The Cultivating Business Growth Podcast by PJS & Co. CPAs
Giving you the tools you need to grow and become more profitable while balancing life and family.
We are CPAs who won’t put you to sleep!
If your law firm was leaving money behind, you would do everything in your power to fix that, right? If you could maximize the amount of revenue that you keep without adding extra work, it would be a no-brainer. Today’s episode is focused on operational efficiencies and best practices you can implement in your own practice to do just that and optimizing revenue in your law firm. We welcomed two experts with over 25 years of legal industry experience to get the best advice. Scott Brennan, CEO of Lexicon, and Tom Boster, the CFO, and COO help us gain insight so you can increase revenues, maximize efficiencies, reduce costs and spend more time practicing law.
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:30 – Introduction to CEO of Lexicon, Scott Brennan & CFO and COO, Tom Boster
- 04:13 – Maximizing your net income through timekeeping, collections and quality
- 05:21 – Improved timekeeping gives you numbers you need to push your firm forward
- 14:24 – Best practices for collections
- 32:23 – Why quality should remain a focus
- 42:21 – Special Offer from Lexicon
Introduction to CEO of Lexicon, Scott Brennan & CFO and COO Tom Boster
Scott Brennan (left) has a diverse global business leadership background and, as the CEO of Lexicon, he is driving their strategy with a relentless focus on superior customer service. Lexicon liberates law firms to do what they do best; practice law. Lexicon provides industry-leading practice management software that can be fully integrated into a suite of services including revenue optimization, business analytics, marketing, client intake, billing, and collections.
Tom Boster (right), a CPA and CGMA with over 25 years of experience, is a skilled operations and project manager, and the CFO and COO of Lexicon. Tom’s history of working in the legal and healthcare industries has focused on software solutions, budgeting and overall performance improvements.
Scott Brennan, CEO of Lexicon
Tom Boster, CFO & COO of Lexicon
Maximizing your net income through timekeeping, collections, and quality
There are a few ways you can optimize your own bottom line as a firm. The more obvious options are to take on more cases to grow your net income, or you can make more per case without doing extra work. But, in addition to those more prominent strategies to increase revenue, there can be quite a bit of money that is spilled on the ground with your current caseload. By improving internal procedures around timekeeping, collections, and quality, your firm can dramatically improve profitability.
Improved timekeeping gives you numbers you need to push your firm forward
Do you track your time as you perform each task or do you wait and track it later? If it’s the latter, you’re missing out on revenue, and Lexicon has some shocking stats to share, along with tips on how to accurately capture all time in your firm. Since 2007, annual hours for attorneys were down about 132 hours per year. This could be attributed to lifestyle changes, lower productivity, or attorneys attempting to work smarter, not harder. Some smaller firms may not see the necessity of tracking time if they are billing on a fixed fee basis, but we would highly advise against that. Accurately and efficiently tracking your time by utilizing tools and technology can make a meaningful change in your business, ultimately optimizing the revenue in your law firm.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that their memory is better than it is in reality. Studies have shown that if you wait until the end of the day to track your time, you may be losing up to 10% of the time you had actually worked. If you wait until the end of the week, you could be losing up to 50% – 75% of the time you had put in, depending on the attorney. Read more about those studies here, on the ABA website. Whether you are billing by the hour or using a flat fee, it is very important to know where you are spending your time. Tracking ALL time (not just billable) will give you insight about certain tasks for which you or your staff are putting in more hours on a consistent basis. There could be services that you have under-priced and are consequently losing money on every time you do that task. In that case, you are not making as much money as you think. The same is true conversely for tasks that take less time that could be over-priced.
So what are the potential impacts of these losses? Even at the lower end of the studies, losing 10% of potentially billable time is a very material number. Scott gave an example highlighting how these things add up. “Even if you just miss 10 minutes a day and you bill at $200 an hour. At the end of the year you’ve lost $8,000 in billable hours, just through what feels like a very minor miss of 10 minutes across a single workday.” Take this shocking number and multiply it by all attorneys in your firm and the losses can be very impactful when considering only a 10 minute loss. This is why accurate timekeeping is so important.
Best practices for collections
Concise timekeeping and clear descriptions of what your work entails is the cornerstone of effective billing, and eventually in collecting that bill. Billing with ethical guidelines, using accurate notes for time entries, and making sure associates fairly represent the work that they actually perform is paramount to collecting payment for your services. The easiest way to help you enable better billing practices is to use a practice management software that has a timer built in, so while you go about your day, you can start and stop timers for specific tasks and clients. Many of the time-keeping fundamentals flow through into your collection efficiency. In general, only 81% of billable hours are actually invoiced. On average, firms only collect about 85% of what they actually invoice. Math is not in your favor on this one.
The collection cycle starts at the time that you make the engagement with a client. Best practices show that It should outline how the client will be billed, how might any retainers work, and sets the expectations of payment terms. Having those expectations up front not only meets a firm’s ethical guidelines, but shows great business fundamentals of having that communication upfront. You can continue that communication with the client throughout the engagement with a quality timekeeping system that shows the accumulated time throughout the month, and allows a firm to know just where the client stands.
A quality timekeeping system in your firm can be customized for a variety of different ways, to set alerts, and kick off tasks associated with the billing process. Technology has really evolved, and now it is much easier than it has ever been to keep time and it’s not as big of an administrative burden as many people once thought it was.
Why quality should remain a focus
While timekeeping is often the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to how much revenue your firm is bringing in, the client experience is just as important and often overlooked. Having a client centric-quality system in your firm keeps your focus on relationship building and customer satisfaction. Setting expectations with your clients, setting key audit points during the process, and measuring your own performance will give you the tools you need to continuously improve the client’s experience and get the feedback you need to make improvements and focus on quality within your firm.
When you have institutionalized a quality system for improving your internal processes, you can benefit from outsourcing things that aren’t core to your firm. Perhaps there are things that your firm does that could be better handled by a professional firm that specializes in that task. This can allow your attorneys to really focus on practicing law and managing their client relationships. The other potential benefit is that you can actually demonstrate to professional liability insurance companies that you have a quality process in place, which could dramatically decrease the cost of your professional liability premiums.
Optimizing your revenue is always top of mind as you lead your law firm towards the future. But could you be leaving money on the table? Our friends from Lexicon share with us the best practices for timekeeping, collections, and implementing quality processes for a strategy that will help you keep your hard-earned profits. We talk about timekeeping best practices, ways that you can improve internal processes and the overall impacts of ignoring this in your firm. Then we talk about collections and the importance of communication in your communications procedures. Lastly, quality should always remain a high focus to continue improving client experience and potentially even lower insurance costs. If you are looking for more content focused on the legal industry, feel free to check out our other legal podcasts here.
Links mentioned in this episode:
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Meetings are a part of life in business, but everyone has been a part of a meeting that didn’t get anywhere and, as the saying goes, could have been an email. So how do we increase efficiency, productivity and accountability in meetings to actually achieve results? Today, we are continuing to talk about Traction® by Gino Wickman, the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS®), and all it has to offer. More specifically, we are talking about the idea of a Level 10 Meeting™.
What we cover in this episode:
- 05:22 – What is a Level 10 Meeting™?
- 08:52 – The meeting pulse
- 11:34 – Begin the meeting on time
- 14:11 – Start with good news
- 16:47 – Reporting mode
- 25:06 – Identify, Discuss, Solve (IDS)
- 28:04 – Meeting conclusion
What is a Level 10 Meeting™?
Before we get into definitions, we want to clarify that we will be explaining how we have implemented this in our own firm, but you can access Gino Wickman’s explanation of the Level 10 Meeting here. If you aren’t familiar with the term “Level 10 Meeting” or you haven’t heard us talk about Traction and EOS in the past, we encourage you to go back and listen to episode #68. In fact, you may want to go listen now, because today we are digging into Level 10 Meetings and we want you to be up to speed.
A Level 10 Meeting has its name because on a scale of one to 10, your meeting should be rated 10/10 when it’s concluded. After each meeting, all attendees need to rate it on a scale of one to 10 based on the productivity of the meeting. The purpose of this is to give you the most efficient use of your time. Stopping to evaluate the meeting gives you time to consider if you got anything out of the discussion, need more clarity on something, understand the direction you are heading, etc. It also gives those involved to see who is being held accountable. Essentially, you should aim to have a Level 10 meeting every time.
When implementing the Level 10 meeting concept, it is important to maintain realistic expectations. It may take some time to get into the groove of the meeting; it did for us! When we started, our meetings were not 10/10. They were more like 6 or 7/10. Some may have even considered those meetings a little rocky. But, that’s ok. We made it work for us and made adjustments where we needed them.
The meeting pulse
The meeting pulse, which could also be called a meeting cadence, is essentially how often you are meeting and your routine surrounding the meeting. If you haven’t implemented the Level 10 Meeting structure, you may be meeting with your leadership team once per week, once per month, or maybe your meetings are all over the place. When following the suggestions from Traction, the recommended meeting cadence is once a week. This meeting should be held the same day each week, at the same time, and should be run on the same agenda. This meeting also should start on time and end on time. Period.
Before scheduling your Level 10 Meeting, determine how much time you will need. A fair and recommended time for this meeting is 90 minutes. With 90 minutes you preserve everyone’s time by only discussing topics that need all of these stakeholders involved. If 90 minutes doesn’t work for your business, adjust the time to fit your agenda.
Begin the meeting on time
The most important part of your Level 10 meeting is starting on time. Starting on time shows everyone involved that you value their time. This is an area we could improve upon. We are fairly flexible with our start time with internal meetings because one of our core values is about life in balance. Our entire team works virtually in different time zones with different situations. We currently have team members home-schooling their children, husbands working from home, and a recent snowstorm hit part of our team, leaving them without power. We stress less about being completely on time, although we’re improving so we can be better at respecting everyone’s time.
Regardless of your starting time, clearly communicate your expectations to your team. If you are starting your meeting at 10:00 sharp, make sure everyone knows this in advance. If someone is late to your meeting, you need to get started, and you are meeting virtually (using Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.), like we do, hit the record button and allow everyone to have access to the recording once the meeting concludes.
Start with good news
Beginning your meeting by allowing each person to share some good news is a great way for everyone to transition into work mode from whatever they may be doing personally before the meeting begins. At PJS & Co. CPAs, each of us talks about one good thing personally and professionally. We like to share things that have gone well with clients or our team over the past week and things that have gone well in our personal lives. We enjoy the camaraderie within the team, learning more about each other, and having the ability to acknowledge that there is life outside of business. The good news portion of the meeting isn’t a storytelling time. In order to keep the meeting effective and efficient, ideally, it should be kept to around five minutes. Like other sections in the meeting, the good news section is very quick and to the point. Share a few things and then move on. Quick updates are beneficial and then later you can figure out the appropriate time to dive into those topics.
