I get it. This is not the sexiest topic you want to consume as a business owner.
It's not about making millions of dollars or getting 10,000 additional subscribers on your website in one month or running a successful launch and make 6 figures out of it.
On the contrary, the April live event was all about getting your (business) house in order.
But if you are like me trying to live somewhat seasonally, I bet you will find this post helpful. When you start spotting subtle signs of spring, overall – personally & professionally – you are in the mood to hit the “refresh” button. So why not push the refresh button on your business, too?
When I was programming for my live events in 2018 in late 2017, I totally anticipated I would be in that mood in April. Hence this event title, “Spring Clean Your Business: Master How to Declutter, Streamline & Protect Your Business Like A Pro,” popped up in my head.
The beauty of optimizing the internal functions of your business i.e. Finance, Technology, and Legal is it allows you to take in more orders and/or take on new projects without feeling overwhelmed. Instead, you will feel at ease and be able to make sound business decisions knowing your internal operations are running smoothly.
Rest assured, all the actionable tips I share here are fairly easy to do. None of them are time-consuming. You'll be amazed how much time and control you can regain by taking simple actions to declutter, streamline & protect your business. I was fired up about getting this topic out there for my members.
OK, enough of the backstory. Let’s get started!
Bringing the Unique Experts
Most of my live events take a “fireside chat” format. At this time, though, it made more sense to bring in 3 experts from each area (Finance, Legal & Technology) to form a panel to tackle this topic.
When I think of inviting experts to my event, I am extremely mindful about reaching out to someone “different.”
Especially when it comes to covering business topics that are often considered “dry & boring,” I want to avoid approaching stereotypical experts who may end up doing exactly that – “dry & boring.”
Here is a quick overview of the panelists (in an alphabetical order) for this event:
David Bensinger (www.bensingertech.com) is a long-time peer and friend of mine who has the magical way of breaking down the complex tech-sphere for business owners. He does not get overly technical and makes us feel at ease as he explains what we need with simple terms.
Ben Chiriboga, Esq. (www.legalclientfunnels.com) is a young and savvy lawyer/entrepreneur whom I always enjoy catching up with. He has a fresh and disruptive take on the age-old legal industry. I found him to be a perfect fit for this panel.
Liz Lajoie (www.staterabusiness.com) is the author of “from Zero to Zen: Secret Keys to Nurturing Your Numbers and Finding Financial Flow.” As the book title suggests, she converts many creative entrepreneurs from being fearful about numbers to being empowered by numbers.
What’s the Bottom Line? 3 Tips from Each Expert
Disclaimer: What you will read here does NOT constitute legal, investment or financial advice. This is not to be used for the basis of making financial and/or legal decisions. Use the info at your own discretion and risk. For anything specific that pertains to your business, be sure to consult with professionals.
David Bensinger - "Minimalistic Technology Management is the New Black."
If I am to give David a nickname, it would be, a "tech-essentialist."
He will never come at you with hundreds of tech options just to overwhelm the heck out of you. Instead, he is a firm believer in starting with the very basic must-have technology setup that makes sense for your business as a whole.
David shares, "Most of the time, I find myself talking my clients out of buying technology products."
It's no secret that many entrepreneurs like us have the shiny object syndrome. I'm right there with them where I see more possibilities than downsides with tech tools. But, what I might be overlooking is a possibility of “unnecessary redundancy & overlaps” occurring with all the tools I subscribe to for the sake of improved productivity.
"With the sheer number of cybercrimes that are increasingly sophisticated, you don't want to expose your business (to those crimes) by creating a messy tech setup. It makes it difficult to investigate & pinpoint where the security breach is," said David.
This is why it's important to start from what's essential to you and purchase them from reputable sources.
He added, "Just because it's cheaper or free, that's should not be the reason to choose that particular product."
I am guilty as charged.
David's 3 top tips are:
1. Keep it simple with your must-have technology setup.
2. Go with the “best of breeds” products from industry leaders
3. Audit regularly at least on an annual basis.
By keeping the overall setup simple, you will likely save some money by not paying some of the unused SaaS subscriptions. With that saved money, you can get the “Best of Breed” products that are essential to your business.
The benefits of investing in well-established, battle-tested products are as follows:
- They will not be abruptly discontinued, which provides you peace of mind,
- They will come with higher security protocols in place,
- They may offer compatibility with other tools as well as enough capacity & a room for growth.
It is easy to create an ugly monster with 1000 Band-Aids with technology especially when you are starting out bootstrapped. David suggests reviewing what you already have and what you need for your team at least annually if not quarterly to prevent your technology setup from becoming a tangled web.
Ben Chiriboga, Esq. - "As Simple As It May Sound, Get It in Writing."
The thought of getting an attorney on board for your business can be daunting.
For some, it is intimidating. For me, it's the resistance towards overpaying for racked-up hours he or she would bill me that I don't want to approve i.e. an amount of time they research or writing emails or what was handed over to his or her associates and how it was determined. (Please do not get me started on these.)
Regardless of what your hold-up might be, needless to say, protecting your business is essential to avoid potential legal related costs in the future. The irony is, although we are all aware how important this is, we tend to push the legal related tasks aside to do something that seems more imminent.
That is why I invited Ben to help us get started with the right attitude and mindset. I think Ben is level-headed as a lawyer. It's probably because he is also an entrepreneur himself and understand how entrepreneurs think and act.
The main message he had for the attendees was, use your common sense while you cover the basics.
For example, Ben suggests not to be over-obsessed with NDA and trademarking when you are starting out with your business or a project with no prior record of tractions.
On the other hand, if you are involved with highly propriety technology or mechanism or intellectual property, then the obvious route to take would be to consult with lawyers who specialize in this specialized area of practice.
“It might sound like a cliché, but I cannot stress enough,” said Ben.
He continued, “My top 3 tips are, really, get it in writing, get it in writing & get it in writing.”
“I can talk for hours talking about warranties, disclaimers, considerations & deadlines, etc., but what I want you guys to take with you instead is a quick guide on how to consider buying your legal work. I run a legal technology company which does exactly that.”
He then shared his pointers which are outlined as follows:
1. Have an hour of consultative conversation with a lawyer before you get into trouble,
2. Define your risk profile with help,
3. Fire your non-ICP clients.
His recommendation I found unique was to have a conversation with a lawyer (#1) by using "hypothetical scenarios" to map out legal risk.
This is what he means.
Instead of approaching a lawyer by telling him or her about your business, approach him or her by saying, "What if there's a company X, and it is going through a situation where..."
What it does is for you is to be able to attain legal viewpoints that are more balanced as this lawyer will be likely to provide the third party POV with a few possible scenarios.
On the other hand, if you confine your current concerns, a lawyer will be likely to give you advice that would work to your benefit (with he or she in the picture.) It is because he or she is obligated to do so. From that point on, your options will be limited in a sense that it is more about building a case or coming up with a specific strategy.
There's nothing wrong with the latter. However, most of the entrepreneurs don't have excess cash to throw at a lawyer.
Especially when you are aiming to take preventative actions, what you want is an universal view to figure out the risk level of foregoing with the topic at hand. This is why it is wise to have a consultative meeting with a lawyer when you have no imminent legal issues to get the sense of what type of legal work you need to buy now and down the road.
Ben also provided a quick checklist to determine what you can do yourself, what you can do with some help, and what you should hand over to a legal team, and they are as follows:
Risk exposure > $10K: “Do it for you (done for you)”
Risk exposure < $10K > $5K: “Do it with you”
Risk exposure < $5K: “Do it yourself”
Risk exposure < $1K: “Hopefully nothing bad will happen.”
The last point Ben made was to cut down on non-ideal clients to minimize the risk level. This is a great point. Having non-ideal clients or customers on your rosters can be quite risky. Not only do they waste your time, but also they can get you in trouble by them voicing their dissatisfactions, demand full refunds, spreading negative reviews, etc.
Liz Lajoie - "You Can Renew Your Relationship with Money."
“Especially in the creative industries, many entrepreneurs struggle to understand that the math behind running a business isn’t all that complicated,” said Liz.
Liz has this special power to create a Zen environment for frantic creative entrepreneurs.
Not only does she help provide a robust structure that entrepreneurs can stick with, but she also helps them face their money stories. Some of them feel that talking about money openly is not to be encouraged. Others simply have an allergic reaction to anything related to numbers or money.
1. Get comfortable with checking your numbers often.
2. Pay yourself regularly & set aside some funds for taxes throughout the year.
3. Give a thought to determine what type of business owner you are.
Her first tip is to take small steps often. If you aren't used to reviewing your financial numbers every quarter, then start from there.
It's OK to get help either accountability help or help on analysis or both. Once you increase the frequency of reviewing your numbers, you are likely to feel much better about having a good grasp on where you are at with your business financially.
Now you are creating a positive cycle and a new relationship with money.
Another important tip was to get used to paying yourself regularly. Liz has witnessed many successful entrepreneurs choose to pay themselves last. She suggests, even if it’s a small %, you pay yourself regularly.
I agree with Liz on this one. The easiest way to get started would be to decide on a set amount that is small enough to survive ups and downs of revenues month to month. To make it even more effortless, you can set up an automated ACH from your business account to your personal account each month.
This way, you don’t have to remind yourself to pay yourself each month. The same amount of money gets automatically debited out of your business account on the same day every month.
Liz does this with her long-term clients to come up with a sustainable, baseline number as the first step to pay himself/herself. Then she would review the overall numbers on a quarterly basis to make necessary changes.
This does not seem too overwhelming or intimidating at all, right?
Under this tip, Liz also adds doing active tax planning throughout the year preferably on a quarterly basis. It would be ideal to work with your accountant to figure out how much % to set aside for taxes. If you are unsure, Liz suggests 30% of the gross receipts (revenues) would help avoid scrambling in March / April of the next year.
Note that 30% is a rough estimate. This varies on an individual. Once again, if you don’t want to set aside too aggressively, then you should consult with a professional.
On a separate note, Liz’s 2nd book, “The Zen Money Map: Charge Your Worth, Pay Yourself First, and Fund Your Wildest Dreams” will be released on May 8th. You can pre-order a copy right now by clicking here.
Also, the digital version of her 1st book, “from Zero to Zen: Secret Keys to Nurturing Your Numbers and Finding Financial Flow” is available here.
“The Money Map” is currently available for free on Kindle Unlimited, so grab a copy! (Limited time only.)
*This website is registered with Amazon Affiliate Program. I may collect small commissions based on sales that are made from these links.
A Few Questions from The Attendees
For the purpose of keeping this post digestible, I have simplified some of the questions. As you will see, though, we did get timely & important questions.
“Would WordPress more likely to be hacked over Adobe Muse?”
While David was going over his top 3 tips, I asked what I can do to tackle cybercrimes as this was my major concern for starting a new WordPress site.
Faith Kinslow (www.trueidentitybranding.com) had a follow-up question about her own website which is built on Adobe Muse. Her question was, “Would WordPress more likely to be hacked over Adobe Muse?”
“If it is a content-driven site, you can worry less about getting your site hacked regardless of which platform you use whether that is WordPress, Adobe Muse, or Squarespace. If it is an eCommerce site, the risk is much higher. The key is to find someone who has the experience managing websites to keep a limited amount of must-have plug-ins and update them accordingly. Also, once again go with the best of breeds for your shopping cart or any other plug-ins.”
Daniel Green from the audience also provided his insights on acquiring domain names as part of this discussion:
“Google Domains would be ideal for acquiring domain names over GoDaddy as it sells domain info causing a lot of spam emails, which tells me that my email account through this particular domain name has been sold to the third parties.”
