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Planning for the future

How to Set Up Your Finance Department

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How to Set Up Your Finance Department

Everyone is well aware that having a finance department is essential for any business in all industries to progress. However, when comes to startups its more about when is the right time to set one up, and who will be responsible for overseeing the company’s finances. We’ve seen the difficulties many startups are having with this conundrum and came up with a few tips to help you get started on setting up your finance department.

When a company is just getting started and can’t afford an accountant one of the best moves is look into accounting software programs. Options such as QuickBooks is reasonably priced and will do the number crunching for you. Most startups do their own accounting using multiple spreadsheets, ledgers etc. but technology has created a way for startups to save time on doing math and more time on marketing the business. Utilize the ability to let a computer do the work for you and start figuring out a way to get paid from any outstanding receivables.

Live within your means when it’s time to expand. As the business grows in revenue, you’ll need more help handling the finances, and hiring an accounting firm can be very time costly experience if you don’t know what you’re doing. Research both large and smaller firms, be clear about your expectations and budget when speaking to their agents. Do not discredit smaller firms because on occasion they can produce the type of financial assistance you require within your budget and building business relationships never hurts. A lot of startups can get swept up in the appeal of a large financial firm taking over but unable to maintain the costs associated. There is nothing impressive about going with a big firm if you don’t have the big budget to match it. Keep it simple.

Finally, consider hiring contract, part-time, or freelance bookkeepers to complete your finance department. Not every business needs a full time dedicated finance department. Take advantage of these options and seek outside help who can pick up some of the workloads where your business may be falling short. It’s usually just as effective and keeps costs low while you wait for your business to take that next step up in revenue to hire full-time staff.

What Does Professionalism Mean To You?

By | Entrepreneurial, Achieving Wealth, Business Health, Foundations of Success, Planning for the future | No Comments

logo-subheadingThis past weekend was the annual Wish Group Kickoff event, where we meet up with all of our employees to discuss what we accomplished in 2014, where we met our goals and, more importantly, where we didn’t meet our goals. I truly believe that in order to move forward, you need to take an honest look at your shortcomings and use those to get a better understanding of where you need to improve.

We always tie in a theme with these events to drive home our focus to the team. This year our theme was professionalism, and what that means to us. To communicate this better, we compared the professionalism of pro athletes and the incredible lengths they go through to achieve success. These were the most important comparisons that we made:

Visualize It – One of the biggest differences that you’ll notice when pro athletes get interviewed is that they mention that they have been dreaming of playing at the pro level since they were a kid. They would visualize hoisting the Stanley Cup over their head, along with the feeling of immense pride that comes with it. Visualisation is a powerful thing, especially when setting personal or professional goals. If you can picture your company doubling their sales or experiencing immense growth in a year, then that image will be a powerful motivator to continue pushing forward.

Cool Down Time – Once a big game is over and done with, athletes generally take some downtime to cool off both physically and mentally. This is a time for them to figure out what worked during a game and what needs improvement. Cooling down is critical for any profession, as it gives you a chance to take re-evaluate. Let’s say you had a really good client pitch – why did it go so well? Is there a chance that you can replicate it? On the flipside, if something didn’t go well in a meeting with a potential client, why didn’t it go well? Always try to analyze things when you have time to do so, as you’ll be able to look at things free from all the pressure that you were facing at the time.

Have A Coach – Natural talent is certainly beneficial, but that will only get you so far. All of the best athletes have enthusiastic mentors behind them, pushing them to their physical brink and helping them improve their techniques along the way. Without these coaches behind them, it’s debatable to see how far these athletes would have gone on their own. I’ve discussed the importance of mentorship in the past, and how having someone who can offer you advice is a crucial asset. A seasoned professional can offer you many insights to help guide towards better running your business, as well as avoiding any pitfalls that they’re encountered in their career.

This kickoff event is important for the Wish Group, and a tradition we’ve had for 11 years now. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend gathering together with your team to discuss the direction that you want to go in 2015.