The next part of the meeting is the reporting mode. This element of the meeting lasts about 15 minutes and contains three different sections. The intention of this entire portion of the meeting is to report high-level. If any further discussion is needed, you will make note of it and drop it down to discuss later on, which we will cover later.
The scorecard is a list of important items you establish that you want to track and the time period in which to track them. These are KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that will move the needle forward in your business and make sense to keep a finger on as you conduct business. The scorecard should show approximately three months at a time so you may also see trends from week to week. We have between 15 or 20 items on our scorecard. These are things like cash flow, accounts receivable, number of leads coming in, number of people in the pipeline to be hired, etc. We talk through these things for about five minutes and if anything stands out that we need to discuss further, we take note and save that to what’s called the IDS, which we discuss later. The IDS portion of the meeting is when we can identify, discuss, and solve issues. The brief scorecard discussion makes everyone in the meeting aware of any issues. All of the information presented may not always be relevant to everyone, but it’s helpful for everyone to know what’s going on.
The next topic of conversation is the Rocks. If you aren’t familiar with Traction, this term may sound foreign, but quarterly Rocks are a foundation of your goals. Within the EOS® (Entrepreneurial Operating System), you’re creating goals for each quarter, the next year, and the next three years. Those goals are where you focus your time and energy on each quarter. Tasks to reach those overall business goals are assigned to each member of the team individually as well as on a department level. These tasks are considered your Rocks. After your brief scorecard discussion, there should be a brief Rocks review that takes about five minutes for the whole team. We try to limit the Rocks to between three and seven goals per person.
Next, each person gets about one minute to give a quick customer and employee headline, if they have any. This is where we are brought up to speed about any employees that need to be discussed or a new client that is likely going to take more time, for example. Like the scorecard and rocks, the headlines part of the discussion takes about five minutes and is focused on reporting the information, high-level.
Next, is a brief discussion on the to-do list. If it is your first meeting, you will need to create and add items to the to-do list. More typically, the to-do list has been accumulated in prior meetings and contains items that need to be addressed within the next week. Without this component, things tend to be discussed, but many times items fall off the radar and are pushed to the back burner or forgotten completely. In a Level 10 Meeting, those items go on the to-do list with the goal that 80-90 percent of the to-do list items will be handled each week and then drop off the list. Taking five minutes to discuss the to-do list lets everyone know what was completed and what may need more time, and why. Sometimes tasks even need to be reassigned or adjusted to get handled appropriately. This helps keep things moving and holds your team accountable.
Identify, Discuss, Solve (IDS)
IDS in the context of this meeting style stands for Identify, Discuss, Solve. The IDS part of the Level 10 Meeting is where the majority of your time should be spent, and typically lasts about one hour. As you are going through the first part of the meeting (good news, reporting, and to-do list items), you will make a note on the IDS list if further discussion is needed on any topic. This keeps the focus on reporting and to-do and helps avoid derailing your meeting.
When it’s time to address the items you documented on the IDS list, everything you put on the list will need to be prioritized before just diving into discussion. Then, you’ll spend the next 60 minutes or so discussing and solving those prioritized topics. You may be able to get through each item on the list, but if a couple of the items take the majority of your time, at least you know you’ve started with the most important topics.
The goal is to get through the entire IDS list and stop after 60 minutes. If there are items that weren’t resolved in that 60 minutes, they remain on the IDS list for next week. If there is one overarching issue that needs to be discussed for the entire 60 minutes, so be it. That’s what the time is for. We are typically able to talk through several items on our list, but if there is a team member who isn’t performing as expected and we need to talk through that and it takes the full meeting, we do what is necessary. The goal during the IDS discussion is to solve problems. If you can solve all of the problems on the list, great. If you can only solve one, focus on the fact that you’ve solved something. The IDS conversation is also a time when additional items can be added to your to-do list.
At this point, hopefully, you’ve gotten through your entire issues list and several have been resolved or you’ve added items to the to-do list to move closer to resolution. During the meeting, if there were to-do items that came up, those should be documented and assigned to someone. Next week, everyone can receive an update on this particular item from the person in charge of the topic.
Then, you’ll discuss any cascading items to decide if they need to be a high priority next week, if they should be removed from the list, or if they should be reassigned to someone else. Then, decide if there is anything that was covered in the meeting that needs to be communicated with others outside of those in attendance at the Level 10 Meeting, referred to as “cascading messages.” If there are changes taking place, someone needs to be assigned to communicating that to those impacted and someone needs to be assigned to tracking the change.
At the end of the first several Level 10 Meetings, you should rate the meeting on a scale of one to ten. Give your perspective on the success of the meeting. How was the flow of the meeting? Did you accomplish more or less than you expected? Did anyone go off on tangents? If so, was that handled in a respectful manner where the topic of conversation was moved on the IDS? Rating the meeting allows everyone to learn and improve.
Lastly, respect everyone’s time and end the meeting at the scheduled time. No matter how many people are in attendance at your Level 10 Meeting, the goal is to be productive, based on the agenda, in the amount of time you’ve established.
We know first-hand the benefits of having regular Level 10 Meetings with your leadership team and we want you to experience those benefits too! Having structure in your meetings, using a standard agenda every week and tracking progress really does help make strides toward achieving your goals. Meeting with your team on a regular basis is necessary to move your business forward. These meetings allow you to create a sense of inclusion with your leadership team. Plus, you get the opportunity to know what’s going on across your business, you have insight into what people are working on and what they are thinking. Not to mention, regular meetings like this hold you and your people accountable. If your meetings aren’t as productive as you think they could be, you are simply looking to add structure to your meetings, or you just want to move your business forward, consider implementing some of the Level 10 Meeting strategies in your business. It could be a game-changer.
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We have referenced Traction®, by Gino Wickman, quite a bit in the past so today we are focusing on this tool and how it can help your business run more smoothly, improve efficiency, and gain traction to achieve your vision! Traction is part of the EOS®, or Entrepreneurial Operating System. To ensure we’ve got all the facts straight, we’ve invited CJ DuBe’, a Certified EOS Implementer, and the Global Community Leader at EOS Worldwide®, on the show to talk to us about leveraging Traction. We cover quite a bit of information in this episode, so please reference the free tools provided or Traction itself for more!
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:31 – Introduction to CJ DuBe’
- 02:40 – The value of EOS®
- 05:25 – EOS and strengthening The Six Key Components of Your Business™
- 07:56 – Vision component
- 11:53 – People component
- 12:27 – Data component
- 17:27 – Issues component
- 19:37 – Process component
- 21:34 – Traction component
Introduction to CJ DuBe’
CJ DuBe’ has always been an entrepreneur. With more than 25 years of experience, she knows a lot about business and people. As a Certified EOS Implementer, and the Global Community Leader at EOS Worldwide®, she has helped over 110 entrepreneurial companies and their leadership teams gain traction and achieve their vision, by implementing EOS in their businesses. EOS offers practical tools and simple concepts for leaders to master in order to help their business function well and grow to its fullest potential.
The value of EOS®
Traction focuses on EOS, or the Entrepreneurial Operating System. According to EOS Worldwide, EOS is “a complete set of simple concepts and practical tools that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get what they want from their businesses.” By implementing EOS, businesses and leadership teams see improvement in three things: vision, traction, and health. These three things align with our culture at PJS & Co. CPAs, which is a large factor in why we decided to begin using the tools from Traction in our own organization and have been happy to share them with others.
EOS focuses on vision from the perspective of getting everyone 100 percent on the same page, moving in the same direction. This means defining not only where you’re going, but how you’re going to get there. Then, it focuses on traction, which is really the execution within your organization. Last, but not least, is the focus on being a healthy, cohesive leadership team who works together for the greater good of the business. This is usually the hardest part. There can be a bit of resistance to getting every member of the leadership team on the same page because it is normal for everyone to have a little variation of what the vision means. Once everyone is on the same page, they can then take the vision to all of the employees in their business.
Early on, when we were learning and implementing EOS at PJS & Co., we identified one of the benefits of doing this was the fact that we were able to gain clarity surrounding our goals and what we are trying to achieve. We all knew in a general sense, but EOS led us to have them on paper in a concise way. When everyone knows where you want to go as a company, you can all push in the same direction and make much more progress together.
EOS and strengthening The Six Key Components of Your Business™
The EOS model is made up of six key components. Each key component contains two tools, which we cover in greater detail below. At a high-level glance the six key components are:
Vision – Get everyone a hundred percent on the same page and heading the same direction.
People – Get great people in your organization.
Data – Remove the subjective to analyze hard data.
Issues – Get things out of your head and move toward a solution.
Processes – Get everyone doing things the same way.
Traction – Execute, get results, and make things happen.
According to CJ, “the first tool with the visual component is what we call ‘the eight questions.’” The official name of the tool is the Vision Traction Organizer (VTO).
The first five questions relate to vision within the VTO.
What are your core values?
This is a list of 5-7 characteristics that describe your business. Everyone should be on the same page and understand what those values mean.
What is your core focus?
Core focus is really defining your business sweet spot, what you do better than anyone else, aligning with your passion, and figuring out your niche.
What is your 10-year target?
This is your big, long-range goal. It’s anywhere from five to 30 years. Identify that goal and decide what’s the one big thing you want.
What is your marketing strategy?
This is a simplified approach to marketing. You’re answering several questions within this section. What is your target market? What are three uniques/differentiators that set you apart from your competition? Do you have a proven process for doing business?
Do you have a guarantee? Some businesses have a guarantee and some businesses don’t. For example, FedEx guarantees your package by 10 AM the next day. Establish whether or not this is required for your business.
What is your three-year picture?
Get things out of your head and onto paper. This is a short amount of time. Where are you going? How are you going to get there?
The final three questions focus on the traction piece and hone in on your one-year plan.
What is your one-year plan?
What do you want your revenue to be in 12 months? What do you want your profit to be? Then what are you measuring? What are the one to two key measurables you’re going to have? What are the three to seven most important goals for the year? Identifying what those goals are as a leadership team, being on the same page, ensuring that you’re writing them in specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely ways. Another way of saying this is by asking, as clearly as possible, what does ‘done’ look like?
What are your quarterly Rocks?
The term Rocks comes from Steve Covey’s book, First Things First, which is really talking about living your business 90 days at a time. First, thinking through your goals for the year and then living your business in a 90 day world. Again, narrowing it down to the three to seven things you want to get done in a quarter. What are the three to seven most important things you want to get done?
