How to Create a Generous Business: Leverage Your Profits

I’m a big proponent of using a money system in your business for many reasons. One of those is the way it can make giving away money, or donating, so much easier. Today, we’re focusing on how to use your profits to be able to give freely in your business. In my series on money mapping, I wrote about setting up a profit account like the Profit First system suggests. I’ve also written about how you might use that profit account to donate money. This post will be a more in-depth exploration of those concepts, so go ahead and read those posts if you haven’t already!

The Purpose of Profit

In my post “The In-Depth Guide to Mapping Your Money, and How it Can Fortify Your Business, Part II,” I describe the profit account in a money system this way:

The profit account accumulates and then is distributed quarterly. Business owners are encouraged to use their Profit Distributions to reward themselves for their hard work. This keeps the owner excited about and invested in the business. It also discourages any tendency to reinvest everything back into the business, or over-save.  Rewards can range from a day out to charitable giving, to really anything you want!

Note that last bit: charitable giving. Recently, I’ve made a couple posts about how to figure out what we really want to spend our money on. It has to do with our values – when we know what’s really valuable to us and we think about how to get that, we can spend our money in ways that are the most purposeful and fulfilling to us. We can spend in a way that brings us that feeling of “enough.”

Lynne Twist, author of The Soul of Money, describes this phenomenon this way: “When people were able to align their money with their deepest, most soulful interests and commitments, their relationship with money became a place where profound and lasting transformation could occur.” Imagine doing this every quarter with your quarterly profit distribution! To create a generous business and get the most satisfaction from your profits, I encourage you to engage in some soul searching. Think about what the word “generous” means to you and what you might do with your money to embody this word.

A Generous Business is a Happy Business

One suggestion I’d like to make here, is sharing your profit distribution in the form of holiday bonuses for any employees or independent contractors you work with. Appreciate the work they do by sharing your profits. Receiving their thanks and building up a relationship of mutual appreciation can be one of the most satisfying ways to use your profit distribution. It can also improve the overall quality of your work life! Because I advise clients to use the money accumulated in their profit account every quarter, the last distribution of the year comes up during the holidays. This is the perfect time to show employees some appreciation.

Be For Your Community

This year has given us more opportunities than ever to show up for our community as small business owners. I encourage you to think about organizations in your local community or on a larger level that you would like to show visible support for with your business. I wrote a post about thinking about your business’s role in your community called “How to Step Up for Your Community as a Business Owner,” that you might like to read to get some more thoughts on this subject.

One way your business can give (that’s coming up soon!) is by participating in #GivingTuesday on Tuesday December 1st. Here’s their guide for small businesses who want to participate. For GivingTuesday, At Peace With Money is supporting Violence in Boston and Second Harvest Food Bank, just to give you some ideas!

I hope this post inspires you to be generous this season! If you would like to work with someone to develop a money system which enables you to feel abundant and be generous, schedule a curiosity call with me. I’m happy to chat and see if we can work together.

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Angela

Image: Kelly Sikkema 

Roundup: At Peace With Money’s Best Educational Posts to Level Up Your Financial Learning

This week, please enjoy a roundup of some of my best educational posts yet. I’m getting close to my two-year blogging anniversary! In that time I’ve written up quite a few how-to’s, exercises, and perspective pieces on handling money. Below, I’ve pulled out some of my favorites, in the categories of business finance and personal finance.  I’m recommending these articles in particular because they contain foundational info that informs my practice as a profitability coach. The tips and perspectives that I blog about here are tried and true. I share them because they make a huge difference to my clients, just as I hope they’ll make a difference for you! If you’re looking to kick your financial learning into high-gear, let these resources be your guides:

Personal Finance Articles

Business Finance Articles

Suggested Readings – My Favorite Financial Books

I hope these posts are helpful for you! I find that the practice of writing a blog has been a great practice in building up an archive of knowledge – one that I hope is just as helpful for you as it is for my clients.

