Originally posted in Forbes.
The beginning of the year is a great time to dream big and put exciting ideas into action. Whether you’re a veteran girl boss or your business is brand new, these five steps will transform your financial well-being. (And you’ll have a little fun, too!)
Dream, plan, and project.
There’s no better way to kick things off than with a little dreaming. Think ahead to the next five or even ten years. What do you want to achieve in your business? What are your goals, both big and small, for the long-term? Let yourself dream big, and consider writing down the ideas from your brainstorming session. Once you have your vision, you can create a plan that’s broken down by years and months. What would you need to earn each month to achieve your goal? How does business typically ebb and flow, and how can you account for that? Are there any expenses you can eliminate, and are there any you want or need to add? After you’ve answered these questions, you can use your long-term plan along with historical data to break down your projected revenue and expenses month by month for the next 12 months. Knowing what you need to accomplish each day, week, and month is a huge motivator. Once you know what you need to do, you just have to wake up and do it.
You’ve dreamed up a big plan for 2017, and now it’s time to put it into action. Even if you’re a solopreneur, you don’t have to go it alone. You have to ask in order to receive; whether you’re negotiating a new contract, getting advice from an advisor or friend, or hiring a new team member. Asking can be hard, and you may be uncomfortable with it, but practice makes perfect. Start with situations in your everyday life that have low stakes. Practice forming an opinion, asking for what you want, and taking note of how it feels. We are negotiating all the time even if we don’t realize it, including when we choose a restaurant or a time to meet. You’ve done this before, and I promise, it gets easier. The worst that can happen is that someone says no, but you don’t know until you ask. And they will probably say yes!
You probably started your business for a few reasons: you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you love the challenge of building something from the ground up, and your business is something that makes you happy. While your daily obligations and goals may be your focus, don’t forget to have some fun, too. Make something that might feel like a chore into a game. Have weekly or monthly check-in parties where you review the plans and projections you made at the beginning of the year. How are things going? Do you want to adjust higher or lower? Did anything go differently than expected? What about your personal finances? As an entrepreneur, your business and personal finances are so closely linked that one can’t be successfully managed without the other. Creating a positive, upbeat environment for these check-ins can also remind you that your progress is something to celebrate.
Create the time.
As an entrepreneur, your time is precious. I know how hard it is to carve out time to review your finances, especially when other obligations and demands can seem more pressing. But checking in on plans and money is a huge step towards achieving your goals. If it’s important, you have to create the time. Set up a recurring calendar reminder for a one- to two-hour block every two weeks. This is your money party or money meeting. Keep a running agenda of what you will cover at each party or meeting, and make sure you build in some fun. It sounds silly, but rewards really work. Make sure you reward yourself when you follow through and complete the meeting. With any luck, you’ll already be looking forward to the next one.
While it’s important to pay close attention to both business and personal finances, you can make things easier on yourself by taking advantage of automated tools. If you’re saving a certain amount towards various goals each week, set up automatic transfers into each of those specific savings buckets. Eliminate the stress and hassle of late fees by setting up automatic billing for credit cards and other expenses. Create calendar alerts to remind yourself to keep your standing commitment to your money party, and make one of your agenda items a quick review of your automated processes. You’ll ensure that things are running smoothly while also getting a real-time picture of your progress. With so much technology at our fingertips, why make this harder than it needs to be? Remember, it can be fun!