DLC Consultant, Heather Meister, quoted in CFO.com article

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When Derek Yung was hired as vice president of finance and strategic planning at NexTag a little more than a year ago, the privately held online price-comparison company had no strategic-planning processes to speak of. NexTag’s owners reported to the board quarterly, and kept most of the information about the company’s performance — and what they expected it to be — in their heads. “There was a lot of collaboration among the five people who controlled the company,” says Yung, but outside that group there was a “lack of accountability” and ownership.

“That works when you’re small,” Yung continues, but today NexTag’s not small. The company makes money by charging retailers a fee when shoppers click through to their site from NexTag and buy something. Those fees add up, and when NexTag was purchased four years ago by a private-equity firm, it was valued at $1.3 billion. NexTag now earns $200 million annually, and “five people can’t know everything about a $200 million company,” Yung says.

“We were good at telling you what happened yesterday — how many clicks Sears got and what we charged them — but how that rolled up for the month and how that reflected plan, that didn’t exist,” says Yung. NexTag used Great Plains software to report financial data. Other reporting systems were custom-built for each business function and produced spreadsheets that were consolidated manually to produce reports. Yung’s mission was to automate that process. His goal: to give the company the timely information it needed to make decisions based on good financial insight.

Yung chose Host Analytics, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) business-analytics provider with budgeting, consolidation, and reporting capabilities he equates with Hyperion’s and Cognos’s — but with the lower cost of entry typical with SaaS. “I didn’t want to invest in IT for financial systems,” he says.

NexTag’s finance department now provides monthly performance reports to all internal P&L owners, a report on actuals versus plan for the current and prior year, and a monthly packet that goes to the board. “We set up the reports in Host Analytics once,” says Yung, “press a button, and there they are.” He believes automation will enable finance to do more with less and focus on business strategy.

The Myth of Automation
CFOs want to be strategic. As cloud provider Intacct CFO Marc Linden says, they want to spend less time on the “nuts and bolts of accounting” and more time evaluating new business models and opportunities.

Inside businesses in general, expectations for the CFO are rising. But what frequently stands in the way is the time and effort it takes to cobble together information from operational silos. And not only do those labor-intensive processes keep finance from the high-value work their organizations want, they can create time lags. “What kind of decisions can you make with information that’s out of date?” asks Forrester principal Paul Hamerman.

“As the organization gets more complex, it takes longer and longer for the reporting software to take its snapshot of the numbers in the database,” says Heather Meister, a financial consultant and CPA at DLC, a management consultancy. “When people come in to work in the morning, that snapshot no longer matches the general ledger.” That can lead to bad decisions. “You could think you have a cash-flow problem when you don’t, or don’t when you do,” she says.

While automation is the obvious solution to these problems, every technology has its limits.

“Financial reporting will never be fully automated,” states Gabe Zubizarreta, founder and principal of Silicon Valley Accountants, a boutique CPA firm. “Say you tell a salesman he’s going to get a quarterly bonus if he sells X units. By the second month, he’s halfway there. Should you record that bonus for the quarter? There’s no right accounting answer. Maybe recording that puts you a little below your profit estimate so you don’t record it. Maybe you do. It takes human judgment. You can’t automate that.”

Complexity makes report automation an ever-receding target. “The more complex the business, the more unique and separate the financial transaction systems that exist within it, the more manual journal entries are required,” says Bruce Myers, a managing director with AlixPartners, which specializes in IT transformations. “With companies constantly making acquisitions, there are always unique systems being integrated.” And while they’re being integrated — which, in the case of large enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) systems, can take years — companies have no choice but to report manually.

In large, global companies, “you’ve got people on the other side of the planet that have to report,” Zubizarreta says. According to KPMG partner Hakan Aytekin, “We see [global] companies typically not performing reconciliations on certain balances” simply because it’s too time-consuming to check the information coming from all those ERP systems.

The business units in different countries, says Zubizarreta, “have different rules, different products, different warranties, all combined together. It’s a mythical world in which you get everything on one system and everything is automated.”

This is a huge problem for those large, global companies. But for small and midsize businesses, fully automated reporting may be less chimerical.

Stitching Together a Better Report
Mike Maher, who after graduating from business school in 2007 couldn’t find a shirt that fit the way he liked, began selling custom-made shirts out of his apartment about three years ago. In March 2011, he and his partner opened Taylor Stitch in San Francisco, and this year he expects to sell between $1.5 million and $2 million in shirts, jeans, khakis, and hats. His balance sheets were done in Excel. “It wasn’t pretty,” he says, “but it worked for us.” Now, he says, Excel is “obsolete in our lives. It’s one less thing to deal with.”

