Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How the 80/20 Rule Helped Me Double My Income in Two Months

When I first read about the 80/20 rule, or the Pareto Principle, I had a healthy skepticism for it. I couldn’t wrap my head around how 80 percent of my work would only lead to 20 percent of results and that the remaining 20 percent of my efforts would lead to 80 percent of my profits. Over time, however, I started to see some patterns that would prove the 80/20 rule to be completely true. Once I took steps to implement what I learned from it, I doubled my income in about two months! Read on to learn how it happened and how you can apply the 80/20 rule to your business.

Does the 80/20 rule apply to your business?

When I still had my old day job, I took some time to assess my projects and found that the 80/20 rule held true to some extent. There were some projects I was incredibly efficient at completing and always impressed my boss. Others took up a ton of time and led to huge frustration for little reward. By focusing on the projects that led to the best results, I was able to improve my efficiency and landed a promotion with a fat raise.

But with a boss who dictated my to do list, I had limited ability to implement 80/20. When I left my day job and went full-time in April 2016, I hustled and took every dollar I could get. But that strategy left me feeling burned out and tired while struggling for the profitability I wanted. It was around then that I realized it was time to look at my business with an 80/20 lens.

The 80/20 rule was nearly spot on for my business

From June through September, I earned $5,000-$8,000 per month in revenue. Good income, but not great. And living in expensive Southern California and paying for expensive rent and insurance on my own, a $60,000 annual revenue rate would leave us struggling to get by. I was working long hours but no matter how hard I hustled, my income wasn’t making any big jumps.

I started talking through my revenue, business strategy and where I was spending my time with my wife and members of my mastermind when I realized that my website development business was earning far less with more hours than the writing side of my business. That’s when the 80/20 came back to mind.

I quickly glanced at my accounting reports and saw that I was earning a little over 85 percent of my income from writing but was spending about 75 percent of my time on website work, which was bringing in around 10-15 percent of my revenue. Holy 80/20 Batman!

Implementing 80/20

After talking it through with my mastermind, I decided it was time to shut down my website support business in favor of focusing on writing. I slowly started turning away hourly work, then bigger website projects, then monthly recurring clients. I still have a few long-term clients in my web business, but for practical purposes it is shut down.

At its peak, I was earning around $2,000 per month from website support and development. Not chump change, but also not enough to bring in the big income I wanted and support my family in SoCal. Shutting down freed up so much time that I was able to focus on bringing on new writing clients and could stop wasting time on sometimes frustrating website projects.

Watching my income skyrocket

At the same time I shut down my website business, I was bringing on new clients that I met at the FinCon conference. All of the free time helped me destress and focus on those new clients, and the results started to appear in my monthly income statements.

In August I brought in $6,900. In September I made $7,300. In October I made $14,800. In November I broke through $16,000! I doubled my income in two months! Now I work less, enjoy what I do more and had a couple of months where I earned over double what I was paid at my old day job.

It turns out that economist Vilfredo Pareto knew what he was talking about. 80/20 completely revolutionized how I look at my business. I’m earning more and I’m happier than ever. Since adopting 80/20, I have not had a month below $10,000 in income.

Applying 80/20 to your business

Can your business benefit from 80/20? Odds are that it absolutely will. You may not see such dramatic results, but you can always improve by looking at what’s working and what isn’t working in your business. If something works well, repeat. If something doesn’t, stop doing it. In life and business, that is the best strategy to follow.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Freelancer's Approach to Managing Expenses and Getting Paid

According to the Freelancers Union, 54 million Americans are considered independent workers, a number that is only expected to rise in 2017. Now that we’re in another tax season, it is important that the nearly one-third of Americans who are considered freelancers develop a process that efficiently allows them to track expenses and other critical business documents. Proper expense management ensures that freelancers are getting reimbursed for their job-related expenses and allows them to maximize tax deductions while protecting themselves in case of an audit.

While efficient expense management is vital to any freelancer’s business, the abundance of available and differing technology can make it difficult for a freelancer to map out a cohesive workflow that best suits their needs.

The data within business documents is vital to proper expense reimbursement and tax filing, so it’s important that a freelancer’s workflow can collect data from multiple sources, including emailed receipts and paper invoices. Thanks to today’s mobile technology there is no longer a need for bulky scanners. Modern expense management solutions can turn a smartphone’s camera into a mobile scanner. With the proper mobile application, freelancers only have to snap a photo of a business document to extract important data points, like totals, dates and vendor names to be sent to accounting software.

