Business Strategy and Becoming Your Own CFO with Susan Boles (Transcript)

Today, we are hearing from Susan Boles on how stepping into the CFO role of your business can help you work less and make more money, make better business decisions, and create a meaningful business strategy.

This is a transcript of Work Less, Earn More, Episode 31. Listen to the episode here.

Gillian Perkins:

Everything that goes on in your business is connected to everything else in your business and the role of the CFO is really to look at all of that information and then connect the dots so that you’re looking at it from a big picture kind of strategic picture but with the ability to use actual data. Hey there, everyone and welcome back to another episode of Work Less, Earn More. Today, I am joined by Susan Boles who is a virtual CFO for online entrepreneurs. Susan focuses on helping businesses get clear on their numbers and truly understand what the inner workings are at a deeper level so that they can make more intentional and purpose driven decisions.

Gillian Perkins:

I’m really excited to have Susan here with us today because I want to learn more about how we can all more step into that CFO role in our businesses and make more strategic decisions overall. Hi there, Susan and welcome to the show.

Susan Boles:

Hey, thanks for having me.

Gillian Perkins:

Yeah, absolutely. Could you just start out by telling us a little bit about what it means to be a virtual CFO and what sorts of things you help your clients with?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, sure, so being a CFO, kind of the CFO role in any business is to take a whole bunch of data, sometimes financial, sometimes operations data, sometimes it’s HR data and pull that all together and kind of look at the business as … I like to think of it as an ecosystem. Everything that goes on in your business is connected to everything else in your business and the role of the CFO is really to look at all of that information and then connect the dots so that you’re looking at it from a big picture kind of strategic picture but with the ability to use actual data, I’m a huge fan of data.

Susan Boles:

Data is so powerful when you are trying to kind of figure out what direction to grow your business or what direction to go to. You can make decisions from a place of purpose, from intention, when you are using actual data instead of just guessing or panicking or flying off the cuff. The CFO role can be a lot of different positions. For some people that’s, they have an accountant who can help them think strategically like that. There’s not very many still but there’s a few bookkeepers that also kind of offer those sorts of services but it may just be somebody in your business that’s tying all of those together.

Susan Boles:

Maybe you have an operations person who looks at their financial data or the rest of your operations data and pulls that together. I like to think of the CFO role really as a role and less of a position.

Gillian Perkins:

That makes sense. I like that you’re pointing that out because I think it’s good to realize that you don’t necessarily have to have someone in that position of CFO with that title, after their name in order to have someone doing the job of a CFO in your company. It could be you … it sounds like it could be you as the owner of your business or your operations manager or your bookkeeper accountant or possibly even a really trusted assistant who’s helping you to kind of sort through all of that data and make those strategic decisions.

Susan Boles:

Yeah, it’s definitely a role. As the business owner, it’s really advantageous to you if you can start thinking like a CFO and being able to pull all of those pieces together. That’s really useful skill to have as a business owner. Now, the more you do that, the more experience you get, the easier it is to recognize patterns. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I can look at financial statements and get a pretty good feel without even talking to anybody really about like what’s kind of going in, in the business. I can look at a financial statement and say, “What’s going on here?” It will give me data to ask questions so it’s a matter of a little bit of experience. It’s hard to find the patterns if you don’t have the … like if you have no frame of reference.

Gillian Perkins:

Yeah, that makes sense. Tell me a little bit about what these conclusions that you’d be looking for or these patterns that you’d be looking for would be, just some examples.

Susan Boles:

One of my very favorite pieces of data to look at is like the profitability of a particular revenue stream. This is something that a lot of the software … the accounting platforms, you can create with some tags and that sort of thing, you can create basically an income statement for your individual projects or products or services like however you bring in your money, you can look at that particular line and see how much it is costing you. How much did you actually bring in? How much profit is left at the end. When you start to compare that across all of your different revenue streams, you can get some really good data that says, “Oh wait, this one thing that I’m doing is super profitable.”

Susan Boles:

“I’d like an 80% margin on that, but this other thing that I’m doing is taking so long and the cost is so high that man, my margin on that is only like 30%.” Well, that gives you some really actionable information to figure out where to go, invest your time and money and maybe to consider not doing that other thing unless there’s a really good reason. That’s just one example of, it’s just a tiny piece that if you’re looking at your data in the right way, really gives you some actionable information to tell you what to do next in your business.

