As the leaders of their companies’ finance-related teams, chief financial officers (CFOs) were among the first to notice and face the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These professionals are certainly not the only people involved with helping organizations bounce back. However, CFO’s play vital roles in decision-making and plan implementation for financial.
Here are five options cited by CFOs in their business recovery plans. If you run a company or want to someday, you can learn from these strategies and explore how they could see companies of all sizes and types through tough times.
As the pandemic continues to affect the world, people everywhere grapple with how to make ends meet.
In a recent Deloitte survey, CFOs’ top concerns included a second wave of the virus, more business shutdowns, and the possibility of the pandemic triggering a prolonged recession.
However, two-thirds of respondents said they raised or accessed more cash sources to help their companies get through these challenging times.
The majority of people in CFO roles (53%) plan to use that money to fund cash reserves.
Additionally, 16% reported relying on it for ongoing operations. About 13% wanted to put it toward acquiring companies or assets or financing capital spending projects they intended to pursue before the pandemic changed their plans.
An unspecified percentage of people in the study discussed using their new cash sources to pay down or retire debt and get lower refinancing rates. Some CFOs opted to use the funds for newly emerged business needs.
These included accelerated digitization initiatives and innovations to facilitate remote or contactless customer interactions after realizing COVID-19 could be a long-term issue.
These variations in responses show that CFOs have numerous ideas for how to get their companies on track for recovery.
However, most of them realize that having more cash available to use provides them with additional flexibility to invest in the business as new needs arise.
Making the most of those financial resources means striking a balance between spending money on things a company needs immediately and saving some of it to fund future requirements.
No one knows how long the pandemic might affect businesses’ bottom lines. That’s why it’s a wise decision to make any new funding sources stretch for as long as possible.
You can probably identify a few occasions in your personal or professional life when circumstances require substantial adjustment to adapt to unforeseen events. That might have meant taking an entirely different course of action than what you’d previously considered.
Businesspeople often call such a decision a pivot. John Murphy, the CFO at Coca-Cola, recently weighed in about how pivoting and agility tie into the company’s business recovery plans.
For example, he explained intentions to cut underperforming brands from Coca-Cola’s beverage portfolio while simultaneously investing in fewer — but more relevant — offerings suitable to scale in various markets.
The company is also putting money into more e-commerce-friendly packaging options, branding visibility in apps, and pilots for digital fulfillment models. All these things help the beverage giant respond to the online food shopping trend.
Meeting needs also means understanding the shifting priorities of today’s grocery shoppers. People who buy their goods in stores appreciate seeing well-stocked shelves, for example. They also often want to get in and out of those retail outlets as efficiently as possible.
Coca-Cola decided to postpone or scale back some of its brand launches to help retailers keep beverages in stock and offer brand promotions that get consumers’ attention.
Despite having these plans in the pipeline, Murphy recognizes that it’s impossible to know everything the future holds. Thus, he’s keeping an eye on recently identified and emerging trends that may impact sales at some point.
Murphy brought up people’s increased concern with hygiene as one example and suggested that the brand may need to explore touchless options to fill cups more aggressively.
As CFOs guide companies through recoveries, they must examine how enterprises can meet customers’ changed and shifting priorities. When brands show they remain relevant even during these drastically different times, there’s a higher likelihood of people continuing to support those businesses.
Given the extensive impact of the novel coronavirus worldwide, you may assume CFOs would apply the brakes to their international expansion plans. However, statistics showed most are still moving ahead with them.
More specifically, 45% of CFOs surveyed in one study said their expansions were happening now or that they would continue with them in less than a year. About 9% of respondents intended to halt their expansions for a year.
Even as COVID-19 introduces new challenges, CFOs know opportunities exist to get additional business elsewhere. Others eye the global market to steer their brands through economic downturns.
One is Yukio Yokoyama, the CFO of Japan’s Nissin Noodles. “We’re actually quite strong in a recession,” the executive noted. The company, which has expanded to 16 countries, produced basic flavors during the pandemic rather than the several hundred new ones usually created in a year.
