Wouldn’t it be great to improve your cash by +19% over a short period of time? “That sounds pretty unrealistic!” you might argue. This is true – unless you find a way to break this challenging target into smaller, easier targets.

Cash is the oxygen of your growth engine. The good news is: your business has hidden pockets of cash. How can you find them, so that you can grow faster and with less pain?

1 + 1 + 1 = 19?

Imagine a company with:

  • $10M in revenue
  • $5M in costs of goods sold
  • $4M in overhead
  • Consequently $1M in cash profit

Here is the trick: can your company increase revenue by 1%, reduce costs of goods sold by 1%, and reduce overhead by 1%? This probably sounds realistic. And here is where the magic happens: when you do that, cash profit increases by 19% – as illustrated in the table below:


Situation before the change

Change (%)

Change ($)





Costs of goods sold












Cash profit




The good news is: there are quick wins to find cash. Small and mid-sized companies often have hidden pockets of cash. Tapping into these hidden reserves can provide much-needed oxygen to fuel your business.

In CASH, The Fuel For Your Economic Engine: How 1+1+1=19, Jeff Redmon shares a very simple method to do exactly that.

Three quick wins to improve your cash

1. Reduce time

Time is money, we know that. If you can reduce the time between the moment you spend money to acquire a customer, and the moment you get cash from the customer, you will have more cash in the bank. Here are a few areas where you can potentially reduce time:

  • Marketing: marketing tactics that generate leads faster (or that convert prospects into customers faster) have a positive impact on cash.
  • Production planning: Initiatives to reduce your production cycle time (for instance, because you spend less time cleaning the equipment between batches thanks to more accurate production planning) positively impact your cash situation.
  • Inventory: See your inventory as stacks of paper money sitting on shelves. If you can take a few of those bills and leave them in the bank (cut down your inventory), you have more cash to run your business.
  • Accounts receivables (the sooner you get money from your customers, the more cash you will have in the bank).

2. Reduce waste and mistakes

Mistakes cost money, but also time. Take mistakes on a Purchase Order (written for the wrong products, or with the wrong delivery address), mistakes in deliveries, or in production: re-doing the work costs money, but it also costs time – which can delay delivery, and therefore billing, and therefore the customer’s payment to you. Every day that billing is delayed because of recurring mistakes is money that is not in your bank account.

3. Improve the business model

From your cash point of view, subscription models are great. Think of a gym membership: you pay the gym before you actually go to the gym – as opposed to paying at the gym every time you visit them – which improves its cash situation. B2B businesses that go directly to online consumers experience a similar situation: consumers pay when they order, without long payment terms – here again improving the business’ cash situation.

Practically, how do you do this?

There are a few rules to identify hidden pockets of cash in your business:

  • Involve your full leadership team. Your accounting team doesn’t know where mistakes are made in your business, or where waste can be reduced, and where time can be shortened. The right people to have around the table are people on the field. Your production team knows where time and resources are wasted. Your sales and customer service people know where mistakes on POs are often made. Have the people on the field around the table.
  • Break down the problem into smaller, easier problems to solve. Have your leadership team brainstorm on three subsequent topics:
    • How can we increase revenue (or prices) by 1%?
    • How can we reduce costs of goods sold by 1%?
    • How can we reduce overhead by 1%?
  • Divide and conquer: a great way to find savings in overhead without over-burdening the team is to give each line item in the P&L to a different person, and task them with finding ways to reduce costs without reducing quality or service level. I have found hidden pockets of cash even in very frugal companies, simply because they hadn’t gathered new quotes on some cost items for the past 2 years. Think of invisible costs like insurance policies or payment processing costs.


There are ways to greatly improve your cash situation without drastic changes in your revenue or cost structure. The ways involve reducing time, reducing waste and mistakes, and improving the business model. The key to finding these quick wins is to involve your whole leadership team, not just your accounting team, and to break down an ambitious goal into smaller, easier goals, linked to revenue, costs of goods sold, and overhead.

I work with growth-minded CEOs who are frustrated by the way their business is growing; often they spend their days fighting fires – typically a sign that their company has outgrown their management approach. Often they need more cash to grow their business, and don’t realize that they have hidden pockets of cash. I know the feeling: I have been in their shoes when I was running a business that we turned around from sales decline to double-digit business growth.

