Connie Vanderzanden is an entrepreneur with nearly 22 years of experience and a deep understanding of the finances that can, and do, make or break a business. She took her vital insight from her own journey, which consisted of ups and downs like most entrepreneurs, and grew into a business strategist specializing in cash flow planning. Connie is passionate about making numbers and money easy for entrepreneurs, enlightening them on their potential blind spots and nurturing their relationship with money.
Go to Show Notes here.
Here’s the transcript:
Welcome to another episode of Straight Talk about Sales. I am so excited for today’s guest, Connie Vanderzanden. Welcome, Connie. Thanks, Dr. Nadia.
I’m so happy to be here. I even wore my joy necklace. This is magical tool I brought back from my pilgrimage to Bali. And so it’s here to help bring some joy into our conversation. I love it.
I love it. It’s so cute. Yes. Joy necklace. So, I would love to just begin our conversation with you telling us about your entrepreneurial journey and what has brought you to do the work that you do now?
Well, that’s a good question. I won’t get into all the details because I’m just celebrating my 21st year or I’m going into my 22nd year of business. Congratulations. That’s a major accomplishment. But it’s taken many turns everything from solopreneur home based business to getting this idea I could grow the business in commercial space and hiring a team and incorporating into getting rid of that space and going back to home office and having virtual teams.
So it’s taken a lot of different ebbs and flows. But the key journey was that I had to learn not only what it was like to be a business owner from all those stages, but also what it was like to get into a lot of debt and not pay attention to my own numbers. And from somebody who has 37 years in the accounting industry, to say that I wasn’t paying attention to my own numbers as I was growing a bookkeeping business, that’s huge. How did that happen, Connie? Well, it happens a lot.
One is like when you’re in startup phase, you’re just so interested in getting people to find you that you can often forget about doing your numbers. And then when you’re in growth phase, it’s the same thing. You’re in this hustle called hustle culture and it usually takes the backseat. But of course, if you don’t have the money coming in, it’s kind of hard to grow and pay things and that’s usually why debt will increase. But yeah, I had to relearn or become aware that, A, I was ignoring money and my numbers and all the emotional side that I had around it and how I could heal that relationship.
So that’s what my purpose is, is I help make numbers and money easy for small businesses and entrepreneurs and help them find a new way to be in relationship with both of those as they go in whatever growth or however they want to have their business. It’s not always about growing a business. It’s about creating a business that supports your life and the vision that you have for it. Oh, I love that. I love that idea.
And this is not our first time having this conversation around building a business that supports your life. I think that is so important. Can we just pause? You talked about a number of things, and I know I have my questions. But one of the things I would love for you to spend some time on is talking about this idea of cash flow planning.
We hear a lot about more sales, more sales, more sales, more revenue, more leads, more, more and and more. But very rarely do I hear anyone saying, how about we talk about planning with the cash flow? So can you just define that and tell us what that really looks like? Yeah. So cash flow planning is where you’re actually looking at how the money is going to flow in and out of your bank account, usually just looking at your one operating account and over a period of time.
So what I usually work with clients on is a spreadsheet that looks at every week for three months, six months or longer, and how the money is normally, on average, coming in and going out. So you can see the big dips and the big rises. And especially for online businesses who might not have a consistent cash flow, like, revenue consistently comes in. Doing some planning, forecasting ahead of time is really important. So you can see the dips, so you can make choices like, okay, let’s postpone this one purchase until later and look at what that does.
And it’s really about playing with the numbers. It’s usually in a spreadsheet. And my clients that do it for themselves are very much more empowered because now they can see what’s going to happen. The future is just not a scary place with money. That’s why we don’t always have to go for more and more and more.
We’re about slowing down, making intentional choices of how we’re going to use the money that’s coming in. And if there’s things that we want to do, like grow, okay, what growth do we need to do for revenue? How many more sales do we need to do? And you can put that in the sheets, but I even do it for myself. And mine is pretty consistent all the time, but I still like to look out several months to see, okay, I definitely need to not be in a slow period by the time I get here, and so I can take action sooner.
I love it. I love it because I think that and you mentioned it in your own story, on your own journey of having a time when you ignored the money and ignored the numbers. And I’m guilty of it too. I’ve been it doesn’t look the way I want it to look. I don’t want to look at it.
But I really love the idea of cash flow planning because now, like you said, we’re taking charge, we’re taking control, and it’s actually more empowering than when we stick our heads in the sand and try not to look at the numbers. So in your experience, what are some of the strategies that you recommend to your clients as you help them with their cash flow planning?
Well, the first one is to look at the numbers and wherever that is, it does not have to be an accounting tool. You just have to know where you’re starting and whether that’s in a spreadsheet or you are going to use some type of tool, like a free tool or an accounting tool. It may be helpful to get a bookkeeper to help you get the data into a format so you can see it. That way you don’t have to stress out about learning something or the data entry or the perfectionism around it. I don’t know anything about that.
Really good thing. That’s what I wrote when you were saying that I wrote, oh, remember to come back to perfectionism. Because most of the time, the people, the businesses I work with are stuck because they don’t know the perfect way of doing it. So they don’t know whether their accounting tool is set up the best way. And most of the times it is, it’s set up just perfectly enough to make it easy for them to see what’s happening so that we have something to create a forecast on.