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Angela

How Planning Your Ideal Day Can Help You Avoid Overworking

If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely to be familiar with the word “grind.” Owning a small business is hard work. You don’t need me to tell me that. Especially if you’re striving to support yourself or a family through your work, you work hard to meet your needs. Today I want to suggest an exercise that can help you take a look at your work life without being caught in the hustle. By planning your ideal work day, you can avoid overworking. How? Let’s jump in and I’ll show you:

How Much Do You Want to Work?

Though it might feel frivolous, especially if you’re used to long hours or a tight schedule, go ahead and ask yourself this question. It’s important to keep a vision in mind. Especially so if you’re self-employed, because you’re the boss! So, would like to work 25 hours a week? 6 hours a day? Think about the other facets of your life – how could you find balance?

Now, compare this with how much you are currently working. There’s probably a difference. Start thinking about ways to close the gap.

Your Schedule Bone Is Connected to Your Pricing Bone

I love this saying from Ariane Trelaun, a fellow bookkeeper and self-described business witch. The point she puts across here is that how much you need to work is directly connected to how much you charge for that work. So, if you need to work 60 hours a week at the rate you’re charging now, imaging upping that rate by a couple bucks. Maybe you could ease back to 40 instead! Doing this math requires being aware of your expenses, and setting income goals based on them.

Try taking a look at your expenses, and how much you’d like to work. Ask yourself, “How much do I need to charge to work that amount?” Doing so can bring you more awareness of why you work as much as you do, and how you can start to limit that. For more thoughts on considering what you make as a business owner, check out this article.

Business, Not Busy-ness

It’s important to note that beyond income needs, there are many other reasons why we might find it difficult to put a cap on our work hours. Many people use work as a coping mechanism, or pride themselves on long hours. Being busy is not a badge of honor. In the long run, busying yourself with your business can lead to solopreneur burnout and a lack of fulfillment in your business. The more you choose to set up your business in a restorative way now, the more it will serve you down the road.

I hope this exercise helps you think through the way you’re structuring your work schedule, and encourages you to find ways out of overwork patterns! If you’d like some personalized help with any of this, please check out my services and schedule a discovery call.

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Angela

Image: Slava Keyzman

How to Set Business Goals to Finish 2020 Strong

Here we are – the last quarter of the year! 2020 has been strange and challenging for many of us, but it is definitely not cancelled. Many small business owners have been hit hard financially this year. That means the need to pay attention to business finances is greater than ever. Below, I have some ideas for goals to set to finish out the year strong.

What Do You Need to Succeed?

When setting any goals for your business, it’s important to consider what you need to succeed. If you’re at a point where you’re unsure about that, I suggest doing a business check-in first. If you feel like you’ve got a good picture of your business’s current strengths and needs, you can go ahead with the goal-setting.

When setting a goal concerning your business financials, here are a couple tips. First, set one goal, not a dozen. This will make it easier to manage and complete the goal. Second, identify the thing to do in your business finances that would make everything else easier or irrelevant. This advice is from the book, The One Thing – you can read my book review here. In a small business context, this could look like setting up a money system, finding a good bookkeeper to work with on a regular basis, or building a money team. We’ll talk more about potential goals below, but the important thing is to set your sights on the thing that would make the biggest difference to your business.

Create Good Habits

One potentially life-changing goal you could set for your business in 2020 is to finish out the year with good money habits. When I say “money habits,” I mean checking in with your business finances on a weekly basis. The more aware you are of where you stand financially, the better. I’ve written about the stressful weight that feeling vague about numbers can create for business owners. If you look at your records every week, this won’t be an issue for you! In fact, you’ll be better able to make financial decisions in your business, because you’ll be more aware of the information you need. If you need more ideas about what to look for during your weekly check-in, read my articles on knowing what your numbers are telling you and creating more revenue.