As a business coach my passion is to help leadership teams define their actionable business growth strategy, create a culture of accountability and effective strategy execution, and become better leaders – so they can grow faster and with less pain. I work with clients in the US and in Europe (mostly in Belgium, The Netherlands, and France)

If you too want to grow faster and with less pain, contact me now: Xavier@AmbroseGrowth.com.


“My company has lots of potential, but I just feel my employees are not engaged. If I don’t push, nothing seems to happen. I’m working night and day and we’re still missing 40% of our targets. I once dreamed of being a firefighter, I guess that dream has come true. All I do is put out fires, I have no time to focus on my business.”

Sound familiar? CEOs and leadership teams can change this picture, it’s all about accountability. Creating a fierce culture of accountability starts with the CEO and leadership team.

Why is accountability important?

Accountability is about owning a problem. You want employees to behave as if they own the piece of business that they are running. When you are accountable for a specific result, you will do whatever it takes to achieve it – and you would like your team to perform this way as well.

Carlos Brito, the CEO of brewing company AB Inbev, summarizes his views on accountability in these words: “We always compare that to a rental car: you drive a rental car in a different way than your own car. With a rental car someone else will live with the consequences of your driving. With your car, you know that it will be yours the next days, months, and years, and you know that you will be living with the consequences of your driving. Employees who behave like owners are here for the long term, and they will live with the consequences of their decisions – good or bad – and that builds a great company.”

Why am I having accountability issues?

Accountability issues are very common among growing companies. When you founded your company, you were personally accountable for everything. As your company grew you started delegating the responsibilities for some results – e.g. production, customer service, or sales. However, you may not have created the communication channels required to hold your teams accountable. Why would you? You didn’t need any of this yourself, and yet you grew your business successfully. Why would these smart managers need anything different?

For one, your employees are not you. If they were, they would not be working for you: they would start their own business. Second, your company is now more complex than we you started: it has more people involved, and all these people now need to be on the same page. Third, when you started your company with a few employees, you could be on top of each of them and had short communication lines: you knew what everybody was doing, all the time. Now that your company has more employees it is impossible for you to manage them the same way: this would soak up all your time.  This is exactly why you need to put a system in place that will achieve what you want (ie create accountability), without you spending all your time on it.

In the book “Creating a Culture of Accountability” Gravitas Impact business coach Mark Green describes ways to increase your team’s accountability. This article outlines five of them

1. Lead by example

Like many aspects related to company culture, accountability starts with you and your leadership team. In order to create a culture of accountability you have to model the behaviors that you want to see in your organization. When it comes to accountability the rule is simple: when you make a commitment as a leader, you have to keep it. If you don’t, why should anyone else be interested in doing so? You can’t complain that employees miss their deadlines if you are occasionally late as well. As a CEO “all eyes and ears within your business are focused on you. What you say and what you do are invisibly and constantly observed, scrutinized and evaluated as your managers and employees are looking for clues as to how they should behave,” explains Mark Green.

Leading by example is not only about you sticking to your commitments, but also about your expectations from your team – and your behavior when your managers don’t meet your expectations. If your team members notice that there are no consequences for missing targets, why would they try their best? Similarly, if you tolerate one of your team members to produce poor results, why would other team members feel pressured to produce quality? When you hold your team to a higher standards, you are sending a strong signal across the organization.

2. Have the right people on the right seat

Without the right people on the right seat, nothing of what you can do will significantly increase accountability. The key question is: would you enthusiastically rehire everybody on your team? I advise my clients to assess employees on two dimensions; performance and adherence to company values. You will find more information on how to use this tool in this article.

Once you have the right people on your team you need to clarify their area of accountability. This is less obvious than it looks. The key question is: Who is accountable for each of the key functions in your company? As Mark Green explains “the exercise often reveals that there isn’t a single individual accountable for each function. When more than one person is “accountable”, nobody is accountable. It is easy to make assumptions that things will get done, but when there is not a designated person to account for a particular result, chances are, it is not going to happen. In this kind of environment, it is also easy to point fingers – Bob thought Mary would handle it, and vice versa. Other times, you’ll discover that a particular role hasn’t been filled by anyone at all; it is just implied that it will somehow be handled. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t!”

