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5 Powerful Habits To Unlock Your Business Profitability

Today’s post is by our good friend Kristen Ricupero over at Financial Fitness Coaching. She has an amazing debt-free story herself and now coaches business owners toward more business profitability.

“The idea that growth equals profitability is a misconception. If you can’t afford the financial or qualitative side of growth, it can just as easily put you out of business.” ~ Mark Cuban

In my years of being an online entrepreneur, I’ve actively observed that there are 5 key components or habits every profitable online business owner should have in place if they want to have a financially fit (and successful) business that will 1) not only survive tough times but will 2) actually be postured to thrive during them. Putting these 5 things in place as soon as you can will set you up for financial stability, sustainable growth, and long-term success.

So, let me outline the 5 habits briefly and then we’ll unpack in more detail.

 

Habit 1: Setting specific financial goals

Habit 2: Treating your business like an actual business

Habit 3: Separating your business & personal finances

Habit 4: Using more than one bank account

Habit 5: Growing at “the speed of cash”

 

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Addressing the “why, what and how” of these 5 habits. 

Why?

So, why would I recommend that you develop these habits in the first place? You might be thinking, “can’t you just tell me how to do it?” Absolutely, I can do that and I will. 

But the bigger motivation here is that I want for you to work on developing these habits because I want for you to be successful with as little effort as possible. And, these are principles that will serve as your best “shortcut” to success.

In business and in life, it’s ALWAYS a good idea to identify best practices so that you shorten your own learning curve and experience success as soon as possible. One of the main dangers I’m trying to help you avoid is the not-so-unusual propensity for people to quit before they actually reach success in their businesses. I don’t want you to quit. I want for you to succeed and fast, so I’m going to help you to “cut out the fluff” and get right to the core habits you’ll need to succeed.

 

What?

The “what” in this exercise is going to be the 5 habits I outlined above. I’m recommending these 5 as a “what” because I’ve seen our client population get major traction once they adopted these. And again, the purpose is to get you some sustainable wins asap.

 

How?

We’ll also address the “how to” in this piece. This will probably be the easiest to understand intellectually, but may be the toughest to implement, depending on your pre existing financial habits AND how motivated to change the ones that aren’t working for you.

So, if you’ve already developed some bad habits in some of these areas, it might take a little time to unwind those old bad habits and retrain some new ones.  Just remember, we’re looking for progress not perfection. Hang in there and you’ll win.

 

Let’s Talk About The Importance Of Profitability

Starting a profitable online business is awesome and one of the best things you could possibly do for both your overall career as well as for your financial future. But for almost all of us, it can simultaneously be quite fear-inducing.  The mere thought of the endless possibilities can be exciting, for sure. 

But those same thoughts can also conjure up unwanted and often extreme feelings of:  overwhelm, nervousness, anticipation, frustration and exhaustion.  You can think of the whole process of starting an online business as basically climbing on to one big roller coaster.  And sadly for many business owners, some of the negative aspects of getting started never change.  

But it doesn’t have to be that way. It doesn’t have to be all chaotic and roller coaster-esque. If you plan appropriately, you can actually remove most of the negative feelings and energy from the process entirely. How?  Well, one of the best ways to remove most of the more unsavory stuff is to make sure your money is well thought out and planned for. I’ll unpack that more in a second.

Let’s be honest, the money and financial freedom aspects of starting an online business are usually why we start an entrepreneurial journey in the first place. And for most of us, we start them as a “side hustle” to our full-time gig as a low-risk way to test the waters.  Smart move for sure.

But if you’re reading this, you’re likely at a point where you’ve “proven the concept” as a side-hustle you’re preparing to make the leap into a full-time (and ideally profitable) online business. Awesome and we’re rooting for you!

 

See This As Your ‘Profitability Insurance Policy’

My purpose for this post is to help you to understand that there are some key financial components you need to implement to make sure your online business is a financially successful and thriving one and NOT a reckless roller coaster that completely derails both your career and your life.

