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I’m on a mission to change the conversation around business money stuff, and that starts with removing the shame we have about money. I talk to business owners every day and there is a single issue that seems universal. They are filled with shame when there is a money mistake or money misstep. Business owners are okay if a marketing promo doesn’t have the expected return, or if there is a product that didn’t sell. But the moment you ask about or learn about a money thing the willingness to learn from a business decision turns into an attitude of self-blame and shame. We tend to marinate in the emotion of shame about money stuff, and it is blocking us as entrepreneurs.

 

Research professor and shame expert, Brene Brown, talks about how shame works,“The less you talk about it, the more you got it. Shame needs three things to grow exponentially in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment.” And boy are we ever secretive and silent about the money stuff. We don’t want to talk about it or admit that perhaps we don’t know how to manage some things around money. There is almost a universally accepted attitude that money stuff should never see the light of day, and that it is not okay to talk about.

 

Before I go further, I want to tell you that I get it. Mike and I had severe money management issues in our first business, and I didn’t want to tell anyone or admit I needed help. We just needed to make more money, and we’d be fine. Sound familiar?

 

Well, you can only, “out earn your mistakes” for a short time. It will catch up with you eventually, and in the current Covid-19 situation around the globe, many business owners are being caught up to. I’m no longer quiet about my money mistakes.

 

They are on my website, and I talk about them freely. Because I don’t want to have shame anymore about money and how my mistakes affect running my business. In reality, it’s a chance to grow and learn and become better. But shame proliferates. Here are three effects of shame on entrepreneurs that contribute to stress, relationship issues and ultimately business failure.

 

1. Many business owners have shame around things they did not even know to do.

Entrepreneurs, like people in general sometimes “should” all over themselves. Like, “I should have” had an emergency fund, or “I shouldn’t have ordered that additional thing.” Both of those things may be true, but once these types of things are done, they are done. Feeling shameful around our decisions blocks us from growing and learning.

I want to say for the record right now that business money management is not intuitive.
Managing cashflow when people pay you late isn’t a skill that you magically gain when you open a business. We don’t call and ask for an extension on a bill because as business owners we should be successful and able to pay everything on time, right? It doesn’t always work that way. Shame is preventing us from getting the help we need, from putting processes in place, from not taking it personally when money stuff hits us in business. It needs to stop. It is hurting entrepreneurs. For my e-book, Three Steps to Protect Your Business Income, with advice and tips for your business money visit here.

2. Shame stops people from getting the help they need.

 

“I should already know what to do, I’m just not doing it,” is a refrain I’ve heard enough to make me scream. People think because they may “know” something that they don’t deserve help or support to integrate what they need to do into their systems. And it’s the feeling of shame surrounding what we expect from ourselves. We own a business; we need to do it all- perfectly. Bunk. So many business owners are in their passion project, without a passion for the business side or the money stuff. They excel at their core business, but not the “other stuff.” This doesn’t make them poor business owners, or failures, or whatever other negative description you can give. It means that they know and flourish in their zone of genius.

Those business owners can and should get support in the rest of the business stuff. It’s smart and protects their livelihood. But many don’t, until they get into trouble. Because they don’t want to admit they don’t know. Maybe they can’t read a profit and loss report from their accountant, so what, but they think they should. Maybe they don’t really understand the roles of the financial experts of accountants, bookkeepers, and payroll specialists, and their role in protecting the bottom line. But they don’t ask about these things because, “I ought to know, I’m in business.” Not so. The help you need is available, you can reach out and get support on things that aren’t your passion. And you should.

 

3. Shame makes business issues personal, and traps entrepreneurs.

 

I think one of the most devastating things about shame and money is that we turn business cycles and events into our own personal money failures. We don’t know how to ride the cycles of business and to even plan for how businesses work. They are dynamic. Many small businesses have irregular or inconsistent income months. Many have cycles of feast and famine in their earnings, particularly in the beginning. But this can happen really at any time. The current Covid-19 situation is causing income insecurity that is preventing many people from spending money at the rate they did even a month ago. This will impact some businesses. At the core, there must be a buyer of your goods and services.

 

But one of the first places we look when there are business money things is at ourselves. Maybe we did make a mistake. But we refuse to think that there is a learning curve in business. There may be some shame around some decisions, and those feelings of shame continue to hold us in a cycle of personal feelings of failure. In those feelings we cannot solve problems creatively, seek help and support, and put systems in place to protect the business and prevent future issues.

 

So, how do we fix it? We talk about it. All of it. We take the advice of Brene Brown, “Here’s the bottom line: “Shame cannot survive being spoken,” Brown says. “It cannot survive empathy.” 

When the Breakthrough Number (B-Number) process was developing, I used it for the easy visualization of protecting the inside of your business four walls. It was first created to support a client who knew of the Dave Ramsey “7 Baby Steps” approach to personal finance. Each of the walls I identified for business helped her make decisions on how to spend money and to put processes in place for money management. Over time I continued to use the approach over and over and finally gave the process a name…

The Breakthrough Number

I know what should happen when people figure out their unique number. They should be more in control of their income. They will know their minimum monthly amount of money the business must bring in, reducing stress and uncertainty. Finally, they will see the wisdom of including their own salary in the business spending plan (budget).

