Category Archives: Musings

Free for All: The Customer Love Challenge

Sweet Little Bird
Creative Commons License photo credit: geishaboy500

Well, that sounds a little pervy doesn’t it? It’s really not; let me explain.

LaVonne Ellis, who is The Complete Flake (no really, she calls herself that), took a leap in November of last year and hosted the very first ever customer love challenge in which participants were challenged to lavish time and attention and LOVE on their customers for 28 days with no strings attached. The last two days were left for asking for something back.

LaVonne must have gotten more than she bargained for because she’s hosting it again this November with help and a dedicated website.

The Love in Action

I want you to ask those questions about your business management and accounting that you’ve been putting off, don’t know who to ask or aren’t quite sure what to ask. Ask me and I’ll give you an answer – for free this month.

Like This:

You can ask something like “Am I charging enough for the sparkly fizzle doodle I make?” Send along as much information as you have (it’s all confidential – I promise) on your current price per fizzle, the cost of materials to make it and the time it takes.  I’ll figure a bit and Poof, an answer!

Or, say you don’t quite have all that on hand and the question is more like “I’m not really sure how much it costs to make my fabulous sticky snoodles, can you help me figure that out?” Sure, just include a listing (nothing fancy) of the amounts you’ve spent for materials and supplies, how long it takes to make a snoodle and how many you’ve made over the last few months. I’ll take a look at that pile of information and Presto, an answer!

Maybe you’ve got questions like “My interlocking ingerrands are selling well but I’m not making as much as I thought. Can you help?” Yes, if you tell me some basic figures for sales, expenses and how much it costs to make an ingerrand (a standard profit and loss statement, that would do it too). I’ll analyze your numbers and Voila, an answer!

But I don’t know enough to ask!

Don’t think you have to know the question. Just ask what you think is the right question. This is all strictly confidential – no one will see and I’ll help you get to the question you really want.

Don’t think you have to have scads of information to back up a question either. Just send what you have. You’d be amazed (maybe even a little frightened) by how much I can tell from a few numbers and I’ll ask if I need more.

Details,  Details

You may have noticed that these examples are all about management and accounting. That’s because most tax matters are best left to your local tax experts. Each taxing jurisdiction has its own fiendishly complex rules and you’re better off with someone who can hack through that particular jungle. General questions are fine though.

Oh, there’s no limit on the number of questions. Please, send one at a time. I’ll work through them in the order they come in. Some may take longer than others with more details or longer research and analysis.

So, Go Ahead, Send ‘Em In!

Click Here to send a question – or just to say hi, I’d like that too!

The Surprising Truth about Numbers

Paying attention to detail
Creative Commons License photo credit: Unhindered by Talent

In the last post we touched on fear of numbers. Not in a panic stricken phobic kind of way, but more like an avoiding them until they’re way past their expiration date kind of way. Taylor Lindstrom had a great guest post at Copyblogger on asking for help where she admits to her fear of finances so you’re not alone.

One Good Thing

The one thing I want you to know about your business numbers is that they’re information. Precious and useful information that, when decoded, will lead you to the path of profitability and peace of mind with sparkles of light spinning about you. (Well, not really on that last bit, but it’s fun to imagine.)

Murder by Numbers

Here’s a bonus secret about numbers that they don’t like to let out because it destroys their dangerous reputation. A number never killed anyone. Sure, there are plenty of stories of people keeling over from heart attacks in boardrooms and I’ve seen grown men cry at the sight of an ugly P & L (that’s number whisperer talk for Profit and Loss statement) but the numbers themselves have no power. They’re just like those rogue playing cards * in Alice’s dream.

Now What?

First, face those squishy uneasy feelings about money and finances. Next, wave a sparkly wand (you do have one, right?) to ward off the bad number juju. Then, take Taylor’s advice and go for help!

Text a friend, get a book, go online or call me – whatever it takes, start squeezing the information juice out of your numbers.  You can’t afford not to.

What’s your next step and how do you feel about it? Let me know in a note or the comments, your thoughts are important to me.

* Amazon affiliate link to a really neat illustrated deck of cards

Fear and Figures

Free mixed numbers texture for layers
Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

There are lots of great sources of information and help out there on marketing and branding and building websites and blogging. But, not too many are digging into the nitty gritty of … (ominous pause) …The Numbers.

Why? Because there’s a dark aura of fear and anxiety surrounding accounting and money matters.

The Number Whisperer

There’s a perception that being a number whisperer is the result of specialized training in remote camps in the dark and foreboding countryside and that veterans of the experience are given to talking in strange tongues (with acronyms like EBITDA, ROI and NPV) intelligible only to their cohorts.

Don’t Fear the Figures

Spot on branding, top notch marketing and a killer website are flamboyant super spies right now but don’t underestimate the stealthy undercover agents of solid business management and accounting. They’ve got your back and the hottest strategies in the web-o-sphere won’t go far if you can’t make any sense of your results.

Take charge of your numbers (unless you’re an Arithmophobe) and wring the useful information out of them. If your figures are starting to whisper among themselves and scowl in your direction, let me help. I’ll whisper them into shape and have them happily doing as you wish.

