road over water

8 Things You Need to Know as CFO of Your Small Business

Let’s face it, as a small business owner, you wear many hats – one being that of Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  And as the CFO of your business, you are focused on strategy, planning and operating your business in a way that optimizes your profits and cash flow, and ultimately your financial value.  As CEO (Chief Executive/Operating Officer), you have the big picture vision, the dream.  But as CFO, you are the gate-keeper, the one that ensures the investment in the big picture vision is sound.

This is why I am sharing with you 8 key things that top CFO’s are concerned with to help you make better business decisions and avoid the top small business money mistakes.

  1. Revenue / Sales

The key to any business success is SALES!  No sales, no cash, no business.  So as CFO, you need to understand your sales numbers, as well as your products and target customers, so that you can recommend and take courses of action to ensure that you are going to hit/exceed your sales targets…things like return on marketing, cost of client acquisition and retention, pricing strategies and policies.  The key here is knowing your market and having a good sales and marketing system, as well as having good customer service…after all, it’s easier to get repeat business and referrals than it is new business from strangers.

  1. Vision for the Future

So many entrepreneurs operate by the seat of their pants, looking at short term gains with no real vision for the future.  While this might work in the short run, it is not a sustainable model for the long term.  The cornerstone of what I coach my clients is always to start with the end in mind, and have that end in mind when making your business decisions.  This includes having a written business plan (operational, financial and marketing/sales)…it doesn’t have to be elaborate (unless it’s required by investors/lenders), but it does need to be written down somewhere, vetted and shared with your team, and re-visited regularly.

  1. Talent Acquisition and Management

At one conference I attended, the common message I heard from all the women entrepreneurs who shared their success stories is that the key to their success was building good relationships and having a good team.  This is consistent with my research and with what big business CFO’s have shared with me personally.  You need to have the right people doing the right things with the right tools…and you need to have a system for evaluating their performance, rewarding them and retaining them.  You want a team that will challenge your ideas and strategies, to ensure that you are making the best choices for your business and your clients (and you’ll want to encourage them to do so).

  1. Risk Management

Risk management has been one of my main focus areas for over 10 years.  It is an area that is top of mind for big business CFO’s, but it is one of the most neglected areas in small and micro business.  Yet, risk is an area that can sink a small business in a heartbeat if not managed properly.  Do you know what your risks are?  They could be legal, operational, reputational, financial and credit, compliance, technology, privacy, economic or market risk.  What if something went wrong in providing a service to your client and they sued you?  What if you made a big order with a supplier and they didn’t deliver?  What if an employee was committing fraud?  Or someone was stealing your intellectual property? Or if you didn’t pay your taxes? Or if your technology failed, or someone hacked in and stole your data?  Some effective ways to manage these risks include first identifying your risks, then ensuring you have adequate and appropriate insurance, legal contracts, effective policies and procedures, and internal controls.  How does your business measure up to its risks?

  1. Governance

Along with risk management, comes governance.  Corporate governance is the system by which companies are directed and controlled. It provides the structure through which businesses set and pursue their objectives, while reflecting the context of the social, regulatory and market environments they play in.  For many small business owners, corporate governance and reporting is an afterthought…the reason being may be that many small business are not held accountable by any particular governing body, so governance and reporting takes a back seat to everything else in the business.  Why does this matter?  For one, good corporate governance strengthens a company’s reputation and risk management practices.

Not having good governance structure and practices could lead to things such as the following practices that could cause harm to others and ultimately cripple a business:

  • taking risks which have serious consequences, neglect of duty of care
  • dishonesty, withholding information, distortion of facts
  • misleading communications or advertising
  • avoiding blame or penalty or payment of compensation for wrong-doing
  • secrecy and lack of transparency and resistance to reasonable investigation
  • harming the environment or planet, people or animals
  • unnecessary waste or consumption
  • invasion of privacy or anything causing privacy to be compromised
  • conflict of interest, betrayal of trust or breaking confidentiality

As CFO of your business, the gate-keeper, you need to ensure you have good governance and reporting practices to reduce your risks.

  1. Operating Productivity

Often, cost control is a function of operational productivity.  This includes measuring how well you, your team and your assets are working for you.  What is your return on time and investments? You can look at revenues and costs as a function of time, or people (by function of sales, marketing, operations, technology, admin), or assets (particularly if you’re a capital intensive business).

