From The Blog

“Learn how to sell.  It’s the best investment you will ever make.  Mark Cuban says so.”  This is a quote from Jeff Haden’s article at Inc.com (August 2017) – enjoy the short video interview of Mark Cuban, billionaire investor, NBA team owner.

You need an angle – email me at info@NitaBlack.com #businessstrategist if you would like to discuss.  You need a sales budget.

How to Budget Sales.

One way to get an idea of a reasonable sales budget for a startup is to look at the industry data. Starting with census data, even though it is always dated, will help a start-up know how many companies are out there and average sales. Go to www.census.gov to pull Sales/Receipts by NAICS industry code. Start with the U.S., then the state, and then MSA and/or county to review geographic reports. Look at the total number of companies in each geographic area and calculate average Sales/Receipts per firm.

The industry information tells you how much was sold by your competitors.  It helps clarify the size of your target market, in dollars spent with your competitors by potential customers.  White papers and other research should help you estimate sales – a key line item in your budget.  The Sales Budget helps you set goals for all other line items in your budget.

Choose the information that is most relevant and comparable to the startup. Assume that it will take at least three to five years for a startup to reach the average Sales/Receipts per firm in the industry. Be conservative in your sales estimates. Consider preparing at least three scenarios of most likely, best case, worst case estimates so that appropriate planning can be considered for required capital, labor, and other resources.

Often, cash flow problems arise because of high growth as well as low growth.  Below is an example (see case study) of how the industry data can be used as a basis for the Sales/Receipts budget.

Sales Budget Process – Case Study.

The Market – XYZ Flooring Company is part of the Construction sector 23, doing business as a specialty trade contractor classified as NAICS 238330 and competing in the Memphis, TN MSA. Can you see how this information maps?  We start with the Construction sector, then choose a specific trade within the total sector.  Next, we look at the US data, data by state, data by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), data by city and/or county.  These levels of information usually tell us something that helps us compete for customers.  We choose the most relevant data, based on the company’s mission and vision.

The Sub-Sector – The construction industry sector has three major groups of companies – (1) Construction of Building (236), (2) Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (237), and (3) Specialty Trade Contractors (238). Specialty Trade Contractors include flooring, as well as poured concrete, structural steel, framing, masonry, glass and glazing, roofing, siding, electrical, plumbing and HVAC, drywall, painting, tile and terrazzo, finish carpentry, site preparation, and other specialty trade contracts.  Within the 238 sub-sector, there were 39 Flooring contractors reporting under NAICS 238330 in the Memphis MSA for 2009, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. These businesses employed 175 workers with an annual average payroll of $6.9 million.

Geographic Region – XYZ Flooring competes for business primarily in the Memphis MSA, although growth is expected through sales in the three states of Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. 2007 information reports 187 flooring contractor businesses in the state of Tennessee, 67 flooring contractors in the state of Arkansas, and 42 in the state of Mississippi. Average annual sales size per business is reported as $917,000 by Tennessee companies and $652,000 by Arkansas companies.  This lets us know what may be a reasonable sales budget for XYZ Flooring.

Base Budget Plus Future – As a startup XYZ Flooring’s Sales Budget assumes it will take five years to reach the average Sales of approximately $652,000. The first-year sales are $385,000 based on 5 to 6 retail (consumer) orders per month at $2950 average price per order. Approximately one-half of the annual sales are retail resulting in a total retail sales budget of $194,700 annually. The remaining sales budget of roughly $192,500 includes 10 commercial orders a year at $19,250 per order. The company’s budget is based on an 80% pipeline of orders already placed, with 13 retail orders or $38,000 lined up for the first quarter plus $46,200 in pending commercial orders.

Growth Assumptions – Our source of referrals for both retail and commercial customers are well-established and are believed to support the current Sales/Receipts Budget. An annual growth of 10% for the first five years is assumed conservative, based on industry data provided by xxx Flooring Association which indicates recent historical industry sales growth of 12% to 15% per year.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

As the startup builds a track record each week, each month, each quarter, and each year, budgets should become more reliable. Who knows, a startup may outperform the industry in the first year so using several scenarios will help predict company needs and avoid crisis management.  Below are a few FAQs to help you as a startup.