Make a Plan

If your business is feeling the effects of the pandemic, perhaps your goal to finish out the year can be to create a financial resilience plan. The most important thing to do when creating a resilience plan is to first take stock of where you are. I recommend reading my article on finding financial clarity if you want some guidance here. Perhaps your resilience plan will include seeking small-business relief opportunities, or adapting your offerings to our continually changing conditions. For ideas on what to include in your plan, I’d recommend checking out the SBA’s resources on preparing your business for emergencies, and my free guide, Cash Flow Flow Reboot Guide: A Guide to Thriving in Uncertain Times.

Stay On Top of Your Books

If you received money from Paycheck Protection Program or other forms of small business support, it’s very important to stay on top of your record keeping this year. Especially if you’re applying for loan forgiveness, it’s important to keep your financials tidy. The SBA has specific stipulations about what they money can be spent on in order to qualify for forgiveness. Keeping your books in order will help you stay on top of where that money goes so you can qualify. I recommend consulting with a bookkeeper for assistance.

I hope these ideas have given you some thoughts on what the best goal to finish 2020 strong is for you and your business. In my private work with clients, we do a lot to make sure they meet their goals. If this sounds like it might be helpful for you, reach out and schedule a free discovery call.

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Angela

How To Plan for Surprise Expenses

Did you have a nasty surprise yesterday with the estimated federal tax payments deadline? Or perhaps in your business you deal with other surprise expenses – things that add up. Worker’s compensation, insurance payments, replacing equipment, etc. can surprise business owners and knock you out of a financial groove very easily. Whether these things are a big issue in your business or not, I’m a huge proponent of planning to address them, just in case. How do we do that? Well, let’s talk ideas: 

Have an Emergency Fund

Having an emergency fund saved for your business can be extremely helpful. Whether a surprise expense comes up, or some other disaster strikes, having between three and twelve month’s worth of expenses set aside is great in a pinch. This strategy can be particularly helpful in emergency situations, but for taxes and other types of expenses that are somewhat predictable, try some of the other strategies below.

Set Up a Money System

If you’re a regular reader, you know how much I love money-mapping. Setting up any kind of money system can help you think more broadly about how much you need to put aside for operating expenses and taxes, well before it’s time to actually pay for those things. Checking out my articles on money-mapping is a good intro to money systems if that’s what you need to get started. If you’re a seasoned veteran with money systems, or have at least tried them before, maybe it’s time to do a business check-in and see where your business is at financially. Assess the situation and make a resiliency plan.

Check In With Your Finances Regularly

Ideally, you have a bookkeeping pro doing this, someone who can regularly look at your numbers and pull out important insights. Or, if you’re doing it on your own, you have someone that you consult with on a semi-regular basis to review your books. Even when you’re not working with a professional, regularly looking at your finances is the way to go if you want to be prepared for surprise expenses. The more aware you are of where your business is financially, the more prepared you will be to deal with an issue when one comes up. I recommend finding a way to make regular intentional time looking at your finances fun, like finding a money buddy or setting money dates.

Note Potential Future Expenses

Take time to think about what potential expenses may arise in the future. Perhaps you use a lot of special equipment in your business, and some of it is getting into disrepair. Maybe you simply have a hard time remembering when insurance or tax payments are due. Take note of all of these things and factor them into your money system or savings plan. Write important due dates on the calendar well ahead of time so you’re aware of them. Have an equipment replacement fund set aside for when your laptop or pottery wheel or farm vehicle finally busts or needs repair. The more you can anticipate these things and incorporate some wiggle room into your money system, the less you’ll be knocked sideways financially when they do come up.

I hope this list has given you some good ideas for dealing with surprise expenses. If you need more ideas about developing financial resilience in your business, check out my free e-book, Cash Flow Reboot Guide: A Guide to Thriving in Uncertain Times.

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Angela

How Starting My Business Helped Me Live My Motorcycle Dreams

Earlier this month, I completed my fifth annual 1,400-mile cross-country motorcycle road trip. This is my third year riding my own bike, and my third year riding on my dream motorcycle, a red Indian.