  1. Profits and Cash Flow

No entrepreneur gets into business with a view of incurring losses…and it sucks when that happens.  Profits are often the driving force for creating financial value and obtaining financing.  But it’s not just revenue minus expenses…you have to also take into account depreciation and other costs indirect costs that you might not be thinking of on a regular basis, such as interest, taxes, and what you pay yourself (and YES – you should be paying yourself, just as you would for any other employee).

Even more important than profits, I think, is cash flow…you need to know what cash is coming in (receivables and collections) and going out (payables, payroll and taxes), and when, so that you can manage it effectively and ensure that you are still paying yourself, your employees  AND all the other bills.  That’s why it’s important to track, reconcile your accounts and review your cash flow at least on a monthly basis (or weekly is better) so you can make quick decisions to bring in more cash, especially if you’re facing a shortfall.  Doing so can also help identify problem areas in your business that need further investigation.

  1. Tax Planning and Optimization

As a small business owner, you have options as to how you structure your business, and what makes the most sense for you from a tax perspective…you don’t want to be paying too much tax, but also need to ensure you’re not under-reporting your income or over-deducting expenses.  Unexpected tax audit adjustments can be costly, and come with significant interest and penalties.  I’ve seen businesses go out of business because of unforeseen tax assessments.  This not only goes for income taxes, but for sales taxes and payroll taxes as well.

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How do you track and report all this?  Where do you start?  Start by working with your professional advisors… Ask your accountant questions so they can help you understand what your numbers are telling you.  Hire a business consultant – they’re trained to see and understand the big picture, analyze the situation and identify areas for improvement, as well as the solutions to implement for greater success.  If your concern is sales, hire a sales consultant or coach. Talk to your lawyer about hedging your legal risks, and to your business insurance agent to ensure you’re adequately covered.

Still not sure?  Send me an email…I’d be happy to discuss your situation to see how I can help directly or refer you to someone in my vast network of business experts (accountants, lawyers, marketing strategists, sales coaches, social media experts, web and graphic designers, content writers, technology solutions, insurance specialists, financial analysts and advisors, HR specialists, recruiters, and more!).  And check out upcoming workshops and programs than may assist you www.visionspire.ca/events

Contact Linda@visionspire.ca .

 

[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]

workshop group photo

What Happens at a Money Story WorkShop with Linda Spencer?

You might be thinking, a money workshop with a tax accountant?  Really?  Accountants are boring!

Well, if you do think so, you’ve never been to one of MY workshops.  I’ve been presenting workshops and training sessions for years, and I’ve never been called boring.  What you will experience is this:

  • A warm welcome on arrival (and a hug if you’re clearly open to receiving one :))
  • A lot of light energy in the room and from me
  • Connection, lots of smiling and laughs
  • Insight – I WILL change how you think about money (and tax accountants)
  • New knowledge and tools – The best way I can help people end their struggle and stress with money is to pass on the tried and true tools that I’ve learned and have used

I’m not your typical tax accountant…I don’t talk like one, and certainly don’t dress like one….One of my former accounting partners said to me a while back at an alumni event, “You were never one to be kept in the box, were you”.  No, I wasn’t…who wants to be put in a box!

You’ll see that I smile a lot and laugh often. I take a very light approach to life and living (I wasn’t always this way – it took some major cosmic events to get me here).  You’ll see that I love art – I wear my art and the amazing wearable art pieces of my favorite local designers (I may even wear one of those pieces at the workshop).  I have 9 tattoos (and no, I don’t ride a motorcycle), mostly designed by me.  I make jewelry, am a published author and write inspirational poetry.   Every article I write, workshop or program I create, social media post, etc. IS art.  So, no, I’m definitely NOT your typical tax accountant.

I DO believe that we are all connected and that we’ve been given some pretty amazing abilities to use in this lifetime to create the experience of Heaven on Earth – I use (and further awaken) my intuitive gifts daily, and you’ll see this in my workshops.

So specifically, here’s how the day will flow  on September 21 at the Re-Set Your Money Story Workshop at Rattlesnake Point Golf Club (Milton, ON):

9:30-10:00am    Welcome; Participant check-in (with coffee & muffins)

10:00-10:15      Introduction & Workshop Ice-Breaker (with LeeLee Fowler of Rise Media & Design – personal friend & marketing coach, and online community engagement strategist)

10:15-11:15      Crack Your Money code with Your Personal Money Archetypes (What are money archetypes, What are YOUR money archetypes (assessment), why are they important) – there’s a little bio break in here.

11:15-12:15     Being Money Visualization & Exercise (I will walk you a visualization where you will BECOME money – this will give you a TON of insight on how you do money and your money values!)

