Ep. 12: Mason Brady - Finance Function for a Small Enterprise

Mason Brady, MBA, CMA, is the Director of Finance & Supply Chain for Homegrown Organic Farms. He has an operational-oriented perspective on the finance function of the small enterprise in California. Mason uses his international MBA with an entrepreneurship-focus to identify solutions to common challenges a smaller organization faces and discusses the various rewards of leading the finance function. He talks about his various oversight roles and some best practices for optimizing processes in smaller organizations. He also highlights how to manage the budget of a small company when trying to take advantage of emerging technologies and how to successfully implement new technology design. Mason is a passionate finance manager and strategic planner who makes sure he understands how his business truly works and functions efficiently!

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Music: (00:00)

Mitch: (00:05)
Welcome to Count Me In. If you're joining us for the first time and you're interested in staying up to date with the latest perspectives on all things accounting and finance, please make sure you subscribe to our series, download rate and review all your favorite episodes as we keep you informed on what the experts are saying in the industry. And this week's episode, my co host, here Adam talks with Mason Brady, director of finance and supply chain for homegrown organic farms out in California. Now, Adam, you talked a lot about the finance function in a smaller enterprise. What did Mason have to say about it?

Adam: (00:38)
You know, Mitch, his passion for finance and operational efficiencies truly came through as he shared some of his insight into how one can lead strategic initiatives for smaller companies. Just like homegrown organic farms. Mason is a CMA with a finance and entrepreneurship focus MBA. He has a motivating perspective on improving the finance function for smaller businesses. So let's hear about Mason's current role and some of the rewards and challenges he's most familiar with.

Music: (01:02)

Adam: (01:04)
Mason, you currently serve as the director of finance and supply chain for homegrown organic farms. Can you tell us a little bit about the rewards and challenges of serving as a CFO or finance director for a small enterprise?

Mason: (01:23)
You know, it kind of goes hand in hand as a reward and a challenge, but it's just the idea that you wear a lot of hats. So you know, it, you go online and you look up what does the CFO do for, and oftentimes you get a response FOR what a CFO does for a large corporation. And that usually involves capital management and procuring capital for projects and expansion plans and growth for the company. And it also involves a flavor of investor relations and having relationships with banks, et cetera, et cetera. And so that is a part of my job, but I also directly oversee the accounting functions. I do have a controller, an accounting manager in place, but very much so. Still involved in the accounting and, and building standard operating procedures and I'm really involved in the operations of our business and the operations of our accounting department as well. And so while I am tasked with doing a particular settings that a CFO or finance director, and usually it's known for when you work for a small enterprise that's just a sliver or a fraction of the entire pie of what you do. And so you know finding capital and procuring capital for growth for our company, that makes up maybe 10% of my time, while FPA makes up anywhere from 15 20% of my time. Overseeing accounting makes up another 30% of my time. And then in addition, I oversee the quality control functions and the procurement functions of materials, of packaging materials for our company. And so, yeah, it's just overall, it's the idea that you wear a lot of hats, which it's a lot of fun and it's really rewarding because you really understand the business as a whole better. But it is a challenge in ensuring that you are delegating appropriately, that you're not creating a bottleneck that you yourself are not becoming a bottleneck and ensuring that you're, you know, the operations of your business can flows smoothly without you having to be involved in absolutely everything or habit saying everything. And so yeah, it's finding that appropriate balance between the idea that you really get to see what's happening in your business. And so you can guide your accounting and your financing functions to ensure that they're meeting the needs of the business appropriately. But you really have to learn how to delegate and balance things as well.

Adam: (03:47)
So what comes with the oversight of accounting and FP&A in your organization?