I haven’t always been a motorcyclist. The first two years of this trip, I rode on the back of my husband’s bike. But after that second trip, I decided I wanted to learn how to ride. I completed my local motorcycle safety program and got my license. We bought a Honda Rebel 250 and I set a goal to ride my first 500 miles. Then I set my sights on a bigger bike, more mileage, and a longer trip.

Living my motorcycle dreams involved a long process of incremental growth, a flexible schedule, and some money. I had all of these things because I was a seasoned business owner. While I’ve been working under the name At Peace With Money for about three years, I have a much longer history of doing independent bookkeeping work, and before that I ran a jewelry design business. The skills I gained as a solopreneur – dedication, commitment to incremental progress, etc. translated well into becoming a motorcyclist.

I also have a flexible schedule as a solopreneur, which meant I could find the time during the week for lessons and rides. And I had the ability to pay for a course, because of my financial savvy in my own business experiences. I find that solopreneurship can be full of valuable lessons, and can give you the skillsets and necessary resources to accomplish the things you’ve dreamed up. That’s why my objective with At Peace With Money is to help solopreneurs align their business profits with their life goals; because I think it’s 100% possible!

I hope this little pep-talk give you a dose of inspiration for the week. Think of a dream you’ve always had. How could you orient your business to focus on achieving it? You might also like to read How to Start a Goal-Based Business for more thoughts on this subject.

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Angela

 

Is Your Business Serving Your Life, Or the Other Way Around?

As a business owner, it can be tough to make sure you don’t get caught up in the hustle all the time. I’ve worked with many business owners whose businesses were definitely the main center of their time and attention, but who weren’t really getting their needs met that way. This is really unfortunate to see, yet so common. Today, I’m going to walk through an exercise you can use to evaluate whether your business is serving your life, or the other way around, and then suggest some next steps. Let’s dive in:

Reflect

To evaluate whether your business is serving your life, or the other way around, there are many different questions you can ask yourself. I recommend setting aside at least 20 minutes to reflect on a few of these questions. Pick whichever call to you:

  • How are my needs being met by my business?
  • What is my primary emotion while performing business tasks, and why?
  • What needs are being fulfilled by my business? Which are not?
  • Do I gain anything by running my business? Do I miss out on anything?
  • Is there balance in my life between all the different roles I play (ie. business owner, friend, partner, etc.)? Which role do I spend the most time in?
  • What are my goals in life? Is my business helping me get closer to reaching them?

Re-evaluate

Once you’ve sat with those questions, you will have a clearer idea on where your business might be running your life. Balance between your business and other parts of your life might be out of whack, or maybe you simply aren’t getting paid enough. Now that you’ve acknowledged the issue at hand, it’s time to re-evaluate. Ask yourself, “How can I re-orient my business so it serves my life?” Start thinking about and researching new strategies you can use to close the gaps between your needs and what your business is providing.

A couple pointers for inspiration: if you feel like you’re not getting paid enough, check out my article on considering your hourly wage and my article on creating an owner’s paycheck. Another good place to look for solutions is my series on money-mapping.

Take Action

After you’ve researched and thought through strategies, it’s time to take action! Your business doesn’t need to run your life. Acting decisively to end this cycle will only help you. Whether it’s opening a separate account or deciding on a day every week where you look at your numbers, any action you take is a step in the right direction. If you work well with an accountability partner, you might enjoy my profitability coaching services. Feel free to schedule a call with me to see if we’d be a good fit.

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Angela

How To Focus Your Offerings to Create More Revenue

Many businesses are multi-faceted. Diversifying is a good thing, so many business owners have a large network of different offerings. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to know what offerings to focus energy into. Today, I’d like to introduce a way to analyze your business and figure out where to focus.

It’s About Time

By studying your financial records with an eye to times of the year, you can learn a lot about how your business behaves over time. Whether your business is product- or service-based, it is likely subject to fluctuations. It’s likely that these fluctuations are seasonal, or else focused on specific events. For example, let’s say you own a craft business that brings in the most revenue in the spring and early winter. If you look closely at your records and what you’re doing in your business throughout the year, you might realize these spikes in revenue come from particular sources. In a craft business, it might be that there are several public craft fairs you like to attend in the spring. In early winter, perhaps people buy your products as Christmas gifts. (For some advice specifically about craft fairs, please check out this post!) By analyzing time cycles in your business, it becomes more apparent to you what times of the year and what offerings bring in more revenue. This makes it easier to direct your focus in your business.

