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Show 3 – How We Paid Off $100,000+ in Debt

Episode OverviewOn today’s episode of the Serial Startups Podcast, we are talking all about debt.  Debt is very prevelent in our society, and our guess is that you have some sort of debt.  If you do, don’t be ashamed or discouraged.  In our early twenties, we went from having no debt to over $200,000 in debt in a few short years.In this show, we walk through a timeline of how we got into debt (and some lessons that we learned) as well as how we ended up paying off over $100,000 of that debt.Episode Key Points How we got into over $200,000 worth of debt by 23 The difference between good debt and bad debt How buying a house and quickly escalate your debt A tip to avoid salesmen selling you things you don’t need The strategies that we used to pay off $100,000+ in debt How going into more debt allowed us to pay off debt faster Why we recommend having more taxes taken out of your paycheck A free tool that can help understand and manage your finances Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Serial Startups Podcast Show 2 – Why We Love Multiple Streams of Income Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki Getting Into Debt Young and How to Work Your Way Out What $15,000 in Real Estate Training Looks Like Mark and Lauren G Podcast – The Simpler Happier Life Should You Pay Off Debt or Start a Business? The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey Mint Sylvester Enterprises Warsaw Wine and Spirits Entreprenewlyweds Parents of the Year Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Serial Startup Podcast Show 3 Transcript 0.00 Tom: This is the Serial Startups Podcast Show 3. In this episode, we’re going to discuss how we got into over $200,000 worth of debt by the time we were 21 and how we’ve been able to pay off a significant portion of this. Alright, so welcome back to the show. This is our third show and this one, regardless of whether you’re going to start up a business or not, we wanted to talk about debt just because it impacts everyone. There’s personal debt that people get into. There’s obviously debt related to business but it seems like debt is such a huge part of our society and it causes a lot of challenges for people. You know, we’re going to go into our timeline, how we got into debt, and how that impacted us, but I mean off-hand, Ariana what are some of the challenges that we’ve had as a result of having debt at a young age? Ariana: I mean it’s a huge challenge for a lot of people just in your relationship alone. I mean most people, they say that the number one thing that people fight about is money and if you’re fighting about money all the time, that’s going to impact your relationship and it’s going to impact a lot of the choices that you make and decisions that you as a couple have to make. 1.00 Tom: Yeah, you know there are some bloggers that we talked about that have a podcast too, Marc and Lauren Groupman and we’ll link to their show in the show notes at serialstartups.co/show3 and one of the things that they said in one of their podcasts was debt doesn’t just cost you money in terms of interest, but it also costs you time and experiences. And I loved when they said that because it really does. Because if you have debt, you’re going to have to make decisions based on that. So that might be taking another job or working longer hours which means you’re going to miss out on life experiences with your partner, with your family, or with others. Ariana: Your friends. Tom: Yeah, this is a topic that’s near and dear to our heart because we’ve spent a long time, many years getting into debt and also figuring out what strategies work and don’t work for getting out of debt. 2.00 Ariana: Yeah, and I mean, everyone starts with zero debt after high school or maybe not after high school I guess depending on your situation. Some people might start before that. But basically, everyone starts with no debt at some point. And then because of society and the way that things are, we have to…we might have to take a credit card out for this or you know, everyone says you need a credit card because you have to start getting your credit up so you can have a good credit score so you can buy a house and buy a car but all that comes back to is you have to start putting yourself in debt. Tom: Yeah and in show 2 we talked a little bit about why people should have multiple income streams but in that show, we also talked about how money flows. And what gets most people into debt is having that mentality of your job makes you money and then that money pays for your expenses and your liabilities and that’s it. So out of this show today, what we’re hoping to do for you guys is really pull back the curtains and show you what did that look like for us because we got into debt pretty much by accident. 3.00 Tom: Some of because of we thought we were supposed to do it that way, some of mistakes that we made, so we want to show you really what it looks like to get into debt and how easy it can happen, and then just share some of the strategies and experiences we had of getting out of it and this may be relevant to you or it may actually be relevant to your children as they get into college and as they are starting out their careers or looking at what they’re going to do beyond high school, how do they do it the right way and how do they maybe minimize some of the debt they get into? Ariana: So to bring this back, we’re going to reference a blog that we wrote back, oh gosh I don’t know when it was, but it’s getting into debt young and how to work your way out and we went through and made an actual timeline of all of the things that put us into debt. So I’ll start that out with our first debt would be student loans which is a pretty big one for everyone these days. I know Tom had to take out student loans to go to college. 4.00 Ariana: I also had to take out student loans and I didn’t get a lot of financial aid with mine because it goes based off of the income of your parents or guardians. So my parents made too much for me to even get any financial aid so I had to take student loans out and then because I was away at school and they wanted me to be able to live independently, we actually maxed out my student loans and took out the most that we could so that I had money for gas, and money for rent when I moved out off campus and lived in a house, money for food, and then I didn’t get a job in my field and even if I had, I wouldn’t have made enough money to start paying off that debt because it was just an exuberant amount that I didn’t necessarily need. Tom: Yeah and I think that’s a key point is, Ariana and I have had a lot of conversations about this. Your next step after high school may or may not have to be college. If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably interested in starting a business. 5.00 Tom: So whether it’s you or whether it’s a friend you know or maybe it’s even your children, but there are alternate paths out there and even if you end up going to college, I mean we think college is great. We both went. I ended up going… Ariana: Great experiences and it’s a definite important life experience. Tom: Yeah I even went back and got my masters. But the key is being intentional with why you’re going to college and understanding how much money it’s going to cost and how much is going to come back. Ariana: I mean an example for me, I definitely would have gone to college, but did I need a four year degree in Zoology? No. I could have gone and got my associate’s degree, taken some business class, learned how to use Microsoft Word and Excel and just different things that you would need out of in the business world and I would have been perfectly fine with just those. Tom: But why did you do that? Because people told you to follow your passion right? Ariana: Because you get out of high school and you’re supposed to go on to college and they tell you to find something that you like doing and that’s what your major should be because you should work and do something you like. And that’s not practical. 6.00 Tom: Well it’s good advice but we’ve got to look at how much is it going to cost us to do that and then how much we’re going to make afterwards. Because if the numbers make sense and you can follow your passion, awesome. But if you’re going to spend all this money on a degree that you’re never going to use, you may want to take a step back and look at something you can actually use. Ariana: And next on the timeline, still in college, we both took out credit cards. Tom’s reason was a little less necessary than mine. He got a credit card because it came with a free Bill’s t-shirt. Tom: Wait. When you’re in college and you can get a free Buffalo Bill’s t-shirt to show off your team that hasn’t made the playoffs in ten years, I mean that seems like a fantastic reason to get a credit card. Ariana: And mine, I had a vehicle that I brought to school with me, and at one point it needed some…I think it needed an inspection and of course I went and they totally upsold me into your car needs all this done and you know, you can’t drive it without this and I, being a naïve college student, totally bought into that and got a credit card because I had $800 worth of repairs that I quote on quote needed for my vehicle. 7.00 Ariana: So bam. We both had credit cards. Tom: After college we got an apartment and then if you listened to the first podcast, we actually went and bought a house a year after that. And you know a lot of people say, this goes back to whole rich dad, poor dad mentality. A lot of people say your house is an asset but in reality, buying a house is going to cost you money, not only upfront so you’ve got closing costs and you can put your down payment in, but then to pay your monthly mortgage payment, your insurance, your taxes every month, and then all the hidden costs of maintenance, buying a lawn mower, buying all these other things that come along with actually owning a house. Ariana: And we actually have dates on this timeline. That was March 2007 and kind of an important part of the timeline was December 2006 he proposed. 8.00 Tom: So just going with the theme, I mean we both forgot our anniversary, so we’re doing good with this whole relationship thing. Ariana: And that was definitely not even part of the plan, we did have a five year plan in college that everyone picked on us for but the plan was to graduate, get an apartment together, and then get married because going with the financials, we knew we would have to have time but he couldn’t wait so he proposed in December 2006 and then we got the house. Because you know when you get a house, you have to go and get a dog. And I worked at our local animal shelter on Lollipop Farm so on May 2007, a couple months after we got the house, we got a dog. Tom: And then I had been driving a car I bought in college and it was falling apart so I had to buy a new car. It was actually a used car but it was still another expense. Ariana: Yeah had to get a bank loan. Tom: Had to get a car loan for that. That was shortly after we moved into the house in June 2007. 9.00 Ariana: July 2007 we did the naïve first home owners thing and fell for a couple of those home improvement sales that come knocking around the neighborhood. We bought brand new windows for our house because they scared us into the whole energy saver, and you need new windows. Tom: And not just bought new windows…we spent $15,000 to buy new windows which to be honest, our existing windows were probably perfectly okay and if we wanted to actually get them replaced, we probably could have done it for a couple thousand dollars. Ariana: Yeah and then we also bought a new smoke alarm system which I will say out of all the purchases we made, that one at least as a safety precaution and you know, the types of smoke alarms that we bought are top of the line and then we also got the heat alarms with them. So that one at least was for our safety, but did we need to do that four months after we bought the house? Probably not. 10.00 Tom: Yeah so let’s just recap that. So we bought a $100,000 house in March, a couple months later… Ariana: We got a couple thousand dollar car. Tom: We got a couple thousand dollar car. A couple months later we spent nearly $20,000 on buying windows and smoke alarms for our new house that we’d only been in for a couple of months. Ariana: Yeah and then throughout that time, in 2007 and 2008, we…it was like the seasons of weddings for us. We were invited to probably I would say six to eight weddings each summer and then we were actually in a couple of those and they were in different cities so we were travelling on top of that so you know – not to say we weren’t grateful to be a part of all those people’s special days but when you add all that stuff together, the gifts, the travelling, being in the wedding and having to buy the suits or the dresses that stuff adds up very, very quickly. Tom: And now for the icing on the cake… Ariana: August 2007. Tom: Tom spends $7500 on a credit card for real estate training. 11.00 Ariana: Yeah we did not need that. We were trying to plan the wedding this whole time. We did set our date a little further off. I think we were almost two years out from when we got engaged. We knew we would need some time to one, plan it, and to two, have the financial ability to pay for it, but yeah. We didn’t need that extra $7500. Tom: Alright. So with that, now we’re going to get into some of this debt is actually business debt. So we’re going to talk a little bit later on whether you should actually pay off your personal debt first or whether you should start a business. But we’re going to show you the path we took. So we said that we spent the money on real estate training and we decided that we’re actually going to go and make that work because we had to pay off the $7500 credit card bill somehow. So in December of 2007, that same year we bought our house, we actually bought our first rental property. Ariana: Yep and we named that Perry Housing, because it was in Perry. Tom: As you guys can see and you’ll probably hear in the future, I have named one company and it was this one because it was easy. And every other company has been Ariana’s creativity because she does so much better. 12.00 Ariana: You did two: Perry Housing and Sylvester Enterprises. Really creative. Tom: Touché. Ariana: Where he lived and his name. Anyways in May 2008, to join onto those home improvement sales and purchases, we signed up for an alarm system. Tom: So we didn’t learn our lesson at that point. Ariana: Nope, obviously did not learn our lesson. And I mean we do live in a suburb. There is not a whole lot of crime but you know, it is kind of a scary thought to think about what would happen if somebody broke into our house, what would we do? So they sold us on having the alarm system and this one had a monthly payment. It wasn’t a payment upfront so we were like oh, yeah. It’s not too bad. But you know, five years of $50 a month, that does come out to quite a bit. So yeah we didn’t need that one either. Tom: And let me just take a step back at this point. Anyone that comes to your house or anyone that has a deal that sounds too good to be true, one, it probably is, two, these guys and whether it’s a real estate trainer, whether it’s some guru, whether it’s someone coming to your house to sell you something, they are experts in sales. 13.00 Tom: So they’re going to do all the strategies that are going to psychologically get you there. So like Ariana just talked about, it’s a little bit scary and they’re going to sell you on why you have to have an alarm system or why you have to do some of these things. The point is, they know what they’re doing and if something sounds like a good deal, my recommendation is take two days and think about it. They’re going to tell you that this offer expires and you’re not going to be able to get it outside of that day, but if it’s truly a good thing, after two days, it’s still going to be a good thing. They’re still going to offer you that deal, otherwise it wasn’t a good deal to start with, and it’s going to save you a lot of money just by thinking that way and actually taking some time before you start spending money on these things. Ariana: Yep, so the next one on our list is pretty big. September 2008 we finally got married and went on our honeymoon. And although this is a great, great day, it was one of the best days of our lives, we probably spent more than we needed to which is in retrospect actually a lot less than everybody else spends. 14.00 Ariana: I think total with the honeymoon included we spent about $12,000 on our wedding which is pretty low. Tom: That’s it? Ariana: Yeah that was it. That’s all we spent. Tom: Wow you are impressive. Ariana: I was a super budgeting queen. I was DIY before Pinterest was around. So you know, it was a low amount but unfortunately we did pay for that ourselves so that was just more debt that we got into. Tom: Yeah so then from there we ended up continuing in purchasing real estate which once again this is debt that we took on but it was business debt and it actually was good debt because it starting bringing us in money. So in October 2008, our second real estate business bought its first rental property and then over the next few years, we just continued to buy various rental properties, mostly residential but then we even got into some commercial real estate as well. 15.00 Ariana: Yeah and I think our number is…oh I just counted the other day. If you’re counting units, I think we have 23 units. But then we have eight duplexes, one house, and one commercial building so it all splits out. And February 2012, the next best day of our lives, we had our first child Alaina which we were able to keep our expenses pretty low for having a child because I did stay home so I mean pretty much with that, it was just diapers and diapers and wipes. I did breastfeeding so that was free. We didn’t have childcare expenses so it wasn’t too bad. And everyone was crazy buying kids clothes and stuff and so we did not buy a lot as well for having a baby which is kind of impressive. Tom: And this goes back to what we had done during that time and we realized we got into all this debt, was we starting to talk about some of our goals and some of our plans, and when we had Alaina, you were actually able to leave your job. So I think that’s a great point as we go through this timeline really showing how we made some bad mistakes and then we started to realize that that wasn’t the path we wanted to go down. 16.00 Tom: We switched things up, that was our first major goal obviously it was great to have our first child but also great to have you staying home and replace your income with the business income. Ariana: And then I mean the year of 2012 was kind of a crazy year because Tom had the idea of opening a wine and liquor store and to start off I kind of…I wasn’t sure how we were going to do that or if it was even going to happen because with New York State you have to apply for the liquor license before you can do anything and that was very long, I think like a six month process but in the meantime he was really serious, he said this is a long term retirement plan, let’s do it and we’re going to do it right. So within the, what is it, six, seven months, November 2012, he got approved for the license in I think October and we had been planning that whole summer, even just after having a baby, we had been planning that whole summer and doing the business plans and building everything out and we opened Warsaw Wine and Spirits in November 2012. 17.00 Ariana: And that was a very crazy time for us because Tom was working full time so guess who worked the store the whole first week we were open with a child? Yep, that would be me. Alaina was what? Nine months old. Tom: I was going to say we have a picture of Elena actually sitting on wine racks. Ariana: Oh, we have lots of pictures of Elena with me being at the store, sitting at the store. Tom: We’ll put some of those up on the show notes which you can find at Show 3. But yeah parents of the year. Ariana: Yeah, raising your child at a liquor store, that was us. But lucky for us, we were able to find a great employee; she works full time so after that first week, she worked full time Monday through Friday at the business. So I only had to be there that first week every day. Tom was working the late shift after work. 18.00 Ariana: So that first week was insane. But after that, we were able to find a great group of employees to run the store and I only had to travel there every once in a while. Tom: Alright, so let me ask a question. So we have this real estate business, we have this liquor store – how often are you actually working at the liquor store? Ariana: Now I go down once or twice a month. Tom: Okay. So you don’t work in the liquor store? Ariana: No I don’t work there. Tom: Oh. Ariana: Isn’t that funny? Tom: Do I work there? Ariana: No. That has to be the number one most asked question when we tell people we own a wine and liquor store. Oh so do you work there? No, we don’t work there. Tom: So we actually have an episode coming up in the future where we’re actually going to walk through our liquor store business and how that works. Ariana: The process of opening it. Tom: But the key thing here that I want to call out is part of building these businesses doesn’t mean that there’s going to take our time away in the future. As we build more income, that first like leading up to that first week, we spent a ton of time. I would work my full time job. 19.00 Tom: Ariana would go to the store with Elena and then I would leave my full time job, go work at the liquor store at 9 o’clock at night, and then finally get home and do that again. So it’s going to take some sacrifice to get our businesses going but the light at the end of the tunnel like we have now, we have employees that work at the store and then we spend a little bit of time just managing and overseeing it. Ariana: And we have all of our processes written out. We’ll dive into how we did that and we’ll probably include a .pdf of how we’ve processed out those tasks that we have to do at the store and all that sort of stuff. Tom: So over the next couple years we just kept taking the income that we made from the businesses, income from our…or my day job, and just kept putting those back into the businesses to pay off like we had paid off our personal debt but then being able to knock down some of that business debt too because as we knocked that down, that means that the income coming from those businesses just continues to increase. 20.00 Ariana: And then most recently, June 2015, we had our second child Ty and we are pretty close I think to completely out of debt although it’s kind of an evolving. Tom: But a lot of our debt now is our business debt. Ariana: Yeah it’s evolving because we keep putting money into the business and then we’re paying it back off so it’s good debt. Tom: Yeah exactly and that’s a great point. There’s definitely good debt and bad debt and a quick definition of that, your bad debt is your debt that costs you money and your good debt is your debt that makes you money. So when we invest money into our businesses our when we’re buying equipment or whatever it is, if we spend a dollar, we’re going to get more than a dollar back which means that debt was a good thing to have. Alright, so that actually leads into the first point that I want to get into which is sometimes you have to actually take on debt to pay off debt. So what I mean by that is when we got to like our peak of our personal debt, there were really two routes we could have gone. One was really to cut back expenses, try to make more money at our jobs, and just pay that off. 21.00 Tom: And some people go that route and are very successful. The other option is to look for ways to bring in more income so that we could pay that off faster. And that was actually the route we went. We ended up starting our businesses so that we could bring in more income to be able to pay that off. So that meant that we actually put some of our money instead of paying off debt, we had to put it into a business and then we actually had to take on a mortgage to buy a rental property but then that rental property would give us cash flow and reduce our taxes so that we could take that money and put it onto the personal debt that we had. Ariana: Well that takes us sort of into our debt snowball which I will let Tom explain. Tom: So this is a concept that I believe Dave Ramsay has popularized. I don’t know if he came up with it but essentially the concept here is if you take all your debt out, you’re going to organize it by what is the highest interest rate. 22.00 Tom: So let’s keep it simple. Let’s say you had two credit cards, one had a 20% interest rate and one had a 10% interest rate. What you’re going to do is you’re going to focus all of your extra income to paying off the 20% interest rate credit card and then once that’s paid off, you’re going to take the money that you were paying onto that credit card and then put that onto the 10% credit card in addition to what you were already paying on that. So that means you’re going to be able to pay down that second credit card faster than you did the first and now if you have a third credit card or a fourth, you just keep doing that and over time you’re able to pay those credit cards or whatever debt that is off faster because you’re taking more money and just snowballing it into the next one. Ariana: And we’ve done this. This is something that we practiced. We took all of our cards and we wrote everything down and we sat down and did goal planning. Okay, let’s figure out what income we have coming in every month, let’s figure out what we’re putting on onto all the cards, let’s figure out the excess that we have left over, and let’s figure out which card we’re going to start to pay down first. So we’ve done that and you know, we would take our yearly goals and go through our debt snowball. 23.00 Ariana: Okay, we paid off this card, now we’re putting all the income onto this card, after that we’re going to skip over to this card, and so on and so forth. So that really helped us with our plan to eventually pay down debt. The other thing that we want to talk about is cutting out unnecessary expenses. Now,  this means different things to everybody because it’s all in what’s necessary for you. For us, one of the big ways that we cut out expenses, we do not buy presents for each other. We don’t do Christmas presents. We don’t do anniversary presents. We don’t do birthday presents. We would rather use that money to get us to a better place in our life and we just…we try to take the happy times that we have and just celebrate those instead of going out and spending a lot of money doing stuff. I mean we do out do dinner occasionally. We’ll go out to a movie or we’ll do something to stay in but it’s something special for us. But we really try not to spend any unnecessary money on ourselves because that’s just something that we don’t feel we need. 24.00 Ariana: It’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make at this time. Yes, at some point in the future we would love to be able to start buying gifts again for each other but we’d rather spend our time and money in other places. Another way we cut out expenses was getting rid of cable. We have Netflix, we have Hulu, we do other things for entertainment. We felt that cable was just not necessary. We were wasting a lot of time and definitely wasting a lot of money there because you pay for cable and we don’t want a large majority of the channels and most people only have cable so that they have DVR so that they can watch the shows that they don’t have time to sit down and watch. So, those were a couple ways that we’ve gotten rid of unnecessary expenses. We don’t go out to eat a lot. We don’t spend a lot of money on ourselves in general. We don’t go shopping. Typically the only thing I shop for is the kids. 25.00 Tom: Yeah, and this isn’t to say that you have to your spouse and say, hey we’re not going to buy gifts anymore. Ariana: No, don’t do that. That works for us but we suggest you find a way for you to go out and try to cut some unnecessary expenses. Tom: Yeah, because the key thing is we all think we need things but if you really sit back and look at how much money do you spend each month? Like we’ve gone through in detail about how much comes in each month, how much goes out each month, and are there things we can cut back? And that’s where we figured out we can cut back on things like cable and some of these other nice-to-haves but not need-to-haves, and the sacrifice in the past and now will then allow us to do bigger and better things in the future. So what you have to look for and what we coach our clients on is take a look at all of the time you spend, take a look at all of the money you spend, and see where you can cut some of that out, to get both time and money back because that’s what’s going to allow you to start your business and end up building more time and more money. So if you’re interested in learning more about that and kind of getting our step by step guide, head over to serialstartups.co and then click on the Startups Academy and that is the course and membership site where we have all of our content and then us guiding people on how to get on some of that and then actually start their first or additional income stream. 26.00 Tom: So with that, the final tip that we like to talk to people about is, you’re working so hard to make your money, make sure that you’re actually keeping as much of it as you can. So if you own a business, you can get quite a few tax deductions. If you haven’t started a business yet, you can still get some deductions for donations you make, your interest mortgage, your student loans… Ariana: Having kids. Tom: Yep, but far too many people end up missing out on a lot of that money because they don’t file their taxes right or they try to do it themselves. So I mean our accountant I think he charges us $100 or something. Ariana: $150 I think. 27.00 Tom: Yep, but even going to like H&R Block or some of these places, they’re going to make sure that you’re getting these deductions which means that you keep more of the money without having to really do anything else. The other thing is not only keeping more of that money, but a lot of people try to minimize how much money the government is holding for them and which ultimately minimizes how much they get back at the end of the year. But one of the biggest things that helps us pay off debt if you can have more taxes taken off your paychecks, at the end of the year, you’re going to get a return and that return may be a thousand dollars, two thousand dollars, or more, and when you get that big chunk of money, you can then pay down a significant portion of debt. A lot of people go back and say; well I don’t want the government holding my money. I’d rather have that money now rather than later but the reality is, if you get an extra $5 per paycheck or whatever it is, you’re probably going to spend it. But if you get that big return at the end of the year, now you can have a much bigger impact and you’re not just going to spend it here or there on extra McDonalds or something else. 28.00 Ariana: Yeah, I know it’s hard for a lot of people to consistently save on a week to week or month to month basis. You know, some people are successful with it with the jar or I know I’ve seen some of those plans where you save a certain amount per day for 30 days and then you have this big chunk at the end, but a lot of people don’t have the willpower to do that consistently. So you know, tax returns is definitely one way that you can kind of save yourself the trouble and the time by filing correctly so that you get that big return and you can do something significant with it. Tom: Absolutely. So we went through a lot of stuff here but we want to leave you with our final tip of the week and I’ll let Ariana go through with that. Ariana: Yeah, we recently I think last year started using Mint.com which I don’t know why it took us so long to use it but it’s really helped us get a big picture view of our spending monthly. It allows you to sign in and then you sign in to each of your accounts, your bank accounts, your credit cards, your 401ks, your mortgage. 29.00 Ariana: Any kind of account that you have that has an online login and it’s a financial account, you can log in through Mint and it will automatically update so it gives you as your transactions are coming in, they’re showing up on Mint, you have the option to create budgets for yourselves; shopping budget, a grocery budget, a gas budget, dining out, it will tell you your medical expenses. It splits everything out by category and you can go in and obviously edit if you need to if it doesn’t pick the categories correctly. It shows you…it will give you warnings for when your payments are due, it will give you warnings for when your budget is close to goes over what you set for yourself per month. So it’s a really good tool for anybody and everybody to use but especially if you’re trying to pay down that debt and get to a better spot financially. 30.00 Tom: Yeah and if you haven’t started a business  yet, this is going to give you some good discipline of looking at how much money comes in, how much goes out, and what some of your targets are because one of the key pieces of running a business is making sure that you have cash flow. And that means that the end of the month, after all of your expenses are paid, you’ve got money left over. And if you can start by doing that discipline with your personal finances, you’re going to have much more success when you start your first business by being able to do that. Ariana: Yep. So if you missed any of our mentions or you want to see some of the links, head over to the show notes page serialstartups.co/show3. That is our show for this week I think. Thank you guys for listening again. And we’ll see you again next week. Tom: Alright, see you guys. END 30.32 The post Show 3 – How We Paid Off $100,000+ in Debt appeared first on Serial Startups.


