Friday, February 11, 2011

10 Decisions Not to Make Alone

We all make financial decisions every single day, some small, some large. Do I cook at home or go out to eat? Do I change banks? Do I clean my own home or hire a housecleaner? Do I buy a used car, a new car or lease a car? Do I start my own business or buy a franchise?

The original title for this blog was “10 things you might want to talk with your CFO about,” but most people don’t have a Chief Financial Officer (though I’m trying to change that.) Many people do, however, have a financial planner, a tax accountant, a business coach, or some trusted advisor. Rising in popularity is the type of financial and money coaching that I believe is so valuable.

Over the years I’ve had many a client announce, during their scheduled monthly appointment, “I leased a building last week,” or “my attorney submitted all the paperwork to change my business to an S corporation,” or “I took out a home equity loan.” I always wonder why they wouldn’t have waited just one more week to discuss the decision with me. I suspect it’s often our subconscious telling us to move forward before someone tells us "no."

Accountants get accused of being naysayers, and there’s a bit of truth to that. We’re conservative by nature. I’ll be the first to tell you: don’t always take your accountant's advice. But: do always ask for it. Discussing the facts of major decisions, as well as the feelings and the what-if’s, is invaluable.

What are the 10 things you should discuss before you jump in?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Motivation ~ Creative Approaches

Last February I promised myself that I would implement a creative motivating approach to ensure this January would not suck. In an accountant’s world, no matter how planned and prepared you are, the multiple January 31st bureaucratic deadlines wreak a bit of havoc on your business. This year was going to be different!Serving clients is sometimes more motivating than money.

The first workday of January I handed 21 crisp $5 bills and 21 crisp $1 bills to my staff and had them hang three ‘clotheslines,’ $6 for each day

and one clothesline for each team member. The instructions for distributing the ‘prize money’ was as follows: I got the $6 any day I had to deal with January bureaucratic deadlines, and they got the money on days they handled it all. $5 went to rockstar team member #1, and $1 to the supporting team player.

Is $126 enough money to motivate your staff? Is it enough to motivate ourselves? No.

But the truth about motivation is that money is rarely the most effective method. (Unless you're Goldman Sachs handing out high six-figure bonuses. That's motivating.) For most micro businesses  that’s not an option. In a micro business, serving your clients and providing value is often the highest motivation.

How can we use money to motivate ourselves and our team? Here are some creative approaches we’ve used with clients:

Pay yourself first. This works for the business owner who always pays everyone and everything else first, and then doesn’t have enough left over to pay herself. She’s extremely motivated to pay her vendors, but not so much herself. We implement a bill-paying structure that puts her first, and by the end of the month, she's jamming to bring in enough money to pay her vendors, because she won’t let them down.

Put yourself on a commission structure. This works for the business owner whose monthly income fluctuates between high and low. He has a good month, he takes all of the profit and suffers during his next low month. For a commission structure to work, you need to learn how to set your base ‘salary,' which you can read here: The Power of a Salary Structure. Then create a motivating commission structure for yourself, document it, take no more, and take no less from your business.

Bonus your team based on your goals for the year. Small businesses rarely commission their employees, but if you want your team to be extremely clear about your goals, putting a commission structure in place for them, no matter what size, signals that you need their help in reaching your goals. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the motivation.

How do you implement creative motivation in your business?

  • Choose one thing that consistently nags at you about your business and look at solutions from a creative vantage point.

  • Choose a dollar amount you’re willing to invest in the problem.

  • Use a creative way to come up with your implementation plan (mind mapping, journaling, drawing with crayons are a few great approaches).

  • Then jump in and earn the results you want!