Find Out What’s Important in 2015

By | Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Achieving Wealth, Business Growth, Business Health, Planning for the future, Leadership | No Comments

1325784419new-years-resolutionLet’s be serious – there is no doubt going to be an overabundance in blog posts detailing the importance of setting resolutions for the new year. Be it lose weight, get a promotion, go traveling or anything in between, resolutions are something that most of us set at this time of year.

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that last year I had mentioned that New Year’s resolutions are something that I’m not a big fan of. Personally, I find that this time of year has people motivated to make this year all their own, but then usually give up by February (gyms are the perfect example of this). I believe that you shouldn’t have to wait for a new year to motivate you to get what you want. You should always be striving to be the best person that you can be, and taking the proper steps in order to reach that goal.

I think it’s much better to use this time of year to set some guidelines for the bigger picture. I feel that the whole point of resolutions is to start thinking about areas of your life that you want to improve. Once you’ve figured out what exactly needs changing, it’s dramatically easier to make a list of objectives that you need to accomplish to reach your final destination. The main difference between setting a goal and a resolution is essentially the thought that you put into them.

This of course doesn’t mean that I’m completely against New Year’s resolutions though. I’ve known many people who don’t even state a resolution unless they’re completely adamant about accomplishing it. The difference between these people and those who I’ve known to not accomplish them is the fact that they turn these into long-term goals – much like I stated above.

And while the goals I’ve discussed are all personal, there’s no reason that they can’t be adapted for growing your business. Be it with a specific sales target, company revenue or anything else, don’t simply make a bold statement to your employees without backing it up. Rather, make them into a long term goal, and discuss with your team what it will take to reach these goals.

No matter how you do it, make sure that you do everything you can to grow personally, and professionally in 2015.

Adapt When Your Plans Fall Through

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If you went to the mall this past weekend (or anytime this month really) then you’ve been elbow to elbow trying to get some last minute shopping done. This could have all been easily avoided of course if you had just made a plan beforehand and then tackled it strategically.

The interesting part is that not everyone leaves all of their shopping to the last minute on purpose. I know many people who make detailed shopping plans that list everything from who the gift is for, to where they’ll buy the gift and even the exact price. With such a detailed plan, you would assume that getting everything done would be simple since all you have to do is tackle each piece one at a time. Things don’t always go as planned though, and even the most detailed plan can fall apart due to unforeseen circumstances…. See what I’m getting at?

Most entrepreneurs easily recognize this scenario, as a detailed business plan or planned acquisition can fall apart, leaving you scrambling to find alternatives if you’re ill prepared. Cases like this is where you need to be adaptable enough to find other solutions, instead of staying stuck on what could have been. But how?

Always Have A Contingency Plan – No matter how bullet proof a plan may appear to be, you always always need to have an ace up your sleeve. There have been many instances where an organization has been brought to their knees because they had all their hopes on a major acquisition or something similar, only to have it fall through. In essence, since these organizations thought that this one particular action item in a plan would pan out and essentially set them up for success, enough to the point where they don’t even attempt to get new business. Once things fall through, there’s a period of time where everything slows down because you need to build up momentum again and get over the failure – which not everyone does. This is where the contingency plan is useful, because you’ve already detailed what you need to do in the worst case scenario. All that’s left afterwards is to follow that plan.

Don’t “Fall In Love” And Rush In – An old Elvis song says “Only fools rush in”, and I think this ties in nicely with the previous point because the reason a lot of companies don’t have a back-up plan is because they’re completely in love with the potential ROI one of their created plans has to offer, and blindly chase it without considering the downsides. I’m not saying that being determined on a certain item is a bad thing, but I am saying that you need to be realistic about certain things. Get your team together and objectively assess whether or not this plan can come to fruition, and if you’ll have to change details that you might have been “in love” with.

At the end of the day, you can’t depend on anything realistically working out for you. Even those who work their tails off can have things blow up on them. It’s in these moments though that true leadership shines, as how you navigate these stormy seas can sometimes determine your organization’s success.