5 Oct 2015

Rank #1

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The 5 Phases of Startup Business Growth

Episode Overview – The 5 Phases of Startup Business GrowthStarting a business is a real challenge.  We would know, we’ve started countless businesses.  Several have been successful, and a few have failed.  We’ve also coached dozens of entrepreneurs, in addition to surrounding ourselves with entrepreneurs who have all had at least one startup business.So from all this, we have been able to see what works and what doesn’t when it comes to building a successful business.  In addition, we have been able to identify the common phases that businesses go through as they start and grow.  These phases serves as the basis for Startup Academy – our new training and support community for entrepreneurs.To celebrate the launch of this community, all month long we are going to extract some of the most critical information from the community and give it to you for free.  Today, we are going to share the “big picture” with you and walk you through the 5 phases.Episode Key Timestamps 01:01 – Show Introduction & Background 06:29 – How did we come up with the 5 phases 09:06 – Phase 0 – The Prequel 12:23 – Phase 1 – The Foundation 17:10 – Phase 2 – The Grind 20:19 – Phase 3 – Success 24:42 – Phase 4 – Growth 26:23 – Tip of the week Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Startup Academy Big Picture (Free download) Startup Academy – The Business School for Entrepreneurs  Episode Free Download – Startup Academy Big PictureThe post The 5 Phases of Startup Business Growth appeared first on Serial Startups.


1 Jun 2016

Rank #2

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How to Tackle HR & Hiring Employees

Episode Overview – How to Tackle HR & Hiring EmployeesIn order for your business to grow, you will likely need to be hiring employees at some point.  This can be challenging, especially if you haven’t done it before.  So today we will be walking you through the basic of how to hire great employees. Episode Key Timestamps 00:55 – Show Introduction & Background 01:24 – Our Experience with Hiring 04:31 – To Hire or Not to Hire… 06:23 – W2 Employee or 1099 Contractor? 10:13 – How to Find Employees 14:15 – What the Actual Hiring Process Looks Like 15:04 – How to Train Your Employees 19:02 – How to Pay Your Employees 20:50 – Tip of the Week Be prepared to hire employees before you need them.Click To Tweet  Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Fail and What to Do About It (Book) Intuit 1099 vs. W2 Survey & Guide Employment Sites (Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, Craiglist) Gusto: The Online Payroll that We Use & Recommend Quickbooks (Also Includes the Options for Adding Payroll)  Episode Free Download The post How to Tackle HR & Hiring Employees appeared first on Serial Startups.


18 May 2016

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Show 7 – Why Haven’t You Started Your Business Yet?

Episode OverviewYou’ve probably heard the statistic that 80% of fail within the first five years.  The reality is, many more than that fail each year, simply because they never actually get started.  There are a lot of entrepreneurs with good ideas, but the ones that succeed are the ones that take the leap to start.So in this episode, we are going to discuss the 5 main reasons that we have seen people put off starting their business and how we recommend moving past them. Episode Key Points Understand 5 common reasons people never start their business Realize that you will never know everything and you just need to start Learn what analysis paralysis is and how to overcome it How to utilize just in time learning as an entrepreneur Why failing is actually a good sign as an entrepreneur Why you should implement a Work in Process (WIP) limit on your ideas The importance of understand what assets you have when starting a business Why you need to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs Why a mastermind group is essential for entrepreneurs Why launching before your product or business is perfect is the way to go From John Lee Dumas – FOCUS – Follow One Course Until Success “Imperfect action is better than perfect inaction” – Harry Truman Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Show 4 – The Importance of Goal Planning 30 Days to Launch eCourse Why We Got Rid of Cable Fiverr Upworthy (Formerly oDesk) Request Your Free Access to the Serial Startups Community Facebook Group Want Pug Videos?  Check Out Our Friends Jill & Josh @ Screw the Nine to Five Community Check out our Startups Academy Lean Startup Tom with Josh from Screw the Nine to Five and Shane from Flipped Lifestyle Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Transcript coming soon… The post Show 7 – Why Haven’t You Started Your Business Yet? appeared first on Serial Startups.


14 Oct 2015

Rank #4

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Show 6 – How to Fail as an Entrepreneur (The Smart Way)

Episode OverviewFailure is definitely a part of being an entrepreneur.  There are a lot of challenges that you will face while building your business, some of which can be costly and really make you question if you can get past them.  But what if there was a way to try out your strategy for building income through starting a business or investing in real estate?In this episode, we are going to discuss the concept that we used to try out different strategies to building income through different investing strategies and finding the one that will likely work for you.Episode Key Points The variety of risks that exist with starting a business How a simple sales tax mistake forced us to invest thousands into our store Why we still think you should still become an entrepreneur Learn how to become an entrepreneur without actually becoming an entrepreneur Learn the basic process for playing Cashflow 101 How playing a game can drastically improve your understanding of risk and strategy How you can learn basic finance and accounting strategies with ease Why playing this game with other people will amplify your learning Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Cashflow 101 Board Game Cashflow for Kids Rich Dad Poor Dad What $15,000 in Real Estate Training Looks Like – Don’t Get Scammed Should You Pay Off Debt or Start a Business? Episode Transcript Coming soon…Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon --->Transcript coming soon…The post Show 6 – How to Fail as an Entrepreneur (The Smart Way) appeared first on Serial Startups.


12 Oct 2015

Rank #5

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Show 5 – How to Overcome Challenges of Working with Your Spouse