12:15 – 12:45    Light lunch provided

12:45-1:45       Money Boundary Breakthroughs (we’ll work on one or two specific money block areas that YOU would like to break through, and you leave the workshop with committed action steps to move you forward in your life/business)

1:45:2:00       Wrap-up, Thank You’s, Questions, end the workshop.

 

Sounds fun and light to me (and who doesn’t want more fun and lightness with money instead of stress and anxiety)….how ’bout you?

COME JOIN ME on September 21, have some fun with MONEY and FINANCE, and press re-set on some of those money stories that are holding you back from being at ease with money.

[button link=”http://54.82.103.175/moneystoryworkshop” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] CLICK HERE to REGISTER[/button]

Weath Creation

Small Business Model for Success – Make Your Profits Flow

wealth-creationAs a small business owner, you wear many hats – one being that of Chief Financial Officer (CFO).  Being the CFO of your business does not necessarily mean being your accountant – in fact, I highly recommend hiring someone to do your bookkeeping and financial reporting for you (i.e., the collecting and reporting of results).  As the CFO of your business, you are instead focused on strategy, planning and operating your business to maximize your profits and cash flow, and your financial value.  You have a big picture vision, so you look at your financial plan, forecasts, budgets and results from 30,000 feet, and analyze those results in context of your overall business objectives and strategies, asking “what if…”  You determine what your results are telling you, and make strategic, financial and operational decisions accordingly.

So, how do you do build a business model that will allow you to maximize your cash flow?

This is step 5 of my 8 Steps to Building Your Road Map to Success – create your strategic operating and financial plan (if you missed the previous steps, click HERE to go to see previous posts).  As a small business owner myself, I like to keep it simple – first by building a profit model that allows you to create fluid and sustainable profits and has these key characteristics:

  • is intuitive, flexible and has flow
  • allows for creativity and innovation
  • is scalable and has multiple layers that allows you to easily and fluidly up-sell, cross-sell and down-sell between the layers of services and packages
  • focuses on 2-3 things that you do really well, and
  • allows you to continuously dip into your well of opportunity, to connect with the people entered your world at various levels and give them the “what’s next”.

Always with your core business purpose and ideal client in mind, the key is to set up your business model and services/packages in a way that allows you to maximize every opportunity to its full potential.  Start with your platinum service level that will bring you top dollar and platinum client, then your entry level service that will allow people to connect with you for little investment, and then fill in the middle with a couple of gold and silver level offers that will engage and create momentum with your clients.

Ultimately, you want to maximize your profits, so when you create your business profits model with the different layers of packages/offers, you’ll need to run the numbers.  This is what gets scary for a lot of people, especially creative types in my experience (as a creative myself – I write poetry and design jewellery for the everyday occasion – I can empathize.  But I also have a very analytical mind that allows me to help bridge the gap for other creatives in building their business models for success.).  But without knowing your numbers –  the cost of inputs (including what your time is worth and overheads), capital requirements, desired profit margins, projected unit sales and break-even points – you may find yourself struggling to make ends meet.

When clients come to me for assistance with their pricing and what to charge, I have found that every one of them has undervalued what their time is worth and how much time the spend developing, marketing and delivering their products and services, leading them to charge to low a price.  This results in lower profits and having to work even harder for the revenues they do collect, leaving them cash and time poor.  With my easy pricing model, I then show them how to quickly determine what their time is worth and how to price each of their packages and services to create maximum value.

This is just one of the things that I will be showing participants at my upcoming workshop on February 29th in Milton.  If you want to know how to easily charge what you’re worth and price your packages and services for maximum value, then you MUST come to the workshop!  Click HERE to secure your spot and get all the details.

 

[button link=”https://www.eventbrite.com/e/workshop-improve-your-business-cash-flow-with-your-4ps-of-success-tickets-21330914339″ type=”big” color=”green” newwindow=”yes”] SECURE MY SPOT AT THE WORKSHOP![/button]

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://54.82.103.175/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/linda-contact-e1447279259479.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Linda Spencer is a Creator, Visionary, Business Coach and Savvy Canadian Tax Specialist. Linda believes that NO ONE should have to struggle to create the life of their dreams. This drives her to empower business owners with the knowledge and tools they need to gain insight and clarity into their business strategy and to take inspired action to streamline their processes, improve their cash flows and reduce their stress levels, such that they can more easily create the life of their dreams. With 20 years experience helping businesses with their financial, tax and business plans, managing tax risk and advising on Canadian corporate, personal income tax and sales tax matters, Linda combines her expertise and knowledge with her intuition and creative abilities to arrive at sound tax and business solutions. She is also known for successfully leveraging cross-functional teams and creating efficient processes that translate into tangible business results. Discover how you can create more ease and flow in your business at www.VisionSpire.ca (formerly www.LindaSpencerTaxConsulting.com)[/author_info] [/author]