Gillian Perkins:

Well, that was a perfect example because it perfectly ties into exactly what this show is all about which is how can we work less and earn more and so I can easily see, how if you looked at the profitability of those different revenue streams that you could make a strategic decision there about maybe to cut one of those products you’re selling so that you could work less and earn more and it just like such a clear cut way to be able to make that decision and what I mean by that is like make it in a really black and white objective sort of way instead of just trying to do things that are a little bit more productive so that hopefully, you can get a little bit more done but instead we’re actually like looking at the numbers and facing our decision off of those. That makes so much sense.

Susan Boles:

Yeah, that’s absolutely the goal and then if you do something take time tracking data, so you track your time whether or not you’re charging out your time, you’re tracking your time and how much time you and your staff are spending on each of those different streams, right? The costs may not be in there, if you’re looking at the profitability but you can actually see, this one thing takes so much time and effort or the customer support for this particular product takes forever. For some reason, these customers require a lot more support than the customers for our other products.

Susan Boles:

That’s another piece of data that you can bring in, because I think oftentimes, we tend to make decisions about the products that we want to offer based on whether or not we like them or whether or not they sell well. That’s all good stuff to consider when you’re saying, “Should I sell this thing or not?” You really need to look at the whole picture, because maybe this is a product that you sell a ton of, but you don’t make any money on, in which case, you need to figure out like do I make it … how do I make this cheaper to deliver so it actually creates a profit for me or do I just stop doing it completely?

Susan Boles:

There are a lot of different areas in that business that you can pull some data from and when you put it all together, it gives you a pretty good picture to drive your decisions.

Gillian Perkins:

You were saying you might have a product in your business that isn’t really making you money, even though you sell a lot of it but I could also imagine a situation in which you have a product that is making you some money, but it’s completely taking up all of your time and there are things that you could do, maybe other products you’re already selling even, that if you could push those to the forefront of your marketing, they have a much higher profit margin and maybe take away less of your time, so yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I imagine that the first thing that we need to do in order to be able to start using this data is to start collecting the data.

Gillian Perkins:

What are some of your favorite ways to get people to … by people I mean, especially like online entrepreneurs, to start collecting that data because I know that that was something that personally I really struggled with through the first several years of my business. I’m not someone who it naturally comes easy to, like track everything that I do. Budgeting has always been difficult for me just because I have to remember to write down the transactions, that sort of thing. Now at this point, I have systems that are working for me but what are some of your best tips for how to get started with that and also what are the most important numbers that entrepreneurs start tracking as soon as possible?

Susan Boles:

For me, if you’re going to pick one thing to track, it’s your time because it is a resource, especially in a service kind of business. It’s very limited. It’s literally the inventory you have in your business. If you’re thinking about … if you correlate that to a retail store, they have actual products that they’re selling and that’s your inventory. As an entrepreneur, all you have is your time and your team’s time and it is very limited and you need to make sure that you are spending it on the things that actually matter, so if you’re not tracking your time, that is an excellent place to start.

Susan Boles:

There’s a lot of really easy time tracking apps that are free. Toggl is one that I love, because it’s got timers everywhere and that’s just a good place for you and your team to start because there’s some pretty actionable data, even just from time, even if you’re not going to tie into any of the financial systems.

Gillian Perkins:

Would you actually recommend starting tracking time over tracking your financials?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, because a lot-

Gillian Perkins:

That’s a really strong statement coming from a CFO.

Susan Boles:

It is but I am a CFO … I’m a little bit unconventional, I think tracking your financials is important and I’m not saying don’t track your finances. I’m saying if you have to pick one thing, using where you’re spending your time is probably going to create a bigger impact in what your business actually accomplishes because you will notice that you maybe are spending time doing things that don’t matter or you’re spending time on administrative stuff or you’re … maybe you can’t figure out why you’re not selling things, but then you look and you see, “I didn’t actually spend any time trying to sell anything.”

Susan Boles:

That’s a pretty good indication of why you’re not selling things. If you’re picking one data point, I would say, time tracking. Number two is your finances.

