1. Making a difference to our clients
business and financial success
through great advice
Small and Medium
“Helping you make smart decisions about money”
Between May and August 2006, Nexus Wealth Management conducted interviews with the CEO’s
of five small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The objective was to identify and analyse the
challenges facing these types of organisation as they function to achieve sustainable growth.
Interestingly, the research identified a number of business issues that were found to be common to
SMEs across all sectors. This White Paper summarises the research findings and suggests a
solution that makes sustainable growth more achievable.
We thank those who contributed for their time and insights.
Brian Woods, Nexus Wealth Management
1. Executive Summary Page 1
2. Challenges Page 2
• Recognise where you need help – and plan to get it Page 3
• Get integrated advice Page 4
• Get structured advice Page 5
• Advice on a right-sized business Page 5
• Succession planning Page 5
4. Why you need a Board of Advice Committee Page 7
5. About the author Page 8
4. Executive summaryExecutive summary
“We face a management and growth issue. We’re in a boom, we’ve got a lot of work on and we
have to deliver quality. Yet at the same time we are trying to manage the growth and all the issues
associated with putting in place an appropriate management structure.”
Paradoxically, dealing with the indications that a business is thriving and growing – such as how
best to finance capital expenditure, optimising the business model and putting in place effective
management and succession strategies – can be the biggest threat to the SME’s achievement of
SMEs face a
challenges as their
SMEs face a wide variety of financial and operational
challenges as their business grows. Typically, SMEs
respond to this challenge by electing to manage this
multitude of issues themselves, until the size of the business
dictates that they call on expert, outside help such as
lawyers, financial planners and HR or Marketing Consultants.
Why the typical
response to this
problem can work
against the SME
Whilst the approach outlined above may be easier to effect in
the short-term, this response may actually be a threat to the
achievement of sustainable growth in the long-term. This is
because this ad-hoc recruitment of external advice is often
piecemeal in nature – the advice received is reactive and
poorly integrated. Moreover, there is no overall plan and no
over-arching professional is charged with pulling together
and leading the advice team.
SME Principals are often time-poor and for various reasons may find it difficult to establish the
Advice Structure that would assist them in overcoming the challenges they face. However, the
future sustainability of the business depends on obtaining quality, co-ordinated advice and
postponing the decision to act is not an option. This paper will explore in detail what problems
affect SMEs and also outline a proven, long-term solution.
SME's face a number of challenges as their business grows. Here are just a few of the issues
raised by SME owners in our research.
Cash flow “Like any growing business it’s about cash flow, cash flow and cash flow.”
Aligning expenditure and accounts receivable is a constant challenge. And if you
don’t have strong cash flow you have to borrow.
“For our business the major risk is the capital required because we have chosen
to invest in technology, engineering, equipment and infrastructure. That’s our
competitive advantage – but it is also a risk.”
Finance “There’s little creativity within financial institutions about how they lend to smaller
firms. Once you reach a certain level of sustainable and historical trading it’s a
different story – but how do you get there?”
Competition “Competition for clients is fierce. Some expect you to take higher risks than are
justified. But there’s always someone else that will take those risks to become
the major player. How do we compete with them? Should we?”
Lack of skilled
“Our primary issue is a lack of skilled resources and of people to grow the
capability of the group.”
Management “We’re always trying to build a management team that is the right size and has
the right skills to manage current business and future growth.” Smaller groups
tend to rely on the founders. They often show resistance in delegating control to
managers even though that may be the best way to grow the business.
Structure There’s a push for a lot of companies to join together and amalgamate at the
moment, and everyone’s talking to everybody in that area.” But will more people
and more size fix the business problems
Succession A big issue for the business founder is how to get access to the equity they
created. It’s not so much a question of when to leave but how to get the money
when and if you need it.
The challenge for most SMEs is how to manage the financial and operational stresses outlined
above. Our research with SMEs across many industries suggests a few key solutions.
1. Recognise where you need help – and plan to get it
6. A ccounting F inancial P lanning
C onsultants L egal
Co-ordinate and Facilitate
Specialist ProvidersGeneral Insurance
Wealth & Asset
Once a company reaches a certain size, it is difficult for individuals to manage alone. An intuitive
grasp of risks and opportunities becomes harder to maintain and it is at this point that many
businesses begin to call on expert, outside help. Yet our research shows that buying in expert help
at this point is not enough. Businesses tend to bolt on advisers - an accountant, a lawyer and any
number of other qualified experts. However, these experts are rarely brought together – they may
never even meet or deal directly with each other. Consequently, advice is piecemeal and without
any sense of the “big picture”. Most importantly, the advisers are simply responding to issues
rather than helping the business prepare to meet them. The Principals of SMEs need to plan
ahead – thinking through the need for expert and integrated outside advice before a crisis arises.
As one of our interviewees pointed out, “I think a lot of small enterprises start up with a
fundamental lack of awareness of the issues that are going to confront them as they grow.”
The issues facing SME businesses as they grow can be incredibly varied – from business
structure, to succession planning and from human resources to marketing and training. In
managing these issues, SMEs can learn a lot from larger corporations and the established practice
of appointing a Board of Advice Committee whose function it is to deliver co-ordinated professional
A Director of one of the SME’s we interviewed commented on the benefits of the Board of Advice
Committee approach, “We’re not big business people and the whole board of director’s idea -
we’ve never really fully appreciated it. Now we actually understand and value the input our panel of
advisers delivers. We are both from a similar engineering background, so having different business
people coming in and advising us in areas outside our comfort zone is fantastic.”
The Board of Advice Committee process helps a business owner transition from a technocrat
who’s blessed with some business flair to someone who can become a real business manager.
