How to Evaluate Your Finance Department

Nobody knows your business better than you do. After all, you are the CEO. You know what the engineers do; you know what the production managers do; and nobody understands the sales process better than you. You know who is carrying their weight and who isn’t. That is, unless we’re talking about the finance and accounting managers.

Most CEO’s, especially in small and mid-size enterprises, come from operational or sales backgrounds. They have often gained some knowledge of finance and accounting through their careers, but only to the extent necessary. But as the CEO, they must make judgments about the performance and competence of the accountants as well as the operations and sales managers.

So, how does the diligent CEO evaluate the finance and accounting functions in his company? All too often, the CEO assigns a qualitative value based on the quantitative message. In other words, if the Controller delivers a positive, upbeat financial report, the CEO will have positive feelings toward the Controller. And if the Controller delivers a bleak message, the CEO will have a negative reaction to the person. Unfortunately, “shooting the messenger” is not at all uncommon.

The dangers inherent in this approach should be obvious. The Controller (or CFO, bookkeeper, whoever) may realize that in order to protect their career, they need to make the numbers look better than they really are, or they need to draw attention away from negative matters and focus on positive matters. This raises the probability that important issues won’t get the attention they deserve. It also raises the probability that good people will be lost for the wrong reasons.

The CEO’s of large public companies have a big advantage when it comes to evaluating the performance of the finance department. They have the audit committee of the board of directors, the auditors, the SEC, Wall Street analyst and public shareholders giving them feedback. In smaller businesses, however, CEO’s need to develop their own methods and processes for evaluating the performance of their financial managers.

Here are a few suggestions for the small business CEO:

Timely and Accurate Financial Reports

Chances are that at some point in your career, you have been advised that you should insist on “timely and accurate” financial reports from your accounting group. Unfortunately, you are probably a very good judge of what is timely, but you may not be nearly as good a judge of what is accurate. Certainly, you don’t have the time to test the recording of transactions and to verify the accuracy of reports, but there are some things that you can and should do.

Insist that financial reports include comparisons over a number of periods. This will allow you to judge the consistency of recording and reporting transactions.
Make sure that all anomalies are explained.
Recurring expenses such as rents and utilities should be reported in the appropriate period. An explanation that – “there are two rents in April because we paid May early” – is unacceptable. The May rent should be reported as a May expense.
Occasionally, ask to be reminded about the company’s policies for recording revenues, capitalizing costs, etc.

Beyond Monthly Financial Reports

You should expect to get information from your accounting and finance groups on a daily basis, not just when monthly financial reports are due. Some good examples are:

Daily cash balance reports.
Accounts receivable collection updates.
Cash flow forecasts (cash requirements)
Significant or unusual transactions.

Consistent Work Habits

We’ve all known people who took it easy for weeks, then pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline. Such inconsistent work habits are strong indicators that the individual is not attentive to processes. It also sharply raises the probability of errors in the frantic last-minute activities.

Willingness to Be Controversial

As the CEO, you need to make it very clear to the finance/accounting managers that you expect frank and honest information and that they will not be victims of “shoot the messenger” thinking. Once that assurance is given, your financial managers should be an integral part of your company’s management team. They should not be reluctant to express their opinions and concerns to you or to other department leaders.

Learn How Your Finance Department Can Inspire Growth

Almost all departments within all companies have an untapped ‘cognitive surplus’. A ‘cognitive surplus’ is the difference between the specific tasks an employee is assigned to do and what they actually are capable of doing – the actual versus the potential work.

It seems obvious, but to tap into it the ‘Cognitive Surplus’ can make a huge difference.

Companies such as 3M, Dell and Google have all implemented what is called ‘20% time’ or ‘innovation time’ – one day of their working week, dedicated to whatever projects they like… provided it benefits the company in some way.

Does it pay off?

One might wonder: Does it pay off? Well, at Google this has resulted in successful projects such as Gmail, Google News and AdSense, and according to ex-employee, Marissa Mayer, as many as half of Google innovations are a result of ‘20% time’.

