3rd floor! Accounting, Outsourced Controller and Tax Planning

I’ve probably had 30+ different “elevator pitches” over the past 2 years, coinciding with joining a weekly networking group.

I’ve put a lot of time into crafting that perfect statement, in the allowed 30 to 60 seconds, of who I am, what I do and why I’m special. But none of the statements every really clicked with me. Or anyone else, going by the looks on their faces, or faces lit up by the partially concealed glow of supposedly hidden iPhones.

It turns out, I was looking for the wrong answer. Heck, I wasn’t even answering the right question!

Seth Godin comes through once again. Our elevator pitch is not to sell our product or service. It should be our trailer, our teaser about us. It should get our audience’s attention, then stop and make them want to go deeper, when we have more than a minute.

This doesn’t mean I won’t have something prepared, of course. As a natural introvert, if I don’t have something ready, I will fumble and trip over my words. So what’s the next step?

I’m turning to another inspiration – Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. Simon’s core message is “people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” There’s more to it – Google him and watch the TED talk.

Going forward, my elevator pitch will be simple:

  • Introduce myself (Hi I’m Kevin, my favorite candy bar is the Whatchamacallit)
  • Offer up an interesting or catchy quote, statistic, book, etc. (Will change based on the opportunity.)
  • Share my WHY and Who (I help small business owners get control of their money so they can get control of their life.)

But what about HOW I help small business owners get control or WHAT tools I use to do that? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to fit into 60 seconds and it just doesn’t work. I’m doing my work a disservice by trying to cram everything in. I say too much, and by doing so, nothing is memorable. That is what the second conversation is for – to get to know the person more deeply.

I’m interested in your feedback. What have you tried that has worked or failed miserably? Do you think this is too simple?

Some other elevator pitch resources:

Freelance Switch

Dumb Little Man (the blog, not my opinion!)


Restaurants Don’t Close Because the Chef is a Lousy Cook


This pearl of wisdom was the result of a terrific conversation I had outside of a wedding Stefanie and I attended this Saturday.

Stefanie’s uncle, veteran of the restaurant business, and I were talking about work, a conference I’m attending later this week, and some ideas I have about interacting with customers, among other things. He’s seen some excellent chefs leave the restaurant, open their own place, only to have it close down after only a short time.

His comment was the inspiration for (and Title of) this post. The new restaurants didn’t fail because the chefs couldn’t cook. (He did say that was possible a small fraction of the time, but not usually the main reason.)

No, the business fails because the chef doesn’t realize he is no longer a chef – he is a business owner – and didn’t prepare for the difference. He can no longer show up for his shift, prepare the food and clock out and call it a day. He’s now a part-time human resource department, bookkeeper, marketer, etc. unless he chooses to hire people for each of these functions.

However, he still cannot “set it and forget it” with any of these tasks. He still has to stay on top of his employees, his cash flow and his marketing to be sure it fits with his business plan (and that it is working!).

This post may read slightly negative, and that’s not the point. I am excited when people take a risk, chase their dreams and do something they love. Part of my WHY is helping small business owners understand, trust and not worry about their numbers so they can run a more successful business and hold on to that excitement of being your own boss.

I’m going to talk about this distinction in upcoming posts. Please leave a comment if there is anything particular you, or a business you visit, is struggling with and I’d be happy to expand on the topic.

What say you?


Finding Focus through System Design

I bet you’ve had weeks like I just had – lack of focus, getting work done but not feeling terribly productive. I don’t know if it’s the beautiful fall weather but my focus has been crap lately. I have several projects going at once, and seem to bounce around on day to day tasks. Not to mention I have about 3 notebooks, 2 legal pads, and about 2-3 online docs where I keep notes or ideas. I hate feeling scattered like this, I’m a CPA and love organization.

So last week I sat down and spent a couple hours working through my systems and committed them to paper (ok, to a Google Doc). I chose Google Docs for this because it is my go-to filing system for 2 reasons – accessibility and automatic backup.

For example, I’ve been networking quite a bit lately, but struggle to keep up with what I do after I meet someone. My goal was to come up with a process I could follow for each new contact.

I started at the beginning, the initial conversation, and documented the entire process of my “sales funnel”. For easy reference, I used John Jantsch/Duct Tape Marketing marketing hourglass steps – Know, Like, Trust, Try and Buy – to label each step.