Most of us who start a business start it for the financial freedom and the flexibility it can provide us in our lives.  And we start something in particular because we’re amazing at that ‘craft’ or ‘trade’ (I pretty much call all skills crafts and trades!). 

But what we don’t realize is how important systems are to your finances and how much it takes to run a truly profitable business.  We start out thinking that we simply charge a fee, make money, take it home and pay a few taxes later. But at some point you realize, that just because you’re growing doesn’t mean you’re profitable and take any more money home than you were in the beginning.



The 5 Powerful Habits To Unlock Your Business Profitability

As I mentioned earlier, I believe there are at least 5 key components that every business owner should take and have in place in order to have a financially fit and successful business that will not only survive tough times but thrive during them.   Putting these 5 things in place as soon as you can in your business will set you up for financial stability, sustainable growth, and long-term success.

 

Here are the 5 again in brief:

 

Habit 1: Setting specific financial goals

Habit 2: Treating your business like an actual business

Habit 3: Separating your business & personal finances

Habit 4: Using more than one bank account

Habit 5: Growing at “the speed of cash”

 

Now, let’s jump into each one in more detail.


1. Setting Specific Financial Goals 

I know how basic this sounds, but hang with me for a second. The truth is every time I come back around to breaking down numbers, making a move, deciding if something is an expense or investment, it all ties back to specific goals.  You can’t get to where you’re going if you don’t know where to aim, right?  

Let’s use a familiar vacation destination example to illustrate. What if I told you I have an Airbnb reservation, we’re going on vacation to the beach and I wanted you to drive, but I didn’t tell you anything else? You might be thinking, “okaaaaay…”.

With that very ill-defined and non-specific set of instructions, it might actually take us WEEKS to get to the beach!  You’re saying to yourself, “I mean, can you be more specific, please?”  East or West coast? Which beach? Head North or South? Which city?  Ok, ok, I know that’s a silly example to prove my point but you get it – your goals should be driving your decisions and setting in motion action steps to help you get there.  

And the bigger point is that those instructions and their more specific action steps are the direct line to get to where you want to go without wasting tons of time and money.  And if you think about it, isn’t wasted money actually a loss in your overall profitability?

And to reiterate what I said earlier, I’m getting into the weeds about this stuff, because I want you to win and I want you to win faster.


2. Treating Your Business Like An Actual Business

If you started your business as (or it still is) a side hustle, you’ve likely at one time or another said to yourself – “It’s ok, it’s just extra income”. Or, “It’s only my side gig”. Or even,  “anything extra helps!” When we minimize the effect that we’re looking for, we’re minimizing how we act and we’re devaluing our service and product.  

Additionally, when you say things like this and aren’t truly treating it as a business, you’re very likely to find an excuse to make ongoing “plowbacks or reinvestments” to the business that keep you from getting paid your worth and then you get stuck on the hamster wheel. 

Have you ever heard a business owner say “you have to spend money to make money!” Those are also the business owners who have gone for more than two months consecutively without paying themselves.  When you “reinvest” in your business, you’re not profitable. Those are simply business expenses that are being overspent. And while it’s nice to think it will always payoff….trust me, it doesn’t.

According to the online lender Kabbage, a recent study shows that 51 percent of 500 successful entrepreneurs who participated in the survey admitted that they willingly denied themselves a paycheck to benefit their business. Approximately 26 percent said they went 2-6 months without paying themselves, while another 25 percent said they went more than six months without an income.

 

3. Separating Your Business & Personal Finances  

This is one of the most common mistakes I see among small business owners. Their personal and business finances are what I call, “co-mingled”.  There are so many reasons why this is a big no-no, but I’ll focus on two big ones here today.

One, to be a profitable business, it’s absolutely critical to know your numbers.  And when you’re buying groceries from the business account instead of taking a paycheck, your numbers start to get muddled.  Taxes and tracking become more complex.  The line starts to get fuzzy.  And you have no idea what it takes all of a sudden to really run your business or your personal finances as stand alone.  This makes it more complicated to know what and how much you can cut when bad months happen and more difficult to be proactive in hard times vs. reactive.   

