Case Studies

Strategy Case Studies

Fresh Perspective: Delivering a research-based strategic plan for an independent school.

An independent school appointed a new president, and she and the board agreed that developing a strategic plan would help ensure that they had a common vision and agreement regarding important goals and priorities.

Warren Whitney used a research-based approach as the foundation for the strategic planning process. The information provided a broad based SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis, as well as an opportunity to identify issues that were important to the various groups. With that information Warren Whitney led the strategic planning steering committee through reviews and revisions of the vision, mission, and core values, followed by development of goals, strategies, action steps, and time tables.

A final strategic plan document was delivered to the school. The plan became a tool for the president and management team, as well as an integral part of discussions at board meetings. Five years after the first plan was done, the school engaged Warren Whitney to facilitate the next round of planning.

Leadership Transition: Developing and implementing a succession plan.

A family-owned, business-to-consumer (B2C) company was going through a transition in leadership. The company was not operating with the guidance of a strategic plan, and the incoming president thought this would be an opportune time to develop a new strategic plan. A planning process also was an ideal way to begin the change the culture of the organization to make decision making more inclusive and collaborative at the management team level.

The client engaged Warren Whitney professionals to facilitate the strategic planning process in conjunction with conducting a financial analysis of the various business entities which were held within the corporation. Warren Whitney surveyed employees, conducted management team interviews, and led three planning sessions to create a sound strategic plan.

In addition to creating a guiding vision and operating plan for the company, the process helped many members of the management team become stronger, more engaged managers.

Board Building: Evaluating, guiding, and establishing a process for board cultivation.

A nonprofit had been operating for 12 years, and its originating and early board members had been rotating off of the board. The organization realized that within the next few years, it would have a complete turnover in board members, and it did not have a plan for bringing on new board members.

Warren Whitney facilitated a board cultivation committee, taking them through the process of:

  • Developing a board matrix which showed when board members would complete their terms and the committees on which they served. This helped identify the skills that would need to be replaced, and helped establish priorities for identifying and cultivating board members with those skills.
  • Creating a nominations process that was presented to and approved by the board.
  • Creating written board member expectations that are to be reviewed with potential board members before they are asked to join the board.
  • Developing a list of potential board members for consideration, with an effort to identify people who would be interested in this organization.
  • Determining the best way to introduce the potential board member to the organization, and the approach to determine whether he/she would be a good fit.
  • Assisting in developing and conducting an orientation for new board members.

The organization added six new members to the board to replace departed board members and added two people to fill vacancies. The work continues because board cultivation is an ongoing process, and there has been a natural change in the composition of the board cultivation committee.

Board Development: Combining training, consulting, and facilitation with self-assessment to resolve conflict.

A longstanding nonprofit felt that its board needed assistance in identifying steps to strengthen the board and its governance practices.  Most board members wanted to be engaged but there were conflicting ideas about what they should be doing as board members.

Warren Whitney served the client by constructing an engagement that used a board self-assessment as a foundation for a day-and-a-half board session which combined governance training with consulting.  Specific steps of the engagement included:

  • Conducting background research by reviewing the bylaws and minutes from recent meetings and by talking with the executive director and several board members.
  • Designing and administering a board self-assessment survey centered on best practices and including several questions specific to issues the organization faced.
  • Facilitating a retreat comprised of four sections:
    • Roles and responsibilities of board members.
    • Strategic planning.
    • Board member cultivation.
    • The partnership between the board and the executive director.

The sessions provided a training component in each area followed by discussion of the issues specific to the organization.

During the session, the board developed a draft vision statement and agreed on a process for moving forward to develop a strategic plan.  In addition, the board agreed on 10 actionable steps to strengthen its approach to governing the organization and the board itself.  Warren Whitney committed to providing assistance at the first several meetings of a newly formed governance committee.

Non-Profit Merger: Orchestrating a seamless merger.

During a period of economic struggle, a local nonprofit decided that their mission would be better served by merging with another similar nonprofit. Culturally, the work environment would not drastically change. Warren Whitney worked with the Executive Director of this nonprofit to prepare the merging organization and its staff for changes.

Warren Whitney gathered data, reviewed documents, analyzed business differences, and performed an organizational review that encompassed insurance policies, lease terms, HR policies and processes, staffing models, benefits, and compensation. Focused on the best possible outcome for both organizations, Warren Whitney wrote communication materials both for employees and the Board of Directors and planned the transition. Knowingly, this action would result in a severance agreement for the current Executive Director.

The employees benefited in this merger by obtaining more cost effective benefits, richer paid time off benefits, retirement plans, and insurance packages. The Board of Directors approved the merger, and because of the due diligence efforts by the team, the merger was seamless.

