Chartered Accountants &
Business Advisors

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Chartered Accountants &
Business Advisors

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The Unhealthy Financial Behaviours That Damage Your Business

Adapting and embracing change are hallmark traits of a successful entrepreneur.

Updating procedures and equipment, or upgrading services and products are part of the continual innovation process.

But… have you considered that behaviour patterns might also need an upgrade? As the driving force behind how you operate as a business owner, they too need to adapt.

Hand-in-hand with behaviour patterns are habits that we settle into – some with potential negative impacts that would keep you from achieving success. If you haven’t already, take a moment to read our blog, Ten Tips to Improve Your Habits and Business to get a refresher on identifying, and busting outdated business habits.

Our relationship with money is shaped by beliefs rooted in childhood, and are expressed as behaviour patterns, for better or for worse. How we relate to money on a subconscious level naturally influences how we deal with finances in our business.

But luckily, just as we can identify and change defeating habits, unhealthy financial behaviour patterns can also be turned around. Think of the process as financial behaviour 2.0!


Common Patterns That Can Defeat Success

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don’t wish it were easier; wish you were better.” – Jim Rohn, entrepreneur

Identifying your behaviours is the first step to getting control of your finances. And as the quote above suggests, although it might not be easy, a willingness to better yourself is half the battle.

Do you identify with any of these patterns below? We all have areas that can creep up and cause a range of problems, depending on the scale and scope of their influence. From minor impacts such as keeping your business in a rut, to major financial damage, any of these behaviour patterns can cause stagnation to full-on havoc.

  • Avoiding the financial side of your business.

Unless you’re in the finance industry or have a natural aptitude, you likely went into business for other interests other than dealing with money. Maybe you’ve gotten really clever at dodging, evading, procrastinating, and just outright ignoring your business’s finances altogether. This can result in all manner of unhealthy behaviours that can one day catch up with you. Whether it’s remaining blissfully unaware of your numbers, un-checked spending on unnecessary expenditures, or avoiding raising your prices, the behaviour pattern of avoidance will manifest one way or another.

  • Abdicating financial responsibility.

The saying ‘pass the buck’ takes on extra meaning when it refers to handing over responsibility for your finances to someone else.

We’ve emphasised before how important delegating is to run your business, but the extreme end of delegating can slip into abdication. Relinquishing responsibility of the finances to your accountant, spouse or a manager disempowers you to better lead and manage your business. Only when you understand the numbers in your financial statements, balance sheet, budget and cash position are you in control, and can then make informed decisions.

  • Spending recklessly or haphazardly.

Often our spending behaviour has its roots in personal spending, and carries over to business. As the leader of your team, the behaviour of unstructured spending sends the wrong message to your employees, who’ll be influenced by you to adopt the same haphazard approach. The spiralling consequences can result in a lower perception of the value of resources as easily expendable. It starts with you setting the example, and your team will follow.

  • Avoiding risk.

Have you missed out on opportunities because of risk aversion? Whether it’s launching a new product or website, or investing in new marketing, financial risk comes with the territory of business ownership. Although being risk-averse by nature might be regarded as a healthy behaviour, it can subtly influence your decisions when risk is needed to evolve. So while it’s wise to be cautious about taking on debt, for example, strategic risk is necessary to grow, and is a key area where a business advisor can guide you.

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk.” – Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook


Give Your Financial Behaviours a Reboot

Being willing to bust unhealthy financial behaviours is only the first step, and seeking help to do that is a sign of strength, not weakness!

If you’re ready to proactively manage your finances and be more empowered running your business, the team at BW Miller Dean are here for you. Contact us to get started.

6 Steps to Becoming a Profitable Business

“You can’t have a healthy society unless you have healthy companies that are making a profit, that are employing people and that are growing.” – Michael Porter

Are you in business to make a social impact, serve your community, or to create the lifestyle of your dreams? Whatever your motivation, achieving your goal is unlikely without some measure of profit. Although profitably alone is not necessarily ‘success’, business success without a profit is difficult to attain.

Profitability needs to be a key objective of every business owner, rather than an embarrassing admission as an indicator of greed. Even social entrepreneurs need profits to supplement fickle donations if they are to sustain a lasting social impact.

Being a profitable business is not about exploiting ways to rip-off customers and squeeze employees. Nor does it need to come at the expense of a work-life balance. Let’s skip the ‘profit is a bad word’ ideology, as we discussed in our blog Why Making Profit is a Good Thing. Now, let’s further the discussion of how to do it.


Solid Steps to Profit

“You know what’s a savvy business move? Making a profit.” – Cenk Uygur

The foundational pillars for a profitable business have endured the test of time no matter the changing marketplace. It’s worth revisiting the basics, so you can evaluate how your business operations are aligned with them.

Step 1: Solve a problem. Fill a need and become the go-to solution for your customer’s problem – they’ll have no hesitancy paying for it. A solution that is grounded in reality, clearly understood and with a tangible result is an easier sell compared to an abstract “nice to have”. Save the ideological products, such as helping a social issue, for special campaigns or as bonus add-ons. Instead, ensure your ‘recession-proof’ solution matches their vital need that they’ll pay you for.

Step 2: Solve it well. In our previous blog Building a Profitable Business is Not a Race to the Finish Line we described a realistic formula for profit which included focusing on one or two ‘signature’ products and making it great. Customers who receive specific solutions with a top-notch buying experience will reward you with loyalty and 5-star reviews. Providing your focused solution(s) with consistent quality that endures changing trends will set you apart from competitors. Speaking of the competition….

Step 3: Stand out from competitors. How do you differentiate your product or service in the marketplace? What makes your offering unique? Whether it’s your years of experience, convenient access, an inspirational brand, use of eco-friendly materials, meeting an under-served niche, or supporting a social cause, be the business that customers regard as having something special to remember you by that’s uniquely you.

Step 4: Be customer-focused. If there’s anything worth getting radical about, it’s being radically customer-service oriented. Beyond the quality of a product and an exceptional buying experience, make them feel genuinely appreciated. Be it referral discounts, bonuses or rewards, an informative newsletter, membership club or a special following-up, go beyond the ordinary by making customer service an art that you’re continually improving upon. This alone can be your unique quality discussed above, if you’re stuck on how to differentiate from the competition.

Step 5: Build a winning team. As we like to say, the right bums in the right seats make all the difference in building a profitable business. A thriving team culture is productive, inspired and invested in the success of the business, as summarised perfectly in this quote; “You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” – Zig Ziglar. With the right team comes the need for systems in place to support them to perform at their best, as outlined in this blog, How to Build an Effective Management System.

Step 6: Target and track. Create short-term and longer-range financial forecasts to set a target to work towards. Without a growth strategy and financial objectives to commit to, you won’t know if you’re on track and making progress toward profitability. This is where the expertise of a business advisor will be invaluable.


The Next Step for a Profitable Business…

…is to take action today! If you’ve settled for thinking a sustainable profit is an elusive ‘nice to have’, let’s change that. We’re ready to help you bulletproof your ideas, revise your business model and get you on the right track to achieve your goals. Let’s get started.

Why You Need Better and Frequent Business Reporting

There’s a saying; “If you don’t know where you’ve come from or where you are, you can’t get to where you’re going”. This nugget of wisdom can be applied to navigating any journey from point A to point B, but it is especially true for your business. If you want to lead your SME or non-profit organisation to success from where you are now, are you certain you know how to steer the rudder of your ship in the right direction?

You may not consider it your favourite activity, but business reporting is the treasure map you need to keep you on track and aligned with your goals. It documents a record of historical data to empower you to budget and forecast confidently when planning for the future.

From knowing what the most and least profitable services or products are, what activities are a waste of time and money, trends in the market, to what customer niche is your ideal target – all of these insights help you make informed decisions rather than winging it and hoping for the best.


Frequency Matters

How often should business owners review their financials? Are year-end reports enough?

Business reports are documenting historical data of a particular period. The numbers tell a story of how your business performed and the financial status of that time range.

If reports are only prepared annually, for instance, you are looking back on the previous year while moving full stride well into the following year. And we all know a lot can change from one year to the next. To make decisions based on current events, you need business reporting that reflects where you are at now, not last year.

Reports will empower you if they are analysed regularly and soon after the period being reported on. With frequent information ‘hot off the press’, you’ll know where to pivot and quickly adapt operations for better outcomes in future periods.

Not in the habit of frequent business reporting, or don’t have the time? Take a moment to read our blog Why You Need to Work On Your Business – Not In It to get a refresher on why it’s necessary to step out of the trenches of micro-managing and focus on planning, goal setting, and performance tracking.


Key Performance Indicators

KPIs are both financial and non-financial and they evaluate the performance of a range of business activities such as services or products, programs, or marketing campaigns or events. They provide measurable value to help you understand if you’re spending time, dollars and resources on the right strategies or tasks to achieve your goals. By tracking KPIs, you can evolve with the market and understand the trends, which could highlight opportunities to leverage.

Examples of common KPIs of various time periods include:

  • Net profit: Increase or decrease of revenue for a certain product by 5% from last month or last quarter.
  • Online traffic: Increase or decrease in traffic to the website by 10%.
  • Social media marketing: Increase of followers by 200, or 385 new video views.
  • Staff turnover: Increase of employee turnover by 15% this year compared to last.
  • Performance of other events, such as webinars, specials, or a charitable campaign.

The value of KPIs is how they influence your decision-making process so you can consider various options, (by knowing what happened before), to predict the consequences of future actions.

Asking key performance questions (KPQs) such as the following will also help you stay on track:

  • What result or outcome do I want to accomplish?
  • Why is achieving that outcome important, and is it really a priority?
  • How can I define progress or spot obstacles?
  • How will I know I’ve reached my goal or achieved a positive outcome?

Team-Building Tip: Delegating the tracking of KPIs is a great way to engage your team so they feel invested in the success of the business. It can also open doors for opportunities you might otherwise have missed. See our blog about the benefits of involving your team and the skill that makes a good leader great – When Great Minds Don’t Think Alike, Exceptional Things Happen.


Ensure Your Business Reports are Customised

Business reporting is not dealing with objects, it is dealing with relationships between objects.” – Hasso Plattner

Reports shouldn’t be confusing and leave you frustrated. They must be easy to understand and provide insights relevant to your business. Investing in the right accounting software is a must, and we recommend Xero as the top choice for small to medium businesses and non-profit organisations. It provides a wide range of reports and allows you to measure specific KPIs to give you a thorough understanding of your business performance. And if you want more customisable and interactive reports, then using an add-on like Spotlight Reporting is a great option.

Regular business reporting will help you lead with confidence and navigate your business to achieve your goals. Need help with setting up your reporting system and understanding your numbers? Professional support is just a click away! Contact the team at BW Miller Dean to learn how we can help you design your business for success.

Building a Legacy Won’t Happen by Itself – You Need a Plan

“Even though your time on the job is temporary, if you do a good enough job, your work there will last forever.” ― Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability

Building a legacy won’t happen by itself. It requires your creative input and a grounded strategy.

In a previous blog, Life goal #3: Building a Legacy, we started the discussion about the definition of a legacy, reasons for creating one, and how that vision differs for everybody. We then mapped out the three critical elements of succession planning, which includes your team, the structures and processes needed, and the cost component.

Let’s continue the discussion about succession planning to ensure your legacy continues to thrive whether you’re on an extended absence, for when you move on to other aspirations, retire, or pass it on to loved ones after you are gone.


Why Think About Succession Planning?

“Succession planning is a process and strategy for replacement planning or passing on leadership roles. It is used to identify and develop new, potential leaders who can move into leadership roles when they become vacant.” – Wikipedia

Consider the following questions, and you’ll know why a legacy cannot be established without it:

  • What will happen when you leave the business? Will it fall apart without you, and everything you built will no longer exist?
  • What will happen if any of your key team members leave without you having someone else, already trained, to step into their place?

Succession planning is not only about putting structures in place for when you leave, but also for when any of your key employees leave. Why would you, or team members plan to leave?

  • Perhaps you or one of your team wants to retire in ‘x’ years.
  • You may be the CEO who takes over a business to turn it around, but then want to leave for your next career challenge.
  • Or you may be an entrepreneur with a great idea that you want to develop, but you don’t want to run the company afterwards. You may choose to either sell the business or get a CEO to run it for you.

Whatever the reason or circumstance, you need the right people and the right structures in place for a successful transition.


When Should You Start Thinking About Succession Planning?

Yesterday. No pressure.

You cannot wait one year before you retire or move on to haphazardly throw it together. Why? Your first succession plan may not pan out the way you thought, and you may need to start from scratch again.

If you aspire to build a legacy, then yes, you should start thinking about it from day one. We know, it may feel like putting the cart before the horse, but planning for it goes hand-in-hand with your business practices now. It’s about building the right culture in the business that will live on.

“Make a difference, change the game for the better, leave a legacy, be a guide that someone else can follow and make better, and then someone else will follow that and make that better.” ― Carlos Wallace, The Other 99 T.Y.M.E.S: Train Your Mind to Enjoy Serenity


How to Start the Process

Putting a succession plan in place might feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Our experience proves that a formula for success takes you through four stages.


Stage 1 – Take stock of where you are now:

  • How is your business performing? What are the numbers?
  • Who are the key people? What talent gaps do you have?
  • Evaluate the processes and procedures for their effectiveness or redundancy.


Stage 2 – Create your masterplan for the future:

  • Where do you want to be in two, five or ten years?
  • What is your vision for the business at that time, and its potential opportunities?
  • Do you currently have the team you’ll need to make your vision a reality?
  • How much money do you need to implement the succession plan? If you don’t have the money, how will you solve that? Our blog, Life goal #3: Building a Legacy, gives more detail on the financial costs to consider.


Stage 3 – Implement your plan:

  • Put the structures in place and document procedures. Train people to follow the processes.
  • Invest in retaining your best employees and prepare them for their future roles.
  • Develop and train your team within the key positions.


Stage 4 – Review & tweak:

  • Test and adjust procedures and processes as needed.
  • Do a trial run to determine whether your team can carry on without you by going away for two weeks. Then extend another absence to a month, with no contact.
  • Send other managers on holiday and let people step into that position to see how they fare.


Ready to Get Started?

The team at BWMD would love to hear your ideas for what a legacy looks like for you. Our experience can help you put the processes, structures and team in place to make it happen. Contact us today to get started!

How to Operate Your Non-profit Like a Business


Whether it’s to help autistic children have access to tutoring or to provide affordable housing for the elderly, the mission of your non-profit organisation is the focus, and requires innovation and business savvy to make an impact.

We reviewed some of the unique distinctions of non-profits in our blog, Non-Profit Accounting and Tax Tips 101. But when it comes to similarities, the parallel between them and conventional business is the approach in which they are managed to provide value. This approach is what we want to focus on in this blog.

Whether a new organisation or well established, there’s plenty of tips here for all stages of a non-profit, so let’s go!


Why You Should Follow a Business Approach

There’s no getting around the fact that providing value, in whatever form or desired outcome, requires the same level of operational proficiency as a conventional business.

However, what is perceived as ‘value’ differs. A non-profit solves a problem with either a product or service, but the value it brings is providing a solution to a societal problem. Whether to feed the hungry or preserve wildlife, a donor’s gratification comes from knowing their investment is supporting the greater good.

In order to realise the greatest societal impact, non-profits must invest in their organisations, as any business would – if not more!

Everyone wants charities to spend as little as possible on overhead. That’s backwards. Overhead is what drives growth. If charities can’t grow, they can’t solve problems. So overhead is a good thing. And I’m overhead.” – Dan Pallotta, author


Key Components of a Business Approach

In our blog What You Should Know Before Starting a Non-profit in New Zealand, we emphasized that a ‘not for profit’ doesn’t mean ‘for loss’, and explained why you need to put your entrepreneur hat on. We said, “just like a regular business, if you run an efficient operation, you’ll be able to provide a much better service to the people or cause you’re trying to serve.”

A non-profit has accountability to both the community and donors, to operate in a way that meets revenue goals each year, without making unnecessary expenditures.

The following tips will ensure the best chance of making the greatest societal impact.

Act, Speak, and Perform Like a Business

It might seem obvious, but your attitude matters, and will determine your behaviour, choices and habits. Have a look at our blog, Ten Tips to Improve Your Habits and Business on how to disrupt and reboot behavioural patterns that might be holding your non-profit back. Operating it like a business will help cultivate relationships in your community, and develop win-win collaborations with donors or members.

Create Models of Sustainable Income

Donations are fabulous, until they stop. Investing in building stable revenue generating programs or services will ensure you’re not reliant on donor dollars or government grants alone. By making the mission profitable with revenue-generating services at the core of your organisation, you’ll have less dependency on philanthropy.

Understand the ROI

Track, analyse, pivot. Focus on short and long-term returns on investment to ensure your strategy and efforts are bringing in the greatest bang for your buck. Effectively working with the proceeds you have while maintaining expenditures within your budget is a result of responding to positive or negative ROI outcomes. Similar to conventional businesses, doing a costs and benefits analysis could help you to make better decisions on which activities and strategies to pursue.

Take Innovative Risks

Non-profit organisations are in the business of disrupting what is currently the norm, but also a problem to solve, and filling the role as ‘change agents’ to bring improvement to social issues. Making an impact will sometimes require taking calculated risks, which like any business, is necessary for making progress. Seek new ideas and opportunities, and assess short and long-term opportunities to scale.

Keep a Steady Eye on Expenses

Stay vigilant about what funds are not used efficiently. No matter what your income is, it won’t result in much impact if money is going down the drain. What could be trimmed, or donated? For example, evaluate what expense could be procured with a gift-in-kind campaign, to not only cut costs, but attract practical support and involvement from the community.

Invest Smartly

While monitoring expenses and the ROI as mentioned above, put your revenue to its best possible investment in the following areas.

  • Your Team. High quality staff results in a high quality organisation. Onboard the best talent for key positions, providing competitive benefits, salaries or hourly wages. Build a company culture that they love to work with, and take care of your people so they are invested in the success of your non-profit. Commit to building your leadership and teambuilding skills. You can learn how active listening can make a big improvement in this area by reading our blog, When Great Minds Don’t Think Alike, Exceptional Things Happen.
  • Marketing. It goes without saying that a polished presentation is a deal-breaker in todays’ society. The top necessities are a modern website that is easy to navigate, a solid brand that is unique and recognisable, local advertising, and social media presence. Newsletters, social media with engaged membership groups, and video marketing with a YouTube channel provide limitless opportunities for free marketing and visibility, so don’t skimp on keeping up with any of these activities in one form or another.
  • Technology and Equipment. Whether from donations, grants or raised funds, your technology and operational equipment needs to drive the engine of your non-profit. Make the most of free tools and software, but also have the mindset for growth and staying current.

Invest in the Right Accountant

We know that successful non-profits require a unified approach of building a solid foundation, measuring performance, having confidence in your decisions, and evolving strategically in the direction you want. Contact the team at BW Miller Dean to see how we can help your non-profit thrive.