Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy Holidays 2020

𝗦𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝘄𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗴𝗹𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿!

 Soledad Tanner

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The entrepreneur’s beginning-of-year checklist

Source: https://tinyurl.com/qsepm5m

Written by: Meredith Wood December 13, 2019

This article was originally published on Dec. 31, 2018, and was updated on Dec. 13, 2019.

As an entrepreneur, you always have a lot to do, and little time in which to do it. But the beginning of the year offers you a unique opportunity to stop, breathe and evaluate. Take advantage of this time to reflect and refocus your efforts.

Just like making a list of New Year’s resolutions, we’ve made a list of business owner responsibilities that you might choose to tackle as you head into the new calendar year.

Beginning-of-year checklist: 8 essential things to do

Make your way down this checklist of important tasks to do on behalf of your business:

Set realistic financial goals.
Explore affordable financing products.
Migrate your busywork to automated solutions.
Investigate remote work options.
Focus on ROI in marketing efforts.
Connect with a mentor.
Read up on industry trends.
Do a recap and forecast with your team.

Before you charge ahead into the new year doing business as usual, check off these eight essential but manageable tasks.

1. Set realistic financial goals

The idea of setting goals might seem trite — of course, you want to accomplish big things. But if you’re not the kind of entrepreneur who really puts the things you want to achieve down in writing, make this the year you’ll do it.

Setting goals isn’t just about saying, “It’d be cool to make a million dollars,” though.

Because you’re a business owner, many of the goals you’ll look to achieve will be financial. Depending on how long you’ve been in business, how successful you’ve been of late, and what you’re looking to achieve in the next year, your financial goals may vary.

The best way to set these goals is to look into well-established systems of team productivity and goal-setting that other companies use to achieve results. Examples include Intel’s OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) frameworks.

With OKRs, for example, you might make a list of objectives and key results for each area of your organization. Sales, finance, marketing, human resources, business development, engineering, product development — every team that contributes to the bottom line should have a sense of what they’re looking to accomplish heading into the new year.

Additionally, look into different tools and project management processes to help you achieve these.

It’s not enough to just set goals — you have to move your organization toward implementing the infrastructure to support achieving them, too.

2. Explore affordable financing products

If you’re headed into the new year on a roll — holiday sales were strong, and the business performed well throughout much of the year prior — then you want to at least explore the business financing options available to you.

This might seem backward to some business owners. Business loans, lines of credit and other business financing options are for businesses that need money, right? Why would I take out a loan if business is booming?
The truth is, the best time to look for financing is when your business is doing well.

When the business is struggling and you need a loan to stay afloat, you’re much less likely to qualify for the high-quality loan products that businesses use to catapult to greater success, such as SBA loans or 0% introductory APR credit cards.

There’s no need to take out a loan if you don’t need one. If you see an opportunity for expansion or improvement on the horizon, however, the beginning of the year is a good time to look into what financing you could qualify for.

Related: GoDaddy and Kabbage partnership gives entrepreneurs easy access to capital

3. Migrate your busywork to automated solutions

Automated solutions are quickly changing the way we work day-to-day.

People now spend much less updating spreadsheets, filling out timesheets or logging correspondence with clients.

We now have software and tools that can do these things for us while we focus on getting real work done.

If you aren’t using automated software solutions for tasks like accounting, customer relationship management and time tracking, it’s time to start.

Take accounting software for example. Consider that at the beginning of a new year, you have to wrap up your financial statements: P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statement among them. Your business accounting software can run these reports with ease, while sending all the necessary information to your bookkeeper to process, as well as to the IRS.

Meanwhile, instead of spending hours calculating everything by hand, you can review your documents and ask yourself these important questions about your business:
Over the past year, have you managed your cash flow well?
Did your investments pay off and create the ROI you expected?
Are you going to need to replace any equipment or hire new staff?
Based on your forecasting, will you generate enough revenues to cover anticipated expenses?

Let your software do the heavy lifting, so you can work smarter in the year to come. Here are some options to get you started.

