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Finance Library

Business Finance is one of the areas where CEOs and other business leaders do not have a clear understanding of some basic concepts … but we are committed to help you turbocharge your business with practical tips and techniques to improve free cash flow, the lifeblood of business.

Please check out the Featured Articles from our Business Finance Library to get you started.

How Close is Your Business to a Colossal Screwup?

Have you established a written Code of Conduct in your organization?

Our prescriptions for acceptable behavior are too vague. Get started now to spell it out more clearly to avoid that potentially colossal screwup.


Have you heard this phrase before?

“Conduct unbecoming”

You may have heard this phrase before, perhaps from the clenched teeth of a military JAG officer about the same time you learned that “Crystal” is a perfectly apt response to “Are we clear?”

What is the Standard of Conduct in Your Office?

Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain

Throughout my service as a U.S. Army officer, this phrase was constantly refreshed as the highest standard to apply to the official actions of military officers.

How Do Organizations Define Acceptable Behavior?

Keep reading to learn more about how to define acceptable behavior


Do you ever calculate ROI and Present Value? Watch these Short Videos | Cheat Sheets

Present Value and Internal Rate of Return are not difficult concepts to understand.

Take a look at the Cheat Sheets I’ve prepared along with 2 very short videos to explain these concepts.


For 20+ years, I’ve been carrying an old plastic card around in my wallet that is a great cheat sheet for investment-minded folks to quickly assess various return options.

I decided to recreate it here because it’s very useful as a handy cheat sheet you can use for quick reference. (You can click on the table to open a printable image.)

You just won the $10 million lottery

Let’s have some fun and assume you just won a $10 million lottery jackpot in California’s MEGA Millions game.

Don’t miss both Cheat Sheets and the accompanying videos


Get More At Bats

A good hitter knows he has to get more hits to be great. A great hitter knows she has to get more at bats to get to the Hall of Fame.

In the wake of the fading scars from the recent recession, most companies have turned their focus to revenue enhancement, a fancy term for “get more sales”. What are the key metrics that will help you drive that achievement?

Get More At Bats - Exkalibur.com

What could be easier than to focus on top line growth?

There is probably no clearer metric to measure and analyze. Check the ledger: sales are up or they’re not.

But, where do sales come from? From Prospects who become customers … so if you’re not tracking how you’re developing Prospects, and treating them as importantly as customers, your sales are unlikely to grow much.

Here’s the real key to getting more sales

Get more at bats.

If you need more customers, find more prospects.  If you own stores, figure out how to get more people through the door.

If you don’t have enough prospects, find more suspects.  If you sell services, talk to more people.

Sales result from developing Suspects … nurturing them to become Prospects … all the while recognizing most of them never become customers   …  but without them, there will be no new customers at all.

“At Bats” are not the same as “Plate Appearances”

Baseball distinguishes between “plate appearances” and “at bats”.

Just showing up at the plate isn’t enough. Keep reading so you don’t miss the metrics checklist…

Happy Thanksgiving!


It seems like everyone is ready for a little R&R these days … and there’s no better time than the Thanksgiving holiday for a restful weekend with family and friends.

We can skip all of the pageantry for now ….

Thanksgiving kicks off a long holiday season … and … thankfully … it’s devoid of the frantic gift-buying, holiday card creation and party circuit pageantry that surrounds Christmas (unless you’re parked in a tent in front of Target waiting for the store to open).

Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of fun in all of that … but don’t we often get to the end of the Christmas season … exhausted, drained and looking for another holiday to REALLY get a break?

Leave your trials and tribulations behind

So, let’s enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and take a moment to leave our trials and tribulations behind and reflect upon all of our blessings. We have a lot to be thankful for living in the greatest country on earth, with all of its blemishes, and for the families and friends who nourish our lives.

Savor these moments.

Enjoy each others’ company, catch a little football, watch Santa arrive in the Macy’s day parade … but don’t let the moment pass by without loving the ones you love and who love you … and enjoying and embracing the blessings that fulfill our lives.

Let the gratitude pour forth~

I offer my special thanks today to everyone who contributes to the blessings and favor that grace my life and extend best wishes to you for a restful and bounteous weekend with your families and friends.

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday!


What do Magicians, Grifters and Financial Legerdemain Have in Common?

It's the money

Magicians are pretty amazing, aren’t they?

They do stuff right in front of our eyes

… we’re on the edge of our seats …

expecting the unexpected …

and even then we have no idea how they just did what they did.

Somehow, he gets you to look one way while he’s doing something else right in front of you … and you completely miss it.

Watch Apollo Robbins, the best pickpocket it in the world, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Financial Legerdemain: A Magician’s Trick by any other name

I’ve always loved the term, “legerdemain”. The shorthand definition is “sleight of hand”, kind of “now you see it, now you don’t”. Like Apollo.

But when it’s applied to financial metrics, with an unstated intention of distracting you from focusing on the right thing, it’s a particularly destructive force.

It’s the worst if you turn it on yourself … and end up deceiving yourself about what performance metrics really count. Read the entire article to avoid a fool’s errand ….


Quotation: Is Pricing a Powerful Tool, a Slippery Slope or a Crap Shoot?

Over the years, I’ve written often about pricing … an enigma wrapped in a conundrum for most businesses.

It comes up in many contexts, from evaluating revenue performance, using pricing as a powerful offensive weapon and evaluating the slippery slope of price discounting.

If you’re the buyer, this quote by John Ruskin neatly summarizes the pricing challenge:

It is unwise to pay too much, but it is worse to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money – that is all.

When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot – it can’t be done.