Many of the businesses that freelancers work with rely on powerful accounting software, like QuickBooks® or Sage, so it is important that they consider an expense management system that directly integrates with the most popular accounting software on the market. Accounting software integrations promote a streamlined data entry process and gives the freelancer peace-of-mind, knowing that the right information is being put into the correct data fields.

It’s important that a freelancer’s expense tracking workflow functions in the cloud. Considering most freelancers operate out of home offices or during off hours, they need access to their most important business documents at all times – whether they’re in their minivan waiting for their kids to get out of school, or burning the midnight oil with a much-needed glass of wine.  In addition to ease of access, cloud capabilities allow freelancers to better collaborate with their clients, ensuring they’re always on the same page.

More advanced expense tracking solutions even allow freelancers to assign tax categories to receipts and other documents. By assigning tax categories from the initial input, freelancers can save valuable time when using tax software, like Turbo Tax®, or save their hard-earned money by eliminating a specific process that an accountant or bookkeeper would otherwise charge a fee to execute.

As freelancers implement their expense management process, it is important that they always take a holistic view of their approach, and continue to tweak their process so that an efficient and streamlined workflow is developed. Freelancers cannot afford to be stagnant when it comes to managing their expenses. Once tax season is over and freelancers have filed their taxes, reviewing process pain points and how to remedy them is critical to promoting a more efficient workflow.

Access to state-of-the-art technologies that provide different services and solve for different deficiencies means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to expense management for freelancers. As freelancers build and expand their business, they should consider new tools and technologies that are able to scale with their growing business. 

Image Credit: Hero Images | Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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Monday, April 10, 2017

5 Signs You Need Money Counseling, Not Marriage Counseling

Many couples blame their marriage problems on disagreements and an inability to see eye to eye. Marriage counseling is a great option for couples who need to learn how to better communicate, but it might not solve the problem that caused a disagreement in the first place, especially if the problem involves money. So because money is a leading cause of stress in relationships, couples may want to consider money counseling before heading to a marriage counselor.

Nearly three-quarters of all Americans experience some kind of financial stress, according to the American Psychological Association. When you are in a relationship with a partner who has different views or values about money, this stress can become further exacerbated.

Throughout my years in the financial services industry, I have noticed that money counseling and marriage counseling often go hand in hand. One of my good friends, Leslie Webb, is a psychologist and will frequently send me her clients to help them budget and examine other underlying financial issues that may be causing their relationship stress.

To put it simply, in her own words, “If these financial issues don’t come to light, the marriage is doomed.”

So, how do you know if your problems are money related? It is not always obvious whether you need marriage counseling or money counseling but, here are some common warning signs that your relationship might be in financial trouble:

1. One partner handles the money, while the other wants nothing to do with it.

When it comes to managing household finances, both partners should be involved, or at least be aware of where money is being spent. Leslie and I are both currently experiencing an epidemic of clients who have mentioned that, within their relationships, one partner manages the finances and the other never looks into what he or she is doing. Societally, we used to view men as being responsible for a couple’s finances, but this is no longer the case. Both partners should have a role in managing money.

2. You have separate bank accounts.

If you both want to keep an eye on your money, separate bank accounts might seem like a good idea, but they can actually cause a lot of financial stress in a relationship. Managing money should be a joint effort, and separate accounts do not allow you to work together as well. Having separate accounts can lead to one partner hiding expenses or debts from another and can create animosity, because there is usually going to be judgment against how one partner is spending.

3. You have different values about spending and saving.

Just like religion and politics, it’s important for couples to have similar values when it comes to money. This is something that’s often overlooked in the early stages of a relationship, but it tends to surface and cause tension later on. Before getting serious, it’s important for couples to talk in detail about what kinds of budgets and savings they have. These conversations are sometimes uncomfortable, so many people avoid them. “I think you should show copies of tax returns,” Leslie recommends. “This is rarely done and can make people uncomfortable, but it’s a great step in really getting honest about your finances.” It is also a good idea to talk about how your families handled finances when you were growing up. Because, more often than not, as people age and start taking more responsibility for their finances, they start doing things just like their families did.