4. Investigate remote work options

Remote work — whether it’s allowing your full-time employees to work from home, contracting remote freelancers to help you complete a project, or utilizing the gig economy to help your business reach new customers (via delivery services, for example) — will be one of the defining work trends of this generation.

For some businesses, it’s not possible to utilize remote work opportunities, such as if you own a brick-and-mortar retail store. But these businesses will be in the minority: According to Upwork, 73% of all departments will have remote workers by 2028.

  • How would hiring remote workers benefit your business?
  • Could you widen your talent search for the right candidate, even if they live in a different (and less expensive) market?
  • Could you spend less money on office space as you instead rent coworking space across different cities, scaling up or down as needed?
  • Could you make the right temporary hire instead of the wrong long-term hire?

Start researching how an investment in your remote workforce — the price of remote communication tools, collaborative platforms and more cloud storage — could be worth their weight and then some.

Related: Remote work apps to keep you productive, creative and connected on the move

5. Focus on ROI in marketing efforts
When deciding which marketing initiatives to focus on in the coming year, your primary concern should be what kind of return on investment you’ll get from each one.

Novice marketers tend to take a “let’s throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” approach when it comes to new campaigns. Social media, email, blogging, paid advertising on social platforms — sure, why not? Hey, I heard Pinterest is getting big again, let’s buy advertisements on there as well as on Facebook and Instagram. This is all about “building our brand” anyway, right?

Marketing almost always involves striking a balance between understanding that not every initiative is perfectly measurable (many consider word-of-mouth the most effective marketing strategy, and that’s impossible to measure with confidence) and making sure that some marketing channels demonstrate a real ROI before moving forward with them.
Looking for a better digital marketing solution? GoDaddy Websites + Marketing integrates beautiful websites with email, SEO, social media and other marketing tools to drive more eyeballs to your business.

Especially when facing a year as uncertain as 2020 — which may continue to be weighed down by trade tensions, or could experience a recession, as some are predicting —it’s important to focus on marketing initiatives that you can show will make a difference in your bottom line.

For many businesses, email marketing is one of the best channels in digital marketing, as you can use it to recapture abandoned shopping carts, remarket to new buyers, and cement your relationship with existing customers.

But every business is different, so understand who you’re trying to reach and why before you start pouring money into a marketing channel to try to appeal to them.

6. Connect with a mentor

No matter what stage of life or business ownership you’re in, a mentor is an invaluable resource.

Whether you’re a new or well-established entrepreneur, gaining insight from someone in your field or industry who has been in your shoes can help you navigate uncertainty with greater ease and less financial risk.

According to a report from Kabbage, entrepreneurs basically fall into two camps: people who have benefited from having a mentor, and people who wish they had benefited from having a mentor.
  • 92% of small businesses agreed that mentors had a direct impact on growth and the survival of their business.
  • Of all the respondents, 63% didn’t have a mentor — and 89% of those small business owners wished that they did.

Mentors offer business owners objective advice, tales of subjective experience, access to a larger network of people and resources and much more.

When starting off a new year, consider getting in touch with someone who can help guide you through the next year of your business — and hopefully beyond.

You can connect with a mentor via a number of well-known organizations, such as SCORE or MENTOR.

Related: Finding a mentor — where to look and what to look for

7. Examine industry trends

As a busy owner, it’s important to know how to react to changes in your industry or sector. But if you can be proactive — well, that’s much better.

Don’t begin the year without taking the pulse on what’s going on, both within your industry and in every other industry that has bearing on yours.

For instance, if you make and sell wool sweaters internationally, you shouldn’t just look at wholesale and retail clothing trends. You also want to look at the price of your raw materials, including wool and dye, and fuel for the ships and planes that carry your goods.

You might even want to keep an eye on the length of seasons — are people even wearing sweaters as often as they used to? Maybe you need to introduce a lighter-weight thread into your product line, or try to open up distribution domestically, based on what you find.

Either way, you’re making proactive decisions.

This has become an especially important step to take as China and the United States continue to engage in a trade war. Prices for your goods may fluctuate or skyrocket at a moment’s notice. See if you can find a more stable inventory source, or build up a backlog of useable inventory that can potentially last until tensions ease.