Finance & Accounting Case Studies

CFO Level Expertise: Seasoned business acumen for a growing company.

As this company grew to five locations, the owner realized the need for executive level accounting and financial management. He needed someone with CFO-level knowledge, but realized that the company still did not require a full-time CFO position. The client engaged Warren Whitney to fill the need for a fractional CFO, working one or two days per week and providing oversight of the client’s bookkeeper and the preparation of financial statements.

We began by providing additional training to the client’s bookkeeper, training her to prepare proper monthly financial statements and perform most of the duties of an accountant. Looking at the accounting processes and procedures, we saw an opportunity for improvement. The changes instituted included:

  • Segregating financial reporting by branch to provide clarity.
  • Showing both consolidated and branch budgeting.
  • Outsourcing payroll to increase efficiency.

In the process of working with the client, Warren Whitney brought the company’s financials up to date and developed a clearer picture of the client’s financial performance. As a result of the greater clarity, the client was able to explore further expansion into new markets. Warren Whitney assisted in the planning for expansion by:

  • Creating pro forma financials and budgeting.
  • Interviewing the management team.
  • Assessing capital for a new branch.

Financial Reporting: Improved reporting leads to better decisions and increased profitability.

A privately held manufacturing company grew rapidly without adequate accounting systems and controls. When Warren Whitney was engaged to work with the company, the president was not receiving timely financial statements, information was not being entered accurately into a newly created job cost database, and the bank had issued strong warnings that its relationship with the company was at risk. The bank ultimately demanded a change in banking relationships.

During the course of our engagement, Warren Whitney:

  • Worked with the company’s bookkeeper to generate accurate and timely financial information. Instead of having financial statements six weeks after the end of the quarter, Warren Whitney conducted a trial near the last day of the month and generated complete financial statements by the fifth day of the following month.
  • Created a cash flow model and worked with the management team to make operating decisions based on their impact on the financial position of the company. Our efforts included creating the approach to paying vendors that, ultimately, brought all payables back to a current status.
  • Restructured banking arrangements. In this case, the bank insisted that the company move all banking relationships, and the bank was paid in full.
  • Continued to monitor the financial position of the company and improve reporting systems while she trained the bookkeeper to take on more responsibility for the accounting systems.

Once the company stabilized, Warren Whitney moved to an advisory role until the president was confident in his internal accounting staff.

The company successfully changed and stabilized its banking arrangements. In the second year, it posted the most profitable year in its history, thanks to the efforts of the entire management team and the financial direction given.

Fractional CFO: Immediate call to duty for financial reporting hero.

When the CFO of the large national nonprofit resigned, the client’s management team contacted Warren Whitney to send in an interim CFO. Warren Whitney stepped into the position immediately.

The previous CFO had not kept the organization’s financial statements current and, as a result, the client was a year behind on tax returns, year-end statements, and audits. The board gave Warren Whitney a three-week deadline to complete all the previous year’s financials.

With Warren Whitney’s planning and guidance, the accounting department was able to complete the work within the deadline. Then Warren Whitney designed new accounting procedures that improved efficiency, accuracy, and internal controls.

Once the client hired a replacement, Warren Whitney partnered with the incoming CFO to provide a seamless transition, and continued to assist the client long enough to ensure that the new procedures were fully implemented.

Crisis Management: Building on a strong client relationship.

After suddenly losing its CFO, this year-round resort needed a quick replacement that could manage financial operations, finish the year-end audit, support planning for a major capital expansion, hire and train a replacement, and understand the member-oriented aspects of the business. Having worked with Warren Whitney on a previous occasion, the client engaged us to fill in as interim CFO.

Warren Whitney was able to step into the CFO role quickly and gain an understanding of the work that needed to be done. We spent three days per week at the client’s location serving as interim CFO of the organization. Warren Whitney:

  • Maintained the accounting and finance operation.
  • Introduced a new general ledger system.
  • Initiated and oversaw the installation of a data warehouse.
  • Hired and trained a new CFO.

In addition to maintaining the daily operations, Warren Whitney supported the organization in planning for a major capital expansion project. This role included planning included soliciting legal and investment advice regarding plans for a large conservation-easement, supporting a market analysis, and developing a best-use evaluation for support of the conservation easement tax credits.

During Warren Whitney’s tenure with the organization, we maintained daily operations and, moreover, introduced the new general ledger system, data warehouse, and supported the planning of a major capital expansion project. Warren Whitney assisted in the hiring of a new CFO, and trained the new CFO to ensure a smooth transition.

Forensic Accounting: Discretely investigating fraud.

A healthcare company was informed by one of its employees that the person in its highest accounting position might have been using the company’s funds inappropriately.