Gillian Perkins:

Yeah. Okay. Yeah, that really makes sense.

Susan Boles:

Those are very kind of interactive. When you have the two of those together, you can make some really powerful decisions about your business and between the two of them, they don’t take a ton of time, like you’re not having to implement big systems or crazy things. You pretty much need an accounting system and a time tracking system and even if you’re not like actually bringing the data together, you can still make some assumptions about your business.

Gillian Perkins:

Yeah, and what I do like about the idea of starting tracking your time first, if you’re not tracking anything at all right now is that time is perhaps the easiest thing to track, like you mentioned, the app Toggl, which is actually what I use and what my team uses to track their time as a free app. I mean, you can literally just click a button when you start working on a task and it’ll start tracking it for you and then you hit the button again, when you stop. Just like a low barrier of entry to get started with tracking something. Okay and then let’s move into talking about tracking those financials. What’s the easiest way to get started there?

Susan Boles:

My preference for an accounting software, I like Xero, which is XERO. It’s a QuickBooks competitor and it’s designed from the ground up to integrate with other tools, so that’s one of the reasons it’s my favorite because it plays nice with everything. It has a Zapier integration and you can literally connect it to anything and that makes me happy because I want my data to live and be able to be accessed in a lot of different places. The second reason I really like it is the kind of capability that a lot of people don’t think to use is that it has something called tracking categories.

Susan Boles:

If you are familiar with how tags work in normal … in like a project management software or in your email marketing, it has those tracking categories or basically tags, so you can create a tracking category for every single one of your different products or your different revenue streams or your different services. Then, that tag allows you to tag every single transaction with the appropriate product. Then at the end, you can actually run a report in there, you can do an income statement, which is your profit and loss that tells you kind of where the finances and your business are. You can run that with each column, having its own product. Basically, you can run a mini P and L for each one of your products.

Gillian Perkins:

That’s really interesting.

Susan Boles:

It’s, once you’ve got it set up, Xero has automation rules. So, if you have a particular software that you use for this product, you can create a rule that says, every time I pay this bill, give it this tag. From a bookkeeping perspective, it’s really efficient because once you kind of set up all of those rules, you just go and say, “Yup, okay, okay. Okay.” That’s it. That’s all you have to do for bookkeeping, which means that your data is more accurate, your bookkeeping data ends up being more accurate and faster and more current, which is also really important. You can basically, at the touch of a button, hit run and see how profitable each of your individual revenue streams are, side by side, which gives you a really, really good picture.

Susan Boles:

As long as your bookkeeping is accurate, then at the touch of a button, you know exactly what’s going on at any moment in your business.

Gillian Perkins:

That ties right back into that example you gave us previously of one thing we could do with this data is to look at the profitability of each product and use that to make decisions about which products to keep or to discard or to focus on with our marketing and so, using this feature in this particular software, we could easily calculate that profitability of each product and figure out what the profit and the loss is for that product.

Susan Boles:

Yeah, you could certainly do this, if you’re like an Excel person. You could certainly do it in Excel. I’m just not a fan of using manual processes for bookkeeping, because in my experience, people just stop doing it because it’s too much of a pain.

Gillian Perkins:

Yeah, which was a challenge that I definitely ran into, like I said, I used to really struggle with keeping the records really. I know a lot of people who are listening to this right now, their business is still small and they’re maybe kind of bootstrapping and they’re on a bit of a budget. I do think that getting started with even a really simple spreadsheet and getting in the habit of that can get you a lot more … can be a really good like personal development practice as the CEO of your business to be touching those numbers, because that was what … it really did help me to finally create some shifts in my business when I was having to look at the numbers, when I forced myself to practice that habit.

Gillian Perkins:

Then at a certain point, even though I had the habit, it was still really tough for me to maintain and the more complex the numbers got, the more difficult it was for me to actually get myself to sit down and keep tracking that and so then I would start missing transactions and yeah, it just got messy and so I had to switch to an automated system like you’re talking about.