How are your numbers behaving and what do you think about it? Let me know in a note or the comments, your experience is important to me.

What do Zombies and Cash Flow Have in Common?

construction sign
Creative Commons License photo credit: underbiteman

Nothing, really, but I wrote this post and it was dull, dull, dull; correct and all that, but excruciatingly dull. So I decided to spice it up with … Zombies! You were thinking I was going to say sex? I’m not that interesting.

Editing Note: Zombie parts are grafted onto the original lifeless post for an authentic zombie experience.

Last time, we talked about the basics of cash flow and I gave you a quick test to tell how you’re doing. I asked you to take a minute from fighting off the zombie horde outside your fortified building to get your last six months (or as many as you have) bank statements and a piece of paper. If there’s no paper, just write on the walls. It’s not going to matter anyway once you’re a zombie too. Write down the ending balance for each month, in order.

Did you do it? Is the balance getting smaller or larger? Arguably, you won’t care as they eat your brains, but still, nice to know. (Zombie trivia: They don’t exclusively eat brains and will feast on any living flesh available.)

This is a rough – very rough – indicator of the health of your business. That is, unless it’s become a zombie business – a little known side effect of general zombie infection where companies continue to shamble along well past their expiration date.

What we’re doing is an overview and doesn’t substitute for a proper analysis but it will help point you in the right direction. For some people it may be all you need.

If not, let me know and I’ll help you get going with it.  Sorry, but I can’t help you survive a zombie apocalypse. You’ll need more stuff for that like The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead*,supplies and luck – really huge amounts of luck.

Unusual Expenses

If your cash is stable for most months and then dips suddenly, that usually means you paid unusual or infrequent expenses that month. Maybe you got a fantastic deal on supplies and bought six months worth of paper or your business license and insurance were all due in the same month. Perhaps you stocked up on survival supplies and paid a pretty penny for a sweet top of the line zombie preparedness system.

If the balance goes up one month and down the next, it’s more likely something was paid twice in one month and not in the next which might indicate you’re turning into a zombie yourself. But, try not to think about that too much, if you can still think.

Unusual Sales

Cash balances going up suddenly are often a sign of extra sales like you’d have from a show or large order. The flip side of that is a sudden dip in one month could be a drop in regular sales like you’d see if you took a few days off or some outside event, like a hurricane, a blizzard or an invasion of shuffling moaning zombies, killed your sales.

Escalating Expenses

More seriously, a downward trending balance may be due to expenses rising without corresponding sales increases. This happens when your materials and supplies cost more, overhead costs have crept up or maybe you’re buying too many lattes on the company till.

Dwindling Sales

The most serious cause of a steady fall in cash is declining sales. It’s the hardest source of cash to influence and has the longest lead time to change. If a zombie infestation is turning all your customers into staggering flesh eating creatures that don’t have the mental power to buy anything, it’s pretty hard to reverse that trend.

Now what?

Now that you’ve looked at your cash balance and given some thought to why it is what it is, the next step is to do something about it other than stumble around the place looking for snacks. We’ll talk more about that soon, when I’m feeling better. I think domrhinh is etonh … Errrrrhhhhh aaghhaaa …

What have you found out about your business so far and how do you feel about it? Let me know in a note or the comments, your thoughts are valuable to me. If you liked the zombies – let me know! If you thought the zombies were stupid – let me know!

If you’re looking at your numbers and getting a headache, let me help. I can bring focus and clarity to the jumble of figures and give you real next steps to take. I specialize in reassurance. In a calm non-zombie like way.

*Amazon affiliate link

Do You Feel Rich?

Piggy Bank
Creative Commons License photo credit: alancleaver_2000

It’s pretty exciting stuff being in business. You’ve put your work out there and – Yay! –other people like it. They like it enough to buy it. You feel validated, you feel wonderful, talented, even. But, do you feel rich?

Too often, the work is exciting and you’re busy with sales and making your fantastic one of a kind product. Then, things start to take off – more sales and a real sense of success. Only, the underlying business records and supporting systems weren’t developed. Then, somewhere between placing your supply order and paying the Etsy fees, you think “Where’s my money?”

Scary, huh?

Don’t panic, if you’re there, you can get out. If you’re on your way there, you can change course. It’s not impossible to change but it’s not a fast and easy fix either. If it was, I would’ve made that the headline.

Cash Flow, Cash Flow, Cash Flow

If it wasn’t annoying to you and exhausting to me, I would have written it a hundred times because it’s that important. The first thing to learn to keep track of is your business cash flow. There are a zillion different definitions and some insanely complicated accounting statements but it comes down to money in/money out and is that positive or negative.

Simple, huh?

You can get a good idea of that by checking your bank balance from month to month. If it’s growing – positive cash flow – good! If it’s shrinking – negative cash flow – bad! Once you’ve got an idea of where you are, we’ll start analyzing that to see where to improve.

Right Now

Get your last six months (or as many as you can find) bank statements and a piece of paper. Write down the ending balance for each month, in order. Is it getting bigger or smaller?

What did you find and how do you feel about it? Let me know in a note or the comments, I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Hear the audio version of this post:

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