Do You Know Where You Are?

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”So many entrepreneurs just don’t know where they’re starting from, and end up taking inefficient and ineffective action to get to where they want to go.  For many, the first glimpse of their past year results is when they have their taxes done, which I have found in my 20 years of preparing tax returns for small businesses to be 4+ months after their year-end and into their current fiscal year.  But how can you get a good handle on your strategic action plan for a successful year if you don’t even know where you’re starting from?

That’s why I feel Step 2 – Knowing where you are now, financially, systematically and operationally, is an essential step in the process of creating your strategic action plan for success. This means you’re going to have to get organized with your financials and conduct a little internal assessment of where your are now in your business.

Once you have a good picture of your current financial situation, skills and resources, internal controls and risk management practices, you can figure out what you’re missing and need to put in place (Step 3 – Analyze the gaps between where you want to go and where you are now) in order to effectively build your action plan for how you will achieve the goals you set for your business in Step 1 of the 8 steps to create your road map to success.  (By the way, If you missed my 8 Steps to Building your Road Map to Success post, or last week’s post on Step 1 – Start with the end in mind, you can get them HERE.)

Statistics show that 85% of business failures are a result of improper organization and planning.  So why is it that so many entrepreneurs don’t have their records organized and up to date?  Some of the reasons I hear are: not enough time (and no one to help), not knowing how, and outright fear of money and finances (YIKES!).

On of my clients, Susan, recently shared with me that 2015 was her best year in a long time, that she had a lot of growth in the fall, and that a big part of that success had to do with me helping her to change her mindset about finances and understand her financial numbers in a strategy session we had back in the summer.  She had long been tracking, monitoring and using her marketing and social media metrics to gain more traffic and clients, but had fallen short of using her financial metrics effectively to grow her profits and cash flow.   As she put it, finances scared her, so she ignored them.  I helped her see that they weren’t scary at all (and in fact, they could be her best friend) and showed her how she could use her financial metrics to make more effective business decisions based on what her numbers were telling her.  So kudos to Susan for using her new knowledge and mindset to create a great year!

If you find yourself resisting the task of getting your finances up to date and organized, or if you just struggle with tracking and understanding your financial numbers, I can help.  Contact me to set up your complimentary Business Clarity Breakthrough session to discuss a strategy for success with this essential step in creating business success, and ask for my Business Management Assessment Questionnaire.

Complete the following form to request a private Clarity Session with Linda

How can I help? What are your top 3 business priorities/pressing issues that you would like solved right away?

Feel free to ask a question or simply leave a comment.

Kick Start Your Year with Clarity and Focus

“Be INSPIRED to create what you imagine” (Linda J. Spencer)

Mondo nell'acqua dell'oceanoWelcome to a brand new year…time to kick-start your strategic action plan with clarity and focus!  Strategic business planning is essential for your business success.  Your business plan is like a roadmap – it gives your direction for where you want to go and how to get there with the most direct route.  A good strategic plan keeps you focused.

In November, I posted my 8 Steps to Building Your Road map to Success.  Over the next 8 weeks, I’ll dive deeper into what each of those steps are, and specific actions you can take to create your own road map to success.

So, where do you start?  You should start with the end in mind…this is Step 1 to creating your business success road map:  define and clarify your goals.

The key with defining the end result you want in your business is to get really clear about what you want and why.  Ask yourself key questions like:

  • Where do you want your business to go? What do you want to create with your business? and WHY? Write down your goals for the next year, 3 years, 10 years.  Really challenge yourself – Dream BIG!  Studies show that if you think small, you’ll play small – so think BIG and play BIG!
  • What would really make your heart sing to achieve in your business long-term?
  • What impact would achieving these goals have on your life? What would it mean for your family?
  • What are your SMART (specific, meaningful, attainable, relevant, time sensitive) stretch goals for this year? List your BIG revenue goals as well as things like the number of customers you want to serve and any new projects you want to launch / implement.  Don’t try to boil the ocean here, but make them big enough to excite you and be impactful…pick just 1 to 3 key things that you’ll focus on this year that will really pull your business forward to meeting your long term BIG objectives.  Chunk them down into key milestones, and add target dates to them.