Episode OverviewBuilding a business is tough, and when you start talking about adding people to the business, now you add more challenges.  But what if business partner or employee is actually your spouse?  Well, buckle up and prepare for a ride!In this episode, we walk through the top 10 challenges that we have faced while working with each other on our various businesses.  We then talk through changes that we have implemented to try and resolve these problems, as well as discuss how those changes went.  Whether or not you work with your spouse, this episode will provide some valuable tips for how to work with others in your business.Episode Key Points Why your partner’s pet peeves are amplified when you work with them How to allot time to dedicate to your businesses How to manage an ever growing todo list in your business How you can buy back your time that you business has taken Why there is more than just work/life balance and what you may be missing How a shared calendar can help organize your life Why a traditional job should not define who you are The importance at reflecting and tracking what you actually complete How talking to people outside of your spouse can help keep things in balance Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode The Top 10 Challenges of Working With Your Spouse (Corresponding Blog) For Better or For Work: A Survival Guide for Entrepreneurs and Their Families Show 4 – The Importance of Goal Planning in Your Business (and Life!) Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business Google Calendar Episode Free DownloadWe put together a special download that shows the 6 steps to get your spouse on board with your business idea.Get Your Copy Now >> Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon --->SSP Show 5 Transcript0.00Tom: This is the Serial Start-ups Podcast Show 5. In this episode we’re going to discuss some of the challenges of working with your spouse.So welcome back to the Serial Startups Podcast. My name is Tom Sylvester and I’ll be your host and I have my lovely wife here, Ariana.Ariana: Working for brownie points.Tom: Absolutely. But we’re talking this episode about working with your spouse so I’ve got to kick things off on a positive note because we’re going to get into some challenging topics as we go through here so you’ve got to get those brownie points to start.1.00Tom: Alright, so I probably say this a lot but this is such an important topic for entrepreneurs but just people in general. Getting married or being in a relationship is challenging and a lot times I know people look at us and they’re like, oh you guys have the idea life or marriage. You’ve got two kids. You’ve got these businesses, but it is a challenge. We’ve gone through ups and downs especially once you add doing a business on top of that. You just run into so many different challenges that are challenging when you’re talking about a personal life but they’re very challenging when you add all of the failures and the mindset and everything else that comes with running a business.Ariana: Yeah we definitely have had our issues in the past trying to just deal with some of your partner’s…the way that they do things that you may not agree with, some of those annoying little ticks that they do and a large picture might not bother you but on a day to day basis when you’re working with someone, some things just drive you nuts and just trying to go through how to deal with those things and how to keep your marriage healthy and keep each other happy.2.00Tom: And we’ve mentioned this before. We have a program, 30 Days to Launch and it’s in our Start-up Academy and once again, people are surprised that we focus so much on pulling your partner in when you’re going to start a business, even when your partner isn’t going to be involved in the business, because it’s going to take time and money and it’s going to take communication because you’re going to have to spend time to build your business. So it’s so important to be on the same page with your partner and this leads into our show today. About six months ago, we actually sat down and we each put a blog post together on the top five challenges that we had when working with each other. We did those separately. We pulled them together and then we talked about what can we do going forward to improve on this challenge? And that blog post laid out some actions so what we’re going to do is walk through each of those top ten things today, talk about the challenge, and then the action that we came up with and now that we’re six months later, we’ll look at did we put it into action and then what were the results of that?3.00Ariana: I’ll let Tom start with his first struggle.Tom: Alright, so number one, my biggest challenge was getting time for us to actually focus on the business discussions and work on the business together. At this point, we had had multiple businesses, and our basic strategy when we started a business is we start the business, it takes a lot of time, and we focus on quickly getting it profitable and getting to a point where we understand the systems and the processes that go into that and then automating that and then outsourcing that. So we did a couple times, but what that ended up leading to was, I was working on growing the business stuff, Ariana was typically working on the running of the business, and we were each kind of doing our own thing but we weren’t syncing up on the things that I needed to know from her on running the business so I could help and she wasn’t really understanding some of the next steps I was looking for growing the businesses. So because we never had time to talk about that, we were working kind of in our own silos and not sharing our supporting each other to get past some of those challenges.4.00Tom: So, what we came up with a couple months ago was really making sure that we set aside time each week to review the businesses, to sync up on things, and make sure that we are talking through each of the businesses we have and not only what’s going on right now with them but what’s going on in the future. And if you listen to our show before where we talk about goal planning, so if you listen to our goal planning show, you’ll know that one of the key things we talk about with goal planning is syncing up on a weekly basis. So since then, we’ve actually set aside Friday afternoons to really just go through the past week and the upcoming week so that we’re aligned and we understand what we each have to do.Ariana: He has Friday afternoons, but really he means Friday, whenever we get a free moment.Tom: And this is the reality when you are parents and you have kids at home.Ariana: So I’m going to jump in and talk about one of my challenges as you’ve heard Tom talk about on the reality checker and he is the motivated entrepreneur and that’s one of my challenges, is having a motivated spouse who just keeps continuing to add more and more things to my list of things to do.5.00Ariana: And a lot of the reasons I had a problem with that are because being a stay at home, work from home parent is a job in itself. So you’re trying to take care of the kids, and do the household chores and keep everything up as you’re going plus you’re working on top of that, so my time is very valuable because I don’t have very much extra time. Having a spouse who keeps adding things to my list gets very frustrating for me because I don’t know where to fit that in – that means I might have to sacrifice something else that I’m already doing. How do I choose what to sacrifice? A lot of times, I would get so stressed out trying to figure out which item should be my priority that I wouldn’t get anything done so that was just not working for me and when we wrote this blog and we sat down to talk about these things, we decided that one of the things that we need to do in our weekly sync up when we talk about the business stuff, is really lay out these new ideas and these plans that we think we want to add in and discuss how they fit with our end goals and how they fit in with our current schedule to see if that’s something that’s really practical for us to add on at this time.6.00Ariana: And also, Tom talked about outsourcing, we did decide okay, we do need to do some of these new items, that means we need to get rid of some of the old things that we’re doing so we were able to actually outsource a couple tasks for Sylvester and also for Warsaw. So that really helped us kind of move to the next step of okay, how can we add these new things on that we want to start doing?Tom: Yeah. The two things we always talk about that people have in their business is time and money and with time, we all have the same amount of time. It’s just how we use it. Money, that can vary up or down.7.00Tom: But what we try to constantly focus on is how do we use the money that we’re making in our business to buy back the time that that business initially took from us? So when we outsource some of these things, it ended up costing us a little bit of money but what that did was buy back our time which time is way more valuable than money. I know that may be a tough thing especially if you’re struggling financially now, but overall, we can always make more money but we can never get more time back.Ariana: That leads into Tom’s next challenge.Tom: So, because of our process of really starting out working hard but then trying to outsource it, unfortunately our first process out outsourcing is typically it goes from me to Ariana. I am very good at looking at new business opportunities and getting them launched and started, and then Ariana is very good taking all the craziness that has gone on in the week to launch something and put it down into the repeatable processes that we use, document that or make whatever processes or procedures solidified and then part of the problem that we ran into was she would get stuck at that point of actually doing those procedures and we sometimes wouldn’t get to the next piece is actually outsource it to somebody else.8.00Tom: So there’s a fantastic book out there that I would recommend anyone looking to start a business to read, it’s called the e-myth. And in that, one of the ideas that he talks about is working in your business versus working on your business. So a lot people that fail as entrepreneurs or fail as business owners tend to work in their business so they’re actually creating the thing instead of working on their business which growing it. So the nature roles that we tend to fall into in most businesses is am working on the growing the business and Ariana starts working in the business on actually managing the day to day operations but where we get stuck here was if she doesn’t get that outsourced to somebody else and if I don’t help her do that, then I just keep putting more and more stuff on her plate and she gets stressed out.9.00Ariana: Or things don’t get done which is also bad.Tom: Yeah, so what we focused on at this point was we really took a look everything Ariana was doing and we started saying what are the first things that we should outsource, either because you shouldn’t be doing them because we have somebody that can already do them or you don’t enjoy doing them.Ariana: Yeah a great example is for Warsaw, our retail liquor store; I was doing all of the purchasing. Every week I would have to look at our list to see what’s low in stock, what do I have to re-order, I have to look at the budget, okay we have to go through. Here’s all the things we want to order, here’s all the things we can actually order, figuring that out, putting the actual order in, and then making sure that those items came in correctly and just all of the things that that entails and it would take up quite a bit of my time each week so that was one of the first things that we really looked at. How can we write this process down, get a working procedure for it, so that someone else can take over this task and I save my time for something else?10.00Ariana: So we actually successfully did that at the beginning of this year and it has been amazing that I don’t have to worry about that every week. You know, I touch base with the employee of ours that took over the purchasing usually every week or two, but it’s not something that I have to have on my mind at all times.Tom: Yeah, so I think we’d say we’re pretty successful with this one. We’ve been able to take a lot of those procedures and outsource them to other people or even automate them sometimes with tools, which we went back to the first podcast, I said I wanted to launch this show a year ago and one of the reasons we couldn’t launch this show a year ago was because we were both so busy doing this type of stuff. So the whole reason that we’re even able to this show now and focus on Serial Start-Ups is because we really have been able to automate and outsource the majority of stuff for those other businesses.11.00Ariana: Yeah, so I’m going to jump in with my next challenge. I had an issue trying to figure out splitting the time that we do have between the businesses, spending time with the family, having just adult time for the two of us and our relationship, and then having personal time that we each privately get because it’s important for everyone to have that down time and not everyone likes to be alone but you know, a lot of people are very solitary before they find the love of their life and it’s important to get some alone time every now and again and do something that you love. And then for your relationship, whether you’re married or you’re just in a relationship with someone, it’s always important to have that time to yourselves to really connect with each other and to distress and just have fun because that’s an important part of any relationship. And then the family time. Obviously, when you have kids you want to spend time as a family, you want to spend time maybe having daddy time or mommy time so that your children equal time between all of you and then obviously is necessary if you’re going to have a successful business. So I know that Tom had an issue with that as well.12.00Ariana: So I kind of stole that challenge and made it mine but the way that we have…Tom: And before you jump in our solution, I think one of the things people often overlook is you always hear about work-life balance. But what we’ve realized is there’s a lot more to it than that. So, if we look at life for example, it’s not just life-balance but there’s sub categories there. So, Ariana enjoys singing. That’s one of the things that she’s done. So, part of what we want to do is make sure that she can go out and do some of those hobbies that she enjoys.Ariana: And crafting.Tom: And crafting. And now that we’re parents, we have two kids, there’s not a lot of time and we noticed this the last couple months now that we have our son, we don’t schedule time for us to be together. It tends to get taken away from everything else…Ariana: It dissipates in the chaos of everyday life.Tom: Yep, so it’s just so important to realize that it goes beyond work-life balance and this solution that Ariana is going to share with you is really helped us.13.00Ariana: Yeah, this is huge and it’s a very simple solution and it’s free, so yay. We use Google Calendars to split everything out. We have color coded all of our different aspects so each business has its own color, we personally have our own colors, we have colors for the kids, Tom has a color for work, we have everything split out and then we’ve shared our Google Calendars with each other as well. So this allows us to really go through week to week and say okay, what do we have for this week? Oh, Alaina has got soccer. Okay you’re going to take her to soccer. I’ll stay home with Ty or we’re going to go as a family and we’ll do something family-fun event after. One weekend we went to soccer and then we went to the museum. So really just putting that out there and making sure that you are allocating that time and using it so you aren’t feeling left out. We also put a date night on the calendar. We decided we want to do at least once a month. We’re going to do a real adult date night. We’re going to have somebody watch the kids, go out to dinner and do a movie or see a show or do something on our own so that we have our time for our marriage.14.00Ariana: And then you know, the same thing with our family, making sure that we have a special event put out on the calendar and then the businesses. Making sure we have anything that we need on there. We can all see it. We can sign in. We can edit it. We can add things. It’s been great. We’ve been using that the past what – month?Tom: Yeah, well I think we’ve used it for a long time.Ariana: We’ve used it for a long time – yes, we’ve actually done the full out color coding and really been concentrating on keeping track of that calendar.Tom: Yeah and I think the recent shift that has really helped us is actually a lot of these challenges really come back to just communication. So, when we meet every Friday or once a week, part of what we do weekly is we pull up this shared calendar. We can add stuff on it during the week, but we really look at what does the week look like? And then I think one of the things that we’ve been that’s been very important is we put things in the right priority so we make sure that we plan things like our date night.15.00Tom: We plan the events that we’re going to do as a family and as kids first and then we put the business and other stuff around that. So we’re making sure that we’re really putting our priorities in order as we do that calendar. Alright, so my next challenge is challenge number five and this one was tough for me. Ariana doesn’t realize how great she really is. And let me explain that a little bit more. And I’m sure some of the people listening to this can understand. So Ariana went to school for zoology and then never actually got a job doing anything with zoology. She bounced around between a couple jobs and she picked up so many valuable business skills doing those jobs that have helped our businesses become successful. And the last three and a half years, you said earlier, stay at home. Now you’re like work from home mom. And one of the things that I’ve noticed with her and we’ve been talking through is a lot of people put their worth into the job they have. The challenging thing with Ariana is because she’s staying at home and she really hasn’t had a structure around the business and the work we do, often times I’ll hear her saying, well who cares about what I have to think.16.00Tom: No one’s going to care about that. Or like this came up a lot when we were writing the blog post. We talked earlier; Ariana hated writing the blog post. And her big thing, she’s like well, she’s kind of discounting herself. I’m just a stay at home mom. I just do the business stuff and I don’t think she’s realized and I think you’ve done a lot of this since then, where it’s like oh man I have to put up with Tom. That’s a job itself. But I run multiple businesses. I mean she manages the day to day operations of our real estate business, of our wine and liquor store, on top of our house and everything else. So I think that people that end up not having a traditional job sometimes forget how much knowledge they have, how much experience they have, and how much that can contribute not only to their business but also to their self-worth and their life.17.00Tom: So one of the big things that we said we were going to do when we talked about this a several months ago, was really make sure that we talked together as a couple and highlight what each of our skills are and then make sure that we’re taking credit for that in the business and aligning what roles we take in the business with what our skills are. And even with this Serial Start-ups, we’ve split our responsibilities into where we each bring value and now that we’re reviewing it each week, I think we get to see the progress that we’ve made that week.Ariana: Yeah and Tom has been great with helping me realize my potential and I brought up to him to, it’s hard when you leave the corporate world of working and you become a work from parent. Sometimes because you have all that chaos, your brain function starts to decrease a little bit because you have five million channels going on at the same time.18.00Ariana: So it’s taken a little bit for me to get back into thinking about a job which is really what this is. I do have a job on top of staying at home. Just I had to change my view on how all of that fits in and what that means for me. So it’s definitely helped in the past couple months just changing up how I think about all that stuff and Tom reminding me over and over again.Tom: Alright, so let me ask you guys a favor. If you can jump over to the show notes at serialstartups.co/show5, and just leave a comment and if you’ve experienced this or if you’ve seen this in your spouse let us know because I this is something that barely anybody talks about but it’s such an important topic.Ariana: Yes. So we’re going to jump to another tough topic. This is mine, we’re on number six I think and one of the problems that I do have as a work from home parent and me being the one that’s running the day to day portions of the business, is how to keep your spouse involved without adding further stress.19.00Ariana: Tom has kind of a high stress job that he does like what he does but it does give him a lot of stress week to week and I don’t like to add on to that. I know he’s got a lot going on. I know he just can’t really think about a lot of other things sometimes. So I don’t want to add anything on to his plate. And then when he gets home on the weekends, that’s our family time and I don’t want to further stress him out or ruin those happy memories that we’re making by bringing up all these issues in the business and we definitely struggled with this and like we talked about, we have those ups and downs and this is definitely one of those things that brings us down is when we lose our communication and we don’t talk about these issues because on my end I don’t want to keep stressing him out. So one of the things that we have done to solve this problem is deciding what our priority issues and what are things that can wait?20.00Ariana: So we use a tool called Evernote. It’s a great notebook tool.Tom: If you haven’t used Evernote, you need to go check it out.Ariana: Yeah I didn’t know what it was until Tom started using it and showed me and I was like oh, this is really kind of a cool tool. So now we use Evernote and we have a shared account so that we can see all the notebooks.  It’s kind of like a virtual notebook. You can have notes in there. You can share your notes. You can have specific notebooks so that you can organize everything and we have made a notebook for each business and then we have a note in each of those notebooks for weekly issues or weekly to-do and that way when things come up, I can kind of just jot stuff down in each notebook based on which business it’s about and if it’s not something that’s super-urgent for me to mention to Tom, it’s just something we need to talk about at some point that weekend when he gets home, then we just leave it there. And then if there’s something that’s super urgent that I need help from him, I go ahead and contact him whether it’s by email or we have a new tool we’re using, we’ll talk about in another show called Slack.21.00Tom: We love Slack. So Evernote and Slack. If you don’t use those tools, go and check them out.Ariana: Yeah, we do have a podcast coming up about the twelve most important tools we use or something like that.Tom: Yeah they’re both on there.Ariana: Yeah, so we’ve decided that even though we might stress Tom out or it might stress me out, the most important thing is to keep those lines of communication open, make sure that we’re talking about this stuff, so that it doesn’t all come to a head at some point and you know, Tom absolutely hates when he comes home to find this huge issue with one of the businesses that I just didn’t want to bring it up because I didn’t want to worry him but me not bringing it up then made it worse because we waited and we didn’t talk about it and we didn’t talk it out and find a solution.Tom: Yeah and I think what this comes back to is what we term “working agreements”. So how are we going to operate together? How are we going to talk through the business stuff? A big realization for us over the last year has probably been the goal planning and the synchronization and the communication. So, so many of things have come back to that weekly meeting we have.22.00Tom: And our working agreements are these things we need to talk about right away so we’re going to throw them on the appropriate channel and Slack and expect a response. So these other things aren’t things we’ve got to worry about right away but we know we’re going to catch them at least once a week so we put those in Evernote and now we’re talking about those on Friday. So we understand together, hey Ariana, what information do you want to have on a daily basis and what do you need to have weekly from me and vice versa? What issues do I need to hear about daily and what things can we talk about when we get to that weekly sync? So I think the key takeaway for anyone listening to this is sit down and really talk about based on your role and based on what you’re doing in the business, how do you have to communicate and how do you need to get information and more importantly, what information do you not need to get that may just cause additional stress?23.00Tom: Alright, my next one which is number seven is not focusing too much on the end. Okay the next challenge which is seven is not focusing too much on the end. So Ariana talked about it earlier. I am highly motivated and one of the things that we always tell people when they’re going to start anything and especially a business, is to figure out your why, and for me, one of the reasons that I’m highly motivated is because I have a very strong why and I use it every day to drive what I do. So my why is not wanting to have to have someone else choose what I have to do but I want to have those options. So whether that’s coaching our kid’s soccer, whether that’s taking them to school, whether that’s sporadically going on vacation, I want to have that flexibility and I have those life experiences but far too often what happens to me is I let my why be so strong and I want it now that I focus 100% on getting our businesses to that point that I forget or I miss out some of the life experiences as we go.24.00Tom: So Ariana has been phenomenal. Sometimes I don’t like to hear it but I need to hear it in calling out when I’m spending too much time on the business and not spending enough time either with her or with the kids or just even sometimes for myself to take time away. So I’m going to keep tying this back but a lot of these concepts are tied together and help each other out so now that we have our weekly meeting and now that we have the calendar, we can look at what are we doing in making sure that we plan first those important things and then let us fill in and the business time after so that we make sure that we’re not missing out on the life experiences and the short term stuff because we’re focused on the long term..Ariana: Yeah, my next challenge number eight, not getting enough done as we think we should. This was another one, kind of ties back to Tom’s challenge about me not realizing my potential.25.00Ariana: I was having a rough time thinking. Every week I was down because I felt I never got anything done. I was like oh, I didn’t get a lot done this week or oh, I had all these things in my to do list and I feel like I barely got to any of them. And Tom was essential in helping me with that and he said one of the things that I do for myself is to put all of my activities that I want to get done on a to-do list and then I check them off as I get them done. So even if it’s the most mundane of tasks, you list it out. Laundry…I want to mow the lawn, I want to get this done for the business, list that out, and then at the end of the day, check off what you got done and that will help you mentally see, okay I don’t feel like I got as much done but when I look at the list, I actually did quite a bit for that day. So that’s helped me feel a lot better about that issue. And then also setting weekly task goals, just so that you have kind of an end-result down, okay I want to get these things done this week. Which thing should I put on which day, where does it make the most sense for me to try and do these things?26.00Ariana: Instead of trying to do five million things at the same time, you’re not going to get all of them done. Pick a day and concentrate on just that task for the day. And one of the ways that he helped me figure that out was to go through and detail my daily activities to how much I did every day so that I wasn’t feeling quite so down. And I mean I did a lot more than I thought I did.Tom: And that works daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, so overtime we do one of those planning meetings or checkpoints whether it’s weekly or every three months or every year, it’s important to make sure that we’re not just looking at what are our goals going forward, but reviewing the past time period and saying what did we actually accomplish during this time, and if we didn’t accomplish some of the stuff that we wanted to, why didn’t we, and what can we learn from that so that we can adjust and make sure that the next time period we actually have everything done? So number nine is not being aligned on our goals. And once again, we’ve talked about goal planning a couple times so I’m not going to spend a ton of time on this. But when you don’t talk about your goals together and when you don’t write them down and create a plan to get there, you’re going to bounce around to a whole bunch of things that don’t ultimately tie back to that goal.27.00Tom: And you know, being the serial entrepreneur, and being the one that is all over the place, this happened to me a lot and Ariana had to pull me back. And the other piece is we both ultimately want the same thing but how we go about getting there I think is different between how Ariana looks at it and how I look at it. So there’s a great quote that I heard years ago and I love and it’s entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so that you can spend the rest of your life living like most people can’t. And what that said to me was, I’m really going to hustle. We’re going to do these things now so that later on, we can live the life that other people can’t because they have to worry about bringing their income in. So that’s the way I look at this and I think Ariana, I think you generally have a similar idea but you want to make sure and it’s great that you do, that we tie in the life experiences along the way and not just get to focused on business.28.00Ariana: We don’t want to miss out on the little things. So, the last challenge, my challenge number ten, is a tough one, how do you talk over individual challenges that you may have without harbouring resentment or jealousy? So how do you talk about all your struggles with your spouse without making them resent you for the things that they miss out or can’t do? A tough one for me because I am the parent who gets to stay home with the kids, I am the parent who gets to see all the little moments and be here during the week, and I’ve got the funny stories, and I want to share all those moments with Tom, but I know that it kind of hurts him because he’s away and doesn’t get to see those things and share those moments so how do I share those fun experiences, how do I share my challenges when I’ve had a tough day when the kids are being ridiculous and I just can’t take it anymore and I need to vent? It’s really tough to do that when you don’t want to make your partner or your spouse feel bad.29.00Ariana: So obviously this is a challenge that you’ll probably continually come back to over the years and it’s a challenge that a lot of other people have and some of the solutions that we’ve come up with are finding other people to share those challenges with. I mean we do like to communicate and share everything with each other, but sometimes it’s better to hold off and share some of those feelings with other people so that you’re not intentionally causing harm to your spouse. Tom has a mastermind group that he meets with every Friday. It’s a business-entrepreneurial type mastermind group but it’s still somewhere that he could share some of his challenges with people that are likeminded. And then he’s mentioned a couple times, that I should find a spouse support group, maybe some other spouses that are dealing with entrepreneurial partner that they want to talk all their problems and have a venting session.30.00Ariana: And say oh man, he wants me to add this on to my schedule and he’s making me add this new task and he wants to start this new business and having friends or other people that you can talk about and have that support. Another thing we’ve tried to do is make specific time to talk to each other about this stuff so that we can prepare mentally. It is good to let each other know what feelings you’re having and to hash that out every once in a while, but you don’t want to do it when you’re in an emotional state because you might say things you regret, you might make your spouse feel bad by accident because you didn’t word things correctly so we like to make that time, talk about it so that we each take, you know, let me sit down for an hour and really think about how I’m feeling and me personally, I like to write my feelings down and just kind of re-read them and make sure that’s really how I feel and instead of it being aimed at your spouse, then you’re just kind of reaching out and saying this is how I feel, none of that is aimed at you.31.00Ariana: I’m not blaming you for any of this, but you know I want you to know what I’m feeling so that we can kind of figure out a solution and do it together.Tom: Yeah and I think this is an important one that people miss a lot. So for example, Ariana might be home, she might be doing some work and she has the kids and she might have a really tough day and now if I’m working and I have a really tough day, and I come home and we both just want to vent but we both had tough days, that’s the absolute worst time for us to try to vent because neither of us is going to listen and it’s not productive. But going back to those working agreements, if you guys can figure out together, when that day happens, how do we best deal with it? So it might well, we’re going to tell each other that we had the tough day and we want to chat, and we’re going to say let’s both agree what time we’re going to chat. So for us sometimes it’s after the kids have gone to bed, you know we’re lying in bed before we go to bed and now it’s the end of the day and we can kind of relax and talk about that stuff. So that may not work for everybody but the key thing is figure out how you can have those conversations and when you can have those conversations so they can be productive.32.00Ariana: And one last idea is a lot of people wait until they have a problem to seek help for that problem, but I would suggest being proactive and maybe seeking out a couple’s therapist or just somebody that you both can talk to that’s unbiased and talk about your issues and come up with some solutions because you really don’t want to wait until things get so bad that you need to have that. That’s something that everyone could probably benefit from anyways so it’s something good to think about and we are actually searching for one in our area as well just so that we can whether you do it monthly or quarterly, or whatever, just to have that time to come together with somebody, talk about any issues you might be having, any personal issues you might be having, and just have that person kind of weigh in and help find those solutions.Tom: And now I just want to jump in quick here because there’s a stigma about talking to a therapist or going to marriage counselling and you know it’s funny because to be the best, people seek out coaches, so if you want to be the best football player, you’re going to go seek out a coach right?33.00Tom: If you want to be a great entrepreneur, you going to go and find a mentor or coach or a community that’s going to help you, so it’s so funny that we all see this stigma about well, I’m not going to go talk to a therapist or go talk to somebody about my marriage because I can do it on my own.Ariana: I don’t have a problem.Tom: Yeah, and it’s sad that so many of us think about it that way and the way that we think about it and why we were going out, like you know we have common problems that everyone has but the reason we want to go and have a therapist is to have a professional who has worked with a ton of people that can help us see the things that we’re not seeing and instead of us spending a long time trying to figure it out, why not get the fast solution of being able to have someone help us get there? And you know, we do the same thing in business. It could take us a long time to figure things out on our own, so what we do is we go and find the experts, we go and find the people who are doing what we want to do and we get close to them and we pay them to help us. So we’re just suggesting doing the same thing in your relationship to help make that easier and faster.34.00Ariana: Yeah so that brings us to our tip of the week, keeping a marriage healthy is hard enough on its own, we all know that. If you’re going to add a business into it, make that effort to keep those lines of communication open. Continually remind yourselves; okay we’ve got to talk. It’s a project that we all get caught up in our own heads all the time and that should be a project that we keep doing is remembering to talk to each other, remembering to let your partner in, you know, don’t close everyone out. It’s something that you have to do together.Tom: Yep, and I know we went a little bit long on the show this week but this is such a critical thing. I mean even if you’re not in business, just to keep your relationship healthy. So with this, we actually put together a quick guide that summarizes some of the key points here on if you’re going to start a business, how we’ve actually experienced being able to get on board and get your partner on board I should say, basically the opposite of everything I tried to do to get Ariana on board with our business.35.00Tom: So to find that download and more, you can check out the show always at serialstartups.co/show5. And with that, that’s our show for the week and we’ll see you guys next time.Ariana: Thanks for listening. Like our podcast? We’d love for you to leave us a review on iTunes. Know someone who’s thinking about starting their own business? Please share this with them so we can help them with their entrepreneurial path. Are you looking to start a business but need a little more guidance or support to really get it going? If so, then we invite you to join our Start-ups Academy where we have created a ton of resources and step by step guides to help you determine which business you should start with, how to launch it quickly, how to grow it to being profitable and automated so that you get your time back.END 35.42The post Show 5 – How to Overcome Challenges of Working with Your Spouse appeared first on Serial Startups.