Maher’s reporting software is provided by Xero, a SaaS QuickBooks Online competitor. Xero has report templates for P&Ls, receivables, payables, budget summaries, general ledger, and cash position statements, among others. The main challenge for small business owners, says Xero president of U.S. operations Jamie Sutherland, is “having insight into your cash position. That helps you to know what’s coming down the pipe so you know if you can hire that next employee to help propel the business.”

Maher is now running his business on three SaaS systems: Shopify, an e-commerce platform connected to the Vend point-of-sale system, flows into Xero. It all costs Maher under $200 a month. Of course, Taylor Stitch is not as big as Abercrombie & Fitch. “If I was,” Maher says, “you wouldn’t be speaking with me. I’d be fly fishing somewhere.”

Why Did I Buy That ERP System?
If Taylor Stitch was Abercrombie & Fitch, Maher could be fly fishing, secure in the knowledge that his ERP system would churn out all the reports he needed. But ERP systems, despite having had that capability for decades, are never configured for the unique needs of the businesses that deploy them. “I’m working with a company now that draws information from 14 different ERP systems,” says the SVA’s Zubizarreta. “And you’re going to tell me you’re going to push one button and get all the reports you need? ERP has never fulfilled that promise.”

ERPs are loaded with functions that businesses never use. They have payroll, but most companies outsource that. It’s the same with other ERP functions. “If the cost of automating the accounting for transactions in the ERP system exceeds the benefit of saving [the effort] of manual entry and consolidation, it may be difficult to justify spending the money,” says AlixPartners’s Myers. “There’s a lot of value that finance can drive more than worrying about trying to eliminate the marginal spreadsheet or manual journal entry.”

There are literally scores of report-automation tools on the market, ranging from SaaS tools like Xero and QuickBooks Online for small operations like Maher’s, to more robust and functional systems like BlackLine Systems and Host Analytics for midsize companies, to giant ERP systems scaling from cloud-based NetSuite to on-premises SAP and Oracle. They all can produce reports, and so can Excel. “The main thing is having a larger view of what the financial function should do for the company,” says Yung. “A fancy report that looks great but doesn’t help the business because you don’t understand what they need, that’s useless.

“Sometimes,” Yung says, “you just have a meeting and walk through all the information.”

That may not be high tech or automated. But it might just be very much appreciated.

Finance: Transformed

December 8, 2011 by Tom Sweeney

If we’ve learned anything during the early years of the 21st century, it’s that organizations that want to succeed must be flexible and adaptable. This is especially true for finance organizations.

Long viewed as a support function, the traditional finance department has been more reactive than proactive. However, the role and structure of the corporate finance department must be reexamined and revamped if finance is to become a true business partner on equal footing with every other function in the company.

In a word, the finance department of the future must be transformed. It must be structured so that finance professionals can flex and morph as needed to meet the challenges presented by ever-changing business and economic conditions.

Tabula Rasa

What if you had a blank slate — a tabula rasa — and could build a brand new finance organization from scratch? An organization that would maximize efficiency and allow the finance function to create true and measurable enterprise value? Where would you focus your team’s energy and attention, how would you utilize available resources, and how would you best leverage the intellectual
capital of the firm?

This transformational finance department would have total flexibility to allocate subject matter experts wherever they are needed throughout the enterprise to immediately address rapidly changing business conditions. And highly trained finance professionals would be able to flex and morph in order to accommodate these changing conditions.

Creating this future finance department requires adopting a “skate where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” mentality. But imagine for a moment a world where finance professionals could provide a unique, finance-oriented perspective in these areas:

  • Marketing: Marketing mix, focus groups, intercept testing, unique value proposition, purchase decision hierarchy, consumption models, commercialization of new products, price elasticity and brand awareness.
  • Sales: Category management, cost per point of distribution, vendor-managed inventory, shopper behavior, in-store merchandising and trade-spend strategy.
  • Manufacturing and Operations: Inventory management, fully integrated consensus forecasting, freight management and lean manufacturing.
  • Research and Development (R&D): Innovation, new product commercialization, product delivery mechanisms and resource allocation.

Getting From Here to There

Imagining this brave new world of corporate finance is one thing, but getting there will obviously require a great deal of time, energy and effort. But it’s not impossible. Here are five steps you can take that will help you move your finance department in this direction:

1. Focus relentlessly on the “vital few” activities that truly generate enterprise value. It’s easy to succumb to the notion that everything your department does is important. But in reality, only a fraction of most finance department workstreams are of vital importance to the success of the overall enterprise. Therefore, you must routinely evaluate and scrutinize the relevance of every task your department performs and, most importantly, its ultimate impact on enterprise value. As you create your tabula rasa finance organization, start with the end in mind and then engineer processes that are closely linked to the ultimate objective: a positive impact on overall enterprise value.