Using This Info

Once you’re able to analyze your records from this perspective, you need to figure out how to use the information you find. Focusing on the products or services that bring you the most revenue, as well as the time of year, events, or other factors that effect this, is an important way to discern this info. How can you re-create these conditions to bring in more revenue? For example, perhaps you have one product that’s particularly popular around summertime – can you create variations of this product? How can you expand here?

In our current situation, many people have had to adapt their offerings. Perhaps you’ve had to do this in your business as well. If so, it could be great to conduct this type of review over your financial records of the last several months, since shelter in place began. Ask yourself the questions above, and think about what results you’d like to achieve. Would you like more revenue? More sales of a certain offering? Or perhaps you’re just not clear about what’s working best in your business. Analyzing time cycles can help you figure this out.

This is one of many things a good bookkeeper can help you discern from your records, and something that I regularly do with my clients. If you’d like some support in this process, please think about scheduling a curiosity call with me. I also recommend reading my free e-book, the Cash Flow Reboot Guide, for ideas and strategies to adapt your business to the ongoing pandemic conditions. 

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Angela

Image by Nicole Geri

Stop Expecting “Business As Usual”

So far, 2020 has been a challenge for many business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout and the protests that have broken out around the country have both rocked the business landscape. Many solopreneurs and business owners have had to completely reshape their offerings and financial strategies. Perhaps this includes you!

This time last year, I shared my thoughts on how to do a mid-year review. This time around, I’m thinking about how rather than reflecting on the year so far, it’s time to adapt to a new and different future. I had prepared a blog post about how my income expectations faltered as the pandemic set in. However, because so many people ended up needing help straightening out their books, I blew my original income goal out of the water! My point with this post was going to be how important it is to not let a dismal situation limit your expectations for your business. But, at this moment, I think there’s something deeper to learn. In these rapidly-changing times, it’s important for us to adapt and be gentle with ourselves.

No More “Business As Usual”

Despite the many plans for re-opening the U.S., for many of us, things are not going back to normal. Perhaps you already know this from looking at your bottom line. Or maybe you’ve seen reports about how small businesses have been affected at large. The economic effects and social effects of recent times have created a lasting change in the small business landscape. It’s important for us as business owners to prepare for things to continue to change. This can look a myriad of ways. Creating a money system and putting together a savings cushion are two great strategies for establishing financial resiliency if you want extra ideas.

Just because things aren’t going back to normal doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom, though. Aside from the economic effects, both the pandemic and the recent Black Lives Matter protests have also enriched the business landscape from a social perspective. There are so many opportunities for collaboration! Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to lift each other up. If you want more ideas for collaboration, check out my article on 7 Tips for Business Owners During COVID-19 and my Cash Flow Reboot Guide.

Be Gentle

Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t meet your income goals or if your business is struggling. Conversely, if you find yourself getting a ton of business as a result of the pandemic, don’t work yourself too hard, either! Coping with changes in your business can be challenging. Giving yourself the space to be present with feelings that come up and get enough rest are of paramount importance. The reality is that, no matter how hard you grind right now, in many cases things are still going to be challenging. This is a hard time in the world for most people, solopreneur or not! Be gentle in your expectations of yourself as best you can.

Be Present

In addition to stepping up to give your emotions some space, this is also a time step up for your community as a business owner. The current moment we are in is showing us many ways to do this. Whether we choose to uplift Black colleagues, create fundraising projects, or present some offerings for free, we’ve got options in how to contribute. I think that, if we want to, we can use this moment to permanently change how we do business. I love the way that Proposals for the Feminine Economy frames businesses – as “needs-fulfillment machine[s].” How can we find ways to do business that meet, not only our own needs, but the needs of those around us? Both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter protests have shown us how connected we all really are – socially and economically. This is a question we can sit with right now.