Susan Boles:

Yeah, in my experience, it’s worth the 30 bucks a month to help with bookkeeping for my business or my clients takes me about 10 minutes a week and that’s it and then my numbers are accurate. I’m making decisions based on current information, not information from six weeks ago or six months ago or whenever you last did it and it also keeps you from making mistakes. You connect to your credit card feed or your bank feed, you don’t miss transactions, you know your numbers are correct. That is really powerful. If you are making database decisions as good, only if the data is good.

Gillian Perkins:

As a CFO, what you’re doing is you’re sorting through these numbers, but the outcome that you’re working on is helping your clients to make these strategic decisions based on the numbers. Could we dive into strategy, talk to me about what in your opinion, strategy means for a small business?

Susan Boles:

Strategy, I think, means different things depending on where you are in your business. If you are in the early stage and you’re still kind of in that experimentation stage, you don’t really know, you’re evolving really quickly, strategy might just mean having a plan or having a plan to experiment or as long as you are acting with purpose, to me, that’s a strategy. You understand why you’re making the decisions that you’re making and that they come from a place of purpose, a place that is driving you in the direction that you want to go.

Gillian Perkins:

Would you say that strategy kind of has two parts, one is the purpose or the objective and then the other part is the plan of how you are working towards that purpose or objective?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely. There’s the plan and the execution and they play together, and depending on how … what stage you are in your business, that plan, that strategy might go a quarter. If you’re really early stage and you’re shifting a lot and you’re trying to find a good fit in the market or the right kind of clients, you don’t really want to plan out too far. There’s a lot of times where having a very specific thought out plan can actually hold you back, especially when you’re in that experimentation stage. Now, once you are … kind of you found a good fit, you’re past that stage and you’re working on scaling, your strategy might be much longer term.

Susan Boles:

The thing that brings it all together is moving from a place of purpose, having that intention, and then how are you going to execute that intention over whatever timeframe makes sense for where you are in business.

Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

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Gillian Perkins:

Just to use code, “EARNMORE” when you are signing up. Again, that code is “EARNMORE,” all one word and it will give you $10 off your monthly membership costs. If you want to turn your online business into a success as quickly and as strategically as possible, then I would love to work with you to make that happen. Now, let’s get back to the episode. I imagine that people have purposes or goals, plans that are all over the place, like people are interested in doing different things in their businesses, they have different challenges they’re facing.

Gillian Perkins:

For a small business that I know a lot of our listeners are either service based businesses or they’re course creators, what are some of the different objectives, different types of objectives that they might want to consider as a goal to be working towards with their strategy?

Susan Boles:

I think the one for me that it always comes back to is are you building a business that you want to run? That might seem weird coming from a CFO, you’re expecting me to say like, big financial things but really, you want to make sure that every decision you’re making is taking you in the direction that you actually want to go, because it can be so easy to build a business that works, that you could run but isn’t really the business you should be running or you want to be running. There are a lot of waypoints along the road, where you have a choice to make. That particular choice could take you into very different business directions.

Susan Boles:

You need to know what kind of a business you want to grow. Do you want a business where you are prioritizing your time? Do you want a lot of life in your work life balance, not a lot of administration or are you building a business that you want to have a team? Do you want to be a manager of managers or do you want to work with clients and just be a small shop. Those are both very legitimate choices but they inform the execution of what your business is going to look like.I think that is probably the number one thing that I would say when you are taking into consideration building your strategy, make sure it’s informed by what you actually want to grow.

Susan Boles:

Don’t get kind of thrown off the path by what people tell you, you should do or what you feel like you could do. That’s probably my number one kind of guiding direction.

Gillian Perkins:

That’s so good because I do think it is so easy to get distracted by just the goals we see other people pursuing, even if no one is actually telling you, you should. You don’t have a parent or a co-worker or something who is telling you, you should go after this goal. We see the goals that other people are going after, especially on social media and then we also have that very obvious goal that we could be going after, which is just to increase revenue or just to increase profit. I would say that that’s kind of the easier goal or the default goal but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the goal that really makes sense for you, because there are so many different things that you might want out of your business and so we need to really personalize those goals.

