Women Who Lead: Megan Orrell with Boem

Women Who Lead: Megan Orrell with Boem

Megan Orrell opened her clothing boutique, Boem, in 2008 — the same year as the recession. She opened her second location in 2020 — the year of the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Apparently, I like to open in recessions,” she jokes. But all joking aside, Orrell has built a successful brand that’s continued to thrive.   

Ask Orrell and she’ll tell you that the secret to her success isn’t a secret. It’s a simple equation of working hard, being willing to evolve, and never fearing failure. She talked more about these practices in a conversion we had with her. 

 

What year did you open your second store location?

Twenty-twenty.  

So very recently?

Yes. 

I opened the first location in 2008. Apparently, I like to open in recessions. In 2008, when I opened, I was young and naive and really had no idea how bad the economics were at the time. 

But I’ve always said that it just made me a better, smarter business owner. It made me tougher. It made me realize that everything isn’t going to be easy. 

My dad is a real estate agent and has always told me “That’s the one thing you can count on — there will be ups and downs.” Some years you make money, some years you might not make money and that’s what you should expect if you’re going to be an entrepreneur.

So when 2020 hit, my reaction was “Well, yea okay, [a down moment] was bound to happen at some point. Maybe not how it happened, but I knew we would have a downturn. I signed the lease [for the second location] in 2019 so I kind of had no choice but to open. 

 

You’ve talked about how thankful you are that you were a little naive when you started your business. Otherwise, you might not have taken the leap. Do you still believe that kind of fearlessness is essential? 

I do. I think that if you want to go into business for yourself, you have to take a leap of faith. You have to be fearless in a sense. You have to be unafraid to fail. I’ve done things that haven’t worked out, and I look at those things as the greatest learning opportunities. 

I tell people that opening the second location was almost harder than opening the first location because I had so much more information. I knew what [opening a business] looked like. Even though I had an established business, I knew the first few years [for the second location] were going to be tough. 

 

What are some other leaps of faith you’ve had to take as an established business woman? 

I think people have this idea that you just open [a business] and then that’s it — it’s running and it’s great. I can specifically speak to my industry and say that it is ever-evolving. When I opened my first store, I advertised my grand opening in the newspaper. That is where we were at the time. That is what you did. You would not hear of doing that now. 

[In 2008], Instagram wasn’t a business platform. It was just a personal sharing photos platform. So even in the beginning, it was like, “Is [Instagram] a thing businesses should be doing?” 

We also launched online in 2015, which was a little late to the game. It was something that I didn’t want to do because it’s like opening a whole new business, but you have to do it. 

The biggest takeaway is that things are ever-evolving, especially in fashion, but also in any industry you’re in. And you have to pay attention and keep up. 

I think what sets people who don’t ultimately make it apart from successful people is they’re just on autopilot and not willing to evolve. You always have to pay attention, make the changes, and stay on top of it. 

One of my favorite things I say is “You don’t have to be the first, you just have to be the best.” I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, well they’re already doing that so I’m not going to do it.” No, just do it and do it better. 

You are very self-aware in that you know what you’re good at, you know you’re creative. Did that self-awareness refine itself over time or have you always known what your strengths are? 

It’s funny, I was literally thinking about that this morning. It’s something I think about a lot because we are asked as soon as kindergarten what we want to be when we grow up.  I’ve always thought that’s an interesting question. It puts a lot of pressure on a child. 

I was not the smartest kid, I got okay grades. And when I was growing up, that was a detriment. It was like [you’re either] book smart or dumb and not going to amount to anything. [It felt like] to be successful, you had to be smart. And I don’t think that true. 

I think to be successful you have to be very good at something, and a very hard worker. 

Personally, I think the thing that sets me apart and has made me successful over the years is that I’m willing to put in the work. And this ties back to the whole [evolving thing too] and staying on top of things. My brand is creative. That is what I bring to the table. 

 

Where did your worth ethic come from? 

