Excited to be Moderating Women in Music LA’s Women of Interscope Panel 6.26

I will be moderating this great discussion. Message me if you’d like to join! xx

Sari

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13 Financial Mistakes You Could Be Making While Freelancing or Managing Your Small Business

Hey there!
Before I started my new gig at The Participation Agency this week (which I’m super excited about and will share more on soon) I wrote this guest blog for Women on Business on behalf of Every that just got posted! Take a peek and check out Every- the ultimate bank for small businesses and freelancers.

Being an entrepreneur means wearing many hats. Most of us start with a creative passion or deep expertise in a certain area and have to learn the rest as we go. Most of us are making small mistakes along the way without noticing, and sometimes these pesky little mistakes add up to larger costs in the long-run.

Here are a few of the mistakes I’ve made, and corrected, since starting my first business all those years ago.

Not Paying Your State and Federal Taxes Quarterly

Did you know in the US you most likely* need to pay your state, federal, and city/county taxes quarterly if you’re self employed?

It’s an annoying amount of paperwork, but if you fail to file, you’ll be paying penalties at the end of the year on the amount they think you earned. The good news is it’s easy to do the paperwork yourself each quarter and send in your payment. If you overpay, it will all shake out at the end of the year, and you will get a refund. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

*Check your city and state for specific requirements. Some cities require monthly payments (e.g., City of Scottsdale).

Making Decisions without Understanding the Cash Flow Implications

On financial matters, don’t go with your gut. Financial decisions should always be made with cash flow forecasts in hand. Make sure you have an up-to-date cash flow chart at all times, so you can plug in numbers before pulling the trigger on a big investment!

Waiting for Payment until the End of a Project

Getting paid up front is a great way to manage long term business growth and cash flow. I’ll let you in on a tiny secret: If a client is not okay with paying a deposit or upfront payment for your services, run far away! They won’t want to pay later and will bleed your time while you wait for your fee to arrive. Don’t be afraid to ask for an upfront payment. It’s vital to your growth, and the right clients will understand that.

Not Tracking Shareholder Loans and Draws, and Adding Interest

You should be tracking when you loan your business money and when you withdraw it! Did you know, your business can actually act as a bank for you and pay you interest when it pays you back for a loan you put in? Track these ins and outs carefully.

It’s also important when you put money in a company to classify it correctly. Is it a capital investment or loan? They’re both treated differently. Loans must have a term interest rate and notes on how often the interest compounds. In addition, they must be signed by the person loaning the money and the receiving party (sometimes the same person is a single member or small company).

Overestimating Projections

One big mistake I see often is small business owners overestimating their projections. I’m all about being hopeful and reaching for the stars, but when it comes to financial projections, being realistic will set you up for the most success.

Once you have your realistic projections in hand, don’t forget to cross reference them weekly or monthly! Take a look to see where you’ve exceeded your goals or where you may have fallen short and need to make adjustments.

Not Following a Budget

It’s just as important that you track and understand your budgets on a daily basis. Blindly spending will get you in trouble! Be sure to account for variable expenses, too. These are expenses that will increase or decrease alongside your workload. For example, for every new client, there may be the cost of added freelance support, office supplies, travel, legal fees, onboarding costs, and so on.

Making Long-term Staffing Decisions When Your Team Gets Busy

Long term hires should be brought on when you’ve seen a trend that has extended more than 1.5 years. Otherwise bring in freelance and contract labor to help you through a busy time. Staff to your slowest periods, and sub-contract to your busiest. This will allow you to be nimble and adjust to the expected ups and downs of your business.

Unlike permanent hires, contractors should be able to jump in immediately and be able to help or resolve a situation without too much preparation. Set your business up in a way that allows for that type of easy integration.

Overspending on Overhead, Office Space, Etc.

We all get excited sometimes and want to spend on a beautiful space or nice car. Overhead can truly kill a small business, so try to stay lean. Look into great coworking spaces that exist with short term agreements which allow you to scale when the time is right. There are great benchmarking reports you can find online for free, tailored to your industry and business model, which may be helpful in understanding average margins in your space.

Not Paying Attention to Your Banking Fees

Bank fees can add up! Keep an eye on them, and always be sure to check in with your bank representative to ensure you have the account plan that is best suited for your business. As your business grows and your transaction numbers climb, you’ll want to stay one step ahead. There are amazing online banking options that have zero fees for small business owners that you should check out if your fees are creeping up to an uncomfortable terrain.

