6 Big Mistakes that Small Business Owners Make that Can Lead to Struggle and Failure

In business, ignorance is not bliss. In the last three years of running my own business consulting practice and 20 years of advising small business owners, I’ve seen a trend of “mistakes” or challenges that small business owners face that cause them to struggle, and can lead to financial failure…these are mistakes I’ve made in my business as well. Most business owners are really good at their passion (their reason for starting their business), but very few have business management and finance training – they’ve never learned to run a business…I know I didn’t have that knowledge at first when I started my business, even with my seven years of business finance and accounting education and professional designation. But you don’t have to struggle like I and so many other business owners have…here are some tips to overcome the biggest small business mistakes that contribute to those struggles.

Mistake #1 – Failing to Plan

We all know the saying, if you fail to plan, plan to fail. Yet, strategic planning continues to be one of the greatest struggles for business owners. It certainly was for me when I started out. I knew I had to have a plan (I had the offer, target client and financial forecasts, but had no sales and marketing plan), but trying to work with business plan templates used to make me nauseous…that is, until I found a more intuitive approach to business planning. It starts with having a very clear vision of you business, what you offer, to whom, and WHY (WHY you’re doing your business – your mission, and WHY customers would buy from you)…I use visualization and meditation techniques to get this clarity. This is an iterative process, and while your WHY may not change much, your offers and target clients could change dramatically over the years. My only caution here is to not get caught in the planning paralysis trap…make sure you are taking action while you’re creating and refining your plans (results come from taking action and going through iterations, failing fast and getting back in the game).

Mistake #2 – No Clear Value Proposition and Ideal Client Experience / Process

The more targeted and clear you can be with who you serve and the results you create for them, the easier it will be to communicate that value and attract new high-quality clients. It’s easy to want to serve everyone, and not leave anyone out. While this “jack-of-all-trades” mindset can work for a little while, and while you determine what you’d really like to be doing, it can lead to a huge dilution in energy, focus and profits. It’s difficult to communicate your message to the masses in a way that anyone will actually hear it. It’s better to have a focused approach, targeted to a specific group…try it for 90 days…if it doesn’t produce the results you’re looking for, target a different group with a message designed to reach them. Again, this is an iterative process.

Mistake #3 – Not Tracking and Reviewing Financials on a Regular Basis

Most business owners are not trained and educated on organizing, tracking and understanding their financial numbers. In fact, less than 30% of business owners have a good understanding of what their numbers are telling them (couple this with the fact that 85% of business failures are a result of poor financial organization and know-how, it’s no surprise that so many businesses fail). Yet, the numbers tell the story of how the business is doing and can highlight problem areas that need to be addressed. As a micro or small business owner, at a minimum you’ll want to review sales, gross margins, major expenses that you can control the most, and profit margins. You’ll also want to look at balance sheet items such as accounts receivable (how much, from who and how long have they been outstanding), accounts payable (how much, when are they due), and balances in your bank accounts. Review your numbers on a regular basis (monthly is best), and get help to truly understand what your numbers are telling you.

Mistake #4 – Not Paying Yourself Enough

This is one of my favorite things to work on with clients. The traditional business model has been to pay the owner last, with whatever is left in profits after operating expenses. When you follow this model, you’re likely to get paid a lot less than you’d like (or not at all). While working with one client, he figured he was only paying himself $2 an hour for his efforts…you wouldn’t work for anyone else for less than minimum wage, so why work for yourself for such low pay. I like to take a bottom-up approach to paying yourself first and determining what sales you need to support what you want that pay to be.  Here’s how: determine what you’d like to pay yourself (based on your personal needs and lifestyle), layer in taxes, desired business profits and estimated operating costs, to determine what your revenues and prices should be. This approach works really well for service-based entrepreneurs, and I’ve developed a whole empowered pricing course to teach this method [email me for more info].

Mistake #5 – Trying to do it ALL Yourself

Some business coaches may say that you should turn your greatest weaknesses into your greatest strengths. However, this is not what 7+ figure business owners do…they capitalize on their strengths, recognize their weaknesses, and build a ROCKSTAR team to get done what needs to be done in the most efficient way possible.  Often we feel as entrepreneurs, we need to do it all ourselves/be jack of all trades…this can work if your goal/intent is to be a practitioner for life (i.e., steady contract work), BUT, if you want to grow and scale your business successfully, you need a good team to support you.