My dad has an incredible work ethic. He still works — and he’s almost 80 — by choice. He enjoys working. And he made me get a job at 15. I’ve always had a job, and I think learning that work ethic from an early age and seeing how hard my dad works, and how hard he still works, that is just who I am as a person. 

So when people ask how I [started and grew my business], it’s hard work. That’s the bottom line for me. 

When moms ask what would [I’d] recommend [for their kids], I’m like “Make your daughter work.”  

I feel like a lot of times people see what I do and they say, “I want to do this. I want this life.” And I’m like, “Okay, well, I’ve got to take you back 13 years [to where it started]. Let’s talk about those [years of hard work] first.” It’s a long hard road, you know? It’s not that some people don’t become overnight successes, but for the most part, they don’t. You have to be prepared to put the work in.

What’s next for you and Boem?

Well, for the past year it’s been “How do we survive [the pandemic]?” It [has been] about surviving, not about thriving. But now that we’re coming out of [the pandemic], things are normalizing some. My biggest question now is, “What next?” 

I opened one store and, honestly, that’s all I ever wanted. I didn’t have these big grand ideas of opening all over the country. But then [the business] grew and grew — and this is such a lucky problem to have, but it kept growing. The Atherton shopping center came to me [about opening a second location]. And I felt like it was a great idea. So I did it, and here I am: Two stores and a 4,000 square foot warehouse and my question is: Is it more stores?  Growing our online presence? Is it going into a franchising situation? I don’t know that answer, but that’s the biggest question that I have right now.

What is a new skill you’re learning right now? 

I ask [my employees] to do things all the time, and they’re like, “I don’t know how to do that.” And I’m like, “Girl, I don’t know how to do that either. But you know who does? Google.” I think that we are so lucky to live in a day and age where you can Google anything. You can get an answer to anything. I like telling [my employees] that “I don’t know how to do something” is not an acceptable answer. 

And I do think that’s an interesting point too with owning a business. I think a lot of people have the perception that we [business owners] know exactly what we’re doing all the time and we’re so lucky and we must be so much smarter or have so many more resources. But I have the same resource that everyone has.

Women’s Enterprise USA Magazine Salutes Top WBE CEOs of 2021

Women’s Enterprise USA Magazine Salutes Top WBE CEOs of 2021

DALLAS — Women’s Enterprise USA has released its list of Top Women-owned Business Enterprise CEOs of 2021 — a group of visionary women business leaders who demonstrate the best and brightest of women-owned business enterprises. Women’s Enterprise is an award-winning print and digital publication focused on the development and accomplishments of women-owned businesses.

“These CEOs are leading the way for other female entrepreneurs to bring competitive, collaborative and innovation solutions to a marketplace in motion,” said Kristin Schneider, publisher of Women’s Enterprise. “Our Top WBE CEOs of 2021 have not only built successful companies, they are changing the way the world does business.”

To determine the top CEOs, WE USA’s team of advisors and editors reached out to the regional partner organizations of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and business leaders throughout the country to identify women business owners who have achieved measurable success, advanced innovation in their industries, become role models and contributed substantial time and effort to helping other WBEs. The following are the WBE CEOs ― in alphabetical order ― who most strongly exemplify these characteristics.

