Winter is a time of reflection, both personally and for our businesses. How did this past year go? Did I meet my goals? Um, did I have goals? What do I want next year to look like? What do I have to do to get there?
At Creating Answers, it is the time of year we are busy working with all of our clients on 2011 goals and budgets. It is one of my favorite times of the year because you get to do two really fun things: analyze how last year went, and draw the financial road map to follow next year. It’s financial art at its most fun.
If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers. I invite you to think of it as a game, or a puzzle. Make it a date with yourself. Go to your favorite coffee house, or pour yourself a bottle of fine wine. And then…start asking yourself questions.
What percentage of your total income goal did you reach this year? 120%? Great! 85%? Not so great. What do you need to do differently in 2011? What amount of marketing dollars would have closed that 15% gap? Do you need to increase your networking time? Upsell existing clients? Raise your prices?
“If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers.”
Take a look at your discretionary areas of spending? How much did you spend on marketing and advertising? What were the financial results? Professional development? Results? Equipment? Results?
How much did you spend on staffing and/or outside consultants? Did they work at capacity? Did you generate revenue from your staff? How much? A great rule of thumb to start with is three times their cost.
While it is difficult to assign numbers to each of those questions, the exercise of trying will create answers. What if you spent nothing in each of those areas? What if you spent three times as much?
Most importantly, don’t overdo the process. It’s more effective to do a really thorough look at your 15 most critical spending areas consistently than it is to look at all 60 of the expense accounts you have in Quickbooks. (And if you have 60 expense accounts in Quickbooks, you should give us a call!)
Find out more about what we do at http://CreatingAnswers.com.
Here’s to a prosperous new year full of financial clarity!
Want financial clarity for the holidays?
Entertaining, stocking stuffers, extra travel expenses, cookies for the neighbors, decorations, office holiday party gifts, holiday grocery shopping and of course, presents… these are just a smattering of expenses that are about to edge their way into your spending plan over the next several weeks.
Whether you’ve been saving all year, plan to squeeze it into your regular monthly spending, plan to not partake in any of it, or have a credit card you use for the holidays, now is a good time to make a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan completely, just spending the time to fill out this handy holiday plan will provide you a road map for the trip you are about to take.
What are your priorities? What are your limits? What are your expectations? How do you feel about the money you’ve spent during past holidays? What could you do differently? And a favorite question from our Financial Boot Camps, what would your hero do?
Print the “Manage Your Holiday Spending” guide from the AFSA Education Foundation. Take a walk, think it over, journal the above questions if you’d like, then get a pencil and a calculator and make your plan!
And… enjoy the season.
Starbucks has a new tagline on their holiday cups: Stories are gifts…..share. What a great reminder that sometimes the most meaningful gifts don’t cost money. As we near the season of gift giving, I hope that this sentiment is taken to heart.
What if we all gave the gift of a story this year?
I heard that stores are opening not just at 5am on Black Friday, but on Thanksgiving Day itself. One more step toward the commercialization of what is meant to be a time of family, friendship, and for many, faith.
When people talk to me about the holidays, they often talk about the season with a sense of financial dread, or disappointment in themselves that they didn’t set aside a holiday fund…again, or about the credit card bill they know will be coming in January. They talk about not wanting to disappoint their children, about the expectations placed on them in their workplace, or about “this is how my family has always done it.”
If you hear yourself in any of the above, make a commitment to do it differently this year. Completely different, or just a little different. Here are some ideas:
- Give the gift of a story: the day your child was born; a fun experience with a good friend; how a coworker has inspired you.
- Give the gift of an experience, rather than a thing: a walk along the river; a Sunday morning brunch; a drive to the mountains.
- Give the gift of memories: old family pictures; old family movies; old family recipes. (One of my most treasured gifts is a recipe book from my mother of favorite recipes and notes with each one about which family friend first introduced us to the recipe.)
- Get your family to draw names. Or better yet, my unique neighbors instituted a family tradition of CrapMas. They each scour their homes for items that they no longer use, but know that someone else might find of value, and then do a sort of live auction based on who declares they need it or want it the most. They have great, great fun with it.
- Give the gift of service: spend the holiday serving others at a homeless shelter.
- Give the gift of self-esteem. I asked some important people in my daughter’s life to share a word or a sentence about how people see her, and then I compiled them in a book. $8 at ritz.com and….priceless.
What ideas do you have?
We’ll be out drawing some Financial Art at Chalk It Up this weekend. Come by and see all the cool artwork!
I didn’t feel like working the other day; It was a Monday morning and I actually didn’t feel like working. That bothers me. In a big way!. Partly because I come from a family of workaholics, and thus our self-esteem is all nicely packaged with our work. But mostly it bothers me because 1) I had a fabulously free and fun weekend and 2) Monday is the day that I get to work ON my business, not IN my business. So, shouldn’t I be excited about going to work on a Monday!
I called my coach. He said “Stacey, don’t you think that there’s about 25 million Americans at this very moment who don’t feel like going to work today? Doesn’t that just make you normal?” Good point; I’m normal. I was really hoping I wasn’t, but I am.
How does this relate to the small business owner and their money? Well, time is money. In my experience, business owners fall to one side or the other of the scale; few fall in the middle.
There are the “I have all of these other things I need to get done, and I am the keeper of my own destiny, so I can work whenever I feel like it” business owners. Fine; great; IF they are independently wealthy, or have a wildly profitable business, or don’t have clients or customers that are relying on them. Then they can work whenever they want.
But for all of us who are normal, time is money, and not feeling like working can become an issue with our bottom line. My recommendation to clients who struggle in this area is to develop a schedule for themselves; an ‘employee contract’. If it is within your integrity to work 20, 30, 40 or even 50 hours per week, then provide yourself some clarity about it and stick to your schedule. If you’ve provided yourself this flexibility, and still consistently miss your 30 hours, well, you might consider an employee counseling session with yourself.
Would YOU hire someone that expected to earn a full time salary, agree that they only had to work 30, and then be happy when they were constantly on the phone with friends, running personal errands, coming in late and leaving early? I’m guessing no. I’m guessing you’d be counseling that employee, or firing them.
It is helpful to look at our performance as business owners from time to time from a different angle. Are we too soft on ourselves, or are we too harsh?
Some practical suggestions:
- Create a vacation, sick and mental health day policy for yourself. Track your time taken just like you would an employee.
- On days you don’t feel like working, rearrange your schedule for the day and fill it lightly with work activities you truly enjoy.
- When taking personal calls during the day, set an egg timer; or let your friends know that you can’t take personal calls during the day.
- Schedule quarterly or semiannual retreat days for yourself. You are your business’ most valuable asset.
- From Bryan Dodge: create a geographical line between the office and your work, and when you cross the line, you’ve crossed into work life, or home life. Never the two shall mix.