With your goals for the next year clarified, you can now move forward with focus in making business decision and taking inspired action that is aligned with those goals.

Stay tuned for next week…I’ll get into Step 2 of creating your business success roadmap…the essential step of knowing where you’re starting from!

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Your Real Goals

Compass Plan quote

Welcome 2016!  For me, as with every other year past, the year started with making more concrete my action plans to realize my goals.  Goals are important. Everyone knows this. That’s why there are goal-setting retreats, workshops, seminars and journals. If you never pick a point on the horizon, how do you know which direction to walk?

However, most people’s goals aren’t really their goals. Many people set goals in reaction to the responsibilities, expectations and demands they face in their life. Maybe your goal is to make six figures this year, but you are motivated to make that money because you have bills to pay and mouths to feed. Maybe your goal is to finish writing your book, but it’s not because you care about the book…you just want the approval of those who’ve said, “Hey, you should write a book!”
Maybe you are striving to get that advanced degree, but it’s only to satisfy the prodding of your parents.

Real goals are the ones that YOU actually care about. They light you up, give you energy and make you feel excited. Real goals have nothing to do with expectation or obligation, and everything to do with what matters most to YOU.

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

Of course, we’re bombarded every day with expectation and obligation. We have to react to a constant barrage of requests, demands and last-minute emergencies. And when those are handled, it’s time to rest so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

My friend, it’s time to break the cycle. It’s time to dream.

In order to get in touch with the things that will make your life amazing, you need to take quiet time to reflect on and listen to what it is you REALLY want.  I used to set goals only for my job and my family.  But in the last few years, I have another drive – the drive for REAL goals, my soul’s desires that light me up and motivate my every other goal and action plan.

Leaving your family and responsibilities for a long weekend to venture into the woods for a journey of self-exploration may not be feasible.  But you can start with a simple “sit-down”.  A “sit-down” is a five-minute meditation followed by 20 minutes of journaling. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” The real answers will feel thrilling. Write them down. Circle the most exciting ones, put realistic deadlines next to them, and create your action plan.  This is how I spent my afternoons this first weekend of 2016 – sitting quietly in nature, resting at my favorite tree on the ridge, listening to the answers come to me in the wind.  The answers were nothing new, just affirmations of what I already knew that I wanted, but had set aside months earlier…giving me a kick to restart and refocus on their fulfillment this year, and I created an action plan and target dates to accomplish things.  For me, 2016 is the year to make what’s possible into reality 🙂

Often our dreams feel far away, impossible to achieve, or unreachable for a variety of reasons we’ve made up in our minds, or others have told us.  But MANY goals are achievable when we think them through, plan them out in simple steps, and consistently allocate time to them.

Life is too short to spend it chasing someone else’s goals or dismissing your own because someone else said it’s not possible.  Don’t wait another moment – pursue your real goals today!

If you would like to assistance to clarify or to review your goals and action plans, to make sure that they are aligned, feel free to give me a call or complete the form below.  I’d be happy to have a discussion and help you!

Complete the following form to request a private Clarity Session with Linda

How can I help? What are your top 3 business priorities/pressing issues that you would like solved right away?

Feel free to ask a question or simply leave a comment.

12 things you can do before the year is through to increase your cash flow and get ready for 2016

With a few weeks left of the year, there’s still time to take some action to increase your cash flow and get organized for 2016.  Earlier today, I shared these tips with some fabulous entrepreneurs over my first annual holiday networking lunch and now I share them with you.  Here are just a few things you can do to end out your year on a positive note for your business and your bank account.

