Enhancing Business Competitiveness in the Constant-Changing Finance World

March 9, 2023 Mimi Torrington

	enhancing business competitiveness technology background

"The only constant thing is change" is a familiar adage, and the pandemic has exemplified this statement. Businesses worldwide have faced devastating impacts due to the pandemic, leading many companies to make significant operational changes to survive. However, even now, many businesses continue to struggle to remain afloat. As we transition into a post-COVID world, you should explore ways to start enhancing business efficiency and maintaining competitiveness. To help us in this pursuit, we discussed with Anupam Satyasheel, the Founder and CEO of Occams Advisory.

Anupam has twenty years of international experience in entrepreneurship, financial and risk management, M&As, due diligence, operational efficiency, and creating and implementing strategic structures and roadmaps. Besides Occams Advisory, he is also the Co-Founder of Child Literacy, EquiPay, and eCheck.Money and the Head Of Operations at Vitruvia Consulting Corporation.

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Welcome back to CFO Weekly, where we're talking with financial leaders about how to build efficiency in their teams, create time for strategy, and ultimately get results. With your host, Megan Meese. Let's jump right in. Today my guest is Anupam Satyasheel. Anupam has 20-plus years of international experience in entrepreneurship, financial and risk management, valuation, mergers and acquisitions, due diligence, operational efficiency, and creating and implementing strategic structures and road maps. He also has a world-class track record of best practices. Anupam, thank you very much for being my guest today.

Anupam - 00:00:58: Hi, Megan. Thank you for having me.

Megan - 00:01:00: Yeah, absolutely. You have more than 20 years of international experience in entrepreneurship, financial and risk management, valuation, M and A, due diligence, operational efficiency, and creating and implementing strategic structures and road maps. And today we're going to be discussing some of your strategies for success. I'm super excited to learn from you. So let's get started.

Anupam - 00:01:29: Sounds good.

Megan - 00:01:31: First, as always, let's start with you and your story as to how you got to where you are today.

Anupam - 00:01:38: Absolutely, Megan. I turned 50 last year, so 20-plus years have almost become more like 30 closings.

Megan – 00:01:48: Big milestone.

Anupam- 00:01:49: Yeah, the world seems a bit different now. I keep saying that half did have to go, the more exciting half it left. People like Warren Buffett inspired me. They're going strong at 92, not the kind who wants to retire. So, moving on to my present, I'll go in reverse chronological order. Since 2012, I have tried to build Outcomes Advisory into a multi-faceted practice that focuses on small businesses. We are talking about starting from revenue size $5 million, give or take, going all the way to we typically avoid going to companies who are more than a billion dollars. That's kind of too big for us. And the single key focus for our comps advisory is to look at the efficiency of the business across how efficient the capital structure is, and how efficient they are with their taxation. And probably least focused by us is how efficient is their payment processing. So a dollar that they actually have a revenue, what actually they collect. In some cases, that's a big difference. But mostly it is not that big of a focus for our client here. The evolution of the company has been through my journey. I might say starting solo in 2012 after I quit my job as Vice President of Portfolio Risk at Barclays, which essentially was legacy Lehman Brothers, and then exploring starting investment banking, going into payment processing, then diversifying into insurance. We did personal finance for four years. We quit doing that a year and a half ago. And all along we continued our focus on MNA, which essentially is any investment bank of spread and butter I did before OCCAMS spent seven years on Wall Street, from 2005 until 2012. And for those of us who are old enough to have seen that time in history that was almost like a complete life cycle. You joined Wall Street when everything was gangbusters and you gradually settle down to something which is flat-lining to ticking up just after you create this storm. We all remember the history of Wall Street. I did work for some market names like Barclays, a bit with Merrill Lynch, which was a bank of America by then Scotia Capital, and I spent some time with Privilege Investments, which was on the other side of the world. Prior to that I was in a wonderful place called New York and was just going to school a business, two years of full-time MBA learning some really insightful stuff from people like Aswath Damodaran and a couple of Nobel Prize winning professors. The other ten years or a little less than that of my professional life working in corporates' first four years in India, Siemens Telecom in 95 to 98, which was the golden days of the telecom business. Then for a .com startup and then a couple of years at a technology staffing company in New Jersey, which was my last job before I went to NYU. I'm sure people must have fallen asleep by now. So we can switch topics and get back to your asking more questions.

Megan - 00:05:24: Occams am I pronouncing it right? Occams advisory. What inspired you to go out on your own and start that up?