  1. How do I calculate Breakeven Sales? Breakeven Sales in dollars is equal to Fixed Expenses divided by Gross Profit Margin.
  2. How do I calculate Gross Profit and Gross Profit Margin? Gross Profit in dollars is Revenue less variable Cost of Sales. Gross Profit Margin as a percent is Gross Profit in dollars divided by Revenue.
  3. How do I calculate Net Profit and Net Profit Margin? Net Profit in dollars is Revenue Less Total Expenses. Net Profit Margin as a percent is Net Profit divided by Revenue.
  4. How do I calculate Breakeven Sales plus $100k Profit? Breakeven Sales in dollars plus $100k Profit is equal to Fixed Expenses plus $100k divided by Gross Profit Margin.
  5. What costs are typically included in the line item variable Cost of Sales? Variable Cost of Sales includes materials and labor costs which vary with Revenue. For example, a $10 widget may have $3 in material cost and $3 in labor cost for a total of $6 in variable Cost of Sales per widget.
  6. What is positive Cash Flow? For example, Client ABC orders 100 widgets at $10 each which equals $1000 in Revenue. Client ABC pays Startup Business XYZ on the date of the order. Business XYZ has thirty days to pay Vendor to purchase product and twenty-five days to ship to Client ABC. Positive Cash Flow in this example is $1000 for thirty days until payment by Business XYZ to Vendor is made.  It’s great if you can collect money from your clients first and then pay your vendors and your people later.  That way you have cash in the bank before you actually need to spend it.
  7. What are Fixed Expenses in a Business? These are typically rent, utilities, insurance, office staff, W-2 employees, and other expenses that must be paid each month, quarter, or year, regardless of the level of Revenues in the Business. It is important to hold fixed expenses at a very low level, in the case of most startups.
  8. Why does a Business need research? Research should answer questions that help a Business compete and survive long-term. These are questions like (a) Who am I competing with, (b) Where are my competitors and what do they “look like”, (c) What are my target clients buying, (c) Who can pay for what I sell, (d) How much will they pay, (e) How much are my competitors charging and many other questions.
  9. What is a Sales Plan? Unless clients are begging you for business, typically, you must go find them. You must evaluate who your “best” client is and how to reach them. Where do they live/work, what do they do, why will they do business with you, and how will you reach them? The sales plan includes who you should contact, how often contacts should be made, in what ways should you contact, what actions should be taken over what period, and what goals within what timeframes can be reasonably attained.
  10. Why is a Sales Forecast important? A financial forecast starts with the Sales Forecast. This can be based on industry data, regional demographics, or other information. The goal of a good Sales Forecast is to estimate the financial performance of a Business for the coming day, week, month, quarter, year, or years. It helps set the expense budget for the same period. If actual Sales are significantly less than the Sales Forecast, the management of expenses becomes even more critical for long-term survival of a Business.
  11. Why is a Marketing Plan important? A Marketing Plan has several core components that, when completed by the Business Owner, will clarify how to reach clients that will buy from you. A Marketing Plan includes the estimated cost so that you can budget for these expenses. It is an integral part of the Business Plan, identifying the unique selling proposition of the business, the competitors of the business, and strategies to connect with and/or retain clients so that the Business generates adequate revenue to operate in a profitable and successful manner.

Learning how to sell without a Sales Budget is like learning to water ski with no boat.  Your sales budget will clarify what products and services are sold and which ones drive the most revenue.

For more information on building sales and other business strategies, contact Nita Black at (901)413-1315.  You can also find Nita on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Experience success!


NIta Black, CEO/Business Strategist
www.NitaBlack.com

“We provide business tools to help clients monetize their ideas.”

What is a Steel Magnolia anyway? Let’s read what Wikipedia says.