But, while this approach might be considered something market leaders can utilise, many finance departments perceive they barely have the time to complete all the necessary work at present, never mind crafting new and innovative ideas, supporting procedures that aid business growth.

Yet finance departments really do need this ‘innovation time’.

In this slow and sometimes contracting economy, the next two years will be critical for businesses. It will fall largely on finance departments to walk the thin line between productive spending and managing a dwindling pool of resources. Additionally, with a host of new financial regulations coming into place in this two-year period, financial departments will be instrumental in helping businesses to remain compliant without losing their current standing.

This extra pressure and workload will make it difficult for finance to inspire new talent whilst holding on to the employees they already have. Finance professionals require stimulating challenges without being overloaded with extra work – they need ‘20% time’ to effectively tap-in to their expertise, and not have their time consumed by lengthy, repetitive tasks – that can be automated.

How to make time for tapping into ‘Cognitive Surplus’ in the finance department

One way in which businesses can help free up some of their finance department’s time to complete tasks, is by automating the tedious and time-consuming tasks that turn prospective talent off finance work. Reconciliation is one such set of tasks that finance professionals find particularly tiresome and time consuming. Fortunately it is now possible to automate account reconciliation, processing hundreds of thousands of transactions in just minutes rather than hours or potentially days.

While significantly reducing reconciliation errors, automation also frees up large chunks of time that could be dedicated to maintaining compliance, providing strategic insight in this tough economy.

This additional time could even become the rarely considered ‘innovation time’ your business needs to inspire growth and stay competitive.

3 Fuss-Free Slow Cooker Recipes Using Herbs and Spices

A slow-cooker is inexpensive, economical and is a great tool to use to transform budget ingredients into a 5-star style dish. It’s time that you make the most out of your weekends by enjoying flavorful home-cooked meals using your crock-pot.

Here are 3 recipes that use healthy herbs and spices that you can try:

Herb-Crusted Slow Cooker Pot Roast

What you need:

1/2 kg. pot roast, fat trimmed
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine basil, thyme, oregano, celery salt, ginger, garlic powder, mustard and black pepper in a small bowl. Set aside. Cut the fat side of the pot roast with 1/4-inch deep slits (1 1/2 inches apart). Rub the spice mixture all over the roast until covered completely. Pour white wine and honey over the top. Cook the pot roast in a crock-pot for 3-4 hours or until tender. Serve with mashed potatoes or with mixed vegetables if desired.

Slow Cooker Chili Chicken

What you need:

3 boneless and skinless chicken breasts
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups green salsa
1 3/4 cups cooked corn kernels
1 3/4 cups white beans
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sliced green chili peppers
1 onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, green salsa, corn, beans, chili peppers, onion, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper and chicken broth in a slow cooker. Stir to combine ingredients well. Place chicken breasts on top of the mixture. Cook on a slow cooker over low heat for 6-8 hours or until chicken flakes easily. When ready, remove chicken, shred completely then return to cooker and stir. Serve warm.

Crock-Pot Spinach Marinara Sauce with Herbs

What you need:

3 1/2 cups peeled and crushed tomatoes
1 3/4 cups sliced mushrooms
1 1/4 cups chopped spinach
1/3 cup grated carrots
3/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 tbsps. crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsps. dried basil
2 tbsps. dried oregano
2 tbsps. salt

Mix together tomatoes, mushroom, spinach, carrots, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano and salt in a crock-pot. Cover and cook over high heat for 3-4 hours. Stir, then cook for 2 hours more over low heat. Pour over cooked pasta and serve immediately.

Healthy Meal of the Week 31 With Healthy Leftover Idea

Healthy Meal of the Week: Slow Cooked Chicken, Brown Rice & Corn Cob
Healthy Leftover Idea: Chicken Sandwiches

Here’s an easy-to-prepare meal using your wonderful slow cooker that may likely be sitting sadly in the corner of your kitchen waiting patiently to be called upon. When planned accordingly, this meal can be all ready to eat when you return home especially if the rice and corn variety you purchase is the microwave type variety. Not to worry if you don’t have those or want to spend the extra money on them since the rice and corn will only take about 20 minutes to prepare.