And two, when you have to make that decision based on personal finances and income only or what’s in your operating expense, marketing account or equipment account only, you will 100% of the time make a different decision than you would when they’re mixed together. 

 

4. Using More Than One Bank Account

Ok, this one is also BIG.  When you use just one bank account for all of your business’s finances, it’s difficult to know how much money should actually be in your business and for what types of things.  Remember, there’s way more to do in a business than take money in and pay yourself! 

No, it’s much more complex than that. You need to pay yourself, pay taxes, pay any support team you hire, pay fixed expenses such as subscriptions, website, co-working space, training, “done for you” services, etc.  

You need to decide how much you can and should spend on marketing efforts and also be able to decide if you can afford to add more things, people and if so, when.  That’s not all to mention, there’s this word we don’t talk about much, called cash flow.  

Cash flow is the process and fluidity with which money moves in and out of your business.  So you need to be able to pay things on time, as needed and ensure your payment is coming in just the same.  There are a lot of moving parts to a business’s finances, right?! Whew! Even a financial coach can get overwhelmed at first! (Hint….I’ve been there!)

As a Profit First professional, I highly suggest full implementation of the book, Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.  But even if you’re not ready to jump into that methodology just yet, allow me to help you start simply and still become a wildly profitable business.

Using multiple checking accounts gives you clear boundaries as to what is in an account to be used for specific purposes like taxes.  If you’re going to do no other accounts, I suggest you do at least a tax account.  Most business owners get tripped up by them at tax time and have to come up with taxes from their own pocket and savings.  

Additionally, if you’re using new money to pay for old taxes…. why not set aside a percentage of every dollar that comes in, for those taxes when they’re due?  This strategy will help increase your profitability by reducing what you might pull from the business at a later date to pay the tax man.

As you probably guessed it, my second favorite suggestion for you is to have a profit account and to take your profit first.  Even 1% will go a long way toward building the habit that there should always be money leftover in your business for profit (and savings for a rainy day).

And last but certainly not least, owner’s pay.  Remember, you are your most important employee and if you’re not paying yourself regularly, there’s a problem.  

 

5. Growing At The ‘Speed Of Cash’.  

 “Growing at the speed of cash” means to grow not only organically with no new debt, but also not ‘borrowing’ from the other accounts you’ve set up for specific purposes (or money you’ve set aside).  

If you’ve done all of the previous 4, this one will be simple. Let’s recap and outline what that looks like, so you can clearly see the progression.

 

  1. Setting specific financial goals. If you know your goals and are actively working toward them, it’s easier to say “no” to something you really want but don’t need )like that super snazzy desk chair, folder or candle to make your office smell sweet!)

 

  1. Treating your business like an actual business. When you’re making decisions as a business owner and thinking about the profitability of the business, the last thing you want to do is take on debt because it slows down your progress and what you can take home. Trust me, there’s always another way. Sometimes it’s just not as fun. 

 

  1. Separating your business & personal finances. Once you’ve separated your business and personal finances, you’ve removed a HUGE obstacle and mental task of constantly “doing the math” or “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” 

 

  1. Using more than one bank account.  When you know what’s in your specific business bank accounts for specific expenses, it makes decisions about whether or not you can afford something really black and white. With your solid financial framework in place,  you simply need to make the decision as to if you really want and need “the thing” and want to use the resources you have available..  

 

You can see that this process is progressive. It builds on itself and, once you’ve gotten to number 5, you’re sort of already operating at the speed of cash without all that much effort. 

And again, “growing at the speed of cash” means to grow not only organically with no new debt, but also not ‘borrowing’ from the other accounts you’ve set up for specific purposes (or money you’ve set aside). Sure, you might have an infusion of cash from your personal pocket to start your business, also known as an “Owner’s Investment”, but once you make that decision on how much to initially invest from yourself or your original loan, it’s time to grow only with what’s left in your operating expense account while still paying yourself and setting aside for taxes at minimum.  

If you’ve put number 4 into action and opened a few new accounts for your business, you’d now have at least one for taxes, one for profit and one for owner’s pay.  It’s easy to see what you have available to make a purchase or not!