STEEL MAGNOLIAS IS A 1989 AMERICAN COMEDY-DRAMA FILM DIRECTED BY HERBERT ROSS. IT IS THE FILM ADAPTATION OF ROBERT HARLING’S 1987 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME. THE PLAY AND FILM ARE ABOUT THE BOND A GROUP OF WOMEN SHARE IN A SMALL-TOWN SOUTHERN COMMUNITY, AND HOW THEY COPE WITH THE DEATH OF ONE OF THEIR OWN.

THE STORY IS BASED ON ROBERT HARLING‘S REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE OF THE DEATH OF HIS SISTER, SUSAN HARLING ROBINSON, IN 1985 DUE TO COMPLICATIONS FROM TYPE 1 DIABETES. HE CHANGED HIS SISTER’S NAME IN THE STORY FROM SUSAN TO SHELBY EATENTON-LATCHERIE.

 

THE TITLE SUGGESTS THE MAIN FEMALE CHARACTERS CAN BE BOTH AS DELICATE AS THE MAGNOLIA FLOWER, AND AS TOUGH AS STEEL.

As a woman in charge of her own destiny, maybe you can relate. Delicate and tough?

Ideal Leadership Traits

Have you thought about your leadership style lately and what traits you possess? How would you describe your ideal leadership traits?  Those traits that you seek and want to possess long-term.  Are you patient and calm, pushy and arrogant, somewhere in-between?  How would you describe yourself as a successful leader?  What does it take to be successful in business, or really at anything you decide to tackle?

Of course, you probably know Fred Smith or know of him. As the CEO and Founder of Federal Express, you can watch his video produced in December 2016 and read the article in Entrepreneur.  His tips for success start with “Believe.”  Believe in what you are doing, with all your might.

Or you might research successful women and how they define success. In Forbes Magazine (July 2016) in the article How Do We Define Success for Women Entrepreneurs, Patti Greene asks the following questions:

  • If a woman organizes her business to focus at least as much on growing a successful family as growing a larger business – is that success?
  • If a woman really enjoys performing the work of the business – delivering the product or service herself and choosing not to become an employer – is that a successful entrepreneurial outcome? Let’s remember that if we didn’t have the non-employer businesses we would need to create approximately 22 million more jobs across the country to take their place.
  • However, if a woman’s aspirations are to grow a much larger company, does she have access to the resources, particularly those of capital and network, to build that type of company successfully? Research findings over the past few years are fairly robust that women have equal access to debt based funding, while still lagging substantially in accessing equity capital.

Lead for You

We can google this and research that, all day long, been there, done that, searching for the definition of success. The main thing, imo, is that we do something. We make the best decisions possible at a given point in time and then run with it.  We look at ourselves often, celebrate the wins (even small ones), and percolate the fixes every day, one day at a time.  Yes, success can be like brewing a good pot of coffee – percolating is good!

Leadership Self-Assessment

If you are a business owner or a wannabe business owner, or just want to take some time for yourself to self-reflect, answer the following statements with the answer that best describes you.  We ask you to use one of the five following answers:

a. I disagree.

b. I somewhat disagree.

c. I agree.

d. I somewhat agree.

e. I strongly agree.

There are no right or wrong answers.  This should be a quick run-through – ready, set, go!

  1. I am more of a visionary and less analytical.
  2. I am more detail oriented and less big picture.
  3. My business and personal goals have been updated within the last six months.
  4. I made money last year.
  5. I know my banker.
  6. I owe money to a bank and/or outside investor, family and friends.
  7. My financial records are in good order and bookkeeping is up to date.
  8. I have at least three written goals to attain within the next five years.
  9. I like thinking and planning strategically.
  10. I have a strategic plan in place that has been updated within the last twelve months.
  11. I am open to advice from others.
  12. I have an established customer base.
  13. I have written and current job descriptions for myself and my staff.
  14. Each of my staff participated in a job performance review within the last twelve months.
  15. I offer health and retirement benefits that cover me and my staff.
  16. Each of my staff participated in a job performance review within the last twelve months.
  17. I have identified my target market in dollars and unit volume.
  18. I have a marketing calendar in place for the current year.
  19. I know what job positions will be needed for the current year.
  20. I have facilitated a team meeting with my staff within the last thirty days.
  21. I know how I stack up against other companies within my industry.
  22. I have a tax problem with the IRS.
  23. My technology strategy and IT support are clearly identified and in written form.
  24. I know what capital expenditures are required for my business over the next two years.
  25. I have identified a specific exit strategy and timeline.
  26. I have obtained a valuation of my company from an objective third party professional.
  27. I have a clear and defined process or processes to deliver my products and services.
  28. I have a clear and defined process or processes to keep my customers happy.
  29. I have a problem changing directions, even when something is not working.
  30. I like new things and have a problem consistently finishing a project well.
  31. I totally trust all my employees.
  32. I like projects.
  33. I like continuity.
  34. I like change.
  35. I have a comprehensive communications strategy that is working well with my staff members, my customers, my prospects, and with the public.
  36. I know my competitor’s unique selling proposition and how they are successful in their business.
  37. I have a rock star management team with few gaps in expertise/experience.

