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Building more profitable businesses, one client at a time.

Coach seeing

In my work as a business growth coach I am asked regularly what is it that I do?  What do I do for my clients.  Where is the value?

    • Strategic Planning
    • Meeting facilitation
    • Leadership training
    • Therapy
    • Counseling
    • Listening
    • Teaching

In our coaching practice we do all of the above and more but the real essence of what we do is this… as a Coach I “help them see what they don’t see.” That’s all.

All leaders have blind spots and most of them are so close to the issue that sometimes they can’t see it for themselves. Other times they focus on what they think they can achieve based on facts of today. Rather, we help them think BIG, beyond what they believe they can achieve today. We “help them see what they don’t see.”

If you want to think BIG and need help find us at, or better yet call us.  My personal number is 360.901.8742.

Coach Keith


As we inch closer to tax day on April 18th, you may be asking yourself

Where did all the cash go?
Why do I not have adequate cash necessary for my tax obligations that are due on April 18th?

It is important to understand the relationship between Profit, Tax Liability and Cash Flow. Remember that for every dollar we earn in profit some portion is due to the tax agencies for federal and in some cases state taxes.

In his best selling book, “Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits!”  Greg Crabtree taught us about what he calls the “four forces of cash flow.” The are as follows:

    1. Paying taxes
    2. Re-paying debt
    3. Reaching your core capital (liquidity) target
    4. Owner distributions

The four forces of cash flow refer to the four items that consume your generated cash flow in order of importance. What does this mean for you the business owner?

Start with your profit. Once you have your profit in dollars, then you have to meet the four forces of cash flow before you the owner can expect to harvest the remainder of the cash in distributions.  Here is an example:

Profit $1,000

Tax (assume 20%) – $200
Debt (assumption 20%) – $200
Capital target – $200

Balance $400

Growth Investments – $200

Balance $200

The mistake some business owners make is harvesting the profit and not setting aside cash for to cover their obligations. Remember it is important to set aside cash from your profits to cover your tax and debt. Then build a healthy level of liquidity, make investments to continue to grow your business, then and only then are you able to harvest the fruits of your labor. Companies that follow these principles build healthy financially stable companies that are successful for the long term.

ACTION - go see your accounting team and ask them to calculate your Four Forces based on the example above.

If you want to discuss this example, want to learn more about how we are helping growth companies “Scale Up” using our scaling up principles including a free copy of our “One Page Strategic Plan” contact me directly at [email protected] or just call. My personal number is 360.901.8742.


Stay focused

Today marks the end of the first quarter of 2017. It is time to reflect upon the first quarter and get focused on what important for the second quarter and remainder of the year.

In our client quarterly reflection and planning sessions we focus on some key areas:

  • Did we achieve our financial or numerical targets? What was the catalyst to winning? Or Why not?
  • Are all of our priorities Red, Yellow or Green? In other than green Why not?
  • Are we on track for our annual goals or do we need to make adjustments?
  • Where we find ourselves today, what are our targets for the second quarter and what are the most important things we need to do to hit those targets.

The key is to understand where you are as of now and what you need to do to stay on track or get back on track.

Remember “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.

Get focused and you will achieve great things.

Coach Keith


Keith is a Business Growth Coach and Advisory CFO with more than 30 years of experience in business and financial management.
He has helped clients streamline their businesses to achieve net profit increases of up to 500%.

His Business Growth Coaching, complemented by his experience as a CFO, makes him a highly sought-after coach as he helps companies achieve a high degree of efficiency resulting in higher profitability, better cash flow, and increased opportunity to serve their communities. A financial thought-leader and speaker, he has presented educational workshops for the local entrepreneurial community.

Keith is certified as a business growth coach by Gazelles International, a worldwide executive education and coaching firm for leaders of mid-sized firms. Prior to starting The Upkes Group in 2003, Keith was Controller for Pac Paper, Inc., a Vancouver, WA, paper converter for 6 years and also served as the corporate Controller for 18 years at Beall Corporation, a Portland, OR manufacturer of heavy trailers.

His community service experience includes an active role in Rotary International where he most recently served as Assistant District Governor for Rotary District 5100. Keith previously was a member and President (2009-2010) of the Rotary Club ofVancouver. He also has served on the Vancouver Rotary Foundation Board of Directors. He is a graduate of Leadership Clark County, a community leadership program designed to train community leadership skills to up and coming community leaders.

Keith resides in Camas, Washington (Portland) with his wife and their 3 children.

Industry Specialties
Tech Companies
Financial Management

Coaching Specialties
Business Coaching
Management Coaching
Group Coaching
Financial Coaching

Special Expertise
Strategic CFO
KPI Metrics
Leadership Effectiveness

Certified Coach, Gazelles International
Business Growth Coach and Strategic CFO

Controller, Pac Paper, Inc.
Corporate Controller, Beall Corporation
Club President, Rotary International

Junior Accounting Certification, Business College

Connect with Keith
[email protected]

To learn more about Business Coaching with Keith, and to get started, click here

The world has changed.  The level of service our customers are requiring has changed dramatically.  How do you know if you are actually delivering better service? We want great customer service.  We provide great customer service. But are we rarely make progress.  Why is that?

Maybe we’re focused on the wrong thing.

To get to this answer you need to focus on the outcome. Ask yourself, “What is the ultimate outcome we are trying to achieve?” Ultimately are you striving to provide great customer service or are you striving to have high customer retention? Isn’t high customer retention really what you are trying to achieve? If that is the case then go measure that. It is exactly like your brand promise. You make a promise to your customer, and you support that promise with a strong infrastructure (process, equipment, people) to support the brand promise insuring that you never break that promise. In this example, you are striving for high customer retention and must build the infrastructure (great customer service) to support and deliver “High Customer Retention.”