4. You have different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Having a different socioeconomic background than your spouse can cause more issues than you might think, because you’re likely used to handling and thinking about money differently. For example, someone from a wealthier background might not be used to worrying about money, while someone who grew up in a lower-income household might be more accustomed to saving, or might carry some debt. Money is power, especially in relationships. While it’s not necessary to date within your own socioeconomic status, it is important to have open and honest conversations about how you view money. This is especially true if one partner makes more than the other. Even if the intention is to be equal, the person bringing in more income is inherently more powerful.

5. You have different views on debt.

This is something my wife and I have had to work through. You should always be honest with your partner about how much debt you have, but it’s also important to be on the same page with how much debt you’re comfortable accumulating. For example, my wife and I came from pretty different backgrounds. I was raised by two business owners who often took risks with their money and had debt. My wife was raised by two employees, so she was much more accustomed to having a steady stream of income. Especially if one or both of you has large-scale debt, you need to be on the same page about how to manage it and eventually pay it back.

So, how can couples with money issues get back on track? If you’re looking to do it yourself, David Ramsey has great resources, and Leslie and I both recommend him to our clients. If there are bigger issues, I would recommend seeing a financial planner. Just like with marriage counseling, it sometimes takes a third point of view to resolve issues in a relationship. A good financial adviser can help you achieve that balance in your bank account and in your personal life.

Image Credit: iStockphoto

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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Friday, April 7, 2017

13 Totally Useless Expenses Your Company Is Wasting Money On

Small businesses are often pinched for cash--especially if an unexpected bill needs to be paid right away or a check from a big customer gets mailed too late for you to cover your payroll for the month.

Your business should expect the unexpected. And one way to do that is to set aside a contingency fund that amounts to 10 percent of your monthly expenses. If you're looking for ways to get that rainy day cash, here are 12 expenses that are ripe for cutting and one more idea that will help you get more out of your people.

1. Cut food costs

Each employee in your company could save about $3,000 a year by bringing in his or her own lunch and brewing their coffee at home and bringing it into work. For example, while lunch at a deli might cost $12, people could make their own for about $3 and instead of paying $2 for a Starbucks, they could brew coffee at home for 45 cents. Spread this out over a year for all your employees and such savings add up.

2. Do tasks in-house

Some small businesses pay thousands of dollars to outsource projects. But your company may be able to save a considerable amount of cash by taking part or all of those projects in-house and give them to part- or full-time employees.

After all, outsourcing work can make it hard to communicate clearly what you want done--resulting in costly errors and delays. So it's worth analyzing whether hiring a dedicated worker could pay for itself within a year.

3. Use energy-efficient appliances

If you aren't using fluorescent light bulbs or keep your computers running when they're not being used, your company has an opportunity to save cash. Using fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent ones can save you up to $15 per kilowatt-hour. And turning off your computer in the evening can save $30 a year.

4. Cut unneeded technology

Many services are available for small businesses at low or no cost via the cloud. These range from computer backup and recovery to payroll processing. If you are paying for software or service providers to perform these tasks, you ought to consider whether you would save money over the next 12 months by canceling those contracts and replacing them with cloud-based services.

5. Keep up with credit card due dates

Many businesses make the costly mistake of not paying off their credit card bills each month. For example, a few years ago, the percentage of businesses that financed themselves with credit cards grew from 16 percent to 59 percent, and 60 percent of business credit card users did not pay their bills on time--making them liable for paying interest rates that are almost always north of 20 percent along with fees that pile up fast.

Keep track of your credit card due dates each month so you don't throw money away on interest and fees.

6. Cut back on trade shows

Trade shows can pay off--but they definitely require a big investment for travel and fancy-booth expenses. What's worse, if you go to shows that don't attract many potential customers for your product, all that money could go to waste.

So scrutinize each show you could attend, and go only to the ones likely to yield far more new sales than it costs to participate.

7. Trim postage waste

If your business mails packages, it may be throwing money out the front door if you use postage stamps instead of buying a meter. That's because you might be putting more postage on your envelopes than you really need. For example, a five-ounce envelope might require $1.69 in postage--but if you put four 44¢ stamps on the envelope, you would be throwing away a dime.

At 30 envelopes a week, that would amount to $3 in excess postage, or $156 per year.