 Juuhi Ahuja, Founder, CEO and President, Wise Men Consultants, Houston, Texas
Imelda Alejandrino, CEO/Creative Director, AP42 Marketing and Technology, San Ramon, California
Dana C. Arnett, CEO, Wicked Bionic LLC, Los Angeles, California
Camille Austin, Owner, Elite Roofing Services Inc., Tampa, Florida
Michelle Aristeo Barton, President, Aristeo Construction Co., Livonia, Michigan
Debra Berry, CEO, Berry Industrial Group Inc., Nyack, New York
Donna Brin, Founder & CEO, bFIVE40, Little River, South Carolina
Gabrielle Christman, President and CEO, Hunter International Inc., Avon, Ohio
Donna Cole, President/CEO, Cole Chemical & Distributing Inc., Houston, Texas
Jacqueline Darna, CEO, Darna & Co. LLC dba NoMo Bands, Tampa, Florida
Iyabo Dedmon, President, ThriveOn Concepts, North Kansas City, Missouri
Dana Donofree, Founder and CEO, AnaOno LLC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nathalie Doobin, Owner, President and CEO, Harvard Services Group Inc., Miami, Florida
Leanne Duong-Ma, President/Owner, Direct Source Procurement, Las Vegas, Nevada
Pamela Feld, Founder and CEO, Triumph Technology Group, Tustin, California
Jill Frey, President and CEO, Cummins Facility Services LLC, Prospect, Ohio
Nenette Gray, Founder and CEO, Lemonade Creative Marketing LLC, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Lili Hall, Founder, CEO and President, KNOCK Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota
Linda Hamilton, CPA, CEPA, SYSTEMologist®, Linda A Hamilton CPA PLLC, New York, New York
Kyra Hardwick, MBA, Managing Consultant, The Kyra Co. LLC, Houston, Texas
Jodi Cannon Hohman, CEO, Lagarda Security, Burton, Michigan
Kate Holby, Co-Founder, Ajiri Tea Co., Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
Porcha Johnson, Founder and Publisher, Black Girl Health, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Hannah Kain, President and CEO, ALOM Technologies Corp., Fremont, California
Sharai Lavoie, CEO/Managing Member, Lavoie CPA PLLC, Charlotte, North Carolina
Mary Lawrence, President, Richards Graphic Communications Inc., Bellwood, Illinois
Elizabeth Ledoux, Founder and Head Strategist, The Transition Strategists, Ft. Collins, Colorado
Sandy Lish, Principal & Co-Founder, The Castle Group Inc., Boston, Massachusetts
Betty Manetta, President and CEO, Argent Associates, Plano, Texas
Michelle Manire, CMM, Founder and President, Coast to Coast Conferences & Events, Long Beach, California
Dee C. Marshall, CEO, Diverse & Engaged LLC, Newark, New Jersey
Carol Muszynski, President, Eighth Day Design Inc., Falls Church, Virginia
Carmen Nazario, President/CEO, ELYON International Inc., Vancouver, Washington
Mary Parker, CEO, ALL N ONE Security Enterprise, Atlanta, GA
Lauren Rakolta, President & CEO, DFM Solutions Inc., Detroit, Michigan
Ann Ramakumaran – will send responses, CEO and Founder, Ampcus Inc., Chantilly, Virginia
Angelica Rivera, President and CEO, Colmex Construction LLC, New Orleans, Louisiana
Silvana Rosero, President & CEO, Laguna Media Group, Grand Prairie, Texas
Jenell Ross, President, Bob Ross Auto Group, Bobrossauto.com
Molly Sandlin, Founder and President, CAET Project Management Consultants LLC, Keller, Texas
Rosa Santana, Founder and CEO, Santana Group, San Antonio, Texas
Billie Bryant Schultz, CEO, CESCO Inc., Dallas, Texas
Wendy Spivak, Principal & Co-Founder, The Castle Group Inc., Boston, Massachusetts
Debra Stevens, Principal, The Stevens Group/International Tenant Representative Alliance Global, Boston, Massachusetts
Liora Stone, President, Precision Engineering Inc., Uxbridge, Massachusetts
Amy Tiller, CEO and Co-Founder, Inspired Results Inc., Portland, Oregon
Andrea Tsakanikas, President, CrewFacilities.com LLC, Austin, Texas
Nina Vaca, CEO, Pinnacle Group, Dallas, Texas
Biddie Webb, Partner, Limb Design LLC, Houston, Texas
Liz Whitehead, CEO, 12PointFive LLC, Silver Spring, Maryland

 

For questions, please contact:

Kristin Schneider, Publisher

kristin@wegp.biz

 

About WE USA magazine

Now close to celebrating its 30th anniversary, WE USA magazine is America’s award-winning resource for information on women’s business enterprise and diversity. Reaching an audience of women business owners, corporate procurement managers and executives, education professionals and government representatives, WE USA focuses on value for the readers, advertisers and communities it serves. For more information, visit weusa.biz.