Confusing Write-offs for Discounts

Business write-offs (i.e., business expenses) are great non-taxable fees that will come off the top of your income when it comes to tax season. They may help put you in a lower tax bracket, which is always a great thing. But beware — it’s still real money being spent. They’re not free discounts or coupons. Money is money. If you have it and need to spend it on something valuable for your business, go for it. However, if you don’t, then it’s just dollars poorly spent.

To truly understand write-offs, be sure to research your deductions specific to which type of entity you are (sole proprietor, LLC, S Corp, or C Corp).

Underestimating Employer Tax

Once you have team members on your payroll, you need to watch out for those taxes. They can be extreme and gut wrenching if you’re unprepared. Expect to pay anywhere from 7-15% on your payroll sums.

Also, be careful when calculating payroll for yourself and any employees, because if you mess up, it’s the responsibility of the individual to pay any penalties and interest on underpayments at the end of the year. If you’re uncertain, you can always turn to a third-party payroll provider for assurances.

Lacking Solid Contracts and Collections Measures

People will try to not pay or delay payment when they can. All businesses are faced with these types of clients. Be prepared for late payments and have a process in place.

Have solid contracts before starting any work to protect yourself and a follow-up plan that allows you to notice and escalate outstanding payments quickly. Escalation may look like alerting your lawyer to issue the client a previously drafted letter or working with a collections agency. Whatever it is, be ready and don’t back down! Get that money.

Allowing Scope Creep

If you run a service-based business, it’s very important to define the scope of the project at the beginning. The scope of a given project allows you and your staff to prepare, delegate, and deliver in a timely fashion. Scope allows a project to remain defined, and it keeps deliverables realistic. Sticking to the scope allows you to be profitable.

Clients will try to get you to bend outside of the agreed upon plans and strategy, and this can cost you hours of work you’re not getting compensated for. Your time is money. Upcharge clients who ask for more, and be ruthless about it!

Best of luck growing your business!

‘The Big S’: Understanding Strategy and Your 5-Step Career Road Map

Strategy. We throw the word around often, but do we really, truly understand what it means? When I started out in this industry 10 years ago, I don’t think I did. It wasn’t until I spent years navigating and making mistakes that I felt what a truly great strategy coming to fruition meant. Now, when I’m lucky I’ve been able to look back and say, “Hey, that happened because of this, like I had planned.” And when it works just right, well that’s a pretty cool feeling.

To me, strategy is the outcome of a number of carefully planned and plotted events and decisions. Great strategy is a mix of timing, experience, skill sets, patience, and intuitively knowing when to step in and change something. I would also argue that truly great strategy has a bit of magic in it, something you just can’t describe that helps move things forward.

These five steps break down what strategy means when it comes to your career, and provide a tactical path for implementing more of it in your day-to-day actions. I hope this demystifies “The Big S” and helps you move forward in the direction of your dream career, whatever direction that may be.

Step 1: Make a road map

Visualize your ideal outcome and work backwards on how you’ll get there. Do you hope to run a team? Work at a big brand? Found a startup? Get as detailed as you’d like and actually understand why these goals are important to you.

Separate the road map into tangible tasks that can be addressed in smaller chunks. What can you do today that is going to get you closer to your goal? Ask yourself this daily. The road map can be messy or thorough – whatever works for you. It can be scribbled on a notebook or typed in a nice PDF. Don’t fuss over what it should include or how it should look, just get it in writing enough for it to make sense to you. Read it over and commit to it. This might be a good time to consult industry professionals or others who may have more experience in strategic planning in your field. They’ll help you refine the plan and ensure it’s realistic.

Step 2: Identify networks and contacts

Identify people or groups that can help you along your road map and get you closer to the end goal. What is it that you’ll need from them? How are you going to get in touch with them or get their attention? Make a small, local list and grow from there. Start a database Excel sheet so you can keep track of your interactions. Remember to touch base with your contacts every so often, and be organized.

Once the network is identified, start reaching out to these people and finding ways to work with them. Sometimes it’s a give and take – and you might have to do something outside of your road map in order to get them to do something that’s outside theirs. Get comfortable with this idea! Example: one of your ideal mentors needs someone to help them with their personal social media outlets. You may be trying to move away from digital marketing and towards interior design, but if you help them with social media you will gain their trust and support.