When you take from  your profit, your tax account or owner’s pay to buy something that you want, but don’t need (a course, a piece of equipment, ads, an upgrade for your office), you’re effectively stealing from yourself, your business and your future with that that money could be doing for you.  Sometimes it takes writing down at least 5 other options you could take to get the same end result, in order to see what other roads you could take.  Just like your personal life, your business needs to live within its means, and purchases are highly emotional. 

Too many business owners get in the habits of always investing in their business and ‘plowing back the profitability’ with the hopes and dreams that one day it will pay out.  And it usually doesn’t.  Less than 50% of business owners survive year 5.  It might be fun to keep investing in the beginning, but eventually you’ll wear thin and need to bring in money. And by that time, habits have already been developed that are hard to break.  Here’s the cold hard truth about successful and healthy businesses I’ve studied….they don’t starve the owner to feed the business.   

Conclusion And Call To Action

No honest business owner will ever tell you that owning a business is easy.  As I mentioned in the beginning it’s full of ups and downs along the way, but stress and anxiety over money should not be one of them.  

When you operate a truly profitable business it won’t be by accident.  It will be with systems, processes and plans in place to make that consistently happen. As Mike Michalowicz says, “Profit must be baked into your business.  Every day, every transaction and every moment.  Profit is not an event, profit is a habit.”

Carve out some time this week to lay out these 5 steps and implement them into your business.  Ask yourself the hard questions like, are you treating your business like a business?  Be honest.  What steps do you need to take to change that? 

If you’re looking to get more in depth training on these, check out my free training and workbook on the 7 simple steps to building a profitable business.



Again, thanks to our good friend Kristen Ricupero over at Financial Fitness Coaching for contributing this post.

 

What To Do Next

No matter where you are on your financial journey, business or personal, there may be some basic financial organization and debt-elimination tools that could help you get things in order and take your life and your business to the next level. I want to offer you another completely free resource that will help you map out your money with even more confidence.

Ready to get total control over your money? Introducing My FREE 8 Steps To Erase Debt Guide.

These are the steps I personally followed to obliterate $43,000+ of debt in 2.5 years

Maybe your number is bigger, maybe it’s smaller. Either way the principles are the same and I want you to have them.

  1. Stop All Retirement Investing (Until Step 4)
  2. Build A Budget
  3. Starter Emergency Fund of $1000
  4. Eliminate Debts Smallest To Largest (a.k.a The Debt Snowball)
  5. Full Emergency Fund of 3-6+ Months’ Expenses
  6. Invest A Minimum of 15% Income Into Retirement Accounts (and increase savings rate to 50%+ if possible)
  7. College Funding (if applicable)
  8. Pay Off The Home Mortgage
  9. Build Wealth, Serve, Be Ridiculously Generous And Go FI (Financial Independence)!

I’ve created a simple, easy to follow “8 Steps To Erase Debt” guide that you can use as your foundation as you navigate the absolute annihilation of your debt forever. 

 

Here are some additional options to help you accomplish your personal finance goals:

  1. Check out our YouTube Channel for "how to" video guides.
  2. Join our Zero Debt Tribe Community on Facebook, a group of friendly, like-minded personal finance enthusiasts, budgeting nerds, debt-eliminators and “FI-ers” who are there to help each other succeed? Click here to request to join for support and encouragement!
  3. Our library of Free Products & Printables.

 

What do you need help with the most right now?

And finally, I want to encourage you and challenge you to get started in this process. You can do this by downloading this blogpost as your guide. The downloadable pdf contains all the printable forms and instructions you need to get this process started.

So, I’d LOVE to hear from you. The biggest compliment you can give me as your coach is to share your progress and your takeaways in the comments below.

I wish you nothing but great success in your personal finance endeavors and please let me know how I can help you accomplish your goals.

To your freedom,

Brad

Your Virtual Money Coach

[email protected]

 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click & make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps keep Zero Debt Coach up and running. Read my full disclosure policy.

 

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