Warren Whitney was engaged to discreetly investigate whether or not there had been any misappropriated funds. Warren Whitney used a thorough examination of QuickBooks, bank statements, and company records to compile the evidence necessary to get a criminal conviction for the accounting employee and a full reimbursement from the insurance company.

Warren Whitney helped hired new accounting staff so the client would have adequate staffing for a company its size. We proposed a redistribution of responsibilities to ensure that the client had proper internal controls to help prevent future accounting issues and trained and cross-trained the new staff.

Fractional CFO/Controller: Establishing efficient accounting systems, procedures, and reporting.

An educational nonprofit organization needed a professional to evaluate its back-office accounting systems and procedures to determine whether or not they were effective. This client organization only employed one part-time accounting person, and there was no official process for communicating accounting information to the organization’s leadership.

Warren Whitney stepped in to the role of a fractional CFO/Controller at the client organization. Over the course of our time with the client, Warren Whitney assisted with evaluating and improving the organization’s accounting procedures and ensured that updated systems and procedures were maintained. During this project, we also:

  • Evaluated the current accounting/bookkeeping practices.
  • Wrote a report for the client, which included suggestions on how to improve the organization’s accounting procedures, as well as examples of best accounting practices that she has put in place at similar organizations.
  • Reviewed monthly transactions.
  • Prepared and formalized monthly accounting reports.
  • Prepared a financial “dashboard” report for finance and board committees.
  • Instituted a cash flow process, keeping track of how and when restricted and unrestricted funds were used throughout each year.
  • Organized and prepared books for the annual external audit and 990 tax return.
  • Met with the management team monthly to ensure that they understood how to interpret the monthly financial results, how they could impact results, and how to manage their organization and make the right budget decisions.

Warren Whitney helped the client improve its accounting procedures and continues to help the organization maintain procedures and processes by mentoring existing accounting staff, as well as reviewing accounting data and presenting reports to management and board and finance committees. Prior to Warren Whitney’s service, it took two-to-three months for the organization to complete the annual external audit. However, since working with the client, we kept close track of the information needed for the annual audit and saved the client a significant amount of time in last-minute preparation.

Human Resources Case Studies

Executive Search: Persistence in finding leadership.

A local nonprofit healthcare organization needed assistance with recruiting a Vice President, Development for its relatively new Midwest office. The client had tried to fill the position several times, but they had been unsuccessful in recruiting the right candidate to fit their needs and culture. Realizing their need for professional recruitment assistance the client engaged Warren Whitney to lead their executive search.

Warren Whitney cast a broad net for recruiting candidates using a combination of Internet postings and networking. Finalists were referred to the client’s search committee to select the best candidate to join the executive team.

The Vice President, Development position was successfully filled with a highly qualified and experienced executive. The client engaged Warren Whitney to recruit a Vice President, Development for the Richmond Headquarters a few months later.

Talent Search: Carefully listening to efficiently hire the right candidate.

A local construction and property management firm was experiencing a period of growth and needed to hire an executive level Administrative Assistant.

Warren Whitney met with key team members to understand what their needs were. The company had already written a job description for this position; however, during the meeting, we realized that the job description the company had prepared was not reflective of the candidate they wished to hire. We wrote a new job description that encompassed all of the duties and attributes required.

We advertised the position through relevant online outlets, conducted initial screenings, and referred qualified candidates to the client for final interviews. The position was filled with a highly qualified candidate. As a result of working with the staff and creating a new job description, the company now has a thorough description that serves as an accurate basis for performance reviews.

Having since recruited additional positions for this client, the company has requested the same inclusive job description to be created for each of these new positions. The company now also has a template for an offer letter on file that will serve their future needs.

Fractional HR Director: Outsourcing HR related issues allows leadership team to focus on growth.

Owners of a company with high year-over-year growth made a strategic decision to bring in a fractional Human Resources Professional to support their staff and managers in ongoing HR matters. Prior to this decision, these issues had distracted the leadership team from capitalizing on new and expanding business opportunities.

Warren Whitney was engaged on a scheduled, part-time, and on-call basis each week to handle ongoing issues that required the expertise of an HR professional. These issues included, but were not limited to, ensuring compliance with HR legislation such as FLSA, FMLA, COBRA, ADA, and others, talent acquisition, compensation, benefits, worker’s compensation and unemployment programs. Other responsibilities included ensuring the company policies and procedures are commensurate with the company’s culture and employment laws, resolving sensitive employee relations issues, and a host of other HR-specific responsibilities. Over time, Warren Whitney also introduced new systems and processes that markedly improved and streamlined the hiring, on-boarding, performance management, benefit administration processes and best practices.

Having a part-time HR professional on-site each week freed up the owners and managers to do what they do best – to continue to grow their business!

