Archive for November, 2011

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Growing Your Business Through Practicing Gratitude

November 23, 2011

It’s the time of year we all give thanks for our many blessings. It’s a good practice in our personal lives, and an equally good practice in our business lives.

On the Wednesday of Thanksgiving week it is my tradition to spend the day calling clients, past clients, colleagues who refer business to me and anyone else who has impacted my business over the past year. The calls aren’t sales calls, they’re gratitude calls. My intention is to thank those that have positively impacted my business’ growth as well my own personal happiness.

I’d like to say that I started this practice because I’m such a good person. But the truth is that I started it some years ago when I was scared to death to make sales and marketing calls. Picking up the phone and asking someone to become a client or refer business to me was terrifying. This gratitude concept that I began was a kinder, gentler (or perhaps spineless) approach.

The first year of the tradition I landed a big client. It was someone who I knew desperately needed my help. I hadn’t heard from him in months, and he was thrilled to hear from me. He was finally ready to face his financial issue and I called on just the right day. What I realized for the first time that day was that he needed my service more than I needed his money. The calls I was making weren’t about generating business, they were about serving others. After that experience, sales and marketing calls became much easier.

That was just the beginning of understanding of the role of gratitude and service in business. The more I began to weave it into my business, the more I recognized how gratitude was impacting other successful businesses I worked with.

  • One very successful colleague writes her thank you notes every morning at the breakfast table with her husband. It’s a sweet practice, and I believe a cornerstone of her success.
  • Another successful entrepreneur I know keeps a gratitude journal, writing in it each day that which she is grateful for.
  • Sandra Yancey, the phenomenally successful entrepreneur who began eWomen Network says that behind her company’s motto “Give first, share always” is a sense of gratitude. She ensures from the top down in her company that gratitude is practiced amongst the members and with not-for-profit causes.


One of the business coaches that has most influenced my happiness as a business owner had me start our work together with a gratitude practice. I’m an accountant. Not a curmudgeonly one, but definitely not the first person to be open to the kind of advice that goes like this:

“Stacey, I want you to write down 25 things you’re grateful for every day.”

“25????”

“Yes, 25.”

I thought to myself….”that’s stupid.”

But I was unhappy at the time, and thus willing to try new things. 25 was a lot. After the obvious:

  • my daughter,
  • my cat,
  • sunshine,
  • my health,

I had no idea what the other 21 should be. But kept thinking and eventually I’d get the 25 down, and every day it got easier, and eventually I realized that the gratitude practice was helping me on a daily basis assess what it was I LOVED about my business, and what it was I dreaded.

Focusing on gratitude brought to the surface that I had been burning myself out spending time doing tasks and taking care of clients that I didn’t have a passion to serve. Focusing on gratitude, and really noticing on a daily basis which clients I was grateful for helped me become very clear about the mission of my business, and it was then I renamed the business Creating Answers and made a bold decision: I was only going to do work I loved, and I was only going to work with clients that I loved; ones that I felt grateful for.

I’m not always successful; I suppose no one is. But what I am is happy. Almost every day when I go to work, I am happy. And I attribute my business’ growth to that happiness, which grew from the gratitude practice.

What are you grateful for?

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Stacey Powell builds financial muscles at TheFinanceGym.com, creates financial clarity at CreatingAnswers.com, and shows off Financial Art at Facebook.

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The Power of Tracking Your Numbers: Step #3

November 22, 2011

This is the 3rd in a series on creating a financially healthy life. If you jumped in and did the first two steps, Just Do It and Reality, Get a Dose, this one might be the one you might need extra support in accomplishing. Lots of us like to do projects. We like to plan. The first two steps were projects.

This 3rd step requires consistency. Yes, consistency. This is where many of us jump off the financial band wagon.

I liken it to the health band wagon. Most people can stick to a diet for awhile. It might be challenging, you may not like it, but if we knew that we only had to change our eating habits for 3 months to impact our physical health for the rest of our lives, would we do it? Most of us would.

If I told you that getting into financial action for 3 months, really making a consistent commitment, would change your financial life for the years to come, would you do it? You’d have better results if you agreed to do it for a year, for 5 years, or for the rest of your life. But tracking your numbers for just 3 months will make an impact as well. It will reset your clock, equilibrate the way you look at your spending, and serve you in truly seeing your income versus your spending.

If you’re ready to seriously impact your future financial health, here’s what you MUST do:

  • Record your spending weekly. Ensure you’ve captured everything. Total your numbers in the categories created in Step 2. Look at them in comparison with your monthly spending plan. Are you on target? If you aren’t, why? Do you need to make adjustments to your spending throughout the rest of the month?
  • Record your income, all of it. For many, this is the same number over and over and it might seem like drudgery. But its only 5 seconds worth, so just do it. For others, those with commission-based income, hourly jobs that shift income or self-employment income, tracking recording your income is every bit as important as your spending. Inconsistent income can cause a lot of challenges in balancing your spending. I know many a mortgage broker and Realtor that have money issues solely based on the fact that some months they earn five-figure, and other months they earn nothing.
  • Write it down by hand. I know this advice seems odd, almost counter-intuitive for some. But if you’re ready to seriously impact your future financial health, just do it. Why would someone who successfully uses Quicken or Mint.com take a pencil to paper and write? Because we take in information that we’ve written differently than that which we’ve read. Remember, I’m not suggesting you do this forever. But I am suggesting you do it for 3 months.
When you’re at the end of the three months, you’ll know whether or not you need to continue a weekly practice. You will have gained a lot of factual knowledge about your finances. But more importantly, you will have gained some personal knowledge of how you feel about your income, your spending, and your consistency with the financial health band wagon.