If you have now completed the above assessment, total the number for each answer. Total up all the a’s, the b’s, etc.

The point of this type of assessment is to identify your behaviors and clarify what is important to you, your family, your business.  Look for common threads in your answers, where you are now and where you would like to be – in terms of your own behavior.  Identify changes that you want to occur and then sleep on it.  Next, do your research to help you set realistic goals for making these changes – by specific dates that you set for yourself.

If you want feedback, email your self-assessment results to info@NitaBlack.com.

Are you a Steel Magnolia or do you even want to be one?  To identify tools and strategies that can make you more money AND ecstatically happy with what you are doing, contact Nita Black at (901)413-1315 or go to her website at www.NitaBlack.com.  You can also find Nita on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Experience success!


NIta Black, CEO/Business Strategist
www.NitaBlack.com

“We provide business tools to help clients monetize their ideas.”

Imagine building this bridge with no pics and no plan.  No research, no second opinions.

This is what we mean by Top-Down – starting from “what it looks like” to adding in all the details, to adjusting with improvements that make it better.  In this blog we use the numbers to paint the financial picture first.  Next we identify the sweet spot – the core business that makes us happy and makes us more money.  From there, it’s organize, clarify, and then share our dreams through a written plan.  A living, breathing, ever-evolving plan for success.

Are you ready to go for it?

Tip #1 – Begin with the numbers.  Use a simple spreadsheet to put a monthly cash budget on paper. There are many free resources on the web.  The one I use the most is an Excel spreadsheet which you can download from Microsoft Office Online.  It is a one-page tool to help you estimate cash in and cash out.  SCORE also has a very good template which compiles data assumptions, keyed in by the business owner.  The data is then used to create pro forma financial reports (automatically created in the template, yeah!)

The key components of the initial cash budget include Sales, Number of Sales in Units (e.g. # Widgets Sold), Average Ticket Price Per Sale, Variable Cost per Sale, Gross Profit, Overhead, Net Profit or (Loss).

If you have ever prepared a plan for a lender to review, he/she will quickly look over the first couple of pages and then flip to the back of the plan to look at your numbers.  Even though we are working on the numbers first, they will go in the back of the plan, once completed.

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Tip #2 –  Take the numerical budget and begin writing your business story narrative, to create your business plan.  Describe your sweet spot – what you do really well, that you love to do, that people will pay for.  Then think about your end game.  When – not if – you are successful, what is your exit strategy?  An exit strategy can be “go public” or “leave legacy for my family to continue to operate a profitable business” or “sell to a major corporation within 10 years.”

At this point you should have completed the initial draft of a numerical budget, the description of your sweet spot, and your end game or exit strategy.  These three things make up the foundation of your business plan, upon which you can now create the rest of your plan.

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Tip #3 – Do research by googling to answer questions about your budget, your industry, your competitors, and your prospective clients.  Set up a cloud-based repository for documents, such as Dropbox.com, so that you can organize information first and then pull bits and pieces of relevant data into each section of the business plan.

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Tip #4 – Most business strategists suggest that you write the Executive Summary last.  My recommendation is to go ahead and write out your top-level vision (in the form of an Executive Summary) by completing a paragraph on each major section in the Plan.  This way, assuming you have completed the numbers in Tip #1 above, you now have the first draft of an Executive Summary which we will call a Business Review (temporarily) along with a basic cash budget.  This does not mean that your plan at this point is complete.  This is only the beginning.

