Monday, June 21, 2010

Late charge, latte charge, at least you’ll know.

[caption id="attachment_119" align="alignleft" width="158" caption="$3.35 a day"][/caption]

Microsoft Money has this cool new tagline: “Late charge, latte charge, at least you’ll know.” I love it.

When you’re an accountant, people talk to you about their money. Not just your clients, but your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even people you stand next to waiting in line. It’s kind of fun, because its this secret little window into peoples’ worlds that most don’t ever get to see.

So why do I like Microsoft’s tagline? Because the overwhelming first step to tackling one’s money issues is know how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going. Most people have no idea. Even those that use software like Quicken or Money often still have very little idea. They can look it up, but they don’t know. I must admit that there was a point in my life that I realized I was tracking all the data, but not often enough to really use the information in a constructive way. More on that later.

[caption id="attachment_122" align="alignright" width="130" caption="$39 a month"][/caption]

There is an axiom that goes: “What we measure, we accomplish.”

If you have financial discomfort in your life, start measuring. If you’re measuring and still have discomfort, take a step back and look at how you’re doing it. Shake it up; try it a different way. If it’s still not working, check out our Financial Boot Camps. You’ll make movement there; we guarantee it.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Changing the World

[caption id="attachment_110" align="alignleft" width="198" caption="Cape: yes | Tiara: looking"][/caption]

"I'm fairly certain that, given a Cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world."

I have a cape, and I’m trying to find a tiara. Some of you know that I have this crazy wonderful inspiration, and with this inspiration, and a tiara, I could change the world. Not save it, but change it.

I heard some great advice last night, as I do on the 3rd Friday of every month. “Read about people who have changed the world.” So I’m wondering, who would you read about? Who is one of your heroes or heroines?

And if you want to experience some of my crazy wonderful inspiration, save the date: July 10th, 6-9pm.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Community Service, Leadership and Small Business

[caption id="attachment_105" align="alignright" width="131" caption="Tina Reynolds, Phyllis Lyon and Armistead Maupin"][/caption]

My best friend Tina Reynolds, owner of Uptown Studios, was honored today by the California Legislative LGBT Caucus for her extraordinary inability to stand by and watch even one person be treated as less than equal. I’ve know Tina for 15 years. We met when she was doing volunteer work for CARES, and through the years I can not begin to recall how many organizations, actions and activities she has led or been a part of. And not just LGBT issues; she’s an equal opportunity activist. I’m proud to be her friend, and I’m proud that she’s a role model for my daughter.

What does this have to do with small business? For those of us that own small business, we all know that we have less time, not more, to spend on our passions. How in the world does Tina have time to do all that she does? Well, there are 50 different ways to market your business in the ActionCOACH model. By doing what she loves, she has become a successful business owner. She could have spent all of her time going to endless networking events, but instead she has used the less direct path of following her passions and making a difference. You don’t get clients as quickly, but over time you get them just the same because we all want to do business with good people.

I’ve learned a lot from Tina about what it takes to be a business owner. She taught me that if you are going to own a business, you must connect with others. We  joke when one of us gets a new client, “did they come from the Yellow Pages?” Well the Yellow Pages hardly even exists now. She has inspired me, a bit of an introvert, to become a connector, and to even enjoy it.

[caption id="attachment_106" align="alignleft" width="106" caption="A Cherished Friendship"][/caption]

I’ve also learned from Tina about how to be a better human being. We go walking in the early mornings around our fabulous midtown neighborhood. She says hi to everyone, and I mean everyone. Not just the people that are going to say hi back, and not just the people who look like they might. No matter who it is we pass, there is a cheery hello. It’s reminded me that that simple act of kindness can lift someone else’s spirit, even if just for 5 minutes.

Almost all of us that own a business began because we wanted to lift someone else’s spirit. And that’s what makes Tina Reynolds not simply a tireless activist for equal rights for all, but an amazing business owner as well.

p.s. She was honored amongst some amazing people. Today, I got to shake Phyllis Lyon's hand and thank her for all she has done for us, for me. I also got to tell Armistead Maupin how incredibly funny his books are. If you don't know who those two are, look them up on Wikipedia!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bobbleheads and Small Business Seriousness

I’ve had a particularly successful week on a number of fronts. Every day had a triumph, some large, some small. That’s a week well worked.