Under the Board of Advice Committee structure each of the business faculties is represented in a
clear and transparent way. The Board brings together experts ranging from lawyers, human
resources specialists, tax planners, insurance specialists, accountants, marketing consultants and
advertising agencies. Wherever there is a business need the Committee can articulate the issue
and design or discuss a strategy and the resources required so that the directors can make a fully
informed decision with expertise and experience that meets the agreed outcomes for the business
to move forward quickly and efficiently.
2. Get integrated advice.
7. Our research found that it’s not enough just to pull together a disparate range of experts. Rather,
an integrated approach is required and all of the experts need to be working towards a common
goal. For this reason many businesses appoint a lead manager who becomes the single point of
contact for all aspects of business and personal advice.
The key difference between SMEs and large businesses is the ongoing contribution of an
individual or group of individuals – the business founders whose personal success is inextricably
linked with their business. However the business owners are rarely the right ones to lead the
Board of Advice Committee. Typically they have exceptional skills in one or two areas but not in
managing a team of experts. They are often extremely time poor. And their emotional involvement
with the business can make it harder for them to bring the required “emotional distance” to
business decisions. This can be particularly true with succession planning issues where close
family is involved.
That’s why the role of lead manager is often best undertaken by a wealth manager or financial
planner – a professional with the business and personal finance knowledge to tie together the
personal and business aspects, yet capable of coordinating and facilitating a team of experts to
deliver the best long term agreed outcomes. The chart below shows the breadth and value of a
Board of Advice Committee approach.
3. Get structured advice
The Board of Advice Committee model does more than bring together the expert professionals you
need to grow your business. Crucially, it can help formalise management structures and decision
8. making. It provides crucial discipline by focusing management on the bigger picture at times when
running the business gets in the way of growing the business.
4. Advice on a “right-sized” business
The economics of small business demands growth – and that puts pressure on companies to
partner with peers to take on bigger jobs and mitigate some of the risks across a larger capital
base. It’s about getting better leverage through sharing resources.
“There’s a push for a lot of companies to amalgamate at the moment, and everyone’s talking to
everybody in that area. But how’s the money going to work? How’s the decision-making going to
work? So far we haven’t seen a model that’s quite right.”
To make decisions about the right size for your business requires all sorts of skills. You may need
strategic advice; debt and capital management skills may be required in order to manage
merger/partnership/takeovers. Human resources expertise may be needed to minimise disruption
and maximise productivity. And that’s just a start.
However, using a Board of Advice Committee can integrate the skills needed to make the most of
these transactions. Most importantly, a wealth manager who leads the team can assist the
Principals to ask the big, often-ignored questions – questions about the financial rewards and
lifestyle implications for the Principals.
5. Succession planning
As one Director of an SME already using the Board of Advice Committee approach indicated, “We
are so busy keeping the wheels on the wagon that no succession planning would be happening if
we didn’t have the board helping us progress it.”
“There’s always differences in partners’ expectations of where they see themselves in the future -
some prefer to be doing interesting engineering work, while others prefer to be divorced from the
technical side and more involved in the financial management of business.”
In most SMEs the intellectual capital resides in the people who created the business. It is essential
to consider the long term involvement of the founders in the business. Walking away may cripple
the company just when the future is looking the brightest.
A company is dependent on its founder until it reaches a certain size and capability. At that point it
becomes a business entity rather than an individual creation – but that’s a long term process. 5
9. “We’re trying to put in place a culture, a framework, a succession plan and liquidity access that lets
our younger people step into the roles of the senior people and take the company to the next step.
And this also means they need access to capital with which to grow or to acquire.”
It’s at these points in a company’s growth – the points when individual ambitions and corporate
goals start to separate - that expert, focused advice becomes crucial. Under the guidance of a
Personal Wealth Manager, the SME’s Board of Advice Committee can provide the right mix of
technical and strategic skills. Crucially, the Personal Wealth Manager is independent from the daily
decision making of the business and this allows the Personal Wealth Manager to take account of
individuals’ needs to withdraw labour and capital and of the corporate need to build for the future.
Why You Need a Board of Advice CommitteeWhy You Need a Board of Advice Committee
What are the benefits of this strategic approach to managing your financial issues?
• Focuses your time and energy on what you do best – attending to the core of your
10. • Expert help means you make expert decisions.
• Integrating the work of other specialists - lawyers, insurance experts, bankers, brokers
and accountants under the guidance of the Personal Wealth Manager avoids waste,
complexity and confusion and ensures all decisions occur within a focus on your
• You get expert advice from advisers who know your business and your overarching
goals. The advice you receive is designed to proactively prevent problems and
maximise opportunities, not to “patch up” problems after the event.
• Your Board of Advice Committee is flexible and is able to grow with you – adapting to
changes in your business model and market as required.
11. About the AuthorAbout the Author
Brian Woods is a Senior Wealth Manager with Nexus Wealth Management. He is an
A.F.A. Accredited Lifewriter and an FPA Accredited Financial Strategist with an Advanced Diploma
in Financial Planning.
Brian has founded and built his own successful financial planning practice. This personal
experience plus his extensive academic and practical training in finance and investment underpins
the insight he brings to helping the principals and senior staff of SMEs develop the integrated
strategies that ensure business and financial success.
Some time ago, Brian was invited to join an industry Association in a lead manager capacity. This
Association has now evolved to utilize this Board of Advice Committee approach delivering
transparent, client-centric advice.
Would you like to know more about the unique financial issues facing SMEs? Or to discuss the
strategies needed to achieve real business success? If so please contact Brian Woods in Perth at:
Suite 4, 7 Lyall Street
PO Box 975
South Perth WA 6951
Phone 08 9208 1333
Making a difference to our clients
business and financial success
through great advice