What I didn’t foresee happening were these additional, unexpected benefits that came with working through the calculation process.

 

  1. More accurate wholesale costs.

I’ve worked with several business owners who forgot something, some small or easily forgotten expense that affected their profit margin. Running through each of the walls carefully uncovered things like the cost of blank labels and ink for handmade products. That cost was easily overlooked because it was under $25.00/ month, but it needs to be included because it affects the real cost to the business and needs to be recovered.

 

2. Finding hidden money and a chance to become leaner.

The first time this happened I was actually in an airport helping a friend run through the breakthrough number process. We were discussing her critical operating expenses and remembered that she had a service she paid for every month that she was no longer using! This service was about $100.00/ year. More than once I have seen clients eliminate or change services and expenses when they take a hard look at deciding what is critical.

 

3. More confidence in making strategic business decisions.

This benefit was sort of foreseeable in that I knew people could use the process to calculate different scenarios such as hiring new people or adding a service because they would be able to forecast the new expense’s impact on the money. But the way my client uses it to make decisions is quite surprising! She literally just uses her known monthly B-number amount to help her make decisions. Her breakthrough number is about $5k a month and included her personal paycheck. Anytime she wants to do anything different she looks at how much she made over her number that month and how much she has in the bank. She can then say, “Oh, this is okay, I made an extra $2k and I can still pay myself for 3 months.” That was her quick ‘back of the envelope’ calculation for hiring her part-time VA and a business coach. Amazing!

 

If you are still without your unique number you can get it today, right now for free.

Just visit http://entremoneycoach.com to grab your free worksheets. You will have your number in under 30 minutes! Happy Entrepreneuring!  

 

Yesterday the governor of Ohio extended our lock down until May 1st.  That’s another four weeks, and it made me suck in my breath when I heard it. Another month seems like forever, at least it did last night. This morning I have a different perspective. I have 28 days to focus on business and personal development, to do some at home projects that have been waiting until, “I have time” and to embrace the warmer weather with the chance to work outdoors.

 

It’s always good to find the positive to keep spirits up. Admittedly, I woke up a little annoyed this morning, but after about an hour and a call to a friend (and an accountability partner) things feel better. I know that a lot of people are concerned, or even downright scared. The best thing to do right now is to hunker down and take care of ourselves.  In my own household there are going to be changes we need to make around our personal money (and likely many of you as well) and I wanted to give you a little advice on the best way to take care of yourself and your family financially to get through the crisis a little easier.

 

First and foremost, stash cash.

Know your amount for the personal four walls and pay them first. You need to pay for your four walls- food, utilities, rent/mortgage, and transportation. Apply for the unemployment assistance if you are laid off or furloughed.  If you are a business owner and unable to pay yourself enough to cover your four walls, apply for an emergency disaster loan. The good news is that you probably don’t need to gas up the car much. And you are eating at home more, so food bills are probably lower.

 

Second, call your creditors and ask for payments to be deferred if you cannot make them now.

Forget the FICO, seriously. You need to eat and have electric to cook with. Many banks are starting to get on board with waiving late fees. Let them know you applied for help, but they need to wait until you can pay them without depleting all of your cash.

 

Third, don’t make any financial decisions or make sweeping changes right now.

Keep your money picture consistent right now. Don’t cash out 401k or sell stocks, etc. These will have longer term consequences, and there are federal programs that have been created to help all of us get through this crisis. Remember, we are #allinthistogether.

  1. Not separating Business from Personal Accounts. You must have a separate financial identity for your business, even as a solopreneur or freelancer. Keep your money separate and write yourself a paycheck from the business. No living out of the till. Use a fee free checking account for all of your business income, and pay your expenses, including your paycheck, at regular intervals from that account.

 

  1. Immediately Making Large Purchases for the Business. Often these large purchases are made on credit, putting the business immediately into the negative with debt. Do you need that new computer right now? How about that website? All of those services? Keep the business lean by purchasing only the necessities. Know your B-Number to determine the amount of money you need to make based on prioritized expenses and put large purchases on hold until you have the cash.

 

  1. Having too Much Personal Debt. Personal income is often dipped into when businesses are first starting. Until the income really gets going, it’s not unusual to pay for certain expenses from personal funds. Having a large personal debt load means less money available for business expenses if needed for perhaps a marketing funnel or to pay a large expense that comes up. On the other hand, if you are relaying on your business to pay all of your bills, personal debt means more money needed from the business, and less money staying in the business for growth or new launches.

 

  1. Not Saving for Emergencies and “Down Times.” Business is cyclical. It just is. Income will be variable, particularly in new businesses who are starting to get visibility and a steady income stream. It is always a good idea to keep an emergency fund on hand- set aside into a free checking account for those months where you don’t make enough to pay those B-Number expenses. Some advice for starting and funding an emergency fund can be found here.