Related: How to make your product imports profitable

8. Do a recap and forecast with your team

Whether your team is you and your accountant or lawyer, or you’ve built a robust and growing workforce with managers and freelance contributors, take the time at the end of each year (and the beginning of a new one) to update everyone on where you are and where you’re going.

An all-hands meeting that reviews OKRs and/or SMART objectives, your finances, and your ROI on major projects from the year before will not only keep your team in the loop, but it will help them feel more personally connected to the success of the business.

Additionally, informing your team of what you’re looking to accomplish next year — new OKRs, sure, but also possible investments in remote work opportunities, migrating workflows onto new platforms, and plans for expansion — comes with big benefits.

It will help ease the transition in case of major changes, and will allow you to field questions and hear valuable feedback about what works or what could be improved.

That last part is important.

Take the time to talk to your employees and understand how they’re feeling about their roles and responsibilities.

If you don’t do quarterly or biannual check-ins or reviews, the beginning of the year is a great time to do an annual review.

No business owner is an island. Keep your team informed as to how you’re doing and what’s coming next, and you’ll get greater buy-in and enthusiasm than if you keep them in the dark until the day of changes arrives.
Plan for success

Of course, there are probably a million things you’d like to do to give your business a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, at the beginning of the year.

If you can focus on a few vital stats and make improvements, a little just might go a long way.

Start with this beginning-of-the-year checklist, and you might find that certain areas require a greater investment of your time and energy than you originally thought. Similarly, you might decide that you can alter or skip certain steps next year, since they weren’t as impactful as you hoped.

As long as you cover the basics and do your due diligence to make sure your business is thinking proactively about the future, you’ll be well ahead of the curve.

Image by: thr3 eyes on Unsplash

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Strategic CFOs look through the windshield, not rearview

    Credit: Flickr user Thomas Anderson

Following $140 million in Series C and D round funding, growth marketing platform Iterable, based out of San Francisco, has hired Will Johnson as its CFO, it announced Wednesday.
Johnson, in speaking to CFO Dive, offered an analogy. “We’re a freight train barreling down the tracks. The goal for a team like the one I manage is to lay the infrastructure, lay the tracks ahead of the train so the train never ends up in the dirt.”​
Within the past 12 months, Iterable, which supports customer engagement for brands including Zillow and SeatGeek, has expanded considerably. It has opened additional offices in Denver and London, hosted two conferences in San Francisco and London, and introduced a new metadata-driven individualization engine called Catalog.

Johnson, along with newly hired CISO Andrew Becherer, will play key roles in helping Iterable further its global expansion, enhance service offerings and better understand the growth marketing space, the company said.

Johnson brings more than 25 years of venture capital and emerging technology experience to the Iterable team, having held leadership positions at Workday, DemandTec, GuideSpark and more. The operational expertise Johnson brings from a career in startup ventures, as well as billion-dollar public companies, will provide additional strategic leadership to continue optimizing Iterable's business and growth objectives of the future.

Iterable is the third SaaS business for which Johnson has served as CFO. The two prior businesses, Inkling and GuideSpark, were similarly sized, but the growth trajectory at Iterable “is a bit steeper, and more substantial.” 

High growth trajectory

“Let me be clear,” Johnson said. “When I joined [Inkling and GuideSpark], both of them were at a similar stage, measured by customers, employees, revenue metrics, and so on: those fairly traditional measures of the business. But again, the real difference here has been the growth rate. [Iterable is] a very quickly growing platform, and that was part of the allure for me. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of the business growing as quickly as we are. But there are challenges there too.”

In this sense, Johnson and his finance team must build only “a mile or two ahead, not going 10 or 20 miles down the line,” in laying down the train tracks. “Things change, and you want to be flexible enough to change course, so you don’t have such rigid, inflexible processes that can’t adjust to changes in business over time,” he said.