What are your issues?
List your issues on paper so you know what you’re going to tackle and how you’re going to solve it to move it forward.
CJ then shared, “The second tool in the vision component is what we call ‘shared by all,’ where everyone is going in the same direction and everyone knows all the answers to all the questions.” The vision components are a tremendous part of what makes up EOS.
CJ stated, “One survey from all of our clients asked what the most important component was and 82 percent answered the people component.” CJ went on to explain, “That’s partly because frustration comes from all people – employees, leadership team members, owners, vendors, clients. With your company, you should want to be able to get the right people in the right seat. There’s a couple of exercises that we do to get the right people and that ties directly back to core values.”
A tool known as the accountability chart helps you identify the right accountability and the right seats for your business. The structure should come first and people come second. Your accountability chart is like an org chart on steroids and is crucial to finalize before you begin filling the seats. This can avoid creating seats for someone who may not be a fit for your organization either based on skills or timing.
The ability to assign and delegate to people is also important for growth. In Traction, Gino shares a story from the book, The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, by Ken Blanchard. This monkey story resonates with many business owners because it illustrates problems as monkeys that your employees may bring to you. With each problem (or monkey) that you take back, soon you have a room full of monkeys that were never yours but got passed off on you. CJ shared with us that when she teaches leadership, management and accountability, the equation is leadership plus management equals accountability. For leaders, the main takeaway from this story is, when employees come in with a problem, make sure they leave with the problem still being their responsibility. Don’t allow the employee to pass the problem to you. One good technique to do this is to ask your employee what the issue is and how they think they should solve it. Get ideas from them and talk with them to determine what the solution could look like, and then guide them back out your door… with their monkey.
Next is the data component. The tool that allows you to focus on, and consistently track, data is called a scorecard. A scorecard is a culmination of your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and allows you to see 13 weeks at a glance. We come back to that 90 day world focusing on what you are measuring, who owns that measurable, deciding the goal for that measurable, and measuring it every week. Then, look at it 13 weeks at a glance so you can see the trends that are happening in your business.
This data component is very helpful because you can’t argue with the numbers. Intentionally reviewing this data every week and analyzing trends will allow you to see weaknesses and opportunities more easily. This helps with accountability as well because every role will have an assigned number that they own and should be able to provide more insight about that information.
After you have your vision component, people component, and have compiled your data component, that’s when issues may start to bubble to the surface and you can start solving problems. The first tool is the issue solving track. It is laser-focused on building the list of problems that need to be addressed. First, all of the issues need to come out of your head and go onto a list. Then, it’s time for the second tool. This is where you identify, discuss, and solve (IDS) the issues.
Identify – Don’t focus on the issue by looking at the surface; get to the root cause of the issue.
Discuss – Ask clarifying questions, make sure you’re on the same page, discuss options for how to solve the problem.
Solve – Determine what the solution is for that issue. The solution could be something you say or do today, which solves the issue permanently or could be more long-term.
If you are at this point in the IDS process and get stuck, you may want to go back and listen to episode #64 where we covered how to overcome fear of making business mistakes and/or episode #32 where we shared how to take action in your business during difficult times.
The process component is the fifth key component and is where you identify your core processes and get everyone on the same page. If everyone is doing things their own way, your business will lack consistency and struggle in many areas. The first part of this component is to identify your core processes, document and simplify them. The second part of the tool is to ensure those processes are followed by everyone. This component can give much more structure to your business and help give direction.
The tools within the traction component are “Rocks” and the meeting pulse. “Rocks” are your 5-7 quarterly goals. The meeting pulse is where the “Level 10 Meeting” is introduced. CJ shared, “I always tell every team I meet with, if you only pick one tool, pick the level 10 meeting because the level 10 meeting is about keeping your circles connected and keeping everybody on the same page together.”
The Level 10 meeting is where you’ve got five rules to a meeting. Those rules are, the meeting takes place on the same day, at the same time, the meeting will start on time, the meeting will end on time, and the meeting will have the same agenda. For a leadership team, this meeting is usually every week for 90 minutes where everyone is laser-focused.
An overview of the agenda for a weekly Level 10 Meeting looks like this:
- Segue – Everyone gets grounded and asks questions like, “What’s your personal best? What’s your professional best together?”
- Rock review
- Customer/employee headlines
- To-do list
We cover the Level 10 Meeting in further detail and how we conduct our meetings in Episode #70 of the Cultivating Business Growth Podcast.
Today’s episode was jam-packed with a vast amount of information to help you grow your business. So much information was presented that you may need to listen to this again! The intentional integration of these tools can help your business move forward toward goals with fewer distractions. Your larger vision is important to refer to often, but when you’re in the day-to-day, focus on the 90 day world, 90 days at a time, and remember not to overwhelm yourselves. We are all human and can do great work together when you have the right tools and leadership team. As Gino Wickman would say, “Vision without traction is hallucination.”
We thank CJ DuBe’ for sharing her expertise with us on today’s episode, as well as many free resources available to our listeners! She is also available for more support (reach out via email) or if you’re interested in integrating these tools into your organization. Here are the tools mentioned for additional support:
Links mentioned in this episode:
- Traction® by Gino Wickman
- EOS Worldwide®
- First Things First by Steven Covey
- The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey, by Ken Blanchard
- EOS Toolbox™
- Traction Library
- Episode #01: Strategic Planning – Vision & Long Term Business Goals
- Episode #32: How To Take Action In Your Business During Difficult Times
- Episode #64: How To Overcome Fear Of Making Business Mistakes
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We are quickly moving through the first quarter of 2021 and this means it is time for quarterly meetings! We are constantly learning and growing as we go through business cycles. As we learn and grow, it’s important that all business owners meet regularly with their virtual CFO, CPA, or other advisor to ensure the business is performing well. In today’s podcast episode, we are talking about what quarterly business checkup meetings should look like in case you have never been a part of one and would like to start!
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:51 – Where to start with a quarterly business checkup
- 04:10 – Review financials and performance
- 12:26 – Tackle key issues
- 16:02 – Begin the proactive stage
- 16:57 – Actionable steps
- 18:35 – CPA, advisors, and virtual CFO involvement
- 21:05 – Stick with it
Where to start with a quarterly business checkup
We begin the quarterly business checkup by reviewing the strategic plan that was established during your year-end planning session. We covered year-end planning and strategy in episode #60, so if you missed it or need a refresher, give that episode a listen. As you may recall, in that episode, we talked about planning for the year and the actions you need to take in order to have the right trajectory. We shared the importance of establishing goals, budgets, cash flow projections, and quarterly “Rocks” (mini-milestones) to help move you toward your annual goals. If you haven’t done that yet, don’t stress. You can still have your quarterly meeting. However, if you have planned for the year go ahead and reference your annual strategic plan so you can evaluate where you planned to be versus where you landed in reality.
It is also helpful to make an agenda for your quarterly checkup. Don’t go into a quarterly meeting without any direction or sense of what you’d like to accomplish. Having an agenda will help you and your team stay focused on the task at hand within the given time frame. Throughout the quarterly meeting, you will review many things and notate issues as they arise. You will then prioritize and tackle your issues once you have your full list, so avoid the urge to fully discuss and solve each issue as they arise since that can quickly eat up a full meeting.
Review Financials and Performance
Review your financials and determine if you are on target and in alignment with your goals for the year. Review your budget versus actuals to see if anything is out of the ordinary. Take time to look at any line items that don’t look right to determine if you may have budgeted incorrectly. This is an opportunity to identify if you are controlling your costs appropriately or if you may have missed something when you originally budgeted for the year. You will also want to look at your key performance indicators (KPIs) and whether you’re meeting those goals you’ve set. If you need more information, take a look at episode #08 of our strategic planning podcast series focused on KPIs.
Analyze your progress compared to your strategic plan and have an open discussion among your leadership team and advisors regarding each line item in the agenda. As you go through each agenda item, you want to be looking for ways to move forward toward your goals and note any issues or problems that may stand in your way. We know this can be a bit of a process because you first want to identify all of the issues and then later come back to discuss them more in-depth.
When it comes to reviewing the financials and the purpose of your agenda, this is where you want to stay focused. Once you identify a problem during the review, add it to an “issues list.” You may naturally want to start down the road of solving it but for now, avoid that. Stay focused on the agenda and know you will come back to your “issues list” later. For this meeting to be effective, keep everyone’s attention on the task at hand, which is to review the financials. Once you have the complete list of issues, you can then prioritize that list to ensure you cover what’s most important. You may even discover some of the problems are best suited to be discussed next quarter. Next, review the plan for the year and see if you need to revise that plan.
- Be honest in everything you review. Bring the facts to the table, whether they are positive or negative. There will be things that worked well and others that didn’t. Regardless, they all need to be brought forth.
- Clearly identify what didn’t work so you can make improvements.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Identify three things that went well in the quarter and acknowledge how far you’ve come.
- Review your “Rocks”, or what you said you wanted to accomplish in the quarter. Did you accomplish everything? If not, why? Were there roadblocks that got in the way? In one of our favorite resources, Traction by Gino Wickman, the author says to revisit your metrics to see if you are accomplishing, on average, approximately 80 percent of your “Rocks.” If you are reaching 100 percent, you likely need bigger “Rocks.” If you aren’t reaching the 80 percent, your goals are a bit unrealistic.
- Reviewing your “Rocks” gives you the opportunity to also see if you need to adjust any delegation of work or if you need to hire another team member.
Tackle Key Issues
This is where you will discuss all of the company issues you’ve compiled. These could have been identified during the review earlier in the agenda or may contain some items you thought of as you prepared for the quarterly meeting. Put this list in order of priority and go into discussion about each of these things. In this discussion, you really want to get to the root of the issue. Many times, the initial issue is surface-level but not what is actually causing the problem. Make sure you have enough discussion to get to the root of what is going on so you can deal with it, not just a symptom of the problem. Do a little peeling of the opinion to get to what is beneath the surface. Then, devise what steps you can take to resolve the problem and establish a plan. What comes out of this key issues list and conversation is commonly a list of new “Rocks,” or quarterly goals. These new “Rocks” are the steps necessary to resolve the issue. Once you have a prioritized list of issues and the list of new “Rocks,” you need to assign those out. When doing this, take into account each person’s capacity to take on more work. Do what you can to avoid putting too much on any one person.
Begin the Proactive Phase
Once you’ve looked at what’s occurred versus what you expected, identified your results, discussed the issues, and delegated someone to work towards a resolution, now it’s time to go into the proactive phase. You’ve got a plan in place to resolve the “Rocks” identified from this quarter. In looking ahead, identify your next quarter budget and the goals you’d like to accomplish. Ask yourself and your team, what is it we are trying to accomplish as a company and as individuals? The answer to those questions will allow you to see what you’d like from your employees under each of the leadership team members.
The steps you take at this point are going to be dependent on the structure of your business, the number of employees, the number of departments you have, and how you have your teams set up. . Maybe you have certain teams handling certain things. We’d like to assume by now that each leadership person is responsible for a “Rock” (or more than one). They need to take that “Rock” and break it down into a task list, delegating responsibilities as much as possible. Each leader will be the main control function for that “Rock.” They will oversee the project. This means they are the one primarily responsible. You need to have that responsibility and accountability in place, even though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the ones performing all the tasks in order to accomplish that “Rock.” The leaders can decide to take their problem back to their team or even their department. Again, it depends on how your business is structured. But, they will hopefully have a quarterly meeting with their department to share what they are looking to accomplish and then further break those tasks and assign them to individuals in their department. The leaders will need to monitor the tasks during the quarter to ensure progress is being made towards the goal. It is likely the tasks are broken down with timeline goals where some things will need to be accomplished each week or each month, depending on the size of the issue and how often it needs to be revisited.
Virtual CFO, CPA, and Advisor Involvement
Again, we want to emphasize the importance of involving your virtual CFO, CPA, or advisor in each of your quarterly meetings. The quarterly meeting is a strategic meeting, similar to the annual meeting. It is integral to any business to involve these educated and experienced partners in decision-making conversations. They’re going to lend their experience and invaluable expertise to the discussion and this kind of involvement keeps that person integrated in the business. You want them in the loop with what’s going on because they need to be able to properly advise you as the owner and your leadership team based on that knowledge. If they’re kept in the dark, not involved in these meetings, they won’t be able to provide the level of advice they could have if they were involved.
Stick With It
We encourage you to keep the accountability going throughout the quarter, not just at the end of the quarter. Be diligent about having your weekly meetings with leadership, Be accountable to others. Weekly, quarterly, and annual meetings may be annoying, but having them really pushes you to the next level in your business and will pay back dividends. Get these meetings on the calendar and make attendance a priority.
It’s easy to get caught in the day-to-day details as an owner, but it’s imperative to the success of your business that you meet with your advisors on a regular basis to check in and ensure you’re still moving in the right direction. Your advisors need to be aware of what is going on in your business and involved in decision-making conversations. If you are meeting on a regular basis, you will want to start by discussing the goals you’ve already established. Then, you can review all of your financials and performance data to see how you are measuring up. Sometimes adjustments need to be made to ensure you move closer to reaching your goals as you continue through the year. As you do this review, you may start to notice issues that need to be addressed in order for you to be able to reach your goals. When this happens, take time to hash out a plan and delegate the right people to solve the problem. Then, when it comes time for your next quarterly meeting, you can follow a similar process and continue to make changes. When it’s time for your next annual strategic planning meeting, your advisor will be completely in the loop with everything that’s happened in your business.
OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY THIS POST:
Tax time can be painful, especially if you don’t plan ahead. As a business owner, you will face many stresses if the tax deadline is the only time of year you consider taxes or their implications. You may be waiting with bated breath to find out about an unknown tax liability or worry about the accuracy of your books and how that could impact your tax situation. There are benefits of tax planning that can help the mad scramble many owners face during the annual tax deadline.
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:26 – Uncertainty of taxes
- 02:48 – The importance of tax planning
- 06:18 – Tax horror story – A case for tax planning
- 10:22 – Minimize the pain
- 19:00 – Benefits of proactive tax planning
Uncertainty of taxes
In looking at taxes in general, the biggest pain point boils down to uncertainty – the notion of not knowing what to expect, what’s going to happen, and wondering whether or not you will owe money. These unknowns can quickly lead to stress and anxiety. We may not speak for everyone, but most people would say they don’t enjoy writing a check to the IRS. However, if your business is making money, you’re going to have to pay taxes. We like to point out the alternative though, which would be a loss. If you are paying taxes, that means you are running a profitable business! There are things you can do to minimize the uncertainty though, so stick around to learn about the benefits of tax planning and other tips.
The importance of tax planning
We want to give you tools and ideas to minimize the stress and anxiety that often accompanies tax season. Tax planning and taking a proactive approach to your taxes is going to have the largest positive impact on you and your business. There are things that can be done in advance to mitigate potential taxes as you make decisions for your business. Most of these actions must be taken throughout the year though and cannot be retroactive. You can’t wait until a couple of months before taxes are due and then decide to get tax planning advice. While some changes may be made after the year comes to an end, most must be done proactively during the year. Neglecting to plan ahead could lead to missed tax-saving opportunities. Planning ahead also gives you time to ensure that you are recording things appropriately.
Relationship with your tax preparer
Tax preparation isn’t just the act of submitting the tax form. Having your taxes done correctly and planning appropriately is extremely important. There is much more to tax, which is one reason you want a good preparer who is accurate, detail oriented, knowledgeable in tax law, and has good experience. Many times this is a CPA, advisor, or virtual CFO. Having them as part of your team is great, but you also need to have a good relationship which means you need to speak with them regularly, rather than once a year during tax time. Speaking with your tax preparer regularly gives everyone constant awareness of what is happening in the business. You can avoid the build up of stress that comes with uncertainty. If your tax preparer isn’t proactively approaching you throughout the year, then you need to proactively approach them. We recommend scheduling routine meetings throughout the year for many reasons. Routine meetings are beneficial because you want to have a plan in place as the year progresses. If you need to write a check during the year, you will be able to put money aside so it doesn’t come as a shock. These regular meetings allow you to avoid extreme sticker shock at the end of the year when you see the official amount you owe for taxes.
Tax horror story – A case for tax planning
Imagine making a mistake worth $300k in your business… Katina Peters, one of our partners at PJS & Co. CPAs, shares a story to help all of us learn about some of the costly mistakes she has seen in the past when tax planning has not been a part of a business owners’ toolset. Disclaimer, we were not the actual tax preparers for this client. The client came to us after the fact with this situation and we were able to walk them through the process to fix the issue.
Background on the story
This client performed construction-related contracts and had what they refer to as work in process (WIP). Work in process, or WIP, is the work that is performed on a job but has not yet been billed, so no money has been collected. With this, there is a nuance in the law that requires filing under what is called percentage of completion. Basically when this happens, the work in process is claimed as income even though no money has been collected yet. So, this client was in a rough spot because they owed taxes on something they hadn’t been paid for yet. In this situation, this was a multimillion dollar contract and the work in process portion totalled approximately one million dollars. Our client hadn’t billed for this and they didn’t have the money for it, which was a huge tax liability that was accrued because they didn’t make the proper elections up front. In an ideal world, they would have elected previously to get cash in hand in order to be able to pay the taxes. Their election to be cash basis would have kept them from getting taxed until the cash from the job was in their bank account. They could have then taken some of that money and paid the tax. Instead, they had a $300,000 tax bill they couldn’t pay.
The solution and IRS audit
Ultimately, we were able to make the correct election and get rid of that large tax bill for this client, but that then triggered an audit. Katina explains that the audit occured “because now we’re reducing a large amount of income. The IRS wants to understand what’s going on.” We then got the client through the audit and there were many lessons learned. Unfortunately, they ended up spending money to straighten everything out, that they wouldn’t have spent if they planned ahead with a knowledgeable tax preparer. It was a very long, drawn out, stressful, and costly process that they had to go through.
This is why we are such big advocates of tax planning with a knowledgeable preparer. We have had to step in and clean up messes left behind by others and it takes time, money and mental space for the owners who have to deal with these costly mistakes. We would much rather help our clients handle things in a proactive manner so these mistakes can be avoided. Our best advice is to look for a CPA or CFO who will have consistent and regular meetings and discuss how you will be handling taxes and any necessary bills before they become a problem.
Minimize the pain
If you think you are hearing a broken record, you aren’t wrong. We say some things over and over, but we repeat them because they are important. Our hope is, the more you hear something, the more it will sink in. We are here to help you avoid stress and costly mistakes!
Maintain accurate books
It’s always necessary to have accurate accounting. Accurate books are especially needed when it comes to planning for taxes because those numbers will be used to make projections. If you don’t start with accurate numbers, your projections will be off, and your expectations will be off. Then, from that incorrect expectation you won’t have a correct tax scenario on which to base other decisions. Essentially, with inaccurate books it is a ripple effect that can cause damage to your finances.
It’s also very important to have timely books. If you have accurate books, but they are six months late, that’s a problem. Accurate, timely information is needed in order to accurately make projections, whether it’s for tax purposes, cashflow, etc. It’s nice to know what your cash flow is going to look like when it’s time to pay estimated taxes. With timely books you can make projections for each quarterly payment, as well as when it may be time to pony up the tax bill at the end of the year. The goal is to make sure you know the direction you are heading in advance so you can make adjustments as needed.
Having a system in place on a regular basis that promotes accurate and timely books is also helpful when you meet quarterly with your tax advisor. That’s right, we suggest meeting at least once per quarter with your tax advisor, virtual CFO, and other advisors on your team. It can be helpful to calendar out these meetings in advance to ensure they remain a priority. Devote the time to sit down and do some forward-thinking and planning to do things like put enough money away for taxes. Sometimes spending wisely to help your tax situation is needed. Other times it’s necessary to save up. Regardless, meet with your team and plan ahead to avoid unexpected tax bills.
Proactive communication can also serve everyone well, which is why it is one of our big core values we have as a company. By proactively communicating with your advisors about the decisions you’re considering, they can ask questions and help you decide the best plan of action. It is crucial to proactively communicate with your advisor about things like structural changes, admitting a new partner or parting ways with an existing partner. Decisions like this can have significant tax ramifications and your advisor may be able to help you find a different avenue to take that would suit you better, like a different structure, to minimize tax impacts. Another topic to proactively communicate with your advisor about is prior to making large purchases like equipment.
Don’t let your taxes dictate your life
Your CPA can help determine how to handle each decision so it works best for your tax situation. We aren’t saying you should live your life or run your business by your tax situation though! There are decisions you can make to benefit your tax situation that are actually a detriment to your business financially. But we do encourage you to consider the timing of any large purchases and step back to take a look at the big picture. You may think you need to buy something in October and after further discussion with your advisor, you realize waiting until January is a better option. Having a discussion about it allows you to determine if you are in dire need of the purchase or if it can hold off a few months. Your advisor can also help you consider any ramifications that can come into place.