 

    1. Not Having a Clear Spending Plan for Your Business. Money can easily run off and spend itself when your business doesn’t have a spending plan. Always starting from the B-Number, where is any extra money going? You may get by for a bit, but having a plan ensures you can afford to take certain steps in your business. Taking 45 minutes a month to map out upcoming expenses or expansions and what you plan to spend where. If you need accountability or help with your plan, go ahead and check out our Business Money Planning Group.10

Many entrepreneurs low ball their prices for products and services in the beginning. I did.  For my own story, I had a coach that told me what I already knew, I was undercharging. Imposter syndrome is a real thing, and many of us tend to undervalue ourselves and the impact we make in the beginning of our entrepreneurial journey. This seems to be very common with service providers. Coaches, consultants, and freelancers typically start lower than they should, and are sometimes very slow to raise prices. Margins in service businesses are typically higher than many product-based businesses. Because there isn’t a “wholesale” cost, so to speak, many of us struggle to price our services. And if we don’t have a responding increase to the cost of doing business, we tend to struggle to “justify” a price increase to ourselves.

 

There are a lot of articles and methods for pricing yourself in the marketplace, and also ways to raise your prices.  What I want to offer is a way to raise your prices when you are resisting the increase by identifying the increase with a name. We’ll simply call it the “profit line.” This can help with some of the hesitancy to increase prices, your “base price” remains the same but you add on an increase which you categorize and have a real purpose for the money.

 

This system works because many of us struggle with money mindset, and the thought that raising our prices might mean we are greedy. “I don’t need that much” is the cry of the resistance. But you aren’t in business only to solve your needs. You are also in business to create profit and to reach your financial goals. If you don’t have yours defined yet, let’s get some profit goals and the why behind them written.  

 

You can decide what you want to add as a percentage or a number. For example, you charge $200.00 for a service. You add $20.00 as a 10% pure profit line, and the new price is $220.00 for your service. Your prices are raised, a bit, and moving forward every time you sell that service, you siphon off $20.00 to put into an account for profit. Give that account a name, a purpose. You don’t have to stop at 10%. You can add 50% profit and make your service $300.00. Your decision.

 

If you are resisting raising your service prices, give this method a try. Go ahead and figure out how much profit you will have in an account in a month if you add this line. Plan your next business move. What is this specific profit amount going to be for? Remember that any money without a name will run off and spend itself. Go ahead and raise your process. Just do it. Add a profit line this week. Happy Entrepreneuring!

 

Entrepreneurship means always having to say, “no worries,” even when we are worried. And as a group, we worry a lot. We want to be relevant, successful, financially secure. We are, in many cases, able to separate what we can control, and what we can’t control. But where money is concerned, 60% of entrepreneurs lose sleep when there’s a crunch. It’s safe to say that we struggle with the control thing when we are talking about our money. I am guilty of this too and am still working on it.

 

So why are we so crazy about the money? For many of us, it’s our metric of success. When we are responsible for every aspect of our business, from finding clients to keeping staff happy, juggling vendors and paying the bills, we gauge how we are doing by the amount of money we make. But when we use the bottom line as the only metric of our success any changes in the cash can increase the stress to unbearable levels. So, what can we do when we feel the financial stress rising up?

 

  1. Recognize the stress. Stress can zap your creativity and ability to make the best decisions you can make to get through a rough patch. If you can see stress rising in yourself when you review the financials you can take action to mitigate its effects. Don’t wait until you can’t sleep or turn off your brain to take action.

 

  1. Admit what you can’t control, and act accordingly. I have worked on this one for a long time. I can’t control if my invoice gets paid on time. I can’t control when people cancel appointments. I can’t control when packages arrive late. I can take affirmative steps to prevent these things from happening, but I cannot control these events when they happen. When I realize I cannot control the event, I give myself grace and a timeline for being upset.

 

  1. Don’t lie in bed and worry about money. Worry at the desk. Fine. The dinner table, fine. Not in bed. That’s not fine. If it’s not in the bank when the bank closes, it’s not in the bank. Your being up at 2am worrying about the money in the bank won’t affect your balance one bit. It will affect your ability to show up the next day. It will affect your health. Train yourself to keep financial stress outside the bedroom. If you wake up in the middle of the night and have financial worry- get up. Take it outside your sanctuary.

 

  1. Find non-monetary measures of progress and success. In today’s business world there are metrics everywhere. Websites and social media platforms can show you how you are reaching out and impacting the world. You don’t only need to measure by the money. What are a few ways you can look at your progress now without the bank book?

 

  1. Give yourself CEO space. No people. No projects. No progress reports. Schedule an hour or two a week to close yourself off to think, reflect, and to be by yourself. Use this time to brainstorm, meditate, listen to music. To Just BE. I’m still working on this. Entrepreneurs by nature are human doings much more than we are human beings.

 

Money stress when you are not in control does nothing to impact your bottom line and everything to affect your health and creativity. These skills are a work in progress for most of us. But managing to keep money stress at bay by focusing on other measures of success, ensuring a good night’s sleep, and reminding ourselves where we aren’t in control will make running your business less stressful. Happy Entrepreneuring!