Getting help and building a team doesn’t have to mean hiring full-time employees, but it does mean you have to think about all the different functions in your business, what is within your zone of genius, and what makes sense to outsource. Create hiring criteria (whether hiring consultants or employees) and make it a priority to outsource and delegate what is not your genius so you can focus more on what you do best, knowing that the rest will be properly taken care of.

Mistake #6 – Not having a Governance and Risk Management Plan

Most small businesses have no governance/risk management plan, yet it is one of the most important aspects of business success. Governance and risk management may not be sexy, but ignoring this aspect of business could lead to business failure. Just think about what would happen to your business if you had a significant negative tax audit, or legal action from a customer or employee, or experience a major illness or disability. It’s necessary to identify all your risk areas (legal, tax, employee, operations, economic, health, political, social, technology, business interruption, etc.) along with potential costs should the risk materialize, then implement protocols for managing and mitigating those risks within your risk appetite.

The bottom line is, when you have a clear vision for your business, supported with systems, structure, protocols and people to help you achieve your true potential, all the pieces start to fall into place…and you’ll have more ease, confidence, peace and harmony in your business and its possibilities.

These are all areas that I work with my clients to overcome and create a strategic business roadmap for success, while working on shifting their mindsets and relationship with money and the financial side of their business. I invite you to book a discovery call with me to discuss your challenges in business and what actions you could take right away to overcome them. I also welcome you to join the CFO Mentoring community on Facebook to support you in being the CFO of your business and your life!

Charge What You’re Worth

Why is it that women especially have a difficult time appreciating and owning the value they bring to the table – both in business and in the workplace?  A lot of it has to do with how society has taught us…we’re making progress, but we still have a long way to go.

And I’m happy to provide workshops and training programs that help women entrepreneurs stand in the truth of their value and charge what they’re worth.  Here’s how you can empower yourself and stand in the power of what you’re worth:

  1. Identify and understand the results your clients get as a result of your work.
  2. Know what your time is worth to you.
  3. Gain clarity on what sets you apart from the rest – what makes you unique.
  4. Shift your mindsets and adopt an empowering pricing paradigm.
  5. Stop charging for your time…instead, charge for the value you deliver.
  6. People NEED you, and you playing small (discounting your value) is a huge disservice to them.
  7. PRACTICE stating your fees and unique value until it becomes as easy as saying “pass the salt”.

 

“Doubts and fears are normal, but they don’t define our value” (Casey Brown)
Here’s a great Ted Talk on defining and communicating what you’re worth.

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://54.82.103.175/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Linda-Spencer-Visionspire-cropped.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer is a CPA, CA, Canadian Tax Specialist and Money Mindfulness Coach. Her mission is to eliminate stress and anxiety people experience around money and taxes, by empowering them with the tools, knowledge, strategies and mindsets that will put them in the driver’s seat of their business success and financial wellness, so they can have more harmony, joy and abundance in their life.[/author_info] [/author]

Take Nothing for Granted

Last weekend I was visiting with my family in Quebec on the family farm.  As is tradition, we always have dessert after supper, and my son had asked for ice cream.  When he went to get it out of the freezer, it was a soupy separated mess…the very large, very old (over 50 years old) chest freezer, had finally died at some point that day.  Now normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal since my parents have 2 other somewhat large (but old) chest freezers and 3 fridges each with their own freezer compartments, and they would find room in those for the soon to be spoiled food.  But harvest season just ended, and the freezers were quite full.   It was interesting to watch as a number of family members scrambled to make room in other freezers, even next door in my brother’s freezer, and I started to think about how we just take it for granted that equipment is going to keep working (even when it’s old).

It was the same when my furnace died last winter.  Even though it was 25 years old (well past the lifespan of a furnace these days), and needed repair, I took it for granted that I’d get at least one more winter out of it.  Not so – I was forced to deal with the expense of a new furnace a year earlier than I had planned.  And my dishwasher that died this summer – 15 years old – I hadn’t planned for that, and we’ve resorted to doing dishes by hand.