Making timely decisions
As just mentioned, considering the timing of your decisions and purchases is also important. If you are engaging in dialogue with your advisor and keeping them up to speed with what’s going on with your business and things you’d like to do, they will be able to lead you in the right financial direction. If you aren’t being intentional and open with them, they won’t have any awareness or be able to provide guidance. Your advisor’s experience can be extremely valuable because they can share insight on what to think about when making a big decision. Their knowledge and different perspectives can really come in handy.
Benefits of proactive tax planning
If you take our advice and implement these proactive tips with tax planning, you’ll likely experience decreased anxiety, stress, and fear. In fact, those feelings may be replaced by confidence! When you know the direction you are heading and the plan to get you there, the unknown may not be as crippling. We’ve seen business owners who have shied away from planning ahead in business and with taxes because they feel they don’t have time. Yet, in the back of their mind they are thinking about the unknown or they spend sleepless nights thinking about the unknown. So what’s really happening is, instead of taking time and using some of that mental energy to make a plan, that mental energy is being used up in a way that isn’t beneficial to anyone; stress. Planning ahead lets you clear your mind to be present in your business and with your family.
Ancillary benefits of proactive planning also includes having accurate books, accurate tax returns, and staying on top of things. Plus, if you happen to get selected for an audit, you have good, clean records and you won’t have to worry.
Tax time is unavoidable and the time is here! We know it’s not always the most fun time of year, but after hearing today’s episode, hopefully some of the uncertainty can decrease. Communication with your advisor is key! Keep in contact with your advisor on a regular basis, talk to them about upcoming decisions, and let them work with you to get plans in place. Even if you haven’t planned well for this tax season, start implementing these tips now for next year’s tax season. As always, we want what’s best for you and your business. Putting a plan in place will improve your overall feelings about your business, feelings about your cash situation and feelings about where you’re headed with your tax situation.
OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY THIS POST:
Part of being a business owner is embracing the fact that you will experience painful moments and, at times, mess up. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is going to be correct 100 percent of the time. What’s important is learning from those mistakes and applying what you’ve learned to avoid the same problems in the future and bounce back from failure. Stephen Colon, of Knucklehead Podcast, is joining us today to talk about resilience, great tips for overcoming failures and facing the difficult things in business head-on.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:55 – Introduction to Stephen Cohen
- 02:18 – The beginning of Knucklehead Podcast
- 06:51 – How to be resilient
- 15:01 – Figuring it out
- 23:21 – “Don’t be beta”
- 34:34 – Do the hard things
Introduction to Stephen Cohen
Stephen Colon may just be the most dangerous person in podcasting. He has more than 13 years of professional leadership and sales development experience and over 8 years of experience in small business ownership working with companies on change management, engagement, and strategic alignment to business objectives. He now owns and operates a podcast production agency, known as Knucklehead Media Group, as well as hosts their flagship show, Knucklehead Podcast. We are grateful to have Stephen, and all his expertise, join our podcast today.
The beginning of Knucklehead Podcast
When mistakes are made, don’t try to hide it. Own what happened and move forward. People are human. As the owner of your company, you may think you are supposed to have all of the answers and when you don’t, you get embarrassed. Stephen, who sometimes refers to himself as Chief Knucklehead, said this topic is precisely his motivation for starting the Knucklehead Podcast.
Stephen talked to us about the challenges he faced as a young developing sales rep. He wanted to know how to be relatable to his buyers, manage up the chain of command, and position others for success based on his actions. When seeking information to help him answer these questions, he was advised to follow particular programs, sets of rules, and methodologies. This advice didn’t sit well with him. He told us bluntly, which we appreciate very much, “Consultants really rubbed me the wrong way over the course of my sales career.” He wanted upfront and honest information from people who’d gone through similar experiences, but he wasn’t getting that, which was frustrating. That frustration eventually led to his podcast, where he is now able to talk about business realities that can actually help people. Stephen explained, “Our thoughts were, why wouldn’t we want to disseminate a bunch of information about what people have screwed up along the way because we need to be human and relatable to other people who are interested in us.”
How to be resilient
We’ve been talking lately about common mistakes we see as virtual CFOs, how to avoid mistakes, decision-making in business, and getting over the fear of making mistakes. The reality is that we will make mistakes. When that happens, you can’t dwell on that though. As a leader, you must pick yourself up and find resilience. On the Knucklehead Media Group homepage, you’ll find the phrase, “Stop letting mistakes prevent you from doing something great.” We asked Stephen to talk to us about that and share some of his personal entrepreneurial experiences that led him to the place of appreciating his mistakes.
Stephen gave us an example through the podcasting, new media, and content creation lens platforms that change all the time. “Digital marketing agencies are almost complaining about the changes that Facebook and Instagram and other social media platforms have on their paid media efficacy. They’re having a difficult time getting ahead of where you’re going to get the most value for your dollar. If you have paid media, where you’re trying to convert new or cold audience members or try to pinpoint your custom audience based off of all these different attributes, and somebody on the other side is constantly changing the algorithm, your service offering starts to lose some of its value.” Paying attention to these signs within your industry is so important so you can find opportunities when they arise.
What seems to be a challenge may not be
Stephen noted that upwards of 90 percent of the content that exists in the Apple Podcast directory has less than 10 episodes. It’s inflated from 150,000 to just under a million podcasts. The volume available to listeners may lead some to think, “Okay, well, if there’s that many shows, then obviously nobody’s going to pay attention to me.” In Stephen’s opinion, people shouldn’t think that way. That mindset isn’t accurate. He continued, “There is a misunderstanding where people think they need to convert this vast audience, as opposed to focusing on a smaller audience. With a smaller audience, you can speak directly to their realities and provide significant value. Hone in on the right people, the audience you really want your services to be targeted toward.”
Figuring it out
We asked Stephen, why are mistakes so important to embrace? He responded, “If you’re running a business and things are going well, that’s great. But, it’s only a matter of time before something goes awry. There’s this tendency to be reactive to what people project, as opposed to what’s truly taking place. This is another reason we proceeded with a podcast production centered on what you’ve screwed up. That in itself is relatable, regardless of the business or industry.”
Trial and error – finding your audience
In speaking for what Knucklehead Media did, Stephen shared, “we entered into an agreement at the beginning of 2020 with a new client in a new market that we hadn’t worked with before. What they needed was a digital asset, a podcast.” He went on to explain that they could leverage pieces of that show to go distribute across other social media channels. This garners attention and potentially converts a new audience at a different rate than what you would by using a cold email or similar. They discovered that they needed to be onsite. Stephen elaborated, “We actually needed to be physically there capturing information from behind the scenes. Things like COVID impacted our business to where we weren’t able to be onsite so we had to pivot to come up with the next best thing. Over the course of the discovery of what the next best thing was, we found out that our core service offering wasn’t even something that existed at the beginning of 2020.” Their core service was a podcast and they were able to see the need for post-production services, editing, fine-tuning, text overlays, and creative consistency.
Maximizing your time
A common sentiment among small to mid-sized business owners is that there’s so much information and data everywhere that they don’t know where to go. It takes some trial and error when it comes to data and content creation as well, in the podcast production industry. We asked Stephen to give us some tips on how they have focused their time and attention on what really works for their clients.
“We had a client that had no presence on a professional social media network. So, we created a show that helped our client. The podcast episode featured experts that came in to talk to him so he could develop a relationship with their product or service offering. The content recorded during the interview did a few things that benefitted his business. “ Stephen then highlighted four areas that improved greatly because of focused efforts on content, more specifically a digital asset in the form of a podcast.
- It helped them create a micro content library that could be distributed across social media to help build up a professional network
- It helped establish real relationships with the people who are coming in and guesting on the show
- It created, and grew, an audience for him
- It created this network of trusted advisors that were vetted
By focusing efforts in one area, they were able to utilize one asset in multiple ways for a multi-dimensional approach. Stephen went on to explain, “That’s what I meant by having a network and then an actual convertible component to his new product. He leveraged his digital asset to go out and create an alternate revenue stream for his business.”
“Don’t be beta”
Stephen and his colleagues at Knucklehead have a saying, “Don’t be beta.” We asked him to talk to us about that phrase.
Most people don’t hear the saying “Don’t be a beta,” in a corporate setting. At Knucklehead, it is common because that phrase causes you to pause and think. We asked him about how it started and he explained, “A Hollywood reporter came out with a magazine cover in 2018, and it was ‘The Accomplishment of the Beta Male.’ Essentially, the message was regarding the fact that in today’s climate, if you’re not willing to talk politics, business, or finances, in some cases you’re going to lose who you’re trying to talk to. This magazine cover was a parody. They were trying to be funny and get people’s attention.” Stephen saw something else other than parody in that article though. “When we saw it, we thought we had an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, if you’re a top performer, otherwise characterized as an alpha (male or female), you probably exercise characteristics of discipline, core habits, have established goals, and you’ve probably missed some goals along the way.’” They took that and spun it a bit to create this fun way of calling out the top performers. Rather than beating our chests with the alpha mentality, they approach it instead by saying “No, no. Just don’t be beta.”
They then started putting “Don’t be a beta” on tee shirts and their audience loved the mindset and the saying. Then, in true marketing and business development fashion, to leverage some of the tools that folks use on social media, they started putting hashtag #dontbebeta on everything. Now, if someone comes across that hashtag, they are then redirected to the Knucklehead website. What they’ve found is, no matter who you are, when you hear “Don’t be a beta”, people want to know the meaning which is to continue to strive for the best, don’t let your mistakes get you down. Be resilient. Don’t just stay down when you get kicked down. Get up, don’t be beta. We know you’re going to screw up; you’re going to get punched in the mouth. If you try to avoid mistakes and failure, you’re only going to get what you’ve avoided. Be willing to take the blows and take the setbacks. Start small to get some wins and once you’ve created momentum in whatever it is that you’re going for, your posture changes. You start to gain traction.
Do the hard things
One of the many great Knucklehead Podcasts was episode #15, which featured Tim Kennedy. During the interview, Tim related growth (professional and personal) to working out. We’ve talked about physical strength correlating with mental strength in previous episodes, but one of the things Tim shared was that muscles grow when they tear. You have to break them down to build them up. Many times, we have to push ourselves to do hard things because that’s when we see growth.
We asked Stephen what he does in order to do the hard things and what he suggests for others. He explained, many times he’s scared to take risks. “I’m a creature of habit. I like to do things that are comfortable and that are easy. So, whenever I’m doing something that’s comfortable there’s also this frequency that gets generated in my mind. Conversely, there’s also this mindset or this feeling that gets generated whenever I start to do things that are outside of my comfort zone. I call them ‘sweaty palm moments’ and it’s where I start to feel anxiety. Those sweaty palm moments are calling an existing client that there’s a problem with, to explore whether or not there’s an opportunity to grow. Cold calling is an example of something that nobody likes to do in sales, but everybody needs to do it in order to go grow your business.”
He went on to discuss how he pushes himself physically, “I referenced Brazilian jiu-jitsu a little bit earlier to go back to the physical side. Doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu, I’d just started rolling myself, which is awesome, but it’s terrifying to have somebody who’s twice your body weight on top of you trying to choke you out. It doesn’t really sound like it’s super attractive, but at the same time, it forces you to realize that nobody else is going to come and save you. You have to be able to learn and apply a different skill.”
By putting yourself in uncomfortable situations that force your body and brain out of their comfort zone, you push yourself to think critically and overcome the discomfort. Similarly to cold calling, you have to learn a different skill in order to go and grow in whatever your intended goal is. Typically, if you’re stretching yourself physically, what you’ve done is you’ve trained your mind to go and take risks. You figure out a way to professionally get yourself out of that sweaty palm moment, to have that continuous improvement, getting 1 percent better every day.
We were happy to welcome Stephen Colon, of the Knucklehead Media Group, to our show today. His podcast invites business owners to share their missteps in business with listeners to break down the walls and mystery around how business owners bounce back from failure to find success. It’s not all roses and rainbows. There is a struggle. It takes grit and resilience and that’s exactly what we talk about in today’s episode. Stephen shares some personal experiences and tips for those looking to push themselves in their business and take the risks necessary for growth.
OTHER WAYS TO ENJOY THIS POST:
Decision-making in business is inevitable if you are going to achieve goals and ultimately lead your team to see your larger vision, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. The sheer volume of decisions we face as business owners can be overwhelming. There is also fear associated with decision-making tied to the consequences of making the wrong decision. Today’s episode is focused on overcoming the difficulties of making decisions as a business owner and the fear that can accompany the process.
What we cover in this episode:
- 01:21 – Making tough decisions
- 08:52 – Why aren’t you making a decision?
- 12:19 – Not making a decision is making a decision
- 25:01 – Don’t avoid it
Making tough decisions
Some decisions can be very difficult to face, especially when they impact others. Making decisions for yourself is usually much simpler because you’re the only one who has to face the consequences. If you make a mistake, you are able to address any mistakes on your own and move on. Making decisions as a business owner isn’t always so easy. Many decisions have the potential to impact you and then have a trickle down effect, impacting your leadership team, your team of employees, administrative personnel, and potentially clients and others. As the number of people affected by your decision increases, so does the weight that decision carries. As the weight of your decision increases, the more likely you are to fear making a mistake. Many individuals don’t know how to make decisions, regardless of the level of impact, and some simply don’t want to make decisions. When making decisions, there are six tips that can help you weigh your options.
#1) Remove your emotions and feelings from factors that influence your decision.
It’s common for people to succumb to their emotions and forget about the business. Focusing on how something feels or whether or not someone’s feelings are going to get hurt will not help you make the best decision for your business.
#2) Focus on the facts.
Identify the facts by weeding out opinions and feelings. Ask and answer questions like, “What is the impact of this decision?” or “What is this decision going to do for my business?”
#3) Look at the big picture.
When answering questions to obtain the facts, think about how the decision will impact all areas of your business. For instance, if you have to make a decision to let a teammate go, there are numerous impacts. Upon first blush, removing someone from the payroll would be a cost saver. However, if another employee has to work more hours, or even over time, to compensate for losing a teammate are the cost savings as significant as you first thought?
#4) Consider the long-term impacts.
Before making a decision, stop and think about the impact it will have on you, your team, and your business’s long-term success. Your decision should be made for the greater good.
#5) Weigh the benefits and the impacts.
Identify if there are other options for accomplishing your goal. If there are, determine if the other options mean less negative impacts. If there aren’t other options, think about what all you will gain from the decision. Then, see if those benefits outweigh the impacts.
#6) Get perspective by having conversations with those who have been in your shoes.
Talk to different people who have been through similar situations. Getting different viewpoints gives you more information to consider. Knowing others’ experiences, struggles, issues they ran into, what worked out and what didn’t can not only trigger new questions for you to ask and gain additional information. These things can also help you plan in advance how to solve problems if you move forward with the same decision. Again, more information helps you see the big picture. Find a mentor who can help guide you through the tough decisions.
Why aren’t you making a decision?
If you are avoiding making a decision, there is a reason behind it. Are you avoiding it because it’s easier for you to keep things the same? Do you like the path of least resistance? Typically, people have a comfort level and once you are outside of that comfort level, decision-making becomes more difficult. In almost all situations, communication is key. Conversations need to take place. What are some of the most difficult decisions to make as a business owner?
Letting an employee go
Impacting people is not easy. Making the decision to fire an employee is difficult and uncomfortable, especially if they’ve been with you for a long time. If you’re swamped with other things, the path of least resistance is to let things continue on the way they’ve been going. It’s never the right time to fire someone, but at some point you are going to have to face the situation. Following the steps above can help you wrap your head around whether or not this can wait. How much are they holding your business back? Is there another position for this person that will be a better fit? Sometimes the answer is no and the realization is clear that it’s best for everyone if they find another opportunity elsewhere. The conversation is uncomfortable, but it has to take place. Be willing to have an honest conversation if a partnership isn’t working because you’ll be better off.
Another tough decision people don’t necessarily want to make involves raising fees. Increasing prices isn’t usually the most well-received message and as a result, there’s always a possibility clients may take their business elsewhere. But, at the end of the day costs rise frequently on almost everything. If your prices raise occasionally, and not dramatically, your clients most likely won’t be surprised. When you plan to increase your fees, inform your clients. Open communication is a necessary component to the success of your business. Avoiding fee increases keeps your business stagnant.
Changing your business model
You may need to change your business model. That’s not an easy decision to make because it takes a large investment of time and effort, and your leadership team may be swamped with other things. However, it might be the right decision if you’re not getting traction in the process or the strategies you have currently. So you may need to stop and revamp.
Firing bad clients
The success of your business can also be inhibited by bad clients. Severing a relationship with a client, like firing an employee, can be uncomfortable. But, if you’ve gone through the steps to evaluate the situation and you know the benefits of letting a client go strongly outweigh the benefits of keeping them, take your destiny into your own hands.
Not making a decision is making a decision
In our last podcast episode, episode #63: Inaction – What Is It Costing You?, we talked about inaction. Inaction is the path of least resistance, but what are you missing out on by continuing business as usual? What is that costing you? It’s possible that your inaction isn’t costing you anything monetarily. Instead, it’s costing you opportunity. For instance, if you are stalling to raise fees, you are missing out on revenue. You aren’t bettering your team dynamics by getting rid of somebody who’s not the right fit, so you’re losing out on that benefit without really realizing it.
To reference one of our favorite tools, again, Traction by Gino Wickman, he has a list of 10 commandments of solving issues and one of those is, “Thou shalt be decisive.” While discussing the importance of decision-making in business, Gino writes, “It’s less important what you decide than it is that you decide, so decide.” In Traction, Gino Wickman then goes on to talk about how most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who can make decisions efficiently and effectively. They’re not stuck in the stage of information gathering. Yes, you need the information. But, if it takes a year to collect all the information and you still don’t have a decision made, that’s a problem. Don’t wait on finding the perfect answer because it doesn’t exist.
Don’t get stuck. Try something and track it.
Your business is never going to get ahead if you stay stagnant. Trying something is better than not doing anything at all. To quote Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” While you are trying something new, track what is happening and what you are learning. Then, if your attempt doesn’t go well you still have information gathered. You can use the data you’ve captured to review what happened, why it didn’t work well, identify what changes can be made, and you can then move forward in a different direction.
Be realistic. You will make mistakes.
You are going to make the wrong decision from time to time, but you can still turn that around and take away something positive that you’re able to apply in the future. It may not be the next decision you make, but maybe five years down the road you’re making another decision that’s similar and you can take that lesson with you. You’re not going to be successful if you don’t try new things, make improvements and try again. Push your business to be more. You’re not going to make the exact right decision every time and you shouldn’t hold yourself to that standard.
Reframing the definition of a failure or mistake can help you make decisions more easily. Instead of considering a decision you made a mistake or failure, look at it as an opportunity to learn. No matter what, there is always something to learn. When you focus on the idea that every time you make a decision you will learn something, fear is less prevalent. Making a decision is just that, making a decision. It shouldn’t be considered a failure or mistake, regardless of the outcome. Your decision will be beneficial for you or it will tell you to do something different next time.
You may find that your decision is not the best for a particular situation. When that happens, pivot. Decide what you need to do to resolve the situation. Be resilient. Get back up. Keep trying. Take all the knowledge you’ve obtained and make better decisions moving forward.
Consult with trusted advisors.
Additional perspectives are important, especially if you are a business owner operating alone. Seeking advice and being challenged can be helpful if it’s coming from the right person. Consulting with trusted advisors can help reach a decision you are confident will achieve the desired result in your business. By consulting with your advisors, you’re able to tap into deep knowledge bases when it comes to finance, tax, legal and other issues that arise on a regular basis.
Don’t avoid it
Stress is a common result of avoiding decisions and stress can lead to a myriad of health issues. So, in addition to keeping your business moving forward, your health could start to be compromised. If you tackle the issue, make difficult decisions, and move forward, you can open yourself up to becoming a better business owner. The weight of decisions that are lingering and have yet to be made can be a burden. If your brain isn’t bogged down with an upcoming decision, that leaves room for innovative ideas and more creativity. Make the decision and move on! Give yourself the ability to be the visionary for your company.
Owning a business isn’t easy and when you have others involved, like employees, the impact of your decisions can be significant. Business as usual may not be what’s best for your business. Sometimes changes are needed and, as the business owner, you are responsible for making those decisions. We hope after today’s episode you are equipped to more easily tackle decision-making in business. The main takeaway today is, make the decision even if it’s difficult or uncomfortable. Get the information you need, consult experts, weigh your options, then make the decision, track progress, learn what you can and move on!
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What could inaction be costing you in your business? We tend to focus on the benefits of proactive decision-making within our business, but sometimes fail to consider how costly inaction can be as well. Because the opportunity cost of a decision is not always assigned a direct value, it can be tempting to drag our feet which can have such negative effects. Failing to take action can impact more than the numbers in your business. Inaction can cause stress, anxiety, fear and have many consequences to our mental and physical health. In this episode, we take a deep dive into how failure to invest in key areas of your business can cost you so much in the long run.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:30 – Introduction
- 02:13 – What are some of the costs of inaction?
