Here’s How to Manage Your Business Finances, According to a Financial Strategy Expert

Here’s How to Manage Your Business Finances, According to a Financial Strategy Expert

Starlitt Miller helps entrepreneurs, freelancers, and micro-business owners manage their money. She’s spent countless hours working with them to help improve their finances. As founder of Start Accounting And Business Solutions (SAABS), she’s an expert in helping people sort through bookkeeping problems and develop better financial management practices. 

Spending so much time with business owners, she’s developed a keen understanding of what makes someone successful when it comes to a critical part of running a business: managing the money. 

No amount of talent, customer service, or product matters if the books are off. 

So, we asked Starlitt what she believes people need to do to keep their business finances in order. Here’s what she had to say. 

The Biggest Struggle for Most People: Discipline 

Establishing good financial practices early in the business is one of the most important keys to long-term success, according to Starlitt. And she said that’s hard for many people. Sometimes the business starts as a hobby or side gig but quickly grows into a larger income stream or a full-time job. So creating good habits and sticking to them is essential. 

“Being disciplined about separating and treating the business like a business, like it’s separate from you,” Miller said. 

In other words, you need a business bank account (and that’s the minimum). 

And Starlitt noted most people don’t need a complicated system. You can track revenue and expenses using a spreadsheet. 

Starlitt said she’s worked with many entrepreneurs who don’t establish good baseline practices. Instead, they use various payment methods and blend business expenses with personal. And this can cause problems when it comes to taxes and planning for the next year. 

“But very often, even at the baseline, it’s like, there’s too much gray space [with] how it’s being organized.” 

Starlitt said one of the critical steps for anyone, whether you’re full-time or just running a business on the side, is establishing an LLC, getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN), and separating your business finances from personal. This makes the organization easier, but it also helps protect your personal assets in legal cases involving your business. 

Even established businesses don’t take proper financial management steps, according to Starlitt. 

“So what I’m seeing is that that baseline of organizing, separating, it’s not taken seriously enough.” 

Part of the problem? 

Starlitt said she’s worked with many business owners who only look at their bank balance. 

“They [businesses] often hired and retained the CPA firm. [And]  from an operational standpoint within the year, unless they needed formal statements, they were looking at their bank balance to see how well they’re doing. The cash balance is one part of the picture,” Miller said. 

Even after establishing business bank accounts and setting up an LLC, it’s essential to track transactions and understand cash flow. 

Starlitt explained many people know they need to look at their financial statements but don’t understand them. And that’s okay. But, it’s important to work with someone (like Starlitt) to learn and be educated on the basics. 

“I do encourage them, and I approach our work together in an educational way because I never want someone to work with me because they have to or if they leave me they won’t know what’s going on within their business. That’s not a good position to be in.” 

Overcome Bad Habits with a Better System 

If tracking finances were easy, everyone would budget, save enough for retirement, and never worry about having cash to cover expenses. 

But human beings struggle to create beneficial financial habits. Starlitt said it’s tough to understand why people don’t manage their business income well because you deal with human behavior and everyone has different tendencies. 

Starlitt noted each person needs to understand their relationship with money. Everyone has a different background and experience with how they manage it. Those habits will bleed into your business as well. 

A critical step in establishing good financial habits is about connecting with the right tools and people, according to Starlitt. 

Many business owners only focus on what they owe the IRS and it dictates their view of how their business is performing. Starlitt says the IRS shouldn’t be the driving force behind why you look at your numbers. 

 “I think it [the IRS] deserves some level of being shrunken down to see a bigger picture because the operational side of your business and how you potentially grow it is why you also need to understand your numbers,” she said. 

For many entrepreneurs, it will require a mindset shift. 

“The mindset would be the starting point in my opinion and everything else is really about what you need as a person,” Starlitt said. 

From there, it’s important to establish a process to match your needs as a business owner and individual. 

If you’re looking for a system, Starlitt recommends Profit First to help establish a structure. The priority should be finding a system to benefit your business and your money management habits.  

Starlitt’s worked with many companies, and she said those who are most successful set up a system and stick to it. 

“Those that set up a system and then maintain it at a basic level, right, so you set up the organizational bins and you put things back where they belong,” Miller said. “You keep everything in its place, and you’re not missing any information.”

When you have your data organized and in the same place, it makes working with partners like accountants and business coaches much easier.  