YEAR-END BUSINESS TIPS (that you can do any time of the year):

1. Look at where you are leaving money on the table.
• Take advantage of early payment discounts on payable invoices, and bulk purchase discounts (if they make sense for you)
• Take advantage of zero to low interest deferred payment options

2. Collect outstanding receivables
• Have tough money conversations with the people who are past due with paying you what they owe you
• Set up an automated payment plan – get your customers to pay your something, anything, to show they are committed to paying you for the services/goods they received from you
• Review your pricing and payment policies and procedures

3. Pre-sell, and get paid for services/goods to be delivered in the new year.
• Think of a Boxing Day/Week promotion that you can offer to pre-sell a 2016 package
• Plan your January and February time slots and get clients booked in those spots now

4. Plan 2016 with the end in mind. Think about your overall goal, where you want to play, how you will win your game, what capabilities/resources need to be in place, and what systems (including policies and processes) need to be adopted to achieve your goals. Set SMART (Specific, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound) goals not only for the year as a whole, but chuck them down into 60-90 day periods as well.

5. Look back at 2015 and see what worked, and what didn’t, so you don’t make the same mistakes and can make improvements going into 2016. This means you have to get your year-to-date finances and accounting in order now (not April next year) since your numbers paint the picture of what has happened. Your numbers let you see the peaks and valleys of your business so you can better plan for them in 2016 – to make the valleys smaller and create more consistent (and increasing) revenues and cash flows throughout the year.

6. When looking at 2016 planning, book in your time off/vacation/self-care time first (make you the most important asset and take care of you first – afterall, if you’re out due to illness, who will run your business for you?). You’ll also want to book in your CEO/CFO strategy and reflection dates and stick to them (A reflection date is when you take the time to reflect on your business results for the last period and decide what actions to take to keep moving forward). I recommend reviewing your numbers weekly, but with deeper dive at least quarterly, giving you many more chances in the year to address issues and take necessary detours as things come up, and to be pro-active rather than reactive in your business.

YEAR-END TAX TIPS:  Most people don’t think about taxes until filing their return after the year is over. However, with various tax changes in store for us in 2016, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider BEFORE the year is done to optimize your taxes for the coming year.  Before the end of the year, to reduce your taxes for this year, you should consider:

7. Purchasing business equipment before year end – If equipment purchase is on your list to do, consider purchasing equipment before year-end instead of waiting until next year.  This allows you to accelerate your CCA (tax depreciation) claim and reduce your net income this year.

8. Paying reasonable salary to your children and spouse who are working for you
If you have kids or a partner who does work for your, pay them what they’re worth (a reasonable salary) – especially if they are in a low tax bracket. This keeps the money in the family and reduces your tax bill by legitimately splitting income.

9. Making car repairs if your car is used for business
If you use your car for business and it’s in need of repairs, and you’re looking to reduce your tax bill, consider getting those repairs done before the end of the year so you can deduct them on your 2015 tax return.

10. Making charitable donations
Charitable giving is very tax effective (giving you up to $45 tax credit on every dollar given) and you help those in need at the same time. But you must actually make the donation before the year is over. Also, one caveat I give clients, is to always check out the charity and how their dollars are spent before giving to the cause. It might sound like they’re doing good things, but when they spend 80% of the donations on administration, maybe not so much

11. Consider selling losing stocks to offset realized gains
If you have made capital gains on stocks that sold in the year, and you have some investments with accrued losses, consider selling them to offset the gains. Just be careful of the 30 day stop loss rule (where you cannot buy back the same stock you sold at a loss in the first 30 days of the sale, or the loss is denied)

12. Now that I’ve given you all these great tips, here’s the kicker…you may actually want to defer some of these tips until the new year, depending on what tax bracket you’ll be in. You’ll want to consider how the new Liberal government tax initiatives that are expected to take effect Jan 1, 2016 will impact you and plan accordingly, namely with respect to:

  • New higher taxes for personal income over $200k (Ontario combined rate will be 53.53%, now 49.53%) – if your income will be over $200k you might also consider whether you should incorporate and defer some taxes
  • A reduced tax rate for personal income between $44.7k and 89.4k (Ontario combined rate will be 20.5%, now 22%)
  • The reduced small business corporate tax rate to 11% from 9% which the new government is proposing to change/defer the 2% reduction to a later time
  • Proposed changes to what companies will be eligible for the small business deduction
  • The elimination of the Family Tax Cut
  • The elimination of UCCB and CCTB, replaced with Canada Child Benefit, which is purely income driven (payments starting in July 2016 based on 2015 income)