Major sections in the Plan include

(a) Company Description – What products and services do you sell?   What is your mission and vision of the business?  Include your sweet spot in this section of the plan.

(b) Management Team – Who leads the team?  Who will follow?  Who is needed to round out the Team?  Include years of experience, types of expertise represented in the Team, and education of key members of the Team.

(c) Target Market – Who do you sell to?  Where are they located?  What do they like?  What do they need?  Why do they spend money and what products and services do they buy?

(d) Competition – Who does the same thing that you want to do?  Who else solves the problem that you solve, through the sale of products and services?  If your answer here is, “I have no competitors.” – that answer will be FALSE!  Everyone in business competes with someone.

(e) Marketing – What is your USP – Unique Selling Proposition?  Where can you reach your potential clients, through what media (such as online, television, radio, print materials)?  What are your marketing needs to reach how many people in order to sell what you need to sell?

(f) Sales – What is your sales plan, who is your sales team, and how are you going to build your pipeline of clients?  What is the timeframe to scale your business to the next level?

(g) Operations – How will you deliver the products and services that you sell?  What kind of quality controls will you have in place?  What are your fixed operations versus operations variable to sales?

(h) Finance – What are your gross profit margins, your breakeven sales, your overhead/fixed expenses?  What internal controls will you have in place to protect all assets, including cash in the bank, equipment, intellectual property?  Include your draft numerical budget in this section of the plan.  Return to the budget periodically to fine-tune, as other parts of the plan develop.

(i) Future Developments – What does your business look like one year out?  Three years out?  Five years out?  Ten years out?  What technology, new equipment, or systems have you identified that need to be explored, once the company can afford to invest due to planned growth?  Include your end game, your exit strategy, in this section of the plan.

(j) Appendix – What core business forms will you use?  Create or pull samples to keep organized as part of the business plan.  Key documents to gather may include a copy of the lease agreement, copies of vendors agreements, resumes for each team member, website content and social media documents, employee handbook, company policies and procedures manual.

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Tip #5 – Once you have drafted the Business Review (as outlined in Tip #4), sleep on these thoughts for several days. Go back and review to edit your thoughts and clarify what you want your business to look like.  Then begin to pay attention to more and more details.  The next steps to completing your plan will be the most tedious for most entrepreneurs.  A lot of us are dreamers and think big.  We hate to slow down to describe all the details to someone else.  But guess what?  This makes up the guts of the plan, all those tiny details will make a difference between success and failure.

Use the concise description of each plan section included in the Business Review to expand the body of the business plan by writing out more details for each section.  The details of your plan should include description of your products and services, your customers, your competitors, your operations, and your industry.  You can add charts and graphics to the business plan, once the core sections of the plan have been expanded.

When you get finished or at a good stopping point in completing the detailed plan sections, it is time to re-visit the numbers and then revamp the Business Review again.   Once each section of the business plan has “meat on it”, then you can change the title of the Business Review section to Executive Summary.  You are close to being ready to share with a selective few people who you know, love, and trust.

The Executive Summary goes at the front of the business plan, right behind the title page and contents page.  The financials go last.

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Tip #6 – Include your contact information on the title page and in the footer on every page of your plan.  Include page numbers on every page, except the title page.  Include the “date last revised” at the bottom of the Title page.  Be careful to research the company name, the domain name, email address, mailing address, colors, and type of logo, before finalizing.  This may save you money if you take a little time to identify the best name and other information, in order to maximize customer reach.  Consult with a business attorney to evaluate the optimal legal structure for what you have planned, before spending any money.  Consult with a CPA to discuss tax and licensing requirements, as well as options for bookkeeping and keeping business records organized, before spending any money.  Even though you are very excited about what you want to do, slow it down enough to decide on the best choices for you before spending too much money.  Then, on your mark, get set, go!