    Women Who Lead: Kelley Michalski with Lavoie CPA

    Women Who Lead: Kelley Michalski with Lavoie CPA

    When Kelley Michalski decided to leave her long-time corporate career to open barre3 Fort Mill, a boutique fitness studio, she expected to flex different muscles as a small business owner. But what she didn’t expect was a complete change in mindset. 

    Her mindset changed in waves. 

    The first change was accepting that she was creating a business from the ground up without the safety nets of a corporate setting. This led to the next realization: Instead of siloing and shelving her corporate experience, she needed to harness and utilize it as a small business owner. 

    The last change in mindset was the most significant. Michalski decided to join the financial management company Lavoie CPA while continuing to run Barre3 Fort Mill. 

    “At Lavoie, I enjoyed helping small businesses. Being a small business owner myself, I wanted to provide value to small businesses. I no longer wanted to be in the C suite of a large corporate organization,” says Michalski. 

    “It’s just interesting how your whole career changes and your mindset changes as well. I’ve always been a career-driven person. And then when you step back, you realize what’s truly important and valuable to you.” 

    We sat down with Michalski and asked her more about her experience. 

    You are the Vice President of Operations at Lavoie, but you’re also the owner of a fitness studio, correct?  

    Yes. The last position that I had when I was in corporate was CFO for a division of a Fortune 15 company, and I left about four years ago to exercise my entrepreneurial spirit. I opened up my own business, which is a boutique fitness studio. I went from corporate CFO to a fitness studio owner. So it was a complete 180. 

    But I always wanted to own my own business. I’ve always wanted to exercise that entrepreneurial spirit and drive something for community, a place where people have a sense of belonging and feel welcomed. That’s what I have worked to create within my fitness studio. 

    So then fast forward. As strange as it probably sounds, I really missed exercising the strategic accounting and finance side of my brain. Sharai, [ CEO of Lavoie CPA], and I have known each other for a few years and I started reaching out to her to say “Hey if you ever have an overflow need, let me know and I can jump in and help with some projects.” And that has now led to having a bigger role within the [Lavoie] organization. And this January, I became a partner of the organization and I am now responsible for our client operations group.

     

    What was it like to start your small business?  

    The reality was that it was, I will say, a hard transition. I mean, you leave a corporate environment where you have structure, you have your paycheck — let’s just put it that way — you have a team, and you have all of these support mechanisms around you. And then you move into creating something on your own and you’re building it. 

    Some people can jump right into that. For me, it was a bit of a hard transition in the sense that I had to switch the way I was thinking. I had to remember that I’m building and starting and that [all of those support mechanisms] were not coming with [me]. 

     

    After opening your studio, was getting your foot back into the corporate world a way to make things less scary and provide a little more stability? 

    Possibly. And I’m sure that’s one reason why. It was a comfort zone. It was “This is something that I feel confident about, I’m good at it. So let me bring that back in and kind of reduce the scary that comes with starting your own business.” 

    But I don’t want that to sound like I couldn’t handle starting my own business. I have enjoyed every bit of the journey and continue to look forward to growing my business.

    If I had to do it over again, the advice I would give is you really have to change your mindset. Changing your mindset to “How can you pour that [large corporate] experience into your own business and your own structure to build [your business] from the ground up?”

    Often, I thought that [my corporate experience] didn’t translate. [I] built balanced scorecards, [I] built lean strategic objectives for large organizations, and then I was like, “I’m not even using this skill set.” 

    Later, I had a tough conversation with myself asking “Why are you not translating [your skills]?” Even though it’s a small business you can still create a balanced scorecard, you can still create strategic objectives, you can bring that skill set with you.

     

    Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from? 

    In my first class [at business school], we had to create our own company and the financials for our company. I still to this day — and I’ve been out of college for many years — I still remember that project. And I think that set the seed a little bit for [me] having my own company. 