Gap Analysis – it’s a matter of perception

When you take the time to look at things from many angles you not only expand your awareness, you multiply your opportunities. r2g-p5-ai7-Dont-Wait-web

Think of your business as a road trip (and not the scenic kind – you’re on a mission!).  You identify where you want to go, where you are starting from, the fastest route, alternate routes, what you need for your trip, and start navigating your way to where you want to go, in the most efficient way possible.   In this series, I help you get clarity at the different steps of creating and navigating your road map to business success.  This is the third installment of this eight week series. 

In last week’s post, you determined where you are currently in your business.  This is your starting point, point A of your road map to success.  So now you know where you want to go (point B, determined in Step 1 – Start with the end in mind), and where you’re starting from (Point A, determined in Step 2 – Know where you are now), the next step is to 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 the posts for Step 1 (Kick-start Your Year with Clarity and Focus) and Step 2 (Do You Know Where You Are?), you can get them HERE.)

So, what are you missing?  Where do you need to invest more time/effort/resources. What skills and training do you need to develop/upgrade?  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?  What systems and automation do you need to help you run your business more efficiently?  What support do you need, from who?  Who do you need to add to your team?

This is an exercise in self-awareness and being truthful with yourself.  It’s not about figuring out how to do it all yourself, or how to get all your tools into your tool chest before embarking on the adventure or your business, but rather, it’s about identifying what you know to be missing to get you from point A to point B in your business.  Sometimes, the gap is filled by hiring someone (staff or outsource) to do certain tasks for you, allowing you to spend your time more efficiently on the tasks that you are a specialist in and that will generate revenues for you. Sometimes, the gap is filled with the tools that you will acquire along the way in your adventure.

When you take the time to look at things from many angles you not only expand your awareness, you multiply your opportunities.  When I took the time to look at what I was missing, and how I could fill those gaps (from many different angles, asking many questions to help me see the big picture, along with all the details), I realized that a really big skill that was missing for me was effective marketing using social media.  You see, I consider myself a great student.  I learn quickly and typically recall things quite easily.  However, when it comes to marketing with technology, I tend to flounder and have to work extra hard to understand how make it work.  I’m just not technologically savvy, no matter how much training I’ve had with it so far.  Taking a different view, and a shift in mindset from doing everything myself, instead of spending a lot of time and money to try to master this skill in marketing with technology, I will instead focus my time and energy on what I’m an expert at.  For 2016, this has led me to seek the counsel of a marketing specialist, to learn some key strategies and processes, and HIRE someone to execute the best strategy for me.  As a business advisor and coach, I’m continuously learning new skills and content to create value for my clients. My mastery is in creating and delivering great content to clients as it relates to money mastery in business. The marketing must be done, but it doesn’t all have to be done by me…and I get to multiply my opportunities to create 🙂

When you expand your awareness of the gaps in your business, you find more opportunities to close those gaps. So look at where you want to go with your business, and what’s missing from your tool chest to get there, ask key questions and focus on taking inspired action to close the gaps to realizing those business results that you want to achieve! 

If you would like assistance or clarity in building your business road map to success, contact me to set up your complimentary Business Clarity Breakthrough Session, or ask for my Business Management Assessment Questionnaire to help you identify the gaps in your business.

PS – Speaking of content and creating value, I’ve been working on a great new line up of workshops and programs for small business owners to help them master their business cash flows more effectively and efficiently.  Watch for our calendar of events and MARK YOUR CALENDAR – the next one is coming up on February 29th (registration opening soon)!   Get on the VIP Invitation List to receive added bonus offers that will not be offered to the general public (in fact, the only way to get these special offers is to be on the VIP Invitation List)VIP List

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!

If you like what you’re reading, be sure to get on our mailing list to receive our weekly INSIGHTS newsletter delivered right to your inbox.  You’ll receive our Monday Morning Inspirational SPARK as well as weekly insights to help you drive success in your business with greater ease and efficiency.  You’ll also receive news about upcoming training programs and workshops designed to help you, as CFO of your business, define and execute strategies that impact key areas of your business.

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