I was recently asked by a colleague, “When does a client become a client? Is it a particular service they’re looking for? Is it the particular problem they’re having?” Certainly if the potential client is looking for a specific CFO service, or looking to solve a specific problem I can help, but that potential client doesn’t become a client until they feel that they’ve lost control of a particular problem in their business. The potential client may feel that they have, for example, a cash flow problem. If they can justify rightly or wrongly that they are in control of the situation, if they can say in their mind, “I can solve this problem, why pay someone else to do the same thing I can do on my own?”—then they are not going to be a client, they don’t feel out of control of their situation. They don’t understand at that point the benefit of a good CFO who can identify potential upsets, such as cash flow problems, before they ever occur.
As a CFO with 25 years of business ownership experience in retail, manufacturing, and service companies, I can tell you confidently that the most uncomfortable feeling for any business owner is the feeling of not being in control. It doesn’t have to feel like you’ve completely lost control of your entire business, it only has to feel like a loss of control over one small aspect of your business to leave you feeling shaken and off balance. The risk of loss, however small, and the sense of dread that comes with feeling powerless in any aspect of your business can numb you. The flip side of this is that when a business owner feels fully in control of their business and capable of solving any problems that come their way, they feel the best they’ve ever felt.
Strategic planning is what the potential client in the example does not yet understand. That wonderful feeling of control begins with the strategic planning process, and through that process it is maintained as the norm for how you feel in regards to your business, allowing you to become a truly confident business owner.