Take the First Step 

Finances are intimidating for many business owners. Lots of folks don’t pay much attention because they’re focused on running the company and doing what they’re good at. But, when you signup to be an entrepreneur, this kind of work comes with the territory. 

Get yourself registered as an LLC. Or ask an expert (like an accountant) about the best structure for your business. Set up a business bank account (many have free checking). And start tracking your income and expenses using a basic spreadsheet. Each step will be another in the right direction toward good financial health for your business. And when you get to a place where you need additional support, find a great partner (like Starlitt!) to offer expertise. 

You can learn more about Starlitt Miller and her work (plus a new venture she’s starting) right here

Goal Setting in 2019 w/ Jeannie Sullivan

What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?

If you’ve got big plans for 2019, you don’t want to miss out on setting goals. Last month, I had the chance to work with a small group of entrepreneurs, creators, and dreamers to help them map out their plans into actionable steps.

In case you missed it, here’s a quick recap of how to turn your big picture plans into actionable goals.

Step 1: Cast a Vision

Take just a few minutes to dream about how your life will look three years from now. Specifically, consider the areas of livelihood, wellness, creativity, connection (relationships), and money. Don’t worry about making this part perfect, just jot down a few phrases that represent what you hope will be happening in each area three years down the road.

Step 2: Write REAL Goals

Take each area, one-by-one, and write a REAL goals for where you’ll focus in 2019. REAL goals are like SMART goals but better. Why? Because they include feelings. What does REAL stand for?

(R) Realistic, but challenging

(E) Energizing

(A) Aligned with your vision

(L) Linked to success

An example from my own life in the area of creativity: In 2019, I’ll switch up my morning writing practice so that I’m actively working on an article, short story or poem to share; the sharing will take some courage.

Step 3: Create a Habit

Think of things you can shift in your environment that will support you in taking action toward your goal. Do you need to expand or limit your access to resources? What small steps will you take regularly to create momentum toward your goal?

Step 4: Set Your Intention

An implementation intention will help you start and protect your habits helping you actually accomplish your goals. To help you start a new habit, use a when/where statement. To help protect your habit, use an if/when statement.

Here are examples from my own goals setting strategy:

  • Weekday mornings from 5-6, I’ll write at my dining room table.
  • If  I miss a day, then I’ll add a weekend writing session.

Step 5: Make it Stick

Learn more about your own tendency when it comes to expectations and leverage it to set up accountability systems that truly work for you. To learn more, take this quick assessment by Gretchen Rubin:

If you’d like to learn more about these topics, check out these books that have been truly life changing for me:

  • Better Than Before, Gretchen Rubin
  • Atomic Habits, James Clear
  • The Desire Map, Danielle LaPorte

Want some help getting your plan out of your head and down on paper? Reach out to me for a free laser coaching session:

Knowledge Bomb: Goal Setting

It’s a familiar cycle. We set a goal, tape it to our desk, and think real hard about it for a few weeks (or minutes, if you left email open). Then something happens. Whether it’s a move, a kid, a layoff, or lack of willpower, most of our goals derail.

Since this is such a shared pain point, SOCO figured what better time to chat about it than in January.

For the first Slack Session of 2019, we met up with a group of members in the #slack_sessions channel to chat through setting and achieving our 2019 goals.

Picking a target for the new year

Some members had big targets, others had small habits they wanted to improve. Things like:

  • Get into digital illustration
  • Cut out (gasp!) caffeine
  • Plan a few snowboarding trips
  • Bulk up various savings accounts (have you read through the Personal Finance session, yet?)
  • Coach a child to a basketball championship
  • Go through the mail every day
  • Take a full month off for vacation
  • Finish a book

Figuring out how the heck to get there

Once members know their goal, it’s less of a matter of what they want to achieve, and more about how. And a lot of members think small steps are the way to go.

How NOT to hit your goals

Just like you can set yourself up for success, you can also set yourself up for failure. If you want to ensure you don’t hit your goals, here are some foolproof ways to do that.

Members’ recipes for nailing goals

Thankfully, members have just as many ideas on hitting your goals as trashing them. When we asked what’s tipped them toward “nailed it” and away from “failed it” in years past, here’s what they had to say.

To reach a goal, you have to put in daily effort. And you want to make sure you have the kind of support system that encourages you to do that. Because doing the work day in and day out? That’s far from easy.

Hey you, don’t miss the next Slack Chat!

