This article was written by guest contributor, Serena Dot Ryan
Financial Literacy has become a passion of mine, especially to help others who have had similar experiences to me. I stumbled into the entrepreneur life after I became a mum and realised I didn’t fit into the corporate life I had previously. Stumbling into the entrepreneur life and becoming what I later found out to be ‘mumpreneur’ meant I didn’t necessarily put a lot of thought into setting up business structure or thinking about the long term.
My immediate focus was to create a job for myself. I’m the first one to admit, finance and Financial Literacy doesn’t come easy to me. I’ve struggled with my finances more than I care to admit. It would be easy to hide my tragic financial mistakes, however I’ve learned so much through these mistakes, my hope is sharing them will help others to see, awareness of Financial weaknesses can be a good thing.
To successfully grow in business I’ve found that it’s important to learn from people ‘doing it’ and to always get advice from the experts. Do both of these things, not one or the other. When it comes to financial literacy, I’m in the ‘doing it’ category.
What’s your bottom line?
When I first started 4 years ago, I was focused on earning income as an employee. Running a business is different. The biggest difference is allowing for overheads. Calculating my hourly rate taking into consideration my goals, where I want to be in 10 years time and business overheads has been key to establishing my base rate and how much work is required to achieve the life I want. Without this clarity, I realised I was on a trajectory to go out of business.
Hire Your Weaknesses
Thankfully not long after I started my entrepreneurial journey I read an interview with Richard Branson where he shared that we had something in common. We both struggle with finances. I figured I’m in good company. Two key outcomes happened after I read that article. It was a catalyst for me to review my entire financial approach and to have regular time every week to learn from successful entrepreneurs.
When Richard Branson first started his entrepreneurial journey, the first person he hired was a good accountant, that he understood. It took me a while to figure this out. Over the last 4 years I have gone from being very passive with my financial matters to active. I’m onto my 3rd accountant. I also have a Bookkeeper.
Ask Stupid Questions
Each accountant I have worked with has had their strengths. However what I realise is most critical is that I understand them and they understand me. I am happy to ask them any question and they answer. They take the time with me to ensure that I understand the answers.
Be An Active Learner
When I first started I did all my invoicing manually, I then used Invoices 2 Go. I quickly realised I needed something more detailed to help manage my finances. Rather than just accept what my Accountant or Bookkeeper recommended, I took advantage of free trials of different cloud based software. It was then after the free trials I selected the one that was best for my circumstances. I am currently with Xero. Will I say it is the one and only or best program to go with? No.
What I will say, is do your homework. Invest the time to see what is best for you and what you understand.
Your finances are your key to the life you want, it is therefore critical you understand the systems you are using to achieve your goals.
Clarity of Goals
What do you really want to achieve? This goes beyond making money. The ‘aha’ moment I had with this was attending the 2016 Ausmumpreneur Conference. In a session with Susan Pearce we did a visualisation exercise to meet our future selves in 10 years time.
This moment where I could fully visualise what my future self would be and what she would be doing, helped me to see how important it is to focus on where we want to be and what we want to be doing.
With this vision I was armed to see beyond the finance to what I really wanted.
I have since done this visualisation exercise again as a part of reading the book ‘Playing Big’ by Tara Mohr.
Don’t Starve The Business
Cash flow is critical to the business success. This means not always paying myself. At least in the early days. I realised in the first 12 months of my business I set an incredible personal goal of also running the New York Marathon. Now whilst this was great and I was able to achieve it, the stress of paying $14,000 for me to run the marathon in New York and have my husband as support crew did take its toll. Coming home and having a ‘holiday hangover’ was not ideal.
I read ‘The Accidental Entrepreneur by Janine Allis. Janine didn’t pay herself a wage for the first 3 years of creating Boost Juice. I realised how important it was to have a Plan B when it came to finances. Having multiple sources of income will help your business survive.
When I initially started in business I didn’t want to focus on anything but the business as a source of income. Fear of lack of focus made me feel like if I had another source of income then my business wouldn’t succeed. What I realise now is, when you have more than one source of income you can allow for accidents, family priorities, holidays, pursuing your dreams, testing new ideas and more. Sources of income I have outside of my business included; online courses, property investment, selling on Ebay.
Financial Literacy is about being active. Like any language you want to be literate in you need to speak it and use it regularly. At school I learned German for 6 years and for a year at University. Whilst at university I also worked in the Concierge Department of a 5 star hotel. At the hotel we regularly had German Tourists and I could converse with them. However, once I left working at the hotel, my knowledge of German quickly faded. Now I only know basic phrases.
To be literate in finance I have scheduled 15 minutes every day and at least one 2 hours session per week. I have regular catch ups with my Accountant, Bookkeeper and Financial Advisor too. I also read about Finance in my spare time too.
It’s not about it being onerous, it’s about sense checking everything is going to plan, being aware, continuously learning and being active when it comes to my finances. If I don’t keep consistently treating my Financial Literacy as the life blood to the life I want, I know it will disappear, just like my German.