Financial Fitness

Laura Yamanaka, president and co-founder of teamCFO, and Natalie Torres-Haddad, author of Financially Savvy in 20 Minutes, joined our COO Gabrielle Raymond McGee for the small business webinar “Financial Fitness For Your Business”. Our two experts explained how, like health and fitness, developing the financial strength of your small business requires planning, commitment and knowing when to ask for extra help. 

Scheduling is key.

Experts have found that those who work exercise time into their schedule are more likely to commit to their sweat sessions. The same can be said for managing small business accounting. “Having some kind of routine in place is important,” says Torres-Haddad. “It’s how often you do it, not necessarily how long you do it for. It’s understanding that maybe you have certain days like Mondays and Wednesdays as your, ‘let me look at my balance sheet’ day. Tuesdays and Thursdays can be when I tap into my mentor.” In keeping with her book and podcast, she recommends setting aside 20 minutes a day. 

Yamanaka agrees that a set schedule is a huge help, but prefers to dedicate an hour a week to focusing on a different aspect of her finances. Assess your schedule and decide which approach is right for you.

Think of your fitness routine as self-care, not punishment.

When you work to shift your thinking to approach exercise as an enjoyable way of taking care of your body rather than punishing yourself for indulging, you’re more likely to reap the physical and mental rewards of your workouts. Torres-Haddad believes in taking the same tactic when it comes to balancing her books. 

“Whenever I’m paying bills, it’s a spa-like experience,” she explains. “I have candles. I always have my calming tea, never with caffeine, music. Whatever helps to put me in that state of mind when I say ‘Okay, I’m doing this; it’s going to be a great experience.” Spreadsheets will never compare to an hour in the sauna, but trying to lessen the anxiety of small business finances while you’re working on them can go a long way to keeping you on track. 

Be sure to reward yourself when you make major progress; think of it as the finishers’ medal for a race. “I treat myself after with a bath or I go on a nice walk with my dogs,” she says.

Know when it’s time to get a trainer.

None of us can do it alone; remember, our world-class athletes get help from trainers. Even if you know your balance sheet backwards and forwards, you still may need to seek outside help. 

Yamanaka reminds small business owners that they simply won’t know everything, especially when it comes to taxes. “You need a tax person right away because tax law is very complex,” she urges. Tax laws can change according to your industry, state and even city. “You need somebody who is going to specialize in the area of what you do and help you avoid the problems that you could have.” 

Torres-Haddad used to do all her own accounting–she literally wrote the book on financial savvy, after all–but an honest conversation with her CPA helped her see why getting outside help was crucial. “[MY CPA] said ‘What happens is [entrepreneurs] are not looking out for the right things. Sometimes they have no idea that this is a tax write-off or that this is something they’re spending too much money on.’” 

Small business owners should remember that bookkeepers, accountants and CFOs each offer different ways to help your business. You may not need the help of all three depending on where you are in terms of building your revenue (see how Marilyn Landis of Basic Business Concepts helps business owners decide which is right for them.). 

In the same way that only you can actually follow the exercise and nutrition plan from your trainer, only you should have the ability to move your money around, Yamanaka advises. Maintaining that control offers a safeguard against shady bookkeepers, while also helping you to become a better business owner in the long run. “When you start hiring someone that can work with you, instead of having to do it on your own, you can learn with them,” Yamanaka advises.

Even if you know your balance sheet backwards and forwards, you still may need to seek outside help. 

Find or create an accountability group.

Nothing pushes you toward your personal best like working next to people who have the same goals. When you build an accountability group for your business, you’ll have people cheering you on toward success and supporting you in new ways. “Team up with somebody else, because maybe you have a strength that they don’t,” Torres-Haddad suggests. 

Those accountability buddies can be other entrepreneurs as well as the professionals you’ve hired, especially your tax person. Develop that relationship so you’re communicating with them beyond tax season. “They should be asking, ‘What are your plans? Where do you think you are as far as the revenue side?’,” says Yamanaka. 

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