Anupam - 00:05:35: I love that question. I love the question because when we look at investment bankers, they either get pushed out or they have some kind of the Monk who sold his Ferrari kind of moment. This is not for me. It wasn't that crazy, but it just was the backdrop of my seven years. Like you go in into a crazy hot market and you lose a job, which happened to pretty much every investment banker that I know of at that time. And then you come back stronger, which luckily I was able to do. And then realize that this is not the game I want to play. That sounds fancy, but the straight heartfelt truth Megan is that investment banking is for a certain kind of people and that could do it, I could do it longer. But the absence of end-to-end ownership or like a better word, like on a deal team, whether you're Vice President or you are even a Managing Director, you're part of a bigger game plan. I always wanted to have something which I have greater ownership of and being in small and medium businesses was more likely than not situation because that's what I saw growing up. My father had a small business. There was a community of people when I grew up in India small steel city called Tata Nagar where Tata’s built a steel plant. You see the trading community and you see their challenges. And it's not that I didn't see that in my day job before I went to NYU or in general interacting with people. It seems that there are two or three different kinds of swim lanes, the one for large corporations where they have access to all kinds of fancy advice and expertise. Then there is the middle of the pool people who at least have some access and then typically small-medium businesses were so clueless about what is right about their business just kind of getting by and the people who borrow at 45% rate and they don't understand why it can't be profitable. Pretty difficult to be profitable with that kind of cost of capital or massive inefficiencies with any part of their processes, payment processing, just operating leverage. So I was like yeah, let's be missionaries here and try and see if we can make sense of bringing Fortune 500 expertise to small and medium businesses. And everyone told me that you're wasting your time, it's not going to happen. They said yeah we'll see. We'll try and fail. Don't fail before starting. And I think the last ten to twelve years have been very unusual in the life cycle for small businesses because, for instance, small business lending has gone from not being kind of there at all to being a pretty significant capital deployment for most funds who want to be playing. And then of course we can get into many other macroeconomic trends but in general COVID, of course, changed so much about how businesses look at themselves. Many of the most inefficient ones got blown away and the ones who are left standing are more resilient ones. So that's kind of the synopsis of what got me going and how I have seen this evolve in the course of the last ten-plus years.

Megan - 00:09:06: And talk to me about your clients. What kind of problems do they come to you with and how do they find you?

Anupam - 00:09:15: So answering the second question first is an easier way to answer. We find them, they find us through one of the digital media email outreach but mostly through referrals. More than half of our clients come to us because somebody is happy with what we have done for them and they can't stop saying please go try this place. It's like when you go eat the best whatever you like to eat sushi, chicken, you know, sandwich, soup in someplace. Like you tell people you have to go try that place. Amazing. Like that's the easiest customer they ever get. So most of our clients at least a good 50% to 60% come through. Very happy clients.

Megan - 00:09:54: Yeah. That speaks a lot about speaks a lot about luck. Yeah.

Anupam - 00:10:01: Which is as the classical definition goes when preparation meets opportunity. Megan jokes apart I do believe that I'm extremely lucky Occams Advisory extremely lucky that we happen to try and do something at a time when I believe the starts aligning and small medium business centric advisory services will have a bright feature particularly if you bring in the element of digitization that we hyper emphasize on. Going back to the first part, what kind of service do we provide? Like most aspiring entrepreneurs I'm a huge fan of his C jobs. And if I'm quoting him right, he always said that most customers don't know what they need, or what they want. And I firmly believe in that because people come to us with problems like, yeah, we have been in business for five years, but we can't seem to generate a profit, we don't know why. And it seems like the greatest mystery to them till we look at the capitalist structure and say, yeah, they're a factoring arrangement where all the potential profits are being stuck away by a manufacturing company, or they have in general, they see we want to grow, but we don't know how to grow. And then you start looking under the hood and you find any and many kinds of issues. Most businesses come to us saying we need capital, we have a great business model and if we got capital, we all be fine. And you and I both know hopefully that that's never true. The great business model is never shortened capital. So from finding capital to looking at their operating efficiency, to getting them better tax plans, most of them are structured in a manner that they will keep paying a lot of taxes, which they don't need to pay. But the general theme that we see is that it's a chronic lack of expertise about a business, which they should know much more about. But it's not like they don't know the code like they don't know the accounting, the taxation, the capital efficiency, or the easiest source of capital. Like some of them haven't heard the name spa before, which will be mind-boggling for any person like you or me. That's how come we don't know about SBA. So that's the flavor of it. Of course, we can dig deeper into any one thing that you like to go deeper into.

Megan - 00:12:21: Are most of your client's technology companies or is it pretty industry agnostic?

Anupam - 00:12:30: I'm Chuckling because when people say I'm industry agnostic, I say, okay, so why don't you tell me that you don't have any expertise and I apply the same test to us as well? We have more expertise in service lines. Within that, we would say that technology, ecommerce, healthcare businesses, and anything which is not equipment heavy. So manufacturing, petrochemicals, defense, and those companies tend to be larger by definition. You don't see many defense companies, less than a billion dollars in automobiles and we can keep going with infrastructure. So given the fact that SMB is centric unless they start having SMBs who are doing drilling in optic, ocean, or optic, whatever it's called, we will continue to have clients in service industries. And that's the way we thrive. Now, when it comes to saying our clients are predominantly tech companies, I have a bit of a radical view, which is I say that every company, every company in this world today is a software company. Either they accept it or they will perish in 20 years. Now, it may be a radical statement and you can grill me on that, but that's the way I think about businesses and more or less is playing out to the script.