8. Stop worthless advertising

It is hard to measure the effectiveness of advertising--especially if you spend your ad budget on TV, radio, or print media like newspapers or magazines. But there are wide variations in the advertising rates--for example, print advertising can be many times more expensive on a cost-per-impression basis than online ads.

Consider whether you could get more value by switching your advertising to Google AdWords, if you haven't already.

9. Dismiss workers who don't perform

One of the biggest ways to stop wasting money is to dismiss workers who don't contribute. What's more, you should make sure that all the workers on your payroll who do contribute are doing far more than the minimum required. If you can't motivate your C players to act more like the superstars, cutting them from the payroll will give you the money you need to hire more A players.

10. Team up with other small businesses to get volume discounts

If you regularly buy certain items for your company--such as printer cartridges for your inkjet or laser printers--consider getting together with other small businesses so you can use your joint purchasing power to negotiate volume discounts.

11. Track expenses

Your small company is almost certainly wasting money if it does not keep close watch on its expenses. You may think your time is better spent on selling or building new products--but if you don't track your expenses, you make sure you give that job to someone who is detail-oriented and trustworthy.

Even if everyone in your company is being frugal--if employees know someone is watching what they spend, they will be even more careful--if you keep and track a budget, you will save your company money.

12. Cut your insurance bills

Are you really paying the lowest possible rates for the insurance your business needs? You might be able to compare insurance policies using online services and spend less by buying insurance directly. Or, find an independent insurance agent who would go to bat for you when you have a claim. That agent should be able to find you the best deals to meet your business needs.

13. Tap employees' full potential

If your company employs people whose training would enable them to do bigger jobs--but they are asked to work way below their potential--then you might be able to save money by giving them more work that taps their skills.

Ask employees about their background and interests. There's a chance that they could do more for you--and get more motivated about working with your company over the long run.

These 13 tips will help keep your company from throwing cash out the window and provide some cash for a rainy day.

Image Credit:Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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How to save more money in 2017

For years, middle-class Americans have said that it seems harder and harder to get ahead. And there's no denying that middle-class incomes have only recently -- and infrequently -- increased at a decent clip. Still, there are things you can do to save more money this year.

If you're committed to saving more money in 2017, there are several different ways you can go about it. Let's take a closer look at three ways to increase your savings that are not only straightforward and simple, but can all be accomplished in a matter of days.

Pay yourself first

What exactly is paying yourself first? In short, it's taking money from your income, and diverting it directly to savings. If your employer offers direct deposit, there's a good chance it will allow you to send part of your paycheck to a savings account, and the rest to your regular checking. If that's the case, take advantage of this way to start putting away more money before you get a chance to spend it.

The idea behind paying yourself first is simple. People often struggle with developing healthy spending habits, and if they have money in their checking accounts, they are likely to spend it. By paying yourself first and sending money directly to savings, you reduce your take-home pay, and force yourself to adopt better spending habits.

Afraid you'll just dip into that savings for your next splurge? Open an account at a different bank, and don't activate the ATM card or set up online transfers. The harder you make it to access your money, the more likely you'll be to leave that money alone and let it accumulate.

Get money for your old stuff (and declutter at the same time)

One of the reasons a lot of people don't have as much money saved up as they could is tied to our penchant for acquiring and accumulating stuff we don't need; my family is just as guilty of this as the next. But that old suit that doesn't fit anymore, those out-of-fashion shoes, and the old fish tank that's been collecting dust in the garage still have monetary value.

One way to get money for all your old, no-longer-useful items is to sell them. Whether you use a weekend garage sale, Craigslist, eBay, or some other means, you can get cold, hard cash for all the stuff that's been cluttering up your home.
Don't have enough stuff for a garage sale, or don't think you could get anything online? Don't give up. Your stuff can still put money in your pocket: Donate it to a charity, and then claim a tax deduction at the end of the year. Nearly every town has a local charity thrift store which takes donations of household items and clothing.

And before you decide this is more trouble than it's worth: It's really simple to do. There are a number of apps to help determine the value of those items for your taxes, including my favorite, ItsDeductible from Intuit, which works directly with the company's TurboTax software. All you have to do is input the items you are donating, the charities you're donating them to, and the dates of the donations; the software will automatically assign values to the items, and enter the data on your tax return in TurboTax.