Focus on the “outcome” and measure it because we all know that what gets measured gets managed.

Action: Develop a method to measure your customer retention. This is the metric you should track and pay attention to.

As an entrepreneur, you should be building your business model and infrastructure as if you weren’t there. You should be doing this from the start.

Too many company’s value point is the entrepreneur themselves. This becomes very difficult if when you begin to think about selling the business or slowing down from the business or both.

This is true… if your business cannot run like a well oiled machine when you are not around, then you really do not have a business at all, rather you have a job and your customers are your boss.

From the start of your business be thinking about building processes that are sustainable when you leave. Venture Capitalists, banks and other investors will want to insure their investments are secure and will be delivering a strong ROI and are not solely dependent on your personal efforts to drive the return on their capital. This is a very smart long term strategy even if you do not have outside financial stakeholders.

Start by getting the right people in place, then build systems, execution infrastructure and rhythms that do not depend on you to execute. This will make your business much more valuable to outside investors, will bring you a much higher valuation in the sale and will give you the “Freedom” you want all the while your company will make you money even while you are sleeping.

Are your oars in the water?

I recall a chat I had with a good friend who had recently made a pretty significant career change, and when I asked how things were going, he replied, “Really well. I am really happy to again be working with a group of people who all have their oars in the water.”

Well that got me to thinking: do you and your team have all your oars in the water? What does that mean for fast-growth companies like those we help in our coaching practice?

When you think about a group of rowers in a boat, what do you see? You see a synchronized, high precision team all with the same goal or destination at top of mind. They are “executing” a very well thought out plan. And who is that other person in the boat that isn’t rowing but rather is doing other mission critical tasks. That is the Coxswain. That person, according to Wikipedia, is commander of the boat, provides motivation and inspiration to the team during the journey, gives feedback on performance and provides coaching and makes tactical decisions. In essence, the leader. To further the point, this group of rowers didn’t just jump in a boat one day and were instantly a highly collaborative high performing team. It took practice, lot’s of practice, personal commitment, good communication and personal commitment. All the same things that high performing teams need to be winners.

Fast growth companies in order to be successful need to do the exact same thing as a boat full of rowers. They need to have a destination (Goal) and they need to have a well thought out plan on how to achieve that goal. They need to execute with a high degree of precision and be synchronized (Alignment) in that plan. And just like the rowers have a Coxswain, high growth companies need to have an inspirational leader who is providing motivation, inspiration, giving feedback and making tactical decisions.

Do you have a destination in mind? If so, do you have a highly executable plan to achieve that goal or reach that destination? Do you have the right players on your team. And, do you have a structured practice plan with checklists and milestones? If not consider hiring a business growth coach to help you chart your course to that destination.

I am regularly asked, “What are the things I should be looking at to ensure I have no cash flow problems?”

There are numerous answers depending on your business type and industry but what is often overlooked is the foundation for positive cash flow.  The foundation for positive cash flow is “PROFIT.” You see, unless you want more debt or the burdens of an investor, you MUST operate at a profit to sustain a positive cash flow.

Do you know if you are generating a net profit from your operations?  Do you have visibility of your current and future cash needs?  Are you getting this data on a weekly basis?  If not start here.  You first have to get the truth about your profit and cash flow.  Then develop a consistent review/reporting rhythm, then begin to work on your profitability.

In our coaching practice we have many client success stories around getting to a better place in terms of cash flow but it starts with understanding the relationship between profit and cash.

The profit a company generates drives liquidity.  And it is liquidity that drives growth.

Profit = Liquidity = Cash flow = Your Runway for Growth.

More on the 5 Why’s below but first, every leader in his or her area of influence should be coaching their teams. Here is a great trick to help you get at what really is happening when you are trying to solve a challenge in your company.

I was working with a client and when I asked him “what’s up”, he replied, one of our customers is pissed off at us and I am trying to figure out what happened.

I asked him, “WHY” is your customer pissed off at you?”

He replied – His product was not correct when he received it

“Why”, I asked

Reply – The sub-contractor on the project didn’t do what he was supposed to

“Why”, I asked

Reply – The sub-contractor didn’t get the correct specifications for the product

“Why”, I asked

Reply – Because the sales rep that made the sale didn’t turn in the accurate specifications for the product

“Why”, I asked

Reply – Well, we really do not have a system or a process for taking that information from the client to the sub-contractor

Ding, Ding, Ding… now we have the root cause of the problem and can solve it.   The next time you have a challenge that seems impossible to solve… ask “Why” 5 times and you will most likely find or will be very close to the root cause and then can take corrective action.

Don’t let yourself get, “Wrapped Around the Axle”, ask “Why” until you solve the problem.

I was facilitating an annual planning session for a client and one of the comments from the team was… he gets “wrapped around the axle” so easy… which I thought was pretty funny at first but the more I think about it the more I realize this can happen to all of us.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you were stuck in the mud and the more you dwelled on it the worse it got?  Me too and so have many of my clients.

The solution is to stop, take a breath, step back and take a strategic look at the situation.  One thing that works in our coaching practice is to ask the question… “What are we ultimately trying to accomplish?”  Or, “what is the end result we need to see?”  Once you paint a picture for yourself or your team of what winning looks like then take a few minutes and draw your path from where you are now to what the end result is you are trying to accomplish.  Kind of like the navigation system on your car, determine the most direct path from point A to point B with stops (milestones) along the way.

Next time you feel like you are getting “wrapped around the axle”, stop, take a breath, go for that 15 minute walk you should be doing every 90 minutes then chart your path forward and then execute that plan.  You’re not alone, we all have these moments.