We do it with our cars, our phones, our 

computers, and even our bodies.  We take it for granted that things are just going to keep working…we never think that something is going to give out, even when it’s old, and therefore don’t think about or plan for repairing or replacing it.  And when that time comes, we typically experience great stress over the hassle and cost of repairs/replacement.  One solution is to build a capital replacement reserve in your cash flow plans.

Larger businesses have policies, systems, and processes to track their capital equipment, its expected life, replacement costs and annual operating costs.  They also build up reserve funds (capital replacement funds) so that when something breaks or dies, they are prepared – they have a process and the funds to deal with those “unexpected” break-downs.  And they have similar processes for when key employees “break-down”, by ensuring that at least one other staff member is properly trained to do the job and can step in if and when needed, at least in the short term.

So what are you taking for granted in your home or business?  And what policies, systems, and processes (including financial) can you put in place to give you peace of mind and to deal with “break-downs” with greater ease and grace when they happen?

If you need assistance with your cash flow plans, send me an email…let’s see how I can help 🙂


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://54.82.103.175/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Linda-Spencer-Visionspire-cropped.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer is a CPA, CA, Canadian Tax Specialist and Money Mindfulness Coach. Her mission is to eliminate the stress and anxiety you experience around money and taxes, by empowering you with the know-how and mindsets to improve your business success and financial wellness, so you can have more harmony, joy and abundance in your life.[/author_info] [/author]

 

What to do with Your Ideas

If you’re like me, then you have ideas coming into your head all day long.  And frankly, it can be quite distracting, contributing to the “squirrel syndrome” of chasing ideas and not getting things done on your daily list.  The question becomes, what do you do with all those ideas?

The answer is Vision and Focus.

When you are clear in your vision, in what you’re here to do, what your priorities are, it’s a lot easier to discern whether an idea has a place in contributing to that vision, or whether it should be released into the wind for someone else to pick up.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner, employee, stay-at-home mom (or dad), we all have a greater vision for what we’d like our life to BE like, for what we were born to do here in this lifetime.  For me, that vision is a world that lives in greater joy and harmony that exists today.  Then you choose the vehicle for which you will contribute to that vision.

Until few years ago, my vehicle was a full-time job where I helped my team and clients reduce stress and anxiety over tax laws, allowing them to have more joy and harmony in doing their own job/business.  Currently, my vehicle is my business through which I inspire and empower people to have more harmony and joy with money and finances…which has a positive ripple effect into other areas of their life (health, relationships, family, community, contributing to their vision).  I do have another vehicle – one that involves meditation and writing.  With this vehicle, I inspire others to see greater possibilities beyond their current reality – one with more joy and harmony than they have today.

Just like the car you drive, that vehicle can change over time, but the vision doesn’t. 

So, what is your VISION?  What IDEAS are you generating that are in support of that vision?  And what ACTIONS are you taking to transform those ideas into meaningful contribution to your vision?

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://54.82.103.175/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Linda-Spencer-Visionspire-cropped.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer is a CPA, CA, Canadian Tax Specialist and Money Mindfulness Coach. Her mission is to eliminate stress and anxiety people experience around money and taxes, by empowering them with the tools, knowledge, strategies and mindsets that will put them in the driver seat of their business success and financial wellness, so they can have more harmony, joy and abundance in their life.[/author_info] [/author]

For more information on Linda’s upcoming programs and workshops, visit the Events page.

Getting Comfortable with Money

The more comfortable you get with Money, the more you empower yourself.

I hear many people say they don’t pay attention to their finances because it stresses them out (likely a huge factor behind today’s low financial literacy rates).  One of the reasons for this stress is that they don’t know what to look at or what to do.

Let me tell you a story to shift this perspective.

I have a client who, 9 months ago, had this same perception of money – it was stressful.  She never looked at her numbers, and as long as her debit card worked, she felt everything was ok.  Her husband took care of all the finances (and the stress of dealing with it).  He balanced her books for her and took care of their personal money matters for which she had no awareness or interest.

Then she heard me speak about having a relationship with Money (instead of treating it like just a thing, or a “necessary evil”), which completely shifted her perception and way of being with Money.  She started paying attention to it, understanding it, and looking for ways to bring more money in.

This client recently told me that she now looks at her numbers daily, has gone to her bank about reducing fees and asking about investments (something she had zero knowledge of 9 months ago), and is becoming her own money “guru”.