9 Oct 2015

Rank #6

Podcast cover

How to Maximize the Value of Conferences

Episode Overview – How to Maximize the Value of ConferencesConferences can be a game-changer for you and your business.  In this episode, we discuss why you should attend, how to find them and what to do before, during and after to maximize your value.Episode Key Timestamps 00:55 – Show Introduction & Background 05:39 – Why you should be attending conferences 10:32 – How to find conferences to attend 14:08 – What to do before the conference 21:48 – What to do during the conference 27:17 – What to do after the conference 31:03 – Tip of the week Take time after a conference and debrief before getting back into the grind.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Our Facebook Group (Come and hang out with other great entrepreneurs) Vistaprint (Where we order business cards and other marketing materials) What $15,000 in Real Estate Training Looks Like (The first upsell that I fell for) Startup Academy – Join the Waitlist & Get Notified When It Opens  Episode Free Download Coming soon… The post How to Maximize the Value of Conferences appeared first on Serial Startups.


25 May 2016

Rank #7

Podcast cover

Show 4 – The Importance of Goal Planning in Your Business (and Life!)

Episode OverviewGoal planning has been one of the most critical factors to our success, not only in business, but also in our lives.  Early on we did not really focus on goal planning, and if we did, we definitely did not communicate those goals with one another.  This caused us to be unfocused, caused Tom to bounce from business idea to business idea and lots of frustration for Ariana.So in this episode, we discuss why goal planning is critical, and we walk through the process that we use to plan out our goals and how we will achieve them.Episode Key Points The importance of checking in on your goal Why we recommend starting with your vision The time-frame we recommend for planning your goals out What cadence we recommend for reviewing and updating your goals Why we recommend your goal planning include both business and personal goals The importance of making your goals visible How goal planning can reduce financial strain Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Halfway There – How Am I Doing on Retiring Blue Painters Tape Post-It Notes Pack Our Goal Planning Wall in Our Office Goal Planning Mini-Course We will be releasing our goal planning Mini-Course soon. Join the waiting list to be the first to know when we release it. Join the Waitlist for the Goal Planning Mini-Course>> Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Serial Startups Podcast Show 4 0.00 Ariana: This is Serial Startups Podcast Show 4. In this episode, we’re going to discuss goal planning and why it is so important to not only your business, but to your life. We’re going to start off the show today a little differently. We’re going to do…each of us is going to get 30 seconds to ask the other person random questions. Tom: Oh jeez. Ariana: So I will start first. Let me set the timer here. Okay, if you were stranded on a desert island, what one item could you not live without? Tom: My wife. Ariana: Aw, that’s no fair. First car? Tom: Chevy Cavalier. Ariana: Favorite show as a kid? Tom: Gilligan’s Island. Ariana: You lie. It’s MacGyver. Tom: MacGyver. It’s definitely MacGyver. Ariana: Okay. Favorite color? Tom: Black. Ariana: Oh no, I only have five seconds left. Tom: Pizza. Ariana: If you were the last person on the Earth, oh time’s up. 1.00 Tom: The answer is pizza. Ariana: Okay, stop timer. Alright, we’ll give you some time to think of yours. You thought of some. Tom: No. Ariana: Oh. (laughs) Tom: Alright, are you ready? Am I ready? Ariana: Wait a minute, you’ve got to…okay. Well you can resume the thing before you start because you’ve got to say okay. Tom: Alright, now my turn for the fun. So, starting now. Cats or dogs? Ariana: Cats. Tom: Pizza or pasta? Ariana: Pasta. Tom: Why do you love me? Ariana: Lots of reasons. Tom: Do you like chocolate? Ariana: Who are you asking that question to? 2.00 Tom: What’s your favorite book? Ariana: I don’t have…that is impossible to answer. Tom: Who’s your favorite child? Ariana: What? Horrible father of the year award. Tom: I’m so bad at this game. Oh man. Ariana: You are horrible at this game. Tom: That was the worst 30 seconds of my life. Ariana: And you had to look up help on the internet. Tom: Hey, what’s the internet for if we can’t look up help on it? Ariana: Oh my Lord. Okay, so to jump back into the show for this week. Tom: So what are we talking about today? Ariana: Goal planning. Tom: Awesome. Your favorite subject. Ariana: My favorite, favorite subject. We did not start off our life together with goal planning, not at all, not even a little bit. We kind of did stuff as it came along. We both had jobs. We didn’t really look too much further past that. And everything we did was kind of spur of the moment back then. 3.00 Tom: And you know, let’s look at this. So I actually did a lot of goal planning but my big problem is I never shared any of it with Ariana. So I…part of our frustrations I think early on and why we struggled to have success and to do some of the things we wanted to do is we each had our own goals or thoughts for what thing should be but I don’t think we ever communicated this as clearly as we should have. Ariana: No, we didn’t. I don’t think we communicated them well at all. Tom: Well I saw 15 years for us to retire. That was a pretty good goal. But you know, I think a lot of people, a lot of couples go through this. You talk about your day to day stuff but you never take a step back and really say what are we trying to achieve together? What are some of the goals that maybe I have that you don’t have and vice versa so that if nothing else, we have awareness to them? 4.00 Ariana: I mean yeah. We never really looked at the big picture together. We didn’t say okay this is our goal, how are we going to get there with the whole retiring in 15 years plan. Tom: And I remember, there is a blog post that I’ll reference in here that seven and a half years in, so a couple years ago, I actually took a look back and said how are we doing on that 15 year goal and the results were pretty uninspiring. For the most part, because we had started multiple businesses and they were making money but we were investing all of that money back in and what kind of became clear to me at that point was it was great that we had these businesses, it was great that we were making money, but we didn’t have measurable steps to say how do we go from where we are now to get to that goal of retiring? And because we didn’t have measurable steps, we weren’t able to actually say here’s the next things we want to do, one which would allow me to focus and not do a million things, but then two, realize that if we were off track we could actually make some adjustments on it. 5.00 Ariana: Yeah and to jump back to one of the stories we told in the intro, was Tom going out and spending that $7500 in credit card debt to get the real estate training without talking to me about it and also his plan to buy a duplex instead of a house when we got out of college – a lot of that came back to the fact that we didn’t set goals and we didn’t talk about them with each other so it was hard for me to see the end result of the real estate goal because Tom didn’t sit down with me and say, okay, here’s why I think we should do it. Here’s my plan. Let’s see if we can get this thing started. So instead of coming out and saying, oh I think we should buy a duplex for our first house, you know we would have sat down and talked things over and I probably would have been a little bit more receptive to that idea. Tom: Yeah and as we go through this, this show is titled why you need this in your business and in your life, and what we found I think overall is everything starts out with our life and how we do it there and if you can master it in doing it in your life, you can probably master it in business. 6.00 Tom: But a lot of times what people will do is skip over what they think these initial things are. You know, it takes some time to really get aligned on goals, get aligned on how much money do we have and where should we be spending that money. A lot of people just want to jump in and start a business but for example, if you go and spend $7500 on a credit card for real estate training without telling your wife, you’re probably not going to have too much success in the business because you’re starting off on a bad foot. Thankfully I have an amazing wife and I would still say that if she wasn’t sitting right next to me. But we were then able to talk through and say well now let’s figure out what we’re trying to get to and when we’re going to spend money and time, when we’re not, and make sure we agree on that together, and not just have one of us go out on our own. Ariana: I know and we do have a specific process for the goal planning that we suggest once it’s down and does. 7.00 Tom: And we’ll say that it’s taken up multiple years to actually get this process honed in and we’re still changing it every time we meet, there’s usually something that we’ve either learned or we could improve on. So when we started this out, we simply got together every six months or once a year and we just wrote down in a Microsoft Word document individually what we each wanted over the next year and then we got together and said here’s my goals, here’s your goals, how do we combine them? And to be honest, the first couple times we did that after we talked about them, we forgot about them for the next year. So what we realized and I think a lot of this actually came back from Ariana trying to pull me back in from starting five different businesses at once, was really realizing that we needed to understand where we wanted to go long term and short term and then make sure that what we were doing when we were starting the next business or when we were growing a business was directly aligned to that. 8.00 Tom: So the process that we use now is we started out with a vision and what that vision is in our 30 days to launch course, we actually recommend people, literally get a board or a sheet out and just put pictures of what you think your life should be like and describe it in a paragraph because that’s really the picture of where you want to go and where you want to be, but it’s not a specific goal. But once you have that vision and we recommend people do this individually. So for example I would do it, Ariana would do it and then we would pull it together and we would make a single board vision paragraph of what we would want our combined lives to be like. Then what we do is we set out a whole bunch of goals and we like to align these over various time periods. So we tend to go out ten years and say okay, ten years from now, what are some of our big goals? 9.00 Tom: And then we work backwards from there and say okay, in order to achieve that in 10 years, what do we have to do in five years, what do we have to do in three years to achieve the five year goals, two years, one year, and then for the current year, we like to go every three months or every quarter and basically say what are the major things that we’re going after that quarter to then lead into the things the next quarter and so on? So we do annual planning, a big planning event once a year where we look out at the whole year and then really the whole ten years, and say are our goals still aligned to the right time periods? How did we do last year? And then what things do we have to move on that board as time goes on? And then we also do planning once a quarter at the beginning of the quarter to say, were we able to achieve what we targeted the last three months and then what have we got to focus on in the next three months? And then once we’ve done that quarterly planning, we get together once a week and kind of review the week. 10.00 Tom: How did this past week go? Did we achieve what we wanted to? Do we have to shift anything for the upcoming week? And then what goals or what tasks are we each going to take in order to actually get our things done and move our business and our lives forward? Ariana: Yeah and so I’m going to talk about…step back here and talk about how we apply these. One of the big ways we do it like Tom said is we’ve brought it down to the small scale of the weekly planning where we get together and we talk about things but the most important part of the annual planning is really making sure that you’re including everything. Tom has the tendency to focus more on the financial aspects of our yearly goals and the business aspects of our yearly goals whereas I like to bring it back to some of the smaller stuff, but maybe it’s not necessarily smaller but non-business items. You know, household improvements, if you’re going to need a new car, if you have plans to go on vacations, anything like that. Tom: So this is where Ariana gets the title of reality checker from. 11.00 Ariana: Again, multiple times I get that title. Tom: Yep, because once again I look at all the businesses, all the stuff we can do to get to our goals and to our vision, and then she pulls it all back into everything else that we’ve got to consider. Ariana: Yeah so I mean you want to make sure that you’re including everything; all aspects of your life should be in your goal planning process because you want to make sure everything is out in the open between the two of you. If you have a goal that your spouse may not have or may not have thought about, you want to put that out there so that you guys can really look at your sequence and see, okay does this make sense to do it here or should we push it, delay it to this time of year when we have less going on? Or you know, maybe you’ve got some taxes coming back and you’ll be able to afford a home improvement item that you’ve been waiting to do, stuff like that. You want to see. You want to plan everything out. You want to put it where it makes the most sense for you. And that way, every quarter you’re coming back to look at it or six months in, you want to go back and look at your year plan, something might have changed for you. 12.00 Ariana: Maybe you lost a job or you got a new job or you want to move things up, or push things back. You know, it allows you to stay on the same page with your spouse and make sure that you’re not, nothing is falling through the cracks and you’re getting it all on there and to bring it back, Tom mentioned Word documents and that we used to do our goal planning but he has recently bumped us up to a goal wall which is he’ll talk about later and I think we have a picture of it somewhere, a small scale picture of it somewhere. Tom: Yeah we’ll include it on the show notes and I like to call it a mega-wall. Ariana: Yes, it is the mega-wall. It goes along with our mega-desk. Tom: Everything we do here at Serial Startups is mega. Ariana: So yeah we’ll include a .pdf or a how-to on how to create your goal wall with this show. Tom: And so where can people find the show notes? Ariana: serialstartups.co/show4 Tom: Beautiful. Ariana: Another thing we want to talk about are the impacts in your business with goal planning. 13.00 Ariana: And that’s something that now that we do that in our personal life pretty well, we’ve also put that into our business planning, making sure that we have any important dates in there, making sure that we have any goals that we want to hit for that business, put them down, put them somewhere where you can see them. Give yourself a reminder. Put it on the calendar. Do something so that you’re putting that stuff out there and you’re not just letting it fall behind. Like Tom said, those Word Docs, they were great to start off, but we would forget about everything halfway through the year. Now that we have the goal wall and we’re reviewing it constantly, it makes it a lot easier for us to see all those goals. And we actually like to have different tiers on our goal wall. You know, we have a personal line. We have a business line, so that we can kind of split that stuff out but we’re still seeing it every week and every quarter when we’re coming back to review it. 14.00 Tom: Yeah and one of the things I like because we split out the personal and the business is at a quick glance, especially because it’s literally on the wall, we can see, are we spending too much time let’s say in the business and then we’ve got to make sure, maybe we pull back some time for our personal and our family life. So just by being able to have it broken out that way, we can clearly see where our time is being spent and make sure that’s where we actually want it to be. The other thing I think is we’re able to look at where do we spend our money and we know why we’re spending it that way. So there’s certain times where we have to have a big investment in our business, whether we’re buying equipment or a new tool or something like that and because we’re doing this planning, we can look at how much money is coming in, and then with what we’re planning to spend out, how is that going to impact us overall and then going forward, what results are we expecting to get and then we can track, are we actually getting what we’re expecting out of that? 15.00 Ariana: Yeah and if you’re interested in really diving in and doing some major goal planning, we do offer our 30 days to launch course on our Startup Academy, SerialStartups.co and click on Startup Academy. And if you do become a member, you’ll have access to that 30 days to launch program and I think the first section is pretty extensively about goal planning but even if you’re not ready for that, we are going to offer a smaller, simpler goal planning kit as well. So we’ll link to that in the show notes. Tom: And you know it’s funny. In our 30 days to launch course, we’ve had a lot of people go through this, a lot of times they’re surprised that the whole first week, we don’t even talk about business. The whole first week, the focus is on getting aligned like with your spouse or with your business partner, whoever you’re doing this with, and understanding what are your goals, how much money do you have to invest, how much time do you have to invest, and kind of getting that stuff solidified before you then dive into a business. So I always just find it interesting that people are very shocked when they’re doing a course on how to start a business and we actually start talking about goal planning and those types of stuff. 16.00 Ariana: Yep, and now for our tip of the week. Tom: So I can’t emphasize this enough and I’ve done a lot of consulting with organizations and one of the biggest impacts we’ve had is putting things on the wall to make them visible. And it’s such a thing that we overlook but when things are out of sight they’re out of mind and there is so much that draws our attention today with our smart phones and with our computers and everything else that… Ariana: Everything is technical on. Tom: Absolutely. So the reason we have a goal wall is so that we’re walking by it all the time and we can see those things and when something looks off, we can adjust it. So our goal wall and once again we’ll put some pictures and some guidance in the show notes at serialstartups.co/show4. And our goal wall is basically the blue paint that you can get at Home Depot. Ariana: Tom is the king of post-it notes. We should buy a stock in the company. 17.00 Tom: Absolutely.  Post-it notes and then just a marker and we’ve aligned the wall to lay out all of those time periods, broken up by business and by personal and then it’s a very quick and easy way for us to actually talk about our goals and we actually do our goal planning in front of that wall. Ariana: Make sure you talk to your spouse before you put the painter tape on the wall. Tom: Absolutely. So it’s not to say you guys need a goal wall but the recommendation is make sure wherever you put this, it’s visible so that you’re looking at it from time to time, not just doing it once a year and then forgetting about it until next year. So with that, I think that’s pretty much it for this week’s show. And we’ll see you guys next time. Ariana: Yep, bye guys. END 17.38 . The post Show 4 – The Importance of Goal Planning in Your Business (and Life!) appeared first on Serial Startups.


7 Oct 2015

Rank #8

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What Insurance Does Your Business Need?

Episode Overview – What Type of Insurance Does Your Business Need?When it comes to insurance for your business, it can easily get overwhelming; workers comp, general liability, property, disability… where do you begin?  In order to make it easier, during this episode we are going to give you a quick rundown of the different types of insurance that are available and which ones you may want to consider for your business.Episode Key Timestamps 00:55 – Show Introduction & Background 04:18 – General Liability Policy 04:52 – Property Insurance 06:01 – Business Owner Policy (BOP) 07:02 – Professional Liability Insurance 07:33 – Workers Compensation 08:03 – Disability Insurance 08:55 – Unemployment Insurance 09:13 – Commercial Auto 09:51 – Umbrella Policy 10:27 – What Type of Insurance You May Need as a Solopreneur 11:07 – What Type of Insurance Might a Small Business With Employees Need 12:57 – How to Find Insurance Brokers/Quotes 15:29 – What Can Happen if You Don’t Have Insurance 19:17 – Tip of the week Find someone doing your same business and see what insurance they have.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode  Episode Free Download The post What Insurance Does Your Business Need? appeared first on Serial Startups.


11 May 2016

Rank #9

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How to Setup Your Business Entity

Episode Overview – How to Setup Your Business EntityThere are a lot of steps involved in getting your business started.  One of the critical ones to to choose and create the right business entity (legal structure).  There are a lot of options out there and it can be confusing to try and compare and contrast them.So in this episode, we are going to give you a brief overview of each type and some information about what types of businesses tend to use each type.  We also discuss the importance of hiring an accountant, some tips for finding a good one, and why we think you should learn to do your books. Episode Key Timestamps 01:08 – Show introduction & background 01:45 – Investing in yourself 03:46 – The 5 main business structures 05:50 – Sole Proprietorship 07:28 – DBA (Doing Business As) 08:00 – Partnership 10:07 – S Corporation 12:05 – C Corporation 13:18 – LLC (Limited Liability Company) 15:20 – Do you need to choose a business type and file? 18:20 – The importance of an accountant 22:00 – Why you should learn to keep your own books 28:16 – Tip of the week Free is the most expensive information in the world. Especially in business.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode The Free Serial Startups Community (A great place to find an accountability partner) LegalZoom (A company that can assist you in creating your company and is cheaper than a lawyer) Gusto (The online payroll provider that we use) 5 Challenges of Not Knowing your Business Financials (Podcast Episode 27) Understanding the 3 Main Financial Statements (Podcast Episode 28)  Cashflow – Does Your Business Have Enough? (Podcast Episode 29) QuickBooks (The bookkeeping software that we use for all of our businesses) Quicken (A bookkeeping application) Wave (An online bookkeeping platform) Freshbooks (An online bookkeeping platform) Keeping the Books (A great book to get you introduced and help you understand bookkeeping)  Episode Free Download The post How to Setup Your Business Entity appeared first on Serial Startups.


4 May 2016

Rank #10

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Q&A: 8 Common Entrepreneurial Questions Answered

 Episode Overview – Q&A 8 Common Entrepreneurial Questions AnsweredWhen you hang around entrepreneurs, you will undoubtedly hear a lot of entrepreneurial questions.  Entrepreneurs challenge themselves, which means that they are constantly facing new challenges and will be asking peers their questions.  We’ve heard a lot of these questions in our free community for entrepreneurs (http://sscommunity.co), and decided that today we would answer and provide our perspective on some of the most common questions that we hear.  Listen in to get answers on things like… business cards, working from home, websites, social media and much more.Episode Key Timestamps 01:12 – The benefit of being around other entrepreneurs 02:24 – Do I need business cards? 05:57 – Do you wear casual or business attire when working from home? 08:21 – Should you work with family? 10:37 – Some people have said that websites are dead.  Is that true? 13:17 – How do you recommend planning your week? 16:47 – Should I build a product or a following first? 19:19 – What social media platform should I start with? 20:30 – What do I do if my spouse is not on board with my business? 23:52 – Tip of the week Create a validate a product first. You need to get paid, otherwise it will stop you from serving.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode The Serial Startup Community (Our private Facebook group for entrepreneurs) ClickFunnels (The tool that we use to build out our sales funnels) LeadPages (The tool that we used to use to build our sales funnels) Kajabi (Another popular tool for building sales funnels) Show 11 – Use Lean & Agile to Skyrocket Your Productivity Show 23 – Overcoming Your Biggest Productivity Drains (Part 1) Show 24 – Overcoming Your Biggest Productivity Drains (Part 2) Show 25 – How to Setup Your Weekly Productivity Process Free Download (Checklist & Resource Guide for Branding, Social Media and Creating Your Website)  Episode Free Download The post Q&A: 8 Common Entrepreneurial Questions Answered appeared first on Serial Startups.