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Tip #7 -Don’t forget that the best plan is one that works for you, the business owner.  It is part of the learning curve.  That is, we practice what we do and develop a discipline to revisit the plan monthly, quarterly, annually.  The plan helps us do what we say and say what we do.  This is how the big companies have grown to be big; this is how you can do it, too.  Listen to the feedback that you receive from others, but stay focused on your dream and what you know will work well for you and your clients.  Also, be open to facts and numbers, sometimes a better way of doing things is revealed that was not part of your original plan.  Be objective, passionate, flexible, firm.

Start your business with a plan and then work your plan to make it work for you.  This will save you time and money, plus…have more fun!  Life’s too short not to give it your best, your all.

For more information on Creating a Top-Down Plan That Sticks and other business strategies, contact Nita Black at Info@NitaBlack.com or go to her website at www.NitaBlack.com.  You can also find Nita on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Experience success!


NIta Black, CEO/Business Strategist
www.NitaBlack.com

“We provide business tools to help clients monetize their ideas.”

Visualizing Your Dream

I love posting things on the wall to organize my work day.  What about you?  What about birthday stickers and different emoji posts on Facebook and in texts?  But when it comes to visualizing my dream business, what I want when I grow up, I can get stuck.  All words and no pics – makes for “no fun” these days.

Back in the day, I decided to attend a class called “Operation Jumpstart”.  The materials were provided by the Kauffman Foundation which is a well-respected resource for tons of research and business tips/materials.  The course was offered by a local non-profit and the cost was nominal.  The biggest commitment I had to make was the time to attend 36 hours of class time over a 12-week period and complete assigned homework.  Yikes!  Little did I know that I would feel like I was in grade school again.  A story board (think emoji board, in today’s world)?  Are you crazy?  What is this going to do for me as a “seasoned” business strategist?  I do not have time for this, nor did I ever like to draw.

After the initial rebellion, I proceeded to quickly put together the bare necessities to complete the board as assigned.  When the next class was held, I was ready to turn mine in and be done.  Over-achiever maybe?  I was surprised to learn that no one else in the class had the understanding that this was homework, so the assignment was repeated and due date was extended to the following week.  Oh, well, I am ahead of the game – but wait?

As I looked at what I had done, it became more obvious to me that I had not thought through many of the underlying components of the story board.  If I was going to spend my time doing this, I needed to do it right – do you agree?

The five major sections on the story board were (1) the Entrepreneur (that’s me/you), (2) the Customer, (3) the Products/Services, (4) the Money, and (5) the Future.  On the original board, I had pulled clip art to quickly fill in the “blanks”, so to speak, so that the story board would cover the five major sections e.g. homework would be completed with elements as required – and not much work on my part.  The purpose of the story board was to tell the story of your business, the who, what, where, and how.  Much to my surprise, I found the story board very helpful in forcing me to continue to clarify what I wanted to do, who my customers would be, where I would get the money to do what I wanted to do, and what the future might look like.  More importantly, what exactly was I going to sell?

I know this is risky (maybe too transparent for some readers), but below is my original story board.  Although roughly organized, this is where I started with my story – addressing the five important sections. Below is my storyboard.  I am no artist and you can say or think whatever you wish…can you say “cheesy?”

For example, let’s start with the Entrepreneur – that’s me.  See the lady in the black dress with a briefcase and flying over tall buildings like Wonder Woman?  Well this is me!  Don’t ask me why, but I just liked this image and thought it was appropriate.  Sometimes I really do want to fly over tall buildings, but think better of it later.  The rest of the images reflect the visualization of my dream at that time in my life.

The more I looked at the story board, the more work I saw that I needed to do.  Too, too busy, and so many things I wanted to do.  And the title – I put that up there last and then changed it a couple of times.    You will see on the flip side of the story board, the title changed again.  I guess this is part of the evolution of any plan – figuring things out, and not being afraid of changing if it is not the best fit at that time.  The story board should evolve into a visual component of the business plan, like it or not!

On the flip side of the vision board (above), you can see the Future in the top left-hand corner with a “Sold – for Value” sign.  This means that the vision was to grow the heck out of this business to create value thru revenue and earnings so that it could then be sold – maybe to a major banking system that needed fee income and more commercial loan customers.  Sounds out there, to some of you, but I believed this could happen.