    I think the other part of it is I’ve been a very career-oriented individual. So I’ve been very passionate. I’ve been very hard working. That’s how I grew up. 

    My generation grew up with the sense that you work hard and you get a payoff for it. It was never like, “Well I’m just going to wait for a promotion to be given to me.” No. I’m going to work for it and earn it. And [starting my own business], I think it’s just almost a natural next step in this. I’m going to create something and I’m going to work for it.

     

    Are there any mentors or role models that helped shape your work ethic? 

    There was one individual. He said to me once “You’ve got potential. I want to mentor you.” And the biggest thing that I learned from him is you have to seek out the mentoring. 

    I always say this when people ask me if I will mentor them — and they would literally wait for me to schedule the meeting. Or, let’s say we would schedule a meeting, they would think I would bring this amazing advice. No. You have to seek out the mentor. You need to think about, “Here are the areas I want to focus on, here’s where my opportunities are. I’m going to schedule the meeting with my mentor.” 

    And that kind of relates to something else that I learned throughout my career is, you cannot wait for the opportunities to come to you. You have to create your path of where you want to go. 

    There was a point in my career where I felt stuck and I was like “Everyone else is getting these opportunities. Why am I not getting these opportunities? Everyone else is getting picked to be part of the project, why am I getting to be part of the project?” 

    And one day it just flipped and I realized, “They may not know that I want to be part of that project.” I had to say “I want to grow here. The next time you have a project that comes up related to this, can I be part of it?” 

    Once that flipped, my career actually went boom

     

    How do you continue to practice asking for what you want? 

    That’s where you create a network to run ideas by people. I don’t have to ask anymore to be in the next position, I can just go for it. But it’s having the resources of a network to be able to say “What do you think about this? Is this a crazy idea?” 

     

    What do you think is next in your future? 

    Retire early. Ha. Ideally, I would love to have different business offerings, operate more businesses that I’ve created and be that strategic visionary component. That is what I have my eye on right now. As an entrepreneur, you don’t really focus on one thing. You focus on multiple avenues and I’m trying to decide what my next avenue is going to be while keeping my current avenue. Those are not going anywhere!

     

    What is a new skill you’re learning right now? 

    I’ve learned how to do social media. As much as I personally do not like it and wish I didn’t have to be on [social media], if you own a business, there’s no choice. You have to be on social media. It is crucial to the success of your business. So that’s been a new skill that I’ve had to learn. 

    I’ve learned how to use different tools to create graphics and content. I could easily outsource this but because I have this creative side part of my brain, I enjoy doing it.

    Women Who Lead: Sharai Lavoie with Lavoie CPA

    Women Who Lead: Sharai Lavoie with Lavoie CPA

    Although Sharai Lavoie doesn’t like talking about herself, there certainly is a lot to keep the conversation going. 

    Lavoie is the founder and CEO of Lavoie CPA, a professional services and technology firm that provides strategic advice to its roster of clients. Since starting her own company in 2009, Lavoie was awarded the Woman in Business award in 2017 by the Charlotte Business Journal. 

    “I never wanted [my business] to be a typical partner structure,” Lavoie says. “The passion in what we do is around knowing that you’re making a difference in the company that you’re working with.”

    We sat down with Lavoie, who graciously answered a few questions about her experience in business and finance. 

    What were you able to do as the founder of your own company that you couldn’t working for someone else? 

    When you’re working for someone else, you can see that something needs to be done but you don’t necessarily have the power to act upon it, making it happen. In having your own business, if I see that, okay, I think we’re going down the right path or we need to go in a different direction, I don’t have anybody to argue with about it other than myself. And what does that mean for the employees and planning for that side of things, versus, you know, having to convince somebody that we really need to be going in this direction or we really need to pay more attention to this part of what’s going on in the world. I don’t have to convince somebody of that.