If you’re already a member, make sure you’ve joined the #Slack_Sessions channel. It’s where we post updates about topics, times for the next chat, and other related info.

If you’re not a member, how about scheduling a free tour? You’ll get to check out our space, meet a few members, and see for yourself why we rave about SOCO.

Member Profile: Trey Bayne

“I love data no matter where it’s from. I take it as my mission to make sure you know what it can do for you if used correctly.”

What do you love about Soda City?
What don’t I love? I’ve lived here my whole life and still find amazing things I never knew existed in my own back yard.

What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO community?
SOCO gives me the chance to work near people that are smarter and more creative than me. I’m hoping some of it rubs off.

How do you take your coffee?
The way God made it. Black.

Brag on yourself, what is the coolest project you’ve worked on recently?
An advertising company wanted to place ads on semi trucks. I was able to take highly trafficked routes and find all potential advertisers in proximity to the planned routes, increasing ad revenue.

Last book read or podcast listened to?
Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis; The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaimen; The Hyperion Cantos, Dan Simmons.

In 5 words or less, what do you professionally?
Make data useful.

Member Profile: Lynn Luc

I’m a people connector, problem solver, avid listener, social media junkie and huge foodie. I come from Florence, SC (but born in NJ so I’m a very southern yankee). I am SOCO’s Community and Sales Manager and will be helping with the day to day businesses at our coworking space.

What do you love about Soda City?
I love the people that I meet here and the close community that exists here. Plus, the gorgeous rivers, the Soda City market and all the fun festivals here make it hard to want to live anywhere else!

What is your favorite part of being in the SOCO Community?
Getting to know everyone and the community vibe. Everyone is super helpful and the Slack Sessions are really cool + engaging.

How do you take your coffee?
Iced with a shot of caramel.

Brag on yourself, what’s the coolest project you’ve worked on recently?
Helped bring together the first ever Columbia Food & Wine festival.

What’s the last book you read or podcast you listened to?
Girl, Wash Your Face — by Rachel Hollis

In 5 words or less, what do you do professionally?
SOCO Community Manager

Where can we find you online?
@gocola , @simplylynnluc , @citizensofsodacity and here

Storytelling: Your Secret Business Weapon

For countless marketers, copywriters, and agencies, storytelling is a powerful business tool. It connects businesses to customers, builds brand (personal and business), and boosts sales. It’s a pretty darn persuasive thing.

The best part is, you don’t have to be a storyteller, creative, or writer to craft and tell your business story. If you have a business, you have a story to tell.

At SOCO, we’re focused on helping every member’s business succeed. That includes helping them explain what they do and why. In October’s Slack Session, a diverse group of business owners joined us to talk about their story and how they’re using it in their business.

Stories Inspire and Motivate

We kick off most Slack Sessions with a warm up poll, but we broke the rules this month and asked a warm up question instead. We wanted to know what stories (of any kind) have really stuck with our members.

With inspiration like this, it’s no wonder our members are successful.

Beginnings, Middles, and (Really Cool) Ends

Most storiesin real life and in novelshave beginnings, middles and ends. Since everything big starts small, we asked our members what kind of humble beginnings they’ve experienced in their own journeys.

The middle of everyone’s story is what they’re living and working on now; it’s the ground between how they started and where they’re headed. Speaking of where they’re headed, SOCO members have some seriously cool end goals in mind:

Talk about stories worth telling and sharing!

It’s Not Easy Though (We Need Each Other)

While every one of our members has an awesome story, finding and refining those stories isn’t always easy.

Some of us work in complex spaces or in industries that are traditionally seen as “boring.” Good stories also involve vulnerability, and it’s not easy to open up. As we’ve seen from other Slack Sessions, running a business is damn hard and none of us get it right all the time.

Lastly, as Bill pointed out, it’s easy to forget that it’s not about us. At least, not totally. The most persuasive stories of all position our customers (not ourselves!) as heroes.

One of the things we love about SOCO, though, is it gives us a chance to constantly tell our stories. As we work alongside other members who are wrestling with their business, we have the chance to refine and grow our own.

Don’t miss the next Slack chat!  

Already a member? Join the #Slack_Sessions channel in Slack for details on the next hangout. They’re typically the second Friday of every month at 2pm.

Not yet a member? Schedule a SOCO tour todayit’s free and you’re guaranteed to meet a few of our rockstars. Once you sign up, membership at SOCO gives you full access to conversations like these and the people who participate.

Let’s tell a great story, together.