Megan - 00:13:50: And you mentioned that most of your clients are somewhere under a billion dollars. What is it about that billion-dollar mark that kind of differentiates someone who needs your service versus someone who probably doesn't?

Anupam - 00:14:05: You won't believe it, but you are the first person who asked me this question ever.

Megan - 00:14:10: Wow.

Anupam - 00:14:11: I would say that's a great question. It's an incredible question of this hardware trying to be funny the way inflation is. We may have to raise that bar right?

Megan - 00:14:20: Yeah, that's true.

Anupam - 00:14:21: But more serious note, there is a point at which the owners stop being involved in the business and they have professional management. So I will bring a very respectable person into this equation. His name is Aswath Damodaran and he's called Dean of Valuation. He's the person who taught me corporate finance and valuation when I went to NYU. He has this amazing ability to demystify the most complex things. And that's my preferred way of thinking about things. I feel that owner-operated companies, and I might get some backlash for this, are by and large more inefficient than professional management-run companies. One would think that owners should be able to care more about their capital or cost of capital or any other efficiency to have it more profitable. But I think the fundamental issue is that nobody can be a Swiss knife and a Swiss knife with a knife is not a human being. And most entrepreneurs think that there's a Swiss knife. That is a fundamental problem with businesses. There's a great book called Image and E-Myth Revisited. You might have read about it and hopefully, our listeners have it, and breaks it out. That is why functional expertise has nothing to do with somebody being able to set up and run a business. That's a whole different skill set. So there is some point at which owners start involving professional management. At some point, they are not the decision-makers anymore. It's not a perfect science, but in most service businesses that number is somewhere around a billion dollars or earlier. And when it's professional management which is running a company and the owners are out of the equation, I think they already have got someone like us looking at the issues, whether there is the CEO's buddy who worked for McKenzie and is freelancing with them or some other sort of expertise they already have roped in. So we feel that if we are called in, we'll be competing against someone either larger or more trusted by the existing management. So that's the space where we don't mind going, but our value add might not be as trusted. Hopefully, answer their question.

Megan - 00:16:37: Yeah, that makes sense. And where did Occams come from? Where did that name originate?

Anupam - 00:16:44: Three and a half months of scratching my head. What do we call ourselves? The friend's wife said, have you heard of Occupancy she explained to me what it did and it kind of hit a chord because keep it simple, stupid. I'm calling myself stupid here. It's a nice thing, right? So I went and read about this and pretty much loved it. It also was funny enough that Occupancy.com was taken and I wanted to be a little intellectual in our approach. So we named ourselves Occams Paradigm. And we had a purple logo almost entrepreneurs do these things, right? Professionally developed, nice-looking logo with a discount from a friend. Sound familiar? And we launched with that. Still, in about three to four years, 70% of people were calling us by paradigm, paradigm, Paradigm, not Paradigm. And we said this is kind of we can like, you know, this is not branding friendly. So we changed it to Occams Advisory. And we have thought about other names, I would be honest and admit on and off, but we keep going back to that. If anything would like to call ourselves Occams versus being Occams Advisory. Because that kind of gives a feeling that you're an advisory business and COVID has made that business less attractive than ever before. Even McKenzie and BCGS are scratching their head to find a different business model. So who are we? But, yeah, as of now, we are Occams Advisory. And that's the history of our name.

Megan - 00:18:16: I love that story. So can you share with us some of your favorite success stories that you've had with your clients over the years?

Anupam - 00:18:27: Wow. How much time do you have?

Megan - 00:18:29: I know I'm sure that's a big ask.

Anupam - 00:18:31: And I was like, how much time do you have? Because they can go through a dozen of them.

Megan - 00:18:35: I'm sure.

Anupam - 00:18:37: In all sincerity, Megan, there are many, many recent stories for something very simple, which I'll get a bit into part it's kind of and you will see where it's coming from. When COVID started and we had things like PPP, almost a trillion dollar I don't see fiasco, but kind of poor ROI program launched by government in a half baked manner. Totally understand the time wasn't on the government side. Something quick had to be done. But the way $350,000,000,000 disappeared in a week and going to mostly people who didn't need money didn't start the pandemic relief on the right node, I'll get to the point pretty quickly. And then they had second round and on the PPP and along the way there are programs called ER deal and Er. And then, ERC Funny enough, I think if we had that just launched ERC in correct way, that is the only program people needed. Right? Ultimately they were saying retain your employees and we will incentivize that. Now that the PPP gravy train has left and ER deals are history, we have, in the course of last two years, helped many businesses who are either struggling to stay in business or have closed their doors and gone home. The owners have given up on their entrepreneurial career to claim the employee retention credit. And when the checks arrive, we have seen them cry on camera, send us gifts and thank us and say, we have got sent. And we're like, this is so strange. This was supposed to be your money. They should have been better education.