The Entrepreneur, that’s me, and my picture are on the bottom left of the story board with the phrase “The Collaborator”.  This is the branding – collaborator – that is still important to me today.

The story board (today we might call it an Emoji Board or Info-gram?) made things more visible to me – several ideas were formed that previously I did not have.  Even though I’m not an artist, I was glad that I took the time to complete the board – even if it was a not-so-favorite class assignment.  Of course, when I look at it next month, there may be more work to do.

Oh, well, this is entrepreneurship…I love it.

For more information on Visualizing Your Dream and other business strategies, contact Nita Black at Info@NitaBlack.com or go to her website at www.NitaBlack.com.  You can also find Nita on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Experience success!


NIta Black, CEO/Business Strategist
www.NitaBlack.com

“We provide business tools to help clients monetize their ideas.”

In looking back and planning ahead, I realized that in the year 2000, I had a million dollar estate.  This included about $250k in real estate, $250K in IRAs, and about $500K in stocks, bonds, and money market account.  This helped me get comfortable with leaving a corporate job and striking out on my own.  I formed a business consulting company in 2001 and began helping people write a business plan and forecast cash. Using my previous experience in working with numerous privately held businesses, both small and large, I learned how much I didn’t know.  Planning and writing a business plan is one thing.  Implementing the plan is another.

In 2003, I opened a retail store near the University of Memphis.  Originally this was a music store for independent musicians and artists to have a place to sell their original music or artwork.  The store evolved over the next five years into a coffeehouse which offered live music and original artwork.  The whole experience was a trip!  Even though the store is now closed, I don’t regret making that investment.  During that time I figured out a few things and for some of us, we have to learn by doing it.  We can read about, talk about it, listen to others, watch others, but we actually have to do it and make adjustments as we go to be successful at it.

Between the stock market decline, costly mistakes I made in running a retail store, and vacancies in rental property, I burned through most of my cash and IRAs.  So now I am working on making my second million!

Making money usually happens inch by inch, yard by yard, mile by mile.  So how did I start to rebuild cash?  When my store closed, I was looking at unpaid bills and credit cards with high interest rates.  Initially I used a green columnar pad to forecast how much cash was needed to make regular monthly payments and to repay credit card loans.  After landing a job which paid every other Friday, I sketched out when money would be coming in and what money had to go out.  Squeaking by for a few months by deferring payments until the very last due date, my credit report was not severely impacted.  I am now down to one credit card balance with three credit card lines open.  My spreadsheet includes money coming in from all sources (when and how much), expenses associated with one rental property, expenses associated with the business consulting company, and ongoing monthly expenses such as utilities, insurance, food, clothing, auto maintenance, mortgage note, charitable contributions.  At the bottom of the spreadsheet are goals for how many clients I need paying at an average ticket price to cover the business consulting company expenses and also make a profit.  If I had more than one rental property, this section of the plan would include the number of tenants with average rent paid in to cover expenses and make a profit.

The spreadsheet is now on my computer and ends up being one page so I can carry it in my purse.  I use it as a tool to make decisions on how much to donate to others, how much should go to savings, how much is forecasted in each area, and then how much is discretionary for other things.  This helps me control spending and stay focused on the plan to increase cash within my own personal limits.  It includes my day job, pet projects, the rental property numbers, and a savings plan for the next “project”.

Sometimes it is hard to talk with others about money.  So there, I have told you at least part of my story.  I made it, lost it, and am re-building it.  Life is not all about money but I like to see progress in accomplishing my goals which are now written and revised when needed.  There are many people who are like me, trying to figure it out as we go, working hard to keep the pieces of the puzzle together.

The last quarter of the year can become quite stressful, especially for those of us over 60. In some parts of the world, October is filled with more outdoor events with family and friends because the weather turns cooler while the sun is still generous.

November brings traditional Thanksgiving dinners, often with large family gatherings and lots of cooking. We buy more food and cook more, which results in higher utility bills. During December, many of us exchange gifts with family members, friends, and clients.

