely hard-working individuals who place their own capital and careers at risk. One way to dispel this misconception is to teach entrepreneurship in our high schools or even in our elementary schools.
David: What traits do the most successful people share?
Lou: Aside from the usual traits of hard work and ready assumption of risks, I have found that the most successful people “work smart.” That is, they attend to the details which are relevant and delegate those mundane tasks in which they are not proficient. In this way, these successful people can manage their scarce resources of time, energy, and brain power to control the vitally important aspects of the business. One successful entrepreneur about whom I have read was once given the advice, “…take on the extraordinary challenges of life; leave the ordinary to ordinary men.”
David: What are some of your own professional development challenges? How are you working on them?
Lou: There is a natural tension among marketing (networking) my services, keeping current with the literature and actually performing my work. I cannot allow any one of these three functions to wither, for the adverse effects of such will be reflected in my business in very short order. Wrapped in a constant struggle to maintain a healthy balance, I try to leave one day per week exclusively to networking. Of late, in the interest of time economy, I have even tried to use the telephone to network with my recent e-introductions. As for keeping technically current, I try to read and attend seminars/webinars in the early morning hours of my days. My actual work is usually reserved for the prime-time hours of the day, say, 8 AM to 7 PM, when I can reach my clients by telephone. Over the last 26 years, I have come to realize one important fact: no matter how organized or structured one is in business, it takes only one emergency to upset the apple cart. However, it is far better to implement a structure/routine than not.