Megan - 00:20:19: Yeah. I think there's a lot of businesses out there that have no idea what the ERC program even is.

Anupam - 00:20:25: And what is worse, Megan, is that there are, as always, many mushrooming opportunistic operators who don't know what he has seen is funny enough, but they've heard about it and they're trying to do what they do very well. Make a quick buck.

Megan - 00:20:39: Yeah.

Anupam - 00:20:39: So I won't get into tearing them apart. That's, buyer be aware, was always a rule. But this is what I started saying, in the beginning, it might get political. When PPP disbursed $874,000,000,000, the overall cost was 953 billion. So $80 billion were just given out to banks. Of course, they never had money, right? They need money from lost prices to now banks always need money for 5% for just cutting a check and turning it back and getting reimbursed from SBA. Thank you, Mr. President. And Congress, they were very happy about that. ERC, nobody's advertising except the guys who, as I said earlier, don't know what ERC is, while last time around, the banks told each of their customers, would it make so much more sense if banks even today were telling all their customers that these are government approved ERC agencies? Go talk to them. But then we all know that government efficiency is noximoran. So without getting too much into that, I feel that again, I kind of objected topic, sorry. But the thing was, there have been at least three to four dozen situations where people are overwhelmed with what they got way more money than I thought they were eligible for, knowing that we provide them five years or support. Knowing that it's as close to risk-free, however taxable. Thank you. Money from the government. We have gone into saving many jobs, saving many careers, families, and more for industries like restaurants and what I call real businesses, medical practices, smaller ones, and home healthcare companies that really had given up on being in business. There thus have been many stories. But let's not forget that you asked me for the longer part. I'll talk about three kinds of themes. There have been businesses that get between $85 to $0.92 on a dollar because that's how much the payment processing costs them. We have a large law firm that we have been supporting for the last close to three years and they did not know where the margin was going. I mean, law firms make money, but they don't make money that they will lose 12% and still be crazily profitable until they understood the first principles of risk management and liquidity management in payment processing. And now they don't move an inch in anything, even areas outside payment processing, because they saw how deeply we tried to understand the critical facts of any discipline that we try to bring to our clients. So they're local, and their principal, he and I end up talking mostly at one in the morning when I'm about to wrap my day. And he has finally found time because we all are very busy doing things. That has been a very satisfying story for us. There was one different story about a business where they could not find good sales talent. Funny enough, they were growing business and their salespeople were like revolving doors. They will come in and go, come and go. And this reflects how small business owners don't think about any macro factors or real expertise, even though they're increasingly more resources out there. They had a pretty crazy commission structure which was capped. I don't know why it was capped. And then we worked with them. We literally had to just look at the marketplace. And the owner was very generous at heart, but I didn't have the idea executed. When everything fell in place from the 18th to the 19th of the operation to the 30th year, they went 10x. Companies don't go 10x in the 20s. They go 10x in their 7th, or 8th year or teenage. Those, three founders couldn't believe that it was possible. They were like, My God, this was holding us back. I said Nothing else is changing our business. But if you don't have a good commission structure in a sales-driven organization, they can't go very far. I can have many more stories, but this is we're talking about people who like lawyers or two-decade entrepreneurs. It's not that they didn't survive. They survived, well, about $20 million. Close to 25, actually. Now they're approaching half a billion in twelve years. So these are the things which make me more convinced that there has to be a better distribution with aka technology for what we do. So our massive emphasis on how to productize our offerings, how to digitize our offerings, how to make it available on demand, omnichannel feels almost like my crazy vision if I can see, is crazy, is that how do we make professional services work like an Apple or an Amazon, where everything can be digitized and delivered to people's? Of course, the human touch is super critical, but if we could do that, I think someday we'll have a more fun podcast where I can tell you about how much difference we have made and how far we have reached.

Megan - 00:25:50: Those are amazing stories. I'm just curious when you take on a new client, where do you start? It seems like boiling the ocean. Like, why aren't you growing? And it seems like there are a million different reasons that could be true.

Anupam - 00:26:03: We have a reasonably well-trained team of what we call intake, as in salespeople, who get first feed on our clients. However, this is where the great books on this topic like Entrepreneurs Dilemma and things like that, where you wish you could clone yourself. But Megan, it should be easy to agree that expertise can't be going overnight. This is something that you only hone, inculcate and perfect and continue to improve on throughout your lifetime. And people like me who are very curious and some of my partners who are very driven, we're able to get a gate of what is not right pretty quickly if we are doing the first or second conversation, but then we can't be doing every conversation. And that's where, Megan, we are trying to really scratch our heads as much as we can and as quickly as we can deploy how to use artificial intelligence. Like we have got ChatbBot right now working where our prospective clients or existing clients can go in and get a whole bunch of information. They can be interviewed by, I don't say fully by bots, but partly by technology, partly by human health and we try to gather enough information to see this is the biggest problem. 80 20 is one of our very famous focus areas let's solve something which is most critical for your business growth or survival, not try to. And entrepreneurs are pretty ADHD if I might say that. They want to focus on something which should be the 10th item on the list, just because it appeals more to them or they think they can do it quicker. There's no point in solving a problem that will make a 3% difference to your bottom line. 3% is great, but if it's a 15% problem, let's focus on that first. But again, you can see that this is a lack of structured thinking and we continue to think as to how we just automate the heck out of it so people don't have to rely on and how people can be hired. 5, 000 10,000 but we can't be everywhere. But systems can be in any place. In many places, there's a fine line between trying to do everything as people talk about sats, for instance, everything for larger companies or salesforce which is very versatile and actually effective. So if a system that's too complicated, it's not effective. If it's too simplistic, it's not effective either. With magical mid balance where they can give us information, we can get a quick pulse and act quickly and make a change. We ask them for the skies. But well, you know, everybody can be ambitious. We should try to be.

