In 2002 F.O.C.U.S. Resources was founded to support early, emerging and growth (EEG) stage companies, regardless of industry, across the critical business dimensions/functions of:
- Finance and Accounting
- Cash, Cost and Capital Management
- Utilization of Resources
These key business dimensions are integral to the success of businesses at every stage of development. However, the experience and expertise needed to deliver these components of business in an integrated manner are often unavailable to the very organizations that need them the most – the early, emerging, and growth (EEG) stage technology and biotechnology companies.
One of the biggest challenges to EEG companies is finding the balance between obtaining business and specialized functional expertise and the cash outlay required. F.O.C.U.S. Resources (FOCUS) recognized that EEG companies have special needs and provided multiple options to clients that enable them to minimize the investment and maximize the return. FOCUS made the commitment to long-term relationships based not on billable hours or revenues, but on the right alternatives for the client business – even when that means putting other “expert” services ahead of those provided by FOCUS. For instance, a recent meeting with a technology start-up (newly incorporated) included a discussion of the financial and accounting needs, SBIR grant application questions and operational infrastructure concerns. Over the course of the discussion it became evident that the intellectual property aspect of the business needed first priority – get it protected. The business priorities were defined as follows:
- Intellectual property protection
- Employment agreements
- Operating agreements
- Provisional patent filings
- Business Plan
- Market Analysis
- Operating Plan
- Other elements
- Accounting and financial systems
- Accounting/Bookkeeping System
- Grant and Project Accounting Customization
FOCUS doesn’t come into the process until the business plan and accounting/financial elements are ready to be addressed.
This is a good point to explain how FOCUS advises clients and develops customized tools, documents, and other business needs for each client. The FOCUS™ Approach is an integrated business perspective that takes into consideration the impact of every decision on every functional aspect or activity of the business. The perspective is focused on the resulting impact on financial performance – bottom-line results – short-term, mid-term, and long-term. Sometimes the “best” decision means a trade-off between results today and long-term viability; sometimes it means that the system implemented today is “good enough” and recognizes that it won’t be good enough later in the business’ development process. The ability to bring together an understanding of financial results, operational constraints, and practical realities is critical to getting companies through the EEG cycle.
From real world experience with EEG companies, FOCUS recognizes that two areas of business are often viewed as “simple” – the numbers and the people processes (human resources). If not properly addressed from the beginning (or at least fairly early), these two areas can set the business up for significant financial and operational pain in the future.
The numbers (finance and accounting) require an understanding of the constraints, processes, and requirements placed upon the organization from banks, investors, employees (payroll), debt-holders, and government (regulatory, tax, and grant agencies). There are added requirements for grant (government and private) and loan recipients, as well as for publicly-traded companies.
One of the reasons that FOCUS is a sponsor of the SBIR outreach in North Carolina is that experience has shown that many (if not most) grant recipients are not fully aware of the operational and financial implications of receiving, spending, tracking, and reporting on the use of the funds received. Grants are made with the expectation that certain “results” will be delivered. How the money is used to obtain those results is subject to audit by the granting agencies.
One local technology company received a Phase I SBIR in the first year of operation. Believing that “it’s just numbers”, the company handled all of the accounting through QuickBooks and providing the summary data to the company CPA. When the audit on the project occurred in the second quarter of the second year of operation, the accounting and timekeeping processes was found to be insufficient. The company spent approximately $20,000 in accounting and other fees to go back and “fix” the problem.
Because it is easier, cheaper, and faster to establish accounting, financial, timekeeping, and other reporting processes EARLY in the business’ development, FOCUS wants to reach grant applicants and recipients to work with them to identify business, financial, and human resources process needs before they become issues that require substantial cash outlay to correct. Another FOCUS element is identifying activities, events, or issues that can put a company’s intellectual property (IP) at risk – items such as employee/independent contractor misclassification can nullify work-for-hire agreements, resulting in claims of shared ownership of the IP.
FOCUS Resource President, Lea Strickland, has extensive experience in compliance with grant accounting and timekeeping requirements. Her experience includes designing and implementing accounting and timekeeping systems for an emerging company with technology and bio-tech operations awarded grants and contracts for multiple years in excess of $10 million – Phase I and Phase II SBIR/STTR – fixed price and cost plus – from NIH, NSF, Department of Defense (Army and Navy), and other grant agencies.
FOCUS Resources has industry experience in manufacturing and service companies from both financial and operational perspectives. Industries include contract electronics manufacturing, automotive (OEM and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers) manufacturing, banking, retailing, audit, consumer products manufacturing, software development, education centers, web/portal services, e-learning, high tech textiles, and many others. The EEG companies have ranged from the planning stage to commercialization of technology. EEG experience is enhanced by extensive experience in small and mid-sized growth companies, Fortune 5, Fortune 500 and Global 50 companies.
Regardless of industry or stage of business, the integration of finance, accounting, operations, product development, and human resources into a cohesive business system is critical. The earlier a company lays the foundation for robust infrastructure, the easier it is to build in compliance, reporting, and managerial tools that enable the business to FOCUS its resources appropriately, at the right time, in the right place, toward a specific outcome. A correctly designed and implemented business infrastructure minimizes the investment of time, money, and on-going activities to maximize the maneuverability and action toward the technology and its commercialization.
FOCUS Resources provides a range of services to its clients:
- Business plan development
- Financial Modeling
- Accounting system design
- Grant compliance programs
- Project/Grant Accounting Education and Training
- Enterprise Risk Assessments
- 360° Enterprise Diagnostics™ – (A comprehensive review of financial, human resource, and operational activities to establish priorities, identify risks, and provide a basis for process improvements)
- Commercialization support
- Funding support
- Financial and Accounting System Selection, Design, and Implementation
- Human Resource Compliance Reviews
- Procurement System Design and Implementation
- Business Alternative Assessments
- Valuation – Product line, Niche, Markets, and Total Business
- Pricing Models
- Project Quote Tools
- Cost Models
- Custom projects
FOCUS Resources is committed to the client’s success. From conception to commercialization, FOCUS aids the client in achieving bottom-line results through organizational alignment, sound financial and accounting processes, and integrated business decisions that consider the total business not just one functional perspective.
Please visit our website at focusrebuild.wpengine.com and subscribe to the FOCUS Newsletter. To setup a meeting with FOCUS Resource President/CEO, Lea Strickland, call 919.210.7171 or send an e-mail to [email protected]