Holiday Homestretch

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With 37 days left in 2014, families and organizations are undoubtedly feeling the pressure of holiday crunch time. I’m pretty guilty of waiting last minute to buy all of my Christmas presents, but when it comes to prepping for the next year I try hard not to lose my focus and keep it going.

This time of year it really does feel like everything is working against you, though. The dreary weather sometimes makes it impossible for you to even get into the office, unexpected family visiting, hysteria at every store you visit regardless of what you want to buy…. It seems endless. During this chaos though is when you need to carve time to review how the year has been, since you’ll be busy the next couple of weeks preparing for 2015.

Revisit Your Earlier Goals – Hopefully you made a list of goals at the beginning of the year to guide your business. With so little time left in the year, you shouldn’t be looking at your list and attempt a mad dash to the finish. Rather, it’s a time to look at your list and see what has worked well for you. Hopefully you’ll find that you not only surpassed some goals, but that you also surpassed goals you added on a little later in the year. You’re bound to find something that was meant to be your focus that you may have let slip through the cracks…

Tie Up Lose Ends – If you do see a few loose ends that you were supposed to focus on for the year, you should do one of two things: (a) see why you weren’t able to meet this goal and attempt it next year or (b) decide if you should make it a priority for the coming year or if it’s actually a critical goal. Losing sight of a particular goal isn’t always a bad thing. Perhaps you subconsciously realized that this goal wasn’t essential to growing your business – especially if you’ve experienced tremendous growth in the year without it. On the flip side, if your business didn’t grow as quickly as you expected, then you should probably make it a priority in 2015.

Plan Your Time Off Accordingly – You’re not seriously planning on neglecting your family over the holidays, are you? No matter what holiday you observe, this time of year is important to spend with your family. I’ve talked about balance before, but I can’t stress how important it is to actually put your phone and computer down for a bit and spend time with loved ones. I can completely sympathize if a 100% disconnect is impossible, but don’t completely neglect your family either!

I’m very interested to know what your game plan is for the final weeks of the year. Please share your thoughts with me in the comments!

A Successful Business Isn’t A Dash To The Finish

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SCOTIABANK - Starting line shotThis past weekend in Toronto was the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon that had over 25,000 participants, with a few here in the Wish Group participating as well. Even though I run every now and then and do play hockey, I have to commend runners because it’s really an entirely different beast than most sports. Where hockey is tough, fast and furious, I find that long distance running is slower but a lot more mentally involved. It’s for this reason that I think long distance running can teach entrepreneurs many practical lessons about running their business.

Keep A Steady Pace – This is probably the hardest lesson to learn, both for runners and business owners. While a marathon is technically a race, it’s different in terms that you can’t sprint for 42 kilometers straight right from the get go. You need to find a pace that you can maintain for the duration of the run, one that won’t burn you out but at the same time lets you set a good time. Clearly this is the same with business growth. Your business won’t grow exponentially overnight. It takes a lot of time, and you need to make the right decisions to ensure success. Once you do though, you’ll be able to watch your company grow at a steady pace.

Move Past The Walls – All of the runners I’ve spoken to have always mentioned “the wall”. It’s the mental phenomenon where you feel like you can’t continue anymore, that you don’t know why you wanted to do this in the first place, and that you can’t make it to the finish and you want to give up more than anything. How many times have you thought something similar when things aren’t going so well with your business? What’s important to realize is that the runners DO surpass that wall by believing in what they do and staying determined in reaching the finish line. There is never really a “finish line” for entrepreneurs, but that’s why I’m a firm believer in setting goals. You can consider these goals that you set as mini finish lines and just keep moving from one to the next.

Keep Improving – The best thing about running is that you set new best times for yourself and then you have a new goal to train towards, which may seem impossible the first time to set a personal best. However, with hard work you’ll be able to overcome that. See where I’m going with this? It really speaks for itself, but once you have an incredibly success quarter or year it only makes sense that you want to beat that number the next year – no matter how difficult it may seem.