     

    Because you don’t have to convince anyone, are you able to do your job better? Are you able to maximize your skills in the ways they’re meant to be maximized?

    Some days. Some days I am; some days I’m not. It’s just because we are a smaller company, so I do have to wear a lot of hats. But as we grow, I do get to say “This is where I’m best suited, so I’m going to focus my time here and I’m going to backfill for anything that I may be doing that I’m not suited for.” And so from that perspective, yes. 

     

    Tell us about the process of opening your own business. 

    [Opening my own business] is just something I’ve always wanted to do. I was working on it at the place that I’d left to start my own business. I was kind of doing what I’m doing now on a much smaller scale and the owner, he gave me the confidence to do it if I wanted to do it. He saw in me what I knew I had in myself. He saw it and he acknowledged it. I wasn’t like “Oh, in two years, I’m going to [start a firm] and that’s what’s gonna happen.” It was just kind of one of those things. I know I can do it, I just need to figure out how to make it happen and do it. And he was like “Yeah, go for it,” and that’s what I did.

     

    You sound so cool, calm and collected when talking about the experience. 

    It’s the scariest thing you’ll ever do. Yeah. It’s the scariest thing you’ll ever do. And I think having your first couple of employees is really scary because then you realize that you’re responsible for someone’s livelihood. 

     

    In those scary moments, what did you do to keep moving forward? 

    Honestly, I would just pray and say “Look, you’ve gotten this far. You can just keep going.” 

    You can believe in yourself, but you doubt yourself every step of the way. There was no book that I read [on how to start a firm] or any of that. It was just “I’m gonna do this. If this messes up, there are other things that I know I can do because I’ve gotten this experience to do this.” I just would pray about it and say “Okay. Get over yourself and get going.”

     

    Why is advancing women in business important to you? 

    From the woman’s perspective, you know, you spend so much time with people, so to speak, putting you in your place: “This is your place; those are your boundaries.” And I love to see women take up roles in a man’s space because it says “Screw you; you missed out.” That’s the part about women in business that I love. 

    When you spend time hearing people tell you can’t do things because that’s not what women are supposed to do, or this is as far as you’ll probably get, or you’ll probably drop out of the workforce and have kids — and if you do that, that’s great, that’s your decision. I mean, a year into starting the business I found out that I was pregnant. I could have easily said, “Well, no one’s gonna want to work for me. After they see I’m pregnant, they’re gonna be like, ‘Well is she really going to be around or serious about this?’” But luckily, we had great clients and they got it. 

    So for me, I guess it’s more of, [as a woman] you’ve kind of been looked over for so long. And there are so many women doing so many things that they fly under the radar, why not celebrate them?

     

    What barriers existed at the start of your career that have since changed? 

    One thing I experienced, not directly from my bosses but inadvertently—and over time I have seen it change—is being viewed as more of a helper versus someone that could lead. You’re viewed as more of an assistant, like, “You can help me with some of these projects but don’t think you’re going to present anything.” So it’s more of that. But I think over time it’s been more of, “Oh, she can take that and run with it and lead with it.” 

     

    What do you hope the future of finance looks like? 

    I hope that the future is more diverse. And I think that the future of accounting and finance is going to be a different landscape where the people that are in it are there more for the strategic side of things. Because I think a lot of things will end up being automated. And so I’m hoping that it will be more diverse in the sense that people aren’t just looking at you as these are the few things that you do, they realize that it’s a much broader scope.

     

    You may have been in positions where you were the only woman, so there were no senior women to mentor you. Now that you’re in this executive position, how do you feel about mentoring others? 

    I actually mentor with Innovate Charlotte. I’ll do it in a heartbeat. If you have something that you can tell someone or a resource you can provide to them, you should. It shouldn’t feel like a space where you feel like “Oh I can’t tell this person this because of XYZ.” 

    If you don’t ask, you don’t get, and if you don’t speak about it you don’t learn. Nobody can read your mind. You have to be willing to pay it forward. And I guess for me, with mentoring and trying to mentor, it’s more about paying forward. Helping someone else so that maybe they don’t have to have as hard of a road as I have had. 