Megan - 00:28:48: I'm curious, like where in this talent market today, where are you finding the best and brightest to come work with you and what does that look like to you?

Anupam - 00:28:59: Megan, I love that question. Again, it's unfortunate that it took a COVID-19 kind of global pandemic to make this happen. But you know, just like we look back on human history and say why couldn't get this? Like the sun is earth is not the center of the universe for decades, for centuries, they believe that. It's one of those feelings, at least for me, that why should a knowledge company ever have to rely on people in one location only? But now we know that virtual first is a game changer. Technology first is a game changer. So internally we have this thing called 3T that’s technology, talent, and timing. So get tech, right? Think tech first, as in like don't think that I can make 15 copies. No, you get the point. How do we automate everything? There is talent. We are very selective about the people we get in. But regarding the question of talent, we can shop worldwide, right? Somebody, we have people working from the domestic republic, from Mumbai, from Toronto, from wherever, I mean, all kinds of people. In Latin America, it doesn't really matter. Africa, that is where they are. Our continuous quest is that we should be able to have transparent metrics by which we can see who is making progress and who is not. And we hyper-emphasize that in on timing, not timing, just doesn't like it and do something in the time provided to you. But are you actually optimizing your work output in a way that's most useful to everybody else around you? And it's a bit of an emerging art and science, but we have some really good thought leaders. I'm very grateful that way in our company who are helping us almost get more often than not that magical combination, right, that do what is important, do it in a way where it can make the biggest contribution. And Megan, I marvel how much magic isn't that like a right solution? Three weeks later might be 20% less useful than three weeks earlier. Organizations go through a critical point of whatever they call it inflection point, you call it a point of not turning around or turning around. And we think that, as I say, the harder we work, the luckier we get. We have been obsessing over how to get that right and that's been helping us. So I kind of rumbled into other topics. But your question was more about talent. So virtual first trying to hyper-deploy technology and not really worrying about where people are as long as they actually work and not kind of just show up. So that's our thing. Virtual first maximize technology and hire quickly. I say with an element of salt that fires even quicker. We are not that good at firing people and I don't like the word fire. It's more about having a clear conversation that if you can't contribute, then you should move away. You are entirely and let somebody else contribute. And you didn't ask me about this, Megan, but sometimes when people have left us, they have come back and personally thanked me two weeks later I'm so glad I had a conversation with you because I actually got a clear idea as to what one should try to do in the job apart from getting a paycheck because that's very myopic you didn't ask me that. But that's kind of an important thing to us, that if somebody is not working out for us, we have a very clear conversation, not give them three quarters to figure things out, say, but it's not working out for you. You're not cut out for this. It was a hiring mistake or the world had changed. Let's give you a better chance of succeeding versus trying to fit the round peg in a square hole or whatever else it's called.

Megan - 00:32:50: Yeah.

Anupam - 00:32:51: So long answer, but hopefully answered more than what you asked for.

Megan - 00:32:54: Yeah. No, first of all, I am thankful for the Pandemic opening up the world to labor. As you said, labor well. People are everywhere. And also, I really love what you said about it not necessarily firing someone. It's more like helping them find a better fit in life. I always think when someone gets fired, for lack of a better word, it's because there's a better opportunity somewhere else for them. It's always seen as something negative, but it's not necessarily complete.