“I run an executive coaching business, and my clients are mostly from Wall Street. I work with people I know and are pretty chill, but what if one of them come back 3 years from now & say, ‘You encouraged me to follow the path of leaving my 3 million-dollar a year banking job & now I’m suing you.’ What do you think about this? Should I even be concerned about a possibility of this happening to me?”
Ben’s take on this was, “What you want to ask yourself is whether I was the direct cause of this person’s action. Unless he or she can establish a direct connection to cause the outcome he or she is suing you for, it is could be considered as the case of an adult who sought consultative advice decided to take action & executed it under a wide range of different circumstances. You definitely want to have something in writing, you want to keep expectations very narrow & define things in the smallest way that you are comfortable backing up (and you need to be able to do so) then you are likely to be protected.”
“Should I be concerned about hiring software development team or even graphic designers off-shore? Would it be harder to protect my rights as opposed to hiring someone within the US?”
Both David and Ben shared their insights.
David: “It is not so much about off-shore vs. on-shore. Frankly, you will find some on-shore people doing unethical things with IP (intellectual property). Software IP, in general, is tough to track. I work with a team from South Africa, and I trust their abilities from my own experience working with them. However, it is more about how you can articulate exactly what you want and what your expectations to whoever you hire. It is more critical to build a trusting relationship with them. Also, you should be more concerned about gaining traction with what you create. Far more projects fail because they never got to ship.”
Ben: “I’ll be completely honest with you, if you are to sue anyone for this, it will be monumentally cost-prohibitive & extremely hard to collect for so-called ‘speculative damages.’ Just get it out there and not worry too much about it. Remember copyrights and IPs are only good when you reinforce them. Of course, cover the basics such as copyright filing and such."
Keeping Your Business Lean Helps Promote Growth
The last question from the audience that turned out to be really appropriate for this event was, “What kind of time management tips do you have to free up some time?”
All 3 panelists, in a way somewhat collectively, answered this question.
David: “If you look at all of us, what we (the panelists) do is so-called backend functions i.e. Technology, Finance and Legal that are not something you as a business owner would sell as your expertise (to generate revenues.) Not all businesses can afford full-time, CTO, CFO and GC (general counsel) with a team attached to each. So, outsourcing these functions may make sense to many. However, I cannot emphasize enough that it is still your responsibility as the executive to allocate some of your time to spot check and review how these functions are performing. You might even want to talk to your peers or other business owners to share what you are doing and what they are doing that is working.”
Liz: “Right, you still do need to pay attention. You have to be the “buck stops here” person. It can be tempting to pawn off some of these functions maybe because these not your strength, etc. Especially this is when someone can get into trouble financially because you are not the one steering the ship. From the financial standpoint, it is important that you review financials regularly. As a result, you will end up saving a ton of time by doing so as opposed to trying to scramble paperwork together for tax seasons or trying to reconstruct & document years-worth of financial activities, which will take you away from your core business.”
Ben: “This is not a tactical point I am trying to make, but another viewpoint is to try creating the smallest business that you can create that bring in the maximum results. I tend to feel like a lot of people opt for the idea of ‘bigger, the better.’ There are some great businesses that are really small and very potent and run like a perfect little machine. If it is so hard for you (to free up time), then you are probably doing way too much. I learned this the hard way myself. It is more important to crystalize your business intent instead of spending time on something that is halfway there & hoping it’ll stick.”
Liz: “That’s a great point & just to add what Ben said, going back to the topic of KPI (key performance indicators), by reviewing financial activities, you can identify what is working the best & really stick with your ‘Zone of Genius’ to maximize your profitability that way. Entrepreneurs in us always want to go for the next new thing & easily forget that we can bring in a lot more by really perfecting what is working for us. To take it even one step further, what I do with my clients is to then shift their focus on what it really means to their lives. We can get caught up in growth and more opportunities, but we tend to forget why we are doing all of these in the first place. So, I help build a bridge between business goals and life goals in a sense.”
There you have it! If you like what I am doing with my live events, be sure to sign-up free to stay on top of my next event at www.meetup.com/GrowthDrivenEntrepreneursWorldwide