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Stacey Powell builds financial muscles at TheFinanceGym.com, creates financial clarity at CreatingAnswers.com, and shows off Financial Art at Facebook.

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Why Entrepreneurs Should Embrace Bank Transfer Day

November 11, 2011

Big Bank Little Business

In the first few months of working with me, clients get this advice: “move your banking to a small bank and develop a relationship with your banker.” Unfortunately, clients rarely take the advice. The reasons I’m given are everything from the obvious “I like the convenience of ATMs everywhere” to the inane “but I’ve been banking with them since high school.” Yes, you’ve been banking with them since high school, and you’ve had a business account with them for 20 years. Does anyone there ever talk to you? Help you? Advise you? I didn’t think so.

When I started seeing momentum building around Bank Transfer Day, I was excited. Not because I embrace the philosophy behind the movement, though I do, but because I knew that one outcome of the movement would be that thousands of entrepreneurs would end up in stronger, more supportive banking relationships.

Big banks do not support small business owners. They just don’t.

Whenever I see banking slogans, I imagine myself in a conversation with the president of the bank. So, Mr. Brian Moynihan, how is it that through banking with Bank of America, my service-based client with annual revenues under $500,000 will “get just what [he] needs for [his] business?“ And, Mr. John Stumpf, how is it that Wells Fargo will help my small not-for-profit client who is “working to build a successful business?“ When you go to Chase.com, they clearly delineate the playing field for you. Business banking is for those with revenues up to $10,000,000. Is your business nearing $10,000,000? If so, that’s great. Perhaps you should be banking at a big bank. But for the rest of us, the 99% of business owners if you will, we’ll be ecstatic when our revenues reach $1,000,000, or even $500,000. And until your business starts to approach those million dollar numbers, your banker is not likely to spend much time thinking about you, or even bothering to remember your name.

That is just one small reason I’m a huge fan of local banks and credit unions. My other three favorite reasons are:

  • Big banks have a revolving door for employees. Just when you get to know your bank manager, she’s promoted to some bigger branch or department and you’re left building another new banking relationship with another green bank manager.
  • Employees at small banks are given the latitude to make decisions and use their judgment. Employees at big banks rarely have the ability to override bank policies and procedures, even the most minor ones.
  • You matter. Even if your business is very small, a small business bank values you as a customer. There is almost always going to be an actual human being who truly wants your business.

The turning point for me, the moment that I became clear that all small businesses should be with a small bank, was when I learned first hand what my favorite Manager at PriceWaterhouseCoopers once told me: “Being a bank manager at a big bank is akin to being a manager at McDonalds. You have very firm policies and procedures, and it is your job to ensure that they are followed. There is no room for judgment or reason.”

I had seen this play out with clients in my first few years of advising small business owners. I’d have conversations with their bank managers about some decision that didn’t make sense, one that was hurting my client’s cash flow or ability to borrow. There was always a policy behind the decision. It was annoying, but I’m a big fan of systems so it generally made sense and I learned in those first few years that you can’t budge a big bank.

And then something happened with my business at my big bank. I made a mistake. I deposited a very large check into the ATM. I knew better. I was in a hurry and wasn’t thinking. And the minute that happened the time clock went off on a 14 day hold. But I needed the cash in 7 days. It was the experience of talking to the branch manager and department heads who could have reversed the hold (they knew the check had cleared) that implanted in my mind, I will never bank at a big bank again.

I moved to Sacramento’s River City Bank. I am a tiny client there, as are a number of my clients. The reason why all entrepreneurs should move to a small local bank or credit union is this: at River City Bank, when one of my clients needs something to happen that is outside of the bank’s policies and procedures, I can pick up the phone and talk to my bank manager. She knows me. She’ll talk to me. She can’t always override a policy, and I wouldn’t expect her to. But she does always explain the reason for the policy, talk through options, and in instances where it has made sense, she’s overridden policies and assisted clients with their banking needs. I have newer client who also banks with River City Bank, but their reserve funds are at ING.com. When I asked why, they said that their bank manager advised them to move their funds to ING.com; that the rates were better at that point in time. River City’s bank managers have done, as have other local bank managers, what I have never seen a big bank do: “gotten my clients just what they need for their business“ and “worked with them to build successful businesses.”

That is the kind of service you should expect from your banker. And that is why, political reasons aside, you should make a smart business decision to participate in Bank Transfer Day.

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Stacey Powell builds financial muscles at TheFinanceGym.com, creates financial clarity at CreatingAnswers.com, and shows off Financial Art at Facebook.