- 06:40 – Start by investing in a team
- 14:01 – Don’t be afraid to invest in technology
- 18:27 – The importance of efficient systems design
- 21:10 – Consider the long-term opportunity cost of a decision’s ROI
- 22:25 – Missed opportunities due to fear
What are some of the costs of inaction?
The costs of inaction can be vast. In addition to the obvious costs, like monetary savings associated with finding a new system or program for your organization, the costs of inaction can seep into your mental and physical wellbeing. Negative emotions like stress, fear, overwhelm and lack of control are just a few of the mental consequences, which can all begin to impact your physical health in the long run.
These costs are hardly worth the steps it takes to lie the right foundation and set yourself up as a business owner with the proper tools and people for delegation. Taking action may be difficult today, but the costs of inaction over time can wear you down, impact every decision you make and stunt your growth.
Start by investing in a team
If you’re like most business owners, you began your company solo or with a couple of partners. Although there is such a thrill to starting a business, we often fail to realize that it’s up to us to make sure everything gets completed. I’m sure that you wear so many different hats, that it can eventually become challenging to scale your business.
That’s why growing your team is one of the most important action steps that you can take. Hiring people who specialize in different areas can relieve you from having to do so many tasks, allowing you to focus on the meat and potatoes of your company. Many people start off by hiring an assistant to help with daily work so that they can focus on the growth of their company without getting into the weeds of those tedious tasks. Other important positions to consider hiring sooner than later is a project manager, CPA/CFO, marketing team, and legal advisor. These team members will ensure that your business will properly grow and decrease your chances of misstepping.
There may be fear of delegation and it can be difficult to let go. You may also have concerns about the cost of expanding your team, but consider the opportunity cost of a decision like this. The ability to offload work that someone else can handle will positively impact the state of your mental health as well as the amount of time you gain to invest into working ON your business rather than IN your business. That investment can lead to true growth, which can improve your revenue and justify the expense of a team.
Don’t be afraid to invest in technology
Many business owners find the thought of upgrading their technology very daunting. The tech world is growing exponentially, and some find it difficult to keep up. Although it can be overwhelming, you cannot fall victim to inactivity when it comes to investing in the technology that’s being used for your business.
It’s important to have a good general knowledge of the software and technology that is being used by competitors and your industry’s leading businesses. You can’t afford to fall behind the curve in a day in age where technology is heavily valued to bring a better customer experience.
Yes, investing in technology can begin to get on the costly side, but consider the opportunity cost in the long run if you fail to keep up.
The importance of efficient systems design
As business owners, we must periodically revisit our processes and procedures in different areas within the company. We have to check in on our departments and ask key questions. Is there a more efficient way of doing this? What are my competitors doing? Are our systems making it unnecessarily challenging for my team and potential clients? These are questions that should be thought about and discussed from time to time to ensure that it’s not being neglected. Because it’s easier to continue with established processes, it can be easy to ignore issues that could be causing bottlenecks or other problems in your business.
Creating and upgrading great systems are vital steps for the growth of your business as well. Failure to do so will prohibit your business from properly scaling because it will always run into system roadblocks as you add team members, get more clients, add-on services, etc. It can create a plateau within your business that has nothing to do with marketing or needing to hire more people, but due to a system issue.
Consider the long-term opportunity cost of a decision’s ROI
When making a decision, we usually make it based on the immediate ROI (Return On Investment) that we can see. Most of us avoid spending money or time on something that we don’t reap the benefits of in the near future, which is why so many business owners fall into the trap of procrastinating to invest in the mentioned above areas of business.
With that being said, when considering the opportunity cost of investing in a team, technology, or systems design, we have to play the long-term game. We can’t make the mistake of solely thinking about the immediate satisfaction, but how these decisions will pay off down the road, or else we’ll continue to put it off thinking that we have time to get to those things later on. Not realizing that the inaction will hurt your chances of having the resources to invest in the future. If you want to ensure that your business is around and thriving for the long haul it’s important to take action in these areas now.
Missed opportunities due to fear
You pay for inaction with opportunities. Missed opportunities arise when you fail to take action or effectively make a decision. When you think ahead, invest and properly plan for the future, you’ll be prepared when opportunity comes knocking. So many companies, such as Kodak and Blockbuster, have gone out of business because they refused to take action at the appropriate time.
What we can take away from both of these companies is that inaction will cost you something in the short or long-term. If you continue to be inactive, it may eventually cost you your entire business.
Inaction can be a sneaky way to cost yourself time, money, and emotional and physical wellbeing. We talk about inaction in your business and the not-so-obvious costs that can accompany passivity as a business owner. We also talk about the key areas of investments that can make a big difference in the growth of your business.
When we make a decision to break out from the fear of the unknown and the risk that comes with investing in our businesses, then there’s nothing but opportunity for growth. Being paralyzed by fear will cost you peace, health, and the opportunity to have a flourishing business. It may seem overwhelming, but with the proper planning and action steps, your business can be on the track to success!
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We want to start 2021 off on the right foot, so to kick off our new year we are talking about common mistakes in business and how to avoid them! We want you to run a successful business, which means avoiding the pitfalls that can be easy to miss when you’re stuck in day-to-day operations. We are regularly involved in strategic planning, forecasting, cash-flow analysis, etc. so we get front row seats to all the action. Today is all about helping you be cognizant, and avoid, the mistakes we often see as virtual CFOs and CPAs working with owners of growing businesses.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:30 – Introduction
- 01:57 – Mistake #1 – Not trusting your gut
- 05:48 – Mistake #2 – Lack of knowledge about business structure
- 12:40 – Mistake #3 – Letting daily issues distract from long-term goals
- 16:56 – Mistake #4 – Failing to invest
- 17:43 – Mistake #5 – Inability to adapt
- 20:16 – Mistake #6 – Not asking questions
Mistake #1 – Not trusting your gut
Personally and professionally, people don’t trust their gut. Whether you call it your gut, intuition, we have this feeling in our body when we make decisions. That feeling is there for a reason. Many business owners have a gut feeling that guides them, but it’s also important to recognize when you don’t have all necessary information or knowledge to make an educated decision.
Proactively seek information from professionals in order to get the full picture so you can follow your gut. Go to people you trust and who will give you honest opinions, like your advisory team. We’ve said it before and we will say it again and again, your advisory team is very important. Your advisory team can help you get a feel for whether you’re off or on the right track. They can give you things to consider that you may not have thought about previously or offer a different perspective. Your advisory team should not only consist of experts in their field, they should be people you have a certain level of comfort in and trust. Without trust, a good relationship, and comfort level with your advisory team, you might be afraid to ask certain questions, or neglect to ask questions completely. Communication between you and your advisory team is key. They need to know your expectations so they can openly provide guidance and add value that can enhance your business.
After you consult with trusted advisors, it’s easy to do what everyone else says because of self doubt. Somehow, you have to remain confident in what you’re doing and your abilities. You have to trust that the work you’ve done to gather information is enough to lead you to make the best decision possible with the information available at the time. Part of that decision-making process is trusting your gut instincts. At the end of the day, after you’ve done your due diligence, it’s important to go back and trust your gut because it’s there for a reason.
Mistake #2 – Lack of knowledge about business structure
Talking about business structure isn’t the most exhilarating topic of conversation, but don’t fall asleep on us. We often see business owners with a lack of knowledge and understanding about their business structure and we don’t want you to fall victim to this common mistake in business. Let’s start with the basics. With any business structure there are three main considerations, including a business side, a legal side, and a tax side. All three have to work together in order to find the best fit for you, your business and your goals.
For example, a partnership is a form of business in which two or more people share ownership. Partnerships are the stickiest business structure entity that you can elect, meaning they can be great when things are going well with your business, but can get tricky when issues arise. So, it’s important to completely understand the implications of the structure you’ve elected and what that means for each owner involved.
The importance of the trifecta (business, legal, tax)
In any business structure the business side, legal side, and tax side have to work together. This may not be something you focus on when business is going well, but when things aren’t going well issues will quickly rise to the surface. In order to ensure the least amount of heartache, it’s important to completely understand how your business structure works in all three key areas.
When things aren’t going well, what does your partnership agreement say? What if two people have signing power on the account, you don’t have proper internal controls and one partner liquidates? What does your partnership agreement say? Are you going to go into arbitration?
These difficult conversations must happen when things are going well in order to safeguard your business and everyone involved. No one makes the best decisions in crisis. You want to ensure that all parties understand the risks and benefits, and how the business structure, tax structure, and legal structure work together. Once you have your structure and organizational documents completed, there should be transparency for how the business operates and ownership structure, etc. That way if an issue does arise, the business structure and all legal documents are in black and white, which can greatly reduce stress and anxiety amongst all parties.
Mistake #3 – Letting daily issues distract from long-term goals
Another easy pitfall business owners find themselves in is getting caught in the day-to-day fires that need to be dealt with rather than focusing on what’s important long-term. In order to know and understand what’s important for your business over time, you need to have an established vision with long-term goals. If you have not defined your vision, or want to review information about setting your long-term goals, check out our very first episode of our entire podcast episode #01: Strategic Planning – Vision & Long-Term Goals.
With your long-term perspective clearly defined and on top of mind, you can make appropriate business decisions. At times, there may be a short-term sacrifice in order to achieve your long-term goal. The issues you’re dealing with today are important, but don’t get so wrapped up that you can’t keep sight of what you truly want to achieve in the future. The key is having a clear understanding of your short- and long-term objectives, balancing the two, and remaining flexible.
Mistake #4 – Failing to invest
The concept of focusing on long-term objectives ties directly into the next mistake in business – failing to invest in their business. When we say investing, this can encompass investments in money, time and effort.
A lack of investment can lead to larger issues down the line. In business, every dollar and minute of your time counts. That means you have to be strategic about what you choose to invest in when it comes to the future of your business. We’ve seen time and time again, business owners who want to succeed but aren’t willing to invest upfront to lay a foundation that will help them reach their long-term goals. You have to determine what you are willing to risk to obtain the reward, which involves some cost-benefit analysis.
Seeking solid business advice from a knowledgeable professional costs money. This shouldn’t cost you your life savings, but if you are looking for good advice for $500, it doesn’t exist. If you’ve received business advice at a price that seemed too good to be true, you may want to consider a second opinion. For instance, we (PJS & Co. CPAs) provide significant service to our clients. We pull industry-specific statistics, review and understand their differences, and identify where you need to make improvements, lending decades of experience to the process. This kind of work takes time, knowledge, and expertise, which will take an investment but will also provide the data and guidance needed to push your business forward. Become knowledgeable about what your business needs, what that costs, and when it’s the right time to act.