All of this will cost us more money than we spend in any of the other months of the year.

We love our families and want to be engaged with them, but most of us need to do it in a cost-effective way. If we plan ahead, the financial part can be managed. Here are some things to consider.

Tip #1: Organize Your Records Year-Round

Take time to organize your financial records year-round in ways that are fun, so that you will love doing it. Start by looking for the best organizer tools that will make your life easier.

If you are a ‘paper’ person, we suggest that you shop for a cool three-ring notebook in your favorite color, colorful 1-15 numbered tabs, and clear sleeves that can hold documents with several pages. (Estimated cost = $30 US for materials plus an hour of your time to shop.)

Just so you know, my favorite color right now is lime green and my notebook is so cool!

One three-ring notebook should last for an entire year. Label it on the outside so that you can find it easily. For instance, you could write: “Your Name – 2018 Records”. Set up your tabs to organize “Cash In” and “Cash Out.”

Tabs can be named for things like monthly bank statements, monthly credit card statements, important receipts, past years tax returns, a cash budget, real estate records organized by property address.

If you are a ‘digital’ person, set up these same tabs as a folder on Dropbox.com or on Google Drive.

To get you started, a sample Table of Contents for your tabs or digital folders is shown below:

  • Bank Statements (including copies of cancelled checks and deposit information)
  • Credit Card Statements
  • Child Care Costs
  • Transportation Costs
  • Insurance Policy and Monthly Receipts
  • Charitable Contributions Receipts
  • Cash Budget – Current Year
  • Retirement Account Statements and Contribution or Withdrawal Documentation
  • Tax Return – Last Year and Year Before
  • Income Records – such as Pay Stubs
  • Medical & Healthcare Records – such as Explanation of Benefits, Invoices Received/Paid, Lab Reports
  • Birth Certificate & Passport
  • Property Deed and Real Estate Information – by Property Address
  • Automobile, Other Vehicle – Titles and Other Information
  • Calendar of Deadlines for Filing Taxes and Dates to Pay Bills

Tip #2: Annual Cash Budget

Prepare a cash budget annually for each month during the year. This is a tool that you can print to keep in your three-ring notebook (or digitally) to refer to from time to time. Your budget will help you stay on track so that you are able to sleep at night and not worry about finances.

I recall the year 2008 when I closed my coffeehouse. We had been open for five years and, although it was a lot of fun, the coffeehouse did not make a profit. At that time, I put together a monthly cash budget to manage “Cash In” and “Cash Out.”

I used a one-page Excel spreadsheet and printed a copy to carry in my purse. That way, when I did have money to spend and needed food, clothing, or gas for my car, I would pull out this one-page budget to help me prioritize what to buy with the money that I had.

This budget tool was a life-saver for me and it helped me save my personal credit also – by being able to pay bills on time, using my budget as a guide.

These days, I still use a monthly cash budget to estimate how much I will need to pay bills, when they are due and what amount should be left over for savings or to put back into my business. Your budget should include all “Cash In” and “Cash Out.”

Be sure to include necessities like food and medicine, plus auto repairs and gas if you own a car, or transportation costs. It should also include entertainment and planned discretionary expenses. (Estimated time to prepare budget = 1 to 3 hours annually and half-hour updates monthly.)

Tip #3: Use Event Calendars

Consider developing an Entertainment, Birthday, and Special Events Calendar to help you track all activities a mature woman must engage in. This will help you plan ahead so that you can manage your money and organize your expenses.

If you own a business in your 60s, this type of calendar becomes even more helpful. It will help you know how to plan your spending on activities that are sporadic as well as spontaneous.

For a complimentary one-page calendar design, email Nita Black for a copy. (Estimated time to prepare calendar = 1 to 2 hours annually and half-hour updates monthly.)

Use these ideas to help you do what you love and enjoy what you do! Be blessed.

How do you organize your finances? Have you tried going at it on a monthly basis rather than doing it annually? What tools do you use to help you organize your finances? Please share any strategies that you find useful!

This article first appeared on Sixty & Me

Nita Black - Business Strategist

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