27 Apr 2016

Rank #11

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Business Brand – The 6 Essential Elements That You Need

Episode Overview – 6 Essential Elements of Your Business BrandCreating a business brand (branding) is a critical piece of your business foundation.  When people see hear about your business, what ideas or perceptions do they have?  What impact does that have on the success of you business?  And how can to begin to develop a brand for your business without spending a lot of time and money?These are the questions that we will be discussing and answering in the show this week.Episode Key Points What are all of the pieces that are involved with creating a brand? How did we create our brands for each of our businesses? The 6 essential elements to consider when developing your business brand Steps and tips for creating your own business brand Episode Key Timestamps 01:25 – How we developed our brand for each business that we have. 11:23 – What is a brand? 12:44 – Who needs a brand? 14:15 – Coming up with the name for your brand 15:50 – Creating the messaging for your business 16:18 – Defining the story of your business 19:04 – Defining your business “personality” 21:40 – Creating your business look 26:30 – Consistency & integration of your business 28:26 – How to implement and create your own brand 34:27 – Tip of the week – Researching your competition Your brand is more than your logo. It is how people perceive you when they hear your name.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode How We Created Our Logo for Our Real Estate Business Should Your Bootstrap Your Business (Podcast episode defining options for funding your business) Business Planning Mini-Course (Provides guidance for research that will help with branding) Screw the Nine to Five (Jill & Josh Stanton’s excellent example of branding and being authentic) The Psychology of Color in Marketing & Branding (Information for how to choose your colors) Fiverr (A website where you can order design work to be done for as little as $5) LogoNerds (A website focusing on cresting logos) 99 Designs (A company where various designers can submit logo and brand kits for your business) Canva (A free/low cost online graphic design tool) Coolers (A website that helps you define the color palette for your brand)  Episode Free Download Book a Free Discovery Call With Us The post Business Brand – The 6 Essential Elements That You Need appeared first on Serial Startups.


6 Apr 2016

Rank #12

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Understanding the 3 Main Business Financial Statements

Episode OverviewOn the last episode, we walked through some of the challenges that you may face if you don’t understand how to read and leverage your business financial statements, as well as some solutions.  As you may have guessed, several of the solutions were using your financial statements.So today we are going to start with the basics and introduce the 3 main financial statements (balance sheet, income statement and cashflow statement) and help you understand how to read them.Episode Key Points Why understanding your personal finances is a good idea before starting a business What your cashflow statement is, along with some basic examples using a job and a paycheck The quote “cash is king” is true, but the timing of that cash coming in or going out is also critical What your income statement (aka profit and loss statement) is and some basic examples The difference between what people mean when they say “top line” and “bottom line” What your balance sheet is and a basic example to help you understand assets and liabilities In business, cash is king, but the timing of that cashflow is critical as well.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Our Free Facebook Community for Entrepreneurs (Request Your Access) QuickBooks (The bookkeeping software that we use) Introduction to the 3 Main Financial Statements (Free Download) Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Transcript coming soon… The post Understanding the 3 Main Business Financial Statements appeared first on Serial Startups.


9 Mar 2016

Rank #13

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5 Challenges of Not Knowing Your Business Financials

Episode OverviewMany businesses fail.  One of the leading reasons is because they don’t understand how to read and properly utilize their financial reports.  Many entrepreneurs think that these are only needed for tax time, but that could not be further from the truth.So on today’s episode, we are going to walk through five challenges that arise when you don’t understand and use your business financial statements.  Additionally, we are going to share several real world examples of these from our various businesses.Episode Key Points The differences in our businesses before and after we began understanding and leveraging our financial statements (hint… after is MUCH better) Reviewing your financial statements on a consistent basis can help you identify problems much sooner The more frequently you review your financial statements, the easier it is to understand and explain the story that they are telling Creating a “Cashflow Forecast” will help you look ahead and identify months with extra cash and months with deficient cash Understanding your margins will help you create more profit Once you know your margins, there are several strategies that will allow you to increase your margins Trying to grow your business without understanding the numbers will cause more stress and struggle than required Understanding your business financials will allow faster decisions with confidence.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Our Free Facebook Community for Entrepreneurs (Request Your Access) Gusto (The payroll provider that saved us $900+ a year on our payroll expenses) Margin Calculator Introduction to the 3 Main Financial Statements (Free Download) Rental Real Estate Property Calculator (Free Download)  Episode Free Download Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Ariana: This the Serial Startups Podcast show 27. In the previous episode we discussed passion and whether you need to be a successful entrepreneur. Today we kick off our miniseries on understanding your business finances, starting with some of the impacts when you don’t understand your financial statements. Are you looking to start a business but need a little more guidance and support to really get it going? If so then we invite you to join our Startups Academy for we have created a ton of resources and step by step guides to help you determine which business you should start with, how to launch it quickly, how to growing it to being profitable and automated so that you get your time back. Welcome to the Serial Startups Podcast where we bring you the real deal when it comes to masterminding a business, juggling personal relationship and a busy household. We are your hosts and serial entrepreneurs, Tom and Ariana Sylvester, and this is the podcast for people who want to get more out of life. We want to show you how to build multiple streams of income and get on the fast track to being your own boss. Join us as we talk about our ideas, successes, and failures both in business and in life. Tom: Welcome back to the Serial Startups podcast. If you guys are joining us for the first I’m Tom. Ariana: I’m Ariana. Tom: We are serial entrepreneurs. Part of the reason I say that is because the topic we’re getting into this month is not the most popular topic. It’s basically understanding your business financials. Before we get into that, the format of this podcast is basically each month we pick a theme and then we spend 3 episodes really diving deep into that theme to help you implement practices in your business that are going to help you out. We just finished a theme of productivity and how you could be more productive. Like I said, the focus this month is really going to be on understanding your business financial statements. If you guys have a topic that you want to hear about, something that will help your business, head on over and join our private Facebook community. While you’re there you can hang out with other great entrepreneurs, you can learn and you can also contribute. If you are interested in that head over to sscommunity.co. Ariana: Okay so, business financial, sounds like a super fun topic. Tom: Like I said it’s definitely not the most interesting topic, but it is critical for being able to be successful in business. Part of the reason we’re talking about this is we’ve seen so many entrepreneurs that fail in business, or you hear about all the businesses that fail. One of the major contributors to that is people don’t know their numbers. Ariana: Let’s talk about the early days of our businesses. Check number 1, we had to keep putting our own money in the business to cover expenses. Tom: How did that make you feel? Ariana: Not good. Tom: Yeah, especially because I don’t think I had you sold on being an entrepreneur yet. Ariana: Nope, that did not help. Tom: Yeah, when something came up and I said, “Hey we’ve got to put $1,000 in this business [crosstalk 00:02:47] not good. Ariana: Say what? Tom: We also, kind of related to that, we racked up a bunch of credit card debt. Ariana: Yeah. Well, when you use your savings to go in your business, you’ve got to spend the money you need for personal stuff somewhere else and that happened to be credit cards. Tom: Yeah. Ariana: We never seem to make any money, because we’re throwing it all back in. Tom: Yeah, throwing it in, and to be honest we didn’t know what came in, what went out or how our the cash even flow through our business. Related to that a lot of the decisions, especially the ones I made, were based on a gut feel and not actually any information. Ariana: No data. Tom: No data. I think that that’s a lot of how small business owners operate. If they need to buy something they’re like, “Oh yeah, I can justify this piece of equipment because it’s going to help me in my business.” But if you’re not actually looking at, what’s the cost of that? How long is it going to take to make the money back? It might take you 20 years, [inaudible 00:03:44] time it may not make sense. Ariana: Yeah, to bring it all together, basically it was stressful. Tom: Very stressful. Ariana: Let’s talk about today now. Tom: Today is very different. We’re continuously reviewing our financials for each of the businesses that we have, and related to that we also have key indicators that we know to look for. From our financial statements there’s some basic things that we look at, but then each business, we have a real estate investing business, we have a wine and liquor store, we have a variety of websites, and then we also have this coaching business. For each business we also have some key indicators that help us understand how that business works. Then we have actually eliminated all of our business credit card debt. Ariana: Except for our very super smart usage of 0% interest checks. Tom: Absolutely. Ariana: Because if you do have a business card, or actually any credit card a lot of times once you’ve paid it off and it’s at 0 they want you to spend more money on it so they send you those, “Hey you can write yourself a check for 0% interest,” which if you think about it is sometimes smarter than going to get a bank loan because it’s 0% interest, not whatever the bank’s going to give you. If you have that planned and placed to pay it off within those certain amount of months, you just got that money for 0% interest. It was awesome. Tom: Yeah, and the key thing with this, you can get it right away. Ariana: Yeah. Basically you’re investing into your own business by taking out a loan from your credit card. Tom: When you go to a bank you have to go fill up the forms, get approved, and that could take a couple weeks. As we’ll talk about, one of the struggles that business have is cash flow. This is just one of the many strategies we use to make sure that we have money available when we need it for our business. Also we actually make business decisions based on the numbers, not my gut feel. Let me tell you, it’s amazing at how much clarity you can have once you actually understand how to read the numbers. Ariana: It makes a big difference. Tom: Yeah. I look at it like, if you don’t understand your business financials, you look at your business and you’re only seeing half the information. Imagine if you’re trying to read a book and half the words were missing. It’s hard to get that big picture, what the book’s telling you. But if you understand how to read your financial statements, now you’re suddenly going to have so much clarity in your business and it’s going to make decisions so much easier to make. Best of all, we are more profitable than ever. We no longer need to put our personal funds in there. Ariana: Yay. Yay, double yay. Tom: Ariana is much happier. I mean, to be honest it’s a big difference from several years ago when we really didn’t look at the financials. Obviously the current day is much better than the previous times. If as we went through that you were nodding your head and saying, “Yes, I run into some of those challenges,” or, “We have to put our own money into businesses,” this is the episode for you. We really want to help you understand some of those common challenges and how you can make them better. Ariana: Here’s what we’re going to through today. We’re going to dive a little deeper into the problems that can occur, the top, the main ones that we’ve come up across when you aren’t leveraging your financials. Then we’re also going to share some solutions and then the impacts of making those changes that are going to help your business. With that let’s jump into the show, are you facing these business finance challenges? Tom: Top 5 challenges that small businesses encounter when they don’t know their financials. What’s number 1? Ariana: Number 1, you don’t find problems until it is too late. Tom: Yes, this is not a good one. I’m sure if you’re a small business owner you’ve probably been there. Ariana: Probably pretty common. Yeah. Tom: There’s a lot of problems that can exist in your business, and a lot of times financial statements will actually help you find those problems. The big problem that people have though is that they normally don’t look at their financial statements until the end of the year, if they look. A lot of times the only time they look is because an accountant says, “Hey you should probably look at this,” or you get to the end of the year and it’s like, “I thought we made money but we really didn’t.” This can ultimately cost you your business money and time. Ariana: Example of this, Warsaw Wine and Spirits, our wine and liquor store. Our first year in businesses our expenses were way, way higher than they should have been, but because we weren’t checking in on a week to week, or a month to month basis, we didn’t find this out until the end of the year when we did taxes and by that time it was too late to change anything. Tom: Yeah. We ended up, once we found that, we were able to look at our expenses and say, “How can we cut back on some of these expenses?” One of the examples was we had, our accountant actually do our payroll, that first year the accountant I think charged $2,400 to do our payroll plus our taxes. Ariana: Plus taxes, yeah. Tom: We shopped around and said, “What other options do we have?” We actually found a payroll company, Gusto. Ariana: Used to be ZenPayroll. Tom: Yep. I think it’s what, $24 base and then $4 per employee? Ariana: Yeah, I think they bumped it up to 6 per employee. Tom: Okay. Either way, we went from spending $200 a month to get our payroll done to just about $50 [inaudible 00:08:47] Ariana: We had to file sales tax on our own, which is not that hard. Tom: Yeah. Ultimately, that cut I think $800 or $1,200 a year from our expenses. That’s a great example of being aware of that, if we would have looked at that sooner we could have figured that out a couple months in and saved a good portion of that money instead of waiting for the entire year. Another example from our real estate business was some of our early properties we spent a lot of money on the renovations. Basically when we started we didn’t properly analyse the properties to see how much money we would make depending on how much we put in, and then when we were doing renovations we also didn’t track our expenses. Ended up spending more money and then ultimately didn’t make as much money coming out of it because … Ariana: What’s the solution? Tom: Learn and read your financial statements and then make sure that you’re reviewing them periodically. If you don’t look at them today or if you only look at them once a year, try to at least start looking at them once a quarter. Then ideally as time goes on you’re moving that up, because the more often you look at them the faster you’re going to get that feedback. We like to look at things on a monthly basis, and then there’s some reports that we even look at on a weekly basis so that we can make adjustments. Ariana: Here are the impacts, you can start saving money by reducing those unnecessary expenses like we talked about before. You can also start to see those problems earlier and put measures in place to correct them. Example, if your sales are down you can kind of dive into, “Why are our sales down? What can we do to fix those sales?” Instead of being at the end of the year when you’ve already lost money you’d be doing this one month in and boost your sales back up to where they should be for the rest of the year. You can also identify those issues sooner. It could be difficult to remember what happened 6 months ago, some of us 6 days ago, but it’s much easier to remember what happened last week or in the last couple days. Tom: Yeah. That’s a great point, because there’s a lot of time where you’ll come back and say, “What was this thing?” Ariana: Yeah. What did I spend this on? You didn’t put it in your books correctly. Why were our sales so low this week? Tom: Exactly. If it was a long time ago, to be honest you’re probably not going to have a good answer. But if it was last week it’s like, “I bought this,” or, “This thing happened last week.” Ariana: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, weather. A lot of times your sales will be down based on the weather. Why were our sales so low? If you’re looking at it weekly, there was a horrible snow storm last week, people couldn’t get out, that’s why our sales were low. Then the last impact is you can really run your business better since your problems are getting identified and resolved faster. Tom: Yeah, that’s a great one. Number 2, you don’t know if you have enough money month to month to cover. The problem is in business you guys have probably all heard this but, cash is king. It’s so true, but it’s not really that simple because you could be making enough cash but if it’s not at the right time you might go out of business before it ultimately comes to fruition. Ariana: Otherwise, you might not have enough cash to pay your bills, basically. Tom: Yeah. If you think about it, you might be making a lot of money towards the end of the year, but if a lot of your bills are due at the beginning of the year, you don’t have that money, you might not make to the end of the year. Ariana: Yeah. This may cause your business to fail, or you might have to put that personal savings money in, like were talking about. Again we have an example of this, we’re going to use one of our businesses, like always Warsaw Wine and Spirits. When we first opened, we opened in November, which is actually a really good time to open because it’s a busy time of year. But when we were doing our ordering for inventory we didn’t have any kind of budget in place, so we didn’t allocate in what we were spending for the sales tax that we would owe back, because in New York State you pay sales tax quarterly. We got to the next year and didn’t realize that December, January, February were all due in March. December is huge because it’s Christmas and New Year’s, and January and February are very slow, so we didn’t have a lot of sales in those slow months, but then in March we ended up having to pay the sales tax we owed from December, which was quite a large amount. We ended up once again having to take out of our personal savings to cover that. Tom: Yeah. There were 2 challenges there that I think you talked about. One was not really understanding how much sales tax had to come out each week in order for us to ultimately cover it, and then the second one was not realizing when that sales tax was due. If we had simply taken a step back and realized that it wasn’t due for January, February and March in April, but it’s actually due for December, January and February in March, those 2 things [crosstalk 00:13:29] Ariana: 2 checks against us there. What’s the solution here? Tom: We want to create something called a cash flow forecast. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. Essentially what you’re going to do is you’re going to look at basically the cash that you’re expecting to come in during a certain period of time. Let’s take January, in January how much money do you anticipate coming into your business from sales or wherever else you’re going to have money come from, and then how much is going to out through expenses. You can start very simple and define this, and then as time goes on and you see your actual sales come in and your actual expenses go out, then you can make better adjustments and forecast for the future. Ariana: Okay the impact, by doing this you’re going to get a sense of the future is actually going to look like and you’re going to know which month that you’ll have extra cash and which months you may not have enough cash. Example, if you’re a retail business obviously the Holidays are going to be bigger for you than different times of year. That allows you to allocate some of that extra cash you get over the holidays to put aside for those slow times in your expenses. Tom: Yeah, and related to that this kind of gives you a crystal ball. It may be a little fuzzy but at least you can see a little bit into the future. There might be cases where once you put this forecast together you realize that, “Okay, the next 2 months we have extra money, but then the month after that we’re not going to have enough money.” It will either allow you to shift your purchases or reduce some expenses, or it may give you time to actually go out and find some additional funding, such as a line of credit or something from a bank, so that instead of last second you have to try to figure out how to cover that, you know several months ahead of time and can better plan for it. Ariana: Do you have an example? Tom: Funny you should ask. Ariana: I thought you might. Tom: It seems like we have examples for every [ones 00:15:17]. Hopefully you guys can learn from our mistakes because we’ve made just about every one of these mistakes. With our real estate business what we didn’t do in the past was really look ahead at what kind of renovations we have to make for our properties. When we buy properties we tend to renovate a lot of things at the beginning but there may be some large expenditures that we have to do throughout a year, for example replace a roof. If we don’t look ahead and say, “Okay, we anticipate having to replace 2 roofs this year,” when that comes up then we suddenly [have 00:15:48] to find money for it and it’s a little bit of a challenge. Now what we do is we do a cash flow forecast out and we can, “We know we have to replace these 2 roofs, these are the time frame when we expect to do it, and here’s where the funding’s going to come from. That way, not only do we make sure that we have the finances in place, it also helps with our planning for the year when we know we’re going to do certain things, that we may need to bring, say contractors on to do that work. Ariana: Problem number 3, you may not be making enough marking on your products and services. This is another big one, especially if you are a retail type store because that’s a lot of the times when you do have to worry about those margins. Tom: With this, this is really any store because if you’re not selling a product you’re selling a service and you want to make sure that, I’ll let you go on but, essentially it applies across the board. Ariana: The problem here is, in order to have enough cash flow you need to make sure that you’re making enough margin on your products and services that you’re selling. If you’re not making enough margin you’re not going to have enough cash to cover your business expenses and still have a profit left over. Tom: It’s kind of the point I was going to, I’m sorry I jumped ahead a little bit. Different businesses have different business models. One example is Walmart. Everyone knows Walmart, their focus is selling things cheap. You can imagine that Walmart doesn’t have very large margins, they’re actually very low, but they make up for that by selling a lot of products. That’s their business model and they don’t have to have huge margins because they have volume. On the other end of the spectrum people might have heard of Lamborghini [car 00:17:27]. Ariana: I hope so. Tom: Do you think they sell as many Lamborghinis as they sell the items at Walmart? Ariana: No. Tom: Probably not, but they have a much higher margin. They don’t sell a lot but when they do sell one they make a lot more money on that item. It’s important to understand your business strategy and then figure out what that mixture of margin and volume is that’s going to contribute to your success. Ariana: The solution here, easy one, figure out your profit margin. It might not be so easy to do, but if you watched a show like The Profit, that’s Tom’s favorite show by the way, one of the first questions that Marcus Lemonis asks business owners is about their margins. Tom: Yeah, this sounds complicated and once again I think a lot of people avoid doing this because they think it is complicated but figuring out your margins [are 00:18:15] pretty simple. Essentially what you’re going to do is determine what the cost is to buy the product that you’re going to sell, or to create the service that you’re going to sell, and then you want to figure out what you’re selling price is. Ultimately you’re going to subtract the cost from your selling price to get your gross profit, and then you’re going to divide that gross profit by the selling price to get your margin. Ariana: [inaudible 00:18:38] let’s have an example here. Tom: Yeah that probably sounded a little more complicated … Ariana: Because that sounded way more complicated. You said it was simple, it sounded complicated. Tom: All right, let’s say you’re selling t-shirts. It costs $10 to buy a t-shirt and then you’re going to sell them for 20. If we subtract the cost of the t-shirt from your selling price, the cost of the t-shirt is 10, the selling price is 20. 20 minus 10, we get a $10 profit, right? Ariana: Yes. Tom: We make $10 for every t-shirt we sell. Now if we go and divide that profit of $10 back into our selling price, we’ll get 50%, which is the margin that we made on that t-shirt. Does that make sense? Ariana: Yes, I think that simplified it a little bit for everyone. Tom: Okay. It’s also a little difficult to talk math over a podcast. Ariana: Yeah, yeah. We’ll leave it with that one. Tom: Yeah, and maybe we’ll actually link up to a margin calculator in the show notes. Ariana: That would probably be very nice. Tom: If you want to get a link to that head over to serialstartups.co/show27. With that, once you know your margin on your products what you ultimately want to do is figure out what is the average for your industry. You may not be able to find them but in a lot of cases you can, and then what you want to do is make sure that your margins are in line with your industry, or ideally higher. Ariana: Yeah. Tom: Then, there’s a lot of ways that you can ultimately get your margins there, but 2 of the basic examples are you can reduce how much you pay for your products or you can raise your prices. If we can order in bulk and get the $10 t-shirt order down to $8 per t-shirt, now we’re still going to make 2 more dollars. On the flip side if we can raise our prices from $20 to $25 per t-shirt, now we’re going to make an additional $5, or if we can do both now we make an additional $7. Ariana: The impact here, increasing your margins, it’s going to help all areas of your business, because you’re going to make more money per product or service sold, which is I’m going to give your business more operating capital so that you have more cash to run that business. We’re constantly looking at the margins in each of our businesses and looking for ways to improve them. Be it ordering in bulk and getting the cost down like Tom said, or raising the prices if we need to. Tom: Yeah. An example of that, once again going back to our real estate business. If you’ve listened to some of our previous podcast you know [inaudible 00:21:02] Ariana: I think he’s mentioned this one before. Tom: We have one paint color. Ariana: One. Tom: We buy them bulk and as a result we get a lower cost. It saves us money because when we have to have a tenant move out and then have a new tenant move in, we have the paint because we’ve ordered it in bulk. We also reduce our labor expenses because we don’t have to have someone go to the store and buy 3 different colors of paint. We don’t have to have them use 3 different brushes and clean each of the brushes, they can use 1 brush, 1 roller, they know the color of the paint. In some cases they don’t even have to paint all the rooms because they’re all the same color. Ariana: [inaudible 00:21:38] spot touch ups. Tom: Yeah. That’s just one out of many examples of how we can reduce our expenses, which is ultimately going to increase our margins. Ariana: All right, that brings us to problem number 4, you can’t grow with confidence. The problem here, just about every business decision has a financial impact. Without understanding your current business financials, it can make those decisions much more difficult to make, and additionally, you might be making poor business decisions and not even realize it. Tom: Why are you looking at me when you say that? Ariana: I did not look at you. Tom: Probably because I have done this countless times. Good thing is not much recently but when we first started it was like every week I was doing this. Ariana: I say nothing. I plead the fifth. Tom: The solution for this is you really want to learn to read at least the 3 main financial statements. I know this is a very challenging and intimidating topic, so what we’ve done is we’ve actually put together a free guide that shows in a very simple format what the 3 financial statements are and then a very introductory look at what they mean and what the stories that those tell for your business. If you’re interesting in getting that free download, head on over to the show notes at serialstartups.co/show27. Ultimately once you know how to read your 3 financial statements, you want to be able to set up basically a schedule for when you’re going to look at those statements and then be able to use that schedule and looking at those statements to be able to make good business decisions bases on what you’re seeing in your statements. Ariana: For example, hiring employees is a very common thing that a lot of small business owners struggle with, because without knowing your numbers this decision can be very, very difficult. You don’t much how much it’s going to cost you to hire those people and to pay for them all year, insurance, payroll, all that. If you understand that total cost of hiring them and can project the additional sales or cost savings, it makes your decision that much easier to make, rather than just winging it and being like, “Well I think we can afford to hire 3 people but we’ll have to see as the year goes on.” Tom: Once again, why are you looking at me? Ariana: That one I totally didn’t mean to look at you. Tom: All right, the impact of this is, this is amazing I didn’t even think about it when I first started but, you can actually make business decisions much faster. An example of this is, for real estate I was realizing that I was running the same analysis over when we were looking at properties. I actually created a spreadsheet and said, “What are the key things that I look at? What’s the key information I need?” Once I had that spreadsheet made I can punch in a couple of numbers, and then I actually gave it the 3 criteria that I was looking at. After punching those numbers in it told me whether I should buy the property or not. Ariana: I think we offered that, didn’t we? As a real estate free download as well, the analyzing the property. Tom: Yeah. I’ll actually put a link to that in the show notes as well. Ariana: You know, just in case. Tom: Just in case you want to get in real estate. It’s amazing how once you figure out that process, once you know the key data that you’re looking for, once you have that data it makes it so much easier. Like I said I made it dummy proof where at the bottom of the sheet it was like if all 3 things are green, it pops up with a yes and says, “Buys this property, here’s the dollar amount you can buy it for.” If it didn’t make sense it popped up with a big red no and said, “No, don’t buy the property unless you want to go change some of the numbers.” Once you know that it makes your business decisions so much easier. Ultimately you’re going to make less mistakes and less mistakes typically mean more money. Another example is we actually just had someone reach out to us and they said, “We know you have your liquor store in one location but we actually have another location that opened up and we think it would be great for you to move into this location.” What we’re ultimately going to do is we know our current numbers, what it takes to operate, what we pay for expenses, and what our sales are. Once we get some information from this other person, then we’ll be able to go evaluate and say, “Does that move make sense?” It’s going to be so much easier because we know our numbers. Ariana: All right, we are down to problem number 5, you have more stress than is needed. I don’t if stress is ever really needed. We should have rephrased that one. Tom: I don’t know, in some cases stress can motivate people. Ariana: I guess so, certain people, not me. Tom: A little bit of stress is good. Ariana: The problem, running a business can be stressful. If you don’t know your numbers you’re adding on to that stress and because of that your decisions are going to take more time and you’re more likely to make poor decisions. Solution? It’s an easy one. Tom: I said a whole bunch of stuff so I’m just going to repeat it, understand your financial statements. Sounds simple, but once you do like I said, decisions are going to be easier and it’s going to take a lot of that stress off your plate. The other thing with that is, you’re not going to struggle with having to worry about cash flow and questions of, “Can I make payroll?” Because you’re going to have those numbers and basically all the previous 4 things we talked about, they all become easier once you know those financial statements. When they become easier that means you have less stress. Ariana: Less stress in business will lead to less stress in your personal life, because we all it carries over. It’s impossible to keep that separate. Tom: Was that a happy wife, happy life [inaudible 00:27:03] I live by that motto. Ariana: I did not look at you for that one. Tom: I know. Ariana: It will also help you maintain, on that note, it will help you maintain those great relationships, either your spouse and your family and your employees. Go ahead and recap. Tom: Number 1. Ariana: You don’t find the problem until it’s too late. Often there are a lot of problems that can exist in your business but if you aren’t looking at your finances through the year, throughout the quarter, throughout the month, you’re going to miss those problems and that can cost you money, and sometimes have other implications. Solution, learn to read those financial statements and start reviewing them periodically. Tom: Yeah. Number 2, you don’t know if you have enough money to cover your expenses. The problem is cash comes in and out of your businesses at different times but if those times don’t line up you may not have enough cash. What you want to do is actually create something called a cash flow forecast so that you understand for different periods of time how much money are you thinking is going to come in, and then how much is going to go out. Ariana: Problem number 3, you may not be making enough margin on your products and services. In order to have enough cash flow you need to make sure that you’re making enough on whatever you’re selling. If you don’t have your margins high enough you won’t be able to have that cash to cover your business expenses and still make a profit. Solution, figure out your profit margin. If you remember like we talked about on the show, Tom’s favorite show is The Profit, so guess where that one came from. Tom: Yeah, I do like The Profit. Marcus is a serial entrepreneur so he’s close to my heart. He’s like an uber serial entrepreneur. Ariana: He is, yeah, way, way way uber serial entrepreneur. Tom: If you want to see our future just watch that show. Ariana: What? Tom: All right, on that problem number 4. Ariana: Problem number 4. Tom: Your business can’t grow with confidence. A lot of businesses fall into this kind of mom and pop phase where the business owners work in the business and they can never get passed a certain level. A lot of that has to do with not understanding the finances and being able to actually grow and make the decisions that you need. It’s just so much easier to do it yourself. Solution for that is if you understand your financial statements then as you’re looking for these opportunities to grow you can make sure that the numbers make sense and will support that growth. Ariana: Last, you have more stress than is needed. Basic, very simple problem, running a business is stressful. If you don’t know your numbers you’re just adding to that stress. Solution, learn to read your 3 financial statements. Tom: All right, tip of the week. Ariana: Tip of the week. Obviously as we know financials are not always fun. I definitely am not a financials person, but it is imperative that you know the basics to run your business, or if you can’t possible bring yourself to do it find someone you trust to do it for you. This week we challenge you to learn something new today by downloading our free guide to understanding those financial statements. Tom: Yeah. We went a little bit longer on the show today but there was a lot to get through, and this is such an important topic. Just know that we actually have 2 more shows coming up. The next one we’re actually going to walk through those 3 financial statements, and really make sure that you understand what each one is, how to initially read it, and then that can be your starting point for then looking at the numbers in your business and hopefully having some of the success that we’ve had by looking at that. As a reminder if you want to get the free download that we’re talking about in preparation for our show next week, you can head over to serialstartups.co/show27. Ariana: I think that’s our show for this week. Thanks for listening guys. Tom: All right have a great week guys. Ariana: Bye. Like our podcast? We’d love for you to leave us a review on iTunes. Know someone who’s thinking about starting their own business? Please share this with them so we can help them on their entrepreneurial path. Entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.” If you want to be a successful entrepreneur then you need to surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs, but you may not know how or have other entrepreneurs in your area. That is why we created the Serial Startups community, which is a free private Facebook group for entrepreneurs to gather, ask questions, share their experiences and grow one more successful businesses. Head on over to sscommunity.co now to request your free access. The post 5 Challenges of Not Knowing Your Business Financials appeared first on Serial Startups.


