Conversations with Chris
In our newest series we are going to be interviewing experts and professionals from within their respective fields within the worlds of Finance and Accounting. Our first interview comes from Chris Reilly at Mission Capital Consulting. Chris has extensive experience building financial models and we were lucky enough to ask him a few questions about his background and experience.
Trevor: Hi Chris, thanks for joining us! Wanted to start off by asking if you could give us some quick background on yourself and Mission Capital.
Chris: I started off working in NYC at FTI Consulting during the financial crisis (2008/2009), from there did Corporate Finance with Hilton Worldwide, and then spent the rest of my “office career” in middle market private equity. From there, I went out on my own in 2020 as an M&A/FP&A Contractor and I also teach Financial Modeling.
Trevor: Makes sense! we have seen a lot of former buyside professionals move into these advisory/CFO type of rolls. What gave you the final push to go out on your own?
Chris: It was something I always wanted. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some amazing companies but there would be days where I was driving down the road, stuck in traffic, just heading to my cubicle thinking to myself that I would ultimately need something more fulfilling in the long run.
Fast forward to 2020, I felt I had built up the skills and network to go out on my own, so I just went for it.
By the way, the “skills and network” all came from my experience in the corporate world, so to anyone who may be stuck in traffic like I was, remember that you’re still in a great position to learn, and those skills and network can always take you somewhere else down the road.
Trevor: That's great, its amazing how many people decidied to start out on their own with COVID as the catalyst. What is the first piece of advice you give to companies that decide they want to upgrade their financial reporting to building out a financial model?
Chris: Make sure you have a clean chart of accounts and ensure the books are prepared accurately, be it cash or accrual based. A model is pretty much worthless if it can’t rely on the accuracy of the historical data.
Trevor: Which makes sense - as they say - "Garbage in, garbage out. Along with that - what are the most common mistakes you see in company financial models?
Chris: The “ready, fire, aim” approach. Zero consistency, zero instruction, usually made under a tight deadline. The model has passed hands many times over and is a glorified rat’s nest of numbers and formulas. With all that pre-existing chaos, it almost never ties back to the company financials — the “source of truth.”
Trevor: Agreed there! We see this A LOT. Additionally we see lots of models that started out simple, and you can see over time where additional complexities were added without taking the time to understand the overall goal of what was built. With that said - how are your clients getting their data from that "source of truth" right now?
Chris: A lot of my clients will copy/paste CSV or Excel exports into their files, so anytime there are new accounts things just get squirrely. Learning something like PowerQuery is often beyond their comfort level and understanding (mine as well a lot of the time). So, this results in a lot of manual labor to tick-and-tie the accounts so that everything checks out. A reliable, automated solution would be a huge time saver.
Trevor: Music to our ears! While everyone else wants to replace Excel, we just want to bring an end to copying and pasting! Ok final question - Excel or Google Sheets?
Chris: Ride or die Excel — HOWEVER — I have been using Google Sheets recently and it definitely has some great features, namely the commenting & collaboration. If you comment in a cell, the number of comments is posted on each tab, and anyone you “tag” in the comments receives an email. Great way to communicate a bunch of detail and save on emails. I believe Excel is trying out this feature, but personally I can’t get it to work. The downside to Google Sheets though is its reputation overall (I’ve never seen a private equity model in Google Sheets) and the inability to trace/audit formulas. This is a huge advantage in Excel that saves a bunch of time.
If you are interested in checking out what Chris has built check out his website https://www.missioncapitalco.com/.