Late nights and early mornings. Poring over the details of every document. Reminding others what they said they would do. Being reminded of what you said you would do. Double-checking your checklist. Tracking down signatures. All for a BIG day — financial closing. Marked in red on your calendar. A week (or at least a day) of vacation following.
The BIG day comes. Everyone dials in for the closing call and after appropriate “sign-offs” you finally hear: “I will initiate the wire transfer. Congrats. Your project is funded.” This is a BIG deal, yet somehow you feel dissatisfied. Maybe it was the strictly business voice on the other end of that closing call. Maybe it’s because it’s still early in the day and your two cups of coffee aren’t enough to overcome the fatigue from the long week. Maybe, after months of conversations, negotiations, hoop jumping and problem-solving, a part of you just expects more fireworks and celebration.
Financial closings are often rather anticlimactic, but making it to and through a financial closing is something to be celebrated. It’s a long road from project kick-off to financial closing and there will undoubtedly be moments of stress and challenge on the path to closing, no matter how well prepared you and the team may be. There are, however, ways to mitigate unnecessary challenges and mistakes commonly encountered as part of the closing process. In our experience, the fundamentals of a successful financial closing can be boiled down to four C’s – communication, calendar, checklist, and collaboration.
Communication is a critical tool for a successful closing process. We recommend the closing team commit to consistent and open communication immediately — it will save you headaches in the long run.
We have found it helps to take the extra time to gather the contact information of all participants for each of the parties involved. Discuss and define roles and responsibilities for each participant, as this will eliminate task duplication and lead to a more efficient working group. It is equally as important to document and distribute this information for all to access. This Roles and Responsibilities Contact Sheet will become invaluable as you balance tight work deadlines with everyday life.
There is also value in convening (in person when possible) with the working group to help establish some personal connections in a “Kickoff” meeting. Whether in-person or virtually, the difference in approach does not change the reason for meeting. You will be spending a lot of time with your closing team over the next few months, so it helps for everyone to get acquainted.
As Leonard Bernstein said, “To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.” The entire closing team can relate to not having quite enough time, so it seems all the group is missing is a plan — a plan that everyone commits to. This plan should be outlined in a financial closing calendar which identifies key dates and sets recurring meetings and a cadence for document reviews. There should be little-to-no confusion as to whose responsibility something is and when the deadline for an item is, so the more detailed of a calendar, the better. This detailed calendar will create expectations, speed up the review and turn process, create efficient calls and allow the working group to focus on the challenges, utilizing their time together to bridge the differences.
The checklist is an important, comprehensive tool that outlines the mandatory project-related documents and agreements necessary for a financial closing. The checklist is an underappreciated member of the working group. It plays the role of both good cop and bad. It is always objective and never biased. You are wise to make friends with it as early in the process as possible.
- Organize it. The checklist will return the favor.
- Maintain it. The checklist will monitor progress and provide status updates.
- Come back to it. The checklist will remind you what’s important.
- Lean on it. The checklist will support the group’s goal.
- Complete it. The checklist will reward you.
There is no denying that there will be challenges on the path to closing no matter how well prepared you and the team may be. It is important to address these challenges head-on to keep a project on-track. We’ve learned challenges can often times be more quickly and effectively resolved by utilizing small focus sessions with key project stakeholders, subject-matter experts and a neutral third-party. Unlike recurring meetings, there should be no question as to the central issue at hand during these focus sessions. The ad hoc meetings will provide a forum for those potentially most affected by decisions to voice their position and present their rationale. It will be the goal of all involved, especially the neutral third-party, to facilitate a mutually agreeable solution to the challenge and help the project continue to progress forward.
Developing facilities that serve the needs of colleges and universities and their students is a worthy endeavor. If you focus on communication; create, monitor and regularly update your closing calendar and checklist; and collaborate to address any challenges or issues that may arise, your hard work and commitment will pay off. Before you know it, your Red Letter Day will arrive and the financing for your project will be closed…and when that happens, we hope you celebrate!