Consider restructuring your finance department so that routine and repetitive manual tasks are performed centrally, utilizing technology to streamline operations while ad hoc custom work that contributes more enterprise value is performed within business units such as those listed above. This one step can go a long way toward making finance an indispensable member of the corporate team.

2. Closely integrate today’s finance activities with tomorrow’s enterprise value. This builds upon the first step by realizing that the most productive finance functions are motivated and inspired to achieve great things. But in today’s turbulent economic environment, leaders of finance functions have to create their own tailwinds. The easiest way to do this is to make certain that your finance team members can visualize how the work they are doing today translates into enterprise growth tomorrow. This is no easy task — it requires both art and science.

The art element involves constant reinforcement throughout the organization of the idea that finance is a critical support function that can profoundly influence the direction of a company if properly directed. Finance leadership must be a vocal advocate for the finance function — for example, by reinforcing the notion that sales and finance together are infinitely stronger than the sales
function is alone. The relationship between finance and other functional disciplines in the organization should be so strong that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to determine who came up through the organization in which discipline.

The science element, meanwhile, involves redirecting all of your team’s resources and effort into performing activities that will have the greatest impact on the overall enterprise — those that will truly move the needle. This requires conducting a perpetual inventory of activities and eliminating those that were important yesterday but aren’t today, and then refocusing your team’s efforts on activities that will be critical tomorrow.

3. Use information liquidity to build analytical capabilities and self-reliant business partners. Traditionally, finance functions have relied heavily on retrospective data to provide analytical support to other disciplines throughout the organization. However, by the time the data is verified, aggregated and analyzed, there is little opportunity for its conclusions to influence decisions that must be made quickly.

Because finance has long been viewed as the “provider of the information,” the finance function has created co-dependent relationships with other disciplines. However, that co-dependency has in many cases been exacerbated by “information hoarding” as finance professionals have mistakenly associated knowledge with power and security. What they fail to recognize is that this
hoarding mentality is inconsistent with finance’s desire to become a true business partner. In fact, it leaves finance employees destined to experience little more than days filled with routine, repetitive and uninspiring tasks.

Traditionally, the sales department heard from their finance counterparts that their forecasting inaccuracy caused an inventory problem, or that aggressive deal structures created customer inventory issues, or that the quarter-end push to move product resulted in sloppy execution and ultimately a distressed and obsolete write-off or material customer deduction. In the brave new
world of the tabula rasa finance department, sales professionals would have on-demand access to meaningful financial information that would render these scenarios obsolete.

4. Create ultimate resource flexibility. Our new-world finance function will focus relentlessly on elimination, streamlining and automation — eliminating redundancies and non-value-added work and streamlining and automating tasks and processes wherever possible. And it will apply minimal resources to activities that, while necessary, are not focused on increasing enterprise value.

The fact is, most finance departments continue to perform work that is either no longer necessary or can be done far more efficiently. Take reporting, for example. Financial reports generated for management tend to take on a life of their own — once a report is requested, it keeps being created long after it has served its useful lifecycle. Companies often find that 50% of the reports
generated can be eliminated and another 20% to 50% of what remains can be consolidated, and many of these consolidated reports can be automated.

Technology also enables finance functions to spend less time on reporting. The finance portals provided with most ERP systems enable users to generate their own reports. Meanwhile, many routine finance activities can actually be automated out of existence. For example, an integrated financial system eliminates the need to perform mundane activities like reconciling journal entries. Such automation is essential if the finance function is to become a value-added enterprise partner.

5. Staff your finance department with these goals in mind. Not all finance employees will possess the skills, knowledge and initiative required to survive in the new-world finance department. It’s rare to find a finance function today with employees who have the perfect blend of skill and experience required to react swiftly to the ever-changing needs of today’s complex business world — much less the infinitely more complex world that lies ahead in the 21st century.

In the new-world finance department, the finance function must be built for flexibility and speed. Finance professionals will rely heavily upon flexible on-demand resources for projects that are critical but ephemeral in nature. Therefore, it’s critical to begin staffing your finance department now with the kinds of professionals who will be able to thrive in this type of environment. Typically, these will not be finance specialists, but rather finance professionals who possess broad capabilities and skill sets in fields beyond accounting and who can adapt to rapidly changing organizational demands.

You’ll also need to determine whether your existing team members can be retrained in order to learn the new skill sets necessary to perform at a high level within your new-world finance department. One way to find out is to assign specific goals to employees that are geared toward measurably improving the organization’s overall performance, and then rank employees based on their performance in one of four tiers. Employees in the bottom tier should be required to move up to the next tier by the time of their performance review the following year, with guidance and help from a detailed development plan.