Pare back those monthly bills

Among the biggest money sucks that modern life has created are the dozens of potential recurring expenses. And while there's no getting rid of your power bill, or mortgage or rent payment, there's a very good chance that you do have a few monthly expenses you can reduce or even eliminate. This includes things like website and publication subscriptions that you may not use often enough to justify their cost, or even things like that landline nobody uses but you pay $40 per month for.

What about your data plan for your mobile phone? Are you paying for a lot more data than you're using? You may be able to shave a few bucks off your monthly cost by changing to a more appropriate plan.

The point is, you may be able to find some savings by simply "right-sizing" all of the monthly services you pay for, without losing out on any of the benefits you enjoy.

But at the same time, if you really need to set aside more money for savings, it may be time to give up some things you don't really need, so you can finally start setting aside money for a rainy day.

Modern life can be very noisy and distracting; before we know it, we are inundated with possessions that don't add value to our lives, and expenses that never end. If you implement the three steps above, not only will you find yourself with more money saved down the road, you'll also end up with a simpler life, and you'll have taken some steps toward developing better money habits.

And once you have that momentum built up, you'll have a much better chance of reaching all your financial goals.


Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

8 Strategies Mentally Strong People Use to Gain Financial Freedom

Mental strength is about regulating your thoughts, managing your emotions, and behaving productively. And all three of those factors greatly affect your attitude toward money and the activity in your bank account.

Mentally strong people are in control of their finances. They manage their money in a way that allows them to live according to their values and they are always working toward their financial goals.

Here are eight financial habits of mentally strong people:

1. They create a budget.

Coming face-to-face with how much money you earn versus how much you spend can be quite anxiety-provoking. But mentally strong people have goals and they know they won't reach their goals without a clear plan. Their budget helps them make informed choices based on the facts--not impulse purchases based on emotion.

2. They take calculated risks.

Mentally strong people don't allow their excitement over the promise of a big payout to fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes. But they also don't let their fear keep them from investing in the right opportunities. They spend time calculating risks and they can be informed about which opportunities best suit their financial goals.

3. They don't engage in unhealthy competition.

Comparing yourself to other people will sabotage your best efforts. Mentally strong people don't waste their energy competing to have the newest car or the biggest house on the block. They create their own definition of success and stay focused on their own path.

4. They separate their net worth from their self-worth.

Mentally strong people aren't necessarily rich--but they are comfortable in their own skin. They feel good about themselves regardless of the size of their bank account. They don't show off their assets or brag about their income because their self-worth doesn't depend on their net worth.

5. They own stuff--their stuff doesn't own them.

Mentally strong people's lives don't revolve around collecting more possessions. They take care of their belongings but they aren't married to them. They're able to move to a new home, part with things they've outgrown, and go without luxuries.

6. Their financial habits are in line with their values.

Mentally strong people's financial habits reflect their values. They spend their time and their money on the things that matter most to them. Whether they're working extra hours to dig themselves out from a setback or they're trimming some of the extras so they can spend more time with their families, their choices reflect their core beliefs.

7. They delay gratification.

Justifying your purchases by telling yourself you deserve to be happy can lead to overindulgence and impulse purchases. Mentally strong people don't make excuses to spend money they don't have on things they don't need. Whether it's a second honeymoon or the latest gadget, they practice self-discipline and wait until the time is right.

8. They have a sense of purpose.

Whether they strive to leave a legacy for future generations or they give to others in need, mentally strong people have a sense of purpose in life. They keep that purpose in mind when making their financial decisions.

Develop Your Mental Muscle

Mountains of debt and ongoing financial problems can be a symptom of a much bigger problem--a lack of mental strength. But the good news is, everyone can take steps to become mentally stronger.

Just like working out will build your physical muscles, there are exercises that will build your mental muscles. With practice and dedication, you develop the mental strength you need to develop better financial habits.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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16 Killer Tips To Save You Money and Grow Your Business

My entrepreneurial knowledge came primarily from watching my parents and grandparents run businesses growing up, and my own experience as an employee at other people's companies. Along the way, I learned a lot of other important lessons that I think are tips everyone getting started should know to get a leg up right out of the gate. In no particular order, here are some of the tips that have helped me either save money, save time, or save heartache over time. All of them can help grow your business.