One of the changes Johnson cited was his new company’s geographic footprint. “We’re based in the Bay Area, and most of our employees are here, but we’re not wedded to the Bay Area,” he explained. “We opened a Denver office not too long ago; that’s a testament to our being nimble in charting our course. That’s acknowledging that in Denver, it’s much easier [than in the Bay Area] to attract and retain employees.”

Overall, the high rate of growth Iterable is experiencing creates its own set of unique challenges for Johnson, which, while difficult, he says makes it “unique, fun and rewarding [to be] part of the journey.”
Professional evolution

Johnson was forthcoming about the evolution of the CFO role, and how he will fit into it, as this, he said, is “not [his] first rodeo.”

“Two points,” he said. “Tactically, I’m responsible for the core pieces of finance: accounting and financial planning & analysis. Another piece is the deal desk [on] the commercial side. We work very closely with our sales ops team, but a couple folks on my finance team are responsible for approving and vetting the commercial terms of our customer contracts, and the pricing model, and so forth.

“So that’s finance, and then again legal, both sides of the coin there, commercial and corporate,” he said.

“And the third piece is facilities and employee culture, which ... plays an important role in helping us scale, from an employee perspective.”

Johnson pointed to the extensive differences between a modern, or “strategic” CFO, and an old-fashioned, or “accounting” CFO.

“An old mentor of mine would say today that the accounting CFO is going the way of the dinosaur,” Johnson said. “The moniker he used was ‘strategic CFO,’ someone who goes far beyond the realm of accounting or traditional finance. They’re a true business partner to the CEO. [Iterable has] a CEO, COO and CFO, and the three of us view one another as business partners.”

Johnson says CFOs are best positioned to fall under the “strategic” category if they’ve “seen elements outside of core accounting and finance.” Johnson himself, “well before” becoming a CFO, was a venture investor for “like, ten years.”

“When I moved into my operating career, I managed business development: two channel teams for indirect sales. These teams had quotas!” he said. “Today, as a CFO, I have much more sympathy for the sales team because I’ve walked in their shoes. That’s not to say I’m a pushover; it’s a really strong product, but selling is still tough.”

The new perspective
As a strategic CFO, having that diverse set of experiences, allows Johnson to have a “more holistic perspective than someone who just grew up in accounting,” he said.

In his new role, Johnson, looking back, encourages CFOs to see themselves as business partners to the rest of the organization and the board.

“I think all of us, as CFOs, can [change] how the role is viewed, and hopefully we’re far enough along in our transition [that] all of us, in a tactical or local sense, can [help] get the investor community and our peers in the tech arena to see [us] as true business partners, as opposed to traditional accounting role.”

As for his future at Iterable, Johnson knows how he’ll try to spend his time. “An accounting CFO spends most of their time looking out the rearview mirror, and telling their board and peers on the management team what happened last month or last quarter,” he said.

“A strategic CFO should spend their time at least as much looking out the windshield, to the future, as the rearview. And then help inform and influence that roadmap, and know where the business is headed.”

Happy Holidays 2019

𝗦𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝘄𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗵𝘁𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘀𝗵𝗲𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗮 𝘄𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗿𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗵𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗱𝗮𝘆 𝘀𝗲𝗮𝘀𝗼𝗻 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗮 𝘀𝘂𝗰𝗰𝗲𝘀𝘀𝗳𝘂𝗹 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗴𝗹𝗼𝗿𝗶𝗼𝘂𝘀 𝗵𝗮𝗽𝗽𝘆 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝘆𝗲𝗮𝗿!

𝗦𝗼𝗹𝗲𝗱𝗮𝗱 𝗧𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗲𝗿

Monday, December 9, 2019

Soledad Tanner speech at University of Houston Downtown (FMA) Financial Management Association (FMA)

I was a special guest at the University of Houston Downtown (UHD) Financial Management Association (FMA) Fall 2019 Banquet, this Friday Dec 6, 2019.

During the banquet, Financial Management Association (FMA) i saluted senior class members and wish them well in their future endeavors and will recognize members who have exceeded expectations and those who worked their hardest as an FMA member. Cords and Stoles will be handed out for the graduates along with a certification of completion.