Genetically Wired for Leadership

Many of today’s finance professionals are genetically wired with the desire to be business partners and leaders in their organizations. When combined with intellectual curiosity, this makes these finance professionals uniquely qualified to provide broad guidance and leadership given their unique vantage point — the finance team sees it all.

To become true business partners, however, finance professionals must recognize that the finance discipline is under enormous pressure today. In order to achieve what could be, you must wipe the slate clean and start over with a tabula rasa. This involves restructuring your finance department and resources to take ultimate advantage of flexibility and speed and redirecting finance resources to activities that create the greatest value for the overall enterprise.

A commitment to anything less will relegate your finance organization to a traditional 20th century role as a co-dependent support function — rather than an integral partner that’s critical to driving enterprise value.

Tom Sweeney is the CEO of DLC (http://www.dlcinc.com/) , a finance and accounting consulting firm based in Los Angeles with offices in Chicago, Orange County and San Francisco. DLC specializes in financial planning & analysis, accounting and financial reporting, and financial systems, M&A due diligence support and post merger financial integration. DLC’s clients range from the Fortune 1000 to smaller high-growth companies, across a variety of industries.

DLC Consultant, Kevin Mullane’s, inspiring family story featured in the news!

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Kevin and Tracy adopted baby #49, who now is a 2-year-old named Molly.

10 Years of Hope for Abandoned Babies by KRISTEN McQUEARY | Sep 30, 2011

When Bloomington police officers pulled a newborn baby from a toilet early Sunday, it was the first time in more than a year that an unwanted Illinois infant had been left in a potentially dangerous place.

The police were called to Home Sweet Home Ministries, a homeless shelter, around 4 a.m. after a woman was said to have given birth to a baby and put it in a toilet. The woman, Tonya McKee, a 37-year-old resident of the shelter, faces charges of attempted murder, said David White, public affairs officer at the Bloomington Police Department.

For 10 years, Dawn Geras of Chicago has tracked cases like this one. Geras is the founder of the Save Abandoned Babies Foundation, a charity she runs out of her home in a downtown high rise.

She helped get a state law enacted in 2001, the Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act. The law allows parents of babies less than 30 days old to relinquish them, no questions asked, at police stations, fire houses and hospitals.

“I had just posted something on Facebook that we went one year, one month, one week and one day,” Geras said. “And then 12 hours later, I found out about this one,” the Bloomington baby.

Since the law was enacted in 2001, 69 Illinois babies have safely been taken to designated sites. The law is designed to make the process anonymous for the parents and safe for the babies. As long as the infant is unharmed and handed directly to staff members, the parents are not prosecuted.

“What‟s common to these cases is a pregnancy where the mother fears the consequences if the pregnancy is revealed,” said Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “As a result, these overwhelmed parents felt they had no option but to discard their child. The safe haven ‟ law gives parents in crisis an option to do the responsible thing.”

Until Geras got involved, the department tracked child abandonment cases for anyone under 18, but not infants specifically. The system also put abandoned babies in the foster care system, an unappealing option. Now, they go directly to adoptive families.

Four years ago, Lori Nicholson and Lesley Millar got a call about a baby girl who had been turned in at a hospital in the Chicago area. At the time Millar was standing at her office window and noticed a large praying mantis outside on the window sill. She looked it up later. A praying mantis is a sign of good luck.

They drove to the hospital and waited in the lobby.

“The hospital social worker came down and said, “Are you waiting on a baby?‟ And we said, “Yes.‟ And she said, “You got a keeper,‟” Nicholson said. Now 4 years old, the girl, Aidan Jane, has curly, dark pigtails and chocolate-brown eyes.

Despite the new law and successful adoptions, problems persist. Including the Bloomington newborn, 63 babies have been abandoned illegally during the last 10 years, nearly as many as were taken to the safe havens. They were left at churches, along roadways and, in some cases, thrown in garbage cans. Of those, 30 died before someone found them.

Those are the statistics Geras dreads.

It was a newspaper article 11 years ago about teen-age Alabama mothers abandoning babies in hospital emergency rooms that motivated Geras to do something. Officials there were trying to make it legal for mothers to hand over their infants safely, and Geras decided Illinois needed a safe haven law, too.

“I’ll bet we could figure out something we could do to make a difference,” she remembered telling friends at a cocktail fund-raiser for a charity.

They wrote the bill at her dining room table and spent months lobbying to get it passed. At first, politicians were uncomfortable with the whole idea, and law enforcement officials worried that it would encourage mothers to abandon babies just anywhere without being held accountable.

Geras understood that, but she said she did not have time for a philosophical debate. So she said she told lawmakers, “If we don‟t pass this law now, I can promise you, we’re going to be on your doorstep with that baby’s coffin and hold you accountable.”

