I’ve always been jealous of sports. There is a clear winner and a clear loser. You can see the effects of strategy adjustments. And you get paid a lot of money to play a game. Nice.

For most of us, summer is our halftime. While our “game” doesn’t pause, summer is typically half way through our fiscal year. We take the opportunity to do a mid-year business review. We take a hard look at overall results, where we can improve, and ways to maximize our strengths both in the short term and long term.

We start by looking at our working capital. How much total cash do we have? How much of that total cash is truly our cash? We determine by subtracting restricted cash from our total cash. Restricted cash is cash that is not really ours. it typically includes upcoming payment obligations as well as overbillings on projects. Overbillings is money paid by homeowners that we have not fully earned yet. Knowing how much free and clear cash we have will help guide our playbook for the second half of the game.

Then, we revisit our goals. How are we progressing on our personal goals? How about on the business goals? These are goals and initiatives we developed at the start of the fiscal year that are above and beyond the numbers. It might be to improve our client experience, invest in a new venture, or seeing team growth. Some initiatives are short term while others might take years to accomplish. It’s key that different people on the team help develop and “own” these initiatives. As the owner, you can’t do it all yourself. It’s also invaluable and incredibly motivating for people to have meaningful input on business initiatives.

The numbers are next up for review. Gross profit less overhead leads to our net profit and cash. Overhead is the total of all business expenses that are not direct job cost expenses that you have included in gross profit percent. Is overhead in line with our budget? Is it higher or lower than the previous fiscal year? Are we balancing maximizing short term profit with mid/long term investments in our business? It’s great to save money in marketing, but we will pay for it over the next six months. It’s great to save money in payroll, but without investing in a team, don’t expect to take a vacation or to retire anytime soon.

To evaluate gross profit, we delve into:

  • Sales: How are we doing with actual vs. projected sales? What is leading to those overall results? We break down the sales by job scope, by region, and by person. Are the close rate and average job size aligned with our past experience and with our goals?
  • Gross Profit Percentage: Is our gross profit percentage in line with budget? How is it tracking vs. our estimated gross profit percentage? We have projects than can take up to a year to complete, so we have projects sold last fiscal year that we “carryforward” into this year. How is the gross profit percent on these projects? How about the gross profit percent on jobs sold this fiscal year? Looking at these separately is critical because carryforward projects are unique. They typically come in with lower gross profit percentages because they have dragged on for a reason. At the end of last fiscal year we assumed a certain gross profit/income on carryforward jobs. If carryforward jobs come in with a lower gross profit percentage it’s a double hit as we have to offset for the income we assumed last fiscal year.
  • Percentage of Completion: How are we doing building the work we have sold over the last 6 months? We only earn our income/sales when we build them. We could have huge sales but if they are all delayed due to permits, client issues, etc. then we are going to miss our income targets. Make sure you are getting through the work as you had planned – and if you aren’t either pick up the pace or adjust your expectations.

Halftime is almost over. We need to take this story about cash, goals/initiatives, gross profit, and overhead. We also need to develop our plan for the next six months. The more your team is involved in developing and owning this plan the better. Get their help uncovering opportunities and risks. Develop clear tracking so everyone knows the score of the game. Celebrate when you win. Adjust when you are off target.

This can sound like a time sucking, navel-gazing exercise. It is a little bit. But is taking 1-2 days out of your year too much to help ensure you win the game? To huddle with your team and make sure you’re all on same page as you start the second half? To set yourself up for the next fiscal year?