Mistake #5 – Inability to adapt
The inability to adapt and make adjustments in your business can stifle success. 2020 is a great example of a time when businesses have had to take detours to keep their business afloat so at some time in the future, their long-term objectives can be reached. No one expected businesses would be forced to close their doors for an extended period of time. Some businesses who adapted to the “2020 normal” and were able to reach their customers differently than they’d planned, survived. Remain flexible, because in times like this your adaptability can give you a better chance of survival. When you acclimate and adapt, you face better odds of meeting your goals.
Mistake #6 – Not asking questions
Not asking questions is the last common mistake we will talk about today. We are ending with this mistake because we run across it quite often. In fact, not asking questions impacts all of the other common mistakes we’ve talked about already because it prohibits you from discovering other potential mistakes too.
One reason people don’t ask questions is due to fear. That fear can stem from a place of insecurity and self-doubt. Maybe you think you won’t sound intelligent since you should already know the answer. Maybe you already know the answer, but it’s not what you want to hear. In business, you have to be bold enough to walk through the fear. Be willing to ask, and to be asked, difficult questions. If you get an answer you don’t like, step back and really reflect on that from an all-encompassing perspective.
Be honest and respectful
Not everyone has to see eye-to-eye all the time. However, as professionals you and your advisory team should operate from a place of honesty and respect. You’ll feel more peace and function efficiently when you are honest. If you’re willing to ask, and be asked, hard questions there’s a mutual respect that develops between you and the other parties involved. Open, honest communication can open the doors for value and knowledge to be transferred between all parties. Sometimes questions can’t be answered right away. It’s more than acceptable to ask for time to process the question and think through how to best provide an answer.
As we start off a new year, we want to thank all of our vendors, clients, podcast audience members, friends and family. Because of you, we’ve been blessed with the ability to learn an incredible amount of useful information that we get to share with others, like we did today. We hope you enjoyed hearing about common mistakes we’ve seen in business, and ways to avoid those mistakes. As virtual CFOs and CPAs, we want to equip you to trust your gut, seek valuable advice from professionals, understand the nuances of the different business structures so you can choose what’s best for your company, balance what’s important right now with your long-term objectives, and take necessary steps to invest at the right time and right areas, of your business. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s to remain flexible and make adaptations when necessary. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You are your business’ biggest advocate.
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We’re excited to wrap up the year by talking about one of our core company values; managing work-life balance. PJS & Co. CPAs was born out of a desire to improve the balance of professional and personal life. We knew there had to be a better way for our team and clients to integrate personal and professional goals. There are ways to integrate your personal priorities into your business growth plans if you have clear priorities and consistently stay mindful of managing work-life balance.
What we cover in this episode:
- 00:30 – Introduction
- 05:29 – Identify your purpose and priorities
- 10:14 – Managing work-life balance isn’t about perfection
- 14:57 – Caveats of work-life balance
- 21:25 – Honor your commitments
- 24:33 – Scheduling buffers and managing transitions
- 30:28 – Setting and respecting boundaries
When it comes to work, family, personal lives, hobbies, who wouldn’t want it all? There is no perfect solution for balancing home-life and work, but we continue to remain forward-thinking and respect the fact that everyone has different priorities. Today we want to share with you some things we’ve learned on our journey to achieve an effective balance. We don’t want your work owning your life. We don’t want you missing out on important family time. We don’t want you neglecting your health. We want what’s best for you! To end 2020 with a bang, let’s focus on how you can live a whole, complete, and happy life.
Identify your purpose and priorities
When we consult with anyone, the first thing we recommend is identifying your purpose and priorities. You have to identify what is important to you. When we talk about purpose, this differs from the vision or mission of your company and is more internal and personal. You have to establish your personal purpose and personal priorities in order to build your business and growth plan to incorporate those things.
PJS & Co. CPAs partner Jami Johnson shared that one of her priorities is to take her kids to school and pick them up every day. Owning a successful business and being there for her family are two main priorities in her life. Those are no small tasks. It takes hard work, giving everything you have, to run a small business AND be there for your families. But, the reward is worth the work! For Jami, sometimes those school drop offs and pick ups mean she’s up at 4:00 am, or burning the midnight oil after the kids are asleep, getting work done. In order to get the best of both worlds with your career and your family, there is give and take, which is easier to digest when the things you are balancing are the things that fulfill you. Once you determine what is most important to you and understand what fulfills you, you’re on the right track and can start to integrate them.
Managing work-life balance isn’t about perfection
Reality check. If you think of work-life balance as a 24/7 party, sipping a cocktail on the beach, while working on your laptop in a lounge chair, you need to snap out of that dream. Work-life balance is more about reprioritizing your life, your work, and doing what you can to gain flexibility. We started with identifying our purpose and what is truly fulfilling because once we know that, we can determine the areas of give and take. Jami reflected on her time in corporate America and told us how there is no amount of money that is worth all the things she would have missed out on with her family if she would have stayed in that job. “Maybe we’d have a nicer house. Maybe we would have stuff. But, I now have time with my kids that I will never get back.”
You have to be forward-thinking and understand the short-term sacrifice is for the long-term gain. We live in a world where we are always connected and sometimes that means work priorities can reach you at all times. It can be difficult to ignore an urgent email or a text when you are at the park with your kids or at dinner with your family. The work priority slaps you in the face, and it’s easy to think “I’ll just handle this really quickly.” The next thing you know, you’re an hour into work, food is cold, and your kids are heading to bed. Making decisions on what is priority at the moment can be difficult. Take time to reflect before you take action. Sometimes work needs immediate action and that may mean your child gets a little more iPad time than you’d like. Other times, that means you’ll get back to a client the next morning.
Don’t get overwhelmed worrying about what you should do and how you should do it. Step back, determine what’s best for you in that moment, and take action. Sometimes our feelings of guilt and our overwhelming sense of obligation are self-imposed. This is another reason we emphasize the importance of reflecting before making decisions. We aren’t advising you to ignore your obligations. We are saying weigh your options and take action based on what is best at the time. Some decisions are more difficult than others, especially when others involved don’t understand your perspective. Let what is best for you and your family be the driver and be okay with the fact that others may not be on the same page.
Caveats of work-life balance
Once you’ve taken that time to reflect and establish your priorities, what they mean to you, and what the ideal work-life balance looks like, it’s time to implement work-life balance in your day. To do that, we need to first address the elephant in the room. There are only 24 hours in a day. Everyone has the same amount of time, but everyone’s 24 hours looks different. Unlike some celebrities, we don’t have personal chefs, au pairs, or unlimited resources to delegate responsibilities. If you do, that’s wonderful, and we are probably jealous. Regardless of how you operate your home, family, and job, everyone only has 24 hours each day to get it all done.
Everyone has different thresholds. Be mindful of those thresholds and when you are approaching them. There will be days where you think you’ll get everything accomplished and the day just won’t go as planned. When that happens, do your best to be flexible and rearrange your responsibilities to meet the demands of your day. Recognize that each day will be different.
Honor your commitments
There will be days where you approached your threshold, but you’ve got a deadline to meet. When this happens, do what you can to honor your commitment. Communication is key in working with your deadlines and letting others know if there is a chance you might not meet an established deadline. In business, trust is extremely important. You want people to know when you say you will do something, they know you will follow through on that promise.
One way you can improve your chances of honoring your commitments is to “under promise and over-deliver.” For example, if you have a task you think you can complete by Wednesday, set a deadline of Friday. This way, if you deliver the product on Wednesday, the other party is pleasantly surprised. If the task takes longer than you expected, you have a bit of time to work and still meet the deadline. When establishing deadlines, it’s good to be optimistic but always keep in mind there are outside factors that may unexpectedly impede your progress. One way to plan for the unexpected is to give yourself a bit of a buffer with your deadline.
Scheduling buffers and managing transitions
In addition to buffers associated with deadlines, buffers are also nice to have in your day-to-day routine. One tool we use to create those daily buffers in our schedule is our calendar. Each of our clients and vendors are important and we want to give everyone the respect and attention they deserve. That’s why we try to set aside at least 15 minutes on our calendars between meetings. A buffer like this gives time to wrap up one meeting, and prepare for the next. We all know some meetings can run longer as well and this can decrease the stress of having to reschedule.
We should also note that buffers can serve as transitions from one type of work to the next or from work to home, etc. For example, some meetings may involve very intense conversations. It can be very helpful to have a few minutes to wind down, take a breath, take follow-up notes, etc. after each phone call or meeting. Plus, if it’s on the calendar, you are more likely to dedicate that time. If you don’t have a buffer to help you transition smoothly from what task or meeting to the next, that can be a recipe for disaster. Currently, many of us are juggling our careers while being responsible for teaching our kids at home. Transitions from working (answering emails, making business decisions, etc.) to being a teacher, parent, husband and wife can be more helpful with a buffer. If you’re looking for more tips on productivity, we share some great tips in episode #17.
Setting and respecting boundaries
Setting boundaries will help you keep your personal and business life separate. Respecting your own boundaries isn’t always easy. This is going to be a practice that some business owners may have to consistently work on in order to maintain balance. One way to be intentional about working and intentional about your time with your family is to have the right space when doing each task. What we mean by this is to have a home office or specific desk or table that is designated for work, for example. Laptops are great because we can easily work anywhere. But, this can be a blessing and a curse. If your internet at home goes out, you can pop over to a Starbucks for some free wi-fi. On the other hand, you may find yourself on your living room couch working while you are supposed to be enjoying a movie with your family. Another way is to turn off notifications on your phone and put your phone down.
Managing work-life balance isn’t an easy task. Our lives demand so much from every aspect that it can easily feel like you’re being torn in many different directions. This can cause stress, anxiety and can lead to missed deadlines, overwhelm and ultimately can impact your life in many ways. We began our conversation about work-life balance with determining your purpose and establishing your personal priorities. Once you are clear on those things, you can begin to integrate those with business growth goals and other professional goals. It’s important to look at your personal and professional goals together and list out your priorities so you may marry them for a comprehensive and more complete plan that works for you.
We then discussed some ways to manage work-life balance effectively by leveraging your calendar, setting boundaries, honoring your commitments and managing transitions. If you’re looking for more information on how to better manage your work-life balance, reach out to speak with one of our vCFOs for a business growth plan that makes sense for you.
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10-Part Strategic Planning Intro Series
Welcome to the Cultivating Business Growth Podcast. We are so excited to kick off our podcast with this 10-Part Strategic Planning Series! We cannot wait to share our passion for business planning, growth, and constantly working to balance lifestyle with you! ...