Financial Control Case Study: Establishing a Financial Control Group

The Situation:

A French food-processing company needed to establish a new financial control group that would better serve its significantly changing needs. With 52% of its business in France, the company was looking to expand internationally and displayed strong growth. It had grown to 11 subsidiaries, including four outside France, in five distinct sectors of the food industry, with revenues of €335 million, and a workforce of 850 people.

The Challenge:

The company’s finance team, composed of 45 employees, was divided into three departments: General Accounting and Financial Control, Cash Management, and Information Systems. Its Financial Control group was designed for a smaller business, and had become unsuitable for what was now a diverse group of entities operating in different markets.

While the group was producing a large amount of information, little of it was useful to operations. A variety of factors contributed to this problem:

The Boyden Solution:

Boyden provided a highly qualified Chief Financial Officer, DECS and CPA, who had started his career as a consultant in a large international consulting firm. He later joined the corporate world, embarking on a 20-year career in financial control and financial management positions in the manufacturing and food industries. In addition to sector-specific and operational expertise, the interim manager had a strong track record in reorganizing the subsidiaries of large groups, including underperforming units with failing financial structures.

Towards the primary goal of establishing a new financial control group with a different culture, the interim manager developed and implemented strong, practical financial procedures, particularly regarding the collection and analysis of financial information. His course of action had both strategic and operational aspects, focusing on the following areas:

Reporting: The group’s reporting systems were standardized to provide more reliable tools and procedures for managing the group’s various businesses. This included a formalized system for disseminating data on a regular timetable. To ensure future success, the interim laid the groundwork for leadership and coordination of all financial control tasks.

Management planning: The interim developed monthly, quarterly and fiscal year projections and 'rolling estimates', paying particular attention to the production units with cost, validation and monitoring of productivity goals, as well as consolidation of results. He also set up a complete budgeting process, along with follow-up on these operations.

Analysis: Procedures were put in place to analyse results by business and by subsidiary, and provide recommendations, as well as approve investments and their financing. Analysis covered the group’s performance, both actual and potential, with performance indicator dashboards serving as real-time management tools for operations. Net results were monitored and optimized in collaboration with related departments.

Within 12 months, the group had practical, reliable new tools for making immediate and decisive financial decisions in the field, covering all key financial control requirements. Further, a philosophy of financial control in support of operations was introduced through ongoing immersion. The following were also achieved:

Key success factors

Implementation was rapid and successful, due in large part to the leadership of a highly experienced financial executive with expertise in operations. In the role of a financial controller, the interim manager kept a close eye on activities in the field, and worked with operations managers to train them to systematically integrate financial considerations into their thinking and decision-making.

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