Headlines about unsafe abandonment helped her lobbying efforts. A North Carolina couple left a dead newborn in a grocery store restroom. A Minnesota farmer found a baby, still alive, strapped in a car seat along the side of the road.

“The stereotype of this being an urban phenomenon just affecting teen-aged mothers is untrue,” said Marlowe, of Children and Family Services. The most common factor, he said, is a desire to hide a pregnancy.

One mother found her way to a suburban police station two years ago after having given birth at home three hours earlier. She handed over her newborn daughter and waited while paramedics came to check the baby. She declined medical attention for herself.

And then she left. The baby girl was the 49th infant relinquished under the act.

The girl is now 2, with strawberry blonde hair and dimples. Her name is Molly. Her parents are Kevin, an accountant, and Tracy, a first-grade teacher. The Chicago News Cooperative agreed to publish only their first names to protect their privacy.

Kevin was treated for leukemia about 10 years ago, and he and Tracy knew they would not be able to have a baby on their own. So they started the adoption process shortly after they married and waited for a birth mother to choose them. One day, they got a phone call about a 16-year-old girl from Moline who was pregnant with a baby boy. They met her. She picked them.

Kevin and Tracy drove to the hospital for the baby‟s birth. They kept him overnight in their room, gave him his first bath and marveled at his tiny features. But the next day, a hospital social worker stepped into their room with heartbreaking news. The birth mother changed her mind.

“They very politely escort you out of the hospital,” Tracy said.

They were devastated. But eight months later, Kevin got another phone call from their adoption agency. Were they interested in meeting Baby 49? Kevin pumped his fists in the air excitedly and said, “Yes, please!”

Kevin and Tracy do not know much about Molly‟s birth mother, except that “she must have loved Molly because to go through this loving sacrifice, obviously she did,” Kevin said. “And she must be darn cute because Molly is.”

The Illinois law is one of the strongest in the country and is regularly updated. This year, legislators added police stations on college campuses as safe havens.

Geras’ foundation recently paid for informational posters inside Chicago bus shelters to help spread the word.

She said she was haunted by stories of babies who had been abandoned unsafely. The Bloomington baby found in the toilet was flown to Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria; hospital officials declined to disclose the baby’s condition.


Now, Geras is looking at how her organization can reach out to homeless shelters. Maybe there is a gap in the system she can help close, she said.

“This is the first time there has ever been a case like this,” she said. “Our volunteers will now be targeting them. Somebody‟s going to be making some phone calls.”

Kristen McQueary covers state government as part of a partnership between CNC and WBEZ

DLC Consulting Model Lures Finance Execs to Try Another Approach

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Among the models that exist for companies providing CFO services to client companies, DLC Inc. thinks it has the best — both for its clients and for the finance executives it provides to them as consultants.

All its 150 employees, says DLC chief executive Tom Sweeney, have worked at Fortune 1000 companies, and are either experienced Big-Four CPAs or MBAs from Top-25 schools, with many of them having both backgrounds. And while DLC is filling the particular needs of corporate clients by placing finance consultants with them, it seems at least as interested in expanding the experience base of its consulting force through a sort of targeted on-the-job training.

That’s because, Sweeney says, by strategically assigning its people “we are able to leverage our consultants’ current skill and experience to provide them exposure to new industries, software environments, and functional disciplines.”

He adds, “The thing that’s really unique about our firm is the employment model and the operating model, and how they work together. It’s the intersection of them that creates value.” And both Sweeney and his CFO, Brad Gray, had personal experience with the DLC consulting system before moving into their current jobs. So they should know first-hand.

A ‘Project-Based’ Approach

The educational background and the years of finance experience its consultants have may offer some level of assurance when clients call looking for finance help. But many of those clients also are drawn to the “project-based” thrust at DLC, rather than the more common “rent-a-CFO” approach.

“Generally speaking, the work that we do falls under the purview of the CFO,” Sweeney says. But “compared to many of DLC’s competitors, who offer broader services that extend beyond operational finance and accounting, DLC has maintained its decidedly narrow focus on serving the CFO.” It supplies “traditional planning and analytics, accounting and reporting, financial systems implementation support, and transaction service support,” according to the CEO. “On any given day our work could include a vast array of services like building a strategic planning process, filing an S-1 to take a company public, working on the largest SAP implementation in SAP history, preparing a company for sale, or integrating a merger.”

Combining DLC’s focused project approach with a “lean operating model provides client assurance that they are paying for results rather than overhead,” he adds. Whatever the job its consultants do for companies, they always search for opportunities that involve “reengineering, streamlining, creating efficiencies, and eliminating redundant work streams.”