For the leftover meal, you’ll have a great handheld treat weighing in only around 250 calories each if prepared as described below.

Equipment Needed
– slow cooker (Crock Pot)
– pan with lid for rice (or rice cooker)
– large pot for corn

Prep Time
– 5 minutes

Cooking Time
– 4-8 hours depending on temperature setting

(4-6 servings)
– 1 prepackaged whole chicken
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 16 ounces chicken broth
– 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
– 3-4 whole corn on the cob
– 1 cup brown rice
– 1/4 cup honey
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– optional: butter/margarine for corn & rice
– optional: 3 bay leaves for rice

For Chicken Sandwiches
– 100 calorie multi grain sandwich slenders
– shredded cheese
– chili paste/salsa


*Decide if you want to cook the chicken on either the low setting for 6-8 hours or high setting for 4-5 hours.

1. Open the chicken package and rinse well with cold water in your kitchen sink. Place the whole chicken inside your clean slow cooker.

2. Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tablespoons seasoned salt to 16 oz. chicken broth and stir/mix well. Add solution to the slow cooker and turn on to the desired setting. Remember to set a timer or the alarm on your phone for 6-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours if slow cooker is on high.

3. When there is approximately 1 hour left on the timer, add the 1/4 cup honey on top of the chicken. Recover and let finish cooking.

4. About now you can start cooking the rice and corn. For the corn, fill a large pot about 1/2 way with hot water and bring to a boil on the stove. While that’s happening peel the corn husks off each piece you plan to cook. Rinse the corn pieces under the sink to get rid of any straggling husk pieces. For this meal example, the corn pieces were snapped in half to make leftover travel portions easy to fit in the plastic containers, but this choice is entirely up to you. When water is boiling place pieces in the water and set a timer for 20 minutes.

5. If you want to prepare the brown rice the same way as this meal, add 3 tablespoons of olive oil to your rice pan and turn on to low/medium temperature. Add 1 cup of brown rice and stir frequently for 3 minutes. Add one cup of chicken broth along with 3 bay leaves. Stir and allow to cook/soak in for a couple of minutes. Add 1 cup of hot water, increase temperature until rice mixture comes to a boil stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, cover pan with lid and set timer for 18 minutes. That’s all there’s to it!

6. Once chicken is finished cooking, turn off slow cooker and using two forks, you should be able to easily tear off pieces from the whole chicken, at least enough for the servings you’ll need for now. You can get the rest later when you are putting leftovers into containers or making the leftover sandwiches as listed below. You can also try to carefully pull the entire chicken out, but it may be easier to wait until liquid is a bit cooler to do this. The choice is entirely up to you.

7. Serve an appropriate portion size with an optional bit of butter on the corn, and a spoonful of the slow cooker liquid on the rice/chicken and enjoy!

Healthy Leftover Idea: Chicken Sandwiches

The best thing about these leftover sandwiches is that if you use the right type of bread/wrap, there’s no reason why these sandwiches can’t be made to be easily under 300 calories each. Combine that with a piece of fruit and a nice large glass of water and you have a nutritious lunch that will be right around 400 calories total. Isn’t that far better than the 1,300+ calorie meal you’ll find at any fast food spot?

Hopefully your local supermarket has a nice selection of bread/wraps and look for these multigrain 100 calorie sandwich slenders or something else that’s similar in calorie count. Open up the pre-sliced bun and layer the bottom slice with 2 tablespoons of cooked brown rice. In order to spice up this sandwich a bit, some ground fresh chili paste was added, but literally any of your favorite can be used. Carefully dice up some chicken into fine pieces and add a couple of tablespoons on top of the rice/chili paste side. Finally add a bit of shredded cheese then the top piece of the bun and you have quickly yet effectively created a delicious travel sandwich that you will find quite enjoyable for lunch the following day. Just be sure to wrap it up securely in a piece of foil so all the fixings don’t fall out.

