Networking: Building Your Community

Networking: Building Your Community

Networking: Building Your Community

Q:  How to network from a place of abundance? To network and build your community without sounding pushy, or worse, needy?

My answer:  First of all, I LOVE this question. My answer is coming from what Life is teaching me: abundance begets abundance. If you are operating from a belief that you are lacking abundance, then you will be pushy and needy. So of course that is how you will sound. But if you resonate abundance, you will attract that to yourself. So, if the community around you doesn't reflect abundance, you have to look within. At your deepest core, are you fulfilled? At your deepest truth level, do you feel joyful, inspired, creative, satisfied? If not, resolve that first. Then your "sound" will resonate the joy inside of you. And so will your community.
For more great tips, go to my profile on Clarity.
Don’t Cry Over Money

Don’t Cry Over Money

Don't Cry Over Money

On last night, I watched an episode of Shark Tank.  I have to admit it is fastly becoming one of my favorite television shows for money is what we small business owners think about all the time!  While watching these savvy millionaires last evening fighting over potential million dollar investment deals, I heard two things that broadened my thinking about money.
The first thing was "your money is like little soldiers that you send out to fight for you every single day. If they don't come back with spoils, then something is wrong." 
What an eye-opening perspective from the often egotistical and straight-no-chaser Kevin O'Leary. Money should be fighting for us not against us! How many of our soldiers are being destroyed, leaving us worse off than we were before? I truly believe that we have grossly misunderstood the saying, "It takes money to make money," for many of us are begging, borrowing and stealing every single day we open for business.  Making money is about multiplication not subtraction.  Small business loans though sought by start up companies are called liabilities for a reason.
As I was standing in line to early vote, an older man and younger woman and I were talking about everything from politics to parenting to middle class issues. For the most part, she said, the middle class does not have 6-8 months income in reserve. We are one paycheck from poverty, she said. And what of our children. Have we produced a generation of consumers but not savers? Are they wearing their money, driving their money but have nothing that isn't financed in some way otherwise? Have we modeled survival or consumption but no profit. Have we built in our kids a strong work ethic but not a strong money ethic?
"Don't cry over money. Money doesn't cry over you." This was the second thing that struck me.
Shark O'Leary was on fire!  Though delivered sharply, his responses were full of wisdom.  While the other sharks grew teary as an store owner talked about how he learned to bake pies and how his investment in a mascot had been successful, O'Leary said to him, "I never cry about money.  I make money."  Money has no heart.  If you use it up, it's gone. It doesn't stick around because you need it or you spent it on sentimentality. It only sticks around when you respect it.
Key to respecting money is anticipation.  I think one of the biggest compliments I have received as a bookkeeper is that I anticipate what's needed. Many can number crunch but few can anticipate.  Likewise, every business owner needs someone in his or her camp who can anticipate and help them plan for things.  It's so easy for entrepreneurs to become mesmerized by doing what they love at the expense of the financial benchmarks that await them up ahead. Somebody has to bring foresight and accountability to the table.
I think back to when my son was small.  Taking four used take-out canisters, I marked one for immediate need, one for charitable giving, one for short-term savings and fourth one for long-term savings. Of course, I used simpler words that my youngster could understand. Every time he got his allowance, I took him to those canisters. This taught him to anticipate beyond immediate gratification.
Sadly, despite training him well, his dad and I weren't always good models of this.  Like many independents before us, we adopted a financial style of loans and accumulating debt in order to keep our business afloat.  We made decisions that created worries down the line.  Saving was not something that was built into our financial plan.  We serviced our clients and paid bills this is true; but did not hold ourselves accountable to put money aside.  Not a great plan and ultimately the plan failed.  So what did we have to do?  Find another backer, another lender, another someone who had what we needed.
As I watched my son grow, I started seeing that despite his early introduction to money, he took after what we modeled.  He took on the struggle mentality of his parents who juggled personal and business finances in order to survive.  It's like watching someone just learning to swim.  One of the first things to overcome is fear of water.  Until the swimmer understands that water has buoyant properties, he'll fight against what would otherwise keep him afloat.
If you know how to market it, you can sell most anything.  Ask the inventor of the post-it note or paper clip. What's hard is the decisions we make to meet a momentary need at the expense of the bigger financial picture.  We extend ourselves too quickly or in the wrong direction.  Like a scared swimmer, we fear going under and grab onto the first thing that says it will hold us up.  The Sharks understood this and turned away many a rose-colored glasses wearing dreamer, refusing to invest in them or their idea.
One doesn't typically take advice from a shark, but this is for sure.  Those Sharks respect money and their soldiers are coming back with spoils.
Just Give Me Peace of Mind