Gillian Perkins:

One question I wanted to talk to you about was like, where should strategy really start? Based on what you just said, it sounds like strategy should start from a place of clarity, about what you personally want out of your business?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely. It needs to start with you. Our businesses, especially like service businesses or personal brands or course creators, our businesses reside with us. We are the heart and soul of the business and that’s what being a service business is often about. That doesn’t mean that you have to be super emotionally connected or that you can’t step out of it at some point, but when we are creating a business, our businesses take on our characteristics and it’s going to go in whatever direction that you, as the founder, decide to take it. You have to start with what a clear picture of what you want to build.

Susan Boles:

I’ll give you a direct example from my own personal life. The first business I opened was a Guest Ranch. My husband and I bought a Guest Ranch, my son was one and we ran it by ourselves. There was a bar, there were cabins, we did horseback ride things and what we realized was, we did not want to run that kind of business. Our son was one. I was cleaning cabins with him in the hiking backpack. He was crawling around the bar, and we decided we did not want that for our life. Originally, it was our dream to run a B&B, not what we actually wanted for our life.

Susan Boles:

We ended up selling it because it wasn’t the business we wanted to build. Was that a business we could run? Sure, absolutely. We did a good job at it but it wasn’t what we wanted for ourselves and so, when I created ScaleSpark, it was coming from a place of, what do I want my business to look like? What do I want my day to look like? What kind of work do I want to do? That all really informed what I chose to do? I think that’s where it has to start, what kind of business do you want to run and what kind of work do you want to do and what do you want your day to look like? There’s a really different business model between being a branding agency and being a course creator.

Susan Boles:

Those are two really different looking, feeling businesses and they take really different skills to operate. That’s something that you need to think about at the beginning, because they’re both viable business models and you can certainly create whatever kind of business model or offer that you want. I mean, we’re a service business, we can literally decide whatever, but if it’s not coming from what you genuinely want to create, what usually happens is you’ll end up building a really successful business that you hate and want to burn to the ground.

Gillian Perkins:

I’ve been there too. That was kind of the case with my first business as well. I can see how, not only is it important that we are starting from this place of clarity but also how it could be so important, who we surround ourselves with, especially in terms of who we’re learning from because most people who are listening right now, and myself included, we have these business mentors, whether they’re people we know in real life or even more likely people online, who we look up to and who we’re learning from, but the fact is that any business mentor, whether they are someone who teaches business or they’re just like an entrepreneur that we respect and look up to, they have their own ideas about the business that they want to be building.

Gillian Perkins:

Everything that they’re going to be teaching is going to be reflective of that. They’re going to be trying to help you reach their goals to some extent or other. For example, with me here, some of my goals for my business are to maximize my profits and minimize the time that I have to spend working in my business so that I can spend more time with my family. Whenever I’m creating a training for my audience, that is the end goal that I’m trying to ultimately help them get towards is helping them to get to work less and to earn more.

Gillian Perkins:

That’s just something I think that everyone should be, including myself, should be keeping in mind as we’re listening to other people and getting advice from other people about like, what kind of business is that person trying to build and is that really the kind of business that I am trying to build myself?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely and I always love the idea of when you are training with people, take the expertise that they have and then make it your own. My business is an amalgam of different ideas that I’ve taken from all of the different trainings that I’ve done or like you said, business mentors that I follow, looking at the things that they’re doing and saying, “Well, that seems like a fun idea. I’m going to try that out. That seems like it might work for me.” Then, you kind of pick and choose and evolve as you go. Nobody’s business, when they started out, looks the same as their business three years down the road.

Susan Boles:

It just doesn’t happen and your business three years down the road doesn’t look the same as your business 10 years down the road and it probably shouldn’t, if you are building a good, strong, resilient business. It shouldn’t look the same throughout that course and at every point in the process, you’re always looking for other ideas, other strategies, so take them, integrate them. Use the ones that you like and don’t use the rest of it. That’s why people are out there teaching but also, it’s up to you to decide what is right for you and what is right for your business.

Gillian Perkins:

Starting with that first step of just getting clear about what we want, from there, what are some additional steps that we can take to create meaningful strategies for businesses?

Susan Boles:

At that point, I think it really depends on your business. It’s hard to say what exactly you should be doing because everybody’s business is different and your strategy is going to be different depending on what you’re trying to build. The strategy for a course business is going to be really different than the strategy for growing an agency and I think the way that you can create a meaningful strategy for you is to start looking at what your business is doing now? What is working? What’s not? Are there things that you could choose not to do? As we kind of grow our business, there are limited resources.