If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is wise to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that, you will have enough money to pay for something better.

Question: What’s the biggest pricing challenge you face in your business?


Leadership | How Are You Paving the Road to Superior Performance?

Two-faced head statueIn Can Radically Different Cultures Produce Equally Great Results?, I posed the question: If measured by financial performance, can dramatically different organizations be equally successful?

In this short series about culture development, we’ll take a look at how sound business principles and cultural patterns often collide within an organization’s walls.

How can opposing cultures both succeed?

In many ways, it doesn’t seem fair that both charitable and churlish cultures can thrive.

It’s easy to embrace the benevolent culture created by Sid Rich (we’ll call it Company South, “S” for Sid) as profiled in the first article in this series.

His company deserves to be successful.

Wouldn’t it be great if that was the company you worked for? Continue Reading →


Leadership | Flying blind? Assume Crash Position!

What you can’t see can do the most damage

Weren’t you heartbroken over the death of John F. Kennedy Jr.?

We recently finished a three-day soiree with our long time friends from Boston, who we have visited frequently on Martha’s Vineyard where their family has had a home for more than 100 years.

As usual, the conversation turned to island lore, Fall from Grace, the mystery novel from Richard North Patterson, which takes place on the island (andwhich I highly recommend), … and inevitably to the Kennedy folklore and the tragic death of JFK Jr.

Is it hubris that drives us into the storm clouds?

“Vision is the art of seeing the invisible.” ~ Jonathan Swift

My wife has had a lifelong interest in the family side of the Kennedy dynasty, so she was enthralled by a factoid we hadn’t heard before … Continue Reading →


Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Every Tuesday, we’re sharing valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today. Don’t forget our 12 part Leadership series.


We’re human, we make mistakes, we miscalculate …

I continue to examine some of the first 100 newspaper columns I’ve written … and continue to be struck by the timeless issues that we face as we build our businesses.

We’re human, we make mistakes, we don’t always get done what we intend, we miscalculate, things don’t turn out as planned.

Stuff happens.

We know we’re on a journey and not just seeking a destination, but that doesn’t diminish our struggle to overcome many of the same forces that have plagued progress throughout civilization.

(We’ll explore some of those forces, and how to overcome them, in an upcoming column.) 

“The importance of knowing accounting can not be underestimated, it’s the language of business. If you don’t know it, it’s like being in a foreign country without knowing the language.”  ~ Warren E. Buffett, CEO, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.

This famous quote from the Sage of Omaha kicked off the 13-part Big River series, a narrative journey examining the value and dangers of accelerated growth and illuminating many of the business finance issues that affect our businesses.





Liquidity … and more.

It illustrates the balance that your business requires between the growth that nourishes the organization and the strains it imposes as the body grows. That series is now being published in book form, so stay tuned for that announcement very soon. 

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” ~Will Rogers

Few would disagree about the timeless value of this statement. It appeared in a column in November 2008 as the wheels of American commerce were grinding to a halt. I used this “Double V” image to signify the High degree of Volatility and the Low degree of Visibility that branded the horizon, and I’m not sure those characteristics haven’t returned … if they ever left.

At the time, I suggested attacking the nefarious “V” words with a few “F” words of our own to communicate with your teams during hard times.

  • Face time by spending more time with your employees.
  • Be Forthcoming and tell it to your team as straight as you understand it.
  • Use “Facts” not Fiction; your employees can take it and will appreciate knowing that you don’t have all the answers either.
  • Frequency reminds us that we can’t over-communicate during these periods. Keep talking; update everyone on what you’re learning as well as what you still don’t know.

As I emphasized then: “Don’t wait to get this done. Your employees are walking on eggshells every day. Pick up the shucks and create a positive environment where employees know the rules and trust that you’ll keep them in the loop at all times.”

“Lewis & Clark didn’t load the canoe with Mojitos!”

I love this tagline from Jim Beam.

It says that we know who we are … and who we’re not … we’re proud of it … and if you don’t like it ….

When we recall the “sustainable competitive advantage” that should earmark our Strategy, it’s critical to stake out “who we are”, a subject we have covered in several previous columns.

Know your core market and “stand for something” is always better than trying to be all things to all people.

Try it sometime.

Your real customers like to hear that you understand the core values they’ve come to respect in your products and services … and you’ll be able to extend your appeal to people who want to buy from someone who knows who they are will make them part of something greater.

We’re got a few tours left through the museum of previous columns before we begin to tackle why these lessons are so hard for us to adopt and put to work.

In the meantime, take stock of these principles.

  • Manage growth so it doesn’t consume your resources instead of adding to them.
  • Continue to communicate with your employees in this stalled economy so they don’t have to be looking over their shoulder and can focus on what’s important to make the company more successful.

While you’re at it? Make sure everyone knows what you stand for.


This article was published in the October 31, 2011 edition of the North Bay Business Journal, a publication of the New York Times, and a weekly business newspaper which I have served as a regular columnist for over three years. The Business Journal covers the North Bay area of San Francisco – from the Golden Gate bridge north, including the Wine Country of Sonoma and Napa counties. The electronic version of this article, as published by the North Bay Business Journal, may be found here.


Lary Kirchenbauer is the president of Exkalibur Advisors, providing practical business strategies for family and other privately owned businesses in the middle market. Exkalibur works closely with senior executives and their businesses in the wine and other industries, and hosts the Exkalibur Leadership Forum for leaders of middle market companies in the North Bay. Please visit Exkalibur.com for a library of valuable resources, articles and insights or connect on Twitter, LinkedIN or the Exkalibur fan page on Facebook.