Do You Treat Success Like Turkey And Pumpkin Pie?

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I hope that everyone enjoyed time with their family during Thanksgiving and that everyone had a chance to eat to their heart’s content. I have a very soft spot for pumpkin pie and as such I happen to over indulge a bit over the past weekend, along with a bunch of other food. If it’s in abundance, it’s the time to enjoy it as much as you can, correct?

I don’t think I need to tell you the consequences of enjoying too much pie, but I’ve found that many business owners treat success the same way as Thanksgiving treats – they gorge themselves on it without thinking of the consequences of the future. Here are some things to consider when it comes to celebrating your success:

Success Isn’t Given, It’s Created – It’s always nice to not be the host during Thanksgiving every now and then because it means that you’re not the one who is preparing the food. But just because it was handed to you doesn’t mean that it didn’t take hard work to make it happen. Don’t get lazy once your company starts seeing a lot of success, because it won’t always come as easily to you. You shouldn’t depend on success being given to you, you ALWAYS need to work hard and earn it.

Save Some For Later… – I don’t think I need to tell you, but I hope that once your company starts seeing financial success that you’re not spending it on unnecessary and extravagant expenses. There’s hardly any worse feeling than realizing that all of this infamous pie is gone, so imagine how it must feel when you realize that enjoying too much of your financial success and you’re almost back where you started or worse. It’s a good habit to keep an ongoing tally of your success and budget, and make sure that you’re properly investing in areas of your company that will ensure growth.

…But Still Enjoy It – Of course, we’re only human so don’t take this as me simply telling you to not enjoy your success. If your team worked hard to land an account, or your business has been consistently growing for a few months, treat your team and show them that this success was entirely possible because of their hard work and dedication. As with everything in life, balance is important. Be responsible with your celebrations.

It’s always tempting to go for more and want more, but as long as you’re responsible about how you do it, there’s nothing wrong with indulging every now and then.

Setting Standards and Expectations

By | Comments & Opinion, Entrepreneurial, Self Education, Business Insights, Foundations of Success, Planning for the future, Leadership, Personal Accountability | No Comments

setting-expectations-and-standardsSurely you’ve heard people mention in passing that they live by a “code”, but what does that mean exactly? While I could delve into many different territories here, something that I believe all “codes” follow is that they set certain standards and expectations.

Standards and expectations are important because they dictate vital elements of how your business will operate, like how you’ll treat your clients and who’s accountable in your organization. If you try to operate your business without setting any form of standards to follow, the results are guaranteed to be disastrous.

To me, these are the three most important people you need to set standards and expectations for:

For Your Clients – This should naturally be your priority. Who will be the point of contact for clients? How will you communicate with them? What type of tone will you use, professional or casual? How do you want them to perceive your organization? These types of questions may seem arbitrary, but if nothing is set in place before your team starts liaising with clients, the disorganization will be obvious. There are few things more annoying than multiple people from your organization reaching out to a client to ask the same questions.

For Your Co-workers – Another equally important set of standards that you need to have in place are for your coworkers. You may think that you have them in place, but are you sure that everyone truly understands what they are? This goes far beyond simple things like a dress code. This means that everyone understands deliverables for each project, how much time to allocate for different clients and who will deliver what work. Again, this may sound arbitrary, but you might be surprised once you discover what people on your team are expecting from each other – and from you.

For Yourself – This point ties in with what I was discussing earlier when I mentioned living by a “code”. When you set standards for where you work, then it makes sense that you should set standards for yourself, correct? While everyone’s idea of ideal expectations will differ, sit down and pencil out what exactly is important to you. How will you treat your clients? How often do you want to regroup with your coworkers? Are you realistically making enough time for yourself and your loved ones? These things matter in the long run. Once you have an idea of what people can expect from you, make it known to them.

One last thing I want to mention about expectations and standards is that once they’re set, don’t neglect them. While not having standards can be pretty rough, setting them and not following through is much worse.