3. Clarify priorities

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” wrote best-selling author Stephen Covey. “Individuals or organizations with too many priorities have no priorities and risk spinning their wheels and accomplishing nothing of significance,” says Verne Harnish in his book “Scaling Up.” Focus on a small number of priorities that will have the biggest impact on your goals, make sure that everyone on your leadership team is aligned on them – and communicate them broadly.

When employees understand where your organization is going and which role they play in it, they work less selfishly and they tend to make better business decisions on behalf of the company – simply because they can see the impact of their decisions and how they impact overall results.

4. Define clear action plans and metrics

Once you have identified who on the leadership team is accountable for each function and what your top priorities are, the next step is for each of your leaders to answer Mark Green’s key question: “What are the 3 most important results the company expects you deliver in exchange for paying your salary – and how should these results be measured? This step determines the results and metrics for each of your leadership functions. As we all know, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. If you want to increase the speed and quality of a particular service you offer, you should establish specific metrics to gauge those factors and identify metrics and targets for them. You may determine if you reach or surpass a target for three months in a row, you have achieved that objective.” Pick specific metrics, make sure that your leadership team is on the same page and that everybody aims for the clearly defined results – so that the rest of your organization can follow your lead.

Similarly, once you have defined top quarterly priorities, the question becomes: what do you and your team need to do in each of the next 13 weeks in order to achieve priorities? There are only 13 weeks in a quarter – if you do NOT view your quarter as a 13-week race, you will lose weeks and time which you will NOT get back. A weekly plan clarifies what can be expected every week, in order to meet expectations at the end of the quarter. It also makes it much easier for your leadership team to hold people accountable to their own 13-week plan.

5. Establish a metronome-like meeting rhythm

Just as a metronome calls time and sets tempo in a musical performance, so do a small set of consistently executed meetings to hold you and your team accountable, and keep everyone on the same page. The essential regular meetings are:

  • Daily huddles (no more than 10 to 15 minutes) to evaluate progress on the very short-term priorities and identify any blocking issues.
  • Weekly huddles (no more than 90 minutes) to review the status of the 13-week plan and course-correct if needed.
  • Monthly and quarterly meetings to review progress on the priorities, take corrective actions when needed, and identify new priorities for the upcoming quarter.

I often notice that the most impactful meetings to drive accountability are the daily and weekly huddles: they create peer pressure and hence take the heat off your shoulders as the leader. They also improve communication: You won’t need to have the same water-cooler conversation three of four times, as is the case when you rely on chance hallway meetings for communication. And finally they enable collective intelligence to solve problems.


In the end, how much difference do these tools make on accountability? Pretty big, as this example from another Gravitas Impact business coach, Glen Dall, demonstrates in Mark Green’s book “Creating a Culture of Accountability”: “I worked with the CEO of a multi-location dental practice. The CEO had started with one practice that they grew very successfully – and then began expanding. At one point employee turnover rates increased to 200%. The leadership team would plan and set goals, but frequently failed to achieve them. The growth rate was declining. The CEO felt over-extended, frustrated and stressed.”

With the leadership team Glen Dall leveraged these tools to have the right people on the right seat, set priorities and targets, as well as establish a proven system to follow up on them. The result? “After our first 6 months of working together, the CEO told me, “You should be proud of how far you’ve brought the team. I feel that we have accomplished more in the past 6 months than we were able in the last 7 years.” That is the power of accountability.”

As a business growth coach, I work with founders of mid-market companies who are frustrated because their business is not growing the way they want; my passion is to help them identify and remove the growth roadblocks they have been hitting so they can grow faster and with less pain. Often their roadblocks include a lack of accountability: they have no system in place to regularly follow up on their team’s many commitments, or their teams don’t have clear priorities and metrics. I would like to learn about your growth roadblocks; contact me to discuss at Xavier@AmbroseGrowth.com.

What about you? How accountable is your team? How has Covid impacted accountability? Over the past couple of years, how many quarters has your company reached and missed their targets? What were the consequences of hitting targets, and what were the consequences of missing them? Do you have clear metrics and regular meetings in place to follow up on each of your priorities?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.