Let’s bypass the familiar narrative of “unprecedented times.” Every CFO is acutely aware of the unique challenges emerging over the past few months, not to mention the preceding years. Now, more than ever, the importance of automation in business is becoming increasingly apparent.
However, understanding the strategies and experiences of their peers in navigating this evolving landscape can be invaluable. To this end, NetSuite convened a panel of CFOs from diverse sectors for an enlightening discussion. A focal point of this conversation was the role of automation in business, and how it is reshaping traditional processes and operations.
Key topics they delved into included:
- Strategies to combat rising employee turnover;
- Leveraging automation in business to improve workforce efficiency;
- Recruitment techniques during a talent crunch, especially when rivals dangle temptingly high salary packages;
- Assessing the present economic landscape;
- Preparing for potential economic downturns and managing the uncertainties surrounding them;
- and Addressing cash flow issues, particularly in the context of automation and workforce management.
It’s worth highlighting that these CFOs represent companies that are thriving despite these hurdles, setting them apart from many others that haven’t been as resilient. The insights shared by these finance leaders reveal how they’ve tackled significant barriers, including integrating automation in their businesses, to keep their organizations on a successful trajectory. Dive into their stories below and discover how NetSuite’s latest functionalities can empower more such success stories.
Strategies for CFOs: Mitigating and Preventing Employee Turnover
Glenn Hopper, CFO of Sandline Global, a company specializing in legal technology, e-discovery, and forensics, took proactive steps early in the year. Anticipating the widespread turnover affecting many companies, Sandline implemented across-the-board salary increments. Combined with a firm commitment to employee welfare, this move has successfully curbed turnover and provided a stable environment amidst economic uncertainty.
For leaders unable to provide comprehensive raises, CFO Chris Caprio presents alternative methods worth considering: career development programs and promoting from within.
Caprio, hailing from the multifaceted IT company, Focus Technology, believes in the power of growth opportunities. “If we can offer a genuine career trajectory, we can retain talent amidst job offers elsewhere,” says Caprio, adding, “we’re prioritizing internal promotions. We’re seeing employees evolve into managers and managers stepping up to lead.”
He acknowledges, however, that this strategy holds ground when competitors offer salary increases of 15% or less. The present climate, with competitors offering his employees salaries up to 40% higher, poses additional challenges.
Managing Talent Scarcity Amidst Competitive Salary Offers
Melissa Hurrington, based in Nebraska, is well acquainted with this salary tug-of-war. Her firm, Premier Claims, has experienced larger, national companies poaching their talent under the pretense of affordable remote hiring in the Midwest.
When workforce reductions started making headlines, Hurrington’s smaller firm emphasized job security. They committed to a clear message: “We’re here for you. Your success matters to us, and we’re invested in you.”
“If we can avoid it, we will never resort to layoffs — we don’t subscribe to the approach of recruiting en masse only to let go later,” says Hurrington. This stance has fostered immense loyalty within her firm.
While some might view this as a “softer” strategy, cultivating a mission-driven culture within close-knit teams can be a potent weapon in the battle for talent. Premier Claims has welcomed back two “boomerang” employees who, after leaving for higher salaries, returned either at their previous pay or with a modest increase. Hurrington notes, “It’s encouraging to see people return, acknowledging the unique value we offer here.”
Leveraging Automation to Address Talent Constraints
Recently, Premier Claims has adopted a more cautious approach towards recruitment, focusing instead on optimizing its existing workforce through technology investments. Hurrington believes this strategy not only improves efficiency but also aids employee retention by eliminating tedious, manual tasks.
“As we enhance efficiency, enabling the company to do more with less, salaries can correspondingly rise,” Hurrington explains.
As part of their automation drive, the company recently integrated the NetSuite ERP into their operations. To identify the most beneficial applications of this system, Hurrington has incentivized staff to suggest tasks that would be ideal for automation, offering a cash bonus in return.
“There’s a constant stream of ideas on how we can work smarter and increase efficiency, allowing us to grow with our current team,” she says.
Hurrington’s approach aligns with the results of a recent NetSuite survey. In it, finance executives identified “enhancing worker efficiency” as their primary strategy for tackling talent shortages. Additionally, 80% of leaders reported that they have already automated functions across sectors from accounting to e-commerce or plan to do so within the next half-year.
A significant automation initiative has proved hugely beneficial for Caprio’s company. With the onset of the pandemic, they implemented the necessary processes to cease vendor payments via checks, using a third-party tool integrated with NetSuite. The firm is now exploring methods to promote online customer payments through credit cards or ACH, eliminating the need for manual check processing.
Boosting Cash Flow and Preparing for Potential Shortfalls
Sandline is proactively refining its accounts receivable practices, specifically to enhance cash flow. The company recently began offering shorter payment terms with a discount incentive in one of its divisions. Hopper reveals that instead of net 30 — which larger clients often seek to extend — clients can opt for net 10 and receive a 2% discount.
Premier Claims, on the other hand, encounters a different cash flow challenge. As a public adjusting firm, its business model relies on insurance carriers possessing robust cash flow. When these carriers invest premiums and those investments falter, it raises concerns. As CFO, Hurrington counters these uncertainties with comprehensive scenario planning.
“With so many variables, it feels like I’m projecting 47 different situations,” she says. “For us, being smart with cash involves continuous projections and adjustments, examining every scenario to ensure that no matter what, we have sufficient runway to meet our commitments.”
Caprio adopts a similar stance. Amidst employee inquiries about the company’s strategies to handle economic issues like inflation, he’s been coordinating with other departments to identify “areas where we can reduce costs before considering personnel cuts. The last thing we want is to impact our people.”
While the economy may not necessarily worsen, Caprio adds, some predict further decline in the coming years. Regardless, he has strong advice for those skeptical about planning.
“You might think, ‘I don’t know if there will be a larger economic downturn,’” he says. “In response, from a scenario planning viewpoint, it’s prudent to assume it will.”