Post-Pandemic: How to Execute Your Plan & Readjust Revenue Forecasts
Trent Turner, Director of Bridgepoint’s Financial Consulting practice in Dallas, recently did a virtual Q&A with Craig Storey, CFO, Vari. As CFO, Craig oversees the Accounting, Finance, International & Education teams. Since joining Vari in 2014, Vari has won the SMU Dallas 100 Award in 2016, and also the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2017. Learn how Vari weathered the pandemic, including revenue forecast plans and strategies, being solution-oriented, and how to bring your plan to fruition.
How have you maintained a sense of normalcy?
I’ve been trying to call a minimum of two people a day, scheduling a half hour to have two 15 minute conversations with my team. No agenda, just find out how they’re doing. We’re all going through things we’ve never gone through before, but the experiences are almost totally different.
60% of my team is under the age of 35, and most of them are living alone. They are in their home, in their apartment. They are dealing with incredible loneliness and isolation.
On the other side, you’ve got people like myself who are suddenly at home with family 24/7, when before it was an hour or two in the morning, an hour or two in the evening, and then the weekends. Now you’re dealing with the walls closing in of being around your family the entire time, and that creates its own stress. Being able just to touch base with my team and make sure they’re okay, certainly helps me, and I hope it helps them.
The other thing that I am trying to do is stay on schedule. I get up at the same time, do my meditation, workout, shower, do the things I would have done around the house before I left for work, and then start work at the same time, try to finish around the same time and go to bed at the same time. Keep things as normal as I possibly can.
We spend so much of the time planning for the year, preparing for the next year, building forecasts, and budgets. What have you done to revamp those plans?
No time in my lifetime where cash is king has not been more relevant. When this first started happening, we immediately started creating revised revenue forecast plans based on certain assumptions of what was going to happen, how long this was going to last, what was going to happen to the economy—5 different scenarios.
I started working with the senior leadership team to develop five different financial plans that got us through those five different scenarios. In parallel, I got our analytics team creating revenue trending plans that we can then look at a regular basis and see where we are on that financial plan waterfall.
- Have we hit that next-down level of revenue?
- What are the cost cuts?
- What are the deferments?
- What action plans are we going to implement to weather the storm?
- What action plans are we going to implement to accelerate out of the storm?
It’s created a great roadmap for us to start working from. It also frees up your mind, so your not constantly thinking about it.
Any guidance for other CFOs to put them in a better place at the end of this?
From an approach standpoint, it is imperative as the CFO, that I’m looking at this in a calm manner. I have an obligation to be the pragmatist, but I have to do it in a solution-oriented way. I have to be able to come to them to say look this is what we’re facing, here are some solutions that will help us get through this.
Who is a Leader you admire?
About a week before the pandemic really hit, Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and several other great leadership books, was here in Dallas for a conference. One of the speakers was Alan Mulally, former CEO of Boeing and Ford. When you think about what Alan inherited at Ford—he inherited a company that is about to go under. The economy was not doing well, and he manages to turnaround the company. Not only turn it around but turn it around in a way that it recovered faster than all of the other automakers in the US and accelerated out of it. He did it without making any major changes to the senior leadership team that he inherited. That, to me, is nothing short of amazing.
The three things he did at Ford to turn the company around:
- Create a simple vision. Create a plan for how you’re going to get through that and accelerate out of the crisis.
- Continue to reiterate that messaging across the entire company. He mentions the fact that if you say something once or twice and you don’t want to repeat it, because you think nobody wants to hear this same message again. The fact of the matter is that repetition is what drives the right behaviors. So as Patrick Lencioni says, we need to be the Chief Reminding Officers. We need to continue to remind people, “This is the vision, this is the plan; this is how we’re going to get there.”
- Trusting Your Team to create strategies and execute to the plan. Again, he took this team, that a lot of CEOs would have come in and said I’m going to bring in my own guys—I’m going to take out this entire team. He said he had 2 or 3 terminations during that whole period. When you think about what he did, and he did it so simply, I think that’s phenomenal. I see a lot of that in Jason McCann, CEO at Vari. Right now, in a moment of crisis, I’ve never seen stronger leadership than him. His mantra is to keep rowing, be the eye of the storm. Being that calm water for everyone has done a great job of keeping the morale up, keeping people motivated to work, keeping people finding ways for us to elevate. He’s been amazing.
As we look ahead, how do you see workspaces in the future?
We largely don’t know this will look like on the other side. I think the need to have flexibility in whatever your work environment is. Again, I think for an extended time, we’re all going to have to work from home.
It’s going to be a slow integration, 25%, 50%, whatever the rules are, we’re going to have to rotate people in and out of the building. Wearing masks, taking temperatures as we walk in the door, things that we need to do to make sure that we’re keeping people safe. Working from home – you’re never going to be able to 100% replicate what it’s like in the office, but you can do things to make that work environment, happy, healthy, and productive.