1. Get an American Express Card. This is not a plug for them, but some valuable advice an entrepreneur friend of mine gave me before I set-up shop. I have since exceeded my credit limit without needing advance permission, stretched my funds further by paying in 45 days instead of 30 interest free, and trimmed travel expenses because the card rendered certain car rental insurance obsolete, reduced airline fees, and provided a concierge whenever I needed something special I could not access on my own.

2. Ask for remnant space when advertising. Publications often end up with last minute cancelations--and when they do, they need to fill them fast. If you have ad art ready, you can save a lot of money by negotiating for last minute space.

3. Hire for what you see, not what you are hoping for. I always want to see the best in people, but the reality when hiring is that the best you will get from a potential employee is evident in the interview. Never con yourself into thinking an applicant will flourish with your help. You can teach and train, but you can't transform.

4. Learn how to do every job in your company yourself. Need to take great photos of your products? Learn lighting and do it a few a times on your own. Need to make financial decisions for your company? Don't rely on an accountant. Read a book or take a class until those confusing numbers become clear to you. Ditto for EVERY other role in your business. If you can do it yourself, it's hard for anyone to overcharge you, advise you incorrectly, or hijack your business.

5. Don't forget the power of paper. Digital marketing is great, sure, but direct mail is an awesome weapon. No matter how addicted customers are to email, Snapchat, and Youtube, there is a place for printed material as a sales tool. Catalogues, postcards, flyers, etc, remind people of the things you tell them about digitally and give them a chance to mull over, savor, and imagine how those things can fit in their life in ways that digital retargeting, banners, and Facebook appearances can't.

6. Take the smallest trade show booth possible, but send your best salespeople. You don't have to go big to impress clients, but you have to make the most of every encounter. You will get the desired ROI time and again if you send your most focused salesperson, armed with the desire to communicate and a simple and clear display, for far less than the cost of a giant booth full of bells and whistles, but devoid of engagement.

7. Don't trust anyone. Always have checks and balances in place to ensure that what you think is happening really is. It only takes putting one wrong person in place, missing one small opportunity, or making one shortsighted choice to put your business on the ropes. Vet people carefully, ask hard questions, and always check in with your gut instinct.

8. Make payment easy, but make sure to get paid. Set your business up to accept every type of credit card. Sign up for paypal, bitcoin or whatever else you want. Happily accept cash. But whatever you do, get paid at the time of sale. Unless your business is actually a bank, turning it into one for clients is a surefire way to bring it down. No matter what the circumstances of a particular transaction, you need to get paid in order to keep your enterprise afloat.

9. Cash flow is king. If your company's cash is tied up in anything--inventory, accounts receivable, investments, etc--no matter what industry you are in, you are at risk. Keep your eyes on your cash at all times: understand where it comes from, how it gets spent, and the ways outside forces can change those two things at any time.

10. Create a reserve fund. If you build a percentage (no matter how small) into every sale that gets allocated to a reserve fund you will find that you are never beholden to big banks, outside investors, or even market whims. Having your own back-up fund is not just wise, it's liberating. Companies with cash call the shots. Ask Apple.

11. Study other industries, not just your own. Knowing your competition is important, but it can only tell you about things you already have a clue about. Real innovation comes from looking outside your industry and trying things that no one in your space has thought about doing.

12. Always be selling. Attending an event to acquire a new skill? Learn who else is learning with you and ask how your business can help theirs. Meeting with a confirmed client? Find out if they know any other companies that could benefit from your products. Going over annual numbers with your accounting firm? Ask if they have any other clients they would consider introducing you to. Every interaction is a chance to sell what you do--don't miss out on a single one.

13. Make employees care about your money the way they do about theirs. Create a system that pre-loads a bonus account for them. Assign a dollar value to the deadlines and expectations they are supposed to meet. If they miss them, deduct from the bonus account. Send a monthly or weekly statement of account so that they see whether their money is holding steady or diminishing--and are forced to hold themselves accountable when necessary. No one likes to lose money--and helping employees to understand their actions have a direct impact on both your business's and their bottom lines is a powerful tool.

14. When you sell your product or service, sell how it will be used, not what it does. A prospect never buys anything for its attributes, he buys it for its benefits. Make those clear and your product will sell itself.

15. Say what you're going to do, and then do it. Customer loyalty comes from customers trusting you. Trust doesn't happen overnight, but you can fast track their trust by being reliable. If you can ship their order the same day it's placed, say so. Then make sure that happens. And once it does, find a way to make sure they notice.