Fractional HR Director: Completing a risk assessment to establish systems and procedures.

A Richmond based company found themselves in need of Human Resources services. This family owned business was prioritizing their energy on the day-to-day demands of the employees and customers. Over-worked, and with not enough hours in the day to get everything done, they neglected to have strong processes in place for handling HR functions. As a result, they were unknowingly, operating out of compliance. One of Warren Whitney’s HR consultants, Beth Williams, was brought on board to audit their HR functions and complete a risk assessment. Once the risks were identified, she established systems and procedures to ensure they were working effectively and in compliance with state and federal regulations. Afterwards, to help them streamline their workload, she focused her attention on developing:

1) A recruiting process.

2) An onboarding packet for new employees.

3) A performance management program for employee evaluation.

4) Training initiatives for the managers and the employees.

5) The employee guidebook.

Once this was completed, she assisted them in hiring a full-time HR replacement. Beth gradually phased out of the engagement having brought the company completely up to speed with current HR practices. They continue to call on Warren Whitney, when needed, as a trusted advisor.

Technology and Operations Case Studies

Operational Analysis: Identifying improvements, lowering overhead and creating new model.

After several years of under-performing against budget, this nonprofit health care organization engaged Warren Whitney to conduct an operational analysis to identify opportunities for improvement in operations and their potential impact on the financial position of the organization.

Warren Whitney began the process by interviewing the employees about their job duties, perceptions, and ideas about the organization. Next, we analyzed the number of people served, the cost of serving each category based on the type of services received, and the allowed reimbursement by payer for each type of service. The analysis highlighted areas where the cost of services exceeded reimbursement. Additional analysis determined the reason for the gap and whether it would be possible to adjust operations to close the gap. In addition to identifying a number of expenses that were not being managed to meet the needs of the organization, Warren Whitney determined that changes in the industry were making this type of model increasingly difficult to sustain, even when resources were managed tightly.

Working together, Warren Whitney and the president developed a new model for providing care that substantially changed the organization’s business model, reducing overhead expenses and collaborating with other organizations to ensure that patients received excellent care within reimbursable limits. The organization has made the operating changes required for the new business model. It is currently implementing the new model of service and testing its acceptance within the funding community.

Fractional CIO: Identifying technology risks to support growth.

A large nonprofit long-term care provider with multiple CCRCs was going through significant leadership changes while also planning for future expansion. The organization recognized that they had a void in leadership, and that their technology was not effectively supporting current needs, not positioned to support future growth, and that spending was out of control. Based on a recommendation from an existing partner, Warren Whitney was engaged to serve as Fractional CIO for the organization.

Warren Whitney was able to quickly assess the most immediate technology-related risks and needs. We worked with management, staff, and vendor partners to define and implement numerous changes that enhanced and stabilized the organization’s technology infrastructure and systems.

As the leadership and needs of the organization changed, Warren Whitney’s experience and flexibility allowed us to serve in a variety of roles that expanded beyond the scope of the initial engagement. During our tenure with the organization, we were able to serve as a member of the core leadership team and implement numerous improvements, including:

  • Development of the first actionable strategic plan for the organization and implementation of several associated projects.
  • Vendor and facilities management improvements.
  • Stabilization of the existing technology infrastructure.
  • Management reporting improvements and enhancements to chain-wide communication, collaboration, and education.
  • Implementation of corporate EMR systems and clinical processes, enhancing both efficiency and compliance.
  • Hiring of a full-time IT Director and staff.

Fractional CIO: Developing systems and operational processes to drive growth.

A nationwide leader in the sports marketing industry sought to dramatically expand their customer base and scope of services to include a broader suite of offerings related to event marketing and sponsorship. Warren Whitney was engaged as a Fractional CIO to assist with the development of systems, marketing strategies, and operational processes to help drive the desired growth.

Warren Whitney worked with the CEO and a team of experienced Fortune 100 advisers to understand the needs and desired capabilities of the organization, and to develop a strategy for innovative, industry-leading systems required to support the new business endeavor. After the initial vision was established, Warren Whitney worked with the team and software development partners to define detailed requirements and drive a multi-year effort to create and implement the systems and internal processes.

As Fractional CIO, Warren Whitney drove numerous aspects of the operations expansion, including:

  • Definition of overall strategy and detailed business requirements to support the overall vision.
  • Management of vendor resources and budget.
  • Clarification of revised staff roles, responsibilities, and internal processes required to support the new offerings.
  • Coordination with external partners engaged to provide marketing and fulfillment services for the new offering.

With Warren Whitney’s guidance, the client’s expansion has gained significant positive attention from numerous nationwide and regional retailers, CPG brands, and both regional and national events.