What are your thoughts about business as usual? Has your business experienced any bumps in the road? Please sound off in the comments below. If you’re feeling in need of more guidance on how to navigate this time, don’t hesitate to check out my services and schedule a call.

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Angela

Image by Christin Hume

How to Step Up For Your Community As a Business Owner

Community is absolutely key to the business owner. Recent events have called on us over and over to think about how we’re all connected. The COVID-19 pandemic made it more obvious than ever how we all depend on each other, while the protests happening around the country call on each of us to reflect how we interact with each other and the ways we enable racist policing to continue. Throughout all of this, one of my main pieces of advice has been to stay checked in with other business owners, clients, and other community members. From staying in touch with your audience via social media like Bri Crabtree, to leaning on your money team to make financial decisions, community is very important to a business. No solopreneur exists in a vacuum. So, during this time of unrest and reckoning with our racist past and present, it’s important that we each recognize our responsibilities as community players. 

In this post, I’ll talk about the importance of taking time to reflect on your role in your community, and what you can do now to support Black lives. Whether its fellow business owners, youth in your community, or medics and community workers, many people are in need of support and resources. This is our opportunity to step up as business owners. Let’s dive in: 

Reflect

Take time to consider how you’ve shown up in your community prior. Whether it was donating your goods or services to a local fundraiser, or starting a project that raised money for a specific cause, consider your past efforts. If you’ve never embarked on a project like this, have you had any ideas about it in the past? Reflect on your values and your personal desires to get involved and be supportive to others. What motivates you? It is to your great benefit to build a network in your community of people and causes you support, and who support you in turn. 

Reach Out for Feedback

Ask friends who are involved how your business could support community efforts. If you have friends who are currently involved in anti-racism work, ask them how you could support them or amplify their message. You’ll likely receive some fresh suggestions.

Take Cues From Other Businesses

In my newsletter this month, I highlighted Ben & Jerry’s statement on recent events, “Silence is Not an Option.” Along with this statement, they have also released a new flavor that benefits four different organizations “working on the front lines of the peaceful resistance, building a world that supports their values.” While Ben & Jerry’s is a fairly large corporation, their example is inspiring for businesses of all sizes. 

Here’s an idea more to scale for many of us. Many solopreneurs on Instagram are participating in the #amplifymelanatedvoices challenge, to uplift Black and Brown solopreneurs. Quieting their own social media presences and spotlighting these creators helps them materially, but also creates stronger networks of community among these solopreneurs. Some business owners have also been donating free services or products to Black people and organizations. For example, I’ve seen several herbal apothecaries that are offering free herbal products and consultations for Black people and organizers. 

Do some research and find out what others in your industry are doing, and how businesses in your area are responding to the moment. Then think about what you can do for your community that is authentic, helpful, and realistic given your resources. To ensure your actions are concretely helpful to the Black community, check out this read on do’s and don’ts of allyship

Consider Your Resources

All businesses are not alike, and while you may not have the resources to release a new ice cream flavor, perhaps you can use your platform to speak out. Simply adding your voice as a business owner to the current discussion around the importance of Black lives and the horrors of police misconduct can be helpful. The same goes at another time for another issue.

Perhaps you can donate your time or services to a cause, or offer them for free for Black or low-income people in your area. You might create a fundraising offering, where a certain percentage of proceeds goes to fund an organization in your community. If you get creative, there are many ways to chip in and stay in your business’s budget. Next week, I’ll be talking about how to use money mapping to figure out how much you can give to causes. Stay tuned for that. 

Above all, remember that whatever effort you make to contribute to your community, if you make it with good intentions, know that it will be appreciated, and likely returned to you down the road. The more we create good networks that are based truly on helping each other, the more we can each succeed in our endeavors. If you’d like another reflection-based exercise to go along with all this, check out my posts on how to do a mid-year review

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Angela

Image by Joan Villalon