It’s really about knowing your numbers and what to do with them to maximize your cash flows.  So, what can you do right now, with 3 weeks left of 2015?   Estimate your 2015 income and tax liability NOW, and estimate your 2016 income and tax liability based on your 2016 plan.  Then, take action to optimize your income and tax liability between the 2 years, so you’ll know exactly what you’re paying/receiving for 2015 well in advance of filing your return – leaving you with peace of mind for tax time, and the freedom to focus all of your energy come January on running your business and creating results for 2016 in 2016.

If you would like assistance with your 2015 year-end tax strategy and with planning your 2016 vision, contact me ASAP to book your complimentary Clarity Session (a conversation whereby I help you get clarity on what to focus on in your business and the one inspired action you need to take to get going).  Limited spots available in December.  www.visionspire.ca

Helpful links:

Canadian Charities Listing – http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html

Canadian Income Tax Estimator – http://www.taxtips.ca/calculators/canadian-tax/canadian-tax-calculator.htm

Liberal tax changes (as per their election campaign, confirmed in the Dec. 4th Throne Speech) – https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/05/Fairness-for-the-Middle-Class.pdf

Think You Don’t Need a Business Plan?

In this video, Marcus Lemonis, host of The Profit, (thank you to Ink from Chase for posting on YouTube) tells you why you should have a business plan, and although it doesn’t have to be formal, it should be written down.  I whole-heartedly agree – writing things down provides a ton of clarity, and for me makes ideas more tangible and workable.  Once the ideas are clear, then you can develop a good plan, that answers a few key questions, against which you can execute and bring those great business ideas to fruition with much more ease than without a plan.  Statistics show that 85% of business failures are due to improper planning.  And as Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.  So, if you want success and better results, get those ideas written down and write out your plan (do your homework!).

If you don’t have a business plan, and/or don’t know where to start, you’ll want to read my post from last week 8 Steps to Create Your Road to Success  (8-simple-steps-create-business-success-linda-spencer).  Have questions or need help?  Contact me for a complimentary Business Clarity Session (valued at $247) Business Clarity Session Request Form

In one week, I kick-off my 4 month Success Readiness Program:  Create Your Business Roadmap to Success.  This intensive program is all about building the foundation for your business success.  Success Readiness is about learning and implementing the tools and best practices for you to create clear goals and action plans for your business.  Want more information – click Here (PS – registration closes Monday November 23rd, and there are only 2 spots left!)

https://youtu.be/qpmlKe6UoJ4

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8 Simple Steps to Create Your Business Success Road Map

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You know how it goes – you talk to financial advisors, they work with you to create a plan for financial savings and investment.  You talk to your fitness coach, they work with you to create a plan to reach your fitness goals.  You plan your wedding, your home renovations, your family vacations.  You spend time and money investing in planning in other areas of your life, why would you not do the same for your business?
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Investing in strategic business planning is essential for your business success.  A strategic business plan is your road map, your compass to guide you to where you want to go with your business.  It gives you clear direction of how to get from point A to point B without getting lost.  A good strategic business plan helps you to execute efficiently and not waste time with trial and error, or with what I like to call, the spaghetti method (throwing something at the wall and hoping it sticks).  A good strategic plan keeps you focused.
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It’s never too late (or too early) to create your business plan for success, whether you’re new to business and in the pre-launch phase, or have been in business for years.
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I get it, creating a business plan can be daunting (I know – I’ve seen the templates, tried to use them myself, and abandoned them as they gave me headaches).  You don’t need a 50 page business plan document, but you do need to invest some time and energy into the planning exercise if you want to have focus and direction.  My own business plan isn’t a 50 page document…it’s an organized, tabbed binder with different sections of business planning consideration (such as goals, target market, products & services, pricing strategies, sales & marketing strategies, financial plans, etc).

