June 19, 2024

You’re the Boss: A Start-Up’s Financial Reckoning

She Owns It

Success came quickly for SolTec Electronics. The company, which Dawn Gluskin founded from her living room and financed with her savings and retirement accounts in 2008, sells hard-to-find electronic circuit board components, such as semi-conductors and integrated circuits to companies operating in the electronic manufacturing and aerospace industries.

By 2009, SolTec had annual revenue of $700,000. In 2010, it moved into office space in Rockledge, Fla., hit $2.7 million in revenue, and secured a $150,000 line of credit. SolTec, according to Ms. Gluskin, helps clients when traditional distributor relationships break down. Given the rapid pace of technological advance, critical components in a supply chain can suddenly become obsolete. Many manufacturers also have trouble keeping up with demand, which can result in long lead times as they wait for parts. In addition, counterfeit parts have flooded the global market, which is why SolTec tests all components in its lab before sending them to customers.

Last year Ms. Gluskin, a first-time entrepreneur, devoted much of her attention to sales, marketing, and business development — her areas of expertise — while simultaneously running her 11-employee company. Her efforts were rewarded with explosive growth, but she learned she couldn’t do it all. “I was so wrapped up in other activities,” she said, “that I lost sight of our financials.”

In the fourth quarter of 2010, SolTec recorded its first quarterly loss. Ms. Gluskin was unaware of the problem until the first quarter of 2011, when the $40,000 loss was revealed at an end-of-quarter management meeting. The loss, Ms Gluskin said, resulted from a “perfect storm” of low sales and high spending. “In 2010,” she said, “we tripled our staff size, moved from the home office, added a lab, and were spending, spending, spending on equipment.”

Immediately, Ms. Gluskin began to address SolTec’s weaknesses. She realized the company, which does not yet have a chief financial officer, lacked the processes to assess its financial health. Working with an adviser, Ms. Gluskin came up with the relevant numbers and ratios to track. They included net account receivables, net worth, net sales, gross margin, and operating profit margin. The figures are now recorded on a spreadsheet completed by SolTec’s bookkeeper every two weeks.

To keep closer tabs on SolTec’s finances, Ms. Gluskin increased the frequency of management review meetings — from monthly to twice a month. She also delegated the company’s financial analysis to her chief operating officer and formalized quarterly meetings with SolTec’s accounting firm. So far, the added scrutiny has revealed minor issues, such as improperly coded QuickBooks entries that could have resulted in bigger problems down the road.

Ms. Gluskin, SolTec’s top revenue generator, said she is trying to “clone” herself. She revamped SolTec’s sales training program and now holds weekly meetings with her sales representatives during which she emphasizes the importance of relationship selling. Recently, she had her sales staff read The Go Giver, by Bob Burg and John David Mann. “The moral,” she said, “is the more you give, the more sales you’ll get.”

SolTec has many competitors, but Ms. Gluskin said it stands out by emphasizing customer needs. She urges her sales staff to get to know customers on a personal level and help them even when it will not directly benefit SolTec. For example, because Japan produces 20 percent of the world’s semi-conductors, the SolTech team researched and wrote about the earthquake’s impact on SolTec customers. SolTec e-mailed the article to clients, telling them which parts and companies would be affected.

So far, Ms. Gluskin said, 2011 is off to a great start. “We have already made up for the fourth-quarter loss and then some,” she said. She expects to make at least four hires by the end of the year, has signed a lease doubling SolTec’s office and warehouse space, and says the company is on track to hit $5 million in revenue by the end of 2012. In the next month, Ms. Gluskin hopes to have an advisory board in place. She also said it will soon be time to hire a chief financial officer. She is weighing whether the position should be full- or part-time.

Has your company wrestled with the same decision? If so, which option do you think would best serve SolTec?

You can follow Adriana Gardella on Twitter.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=71f2e509a1a7650a141975a8351d1a03

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