Also, keep your network list handy if you run into any obstacles on your path. Sometimes the way to weasel out of an annoying situation is closer than you think.

Step 3: Communicate your goals and check yourself

Share your goals and vision with other people in your support network, as they’ll help you keep focused and might even have some contacts of their own to donate to the cause! People are drawn to others’ ambitions and goals.

In addition, it’s important that you check yourself. You don’t want to forget or get sidetracked on this very important mission. Set up reminders to reread the road map weekly. This will keep it fresh in your mind and make it easier for you to deal with the day-to-day grind that goes along with achieving your goals. It also plants a seed in your subconscious, which will help to steer you in the right direction.

Step 4: Do the work

This is the hard part. You actually have to grind it out – really get your hands dirty. Don’t mindfuck yourself into procrastinating and not actually following the items you wrote on the road map. You’ve made it this far, and staying focused is a key part of the process! Go the distance and fight for every opportunity that gets you closer to the end goal. Sometimes your hard work seems like it isn’t getting you anywhere or feels anti-climactic, but, trust me, the only difference between you and every executive that’s more successful than you is that they stayed focused throughout this phase. Successful people will tell you that there’s no magic or glamour in what they do until they look back at a later date. Keep your head down!

Step 5: Be patient, stay positive

Nothing epic or huge happens overnight. You can do everything in the world to get closer to your dreams every single day, and it still may take 10 years to achieve them. Know that good things are heading your way. The best part of strategic wins is that sometimes when you’ve reached the goal, you don’t even notice. It’s as if you’ve fallen in love with the process in the meantime. But when you do shake yourself and notice, boy, does it feel great! Hang in there until then, and don’t waste energy counting the days!

Lots of people get discouraged sticking to a particular strategy, especially if it gets trickier than they had originally expected. Especially if you are job hunting it’s easy to feel the power is not in your hands. Sometimes it’s hard to find the same excitement and passion you had when you were devising your road map as when you’re actually carrying out the strategy one or two years later. You might not be in the same headspace anymore. Remember that strategies can change, but to really achieve your goals, it’s important that you fight for the success of your strategy, and give it your all. Don’t give up on it when things get rough! Expect that there will be roadblocks and take pride in overcoming each one of them and keeping your head high.

Now go forth and achieve your wildest dreams,
xo Sari

Fair Game is a website and blog committed to sharing tips, advice, and spreading the word about the benefits of great organizational culture and effectivity. Every company deserves to be a healthy and progressive workplace. Founded by Sari Delmar,  Fair Game was launched in January 2017.

 

5 Crucial Things You Should Never Forget To Do When Running Your Business

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Hello CEO’s, Managing Directors, Presidents, and leaders of all kinds,  

I know you are swamped and there just simply aren’t enough hours in the day… but I have news for you: nobody cares. Your business will succeed or fail based on your actions and if you spend all of your time hyper-focused in one lane and ignoring the others it WILL 100% affect your business’s overall success. Your job is to understand the big picture intrinsically.

So here is just a friendly checklist of some crucial reminders. When you’re busy traveling and making deals, make sure you personally take time out of your month to be very aware of these items below. It could hurt you if you don’t and it could even reveal opportunities to grow that you would have missed out on.

To Clarify:  What I don’t mean by taking time to analyze these things, is asking one of your staff members to analyze it for you. This simply won’t work and you won’t be able to fully grasp and understand how these things all connect. Do a deep dive all on your own, I can promise you your innate understanding of these key functions will make you a better leader and stronger entrepreneur/president etc.

1.) Do a Deep Dive into Your Accounting Software

Understand your income streams, but not just that. Take a look at who is paying on time and when? Are there any cash flow issues? Which clients actually help your business grow and which ones does it cost you to keep around? What is the business actually worth? What seasons do you see an uptick or downtick in income and how does your staffing plan compliment this? How do your overhead expenses compare to industry benchmarks? Head to Google, there are tons of great resources out there that explain how much other businesses are spending and their margins in your industry. What trends are revealed and why?

This is obviously #1 because it is SO intensely crucial. I have met many entrepreneurs (and I was one in the early days) who were so caught up in the excitement of building business and the day-to-day that they would say “I’m not an accounting person, I leave that to the professionals” so they failed to do this leg work. Once you have an understanding of the financial state – a thorough one – how are you going to make decisions that speak to this? How can you carefully take risks to build your business yet not put the whole company in a risky position? You tell me.

2.) Sit Down to Have Personal Chats with Your Staff

The always-busy vibes emanating from your office aren’t the most welcoming, even if you are a super down to earth leader. It’s hard when you report to a busy boss to ask them to make time to chat about professional development and goals. It needs to come from the top. And, I am not talking about employee reviews BLEH GROSS (I believe annual review processes are a huge killer of great culture and development, but that’s for another blog). I am talking about monthly or bi-monthly check ins, coffee dates, lunches, to see how the team is doing,  one-on-one.

Are they feeling challenged? Are they swamped? Could they take on more? What facets of the work are they loving? What are they hating? Is there somewhere they need support? Do they see ways the company can strengthen systems? Do they have feedback for you as a leader? Do they have questions about the future goals and direction of the company?

Have these chats with your team but most importantly make a plan after to actually execute and implement some change based on their feedback. Of course, if you disagree with something they mention you can let them know you considered it but found that because of X this process works best for now so you won’t be making the change- but be sure to thank them for their feedback. You must consider it all and implement. They may just open your eyes to some blind spots and of course this makes for a much more engaged workforce.

3.) Take a Close Look at Your Google Analytics/Consumer Data

Understand your customers behaviors online (and offline depending on your business) – knowing what really pulls them in and what pushes them away is powerful. These things will change over time and every marketing plan you sign off on should keep these key learnings in mind. At the helm, of your business you need to drive initiatives that make your clients happy and keep them retained. How can you do that if you don’t fully understand their behaviors? So get in to your analytics and get in deep. There are lots of amazing tools if you want an even closer look like Simply Measured and MixPanel that can give you even more insight. Share this insight with your team regularly.  

4.) Make Time to Speak with Your Clients (Not just the Big Ones)

Again – personally you need to have one on one or small group chats with your clients to speak about the big picture and ask them for feedback on how your team is delivering on promises. It’s easy to focus all your energy on the big guys but you may be surprised what the little guys say too, which can help you turn them into bigger earners for your company. Ask the tough questions. Understand what your clients are looking for in the short and long term. Just be available to grab a beer with them and shoot the shit. This goes such a long way and you may learn more than you think about how to best serve them, in a casual setting.

5.) Make Sure Your Clients Pay On-Time

Last but not least. If you’re a small business owner, like I was, you’re so busy delivering above and beyond for your clients you may not catch or have time to hyper manage your incoming dollars. If a client says “the check is in the mail” or “coming in the next few weeks” then it’s easy to just say “all good” and keep doing the work. Unfortunately, I have learned too many times that even the nicest people can get weird when it comes to money. Freeze your campaign until you are paid. Don’t go out of scope until additional budget has been added. Be fiercely strict about these things for the health of your business. If a client does not want to pay on the first of every month (or the deadline you set) then that is a huge red flag. For a small business where you’re paying out of pocket for resources and talent – this simply isn’t feasible. Have strict payment terms and pause work when payment isn’t received on time. Better safe than sorry. The right clients will respect these terms and understand that they allow you to do your best work for them.

That’s it. There’s only 5 whole things and they aren’t that hard to do monthly! They could save your business or at the very least make it stronger. So what’s to lose?

Thanks for reading,
Sari

*For more content like this please visit my organizational culture and productivity blog Fair Game!

 

Things To Remember When You Start a New Job

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*Initially posted on my workplace & productivity blog Fair Game.

Here I am! I apologize for the long break in content. But who I am kidding? You readers are probably swamped with your own awesome endeavors!

I started a new job in January of this year and after 8 years of running my own company it has surely been a transition.

Here are 6 things to remember when you start a new gig. The first few weeks can be so anxiety-filled it’s hard to see past those feelings. Hopefully these can help.

1.) Your New Boss is Not Your Old Boss

We have an unconscious tendency to carry old feelings (whether negative or positive) with us to a new work situation. While being cautious, asking questions, and taking time to learn your new superiors workflow and preferences is important, it’s important not to assume and continue where your old boss left off.

Specifically this is true if your former boss was aggressive and liked to yell or punish. You need to wipe the slate clean the best you can and give your new boss a chance to surprise you with their understanding and different communication style. Try to keep an open and untainted mind.