2 Mar 2016

Rank #14

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How to Create Your Weekly Productivity Process

Episode OverviewIn this episode, we help you establish a weekly plan that you can repeat week after week to help you organize all of your work, stay on task and get more done.Our previous 2 episodes discussed productivity drains and some strategies to overcome them.  Today, we pull it all together and help you establish a weekly cadence of planning and execution.  Be sure to grab our free guide that walks through this process as well.Episode Key Points Understanding and applying Lean concepts means more value and less waste Defining a way to capture and organize all your tasks will make sure you don’t lose things Capturing tasks will also allow you to free up your mind and not feel like you have to do them immediately The importance of establishing consistency in your weekly routine Prioritize your tasks so you make sure that you are working on the most important tasks We recommend doing a weekly time audit to determine where your time goes Realize that life will happen and may throw off your productivity for a day or a week, but make sure you bounce back Writing down everything you do each week will help you see where your time goes and is a starting point for outsourcing To track your work, you can either count your tasks and see how many are left, or estimate them and track how much is left At the end of the week, do a weekly review to identify wins, losses and what changes to make for improvements Tracking progress is like a scoreboard. It will tell you if you are winning or losing.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Evernote Asana Trello Productivity & Task Mini-Course (Learn More) Download Our Free Weekly Productivity Guide  Episode Free Download Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Transcript coming soon… The post How to Create Your Weekly Productivity Process appeared first on Serial Startups.


17 Feb 2016

Rank #15

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Overcoming Your Biggest Productivity Drains (Part 1)