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DREAM. PLAN. EXECUTE, with ease, by going the most direct, efficient way possible.
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Having a good strategic business plan is absolutely essential to your success and the lack thereof is why so many businesses fail.  In fact, 85% of business failures are due to lack of improper planning and organization.
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But you don’t need a 50 page plan to succeed.  What you do need is a simple, executable plan that will help you succeed!  And you need to do your homework!  A written plan is just evidence that you’ve done your homework to ensure the viability of your big idea and to set a clear direction and path to success.
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Here are 8 simple steps to creating your business plan for success:


  1.  Start with the end in mind – where do you want your business to go? Write down your goals for the next year, 3 years, 10 years.  Really challenge yourself – Dream BIG!  If you think small, you’ll play small – so think BIG!

  2. Know where you are now, financially, systematically, operationally. This means you’re going to have to get organized with your financials and conduct a little internal assessment of where your are now.

  3. Analyze the gaps to see where you need to invest more time/effort/resources. What skills to you need to develop?  Where do you need to shift your time and resources?  What money and success mindsets and habits do you need to adopt to help close those gaps?

  4. Clarify your target market , understand your market and competitors, and build your marketing plan. Do your homework and get really crystal clear here – it will drive almost everything else in your business plan, including how you’re going to fill some of those gaps you identified.

  5. Build your service offerings in such a way that addresses your clients biggest pain points with ease, and create a financial plan based delivering those service offerings (focus on a few key priorities instead of trying to offer everything under the sun to everyone). You can now tweak and finalize your marketing plan.

  6. Identify systems and your team that will support you and your business. You can’t do it all yourself, as least not efficiently and without burnout.  You need a team, whether it’s hiring employees or hiring out certain functions of your business (such as bookkeeping, sales and administration).  Decide on the systems that are going to support you the most and create the most ease for you in your business.  Systems can be as simple as checklists and calendars, to full operations manuals and fully automated end-to-end solutions.   Automate as much as possible.

  7. Have back up plans for when things don’t quite go as initially planned. Every business hits roadblocks at some point – power failures, illness, market crashes, changes in direction.  And you need to be prepared to make detours so that the roadblocks don’t derail your journey to success.

  8. Start driving your way to success, and celebrate the milestones as you reach them. Check in with how you’re doing against your plans, and build in what I call reflection days – days that you take to reflect how your week/month/year went, what you’re doing well, and where you’ve fallen short, so you can adjust your course as needed.

Remember, business success does not happen over night.  And business planning is not a one-time thing.   Your plan is a living, breathing document (or binder with tabs in my case), that should be revisited at least annually (quarterly is better). Take time to stop and reflect regularly to see where you are in achieving your goals, and to adjust your course as necessary to get back on track if you’ve been derailed.
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Where you focus your attention is where you will get results.  So get planning and take inspired action to realize those business results that you want to achieve!  I love success stories and would love to hear how you’re doing so I can share in celebrating your success!   Email me at Linda@visionspire.ca.
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PS – If you are ready for assistance with building or even reviewing your plans, book your complimentary clarity call to clarify what your next steps should be.  I’d be happy to help you build your strategy and action plan for success!

Complete the following form to request a private Clarity Session with Linda

How can I help? What are your top 3 business priorities/pressing issues that you would like solved right away?

Feel free to ask a question or simply leave a comment.

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Weathering the Storms – Team Support

I think one of the most difficult things as a business owner (especially women) is reaching out for help.   We tend to believe that we can do it all ourselves, to run our business, our homes, our lives and weather the storms alone.  Truth is, we don’t need to, and why would we want to?  The worst thing we could do is keep all the burden to ourselves for ourselves – it will only lead to stress, illness, burnout and ultimate business failure.  The biggest step to take is to change our mindset, from lone warrior to co-creator, and to acknowledge we do need help to create our dream with more ease.  Then, we need to ask for that help.  There is a whole team of people just waiting for us to ask for their help in creating our business success.
Read more on setting business goals and reflection to hold your confidence during the storms of your business in my contribution to Halton Hills Chamber of Commerce blog posted November 5, 2015…
(This post is also published on my former site LindaSpencerTaxConsulting.com)