This new “relationship” with money has empowered her beyond her imagination (and beyond her husband’s imagination) – giving her more confidence in her business and in her relationships, and resulting in greater ease for her business and her family.

Money is the #1 factor causing stress in North America, but it doesn’t have to be.  When you shift your perceptions, and pay attention to your finances, ask questions and learn more about them, you WILL become empowered to take INSPIRED action to build your net worth.

What actions will you take today to empower yourself with money and finance?

 

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://54.82.103.175/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Linda-Spencer-Visionspire-cropped.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer brings 20 years of professional accounting and tax knowledge to her more recent accreditation as a Certified Money, Marketing & Soul Coach. Through her money mindset and profitability workshops, group training programs, guest speaking and 1-1 coaching, she helps heart centered business owners transform their relationship with money & finance (reducing their money stress), so they can do more of what they love with greater ease and joy. If you would like to be more empowered to create the business (and life) you imagine, with Money as your PARTNER, Linda can help. Contact her for a no-obligation 30 minute complimentary Clarity Call to learn what your next steps should be. [/author_info] [/author]

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Are You Ready For a Tax Audit?

Are you at risk? The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) continues to audit the following key areas, as these areas seem to be the ones of greatest error or non-compliance by small and medium sized businesses:

Denied expenses – CRA denies unsupported and non-deductible expenses. It is important to have proper and adequate documentation to support the expenditures.
Taxable benefits – CRA scrutinizes automobile benefits and other expenses such as travel expenses and phone and internet usage to ensure taxable benefits are attributed properly to employees.
Shareholder benefits – CRA continues to seek out personal expenses paid for and deducted by the business that should be denied or taxed to the shareholder. Taxpayers should carefully document the business purpose of all expenses and have practices in place to closely monitor shareholder accounts and credit cards to avoid these reassessments.
International compliance / cross-border transactions – Many business are unaware of the tax and reporting implications of conducting business outside of their country and engaging in certain financing transactions outside of Canada, including sales taxes, payroll and employee withholdings, and corporate tax reporting implications. For Canada and the US, there is information sharing and new processes at boarder security to more closely scrutinize cross-border business travel.
Sales & commodity taxes (or Indirect taxes) – There have been a lot of changes in the sales tax rules in Canada over the last few years, with significant changes affecting large businesses, cross-border transactions, pensions, and financial institutions. Many businesses are unaware of how these changes affect them. The CRA also continues to find and disallow ITC claims for expenditures with inadequate or improper documentation.
Non-arm’s length transactions – Whether domestic or international, if there is insufficient proof/documentation for the validity of the transaction between non-arm’s length parties (such as management or administration fees), the expense can be denied (but yet, the income still taxed in to the other party – resulting in double taxation).
Aggressive tax planning/schemes – Aggressive tax planning and abusive tax avoidance schemes are a global concern. The CRA has invested millions in its program to reduce aggressive tax planning or abusive tax avoidance schemes that contravene specific anti-avoidance provisions of the law. The CRA now has the tools to detect, correct and deter the non-compliance of taxpayers using aggressive tax plans, and there will likely be more audit activity in this area.
As part of this scrutiny, the CRA has recently sent notice that it will be increasing its audits of individuals who have claimed business or property losses. If you do receive an audit request letter or request for information, don’t sit on it or stick it in a drawer somewhere hoping it will go away or take care of itself (yes, people do this). Take the letter immediately to your accountant or tax advisor to assist you in dealing with it.

Not dealing with the CRA requests in timely manner can cost you hundreds or thousands or even more in additional taxes, interest and penalties, which can cripple a small business. But CRA auditors are people too – just doing their job, serving you, the taxpayer, as their client. You may have done everything correctly, or you may have made honest mistakes (CRA audits can be a great opportunity to learn and boost your tax management controls and practices). But be prepared. Talk to your accountant and ask them what your risks are and how you can reduce them.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer is a CPA, CA, Canadian Tax Specialist and Money, Marketing & Soul business coach. Her mission is to eliminate stress and anxiety around money and taxes, by empowering heart-centered small business owners with the tools, knowledge, strategies and mindsets to put them in the driver seat of their financial success and wellness.[/author_info] [/author]