    What are you most proud of? 

    I think I’m probably most proud of the fact that I made it this far as a mom and my son still thinks I’m cool. It just gives me the courage to do this.

    Really, how so?

    Because [my son] gets to see that a woman in this position is how it’s supposed to be. He thinks I can do anything.

    What is a new skill you’re learning right now? 

    To forgive myself. Honestly, learning to forgive myself. Stuff is gonna happen, and you just have to deal with it and keep going. Anything that you do, so long as you’re doing it from a space of good and what you think is the right thing to do, then it’s okay. You just have to do it from the right place to start with, it doesn’t matter if you fall on your face.

    The 3 Financial Strategies You Want To Remember in 2021

    The 3 Financial Strategies You Want To Remember in 2021

    An organization’s financial strategy is critical to the health and success of the business. A well-crafted financial strategy enables an organization to optimize operations and can present additional opportunities for growth. In contrast, a poor financial plan can hinder an organization’s operations and drive even a profitable company out of business.

    Despite the importance of financial planning, the process of building a robust financial plan does not have to be complicated. By following a few simple strategies, an organization can avoid many of the common pitfalls that result in a flawed financial plan and hamper the growth of the business.

    Three Important Financial Strategies for 2021

    1. Remember That Cash Is Still King

    It is vital to remember that a company’s money (revenue) is not the same as the money that a company has been paid (cash inflow).  While an organization may be profitable on paper, it could be broke in reality based upon the ratio of revenue to expenses.

    Bills can only be paid with the money that a company actually has on-hand, making cash management an essential component of an organization’s financial strategy. 

    This includes setting the terms of contracts to ensure that they are paid promptly and taking advantage of opportunities to minimize expenses, such as the use of automation to reduce payroll expenses.

    2.Keep It Simple

    Overcomplicating its financial strategy is a common mistake that businesses make.  To optimize its operations, an organization may break expenses into many buckets and independently monitor and analyze each.

    While this is intended to increase visibility and optimize expenditures, it can end up costing an organization more money in the long term.  Additional complexity and analysis require additional headcount to complete.  Since payroll is typically one of a company’s largest expenses, up to 70% of the total, the potential gains made due to increased visibility and optimization are likely to be overwhelmed by the corresponding analysis cost.

    A better approach to expense management is to apply the Pareto Principle: 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes.  Identify those few things that make up 80% of your expenses (likely payroll, marketing, and rent) and focus optimization efforts on those for maximum impact.

    Financial analysis can also be simplified and optimized by the use of automation.  By transitioning manual accounting processes to automated ones, an organization can achieve the same level of analysis while minimizing the associated costs.

    3. Bring Management Together & Make It Meaningful

    One of the most common mistakes made by founders and entrepreneurs is maintaining too tight of control over a business’s operations.  By trying to do everything themselves, these leaders end up spending more time working “in” their company (day-to-day tasks, putting out fires, etc.) rather than working on their company (strategic planning, long-term goals, etc.).  As a result, the company can stagnate and fail because it lacks a clear path forward.

    This also applies to an organization’s financial planning.  A crucial part of building a successful business is hiring competent people and handing over control of the tasks they are more fit to manage.

    When developing a financial strategy, an organization’s management likely has a better view of the current state of the parts of the company under its direct control than the CEO.  Asking them about their departments’ current state, their needs, and potential opportunities to decrease expenses without sacrificing revenue can provide invaluable data for crafting an organization’s financial strategy.

     

    Preparing Your Financial Strategy for 2021

    The most effective financial strategies are based upon experience.  Optimizing cash flow requires knowledge of how to manage contracts best.  Simplifying financial analysis requires an understanding of what is and isn’t important.  Reducing expenses via automation requires the ability to select platforms that provide a tangible benefit and return on investment.  Crafting a strong financial strategy requires knowing the right questions to ask subordinates and take the right actions based on their answers. 