Episode OverviewBeing productive and getting things done can often mean the difference between success as an entrepreneur and failure.  So this month we are going to be focused on productivity and helping you to organize everything that you need to do to get more done. In this episode, we are going to introduce some of the biggest productivity drains that entrepreneurs face and how to overcome them.  This is the first of two episodes on this topic, so be sure to also listen to part 2.Episode Key Points The impacts of not being productive and getting your work done, both personally and in your business The real answer to whether you can multi-task and what it means to approaching your work A quick overview of Kanban and how WIP (Work in Process) limits can help get your tasks done faster Everything has a notification and distracts you away from your work How to keep track of everything that you need to do (and get it out of your head) Not knowing what you need to do next will cause you to be less productive If your work isn’t visible, it is easy to get lost and not realize how much work you have or how much you have gotten done Your time is spent on a mixture of valuable work and wasteful work You need to have a process to help maximize your productivity To be productive, you want to focus on starting less and finishing more.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Show 11 – Use Lean & Agile to Skyrocket Your Productivity Getting Things Done (Book) ColorNote (Phone App) Asana (Task/Project Management Tool) Download Our Free Weekly Productivity Guide Productivity & Task Mini-Course (Learn More)  Episode Free Download Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Ariana: This is the “Serial Startups” podcast, show 23. In the previous episode, we walked through our journey in becoming entrepreneurs. Today, we’re going to begin our three part mini series around productivity and getting your work done, starting with some common challenges and solutions. Tom: This episode of the “Serial Startups” podcast is brought to you by the productivity mini course. Ariana: Do you struggle to get all of your work done? Does it always seem like your week is never long enough? Does this cause you to be stressed out and depressed? We all have the same 24 hours in a day. The key to getting more done in that time is to focus on productivity. Head on over to SerialStartups.co/productivity, to learn how to become more productive in your business today. Welcome to the “Serial Startups” podcast, where we bring you the real deal when it comes to masterminding a business, juggling personal relationships, and a busy household. We are your hosts and serial entrepreneurs, Tom and Ariana Sylvester, and this is the podcast for people who want to get more out of life. We want to show you how to build multiple streams of income and get on the fast track to being your own boss. Join us as we talk about our ideas, successes, and failures, both in business and in life. Tom: All right. Welcome back to the “Serial Startups” podcast. We just started February, and our focus for this month is going to be all around productivity and getting your tasks done. Ariana: Why are we talking about this, this month? Tom: Because this is a common struggle, not only that we faced in the past, but every single client or other entrepreneur that we talk to faces these common challenges. Ariana: Yeah. There’s definitely a lot of impact to this. I, for one, have lots of them. Stress, depression, frustration, exhaustion, all revolving around not getting enough work done, or having too much work to do and not knowing how to do it. Tom: Yeah, and I mean, as entrepreneurs, this is just part of the process. It doesn’t mean that you have to accept it, but especially when you’re starting a business, there’s so much to do and so much to figure out. I think a lot of times entrepreneurs get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of what they have to do, and when they haven’t really figured out what some of the challenges are, and how to improve them, they run into, just like you said, the stress and the depression, and it just kind of builds on itself. All right, so in addition to the physical things that could come up, this could also impact your business, so if you’re not able to actually get some of the work done, especially some of the critical work, you may actually miss some of the key dates in your business, you might lose sales if you can’t respond back to customers, you might actually lose customers. Ultimately, you could lose revenue and make less money in your business. It’s important from a physical and from a personal perspective, but it’s also important for your business to be able to actually get the important work done that you need to. Ariana: And it makes you lose a little bit of your professional edge, if you’re not able to respond to people on time, or if you’re missing due dates or forgetting to do things you were supposed to do. It just makes you look a little unprofessional. I’ve had that happen sometimes. Tom: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve been talking to a lot of people, and we really listen to what you guys say, in terms of what topics we’re going to talk about each month, and this one came up time and time again as we were talking to you guys, especially as people were planning out what they wanted to accomplish this year. We were talking about how January has been going, and some people were already struggling with, “Well, I want to accomplish all these big things, but how do I actually get them done?” I’ve spent a lot of time consulting, not only small businesses and entrepreneurs, but also very large organizations, really around productivity and a lot of the stuff that we’re going to be talking about this month. It’s obviously a topic that I have some experience in and I’m very passionate about, and it’s something that … Ariana: Very passionate about. Tom: Are you sick of hearing me talk about this yet? Ariana: No. Maybe a little bit. Tom: Maybe a little bit? All right, well, one more month and then we’ll let it go for a while. Ariana: Yeah, right. Tom: But ultimately, what we’re going to focus on here is really what are some of the biggest challenges that people have, and then what you’ll hear through this is not only some of the work we’ve done with clients, but also, how we’ve implemented a lot of these systems to help us run our multiple businesses. Ariana: All right, so here’s what we’re going to go through today. We’re going to list out some of the biggest challenges to being productive, and then for each challenge, we’re going to dive in a little bit, and give you some simple tips and strategies, to help you improve that productivity. With that, let’s jump into the show, the biggest productivity drains and how to avoid them. All right, so let’s go ahead and dive in with our top productivity challenges. Number one, and this is a big one. You are multitasking. Tom: Oh, yeah. I mean, this is one where time and time again, I talk to people and they’re like, “Oh, well I can multitask. I can do a lot of things at once,” but the reality is, as humans, we really can’t multitask. When we think we’re multitasking, actually what our brain’s doing … Ariana: What? What do you mean we can’t multitask? I totally multitask. Tom: Getting down into some of the nerdy stuff, our brain just switches really fast between two activities, and although that sounds good, the reality is, when our brain switches, it actually causes us to have to re-focus on that other task. If you’re deep in thought on one thing or doing something, and then something distracts you, it takes time to now think and focus on the new thing that distracts you, and then ultimately, when you go back to your original task, takes time to get back and say well, “Where was I? What was I writing? What was I doing?” That context switching, that cost that it takes to switch, actually causes a lot of inefficiencies when you’re trying to be productive. Then, in addition to that, so that’s just an example of doing two things. Now, if you’re trying to do three things, or four things, or five things. Ariana: Oh, you mean me? Tom: The cost of that just goes up and up. I’m going to look at you a lot when we go through this show. Ariana: Stop using me as an example. Tom: Yeah, so I mean, ultimately, the example I give people all the time, and it’s no Ariana, if you have a task that let’s say takes eight hours, if you cleared your schedule off and that was the only thing you focused on today, when would you get that task done? Ariana: In eight hours. Tom: Yeah, you’d get it done today, but now let’s say you have two tasks that are both eight hours and you’re going to spend half your time on each of them. How much would you have done today? Ariana: Hopefully four from each task. Tom: Yeah, so you don’t have any of them done, right? Ariana: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Tom: How many of them would you have done tomorrow? Ariana: If you were productive, and four and four, and then four and four, you’d have both tasks done. Tom: Yep, except for the fact of that context switch between them. Not only does it make you less productive, it actually makes all of your tasks take a lot longer to actually get done. Ariana: So how do we fix that? Tom: All right. If you are listening, you’ve probably guessed it, but it’s limiting multitasking. The technical term for this is limiting your whip, or your work and process. There’s a lot of studies out there, and we won’t go into it, but ultimately, you want to work ideally on one thing at a time, and get that one thing done. Now, the reality is, you might want to work on two things because one thing might get to a certain point and get blocked, or you’re waiting on someone, and then you jump over to your other thing, but you really want to figure out, what is your maximum whip limit, and then really focus on starting less, and finishing more things. Ariana: I can’t help it. I just whip it good. Tom: I give you a lot of soft balls. I just see which ones you actually take. Ariana: I couldn’t. It was in my brain. Tom: Yeah, and so we talked about Kanban in one of our previous episodes, and you can check that out at SerialStartups.co/show11, and basically, what Kanban is, is you make a list of your tasks, you prioritize them, and then you work through them and you’re limiting your work and process as you go. If you want to find out more about that, definitely check out that episode. Ariana: Tom’s a big Kanban lover. Tom: I am. You’ll find out more as we go through this. All right, so number two, next productivity drain that a lot of people have is that they allow distractions. When we look at this, everything wants your attention nowadays. People want your attention, companies want your attention, every app on your phone wants your attention. Ariana: Facebook wants your attention. Tom: Yep, so by default, every company, every person is setup to distract you. Facebook has notifications, emails pop up on your desktop, and what all of those things lead to is what we talked to about in number one, which is multitasking. If you’re in the middle of doing something and suddenly your phone buzzes, what are you naturally going to do? You’re going to jump over and look at your phone, and now you’re multitasking. Ariana: Can’t resist. You have to check. Tom: All right, so what are some of the solutions that we can do to avoid this issue? Ariana: The biggest solution, which I have done on a lot of things, is turning off notifications. This includes your phone and your desktop, because desktops now, with the new Windows, everything has a notification all of a sudden. I do not need to see 5 million Dropbox notifications all day long, so I actually went into my control panel and turned off the notifications for Dropbox because even if you’re working, and it pops up in the corner, it still distracts you for those couple of seconds to see, “Oh, what’s that?” Then, you have to get back into that work mode, so I’ve gone ahead and done that already, turned off those notifications, and then your phone. Tom: Well, I was going to say that’s an excellent example because a lot of people won’t look at that as multitasking, but to your point, if it pulls your attention away and then it does take you time to re-focus back, even if it’s just a couple of seconds to look down at that thing. Ariana: Yep, and the phone, I’ve turned it off so that it doesn’t buzz. I have it next to me, and if someone starts calling and it’s an emergency, it’ll light up and turn on and I can take the call, but otherwise, I don’t see the Facebook, I don’t see emails, I don’t see Google Voice. Anything that I don’t need to check on right that moment, I don’t see those. Tom: Yeah, and I think kind of related to that, so one thing is that those notifications may come up. The other thing is that we just may naturally gravitate towards looking at some of those sites, or wanting to check our email because it’s part of our habit. Ariana: Yeah, turn them off on your computer. Don’t have them open in Chrome, because all of us with those million tabs open. Don’t have a Facebook tab open because you’re going to gravitate over there to look. Tom: Yep, and I mean, there’s even apps out there, so if you haven’t built the self control yet, you can actually have apps that will set, you can block certain websites at certain times. If you’re someone that’s going to check your email quite often, you can go and have it block Gmail between this time and this time so that you’re forced to do your work. Ariana: Yep, or turn on airplane mode on your phone … Tom: Oh, that’s a great idea. Ariana: … So you don’t get text messages or notifications from all those apps. Tom: Yep. Very good idea. What about non-electronic distractions? Ariana: Non-electronic distractions? What, you mean like children? Tom: Children. You know about that. Ariana: I know lots about that. Yeah, those are a huge, huge distraction. We have tried to get work done with the kids around many, many times, and sometimes we’re more successful at it than others, but the truth is, they are a big distraction and they don’t mean to be, but even if they’re not talking to you, they’re a distraction, because you’re always listening out for that, “Oh, no. Did they just fall and hurt themselves?” Or, “Oh, no. Did they just break something?” If you can find someone to watch the kids while you’re working or somewhere to drop them off while you need to get work done, that’s a huge help with those distraction issues. Tom: Yeah. I mean, that’s been huge for us, because like you say, even if you’re not directly working with them or if they’re not bugging you, you’re still going to be listening, you’re not going to be completely focused on the work you need to get done. Ariana: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, or if you have a spouse that can take the kids while you work, or you guys can swap. That’s a great one, too, and have some noise cancelling headphones or something while you’re working, because yeah, those ears don’t turn off. Tom: All right. What’s up next? Ariana: Our next one, big problem of mine, you can’t keep track of everything. If you’re like me, you have 5 million things to do buzzing around in your brain all the time. This could be business stuff, this could be household stuff, this could be kids, relationship, anything. You might have all these things you’re thinking about like, “Oh, I’ve got to do this. Oh, I’ve got to do this. Oh, I forgot about that,” and you need somewhere or something, somehow, to put them all in one place that you don’t forget about them and you can prioritize them. If you don’t have a system, then you find yourself missing things which then leads to that stress of, “Oh, I forgot to do this, this, this, and this and now I’m passed due on this bill,” or, it’s going to stress you out. So, Tom, what’s the solution? Tom: The solution is to get a system. Ultimately, you want to make sure that you have a way to capture everything that you need to do. This is actually something that we stole from the book, “Getting Things Done,” by David Allen, but essentially, what he says is that your brain only has so much capacity to process things and if you’re trying to constantly think about all the things you need to do, you’re not actually able to use the majority of your brain to do the work, because you’re trying to keep track of everything. Ariana: Yeah, that’s [big 00:13:00]. Tom: What he recommends is you have a way for when an idea pops in, when there’s something that you have to do, you have a way or a process to capture that, and then a system or process in place to actually look at all the things you need to do, and organize them for what do you have to do when, so that you’re freeing up your brain from trying to keep track of everything, so you know what’s in your tool or your system, or your process, and then you can focus just on the next things that you have to do. Ariana: Yeah. I mean, there are a tonne of tools out there to do this. For me personally, I use a couple. I have this really cool little app, it’s very simple. I use ColorNote, and it’s just like Post-it notes for your phone, but it allows you to make a list, so for me, this is my big grocery list, and random errands that I need to run, and I can quickly just hop on my phone, type it in, and save it, because you know, if you’re walking around and you remember, “Oh, yeah. We need more of this,” and it’s going to stress you out when you get to the grocery store and you forget about it and come home. That’s when I do throw them in there, and then also we use Asana. Any kind of tasks, “Okay, I remember I have to do this for this business,” or, “I have to remember to send that in for that business,” jump on Asana, which is nice, it has a mobile app, and just quickly add that task in so that when I go on my computer later, and look at my list of tasks, it’s on there and I don’t forget about it. Tom: Yeah, and I mean so the key with that is you want a way to capture everything that you need which you said is your color in notes or whatever, and then you ultimately want a way to be able to schedule those for when you need to get them done. Ariana: Which is Asana. Tom: Yep, so you want to look at those like two different activities, and we’ve actually, over the years, developed basically what we call our weekly productivity guide. If you guys want to check that out, we actually have it as a free download for this episode. You can head on over to SerialStartups.co/show23, and basically, what that walks you through is the process for capturing everything, and then what you should do every single week to be able to plan things out and then also reflect back on how the week went, and continuously improve your weekly process. All right, so number four is you don’t know what you need to do. This is a problem that many people face when they’re looking at how to be more productive. You actually, when you sit down to do your work, if you don’t know what the next thing is that you need to do, or what you’re going to do that day, you’re going to spend a good portion of your time trying to figure that out. Ariana: Guilty. Tom: Or, you may get distracted and now go over and look at Facebook. I say it time and time again, one of the biggest time hacks that people can have is just being clear and having clarity on what they actually have to do, because if you sit down and know that you’ve got to get these three things done today and here’s the order of them, now you can sit down and jump right into being productive, rather than sitting down and trying to think, “Well what have I got to do? Oh, I’ve got to do this thing,” or, “I’ve got to do this thing. Well, which one do I do first? Oh, something else came up.” That clarity is really going to help, and what we recommend with this is you actually spend some time doing planning versus the time you spend executing. If you think about planning, planning typically, you’re not being productive in the traditional way, and you’ve got to think a little bit deeper about, “What is everything that I have to do? All those tasks that I captured, and how do I organize them?” Versus execution, where it’s like, “Well, I’ve already planned things out so now I’m just going through and running through all my tasks.” Kind of going back to that weekly productivity guide. What we do is we have one day a week where we do our planning, and it doesn’t take a whole day, but we allocate that day and that time to do planning. Then, the rest of the week, we know what we have to do each day, so we can sit down and actually just get that work done. Ariana: Problem number five, you don’t see your work. This is another one that I used to have problems with, which is why I’m going to talk about this problem. If you don’t see what you need to do … I’m a very visual person, so I needed that capability to look at all the things that I needed to do in a list format. I was a huge Post-It note person, still am, and having the ability to really see all of my work listed out and see our goals listed out, it made it easier not to forget them and not get those things done. That is our solution for this problem, is make that work visible. Whether you need to put it up on the wall, make yourself a quick board and a vision board, or whatever you want to call it with your goals, and your tasks that you need done, or you could even do it electronically. There’s a lot of tools out there like we mentioned that you can go ahead and put those items into, so that way, when you go to sit down, you open it up and you say, “Okay, these are all the things that I have to do. I can see them. They’re visible”. You can see what you have gotten done, because that was another issue I used to have, is not feeling like I got anything done, but once you do a task, then you can kind of check it off. “Okay, I got that done,” then at the end of the week, you can see and you can compare. “These are all the things I was supposed to get done, here’s the things that I did get done, and it might make you feel a little bit less stressful when you get to that end of the week.” Tom: Yeah, and to your point, I mean so we actually do some of this where it’s physically on a wall so that we’re forced to see it, so we do that with our goals. That way, when we do goal planning, we can literally stand around our goal wall and kind of figure out where should everything fit, and it’s very easy to move it around. Then, when we do our week to week stuff, like the actual stuff we’re going to work on, we put that in an electronic format, so that we have access to it, no matter where we are, and then to your point, it’s much easier to then go back and be able to see what things did we get done, what things didn’t we get done, and we can kind of get a better feel for what we can actually do week after week. All right. Next is number six, is your process is filled with waste. The problem is that when you’re doing work, it can either be valuable work, or it can be wasteful. The majority of the time, the processes or the work that you’re doing actually contain both. I was amazed. I took a Lean Six Sigma class several years ago, and our professor, like the first day, said, “Oh, I’m going to show you guys how 95% of what you do is actually a waste.” Everyone in the class is like, “Yeah, what are you talking about?” But the reality is once we went through and said, “Here’s a typical process that we do in our business, here’s all the steps that it takes, here’s how long it actually takes to do the work versus how long it waits for something else,” I mean, the professor was right. Majority of what we did was actually a waste. The problem is when you have waste in your process, that takes time and effort away from the valuable pieces of your process. The solution here is to map out your process and essentially, you want to look at what are all the steps and the time required to get something done, and then what pieces of that are valuable, and what pieces aren’t valuable. Ultimately, what you want to do from there is look at the ones that aren’t valuable, and especially the ones that take the most time that aren’t valuable, and you want to figure out how do you reduce or remove those from your process. A technical term for this is really do “value stream mapping,” where you’re going to figure out what’s valuable, and then figure out how you get it through your process, but ultimately, what you’re going to do is say, “How do I get this thing from here to there doing the most valuable work, and then cutting out the stuff that isn’t valuable?” Ariana: Yep, and our last problem we’re going to talk about today is you don’t have a process. This is a big one for a lot of people. I used to be one of them. The problem being, you aren’t able to focus and get things done because you don’t have that process. You feel like you’re constantly trying to figure out how to get everything done. This is still me sometimes. Tom: Yeah, and ultimately, the solution for this is to take a step back and actually figure out what your process is. How are you going to spend some time doing planning versus execution? Are there certain days or times where you’re going to do one thing versus the other? Everyone may have a different process, but the key is you want to have a process that works for you, and like we mentioned earlier, our free download for this show is actually our weekly productivity process, so if you want to check that out, you can go back to the show notes at SerialStartups.co/show23, and we’ll take you guys through a basic overview of how we plan out our work every week so that we can maximize our productivity. Ariana: All right, so we threw a lot at you guys today. Let’s do a quick recap on all those problems and solutions. Problem one, your multitasking. Solution, limit your work and process. Try to pick one or two things to do at a time, so that you can actually check off those things on your list. Tom: All right, so the next one is that you’re allowing distractions, so what you want to do is identify what things distract you during the day and then figure out ways to either turn off those distractions or avoid having that distraction happen in the first place. Ariana: Number three, you can’t keep track of everything. Solution, develop a system for capturing those ideas and things that you need to do. Tom: All right. Number four is you don’t know what you need to do. You want to make sure that you spend some time planning so that you figure out what you need to do, and then once you know what you need to do, it’s much easier to actually do that work. Ariana: Number five, you don’t see your work. The solution, make it visible, whether it’s physically on the wall, or electronically on the computer. Tom: All right. Number six is your process is filled with waste, so you want to basically go through and figure out what’s valuable and what’s wasteful, and then over time, start removing the wasteful things so that you’re doing more of the valuable stuff. Ariana: Last, number seven, you don’t have a process. Solution, take some time to come up with your process. Tom: All right. There were a lot of tips that we gave here, and we didn’t want to overwhelm you guys, so we’re going to come back next week and actually have the other half of your productivity training. Ariana: We didn’t want an hour long podcast, and we didn’t think you did, either. Tom: Yep. We’ll come back next week and actually give you the other half of these, but Ariana, do you want to get into the tip of the week? Ariana: Sure. We want you to go back and identify a few items from this list that might impact you and make a change. For example, if you are allowing distractions to interrupt you, make a change. Turn off those notifications from social media or email. Tom: All right. That is our show for this week. As I mentioned earlier, we have all the show notes and that free download which is our weekly productivity guide, and you can check that out at SerialStartups.co/show23. Ariana: Our next episode is going to be part two, more productivity drains and solutions. Tom: Yeah. I’ll tell you, I think the ones we have coming up in the next episode, some of them are actually my favorite. Ariana: Oh, all right then. Something to look forward to. Have a good week, you guys. Thanks for listening. Tom: All right. Bye, guys. Ariana: Bye. Do you want a free copy of the guide we use to be more productive each week? Head on over to SerialStartups.co/productivity guide to download your free copy, and if you want step by step guidance for implementing the process to help maximize your productivity and achieve your goals, head on over to SerialStartups.co/productivity for access to our productivity mini course. The post Overcoming Your Biggest Productivity Drains (Part 1) appeared first on Serial Startups.


3 Feb 2016

Rank #16

Podcast cover

Show 19 – Does Your Business Need a Business Plan?