When is the Risk Worth Taking?

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entrepreneurial-riskEntrepreneurs are known as risk-takers. Whether the risk involves investing a large sum of money into a new venture or hiring a new employee, it’s critical to evaluate whether the risk is worth taking.

I’ve taken my own share of risks from the time I started my first business to now owning multiple businesses, and I’ve come to notice a few distinct methods I use to make my decisions whenever risk is involved. Here are a few tips I can offer from my time as an Entrepreneur:

Evaluate What’s at Stake – When presented with a major decision, I sit down and jot down what I’ve got to lose, as well as what I have to gain. Keep in mind that it’s not always money that’s at stake – you could also have personal stake or even mental stake in something. If you’re in too much mental anguish over a big risk, it’s often best to just let it go.

Estimate the Probability of Loss and Trust your Gut – Although you may not be able to determine the exact probabilities of success and failure, you should be able to reasonably estimate it thanks to your time as an entrepreneur. Sometimes though, this means that you’ll have to trust your gut. I can understand that sometimes it’s hard to listen to a quiet voice from within, but if you listen hard enough you’ll sometimes get the most profound wisdom. However…

How Realistic are your Fears? – Listening to your gut sometimes means listening to your fears, and let’s admit it: sometimes you over-exaggerate a negative outcome because fear comes into play. I’ve mentioned this before in the past, but it’s important that I reiterate it here. Take a step back and seriously consider how realistic your fears are before you back out. Don’t let a moment of fear become a lifetime of regret.

Discuss It with Mentors and Peers – Like with most things in life, you can accomplish much more with people than you can on your own. This means seeking out advice when you need it as well. Don’t just think that a mentor can provide you the best information either. Talking to your leadership team, your whole entire team or even just close friends will give you much needed perspective and let you truly evaluate how big a risk actually is.

Take the time to take a step back from a major risky decision in order to get an objective view on it. Sometimes things aren’t as bad as they seem – and sometimes they’re worse. These are just a few of the tools that I have found useful when I am just stuck and don’t know whether to accept a risk or let it go. How do you decide whether or not to take risk?

How Do You Keep Moving Forward?

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Keep_Moving_ForwardBy nature, an entrepreneur runs head first into things regardless of the risk, meaning that sometimes we make mistakes that make us want to quit. Though it’s hectic and overwhelming, especially when dealing with multiple businesses, you need to learn to move past these small missteps to truly succeed.

Throughout my years of being an entrepreneur, I’ve realized that wanting to quit is inevitable – but failure isn’t. Every time I want to throw in the towel, I know that it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate before I move forward again. The real question is, what can you do to ensure that you keep moving forward instead of quitting?

Take a Step Back and Look at Yourself – Take a second to examine the path you’re taking. What’s brought you this far? Determine whether you’re the person stopping yourself from your own success. Sometimes the problem is simply self-doubt and in that case, you need to find ways to overcome it.

Be Brutally Honest With Yourself – Take the time to question if you’re making excuses or whether a certain venture is a bust and you need to start over. If you can’t move past a particular mistake, is it due to a missing skill-set? If so, why haven’t you reached out to someone to overcome this? You need to be resourceful and keep on asking why until you get to the source of the problem.

Clearly Define Your Goals – When you’ve clearly defined where you’re going, it’s easier to pick up momentum and keep going forward.  Your small positive efforts will turn into larger positive returns in the future. It’s important, however, to create a plan for yourself so that you know which steps to take next so you don’t burn yourself out. Even if your steps are small, every step is a step forward.

Put it in Writing- Do you ever break contracts with your clients? I sincerely doubt that you’ve done it on purpose, so why would you a break a contract with yourself? Write down your commitments and put it somewhere that you can see everyday so you’ll always feel accountable.

It’s important to realize that you’re not the only one experiencing these challenges. A challenge may end up sucking your energy for an entire day or even a week, but that doesn’t mean that you have to call it quits for good. How do you keep pushing yourself forward when you’re close to calling it quits?