DLC’s current or past client list includes companies like Allergan, Avery Dennison, Exelon, Google, Kraft Foods, Levi Strauss, Oakley, Qualcomm, Quest Diagnostics, Salesforce.com, Union Bank of California, Walgreens and Warner Bros. In addition, it serves a number of private equity clients, venture capital firms and hedge funds. “Private equity firms rely on us to provide interim CFO services, to build reporting capability and infrastructure, to assist with buy- and sell-side due diligence, and to integrate new acquisitions,” says Sweeney.

What the Consultants Like

A 10-year-old company headquartered in Woodland Hills, Calif. — and with four of its offices in that state — DLC currently maintains non-West-Coast outlets only in Dallas and Chicago, where Sweeney is based. (CFO Gray works from Woodland Hills.) “We definitely are pursuing a more national footprint,” the CEO says. “Our mode is generally a local deployment of local talent,” so the multiple-office structure is desirable for its growth. It aims to hire 55 new full-time DLC consultants in the next year, the opening shot of an aggressive five-year expansion designed to treble its overall employment base, while opening “at least one new market a year.”

The talent reflecting the educational and experiential background DLC seeks is definitely out there, Sweeney says. And increasingly, the company is finding that its employment model is attractive enough to draw experienced executives who prefer the “consultant” approach to being tied to one corporation on-staff.

Why? “At DLC we have systematically engineered the negative attributes out of the existing consulting models, and retained the positive benefits,” he says. The model’s “enticing elements” include not only the ability to work locally, but “one-year employment agreements, full salary and benefits even when the consultant is not deployed to a project, and productivity bonuses on all hours billed in excess of 40.”

‘Bench Strength’

Drawing pay continuously, even when an employee is “on the bench” at DLC, is something Sweeney believes attracts many of the finance executives to his company. But having bench strength is important to DLC’s corporate model, as well. It wants to keep around 90% employed with clients at any given time — leaving the other 10% available for when that urgent call comes to fill new or existing client needs. “That’s our sweet spot,” the CEO says. “When utilization is greater than 90% we risk being supply constrained.”

The opposite was true at the beginning of the recession, when “like most of our competitors” DLC had excess employee capacity. “But we immediately implemented a short-term strategy to address the change in market demand,” Sweeney says, “to stabilize the business and to retain key talent.”

As hiring has picked up lately, the drive to broaden the background of each consultant has continued. “Consultants join DLC for a number of reasons,” Sweeney says. “Most are looking for variety, but all are looking to accelerate their development as finance professionals.” His company tries to leverage existing skills to provide “exposure to new industries, software environments, and functional disciplines.” If they’ve been in only one industry, or have “deep but narrow subject matter expertise,” that can be expanded by careful placement. If, for example, SEC reporting for a financial services firm is a person’s strength, she or he might then get a chance to work in an M&A environment. “After a while, with so many experiences in so many fields,” says Sweeney, his consultants “become almost industry-agnostic.” And many finance executives today like that feeling.

Practicing What They Preach

Both Sweeney and his own CFO, Brad Gray — who is based in Woodland Hills — first learned the DLC system through consulting experiences involving the firm. Sweeney was a divisional CFO with agricultural giant ConAgra, and his unit was a client of DLC’s for more than a year before he was hired as COO in 2004 by founding CEO David Lewis (who gave DLC its name.) One challenge at the time: helping scale the business from its then-annual-revenue base of $17 million.

Gray, who previously had worked in finance jobs with J.C. Penney and Nestle, came to DLC as a consultant, and was assigned to clients including Universal Studios and Virgin Entertainment. As CFO, he now has a key role in DLC’s five-year growth plan.

“We’ve prepared for the expansion by ensuring that our operations can handle the additional geographies and volume,” says Gray. DLC itself implemented Salesforce.com and Oracle a couple of years ago, so it is “well positioned for growth and expansion.” He says the turmoil in the stock market recently hasn’t affected DLC much, because it doesn’t currently need access to markets for financing or for its market expansion plans. “What we focus on is whether it is having any impact on our clients and their demand for our services,” he says.

As often — but not always — is the case when a CFO has a former CFO for a boss, Gray considers it an aide to the relationship. “Tom understands the CFO role, so I believe he has more confidence in what we do as a group,” Gray says. “Also, Tom wants to be the CEO, not the CFO. Each of us knows what we need to do in our respective roles to make the company successful.”

The physical split between the CFO’s and CEO’s desks? That makes no difference in this linked-up world, he adds. “Tom is here in Los Angeles at least every other week. He maintains a constant presence in all of our markets meeting with our consultants, clients and team,” according to the finance chief. “When he is not here in our offices, we are in constant contact and we have used video conferencing technology for years, which helps to diminish the distance issue.”