Just Give Me Peace of Mind

Just Give Me Peace of Mind

A dear friend and business colleague of mine posted this to her Facebook Page:
I learned with my first business that (often) you are NOT in the business you think. Bookkeepers/accountants, for example, do not sell tax prep and clean financial records-that is a function they perform- they are in the business of marketing/selling peace of mind. There is ease in clarity.
I wanted to jump up and down saying "Yes, yes, yes!"  This is what I've heard from small business owners more than anything else.  They want someone who they can trust to take care of their financials so they can concentrate on what matters most to them - running their businesses.  And believe me, that's no small order.  Many have gone through more bookkeepers than they've wanted to.  Some bookkeepers have talked a good game but didn't have the expertise.  Others have had the expertise but lacked other vital skills.
I've done bookkeeping for over a decade.  Sure, I pride myself on knowing how to navigate the various versions of QuickBooks, reconcile bank statements to it and maintain both hard copy and electronic files.  While that is important, what I hear most often is "I need somebody I can trust."  In my early years as a bookkeeper, I thought that meant they wanted someone who wouldn't steal from them.  Certainly, extortion can be the end of an otherwise profitable business.  A savvy businessman had to shut his company down because of it.  His Chief Financial Officer was taking money and covering it up.  It wasn't until customers began to complain that he discovered the truth.
Trust is broader still.  To put it simply, trust is knowing that stuff is going out when it's suppose to and reports are filed on time.  This is where having someone organized and conscientious is critical.  After all, what good is it that a financial professional have the technical aspects down but can't manage priorities.  If bills are paid late, a company's credit suffers as well as their credibility.  If reports are filed late, especially to tax reporting agencies, penalties and interests can be hefty and in some cases trigger an audit.  A financial professional has to stay on top of those things.  One of the best compliments I received from a past employer was that I was great at anticipating needs.
That, I have found is what has gained me the respect of clients and employers alike.  I am someone they can trust.  They want somebody who will take the lead.  It is not that they want you to run things.  That's their job.  Besides, it is a foolish business owner who doesn't have certain checks and balances in place to keep their financial person accountable.  What I have found out is that they don't want to have to micromanage.  They don't want to feel they have to remind you when things are due or constantly check to make sure things don't fall through the cracks.  That is too burdensome.
One of the first things I initiate with my clients is a weekly meeting.  It doesn't have to be long but it goes a long way.  It makes sure things are communicated and we are aware of the what's, the when's and the how's.  Besides, if they have to figure out ways to resolve issues, why are they paying me?  They don't just want a number cruncher, they want a thinker.  They want someone who is looking out for their best interest.  There is a wealth of information out there if you take advantage of it.  Bookkeeper groups are all over social media.  Rather than using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect with friends, family members or celebrities alone, it is a great networking tool.   It's a treasure chest of solutions.  Knowing that you are on top of things gives your client peace of mind.  Now, that's worth its weight in gold!
Independent Tax Tips

Independent Tax Tips

Just a couple of years back, during the worst economic times since the Great Depression, what kept this country afloat was small businesses.  Hallmark companies– the names of which were as familiar as our immediate family–went belly up.  Government bail outs were rushed to the auto industry as well as lending institutions to avoid irreversible collapse.  Withstanding the strong winds of adversity were the mom and pop shops and independents.  These determined individuals got out of bed everyday, opened their doors and gave unwavering service to those who came by.  Cash was low.  Anxiety was high.  With grit and determination and a lot of praying, they believed the day would come that things would get better.  Some survived against all odds.  

I’ve always had a side hustle, but April of 2013, I left employment and became 100% independent.  Quite a milestone!  From that point on, GAME ON!  I’ve learned a couple of things, especially during tax season, that I want to pass along  

If you’re deducting a home office, make sure it’s a bona fide, only-used-for office space 

I’ve had a home office for quite a few years now.  One thing that my tax preparer advised this year, however, was that I take a picture of it.  I did.  I also researched North Carolina requirements and obtained a home-based business permit and business license.  You might not think this is necessary.  I can say that I feel more secure knowing that I’ve added that extra validity to the work that I perform.  Should I be audited, I can flip out my pictures, my approved home-based business permit and my nicely framed business license.  

If you offer services, make sure you get a formal contract 

Back in the day, a handshake was enough.  It was called a verbal contract.  And in some courts of law, it is just as binding as a formal contract.  We’re talking about the IRS though.  I’m not so sure they place the same value on that.  That’s not a chance I’d want to take.  Having a contract is a legal document that speaks to what services you are performing, how they will be performed and the compensation.  You need a contract.  Merely saying you are an independent contractor is not enough.  One major determinant for the IRS is “if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”  Says, “You are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if you are given freedom of action. What matters is that the employer has the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed.”    

Make sure the check is made out to the business, not to you 

If you have a variety of customers or perform at different gigs, it adds credibility to your business if your payments are made out to your business.  Without that, there is nothing that legitimizes what the money was for.  This, the IRS does not like.  They don’t like that there is no contract or nothing is defined on an invoice or statement of work.  Secondly, they don’t like it if the checks are made out to you personally.  In such cases, establishing a separate bank account for your business is essential.  In my search for a bank that offered free checking to small business owners, I found three local ones.  One was discontinuing its free offerings to businesses but one wasn’t — First Citizens Bank.  

Let me interject that I am not employed by First Citizen’s Bank and don’t get a discount for referrals.  Still, I think they have earned a shout out.  There is no cost if you have less than 175 items per month and you elect to get your bank statements electronically.  And get this!  You don’t have to maintain a certain balance to remain eligible.  That’s pretty sweet.  They also offer great customer service.  My banking account was less than 30 days old and typically your deposit is held for a time before your funds become available.  An issue came up, in the interim, that required I use the money.  I called the bank.  Though the bank officer was busy, one of the tellers helped me.  She made a phone call to the issuing bank and verified that the check had cleared.  They immediately released the funds.  This averted a potential crisis as small businesses need access to funds as early as possible.  

I’ve written about three things I’ve learned.  But this is in no wise exhaustive.  Feel free to add comments and other tax tips or information that can benefit us, the few, the proud, the Independent!