Thank you, Selena Requena- President, Megan Doherty – Corporate Relations- and Cassandra Sifuentes – Fundraising & Events - Financial Management Association (FMA) for the invite.

Soledad Tanner, MIB

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Persistent Myth of Female Office Rivalries

By:Andrea S. Kramer Alton B. Harris

The popular press is full of articles claiming women bully other women, spread malicious rumors about them, behave in two-faced ways toward them, and seek to undermine their professional standing. The problem with all such claims is that they are simply not true. In conducting research for our book, It’s Not You, It’s The Workplace, we could find no empirical evidence supporting the notion that women are more mean-spirited, antagonistic, or untrustworthy in dealing with other women than men are in dealing with other men. Indeed, the best recent psychological research finds that “one’s sex has little or no bearing on personality, cognition and leadership.” But, if there is no empirical evidence that women are inherently hostile to other women, why is this view so prevalent?

We believe the answer lies in a fundamental misunderstanding of why women sometimes have fraught work relationships with other women. It’s not because they have some unique, female psychological characteristic, it’s because of workplace discrimination.

Gendered Workplaces

Workplaces are gendered when they are led and dominated by men and operated in accordance with masculine norms, values, and expectations. In such workplaces, two powerful — if implicit or unconscious — biases can lead women into antagonistic relationships: affinity bias and gender bias.

Affinity bias is the natural, instinctive preference people have to associate with and provide support for people who are like them. Because of affinity bias, male managers typically consider giving women career-enhancing assignments, appointing them to important teams or including them in their networks only after the men in the office with whom they feel more comfortable.

Gender bias is the assumption that men are superior to women at leadership, high-pressure tasks, and difficult negotiations. Because of gender bias, women are seen as less competent, ambitious, and competitive than men.

Affinity bias and gender bias often work in tandem to make women’s same-gender workplace relationships difficult because they limit the number of positions for women at leadership tables, thereby forcing the people vying for those spots into direct competition with one another. The two forms of bias also create substantial, if not overt, pressure on women to adopt a decidedly masculine management style in order to identify with the male in-group and distance or differentiate themselves from their female peers. These dynamics can foster antagonism between women, which is then often wrongly attributed to their inherent nature, rather than to workplace circumstances.

Workplace Expectations

Women (and men) hold gender stereotypes about how women (and men) should behave. For example, women expect female (but not male) colleagues to be interested in their personal issues, concerned about their welfare, supportive of their desires, and more aware of and sensitive to their unique needs, wishes, and difficulties. In other words, they assume that other women will be “more understanding, more nurturing, more giving, and more forgiving than men.” And, when this fails to happen, they can react in antagonistic ways.

In high status, demanding careers, however, women (and men) are under pressure to be direct, assertive, and business-like and not to treat people differently because of their gender. Female executives are thus caught between the expectations of their workplaces and the expectations of other women, perceived as cold, selfish, hostile or antagonistic — while men who behave in precisely the same way are perceived to be simply doing their jobs.

Of course, some women are genuinely unpleasant, unfriendly, and adversarial. But there is no evidence that there is a higher proportion of such women than there is of men who act in a similar way. Certainly, there are not enough “mean girls” at in the workplace to justify painting all women with this brush.

Women and Men Are Not Different

As we noted at the beginning of this article, there is another reason to reject the caricature of women as inherently hostile to other women: the lack of any significant non-biological difference between the sexes. The differences that do exist are small, with more variation in temperament, ability, and behavior among women than between women (in general) and men (in general).

When women and men behave differently in the workplace, it is not because of different psychological characteristics but because biased practices and procedures result in the two groups having disparate workplace experiences. Women and men do feel, behave, and interact differently in the workplace because of the tasks they are asked to perform, the conditions under which they are asked to do them, and expectations as to how they will perform.

The caricatures of women as bullies or backstabbers who are inherently hostile to other women have nothing to do with their actual psychological makeup and everything to do with the stereotypes and biases they confront at work. Instead of setting up female rivalries, let’s fix those workplaces so that women are not systematically disadvantaged in their pursuit of career advancement.