Tom Jones and DLC profiled in CFO Magazine

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August 1, 2011

Some finance executives fill time between jobs by signing on with agencies that provide consultants to perform temporary or interim financial services. For Tom Jones, who works for one such firm, DLC, the gig is as permanent as most others.

Jones has worked for DLC under annual employment contracts since 2003, except for a side step to go full time with a client, equipment-rental company Schwab Sales, as CFO from early 2007 to late 2008. What does he like about it? Count the ways.

First is the variety. While he’s been acting as CFO for his current client, Hycor Biomedical, for a year, and his average tenure with clients has been six to nine months, every day tends to be different. Most of his assignments have been with private-equity portfolio companies with revenue of less than $100 million and a goal of rapid growth, so there are typically quite a few initiatives going on simultaneously.

The chief task before Hycor and Jones right now is carving out its infrastructure from former parent Agilent Techologies, which sold Hycor last year. “It’s not a day-to-day, task-driven role,” says Jones (and don’t confuse him with Tom Jones, the former CFO of Citibank) of his work as a finance consultant. For some clients, the work involves helping navigate the financial implications behind strategic decisions. At others, “you might have to dive into details, so you’re building cash-flow and valuation models, implementing new accounting procedures, or updating processes.”

He also likes being able to take on an assignment and begin providing value quickly, which is an inherent opportunity because most clients have very specific needs for the role they’re filling. “It’s my expectation with each project,” he says. In fact, DLC does not define itself as a staffing or temporary agency, but rather as a firm that provides “project-based FP&A support and other finance and accounting services.”

DLC’s compensation model is attractive to Jones as well. He gets paid overtime for hours worked beyond a baseline weekly amount (which for most DLC consultants is 40 hours). He’s working 50 to 70 hours most weeks, so he sees it as being compensated based on how much he works. And for some clients he’s put in only 40 to 45 hours weekly, which was “great,” he says.

Overall, he adds, “in this line of work you get a bit more control over your schedule, and the quality of life improves.”

Further, unlike some other firms that provide finance executives on a temporary basis, DLC pays its consultants during any downtime between gigs. Jones has had about eight fallow months while under contract to DLC, most of it in one stretch in 2009. In return, the consultants deepen their skills during such periods, earning continuing professional education credits, keeping their certifications current, boning up on Access or Excel, or taking advanced ERP training.

“It’s an expectation that is embraced by the consultants,” Jones says.

Consulting Magazine’s One to One interview with Tom Sweeney, CEO

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Every day, finance and accounting professionals consider careers in consulting but often have second thoughts when confronted with the reality of long hours and extensive travel. One highly
successful alternative model is DLC, a finance and accounting professional services firm. The firm currently employs about 150 people across offices in California, Chicago and Dallas and has a five-year plan to more than triple the size of the business. To learn more, Consulting’s One on One sat down with DLC’s CEO Tom Sweeney.

Consulting: What’s unique about DLC?

Sweeney: We only hire Big 4 CPAs and/or Top 25 MBAs with hands-on functional experience in Fortune 1000 companies. Any number of firms offer assistance with a similar menu of services [financial planning and analysis, financial accounting and reporting, financial systems implementation, etc.], but it’s the intersection of our unique employment model and our unique operating model that drives our value proposition. In contrast to our model, the consulting arms of Big 4 hire people right out of business school or the assurance practice whom, often, lack industry experience. All of our practitioners have extensive experience executing work in the complex environments of the Fortune1000.

Consulting: There are staffing firms that offer industry veterans to help run a finance or accounting group on an interim basis. How does DLC differ from those firms?

Sweeney: Generally, those firms only pay their employees when they are billable. DLC consultants are salaried employees and are paid whether they are on a project or not. Among several other elements of the model, our consultants also have one year employment agreements and are compensated for hours billed in excess of 40 per week. These benefits, in addition to our local deployment model, provide our clients with increased consultant focus and commitment to delivering satisfying project results.

Consulting: What’s the typical employee that your model attracts?

Sweeney: People join DLC for two reasons: either they want a long term career in consulting or they are interested in accelerating their skills and experience.

Consulting: How did the firm develop this model?

Sweeney: David Lewis founded the firm in June 2001. David recognized an unmet or poorly met need-state for on-demand and flexible solutions to solve finance and accounting issues. He then architected a model to address the gaps in services provided by global consulting and other staffing models, inspiring the highly effective model we operate today.

Consulting: The marketplace has changed significantly in the last ten years. Is demand still strong?

Sweeney: While demand has certainly declined during the great recession, we still continue to serve many of the same Fortune 1000 companies we have served over the last 10 years. Our utilization rates have typically averaged at, or around 90 percent. While we are very interested in scaling the business profitably, we recognize it’s very important to create a world class organization for our consultants. In fact, five of our former alumni have elected to return to the firm in the last six months.