Anupam - 00:33:35: And it's like rejection. People get rejected in anything in their life. In the moment, the impulse reaction is to blame somebody or feel bad. But if you can just take the moment, you realize that there's something better out there. It wasn't working out for a good reason. Megan, I appreciate you putting it very directly that there's good talent everywhere out there, but maybe not on this call, but some other time. I would like to understand from you that how do we tap into the bank of India right now. And there are so many amazing people who I think could be very helpful to us in many ways, this is kind of like talent bubbling out from all corners, but you can't boil the ocean. You use that term earlier in our conversation. You have to find a mechanism to harness that incredible energy. So probably the largest pool of talent in the world, in any country, the largest pool where maybe whatever the county is, 30, 40 million people are out there who potentially can be a target. But you guys probably have mastered that art, so I would love to talk about that to you some of the time. But for now, absolutely. I do feel that professional knowledge workers will have a different life after the Pandemic forever. And just like I have a feeling that the financial systems we are living in right now didn't ask for that. But again, just kind of bringing it here. The way inflation is, the way dollar dominance is being questioned, the way the world is shaping, maybe we're looking at with cryptos and things like that, a new world order from where how money is going to be managed. So between people being decentralized and money being decentralized, maybe we'll have a different world. In five to ten to 15 years. So that's the only thing that keeps me up at night. That we are a dollar-based company is as secure as it was ten years ago. I don't know. I'm sure nobody knows. But there are questions to be asked. And likewise, because the talent pool is so widely accessible to us, is widely accessible to our competition as well. So how do we become better employers? How do we homogenize people's contributions and find the currency more capable than ours or output to balance? People working in different parts of the world should up people based on where they are located is not a solid logic anymore because people want to relocate to lower-cost areas for the whole drill. But again, very fascinating topic.

Megan - 00:36:15: Yeah, no, it's off-topic too. But I think the pandemic was an opportunity for a lot of things to change for the better. And I often wonder, like, how long is it going to take for companies to fall back into their bad habits? I don't understand why some businesses are calling people back into the office five days a week. To me, that just doesn't make sense. But that's for a different day as well. Yes, please.

Anupam - 00:36:45: A little anecdote. I was talking to the principal of this CPA firm. I won't take his name, well-established firm. And he said, funny enough, I approached him because we have somebody in our team who has CPA academics done, but she doesn't have the work experience with an accounting firm to have a public license. She loves working for us, but we're not a public accounting firm. We don't do audits. We don't do many things which CPAs, as the public CPAs do. So I said, can you help her with that? He said we need people. Don't you worry that she might just leave you and come work for us? I said, Listen, if our people could be posted easily, I'll take that. There's no problem at all. So it's going to become a funny thing. Then he said, I'm impressed that you have people who would not leave you and you know they won't leave you. But he was talking about his problems. He said that he has an accountant in some part of the country who works remotely. He said I can swear on my first bond to ensure two twins that he does two jobs. And I was like, So why didn't you let him go? He said, but then and he had the AHA moment when a video call, he was like I said, Listen, buddy, if you're not working anyway, what's the point in having that false sense of security that you have an employee who does not contribute? With a good laugh on that. Yeah, it's a strange thing, right, that we think that an employee who is not there, he's doing something else, she's doing something else. And if we can demystify that mismatch, then we might have a better world.

Megan - 00:38:15: Yeah, that's very true. So you're obviously a lifelong learner. I can always appreciate that because I like to think for myself as one as well. But how are you making sure that you're on top of industry trends and developments as far as entrepreneurship and being a business leader? Jeez, the world is always changing, as we've been discussing in the last half hour.

Anupam - 00:38:46: The change, of course, that the cliche goes, is the only constant, but the pace of change is what is throwing most uninitiated entrepreneurs off, I would say, in the post-COVID world. This was a McKenzie research, which I love to read, by the way, in the 22 months of COVID which were very slightly beginning, like the last ten months of 2020 and twelve months of 21, the global technology standards made progress equivalent to seven years if the pandemic hadn't happened. So in two years, it became seven times. Yeah, well, if it stopped there, life is easier. But then Einstein's famous thing, that compounding, continues to surprise people. So now they are just thinking of it like if you put in decade terms, 70 years versus 20 years, two and seven don't sound that crazy apart. Think of a 20-year-old person, or 70-year-old a person, something has been happening for 70 years. That piece is very different. So when Chat, the ChatGPT came by and people were like suddenly, my God, what is this? Or every technological breakthrough we are seeing, we're shining things in a way that people are just not able to grapple with it, there is a need for me to find the best sources to learn. So one thing which is different for me right now, and this might be an important point for our listeners, is that anybody who is taking free subscriptions, as people say, I go to CNBC, I said, do you pay $250 a year? No. Then you're wasting your time. So free is like, what do businesses do? We do it right, we give free articles, free research, and free insights to your people in. But can you imagine a customer who says, yeah, just take outcomes free services and I'm happy with it, they won't get anywhere. But people take free subscriptions and basically flood the inbox and they're happy with that. So I have about a dozen paid subscriptions. So I'm talking about McKenzie, which is not paid, but Economist, which is paid. There is Business Insider. There is CNBC. Fortune. I can go on that list. And then I try to get a whole bunch of insights from things in a very quick way. And Megan, hopefully, you'll agree. And I also agree that people who read a lot, they're able to learn, they're able to sift through things very quickly because they in general are better informed than people who are reading just much lesser. So would I love to learn more? Absolutely. Do I do all that I can learn very quickly and about many more things? Yes, but I'm knowledge insecure, am I learning the right things? Should I go get somebody else who can wall the ocean faster and quicker every second? So it's kind of like formal of a different kind. But you're right, anybody who wants to grow should be insecure about whether are they getting the right knowledge at the right time in a way that they can really optimize and maximize. I don't have the right answer, but I try my darn best. Sorry for that word. We have to learn as much about as many things which impact my business. And sometimes I feel that I'm the smartest man in the world because I learned so much to talk to people who make me look smart and then exactly the same day or a day later, I meet somebody who makes me feel that, man, you don't know anything about the world. This guy knows everything. So it's one journey. But I just love that situation. Some people like kids like and this story has to say when I suddenly have 15 articles, won't read all of them. I'm like, man, how to read all of this? But it's fun.

