Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @NicoleAFende. Nicole is The Numbers Whispererâ„¢ and President of Small Business Finance Forum. As a credentialed actuary with experience as a Chief Financial Officer, Investment Banker, and successful entrepreneur, Fende helps her clients reach their profit goals and learn how to effectively run the financial side of their business. In her book, How to be a Finance Rock Star: The Small Business Owner’s Ticket to Multi-Platinum Profits, Nicole shares how to reach multi-platinum profits. For more info: http://financerockstar.com/
SmallBizLady: Why did you think is the biggest financial challenge holding back small business owners?
Nicole A.Fende: Not understanding the drivers behind profit. You can sell a lot, but if your product or service is not priced correctly you may lose a lot of money rather than make a lot of money.
A close second is thinking the numbers can come later. That’s like saying I’ll worry about where to build my house after it’s built. If you build on sand the house won’t last. If your business is built on poor financial planning it is unlikely to last.
SmallBizLady: What does it mean to be a Finance Rock Star?
Nicole A.Fende A Finance Rock Star understands the basics of running a profitable business. They don’t need or want to know every last detail, but they do have a firm grasp on the fundamentals. Then they apply those fundamentals consistently in their business. When appropriate they bring in an expert to handle the nitty gritty.
Otherwise it’s like expecting a vocalist who can’t sing to be successful.
SmallBizLady: Why do so many business owners avoid numbers?
Nicole A.Fende: Fear. For some it’s the fear of math. The fear of not understanding how to analyze their business is common, so they just shove it away. However I also have clients who excelled at math in school. For them it’s the fear of what the numbers will say about their business. They’re afraid that the numbers will say their business can’t succeed.
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners overcome their fear of finance?
Nicole A.Fende Would you drive down the autobahn in a sports car doing 80 MPH with your eyes are closed? If you do that for more than few minutes you will end up crashing, maybe dying. Running your business without understanding the numbers is no different. You can’t see where you’re going, and sooner or later you will crash.
Face your fears. If it’s the actual math that scares you get help from a coach, accountant or bookkeeper. Think of it as Drivers Ed.
If it’s the fear of the answer, consider this. Would you rather find out you’re heading over a cliff after you’re airborne or before? If you know before you can change course and have a good chance of avoiding the crash. You can’t avoid a problem you can’t see.
SmallBizLady: Financing a start-up is hard, especially if your credit is less than stellar. What are some non-traditional ways entrepreneurs can get capital?
Nicole A.Fende: Crowd Funding has become quite popular online. I call it the busking of Web 2.0. You post a specific project or need online and then raise money for it. Friends, colleagues, even strangers can support your initiative. It is not a loan, nor is it charity. The person or business raising money offers some type of incentive or experience to those who pledge money.
Another option, often overlooked, is eBay. You can sell off any number of collectibles and dust collectors on eBay. I’ve discovered the saying “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” is absolutely true.
Some other options I cover in my book include; Sponsorships, Customer Funding, Peer to Peer Loans, and Joint Ventures.
SmallBizLady: Why is expense tracking so important? Do I really need to keep track of every $5 expense?
Nicole A.Fende: Every dollar of expense you don’t track is costing you $1.35!
So if you ignore a $5 expense it’s costing you $6.75 (5 * 1.35). If you ignore $5 expense every week of the year it will cost you $351 (52 weeks * $6.75). Would you throw away a check for $351 if I handed it to you right now?
Everyone hates tracking expenses (I do too!). My personal favorite is Shoeboxed.com to automate that task. Others include Keebo.com and Expensify.com. You might consider hiring a bookkeeper if the online solutions are not a fit. They are a cost conscious alternative to CPA’s.
SmallBizLady: One of your key mantras is “Time is money”. What do you mean by that?
Nicole A.Fende: Time is your most precious, irreplaceable asset. You can’t save time. You can’t buy more of it. When it’s gone it’s gone.
Let’s say you work a 40 hour week. Imagine that goes onto your financial statements just like your revenue. How are you spending it? Would you be embarrassed if you had to determine the return you are getting on your time?
If an hour of your time is worth $100, and you spend 2 hours a month on the free version of a service that costs $20 a month, are you spending your time wisely? Treat your time like a bank account that gets filled up each week. Spend it as carefully as you spend the cash your clients pay you.
SmallBizLady: What are some common pricing mistakes people make?
- Accounting for inflation. Whether your business is a service business or produces an actual product you have expenses. Those expenses will go up by at least the rate of inflation each year. If you don’t include that in your price you will earn less next year than you did this year.
- Assuming that if you sell enough you will make a profit. This is false. In fact the more you sell of an underpriced product or service, the more money you will lose!
- Simply setting their price by looking at what their competitors charge. First, do you even know if they make a profit? Second, do you know what their expenses are? Finally, would you let your competitor run your business? Then why are they setting your price?
SmallBizLady: You’ve said that offering promotions is like giving customers money from your personal bank account. Why?
Nicole A.Fende: When you set your price you assume a certain level of profit. Let’s say it’s $100,000 a year. You decide to run a sale. It’s a big success, however the revenues you received were $10,000 less than at your regular price. In other words, your business brought in $10,000 less in total money, but your expenses stayed the same. That means your profit, the amount you can pay yourself, is only $90,000 this year.
SmallBizLady: So how can you offer a promotion and keep your profits?
Nicole A.Fende: The easiest way is to bump up all your prices to give a cushion for discounts and sales. Another option is treat the revenue lost due to a promotion as a marketing expense. The key is accounting for it somewhere. If you don’t the only place left to get the money is from your pocket.
SmallBizLady: What are Key Metrics?
Nicole A.Fende: When musicians get on stage they don’t worry about every little detail. If someone misses a chord, or steps in the wrong spot once, it’s no big deal. The audience probably won’t even know and certainly will not remember.
However there are some problems which will kill a show. All the stage lights go out. The speaker system dies or gets stuck in one of those head exploding feedback loops. You may not be able to prevent a problem, but like the best live rock bands, you must be ready to fix it.
Key Metrics are the show stoppers for your business. This should not be a long list, simple and short is your goal. Examples include revenue, expenses, clients gained and clients lost.
SmallBizLady: Once I have my Key Metrics, what do I do with them?
Nicole A.Fende: Compare your key metrics to your experience at the end of every month. This will tell you very quickly if you are on track or need to make a course correction. Going back to our original example of the speeding sports car, Key Metrics let you know to keep going straight or if you need to turn to avoid going off a cliff.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #Smallbizchat http://bit.ly/S797e
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.