Tax season is here, so finances are on our mind. If you're like us, getting a handle on the monetary details of your life while running a business can seem overwhelming. A number of guides for start-up entrepreneurs recommend getting an accountant on board as soon as possible and tracking every transaction in Quickbooks. This strategy may addressour business needs, but how do we manage our personal finances? With erratic cash flow, unexpected bills, and the constant need to fund growth, entrepreneurial life can seem like an endless "feast or famine" cycle. The stress of this pattern can cause us to push our individual fiscal well-being to the bottom of a very long list.
As women, we realized that constantly sacrificing our personal financial needs to the demands of our business keeps us in a rut. To combat this problem, we came up with the idea of pulling together a "Dream Team" that would help us get our finances in order. To start, we looked for a plan that would help us set up a system to change our behavior. We then indulged our celebrity fantasy and looked for a personal business manager to oversee the day-to-day details of our finances (no more late fees!). Lastly, we looked for a coach to help us take a fresh look at our relationship with our money and our business. Here's what we found:
A lack of financial fitness--especially in the world of busy entrepreneurs--usually starts with the fact that there's no system in place to support good habits. Good financial health is like good physical health, according to Susan Feitelberg, a JP Morgan Chase financial advisor, competitive athlete and author of The Net Worth Workout (www.networthworkout.com).
The Net Worth Workout is a holistic system, providing exercises, motivation, and tips for maintaining good health in the four key areas of finances: earnings, spending, saving and investing. Susan warns that entrepreneurs face a special challenge: the temptation to put off good financial habits today, expecting to make it up later when the business succeeds. As we know from crash diets, this strategy is a path to failure!
Susan recommends not waiting to acquire good habits; instead, begin working to change your behavior with your existing resources. Your "fiscal fitness" plan can--and should--be customized to your individual circumstances, preferences and goals. If you're just starting out on the road to financial health, don't expect to run a marathon the first day. Set interim goals that, over time, will get you into financial shape.
Susan's takeaway tip: "Calculate your net worth and for one month, commit yourself to devoting an hour per week to your fiscal fitness plan," she recommends. "At the end of month, calculate the change in that figure." Like weighing yourself on the scale, the results from your efforts will show up in the numbers!
No longer solely the province of movie stars and professional athletes, personal business managers are entering the mainstream. "A personal business manager is like having a CFO for both your business and personal life," says Kathryn Maxwell, CEO of Novato, California-based Maxwell Money Management (www.maxwellmoney.com).
A personal business manager, with their intimate knowledge of the day-to-day details of your financial life, fills in the gap between an accountant, whose main role is ensuring compliance with government agencies, and an investment manager, whose focus is on managing your portfolio. Kathryn's firm offers a full suite of services, from minutiae such as paying your monthly bills to major decisions like the most strategic use of your cash flow. As the advocate for her clients, Kathryn's firm asks the questions that her clients don't know (or are too busy) to ask. Such attention to detail can have a big payoff: One client received a $10,000 refund on his payroll taxes once they caught that he'd neglected to claim that 50% of his staff was outside the city.
Kathryn's takeaway tip: "We women participate at too many levels in our business," she says. "To have a CFO, you need to promote yourself to CEO and understand that your time is better spent on other things."
Using our business to create both our vision and wealth simultaneously can trigger anxiety. We may find ourselves hitting a wall or stuck on a plateau, and hiring a coach can help break through the logjam. One unique coaching firm, Beyond Business As Usual, blends practical business-building and marketing strategies with advanced mind/body tools (www.beyondbusinessasusual.com). Founded by business coach Anne Sagendorph, the firm helps clients get ahead of their money by changing their consciousness about prosperity.
"We forget that cash flow is as important as people's thoughts and feelings," Anne warns. "Money comes into a responsible space." Her coaching firm provides clients with ongoing support to build companies that both free their spirit and feed profitability, so they can have money and a life.
Anne's takeaway tip: "We are the product, so we must take care of the product" she says. "Take off one hour earlier, and use that time to do something that nurtures you."
As we head towards the close of a financial year, April 15th (like New Year's Eve) offers us an opportunity to make some fiscal resolutions. Get inspired to make some of your own!