It was so helpful to intentionally think through the steps. Now, when I get home, I don’t have to wonder what I’ll do with the stack of business cards I collected.

Bonus – Now that I have the basic framework down, I can edit or add content as needed. If I see a weak link in the process, it is easy to fix. If I read a blog post, like one I found today about using LinkedIn to network, I can add additional steps or related processes.

Extra Bonus – Working through my sales funnel process was so awesome, and made me feel so productive, I kept moving forward with the next logical step in the process – once I get the customer to Buy – how do I keep track of the project or deliverable I’m working on?

Not only did I define a few projects or services I normally handle for customers, I created a separate Doc for each service and mentally went through the process of managing the project – from the timeline of recurring services like annual tax compliance to determining who does what on more collaborative projects. Is it perfect and 100% done? No, but it’s a start. Eventually, I’ll formalize these processes a bit more and likely turn to a project management app such as Podio, Basecamp or Asana for day-to-day use.

I love organizing myself like this, giving myself a road map to follow. The 2 or 3 hours I spent thinking about how I want things to work was invaluable. I’ve already put the sales funnel system to work.

How do you push through those cloudy days? Do you have defined systems in place to default back to, or do you just wing it? Which way do you think works best, or is it different for each person?



2 Questions to Get Business (or Life) Unstuck

I’m not sure if the beautiful fall weather has something to do with this, but lately I’ve felt “stuck”. Some people call this “feeling like they are in a rut”. From my extensive research (asking a few people), it appears we all feel this way at some point. We get mired in day to day operations of business or life. We look up and another month is over (September, where did you go?) We know we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if we are spending enough time connecting with people. Are we working on our important, but not urgent tasks or just putting out fires?

Next time you feel this way, ask yourself these two questions.

When all else fails, ask “How can I help people more?”

I read this in Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup Book and loved the question’s simplicity. Let’s call this a “recession proof” question because it can work anytime. When you have free time, call up a customer or referral partner and ask them what they’re working on and how you can help. If you’re busy, schedule 15 minutes and do it – if for no other reason than to take a break. Your customer will love it and who knows, it could lead to a new opportunity or offering.

How can I out “love” my competition?

This one is from Seth Godin. This may sound a little sappy, but stick with me. Of course we all want to be seen as the expert in our field. But isn’t technical knowledge of what we do merely a table stake – the cost of being in the game? What if you differentiate yourself by how much you care? That’s what people crave…and talk about to their network.

Have you ever heard someone say “You must see my dentist, he cleaned my teeth with perfect water pressure and precise circular motion of his instrument, it was amazing!” No. You say “My dentist reassures me when I visit and his office is really relaxing, you should see him too.”

When you get stuck, what tricks do you use to get moving again?

Why I Don’t Watch the News

I realize this headline, Careers are Dead, was probably meant to grab a reader’s attention, but the overly negative tone is as depressing as turning on the 10 o’clock news.

Yes, the type of career Baby Boomers had – where you work for Big Corporate Entity for 35-40 years and then live off the pension – is dead. And that’s perfectly fine with me.

But this article makes working a service or contract position seem like the end of the world.

I’d like to take the opposite view – this is one of the most exciting times to be living and working.

We are living in the Choose Yourself Era. You don’t have to wait for a gatekeeper to choose your resume out of a stack of 1,000. You don’t have to wait for a bank to give you a loan for startup capital. You don’t have to get accepted to the right school, because nearly everything you could want to learn is available online.

You can start a business with a laptop, internet connection, idea and hustle. That wasn’t possible even 15 years ago. Last time I checked, hustle was free.

Maybe we will earn less than our parents did, but so what? This article from Forbes essentially states that happiness as it applies to money is relative. In other words, making more money doesn’t equal happiness.

What if we saw flexibility as a benefit – rather than saying “oh crap, what’s next when this 6 month position is done?” What if, instead of doing the same thing over and over, we take a little of what we learn from each experience, build on it and challenge ourselves to create the life we want? It probably won’t be easy, but something worth doing usually isn’t.

There’s a quote I heard once – “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” Work has changed. And it will continue to change, but we always have a choice – do we see change as something to fear or an opportunity to grab on to?

Further reading: