If you ask your employees or suppliers how you're doing as the captain of your company's financial resources, you're not likely to get an unbiased reply. But do you know who will likely give you a much more honest answer? Your spouse.
Your spouse wants you to succeed. He or she may crave your success even more than you do. And because of that genuine craving, your spouse may be able to help you get an honest assessment of your financial management skills that you won’t receive from anywhere else.
If you’re like most entrepreneurs, it’s a wake-up call that you really need.
Here are three specific gut-wrenching questions that -- odds are -- reveal that you suck as the financial decision maker for your company. Ask your spouse about each one of these, and see what he or she has to say about them. Then make your company better.
1: Am I vigilant about bookkeeping?
If your spouse's answer is anything other than "yes," you're wasting your time as an entrepreneur. It's common for visionaries -- including entrepreneurs -- to say they’re concerned about the bottom line, but to have no actual idea what the bottom line looks like. Many don’t even know whether they are legitimately profitable or bleeding red ink.
The harsh reality is this: If you’re not being extremely vigilant about bookkeeping, you’re not building a business; you’re building a job. What’s more, you’re building a job that when the IRS decides to take aim at you -- whether through your errant tax filings or random audit selection -- you’re going to be unable to defend yourself, no matter how pure your actions really are.
Another big consideration is this: Without strong books, your business can never be sold. What this really means is that your business has no value independent from the effort that you put into it. Without well-kept books, your business’ assets -- real estate, vehicles, intellectual property, etc. -- have no value because assets have value only when they’re accounted for.
Always remember -- there’s no success without measurement, and your company’s books are the official scorecard of your success.
2: Am I disregarding our financial future in favor of living large right now?
If your spouse thinks you're spending too much of your profit now at the expense of your future needs, you may have a real problem.
The first taste of financial success for many entrepreneurs results in predictable actions. They’ll buy a new house, a new car, a new boat or maybe take the vacation of their dreams. It feels easy to justify because you’ve worked so hard, and you feel you deserve it.
But delay the gratification just a little longer. As Dave Ramsey says, “Live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow!”
A great way to accomplish this is to use a self-directed IRA or self-directed 401(k). These accounts have the advantage of giving you great control of how you save and invest for retirement, transforming retirement investing into just another part of your business about which your passions can be strong and focused.
Some particularly astute entrepreneurs even combine retirement planning and business funding by using the rollover as business startup (ROBS) strategy. This complex, but powerful, strategy enables savvy entrepreneurs to partially fund their business ventures using their current 401(k) savings and then funnel some of their new business' profits back into their retirement account completely free of taxes!
3: Am I preparing for when what we do isn't working any more?
Innovation is a key requirement for every single business, no matter the size. In fact, innovation is particularly important for small companies, as corporate behemoths are sometimes able to survive purely on the strength of long-established cash flows. That’s not an option for the entrepreneur.
Here’s a great example: In the late 1990s, I created a training program and software system that enabled real estate investors to use the internet to find profitable deals more quickly than ever before. It was a great idea and the market loved it. In turn. Our company did very well , but I rested on my laurels. I relied on my ability to sell our program rather than constantly making the program better and better. Three short years later, even though my system was still effective and powerful, it was being outsold and beaten by competitors who had come up with new and better ways to do the same things my system offered. My previously very profitable business ceased to exist.
My problem was innovation. I failed to continue to push for more and better results for my clients, and the market taught me that I was replaceable.
It may not be clear that innovation is a financial management issue, but it certainly is. Innovation is the future of your company, just as the present of your company is whatever product or service you currently offer. You must dedicate resources -- both time and money -- to innovation. If you do not, you’re being an unwise steward of your business’ assets.
So, did you ask your spouse these questions? Were the answers painful? If they were, that’s great, because small entrepreneurial businesses are where good strategy and wise management principles are established and refined. Do some refining! If you’re not doing these things correctly, correct them now while your business is small enough to be easily molded into something stronger and better. By tackling these issues today, your company’s future -- and your family’s future -- can be bright, successful and the envy of the world.