Mason: (03:52)
Well you know a regular week looks like I have an accounting meeting with both my controller and accounting manager. Our County manager handles the AP and the grower accounting and then our controller you know, kind of, he provides a, we really have a part-time controller and he provides a higher level financial reporting perspective. And then also oversees our AR and our invoicing. And so the oversight there is really me engaging with them in those weekly meetings and reviewing our financials as a team together and ensuring that I'm able to spot out things or I'm able to ask questions and see how things are going and identifying where we may need a revised procedure and working with them directly to ultimately go implement a revised procedure. So if there is something related to AR invoicing, I would work, you know directly with my controller and go, you know, talk through what I understand and what they understand and try to come up with a common solution or, you know, I work with our accounting manager and talk to our AP and say, Hey, you know, how we're going with this. It doesn't seem to, it doesn't seem to align properly with the cruel standards. Maybe, maybe we need to make an adjustment like this and try to find the, a more simple way to do it. And so that's really what the oversight of accounting looks like. On the other hand, FP&A FP&A really resides in me And I, it's just the, it's just the fact that I have to you know, control the budgeting. I'm in charge of the forecasting, but I'm really the one with the financial modeling Excel skills to do that. And yeah, those are skills that, especially in a small enterprise are difficult to hire because you do have to pay good amounts of dollars for people who do have those skills in within small enterprises. That may not be something you can necessarily find the budget for. And so those functions really reside in me and really working directly with our CEO to provide forecasts and budgets as necessary. But I'm really pulling the data from our accounting team and our controller accounting manager and making sure that we all agree that what is being presented and in the financial reports looks appropriate. So then I can use that information and then forecast with it. So, in a way it's nice because from an FP&A perspective, I have my hand in the accounting, so I really no how to forecast something appropriately because I really understand the transaction. But I, yeah, I wish I could say that there's an oversight of FP&A, but really it's just me doing FP&A and well I do have a project coordinator that does handle a lot of KPI dashboards, produces a lot of KPI dashboards for me. It's still very much so me guiding that function me saying this is, this is how we're going to do it. And then laying out the plan of how we're going to do it.

Adam: (06:45)
That's great. That's a great kind of description of where you are. You know, so you were mentioning, you know, budgets and getting the right people involved. You know, a common story we hear is that small businesses can't take advantage of emerging technologies and software advancements because of their budgets. So what is your experience been with that? And do you have any best practices you can share to overcome the troubles with software design and implementation?

Mason: (07:10)
Oh, man. Yeah, this is probably the toughest question I have. It's, you know, it's very hard to replace the functionality and the flexibility of Excel. And I suggest whether somebody is in a smaller enterprise or in a larger enterprise, be cautious thinking that something is going to beat out Excel because you are going to be able to do many, many things with Excel. And so you know, and I think a lot of folks and because they don't have a full user understanding of Excel, they want to upgrade. And I really think a lot of companies are thinking from a perspective that well, if they don't want to take the time to really learn the full functionality of Excel and they want something that is a little bit more user friendly where somebody doesn't have to have a coding background or you know, understand BBA or macros or whatever the case is, that they really, they don't want it, you know, and they don't have the time to fill in those things. They don't want to make the time to go learn those things. And so they're looking for out of the box solutions. But yeah, you're really going to struggle to find something that fits every business model that I think that there's a lot of software out there, but what the software companies need to understand and do a little bit better as they need to niche down and they ultimately need to serve smaller market segments because they may have created a really great solution that works for a large company. You come into my business model in my industry and it does not work at all because we are entirely different. And so every assumption that you built into your software, I just imploded it for you And so it's really, you know, these software companies I'm looking for the day when they find greater opportunity instead of having, trying to serve the broad general market, but they instead seek to niche down and try to understand the needs of just a few markets at a time. But I don't see it quite yet right there in agriculture yet. I think there's a lot of companies trying, but it's, there's still difficulties. But yeah, I would say you know, just be weary of, you know, spending lots of dollars on software. There is a lot of functionality that you can do with Excel for example. You know yeah, every company I do believe should have a KPI dashboard to understand some of the major metrics that are affecting their business and they should be viewing those on a regular basis. But that doesn't mean you need to go out and buy some major business intelligence solution. What you first need to do is understand which metrics you want to view and you want to understand, and you do that from understanding the goals of your business. And aligning your KPIs to those goals of where you want to go into business and what makes sense in order to reach those goals. And then you try to go figure out how to measure those things. And if you can pay somebody just a couple, you know, pay somebody a certain wage rate for a couple hours of work in order to produce those on a weekly basis, you then have to weigh that against going out and getting a $100,000 business intelligence solutions that'll be out of date within two or three years and I have found personally that paying a person to simply, you find the way to gather the data out of our accounting ERP software and having them just put something together on Excel manually is far more cost effective than me going and buying a business intelligence solution. So it's just that, that idea that be weary of some of those softwares. Just make sure that you're really using what you have at hand to its full capacity before you and you're hitting a wall once you have resettled about before making a decision to move on something different.

Announcer: (10:49)
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