I was out celebrating with my friend Anne last night, and she gave me a gift in honor of my week: a Guy Noir, Private Eye bobblehead.

[caption id="attachment_90" align="aligncenter" width="162" caption=""A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But high above the empty streets, on the 12th Floor of the ACME Building, one man is still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions...Guy Noir, Private Eye.""][/caption]

I love Prairie Home Companion, but that wasn’t the purpose of the gift. The purpose was to remind me to not take myself too seriously, to not dive into workaholism just because I’ve got all these fun new projects and clients that are going to need my focus in the next couple of months. She said every time I see the head bobble, I’m supposed to ask myself, “have I done anything fun today?”

It’s the myth of business ownership. We get in to it thinking “oooh, flexibility!” My daughter Dakota was 4 when I started my business; it was a great idea. But after a couple of years I realized I was consumed. Dakota had less of me, not more. I’m very grateful I had that realization, and then did something about it.

I rarely work on the weekends anymore. But, this weekend, I have some special stuff to accomplish. One woman trying to find the answers to life’s persistent questions. And Guy is sitting here bobbing his head, reminding me that if I work smarter, I get to go have some fun tonight. And that makes me a better, and more successful, business owner.

Have you done anything fun today?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Perfect Recordkeeping System

“We never do anything well until we cease to think about the manner of doing it.” – William Hazlitt

The allegory of the centipede makes the point nicely: asked how it knew which of its hundred feet to use when, the creature found itself unable to move. I am frequently asked what I think is the best way to do recordkeeping, file your financial information, which is the best software to use, should I do it by hand or use Quicken or Microsoft Money or Excel, do I have to use Quickbooks, etc, etc. My answer is the same as Nike’s: Just do it!

It’s not that I don’t have opinions about the best way to do it. (Anyone that knows me knows I have opinions!) It’s just that when someone asks me that question, its not usually because they’re trying to refine and make better a system they are already using. The people that ask me that question aren’t using a system at all, and they’re waiting until they have a perfect system to start using it.

If you recognize yourself in this post, my suggestion is to pick the easiest system you can think of, do it consistently and with reverence for 3 months, and then evaluate how it worked.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas. Pick one:

  1. If you’re starting from scratch, get a little notebook and write down everything you spend. Everything. Then, twice a month, total your spending in some broad categories. No more than 12.

  2. If you’re using financial software (Quicken, etc.) but you still feel you aren’t doing it right, or you don’t KNOW your numbers, make a commitment to update it once/week. Once updated, write by hand, on a piece of paper,your monthly spending in each of your major categories.

  3. Try the old fashioned coffee can approach. Dole out at the beginning of the month into separate envelopes your monthly spending plan for groceries, eating out, entertainment and any other area of discretionary spending. If a month is too long, use a paperclip and post-it note to identify the 1st – 15th and 16th-31st spending.

    [caption id="attachment_74" align="aligncenter" width="227" caption="Perfect Envelopes (top); Done is Better than Perfect Envelopes (bottom)"][/caption]

Ok, now that you’ve picked one, just do it, don’t think about how you could do it better, just do it for 3 months. At the end of 3 month, let me know what you picked, how it worked, and how you’re going to make it a little better for your next 3 months.

Consistently, and with reverence!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where’s your 50 year old?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He’s 50ish now, happily no longer a business owner, and was telling me this story from when he was 30ish. He had started his own firm, set out on his own, was happy, was proud. A new, big client came in one day, looked around his office and asked him and his partner, “where’s your 50 year old?”

The breed of business owners is a fiercely independent one. We’re smart, risk-taking and capable. We aren’t the kind of people who pause to think that it might be a good idea to hire someone who has the experience, good and bad, of a 50 year old. A lot of us don’t want to take anyone’s advice at all.

What’s the value of having someone on your team who is the 50 year old? They have been through year after year after year of watching decisions and outcomes. They have seen what works. More importantly, they have seen what doesn’t work. It is hard to get to 50 without making a whole bunch of mistakes in your business life. What a blessing it would be to have someone on your team who could say, “oh, I saw a guy do “x” once, and two years later, he realized that it caused “y”, and “y” cost him a lot of money, or heartache, or legal battles.

Does your business have a 50 year old? If your answer is no, you might want to think about finding one. My "happily no longer a business owner" friend wishes he had; he figures it could have saved him tens of thousands of dollars.