Episode OverviewOne of the most common questions that we get from new entrepreneurs is around business plans, and do they really need one.  It seems logical that if you are starting a business, you would create a business plan.  But these would-be entrepreneurs often have many reasons for not wanting to create a business plan.  Are they valid?This is the first episode of our 3 podcast mini-series all around business planning.  In this episode, we will be going through some of the common business planning myths, as well as going into some of the benefits of doing business planning.Episode Key Points The #1 reason that each business mentioned in our previous podcast failed 5 common myths that stop people from creating a plan for their business The difference between a business plan and business planning Research and then organizing the results and your thoughts are critical pieces of business planning Goal planning ins a natural part of business planning and will help focus your efforts Identifying and using your strengths can provide a competitive advantage Identifying and mitigating your weaknesses can help avoid mistakes or losses If you don’t track and understand your finances, your business will likely struggle and miss opportunities for improvement Once completed, your business plan can be used as a roadmap to guide your business Business plans are like GPS for your business. Recalculating. Recalculating.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Show 18 – Our Failed Businesses Download free business plan template Get step by step help with the business planning mini-course  Episode Free Download Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Ariana:                 This is a Serial Startups Podcast show 19. In the previous episode we reviewed lessons learned from some of our closed businesses. Today we’re going to begin our three-part mini-series around business planning starting with Does Your Business Need a Business Plan. Tom:                      This episode of the Serial Startups Podcast is brought to you by the business planning mini course. Ariana:                 Are you dreaming about starting your own business but don’t know how to take the first step? Or maybe you already have a business but are still struggling to get that comfortable income. A solid business planning process will make your ideas come to life and get you on the road to true profitability and we can help you achieve it. Head on over to serialstartups.co/businessplan now to find out more information and get started.                                 Welcome to the Serial Startups Podcast where we bring you the real deal when it comes to masterminding a business, juggling personal relationships and a busy household. We are your hosts and serial entrepreneurs Tom and Ariana Sylvester and this is the podcast for people who want to get more out of life. We want to show you how to build multiple streams of income and get on the fast track to being your own boss. Join us as we talk about our ideas, successes and failures both in business and in life. Tom:                      All right welcome back to the Serial Startups Podcast and if you guys are listening to this on the day that it’s coming out Happy New Year. We closed out 2015 and let me tell you Ariana and I are so excited for 2016 and we have a lot of good stuff planned not only for this business but for each of our businesses. We just got through closing out the year going through each business, see how they’re doing and planning out the next year. I think 2016 is going to be phenomenal. Ariana:                 It’s going to be a good year and a leap year. Tom:                      A leap year. Ariana:                 It would have been Elena’s four-year birthday on a leap year if we’d have her on her due date. She was supposed to be a leap year baby. Tom:                      Wow time flies. Ariana:                 Yes it does. Tom:                      All right so a couple of changes to the podcast as we get into this year. We’re going to go with a little bit of a new format actually based on you guys’ feedback. We’re 19 shows in and we’ve got a lot of positive feedback on the show but one of the things that people mentioned was that we touch on a topic but we don’t go deep enough to really let you guys take action and implement some of the things that talk about in your business.                                 What we’re going to do this year is focus on what we’re calling these miniseries. Each month we’re going to have three shows that are focused on a specific business topic and we’re going to go deeper into those so that you can actually take action and take some of the concepts that we’re talking about and apply them back into your business. Ariana:                 Yes, and just for you guys every show is going to have a free download that’s related to the miniseries content that we’re going over. Tom:                      Yeah and then just you know not to be too serious or have too much business, we’re going to swap in every fourth show with a random episode so this may be an interview. This may be a Q & A based on some questions that you guys have submitted, or it may just be a random topic that’s still going to help you with your business but gets a little bit away from the week to week same format for those who like change up a little bit. Ariana:                 Yeah and some people they’ve put in some interest on some other topics that we’ve put out there so we want to make sure we’re hitting on everybody not missing anyone. Tom:                      Yeah, absolutely. Then what we’re going to do in addition to the podcast obviously we’ll give you guys a lot of good content here, but even with three episodes some of these topics are deeper than we can really cover in three podcast episodes. What we’re going to be doing is offering you guys mini courses that really go much deeper and take you step-by-step through how to go through whatever process or whatever concept we’re talking about that month.                                 To start that off January our them is going to be business planning. It’s appropriate that this is the beginning of the year and if you listen to our last episode which you can find at serialstartups.co/show18 we talked all about the four businesses that really failed or no longer exist for us anymore and one of the things you’ll see if you go back and listen to that episode, is that we really didn’t have business plans in each of those businesses and that was probably the number one reason that those businesses failed. Ariana:                 Yes, a very common theme. We did not have a business plan so ta-da. Welcome to today. Tom:                      For today and for the next two weeks after this, we’re going to really be going through the business planning process, what that is and then how you can actually take that, incorporate it into your business and hopefully set your business off on the right foot for this year. Ariana:                 All right here are the specific things we’re going to go through today with you. Business planning myths. Answer the question does your business need a business plan. Business plan versus business planning what’s the difference? Why do you need a business plan? With that let’s jump into the show Does Your Business Need a Business Plan.                                 All right so number one, business planning myths. I’m going to go through each myth and Tom’s going to throw it back at me and tell us why these are myths.                                 Business planning myth number one. You don’t need one. Tom:                      Yeah, this is common. We tend to straddle the offline business world which is where some of our initial businesses were and then some of the online business world. In the offline business world we don’t hear this a lot. People realize that you probably need a plan because you’re going to have some sort of financial investment and you’re going to have to understand what is this business and you’re probably going to have to pitch it to other people.                                 What we tend to see a lot is more in the online world it’s so easy to just jump in and get started and a lot of people think, “Well I’ll just go and try this thing out.” The problem is if you don’t have a business plan you haven’t done some of the research to even know is your idea viable, who are the customers that this idea is going to serve? Ultimately what are some of the goals of the financial aspects that you’re hoping to get out of this business? Without doing that and just jumping in, in reality you have a hobby or a very poorly run business not a business that’s most likely going to be successful. Ariana:                 All right, myth number two. You only need a plan if you want to raise money. Tom:                      A lot of people fall into this myth and the reality is the number one reason for creating a business plan is to help you do the research and help you guide what you’re going to do in your business. Yes you do definitely need a business plan if you’re going to raise money but even if you’re not going to doing a business plan and going through that process is going to help you understand what is your goal, your business and then how do you actually execute and run your business to achieve some of those goals? Ariana:                 Next myth. It should be a specific length. Tom:                      This one’s great. I always think back to the book report that you had to write in high school. The first question was well how long does it have to be? The reality is it could be one page. It could be 100 pages. It’s not the length that’s important it’s the quality of the content within there. If you understand the goals of your business plan which for example are understand your goals, understanding how you’re going to get there, some of your strengths and some of your weaknesses. It may be as short as five pages. It could be as long as 30 pages. A lot of it depends on what is the business plan going to be used for and then how long do you need to accomplish what you’re going after. Ariana:                 This next myth kind of tags on that. It should be a specific format. Tom:                      Yeah. This is a challenge I think for people and why a lot of people don’t do business plans is you see so many different formats out there and you see that you have to have an executive summary and all of these sections. Ariana:                 Most of the ones people see are those really long, complex business plans which is what scares them away. Tom:                      Yeah, and they’re very wordsmith. It kind of sounds like a legal document. The key is it doesn’t have to be a specific format. What you’ll hear as we go through this is we generally have found some commonalities that are in just about every business plan and you can use these as a guide but really the format once again is going back to what do you need the business plan to do and then as long as you get that you can include sections, exclude sections. It’s not a big deal. Ariana:                 All right and the last myth, you only need to do it once. Tom:                      This is probably my favorite. People spend a whole bunch of time creating this business plan and then they put it on the shelf and go and run their business. That business plan is really going to help guide your business and you want to not only create it but then refer to it periodically and then help it guide what you’re doing as well as make pivots based on the reality because a plan is only accurate at the time you do it. Afterwards things are going to change. You’re going to want to update that plan to help guide and grow the business.                                 The topic of this show was really Do You Need a Business Plan and Ariana can you answer that question?  Ariana:                 If you hadn’t figured it out from our previous conversation, yes you need a business plan. Tom:                      Absolutely. Ariana:                 As we said before this is the number one reason that those past businesses in our last episode have failed and you can find out more about that at serialstartups.co/show18 where we talk about those businesses that are no longer with us. Tom:                      Yeah, please if you guys are listening to this, allocate some time especially since we’re at the beginning of the year if you’re listening to this live. Just take a little bit of time and plan out what is your business going to look like this year. Over the next couple of episodes we’ll guide you and give you more specifics around that but just make sure you take some time and really understand what those goals are of your business. Ariana:                 Let’s clarify for everyone. What is the difference between a business plan and business planning? Tom:                      Okay, the business plan is the actual output that you get from the planning process. This is what most people focus on. It’s the piece of paper. It’s the stack of papers depending on how long your business plan is. Business planning is really the process of creating that business plan. It’s the business planning process that is the most important piece and that’s because when you do business planning you’re having to research and think about your business, think about your customers, think about your products, think about the numbers and how much money is it going to cost to start and then how much money are you going to bring in based on sales.                                 It’s really important to, obviously you’re going to create the plan, but you want to use the plan as a guide and then adjust it with your ongoing planning process. The way we always describe this is a business plan is a way to organize your thoughts and ideas relating to your business goals and how you’re going to achieve them. Business planning is the process of doing that research, setting goals, planning out how you’re going to achieve them and then executing and updating based on what you’re actually seeing in your business. We like to refer to this as like GPS for your business. Ariana:                 I like that one because then every time you check your business plan you’re recalculating. Tom:                      Exactly. Ariana:                 Recalculating. Tom:                      Yep. If you think about the GPS in your car, it’s where’s your starting point. It’s where you’re at today. Where do you want to get to in your business and that’s your destination. It’s going to map out a plan for you but the power of the GPS is it’s not like you map out that plan once and then put it away right? If you’re supposed to make a turn, your plan tells you to make a turn- Ariana:                 The GPS looks like a zigzag line to get to the roadmap. If you’re Ariana it’s a nice straight line. Tom:                      Exactly, but if you’re Tom and you miss that turn the power of the GPS is it says, “Hey, dummy you missed that turn. Go and make this other turn.” That’s what your business plan can do for you. If you go back and refer to it as time goes on you’ll see when maybe you were supposed to make a shift or in reality maybe the road was closed on what you originally planned on and now you’re going to change it. Going back and using it in that fashion is really going to help you keep on course with your plan and with your business. Ariana:                 All right, let’s talk about why do you need a business plan. The first reason we want to touch on is this is going to gather your thoughts into an organized format. Tom:                      Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into starting a business and then running a business. What tends to happen with a lot of people is they get excited and they jump into the business because the just want to create and they want to help people. The reality is if you don’t have a structure and organize all those thoughts and figure out when you’re going to do things and how you’re going to do them, it becomes very difficult to actually execute on that business. Creating that business plan allows you to get those thoughts together in a structured manner and the from there you can kind of figure out now how do I actually run this business. Ariana:                 All right, and then another reason for a business plan is because this is going to help you research key information needed to make your business successful. Tom:                      Yeah, there’s a lot of factors that go into having a successful business. Some of it comes down to the industry or the business that you’re in, and some of it comes down to you and what you’re going to contribute to the business or how you’re going to operate. By actually putting a business plan together it forces you to research and identify what are the external factors that you’re going to take into consideration and is your idea even viable and then what are the internal factors that you can control and then how do you make sure you structure your business with the right people, with the right financing to actually have success. Ariana:                 Another reason which is a big one for us that if you’ve listened to our past podcasts you know this one. We’re big on goal planning so having that business plan is going to help you determine your goals for your business if you weren’t sure what they were. Tom:                      Yeah, absolutely. If you don’t have a goal you’re just going to be wandering aimlessly. This is the same in business as it is in life. If you identify some of the goals for your business, then your planning process can be all right well once again just like your GPS. Here’s where I’m at now. Here’s where the goal is and then how are we actually executing towards that goal and then if we’re off track do we have to change the goal or do we have to change something in our business to actually get there?                                 A lot of times when people jump in and just run, they may be a year or two into their business and then they go back and look at the numbers and they’re like, “Hey, we’ve been doing this for two years and we’ve lost $50,000.” The reason is they didn’t lay out goals and they were just executing without checking back and saying, “Does this still make sense and is this getting us to what we want to have?” Ariana:                 All right, another reason is understanding your strengths and weaknesses. Tom:                      Yeah, this is a big one. We all bring strengths to the business in terms of experience and education and just who we are. We also have weaknesses. I think one of the benefits of us working on our businesses together is hopefully we can- Ariana:                 Filling in the gaps. Tom:                      Exactly, but even if you’re not working with a spouse or if you’re not working with a partner, it’s so important to understand what are your strengths and weaknesses and then figuring out a plan for how you leverage your strengths and then how do you minimize your weaknesses or hire people in or fill the gaps so that your weaknesses don’t drag your business down. Ariana:                 Yeah, that’s a big one for sure. Next reason, understanding your staffing and hiring needs. That’s a big one.  Tom:                      This is a big one. A lot of people especially if they’re starting out their business it may just be them but going back to the last point you may have some weaknesses and one of the challenges of business is that there’s so many things that you have to be an expert in or that you have to cover. From HR to payroll to accounting to sales to marketing to technology. The reality is you only have so much time in a day so even if you’re not planning to hire someone day one you’re going to have to hopefully hire out some of those tasks that you can focus on your core competencies and your strengths. If you are hiring from day one, you really have to understand what are the key roles that you’re going to need in your business and then what’s the criteria of people that you’re going to have to hire in and then how does that tie in to the finances and the startup costs of your business? Ariana:                 Yeah, especially for the small business owners. I feel like a lot of people they try to do it all when they’re first starting and that’s why they get overwhelmed and they don’t realize you have to hire some people for some of that stuff. Tom:                      Yeah and to be honest with our real estate business we did everything ourselves when we first started but then as a result of having this plan we actually every time we got a new property we hired out more and more of the stuff so that now we had people in place to take care of that. With our retail wine and liquor store, we actually knew we had to hire people from day one because we weren’t going to be able to work there all the time. Ariana:                 No. Tom:                      Whether you’re going to start out just doing it yourself and then add on the future or whether you’re going to start out with employees you’re really going to understand who do you need to have involved in your business. Ariana:                 Next reason for having that business plan is to create your roadmap for execution. Tom:                      There’s a lot of stuff that you could potentially do in business and one of the big things that causes people to struggle is they don’t have a clear path of how they’re actually going to get to some of their goals. What a business plan will allow you to do is pick a time frame, figure out the goals for that time frame and then you can create that map and say, “Here’s the goal. If I work backwards and break it down, here’s some of the things that I have to do this month in order to achieve that and even this week here today here’s what I have to do.”                                 In your business plan you’re not going to go down to what do I have to do today but you may have monthly goals or milestones that you want to hit and that way when you’re doing your planning on top of creating your business plan you can figure out what are the things I have to do in order to hit that goal. Let me tell you the number one thing that I think people struggle with is they don’t have clarity on what they need to do next. As a result they spend a lot of time being unproductive trying to figure that out whereas if you lay this out it’s very clear on what you have to do next because you already identified what the goals are and then some of the things you got to do to get there. Ariana:                 This next reason for needing a business plan is a big one for a lot of people I know have trouble with the understanding the finances and your projected finances. Tom:                      Oh, yeah. Ariana:                 This is a tough one for most people. Tom:                      I think this scares people away and as a result most people don’t ever look at the numbers. They just figure if I keep working in the business, it’ll all take care of itself. The reality is ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the financials of your business. To be completely honest when we first started our businesses we did not look at the finances the way that we needed to. Ariana:                 Yeah, we forgot about that little thing called sales tax when we started started [inaudible 00:18:16] Wine and Spirits and then we had an moment when we realized we had to pay said sales tax. Tom:                      Yeah, in reality what a lot of small business owners do is they manage their business out of their bank account so they look at how much money is in the bank account and then they try to estimate well what are their costs and well it seems like I’ve got enough money to cover all my expenses. The reality is there’s so much more that goes into this like you have startup costs so you have to understand how long is it going to take to break even. You have to understand are there different seasons where you’re going to get more money or less money and then what do you have to pay down. How much money is coming in? Are there trends where you’re either increasing the amount of sales you have or decreasing it and why is that happening?                                 Understanding your numbers and looking at them often is going to tell you that but if you don’t ever look at those numbers, you’re just running blind and whether you’re making money or losing money you may never know and it may take a really long time to figure that out.                                 We had some examples with our real estate business where we kind of ball parked what it was going to take to buy and renovate and how much we’d get in rent but then when we look back afterwards what we realized was we were like twenty grand off. Ariana:                 Yeah, that’s a little bit off. Tom:                      Yeah, we ended up tipping down and actually losing some money at some point until we really started looking at the numbers and looking at them often and saying, “Well how much is coming in? How much is going out and what do we have to shift?” If you don’t ever look at that you’re just going to be maybe you’re losing $1,000 a month and you don’t know that so then next month you lose another $1,000 and then maybe the next month you lose $2,000. If you never look at that, it could be the end of the year and you thought you made $50,000 but you ended up losing $50,000. Ariana:                 Yeah, we don’t want to see you hit that point. Tom:                      Absolutely not. Ariana:                 All right, our last reason for needing that business plan is getting others involved. This may not apply to everyone but we want to touch on it either way. Tom:                      There’s three primary reasons for creating a business plan. The first one is for you and really just to guide your business. The second one is if you need to pull in partners or if you’re trying to get other people to buy in or have equity or work with you on the business. Then the third one is if you need funding. If you need to go to a bank or if you want to get investors, they’re going to need to see a business plan and when we define business plans we primarily first focus on you and creating the business plan for you. Then there’s also these additional sections and tweaks that you’ll make for other people.                                 Even if this is just for you, it’s good to have that plan and then have for example your attorney review that to make sure that you set up the right legal structure. To have your accountant review that and make sure that you’re taking the right deductions and you’re doing things right from a financial perspective. Ariana:                 If you pick the right type of business, LLC, S Corp, whatever. You want to make sure that they know what you’re doing so they can give you the best advice on how to move forward. Tom:                      Exactly. Once you have that plan, you can share that with other entrepreneurs, other business owners and just get feedback from an outside perspective to say here’s the plan that I laid out. Does that seem reasonable?  Can you punch any holes in this? That’s going to help you avoid a lot of failures a long the way. Ariana:                 Let’s go back and recap the show for everyone. The business planning myths. We went through those. You don’t need one.  You only need one if you want to raise money.  Your business plan should be a specific length. Your business plan should be a specific format or you only need to do it once. None of those are true. Tom, do you need a business plan? Tom:                      If people don’t know it by now, yes. You absolutely need a business plan. Going back to the myths. The format, the length and some of that stuff could be different but you need to spend some time thinking about researching and planning out your business. Ariana:                 All right and then business plan versus business planning what’s the difference? Tom:                      Business plan is really the output of the business planning process and business planning is really just the ongoing research and adjusting of your business as time goes on. Ariana:                 Remember, it’s the recalculating of your business GPS. Tom:                      Beautiful. Ariana:                 Then why do you need a business plan? To gather your thoughts into an organized format. Tom:                      Yep, you need to research the key information that you need for your business to be successful. Ariana:                 You want to determine the goals of your business. Tom:                      You want to understand your strengths and weaknesses and how you take advantage of those. Ariana:                 You want to understand your staffing and your hiring needs. Tom:                      You want to create a roadmap that’s going to allow you to actually execute and do the things you need to do in your business. Ariana:                 You want to understand your finances and then your projected finances. Tom:                      Then finally you want to get others involved to help support, guide and grow your business. Ariana:                 All right guys, that brings us to our tip of the week. Do not try to start a business without first going through the planning process. There are far, far too many businesses out there that fail because everyone gets excited and they jump in without really doing the research and understanding if there’s a need for their business as well as what needs to be done to make that business successful. Tom:                      That’s so critical. One of the things that like we said we’re going to do is have a free download for every show. You can get the show notes and lengths and everything else for this show at serialstartups.co/show19 and for you guys our free download is actually going to be a template for creating your business plan. Now this is a template that we use for all of our businesses. It’s pretty light weight. There’s only seven sections that we call essential that you need as part of this business plan. Head on over to the show notes page. You’ll be able to download that and it’ll really lay out what you need to do give you a format for creating your own business plan. Ariana:                 That actually brings us into our next episode for next week. We’re going to go through each of those seven essential elements of creating that business plan. Tom:                      Yeah, download it. Take a look at it this week and then we’ll see you guys back next week and we’ll go through each of those sections in case you have any questions on them. Ariana:                 Yeah, that’s our show for this week. Bye guys. Tom:                      All right, bye guys. Ariana:                 Do you want a free copy of the template that we use when we create our business plans? Head on over to serialstartups.co/bptemplate to download your free copy. If you want a step-by-step guidance for creating your business plan and how to use it to grow your business, head on over to serialstartups.co/businessplan for access to our business planning mini course.  The post Show 19 – Does Your Business Need a Business Plan? appeared first on Serial Startups.


6 Jan 2016

Rank #17

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Show 18 – Our Business Graveyard – Dedicated to Those Businesses No Longer With Us

Episode OverviewIn our third and final show of our “lessons learned” mini-series, we are going to take a walk through businesses that we once had and no longer are a part of, either because we closed them or sold them. People often only see the successes that entrepreneurs have, but rarely see the failed businesses or efforts from those entrepreneurs.  So today we will walk through 4 businesses that we no longer have and explain what they were, why we no longer have them and what we learned from them. Episode Key Points You can learn and apply skills from the various jobs that you have had to being an entrepreneur Our first business was selling used books on Amazon and was low cost Every business needs a defined process (and tools to support the process) to be efficient When one business needs a product or service, other businesses probably do too Starting a business by bootstrapping can lead to taking jobs because you need money, even if they don’t align to your business You should never start a business without doing some business planning Before starting a business, decide and agree on how the exit strategy (especially if you have a partner) Home party business can be low cost to start, but are a challenge after going through your “warm” leads It can be easy to jump into an online business and not treat it like a business, but this is a mistake Use skills from previous jobs to help start your own business. - Tom SylvesterClick To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode An Overview of Our Online Book Selling Business How to Start a Home Party Business Show 12 – An Overview of Our Wine and Liquor Store Show 13 – An Overview of Our Real Estate Investing Business Show 14 – An Overview of Our Internet Marketing Business Show 15 – An Overview of Our Entrepreneur Coaching Business Join Our Free Facebook Group for Entrepreneurs Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Transcript coming soon… The post Show 18 – Our Business Graveyard – Dedicated to Those Businesses No Longer With Us appeared first on Serial Startups.


30 Dec 2015

Rank #18

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Show 15 – An Overview of Our Entrepreneur Coaching Business

Episode OverviewIn the final show of our series on giving an overview of our businesses and how we run them, today we are going to take your inside our entrepreneur and small business coaching business.One of the best things that we have done to start and grow our businesses is to seek out and hire coaches and mentors.  These have allowed us to break through barriers and get past hurdles.  We have also been able to coach and work with various entrepreneurs to help them do the same.So in this episode you will learn about the inner workings of our final business and how we run this business.  Whether or not you have a consulting business, just like the other episodes in this series, you will learn valuable tips that you can use to run your business. Episode Key Points Not only do we coach, but we continue to hire coaches ourselves How to migrate a pure offline business into an offline/online model How you can outsource parts of your business, even when you are the expert Tools and processes that can help you be more focused and productive What batching is and how it can save hours and reduce stress when creating content Knowing your market and identifying your target customers Pre-selling and how it can help you with developing products people actually want What a minimum viable product (MVP) is and how to incorporate it into your business Using your existing skills to freelance or become a consultant Don't spend the wrong amount of money on the wrong type of (entrepreneur) coach. - Ariana SylvesterClick To TweetWe don't just pitch (entrepreneur) coaching because we do it. We do it because we use it.Click To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Show 12 – An Overview of Our Retail Wine and Liquor Store Show 13 – An Overview of our Real Estate Investing Business Show 14 – An Overview of our Online Internet Marketing Business ATR-2100 Podcasting USB/XLR Microphone Our Complete Podcast & Video Setup/Tools Camtasia (Video Editing) Canva (Image Editing) Buffer (Social Media Automation) Edgar (Social Media Automation) Dropbox (Cloud Storage and Backup) Evernote (Notetaking & Storage) Gumroad (Selling Digital Products) LeadPages (Sales Pages & Email Opt-in Boxes) ConvertKit (Email Marketing) Join our Free Facebook Community Lean Startup Book How to Setup a WordPress Website in 10 Minutes Episode Transcript Prefer to read the transcript instead? Click the plus icon ---> Transcript coming soon… The post Show 15 – An Overview of Our Entrepreneur Coaching Business appeared first on Serial Startups.


9 Dec 2015

Rank #19

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Show 13 – An Overview of Our Real Estate Investing Business

Episode Overview In the second show of our series on giving an overview of our businesses and how we run them, today we are going to take your inside our real estate investing business. Real estate investing sounds very exciting (and it can be), but it also requires a lot of work and has the risk of losing a significant amount of money if you are not careful.  In this episode, we are going to walk through the various criteria that we use to run our business, as well are share some costly mistakes that we have made. Episode Key Points What our favorite “real estate investing” shows are an why You should avoid spending $10,000+ on training, especially when you are just starting out 5 ways that we make money with buy and hold real estate investing How we hired people to help us with this business as we began to grow How doing the work yourself can actually cost you money Consistency is essential with processes to manage multiple properties The key forms that you need as part of being a landlord How using standard materials have saved us thousands of dollars when renovating properties The tools that we use to help us run our real estate business Where you invest and what strategy you use have a big impact on your success Why you need to understand your market and potential tenant pool when making decisions Being clear on the financials is ESSENTIAL to being successful with real estate investing Developing a brand that stands out and helps you get known in your market It cost us more money to do the work ourselves than to hire it out. - Tom SylvesterClick To Tweet Links and Resources Mentioned in the Episode Show 12 – An Overview of Our Wine & Liquor Store The post Show 13 – An Overview of Our Real Estate Investing Business appeared first on Serial Startups.


25 Nov 2015

Rank #20