Susan Boles:

You have limited amounts of money to invest, you have limited amounts of time to invest. One of the mistakes I see a lot of people making is doing too many things. You have 15 course products. You have 42 different custom services and it’s really hard to get really, really good and to really sell all of those things. If you can narrow down, your limited resources packs a much bigger punch against one or two things versus against 15. To develop the strategy for your business, look at your business and look at what’s working now and look at what could you potentially drop to get a bigger impact from the things that are working.

Gillian Perkins:

I’m a full supporter of that piece of advice there to really narrow things down. I found that by trying to sell too many things, I was spreading myself way too thin and I really had to narrow it down to not only selling one product but also narrow down my marketing so that I was really only focusing on one marketing strategy on one platform. Just like every major aspect of running my business, I needed to narrow it down first and master one thing and then from there, be able to grow. I got a DM from someone on Instagram yesterday and she was just reaching out. She said that she’d been following me for a while and that she wanted some advice.

Gillian Perkins:

She said she had launched a book. She had created a course. She was trying to grow her YouTube channel and it didn’t seem like anything was working, why? I just said, “I think you’re doing too much like I really think you just need to focus on one thing in your case because you’ve already tried launching products, you really need to focus on building your audience first. If you’ve started this YouTube channel and that’s something you want to pursue, I’d start there, not because YouTube is the end all but because we need to start with one thing and master that thing first and starting by building that audience is a really good place.”

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely and I think you’re right. I think we see these big name online entrepreneurs doing all of the things, thinking that that is where we need to start and yeah, absolutely, like one of my first questions when I get into a business is to try and identify what can you stop doing? Are you trying to show up on every single social media platform? Okay, that’s going to be a lot of work, especially if you have a very small team. Where are your people? Do they live on Instagram because if they don’t live on Instagram, you don’t need to be on Instagram.

Gillian Perkins:

I see that so much recently with TikTok so many people are pushing, like you need to get on to TikTok basically because exposure is cheap on TikTok and I keep wanting to say back well, but are your people on TikTok? Are you trying to sell to 18 year olds or 16 year olds or 12 year olds? If so, get on TikTok but if not, maybe pause and think about starting a podcast or something else.

Susan Boles:

Yeah. My friend, Michelle Warner, she’s a business strategist and she has this 80/20 framework where 80% of your effort should be going towards the thing that matters that you know works, that you know you’ve established. For me, that’s my podcast and my client work and then 20% of your time, you can dabble. If you want to see if your people are on TikTok, cool, 20% of your time can go towards experimenting on TikTok and seeing if your people are there, because I’m a big fan of data. You don’t know if your people are there, if you don’t try it but you don’t want to invest all of your resources and by saying go experiment, I’m saying, don’t experiment with Twitter and TikTok and LinkedIn and Facebook.

Susan Boles:

Pick one, go genuinely invest in it because I think a lot of times when we’re testing something we don’t go all in. We kind of go, “I can do like one post,” and then, “Oh, it didn’t work.” Well, did it not work because you didn’t really try or did it not work because it genuinely didn’t work? To me, the way that I like, how Michelle has framed is that 80%, I can do that but that 20% is one thing that I am genuinely full on experimenting, trying, testing, seeing what’s working, for enough time to actually tell if it’s going to work. Then, I’ll go pick something else to experiment and maybe the thing that I was experimenting on was like, “Yeah, that was super effective.”

Susan Boles:

Cool, that now becomes part of the rest of that 80% that I know is working and is doing things for my business.

Gillian Perkins:

I use that same 80/20 framework in my business as well. The cool thing about it is that if you’re working five days a week, 20% of your time is one day a week and so if you are for example, working on marketing your business every day of the week, then on one of those days, you could focus on a different platform like focus on creating content for a different platform or something like that or maybe you have a project that you want to work on with 20% of your time, you’re writing a book or thinking about launching a course and it’s experimental, so one day a week, you can devote that time and the other four days of the week, you can really dive into your business and the things that you know, are working, that you know are creating those results. Such a good strategy.

Susan Boles:

Yeah.

Gillian Perkins:

You mentioned that when you step into a business, one of the first things, one of the first I think questions you said that you ask them is like, where can you save some time in your business? Where can you recapture that time? What are some of the other things that when you step into a business at the … and you’re onboarding this client, you’re initially trying to figure out? What are some of maybe those like primary challenges that you see entrepreneurs might be facing that you try to identify whether or not they are?

Susan Boles:

For me, I’m always trying to identify the low hanging fruit. What is the easiest biggest payoff that we could just do right now. For example, financially one of the things that I do with every business that I actually work on is we do kind of an audit. That is a step by step of your software, your team, your products, your finances, like where are you and where are there opportunities. We dive in and software is a great example. One of the things that I do is I do a software audit, which just means go figure out what you’re paying for or what you’re using, put it in a list and evaluate if it’s still working.

Susan Boles:

I would say 100% of the time, I’m trying to think if I have had any clients where we haven’t found at least one software and I don’t think that’s true. There’s at least one piece of software that you’re paying for that you don’t need. You don’t use it, you don’t need it and it’s a really easy win to just say, “Okay, great, go cancel it.” That’s it, and all of a sudden you have more money in your business and you have one less thing to worry about. I’m always looking for those opportunities. Another example is … a personal favorite of mine is pricing and invoicing and payments.

Susan Boles:

Invoicing and payments is super critical to your business. Cash flow is the be all, end all and if you are someone who is manually sending invoices to ask for payment, that is taking up your time and it’s impacting your cash flow. If you can automate that either by moving to upfront payments or an automated payment plan, that is something else that you now don’t have to do. You can use software. You can use payment products, there’s plenty of them, that can take that off your plate and number one, make your cash flow so much more consistent and number two, save you a whole bunch of time from having to manually create the invoice, send it, chase them when they don’t pay it, worry about whether or not like when they’re going to pay it so that you can pay your team.

Susan Boles:

All of that is tied up and if you can just switch to a system where they pay you up front or automatically, that’s all gone. That’s just something you can just stop doing.

Gillian Perkins:

You mentioned basically three different things there, first of all, essentially auditing your time and figuring out maybe where you’re wasting time right now or things that you’re spending your time on that aren’t as profitable as they could be and then, you mentioned a software audit, so looking at all the different pieces of software that you’re using and how much they cost, and whether you’re really using them and really need them. Then, the third thing was essentially automating payments, it sounds like and what I love about each of those things is that they … anyone who is right now, the person who’s running their business, they’re the CEO of their business, they could do those things on their own right now.

Gillian Perkins:

They could put that on their calendar to do those projects and in the process, really clean up their business, increase their profits and work on developing their business further and moving it into a better place.

Susan Boles:

That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for easy wins because usually there’s a bunch of those and once you take care of those, well then you can start to look deeper into the data, look for better opportunities, look for automation, efficiency kind of strategies. At the beginning, there’s a lot of easy wins that have a big impact with a pretty little amount of effort.

Gillian Perkins:

This definitely seems like a case of where, at least for these easier wins, the work itself isn’t that hard or that complicated, it’s really things that anyone who’s running a business can do, and it’s just is that we have to have the knowledge to be aware that these would be good activities to work on in our businesses.

Susan Boles:

Yes, absolutely. I like to call these default decisions. Decisions that we make in our business that we don’t realize that we’re making and they have a really big impact on our business model and how easy our business is to operate. Something like somebody saying, “Oh, you know, you really need to build for time and materials.” Well, on the surface, that seems great but underneath, there’s a big workflow of time and effort and systems associated with that. A lot of the time, if we are creating our business coming out of the particular industry, we bring those industry assumptions with us.

Susan Boles:

If we came out of a fancy agency or a consulting kind of background, that’s the norm and we bring that with us assuming that there are no other options. When we can find other options, there’s usually better places to go but it’s hard, when you don’t know, you’re operating from this place of default and you don’t know that there’s a better way, a more efficient way, just an easier way to go about doing it. I think sometimes it can be hard for us individually to identify what’s a default? For me, it always comes back to ask yourself, why. Why are you making the decision that you’re making?

Susan Boles:

Why are you using a particular piece of software? Why do you want to hire a team member? Why did you choose that action that you chose? If the answer is, I don’t know, that’s the way we’ve always done it, that’s how my industry does it, you are probably operating from a place of default and that’s a great place to kind of start digging in to research and find out if there are better ways of doing that particular task.

Gillian Perkins:

It reminds me of that fable that is told about that woman who cuts off the end of the ham every time she cooks a ham and then she wonders why am I doing this? She asked her mom and she asked her grandma. What she finds out is basically that her grandma’s pan was too small, so her grandma cut the end off the ham, so then her mom always cut the end off the ham, so she always cut the end off the ham. I think that there’s a lot of things that we do in our businesses that even though we maybe don’t want to admit it to ourselves and we don’t realize, we do for a similar sort of reason.

Gillian Perkins:

Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it or that’s how we saw someone else do it. My final question for you was, how can we as entrepreneurs step more into the CFO role in our companies and make more strategic decisions? I think that, that really is largely the answer to that question is just start asking-

Susan Boles:

Ask people why.

Gillian Perkins:

Why are we using this software? Why are we making this decision? Why are we selling this product?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely. That is the number one most powerful question in your business is, why are we doing this? Making sure that you have a good reason behind it. Don’t let yourself get off easy when you’re like, “Oh, because I think it’ll be good.” Keep asking why until you have a legitimate purpose and the thing that you are deciding about gives you an ROI in your business. You are getting a return on that investment of time, energy, money, whatever it is, you want to make sure that it’s coming from a place of purpose.

Gillian Perkins:

Something else that I really love about asking the question of why we are doing this is I don’t know if you’ve read the book called One Small Step Can Change Your Life. If not, it’s a really good book but in the book, he proposes a few like small types of things that you can do that can have a really big impact on your life and on reaching your goals and all sorts of things. One of them is to start by asking the right questions. Even if you don’t know the answer right now, just asking the right questions will get your mind starting to look for the answers because your mind is really a machine that is built to look for answers to problems it perceives.

Gillian Perkins:

If you can start by asking the right questions, which might be instead of like, how could we get more traffic to our website, but instead like, why are we using the strategy that we are? Is this the right strategy for us right now? Then, we can start to figure those things out. I think that that really well just answers that last question of how can we step more into that CFO role in our business? How can we start making those more strategic decisions is just asking why we’re doing the things that we’re currently doing.

Susan Boles:

Absolutely.

Gillian Perkins:

Okay. Well, we are coming to the end of our time here, Susan but this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for everything that you’ve shared with us. Before we do wrap this up, could you just share with the listeners how they can find out more about you and what you do?

Susan Boles:

Yeah, absolutely. The website is scalespark.co and you can go find out all about me there and my podcast is Break The Ceiling and you can find that wherever you’re listening to podcasts and if you like this kind of topic, this is what we talk about a lot. It’s unconventional strategies you can use to save time, boost profit, increase operational capacity, really with the goal of educating people about alternative strategies that you can use to combat those default decisions.

Gillian Perkins:

Sounds really good and really helpful. We will definitely include links to both of those resources, your website and your podcast in the show notes for today’s episode. Thank you again so much, Susan for taking the time to be here today and for everything that you have shared with us about making more strategic decisions in our businesses and becoming more of that CFO.

Susan Boles:

Yeah, thanks for having me. This is really fun.

Gillian Perkins:

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Work Less, Earn More. Now here’s what I want you to do next, take a screenshot of the episode you’re listening to right now and share it out on your Instagram stories. When you do that, make sure to tag me, @gillianzperkins, so that I can see that you’re listening. Sharing on stories is going to help more people find this podcast so that they can learn how to work less, earn more and take back their lives. When you share, I want to add it to my stories so that you can get some exposure that way as well. If you really love the show, head over to Apple podcasts and leave it a review to give the show a boost.

Gillian Perkins:

Every single week, I feature a review on the podcast and I would love to give you and your business a shout out. If you leave a review, it will help the show but it can also help your business as well. Okay, let’s wrap this up. I’m Gillian Perkins and until next week, stay focused and take action.

    Sean McMullin

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