Giving Back Through Business

If you read through a few of my blog posts, you’ll notice that I cover various subjects. I try to write about things that are current and relate to the world of finance. I pick topics that are not only of interest to just me, but also you, the reader. In the past there have been blog posts as part of a series in a larger project. A couple examples are the series of blogs that I wrote on Traction by Gino Wickman and the blog posts on Profit First by Mike Michalowicz. The next blog series will be similar to the previous posts yet different. These posts will be in relation to the world of finance but will be on something even closer to my heart: giving.

Over the next few weeks I plan on talking to a few different businesspeople who, like myself, make giving a big part of their business model. We may give in different ways and to different places, but what matters most is consistent giving be it donations of dollars or time. We all worked our way to where we are now and those are positions of power. Whether quoted from the Bible, the French Revolution, or in Spiderman from comic book icon Stan Lee, the quote, “With great power comes great responsibility;” I feel this quote describes our situation best. Our companies are of various sizes and work in various industries, but as business owners, we have a responsibility to our clients to give them the best service we can and to serve our fellow man, regardless of them being a client or not, to make the world a better place.

After our previous blog post on microfinance, my mind really started to race…in a good way. Seeing how possible it is to help others, whether they live in your neighborhood or on the other side of the world, made me want to find out more. I figured that I could talk to clients and fellow business people on how they give and why. For me, some of my favorite places to give are Rotary International, Unstoppable Foundation, SheIsSafe, YoungLife and my local church.

For this project to be a success and to reach its ultimate goal, I’ll need your help. If you are interested in talking to me about how and why you give, leave a comment on this blog post or email me at Julie@clarityfinances.com.

Microloans

Since I work in the finance industry, I like to stay abreast of as many things in the financial world as possible. Recently, I have had an interest in learning more about microfinance or microloans. According to the US Small Business Administration, “microloans provide small businesses with small short-term loans for working capital or the purchase of inventory, supplies, furniture, fixtures, machinery and/or equipment.” The US Small Business Administration Microloan Program was established in 1992.

While the SBA is not actually the one that does the lending, they do connect businesspeople with specially designed intermediary lenders. These intermediary lenders are nonprofit organizations that have experience in lending.

The average microloan is around $13,000 with the maximum reaching up to $50,000. Larger banks sometimes may be unwilling to loan amounts of money less than $50,000, which makes microloans fill an essential niche in business development. When starting a small business, the owners may not have the past experience or credit rating to be approved for loans.

If you are looking into becoming a microloaner yourself, there are resources for that as well. Websites like Kiva will help parties come together for lending. The lending can even be as low as $25. Kiva has a transparent business model that enables the microloaners to get in touch with the small business owners with whom they are loaning money. And according to their website, there is a 97 percent loan repayment rate. There are many services like Kiva out there, so do your research on what you think fits you or your business’s interests best and get out there and engage in some small scale business development!

It can be quite simple to become involved in microloaning, no matter what side of the equation you are on. If you are a small business owner in need of some capital, the application process seems to be straightforward and if you have the right mindset and a professional business plan you’ll be on your way. If you wish to loan small amounts of money like on websites like Kiva, it is only a few clicks away. Like qualifying for any sort of loan, it depends on your financial situation, credit rating and more.

If you are interested in finding a microloaners in your area, check out the list on the SBA’s website. In my opinion, entrepreneurship in its best form is when both parties benefit and after doing my research on microloans, this seems to be a solid avenue for that kind of business.

Let me know what you think of microloans, if you have ever been involved in microfinance or if you have any services that you recommend to those who have an interest in getting involved in the world of microfinance.

 

Julie

Independence

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day! This federally recognized holiday gives many people across the country the day off. While we use this free time to reconnect with friends and family, attend parades and watch fireworks at night, we should also be reflective.

We are fortunate to live in this country. Compared to other countries, our country could still be considered in its infancy. In a relatively short period of time, the United States has risen to its current status. In a country of 300+ million people, we will not agree on everything. In today’s climate, things seem particularly divisive. No matter for whom you vote or what is in your Netflix cue, I would like to think that the majority of us still love this country.

As I’ve highlighted in a few of the most recent Clarity Finances newsletters, there seems to be a shift in consumer culture. Over the past few decades many of the Mom & Pop stores were replaced by the chain stores and strip malls. Now there seems to be more emphasis on patronizing local businesses. As a fellow small business owner, I love to see other small businesses get recognition.

I love the freedom that comes with having my own business. I am free to create the culture I want for my business, free to add services to my company, free to decide to donate 10 percent of revenues to charity, free to choose to which charity I donate, free to choose who I work with, free to be flexible with my schedule and free to travel without the boss’s approval just to name a few. It also means I am responsible for any results good or bad; but I am ok with that!

When I was a kid the Fourth of July varied from year to year but only between two options: spending the weekend with family at Long Beach Island, New Jersey with the days spent on the beach and watching people set off fireworks at night or staying in Narberth, Pennsylvania and hanging out with friends at events that went on all day at the playground. I think Narberth still has some of the best fireworks in the area.

My immediate future holds a lot of traveling. I’ll be back in PA from July 13-16 to celebrate my birthday. From June 16-19 I have a business retreat at Bay Head, NJ. I’ll be back to Downingtown, PA from July 20-24 to celebrate my son Tom’s birthday and to see some clients. The last week of July will be a lot of catching up back in Tampa.

 

Here’s to a fruitful rest of the summer,

Julie

A Hot Start to My Summer

I hope everyone’s summer is off to a hot start because mine sure is. On June 12 I attended Profit First’s Convocation a their headquarters in Boonton, New Jersey. While there I was able to talk with Mike Michalowicz, the creator of The Profit First Method and the author of some of my favorite books on financial advice. I was also able to meet with Rob Saharyn, the co-founder of Profit First. About a dozen of us were there for the event and were given a private tour of the headquarters, which was on the third floor of a repurposed factory. The building was beautiful with exposed brick and a modern design throughout. I also got to network with other Certified Profit First Professionals like myself. In fact, there are less than 200 individuals who are Certified Profit First Professionals but part of the event was discussing how we could get the word out on this program. Speaking of Profit First, I will be attending ProfitCON in September. This will be my second time at the event.

Earlier this month, I attended Scaling New Heights. This was my fourth time at the event and I am already signed up for next year’s event. Scaling New Heights is run by Woodard, a company that advises small business owners. This year’s event was “Face the Yeti,” which focused on facing your fears as a business owner. We had five different areas that we could focus on improving such as keeping up with technology and finding and retaining the right clients. I also learned more about an automated receipt bank used for data entry and T sheets.

With my birthday in July, I decided to get myself a little gift that is good for me personally and for my business. I am attending a business retreat at the Jersey Shore from June 16-19. This oceanside retreat has been dubbed “Mediate & Mastermind” and we will be staying at a bed and breakfast on Bay Head Beach.

Also in July I will be graduating from the Ignite Your Business Program. This program is offered by Asentiv, a company that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners like myself improve their networking and referral marketing.

Here’s to a fruitful and fun summer!

Back in my day…

Generational differences are nothing new.

While there are no exact dates to confirm who is a Millennial, the general understanding is that someone who was born during the early 1980s and the early 2000s is a Millennial. The generation that preceded the Millennials was Generation X and the generation coming after the Millennials is Generation Z. Millennials are the children of the baby boomers and older Generation Xers. The term “Millennial” comes from the link to the graduation dates of those born during the time period coinciding with the new millennium, expected to graduate in the year 2000.

As the demographics of our country change, so does the workforce. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Millennials are now the largest generation in the US labor force and the largest living generation in the country. One out of every three workers is a Millennial. As the Baby Boomers retire and those from Generation X age, the Millennial generation will take up more and more of the labor force. Millennials are not just adding to the ranks from those born in the US. According to the same study by the Pew Research Center, immigrants coming to the US are usually in their prime working years. The study states that over the past five years, over half of newly arrived immigrant workers have been Millennials.

While Millennials may be the most educated generation, they are the most laden with student debt. Unlike in many other countries that have higher education costs offset by taxes, in the United States students are pretty much left out on their own. When funding gets cut, colleges and universities must fill the gap by raising tuition, cutting services and cutting staff. According to an article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “over the past 20 years, the price of attending a four-year public college or university has grown significantly faster than the median income.” American students owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loans. That is the second largest consumer debt only to mortgage debt. Student debt also may not be discharged by bankruptcy, unlike mortgage debt.

As someone with two Millennial sons and a small business owner who employs a Millennial I’ve had plenty of opportunity to interact and observe people of this generation. They seem to seek value and purpose in what they do, whether it is their personal lives or in their occupations. I don’t recall this sort of idealism being around so prevalently when I was growing up. My generation had its ideals; they just didn’t seem as pervasive as of those of the Millennials. As different generations we will have different values that may cause conflict and create a sense of misunderstanding. I think Millennials have gotten sort of a bad rap and from my first hand experience, they’re not so different from every other generation.

Memorial Day

This weekend summer “unofficially” arrives. Memorial Day Weekend is the unofficial kick off to summer all across the country. Now that I live in Florida, I can think back to my times living in the Northeast where Memorial Day carried more weight for being the start to summer. Despite signaling the start of nice weather, beach trips and BBQs however, the true meaning of Memorial Day is to honor those who served in our country’s armed services. Without their sacrifice we would not enjoy the freedoms we may take for granted every day. Many people may wonder what the difference is between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, both holidays in which we honor our armed servicemen and women. The difference is quite easy; Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in our armed forces while Veteran’s Day honors all military veterans. So while many of us will enjoy a cookout or simply a relaxing day off, keep in mind the sacrifices made by those who served in our armed forces.

My summer is starting to get busy already. I’m looking forward to a few events I’ll be attending throughout the season. I’ll be attending Scaling New Heights in June on the 6th and 7th. Scaling New Heights will be held at the beautiful Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. Scaling New Heights is run by Woodard, a company that specializes in helping small businesses grow. They help people like me who run small businesses improve their networking and much more. Joe Woodard and his team do an amazing job putting on this annual event. This will be my 4th time attending Scaling New Heights. Shortly after that I’ll be going to a Profit First Event on June 12th. This event will be at their headquarters in New Jersey. I will be racking up the frequent flyer miles this summer!

I’ve written about my journey with Profit First in previous blog posts, but if you have not had a chance to take look at the book, here is a link to the first two chapters for free: https://s3.amazonaws.com/ProfitFirstProfessionals/Portal+Downloads/Certified+PFP+Marketing+Templates/Profit+First+Rev+2017+PFP+2+chapters.pdf

Another great free resource is the Profit First podcast available wherever you get your podcasts. (or just Google it!)

If you like the first two chapters and you have questions about using Profit First in your business, I’d love to talk! Please schedule a call with me at www.clarityfinances.com. Profit First has helped so many businesses be more profitable!

I just got back from attending my son AJ’s graduation from Cabrini University in Philadelphia. It was great getting back to Pennsylvania for a little bit. He’s already been putting his education to good use working as a social media consultant for Clarity Finances. We’re happy to have him aboard!

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

 

Wallet-Friendly Summer Activities

 

I always love a good cookout during the summer. Being outside among family and friends with some good food and drink can make for great times. Growing up in the Northeast, our summers were hot, humid and there were always plenty of barbeques. But now that I live in the southern part of the US in Florida, I now realize that barbeque is on another level in this part of the country. In the spirit of barbeques, for this week’s blog post I recommend some wallet friendly things that you can do with your friends and family this summer.

BBQ Map of the US by The BBQ Beat

Barbeques: The quintessential summer activity. Now that I live in the south, I see that cookouts are a big deal here. We may have some good cookouts up north where I’m from, but down here it is pretty much a lifestyle. Most of the dishes that we love to eat at our cookouts have southern roots. The roots of barbecuing come from cooks in the south needing to cook cheaper cuts of meat for longer to make them more palatable and tender. You will find that the various regions of the south even have their own bbq sauces. Florida does not really have it’s own style of sauce, but my favorite kind is Carolina style.

Picnics: Similar to a barbeque, picnics are a nice opportunity to eat outside during the summer months. Picnics can be a little more intimate, which makes them great for a date. By purchasing everything you need at the grocery store, you save money and know exactly what you’re getting to eat. All you have to do next is pick your favorite spot to eat outside whether it’s your favorite park or just your own back yard.

Minor League Baseball: When I think summer, I think baseball. With 244 teams across the US, the chances are that you have a team close by to you. Minor league baseball has the environment of the professional stadiums at a much more affordable price. Since minor league teams don’t have the star power of the major leagues (MLB) they put an extra emphasis on in-game entertainment and things like free giveaways to fans.

Museums: Is it too hot out to be outside? If so, go inside to the air conditioning! During the summer, museums are oases of A/C and artifacts. Don’t forget to check your local paper and things like Groupon for discounts on tickets.

Local libraries: Another option if the heat is too much. Libraries are a resource that we should utilize no matter what the season. Just like museums, libraries may have special promotions during the summer and are both family and wallet friendly.

Farmer’s Markets: The fruits and veggies at a farmer’s market often times are cheaper than the grocery store and you’re also supporting local businesses by buying their products; you may even get to meet the farmer who grew your fruits and veggies. Now that I live in Florida, I love all the fresh fruits that are available to me. You can learn a lot about where you live by visiting your local farmer’s market. Uriah’s Urban Farms provides fresh produce to the University of South Florida campus and many restaurants in the Tampa area.

Take a hike: It’s tough to find something that can be as therapeutic as fresh air and the sounds of nature around you. You don’t have to go to a US National Park to enjoy the wonders of nature, but if you do, you should look into the passes offered by the National Parks Service. Don’t forget to hydrate and maybe bring a picnic. A great park close to me in Tampa is Lettuce Lake Regional Park.

 

Gardening: If you like to be outside and to work with your hands, gardening may be for you. Even if you have a few herbs growing from a windowsill, having plants around enhances your surroundings and yourself. There are many studies on the benefits of having plants in your home and workplace, but I liked this one in particular from Texas A&M, which said how having plants around can have a calming effect and increase concentration.

Yard Sales: By having a yard sale, you accomplish a lot of things. First off, you get rid of stuff you weren’t using and make a little money. Yard sales also offer the opportunity to meet some of your neighbors as some communities hold their yard sales together. And although you just got rid of some of your stuff you can buy someone else’s stuff at a bargain price.

Take a nap/sunbathe: This takes minimal effort. All you need is a comfy place indoors if you want to beat the heat or a nice lounge chair outside if you also want to work on that tan. Pair with your favorite book, podcast or sangria recipe.

 

A Reflection With Eyes Set To The Future

 

 

It was always something that I wanted to do and it almost happened by accident: starting my own business.

After graduating with a degree in Finance from Penn State University it was my time to enter the working world. I needed to decide where I wanted to work. I originally saw my godmother work as a bookkeeper and thought that this was something I could see myself doing. I didn’t want to work as a stock broker or work for a bank so I found myself working in the bookkeeping departments of small businesses. I eventually became an Advanced Certified Pro Advisor in QuickBooks and was enjoying my work in the small business environment. And then around 2007 I was laid off.

While thinking about what my next job would be after being laid off, I realized that I had acquired the skills that enabled me to start my own business. My father and grandfather were entrepreneurs so it seemed natural to me to have your own business rather than work for someone else. I started networking by joining BNI (Business Network International), marketed myself and had the confidence in my existing knowledge in bookkeeping to start my own business, Clarity Finances.

And now here I am 10 years later!

When I was working for those other small businesses, my favorite thing was to actually meet the clients and see what they did in their own businesses to support their families and achieve their dreams. I see my clients as more than just clients and love getting to know them and seeing them accomplish their goals.

I want to have a giving component to my business and being my own boss lets me do that. I can choose where I give and make sure that these organizations match my principles. One such organization is Rotary International. Rotary International does good work all over the world and they are accountable. They’ve been around for over 110 years and do work in areas such as fighting disease, providing clean drinking water and much more. Another organization that I trust and choose to give to is The Unstoppable Foundation. Their focus is on educating children and making sure every child has access to the gift of education. Please follow the links to the respective organizations’ websites to learn more and even give to them if you feel inclined.

As far as the future goes, I would like to keep becoming a more efficient business with a focus on giving. I want to connect to other people, not just other business owners, who want to make the world a better place through philanthropy. I am also excited to implement what I am learning by being Profit First Professional. To me, Profit First is the way to get more efficient as a business and get me to where I want to be as a business that can give back in a big way. I want more collaboration and more connection. There is a lot of good that needs to be done in the world, and I’d like to do my part.

 

The Final Countdown

The clock is ticking down and the deadline will be even closer by the time you are done reading this post. Christmas is only about eight months away and Spring officially began three weeks ago so what are we counting down towards? Tax Day.

This year, the due date for tax day falls on April 18th, a Tuesday. The normal due date for Federal Income tax day is on April 15th so you may be wondering why the change of due date? According to efile.com, “due to April 15th being on a Saturday and the Washington D.C. Emancipation Day holiday being observed on April 17th instead of April 16, 2017, Tax Day is the following Tuesday.”

And just so you know, there is an extension for filing the tax forms but there is no extension for the payment of what you owe. If you do owe, you must make your payment by the tax deadline. If you are unsure about what the amount is that you may owe, get in touch with your tax adviser ASAP.

Tax season is a busy time around here at Clarity Finances, so we can relate on how hectic things can be come tax crunch time. Although we cannot do your taxes for you here at Clarity Finances, if you do get an extension and want assistance getting your numbers in order this is where we can assist you. Click the “contact” heading in the top right corner of the page or follow this link to get in touch with us.

I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone of the Jewish faith a Happy Passover, which began April 11th and will end on April 18th. Since this blog post will be out a few days before, I would also like to wish a happy Easter to those of the Christian faith.

A few weeks ago I put out a blog post titled A New Chance for Growth. This was about some financial mistakes to “give up” for Lent. Let me know if you decided to give any of my suggestions a try and how it went. If you came up with your financial mistakes to give up, let me know, as I am always interested in learning something new. Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

 

Becoming a Profit First Professional & Other Tidbits

I’m proud to announce that I am now officially part of the Profit First family! As you might have read in previous blog posts, I am a huge fan of the Profit First Method and the works of Mike Michalowicz. At the end of last October I attended ProfitCon16. I wrote about it in my blog here. For those unfamiliar with the Profit First Method, it is a system for businesses of all sizes that flips the scrip on how a business can be run. Leading up to the event I was excited for the networking opportunity and the chance to learn something new that I can implement in both my business and those of my clients.

Like I said in my post reflecting on my times at ProfitCon16, it was high-energy, entertaining and inspiring. I wanted to learn more about the Profit First Method so I figured the next step was certification. By fall of this year, I will be a certified Profit First Professional.

My goal is to apply the principles of the Profit First Method to Clarity Finances and to the businesses of my clients. I am already seeing the rewards from my membership in the networking opportunities offered by the Profit First community. The Profit First network is not just present in my local business communities; it has a global reach, which is another big factor in my pursuit of becoming certified.

I’m also proud to announce that this is the 10th year of operation for Clarity Finances! The past ten years have been amazing and I’ve got to work with some wonderful people along the way and I look forward to the future.

I’m also preparing for another big milestone, but my son is doing this one. In May, my son will graduate from Cabrini University. Just like his mom, he has worked hard throughout these past years for his degree, has had great experiences and made numerous friends. Like me, his eyes are on the future and what lies ahead and I couldn’t be more proud of him. I’ll also be attending Scaling New Heights in June of this year. This is a conference for accountants and bookkeepers that use QuickBooks in their business. This year, it is being held in Orlando, which gives me an opportunity to also check out Epcot and the World of Disney. In keeping up with philanthropic efforts, I’ll also be going on a short-term mission trip to Alabama in June.

If you have further interest in the works of Mike Michalowicz or Profit First, you can buy his books on Amazon.com or reach out to me and I’d love to discuss.