At what point in your business’s lifecycle are you? Are you at the point where reinvesting in your business (increasing employees, equipment, etc.) provides diminishing profit returns? If so, consider creating a financial fortress outside of your business so that you are NOT dependent on your business to supplement your lifestyle.
When you create a business, it’s your baby (I get it). It’s easy to get sucked into your business and reinvest 100% of every dollar you generate to grow your business. And if you’re creating a scalable product or service, maybe that’s the right decision (personal finance rules don’t apply to entrepreneurs). However, if you hit a wall (cannot scale further) or are at a point where you are paying yourself an amount that you’re happy with, consider fortifying your personal finances.
In this podcast episode, I discuss some of the pitfalls of becoming overly dependent on your primary business. Especially businesses where there may be little (or no) market value if you were to sell the business, why it’s important to fortify your personal finances sooner rather than later.
How susceptible is your business to changes in the health of the economy? What would happen if your business suddenly came to a halt? These will vary depending on your type of business but are important questions to ask yourself.
One of the first steps in creating a fortress around your business is creating a separate business entity that protects your personal assets from any potential financial and liability claims. The type of business entity you select (such as an LLC, S-Corp, or Partnership) will depend on the number of owners (and employees) you have, and how you want your business to be taxed (flow-through, dividend, etc.).
Once you’ve fully separated your personal assets from your business assets, you must pay yourself an appropriate amount from the business. You want to make sure that you’re keeping the cash flow of the business separate so that you can accurately keep track of tax liability and not compromise your liability benefits of having a separate entity.
As a business owner, you should be paying yourself for the risk you take on and the hard work you put in. Even if the business is self-sufficient, you should be reviewing the amount you are paid so that you can build financial independence outside of your business.
While it’s not uncommon for successful business owners to be dependent on their business to supplement their lifestyle, there may come a time when they’d rather not carry that burden. Depending on the revenues of your business and how transactional they are, you may or may not have as much equity in your business as you believe (if you were to sell). This is another reason why fortifying your personal finances sooner rather than later is a smart move.
Today (October 10th) marks my official 1-year mark since I launched my financial advisory practice, Modern Wealth Builders, LLC. It’s crazy how QUICKLY a year goes by and how much you can change in one year.
This last year forced me to learn more about myself than any other experience I’ve ever had. It made me get out of my comfort zone to try things that probably made me look silly at times, but are ultimately necessary to learn what does and doesn’t work. BELIEVE ME, when I say, I have by no means ‘figured it out’, but I have some valuable lessons to share with you about building a business. Especially businesses that involve ‘complex sales’ where YOU are the product (the service you provide).
Here are my FIVE biggest takeaways:
No one cares about how passionate you are about your service (and/or product). You need to make them the hero of the story.
I’m still guilty of this, but I’ve gotten better at it. People don’t care about what you’ve done, you’re accomplishments, etc., it’s about what you can do to help them with their specific pain point.
You can’t be everything to everyone. You’re naturally going to rub some people the wrong way and that’s ok.
Anytime you put yourself out there, whether, for business or personal reasons, you’re going to rub some people the wrong way. Especially people that don’t know you. The truth is polarization helps build brands and drive engagement (as long as it’s authentic), so embrace the trolls.
In-person networking in the business of complex sales is the best way to get started.
Even though we live in a digital age where google search engine optimization can make or break a business, I still believe in-person networking is powerful. With so much competition from big brands to grab our online attention, the personal touch of face to face networking is vital for building trust and establishing credibility. I neglected this early on.
Never get too high, never get too low.
This applies to ANY business. No matter how good your product or service is, there will inevitably be randomness that is out of your control (whether good or bad). Give yourself less credit when things are going well, and less blame when things aren’t. These things tend to even out over time, as long as you’re being consistent, it should come together.
It’s ALWAYS harder than it looks.
Before I went off on my own, I would look at other independent advisors and think, “that’s easy, what are they even doing”. It’s easy to throw stones when you haven’t been in the other person’s position (I used to do it). There’s way more that goes on behind the scenes, AND (again) you have to put yourself out there (at least a little) if you want to build a brand. This is what the “faceless twitter trolls” don’t understand. I know they’ve never built a financial advisory business from scratch because if they had, they’d have more respect for the independent advisors who ARE putting themselves out there to grow their business. Like most things in life, it’s about perspective. Turns out when you get to know someone, you usually end up liking them. Hate feeds on a lack of exposure.
The last lesson (dammit I guess I had six) I’ll share with you is the ‘process mentality’. You have to ENJOY the process or else you probably won’t last. This is because (especially in a service-based business) there really is no ‘destination’, therefore you better learn to love the JOURNEY.
Organizing your finances is hard enough. When you’re a small business owner it can be even more complicated since you also have to account for the cash flows of your business.
Simplifying, organizing, and tracking your business cash flow is essential so you can pay yourself for your hard work. Assuming you don’t need to reinvest in your business, you should be paying yourself to supplement your lifestyle, and invest for financial freedom outside of your business.
Separating Personal and Business Expenses
Do you have an established business entity such as an LLC, Partnership, or S-Corp? If so, you should at a minimum have a separate business checking and business credit card. This will make it easy for keeping personal and business transactions separate and will also help to build business credit.
If you don’t have an established business entity for liability purposes, it’s still important to have a way of tracking business expenses. Using something like QuickBooks Self-Employed can allow you to easily build out rules for classifying business versus personal transactions, even if they’re both on a personal credit card or checking account.
Why You Need to Track Business Cash Flow
Assuming your business is your primary source of income, you need to be able to pay yourself so you can live the way you want to AND invest for YOUR financial freedom. Your business may or may not have a market value if you were to sell. Either way, relying on potential equity from the sale of your business should not be the foundation of your financial plan.
As important as paying yourself is paying the IRS. Again, using something like QuickBooks Self-Employed makes it easy for projecting quarterly estimated tax payments. You want to make sure you’re on top of this as you could face potential penalties for underpayment.
Your Business and Personal Financial Health are Connected
The financial health of your business will ultimately determine the health of your finances. Make sure you’re extracting your fair share from your business and paying yourself enough to build something outside of your business.