Australian small-business insurance provider BizCover is one of the companies with an international expansion in the works.
CFO Simon Schwarz said that certain coverage types — such as cybersecurity policies and those for cleaning professionals and people with home-based businesses — have become especially popular with customers in the post-pandemic world. It currently operates in Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
As you can see from these examples, CFOs know there’s more than one way to make an international expansion pay off, whether to stimulate the recovery process or stop a profit plunge from happening at all.
While Schwarz has his sights set on operating in more countries soon, Yokoyama ensured the international expansions that happened before the pandemic continued to show profitability, even in the height of a global health crisis.
If a CFO has an expansion in progress, it could factor into business recovery plans. Similarly, if a company completed international moves before the pandemic hit, it can monitor how the success of operations in some countries could make up for those that faltered elsewhere.
COVID-19 made remote work the safest arrangement for many employees. However, since letting people work from home doubles as a cost-cutting measure, many CFOs have made it part of how they’ll help their companies bounce back.
Gartner’s April 2019 survey indicated that 74% of CFOs intended to shift at least 5% of formerly on-site positions into permanently remote roles.
While speaking about the study, Gartner representative Alexander Bant pointed out that technological innovations played a major part in encouraging change. “Most CFOs recognize that technology and society have evolved to make remote work more viable for a wider variety of positions than ever before,” he explained.
It’s arguably not surprising that many CFOs agree remote working makes sense. If a company has more people working from home, operations could happen in smaller, less expensive office spaces.
Fewer workers on-site also translate to savings on stationery, break room snacks and restroom supplies. Also, if employees use videoconferencing platforms for meetings, companies can save on business travel.
It’s not just the employees of CFOs switching to remote work. Some chief financial officers themselves find it works well.
Take the example of Roku CFO Steve Louden, who announced in December 2019 he’d leave his position at the Californian company to spend more time with his family in Seattle. This summer, Roku executives decided that Louden — who had been working remotely until the company found a replacement — would keep doing so and stay in the role from Seattle.
CFOs who decide to let people start working remotely should think of supportive practical measures for success. For example, should a company provide equipment to help workers settle into the new environment or give them cybersecurity checklists to avoid online attacks?
COVID-19 brings many people mixed emotions. Those who feel grateful to have stayed healthy throughout the pandemic so far nevertheless become frustrated at the lack of opportunities to do things they enjoy. CFOs also see both the good and the bad when assessing their businesses.
The PwC US CFO Pulse Survey polled leaders at various points through April-June 2020 to get their changed perspectives about the pandemic — including how they thought the situation would strengthen their companies.
When asked in June about multiple aspects would make their businesses better in the long run, 73% cited work flexibility, while 72% mentioned better resiliency and agility. Then, 56% chose tech investments, and 53% picked new ways to serve customers.
However, the study also asked people to pick the three most important ways to rebuild or enhance their revenue streams.
Products or services factored heavily into plans, with 63% of respondents opting to focus on those during their recoveries. Pricing strategies were mentioned by 41% of people, while 36% cited distribution channels, and 34% intended to put their attention toward customer segments.
The variation in these strategies shows no single, guaranteed way for a CFO to help a company become profitable again. The key is to examine the specific characteristics of a business that lend themselves to more revenue.
Putting more attention to products and services may make sense for many enterprises, but others may get better results by exploring alternative distribution channels.
It’s good that CFOs understand COVID-19 may ultimately make their companies stronger. However, they also know that such favorable results won’t happen without well-developed business recovery plans that target revenue.
The COVID-19 pandemic caught some chief financial officers off-guard. Those who adjusted quickly and effectively are typically in better positions to recover than those that delayed taking action.
Additionally, the lessons a CFO learns from this crisis will undoubtedly serve them well when another unexpected catastrophe occurs.
Running a business well involves knowing how to help a company remain as resilient as possible when worst-case scenarios occur. These examples could aid them in planning for the future. They’re also beneficial for anyone who runs a business or aspires to start one soon.
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