Healthy Meal of the Week 35 With Healthy Leftover Idea

Healthy Meal of the Week: Crock Pot Ham

Healthy Leftover Idea: Ham Omelette Melt

Here’s another crock pot (slow cooker) meal idea tied directly to the holidays that is simple to make yet yields a tasty ham your family will truly enjoy. You can even pick and choose items from this meal along with last week’s to really have a wonderful spread at your dinner table or for your next family function. As for the leftover idea, this is the first breakfast idea presented here but can easily be used for a nice lunch treat too! Many people enjoy breakfast-type dishes throughout the day so here’s an easy way to use any of the leftover ham in a tasty omelette melt.

Healthy Meal of the Week 35

Equipment Needed

– Crock Pot (Slow Cooker)
– 2 Stove top pans
– baster
– whisk
– cutting knife

Prep Time

– 5 minutes

Cooking Time

– 4+ hours


(5-6 servings)

– 2 pound boneless ham
– 1 cup brown sugar
– 1/4 cup maple syrup
– 1/4 cup honey
– 1 can corn
– 1 package stuffing mix

For Ham Omelette Melts

– Eggs
– Shredded Cheese (mozzarrella)
– Sandwich Thins (if making a sandwich melt)


1. Open ham package and using a sharp knife carefully cut ham slices 3/4 of the way to the bottom. If you purchased a ham that’s already semi-cut and has perforations that makes this part a whole lot easier. By taking this step you will allow the sweet sauce to get into the middle of the ham during cooking time and is particularly helpful when you use a baster to squirt juice back on top periodically throughout cooking time.

2. Once you have the ham sliced, spray the inside of your crock pot (slow cooker) with non-stick spray or coat with oil, then layer a 1/2 cup of brown sugar on the bottom of the cooker.

3. In a bowl, add the other 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup of maple syrup, and 1/4 cup of honey, and whisk until mixed well. Pour this sauce all over the ham letting it seep down in between the slices as best as possible.

4. Place glazed ham in the crock pot on top of the 1/2 cup brown sugar you already put there, cover and turn on to Low. Set timer to 4 hours, but adjust timer if the ham you purchased is larger than two pounds. If you have a meat thermometer, you’re striving to hit 140F degrees.

5. Periodically use a baster to squeeze some of that sweet glaze back on top of the ham after the one hour mark. Possibly in 30 minute intervals. This helps keep the ham continually marinated preventing it from drying out. Don’t worry if you’re unable to do this due to time restrictions or if you’re too busy. Just know that your ham may turn out a bit dry.

6. When there is less than 30 minutes total cooking time remaining, you can start cooking the corn and the stuffing. Both of these can be made in under 10 minutes. For the corn, simply open the can and add contents directly to a stove-top pot medium temperature and stir occasionally. For the stuffing, follow the directions as indicated on the box.

7. When everything is finished serve an appropriate portion size of each. You may want to squeeze a tad bit of the glaze sauce over the ham or even in the stuffing if you want a little extra pizzazz.

Healthy Leftover Idea: Ham Omelette Melt

Here’s a great way to use some of the leftover ham for a breakfast treat. All you’ll need extra are some eggs, shredded cheese, and if you want to make it a handheld sandwich or burrito, some type of bread/tortilla. In this example to help keep calorie count as low as possible, sandwich thins were used – only 100 calories total per pair.

First take a piece of leftover ham and dice it into small pieces. Crack open 2-3 eggs into a bowl, add a pinch or two of salt and pepper then whisk well. Add the pieces of diced ham. Put a small skillet on medium temperature and use a bit of non-stick spray or oil/butter. After a minute of warming up, pour the entire mixture into the pan. Let cook for a bit then with a spatula flip to the other side. Eggs should harden and brown just a bit. Once both sides have browned a bit add a few sprinkles of cheese and turn off the stove. Cheese will melt with residual heat.