Megan - 00:42:33: Yeah. And as you said, I guess there's no way to learn everything. And to me, that kind of speaks to the need to surround yourself with people who are complementary and not exactly like you. People who can play to your weaknesses and your weaknesses are their strengths.

Anupam - 00:42:54: Megan, if you can help me do that, I will personally pick you up from wherever you are, bring you over and learn about it and then pay whatever you can ask for.

Megan - 00:43:11: I said I'm sure it's easier said than done.

Anupam - 00:43:16: But I tried to speak to people I'm really opportunistic when it comes to talent and expertise and people who I can push and bring. Whenever we see somebody who really is a mover and shaker and gets it, I have this thing called this person who gets it. Scientific, it's not a real word, but they actually get what matters. So I said they get it.

Megan - 00:43:37: Yeah.

Anupam - 00:43:37: And I always try to be very blatant in poaching them. But there are people who are happy where they are and they don't see opportunities for us. But many come over and they love what they're doing and hopefully, it will continue to grow. Maybe we want to be a Fortune 500 company. We're halfway there. I say halfway there because of the growth trajectory, not because of our size. We are barely 50 million, but we keep saying that because if we keep the trajectory, then we have with it.

Megan - 00:44:05: Yeah. It's like a hockey stick.

Anupam - 00:44:07: Yeah. I mean the part of compounding, right?

Megan - 00:44:10: Yeah. Definitely

Anupam - 00:44:11: The most difficult part.

Megan - 00:44:13: So, lastly, as a finance leader and entrepreneur, or maybe when you look at your clients, what is keeping you up at night? What worries you about what's around the corner that people just aren't seeing.

Anupam - 00:44:27: I think his name is Nassim Taleb, he wrote this book called The Black Swan. Very smart guy. The turn became instant after he wrote that book. COVID-19 was supposedly a once-in-a-century event, but then we had a once-in-a-century event in 2001 when 911 happened and we had the last financial crisis was some sort of black one event because the sheer magnitude of that was pretty crazy. And then we keep having the crypto and things like that, which people are not thinking about. So what is it that we're not thinking about which can come and hit us? That's what worries me. You can prepare for people to say control the controllable, but if uncontrollable are too many, then that strategy is not a good one anymore. So you're looking for what is coming from left field. And that is what keeps me really concerned about our expertise and our clients. So, easy example, right? COVID-19 came, and half our clients died. I mean, not physically, but the businesses. And you have a huge bill which is uncollectible, you know them, you know they actually can't be afforded. What do you do? You run into a crisis or how do you survive? There were people inside the company who thought, we won't survive this because that's the wrong leverage. Your client bases small businesses and they're dying every day. Luckily, we have emerged in the strongest way, stronger than we ever have been. However, I'm pretty certain that's not the norm. So if something happens that the world couldn't have prepared for, regardless of how much oxygen the governments are willing to pump, luckily we're US based and we got a lot of oxygen from the government. But the world wasn't as easy for most businesses. So I'm in India right now. It's a whole different world. People don't react the same way, they don't respond the same way. It's a different pace. But still, their are crisis sets of stories. So how do we have the magic or little insight that what's going to happen tomorrow, which nobody is thinking about, which is not so that we can make the most money or become the greatest, but so that we can warn our clientele for what is coming their way? Or learn if Megan the level of unawareness among SMBs, I quite mind-boggling. It's just that people don't read. People don't want to learn new things. The thing that learning gets over when college is done or master is done. And they want to use a rapidly depleting supply of knowledge in a world where knowledge is doubling every year, maybe even sooner. So kind of a long-bound answer, but to make it more crisp, like what we don't know is the next big thing. Like ChatGPT. No one knew that. Or suddenly, deal with it, buddy. Learn about crypto, deal with it, COVID-19, deal with it. So what's coming down the pipeline which we don't know, and then how do we get that on-demand knowledge, which people can comprehend and use? To me, the second one is a bigger problem because people are, by and large, unwilling to learn.

Megan - 00:47:37: Yeah. Sad.

Anupam - 00:47:40: Do you have a question about that, Megan?

Megan - 00:47:42: No, I don't. I'm sure I could make a lot of money if I did, but I don't. Anupam, thank you so much for being my guest today.

Anupam - 00:47:52: Thank you. And I really enjoyed this conversation.

Megan - 00:47:55: Me, too.