2.) No One Expects You to Know Anything

Everyone knows you are new and it’s going to take a while to get up to speed. So don’t pile on loads of stress because you feel so out of the loop. Many have sat where you sit now;  feeling overwhelmed with new policies, procedures, and organization systems and like you, they slowly got to know these things and they became second nature. Don’t worry about trying to impress out of the gate – the expectation is low for your first week… so just ask questions, stay cool, and write notes. Enjoy this blissful time where people aren’t hounding you to turn things around with tight deadlines.

3.) Be Patient With Yourself

The human brain is highly adaptable but it doesn’t snap and change over night or in one day, or even one week. After a couple weeks you will start to feel more confident and less anxious. After 2-4 months you will really start to get in your groove and crush it. Even more, you will feel silly for being so hard on yourself those starting months because you couldn’t quite “get” it yet. Of course, I’m not saying not to care in the first few months and show it. Do good work, take notes, ask questions, but just know that the creeping anxiety of being new will soon be eradicated and your newness is not nearly as much of an issue as you believe it to be in you head.

When it comes to email and internal correspondence I suggest you mirror (ie. match) the tone your team takes. Some teams are more formal and others are more lax. If in doubt I would say formal is always a great place to start (as it shows respect in  and seriousness about your work) and adapt from there.

4.) Tread Lightly

For those eager beavers out there, like me, it’s easy to want to bring to the table loads of new ideas and strategies right off the bat. Learn the culture first so those ideas and strategies have the best chance of survival. You may think or feel you really get the culture after 6 weeks – but give it 6 more and really start to understand more of the intricacies. Time reveals so much. The more you know about how the company ticks, who supports new and bold ideas, the better you can position yourself.

5.) Find a Buddy

Is there someone else in the company that was recently hired? That’s an easy first lunch date because you both will be feeling awkward and new. Trade tips and thoughts on what you’re seeing and learning in the company so you can both feel you’re not in it alone. Don’t worry, in a couple of months your calendar will be filling up with lunch dates with people all across the organization, but patience is everything. Find a fellow newbie who you can team up with.

6.) The Inside Jokes You Aren’t Yet a Part of,  Probably Aren’t That Funny… 😉

It’s easy to be caught in those smile-and-nod-along group jokes that you have zero understanding of. You weren’t there so how could you? Give it a couple weeks and you will find you are on the inside of those knee-slappers.

Good luck in your new roles,
Sari

“Am I Being Too Strict?” – Managing Your Tone as a Manager

Hey friends,
Last week I launched by new blog/website devoted to organizational culture and leadership: http://fairgame.biz!
This week we posted a new blog – here is a snippet below! Read the full article HERE!

As a manager, it is very challenging to find a balance between being too strict or not strict enough. There are many situations where ‘laying down the law’ is called for, while in other situations, it is inappropriate and counterproductive. But when is the right time? Below I have addressed some tactics and questions that you, as a manager, can explore in understanding this very common workplace dilemma.  

 REFRAME THE QUESTION

Next time you feel those words floating through your head (either am I being too strict? or am I being too lenient?) replace them with these questions, in this order:

1. Am I being a consistent leader?

2. Does my team have the instructions and tools needed to succeed?

3. Has my expectations been properly and clearly explained?

4. Is this a reoccurring issue or a one time mistake?

The tone you use in handling matters should 100% rest on the outcomes of these questions above.

 READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE 🙂 

Thanks for stopping by!
xo Sari

Life updates – New Job & Move to LA!

Dear friends, some exciting updates to share with you! It’s been too long!

#1 Since closing AB Co. in September and winding down all operations last year, I’ve been enjoying some time off! But of course I can’t sit still for very long. I am very happy to join the team at Concord Music Group in the Corporate Communications & PR division. The CMG roster includes legends like Paul Simon and James Taylor, and the Concord family of labels includes Loma Vista, Fearless, Razor & Tie, Stax, and loads more. Very excited to dig in!

#2 I have made the tough decision to leave New York, and the exciting decision to relocate to Los Angeles! I have loved living in NYC for the past 1.5 years and thank all the amazing friends and people who made my time here just the best! . If you are on the west coast or have friends/family out there we would love to connect with them! Can’t wait to explore a new city!

I will get back to updating this blog here soon! Thank you for the ongoing support!

Much love,
Sari