Copyright © 2011

Gryphon Investors and Ray Marcy Announce Recapitalization of Rapidly-Growing DLC

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – December 19, 2006 – Gryphon Investors, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, today announced that it completed the recapitalization of DLC, a leading provider of high-end, project-based finance and accounting services to Fortune 1000 and middle market companies.  Founder and CEO David Lewis, COO Tom Sweeney and the rest of DLC’s management team will continue to run the company and remain significant shareholders.  Gryphon and Ray Marcy, the former Chairman and CEO of Spherion Corporation, will provide resources to support the company’s continued expansion through new office openings, further development of existing markets and selected add-on acquisitions.  Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, DLC was founded as an executive recruiting firm in 1993 and began providing project-based finance and accounting services in 2001.  Today, it is one of the largest providers of such services in its core Southern California market and has enjoyed rapid, profitable growth since the company’s inception.  In August 2005, DLC expanded its footprint into the Chicago market where its office quickly achieved profitability and continues to prosper. DLC recently opened an office in Dallas, Texas and intends to expand its presence into other major U.S. cities in the near-term.  DLC has ranked among the Top 15 companies in The Los Angeles Business Journal’s 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies List in each of the last four years.  In August 2006, DLC was named to Inc. Magazine’s 25th annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.

Founder and CEO David Lewis said, “We chose to join forces with Gryphon and Ray Marcy because of their extensive knowledge of our market and their impressive track record of building leading professional services businesses.  We believe that they will be excellent partners for our company, supporting us with the expertise and capital to fuel our aggressive expansion both inside and outside of our core Southern California market.”

Ray Marcy added, “We could not be happier about our partnership with David Lewis and his team. They have built the Company into a true market leader, while at the same time consistently achieving rates of growth significantly in excess of the market.  We look forward to supporting their efforts to accelerate DLC’s performance through new office openings and expansion of existing markets.”

Nick Orum, Gryphon Partner and head of its Business Services Group, said “We are delighted to invest in one of the highest quality providers of project-based finance and accounting services in the U.S. The company has a truly enviable group of consultants and blue-chip clientele.  We are excited about the opportunities ahead for DLC as it continues to benefit from strong demand for high-end finance and accounting services at Fortune 1000 companies.”

DLC is the seventh investment made by Gryphon since the launch of its proactive investment initiative with Ray Marcy in the professional services sector in 2003.  Giuliani Capital Advisors LLC served as exclusive financial advisor to DLC

About DLC

Based in Los Angeles, California, DLC is a leading provider of high-end, project-based finance and accounting services to Fortune 1000 and middle market companies.  The company operates through five offices in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Woodland Hills and Orange County, California. With a team of nearly 200 full-time consultants and practice management professionals, DLC has established itself as a premier provider of solutions for financial planning and analysis, financial accounting and reporting, financial systems implementation, interim or “gap” financial management, process documentation and redesign, project management, M&A due diligence support and post-merger financial integrationThe company provides services to more than one-third of the 47 Fortune 1000 companies based in Southern California, and its client roster includes Nestle, ConAgra, Wellpoint, CB Richard Ellis, Fluor, Taco Bell, DirecTV, Countrywide Financial, Kinko’s, Ingram Micro, Warner Brothers, Tickets.com, Makita, Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Sunkist, Union Bank of California and Universal Studios, among others.  In August 2006, DLC was named to Inc. Magazine’s 25th annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the U.S.  Visit www.dlcinc.com for more information.

About Gryphon Investors

Based in San Francisco, Gryphon Investors focuses on acquisitions of and growth investments in middle market companies in partnership with experienced management.  With approximately $800 million of equity capital under management, Gryphon typically seeks to invest $25 to $50 million of its own capital in companies with sales ranging from $25 to $150 million.  Gryphon prioritizes investment opportunities where it can form proactive partnerships with owners and executives to build leading companies, utilizing Gryphon’s capital, professional resources and significant financial and operational experience.  Visitwww.gryphoninvestors.com for more information.

Contact:            Lisa Baker
Owen Blicksilver Public Relations, Inc.

Safe Harbor Statement

Statements in this press release other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements, including, but not limited to, statements concerning the potential success of anticipated product features, the anticipated product offerings and the potential market opportunities for business performance management software. Such statements constitute anticipated outcomes and do not assure results. Actual results may differ materially from those anticipated by the forward-looking statements due to a variety of factors, including, but not limited to the company’s ability to retain and attract key employees, the successful and timely development of new products, the impact of competitive products and pricing, customer demand, and technological shifts.