Anupam - 00:47:56: Not to flatter you, but at least two questions you asked me, were so pertinent for any leader, not only just people like me, that I was like, man, how come people don't ask this often?

Megan - 00:48:08: Yeah. Well, I appreciate you.

Anupam - 00:48:10: I would love to connect with you about your offering sometime. I know this is a part you can edit this because you seem to have something which really is of massive interest to us.

Megan - 00:48:21: Yeah, absolutely. I will definitely take you up on that offer and schedule a call outside of this one

Anupam - 00:48:29: A flight to India. We'll have some fun here.

Megan - 00:48:31: Okay, that would be awesome. I miss it over there a lot people over there, they're so innovative. And as you said, it's a huge full of talent that's very much untapped.

Anupam - 00:48:44: Have you ever heard of this term called Jugaad? J-U-G-A-A-D no, that's an actually Indian word, which is kind of like you go from a strategy to tactics. You go from tactics two levels down, and there's collecting, crafty, maneuver to solve that problem. And that word special that Harvard Business School and some other intellectual houses work to get it included in English dictionaries. It's part of the English dictionary now.

Megan - 00:49:13: Wow.

Anupam - 00:49:15: It's like India is the word Jugaar. Find a way to get this done.

Megan - 00:49:20: I believe it. I mean, they're like, so short on resources, but they come up with these super innovative ways to solve problems because of it.

Anupam - 00:49:30: Yeah. And the way the word leadership is changing, I think that the world is acknowledging that they're doing pretty good.

Megan - 00:49:38: Yeah, absolutely. And I do miss it over there. I would love to fly over there and meet with you.

Anupam - 00:49:46: Sounds good. Let's start with California and keep moving. But thank you so much. It was great speaking with you and can't wait for our next turn on Persona.

Megan - 00:49:53: Yeah, I definitely wish you and Akam's Advisory all the best. And to all of our listeners, please tune in next week, and until then, take care.

If you're ready to boost efficiency and streamline your accounting processes at significant cost savings, it's time to talk with Personiv. Their people-powered solutions have transformed the delivery of back-office tasks and general accounting functions for decades, partnering with clients to provide everything from accounts payable to payroll services. See what Persona can do for you by visiting personiv.com.

You are listening to CFO Weekly, presented by Personiv. Please subscribe wherever you get your podcast to hear all of our episodes. Want to learn more, check out Personiv.com. Thanks for listening.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Redefining advisory services for SMBs

  • Why do most clients of Occams Advisory are under the billion dollars mark?

  • What is the difference between owner-operated versus professional management companies?

  • Staying on top of the industry trends and developments

  • How will the finance world change ten to fifteen years from now?

Key Takeaways

Redefining Advisory Services for SMBs to Enhance Business Competitiveness

Occams Advisory is a full-service advisory company for small business clients focused on tax planning and advisory services. The company's clients are predominantly tech businesses that seek help with capital raises, operating efficiency, and tax plans.

“Occams Advisory is extremely lucky that we happened to try to do something at a time when I believe the stars are aligning and small to medium business-centric advisory services will have a bright future, particularly if you bring in the element of digitization that we hyper-emphasize,” Satyasheel said. - 09:07 - 13:50

The Billion Dollar Mark

Quote billion dollar mark

Most of Occams Advisory's clients are under the billion dollars mark because Anupam believes that professional management companies are more efficient than owner-operated ones. Often, business founders believe in themselves as jack-of-all-trades. But at some point, they have to start involving professional management. In most service businesses, that moment is somewhere around a billion dollars.

“I feel that owner-operated companies are more inefficient than professional management-run companies,” Satyasheel said. - 13:51 - 16:35

Finding the Best Talent to Enhance Business Competitiveness

Quote finding best talent to enhance business competitiveness

Focus on hiring people from all over the world. Make virtual work a priority and maximize the use of technology to optimize that work efficiently and beneficially for the entire company. Regarding talent, you should have transparent metrics by which you can see who is making progress and who is not.

“Virtual first is a game changer. Technology first is a game changer. So internally, we have this thing called the three Ts, which are technology, talent, and timing,” Satyasheel said. - 28:48 - 32:55

The New Finance World Order

Quote Anupam Satyasheel, Founder & CEO of Occams Advisory

Due to inflation, the way dollar dominance is being questioned, the rise of cryptos, and money decentralization, the financial systems will completely change in ten to fifteen years from now. Also, the talent pool is widely accessible to all companies, so find ways to become a better employer and attract the best people.

“I feel that professional knowledge workers will have a different life after the pandemic forever,” Satyasheel said. - 34:51 - 38:16

Staying on Top of the Industry Trends and Developments

Global technology standards have made progress equal to seven years in just twenty-two months since the start of the pandemic. People hardly keep up with the pace of technological advancement. But you have to find the best sources to learn, get the right knowledge at the right time, and learn as much about as many things which impact your business.

“Change is the only constant. But the pace of change is throwing most uninitiated entrepreneurs off in the post-Covid world,” Satyasheel said. - 38:18 - 42:53

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