16. Don't be afraid of customer feedback--especially the kind that says your company has to do better, more, or differently. Customer advice, unlike that of coaches, consultants, and competitors is free. Seek it out, evaluate it like it's true, and then act on it. No matter how much it hurts or what kind of change it implies, it's better to know and have the chance to act on it than to bury your head in the sand.

Image Credit: Getty Images

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

8 Tips That Will Help You Stop Feeling Guilty About Your Money Habits

Money is an anxiety-inducing topic. Short-term investing, long-term investing, budgeting, savings — all of these are terms that create walls between being financially responsible and just pretending that your debit account has no end in sight.

As a first-generation Latinx in the United States, I also have the added reality of having to learn a lot about finance on my own and for the first time. In conversation with a friend we spoke on how we were the first time in our family’s history where “survival” was already taken care of — we had disposable income, the question was now, what were we going to do with it?

Ashley Feinstein Gerstley is a Money Coach, Financial Nutritionist and runs The Fiscal Femme. As a Latina who is trying to get her finances in order, I asked Ashley to shed some light on best practices that have happiness and feeling good about my money at the core.

Feinstein Gerstley explained that the first step is to keep a money journal. The goal is to see a visual representation of all you spend and receive, this way it puts the one too many Uber ride into a better context.

Here are 8 more tips to get your financial health in order.

Give yourself exciting finance goals

“Start with the fun part. What are your goals? What are you saving for? What do you want to achieve with your finances? Not only does coming up with exciting goals motivate us, it quantifies where we want to be so we can figure out how to get there!”

Adopt a powerful money mantra

“We tell ourselves some pretty terrible things about ourselves and money. And when we do this over and over it becomes our money mantra. We typically think of mantras as being positive but they can be negative as well. The good news is, we can replace our non-serving money mantra with something much more powerful. Our old money mantras are bound to come up but we can recognize them, notice that they are no longer true for us and replace them with our powerful new money mantra.”

Think of investing in the long term

“We don't want to invest our short-term saving like our rainy day fund or the cash we plan on using for vacation. By thinking of investing as a longer-term strategy, we have already mitigated a lot of the risk because now we have the time to wait out any shifts or downturns in the market. If you are nervous to start, start small. You can start investing with just a couple hundred dollars. We learn by doing and get more comfortable as we practice.”

Forget ‘budgeting’ go for ‘happiness allocation’

“I actually hate the word budget because it typically makes us think of restriction and saying no to ourselves (Kind of like a diet. Food and money are really similar.). I call budgets happiness allocations because I think that's a much better description. They are plans where we decide how to allocate our money in the ways that are going to make us the happiest in the short and long-term. Once the plan works, we can spend what we plan guilt-free.”

(Really) treat yourself.

“It's important to remember what we really want as far as our goals and values. We want to align our spending with what's important to us as much as possible in order to get the most happiness per dollar and meaning from our spending. Maybe going on vacation is a true treat or paying down your credit card debt. Look at each expense in terms of your goals. Is it still worth it?”

Treat saving like an expense

“Separate and automate our savings and investing. When we have a separate savings account, the money is not so accessible to our checking account and we don't see it as available to us. When it's automated we don't have to think about it and each week or each paycheck the money is transferred out of our checking account like any other expense. This is how we prioritize paying ourselves first. When we wait to see what's leftover to save, we are prioritizing paying everyone else over ourselves. ”

Have a money party

“It's a bi-weekly meeting with ourselves (and can be with our partners / families too) where we show our money some love and carve out time to deal with any financial to-dos. They typically hang over our head, stress us out and often get put on the back-burner but when we create the time to deal with them, we can rest assured they will get done. As things come up throughout the week, you can add them to your money party agenda.”

Look at expenses annually

A $4.30 latte every single day may not seem like much, but Feinstein Gerstley explains that it can add up to $1,569.50 annually. “Looking at our expenses annually shows us the true impact of each expense so we can allocate our money in the way that's going to make us the happiest in the short and long term.

Image Credit: shutterstock

Theresa Todman, Managing Partner/CEO of B&M Financial Management Services, LLC . Theresa specializes in bookkeeping, accounting, QuickBooks solutions, small business tax issues and consulting.
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