    A good starting point for acquiring some of this knowledge is reading Lavoie’s Guide to Strategic Financial Planning. 

    This ebook provides best practices and tips for developing an effective financial strategy.

    However, in many cases, there is no substitute for experience.  Lavoie has over 25 years of financial planning experience and can manage your accounting for you, allowing you to focus on running and building your business.

    The Most Common Financial Mistakes CEOs Make

    The Most Common Financial Mistakes CEOs Make

    Many CEOs don’t have a background in financial planning yet are expected to develop strategies and make decisions that dramatically impact an organization’s financial health. As a result, CEOs make several common mistakes that can dramatically impact their company’s financial health and success.

     Where CEOs Go Wrong

    Getting too comfortable with “how you do things.”

    Past performance is not indicative of future results.  While an organization’s strategies may have worked in the past, situations can evolve, forcing changes to “how you do things.”  CEOs must be ready and willing to adapt, not stuck in a rut.

    Denying that every decision a business makes has some financial implication

    Every decision that a business makes impacts its finances.  Everything that a company does affects its ability to operate in terms of additional or lost revenue, productivity, expenses, etc.  If nothing else, making the decision to do one thing means that the organization likely lacks the resources to do something else.  All business decisions should take into account the associated financial implications.

    Making every decision in a vacuum

    As the CEO, you will be called to the carpet for every choice you make, financial or otherwise, so it is vital that you justify the decisions you make.  Decisions should be made based upon the best data available and incorporate the input of all stakeholders and subject matter experts.  Making decisions in a vacuum increases the probability that a poor decision will be made based upon incorrect data or assumptions.

    Forecasting based on what is in the bank account at that time

    An organization’s current bank balance is a snapshot in time.  It can change rapidly and in unexpected ways.  For example, something as simple as a vendor depositing a check earlier or later than usual can result in a significant discrepancy between what an organization’s current bank balance is and what it “should” be.

    For this reason, an organization’s financial strategies should not be based on projections based on a current bank balance.  A range of different factors could affect this and render any projections based on it erroneous and unusable.

    No visibility into what you are owed and what you have to payout

    Visibility into an organization’s liabilities and receivables is essential for a CEO.  For example, do you have more liabilities than what you are expecting in your receivables? You could have 600k in receivables but 800k in liability.

    If this is the case, then a CEO needs to develop a strategy to decrease expenses and liability relative to receivables.  However, without visibility into the current state of liabilities and receivables, a CEO is unaware of the need to change.

    Ignoring investments that don’t show up on the P&L

    An organization’s profit and loss (P&L) statement summarizes its revenue, costs, and expenses during a specific period.  However, it is not necessarily comprehensive and should not be treated as such.

    Investments that do not show up on an organization’s P&L statement should still be incorporated into its financial strategy.  While they may not impact long-term revenue and expenses, they will show up in cash flow.  Failing to account for them could leave an organization looking financially healthy on paper but broke in reality.

    Not considering seasonality

    Many businesses have seasonal ebbs and flows. Such as an increase in work for construction workers in summer and increased e-commerce sales in the months approaching Christmas.

    For others, the reasons may be less obvious (such as having more sales in summer because customers have more money), but these cyclic changes will still occur and should be incorporated into a CEO’s financial strategy.  For example, building up cash reserves going into a dry season may be necessary to cover expenses while waiting for sales to trend upward again.

    Planning once and refusing to iterate as things change

    A business’s profitability is determined by a number of internal and external factors.  While the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts are a high-visibility example, businesses experience smaller changes much more frequently.

    Adaptability is a critical component of an organization’s financial strategy.  While the company may have certain goals and plans in place, if internal or external factors demand a change, it is essential to adapt rather than insisting on continuing with a course that isn’t working.

     

    Avoiding Common Financial Mistakes

     Understanding how financial planning can go wrong doesn’t tell you how to develop a financial strategy correctly.  To learn more about this, check out Lavoie’s CEO’s Guide to Strategic Financial Planning.