Now I like an accounting tool, you like a spreadsheet.
So it’s really about finding something that works for where you are in your business. And if you can automate it, that’s great because we do want to have access to the data so that we can update it. But I do think there are tools that work for cash flow planning. I particularly like a spreadsheet for that. So once you know where you’re starting, then you can forecast and play with the numbers.
There’s nothing about it that will actually happen. It’s just giving you an idea of what the future might hold. And so letting go of being perfectly correct, oh my gosh, good enough is where we’re going. And sometimes having somebody run the spreadsheet or set up the spreadsheet for you can be super helpful for clients in the beginning, but then it’s just about consistently creating a money date or a ritual around keeping it current, keeping it up to date so that it’s a good planning tool. So it’s not something you’re going to do once and throw in a drawer darn something you’re continually going to go back to.
Now, I do mine weekly. Okay. For my clients, I do weekly because things can change and my clients have payroll or rent or things that might really adjust the cash flow up and down. But you could if you’re just starting out a monthly one would be great. It’s going to be part of your money ritual.
I love that. And in this date, how long did you that’s not the question. How long would you recommend that we spend during our money date? Like there’s looking at the numbers, is there anything else that you would recommend that we do during that time? Yeah, so whatever word you like, date, ritual, anything that you’re sitting down and being with the numbers.
The first one is to look at where you’re at and have a gratitude and appreciation for the money just coming in, whether you’re going to do a celebratory dance or anything where you’re really happy with what has come in, and then what are you going to do with it? Do you want to move it into smaller savings accounts so that you have tax savings and other intentional savings? Or are you going to then spend it but prioritize how money is going to show up for you, which is like making sure you pay yourself first, even if it’s not a large amount. Making sure that you pay yourself and that your business is supporting you first and then choosing what’s left. How to divvy that up against your vendors or your debt or whatever that looks like.
So that’s one of the things not only to be with it, but then also to keep it flowing in and out. Also revenue generation things. So invoicing. That was the one thing I forgot early on in the business, was to collect money. So revenue generation, collection calls, reminders, proposals, anything that might create money coming in, making follow up calls to people you’ve already talked to, that’s all part of that money ritual, right?
You’re paying attention to what possibilities and opportunities are out there so that money can come in and then updating the cash flow. Sometimes I’ll update my budget as well, or my financial plan, and just be in relationship with money. But if you’re just starting out, if you’ve been ignoring money and numbers for a long time, perhaps you’re just going to start with 30 minutes of just being with the numbers. That’s it. And the next time you do it, you’ll take another step forward.
So a lot of the times when I’m talking with clients who have not done any money rituals or dates is maybe every week, take 30 minutes, okay? And then you can build on that. And as soon as you’re through that emotional side of paying attention, working on gathering, wanting or desiring more to come in or using it in a different way, then you can add or change the dates and times and things like that. I love that. So one thing you mentioned, money date.
So you’re not taking notes. Take note. The money date. But one thing you mentioned, Connie, that I think is going to cause some people to flinch a little bit is pay yourself first. And I cannot tell you the number of business owners that I’ve worked with.
I know I was there for a while where, honestly, in full transparency, there was a period when I first started I didn’t even think about paying. It was it seemed like such a novel notion the first time someone was like, Nadia, you need to pay yourself. And I was like, Wait, what? So how what are some baby steps for those that aren’t paying themselves for those that are like Nadia, when I first heard it, like, what? Pay me first?
How do we start to build that habit? Because that’s huge. Especially for a lot of women entrepreneurs, it’s huge. And I will say I had to have a very emotional moment with that. I was sitting in front of Group A Mastermind, and my coaches were like, you need to physically write yourself a check.
And I was like, Well, I’m paying my credit card. I’m paying my personal credit card. They’re like, no, you need to physically write yourself a check. And I just started bawling because I was like, there’s no way. But it is an energetic exchange between your business saying, yeah, we’re here for you.
We’re going to support you. Here’s your money. So nowadays, I still write myself a check because I like that energetic exchange. But you could do a transfer. But if you’re anywhere in that ignorant stage of where I was, it’s still a communication process of the business giving you the check, saying, here, yes, we’re supporting you.
But I would start small. When I first started, it was $5 a week because most of my money was going out. Because my debt had increased so much, 98% of what was coming in was already spent. Yeah, small amounts. But making it first, like, before I pay anybody else, I’m going to pay myself first and then pay everybody, and then you can increase it from that.
And so a lot of the times, most of the clients I work with are like, I just don’t want to be the lowest paid person on the team. Well, you do know zero is definitely lowest paid person on the team. Don’t want to be the lowest paid person on the team. And so gradually we get them there. Most of the time, it’s also because they haven’t included their salary in their financial plan.
They’ve got enough to pay their team, they’ve got enough to pay their tools and whatever overhead costs, but they’ve never thought about putting a line item in there, not only for their CEO salary, the business owner, but them as a technician as well. So when they roll out of that technician role, they can have the funds in there to replace themselves. That is huge. Yeah, most of the time is that it’s not in the original line item, so they’ve never thought about it. But then it’s about making smaller, consistent payments so that you’re prioritizing.
It just comes part of the natural flow. I love see every time I talk to you, Connie. So now CEO practitioner roles, that’s two different line items. Nadia definitely up, check updated. So one thing that you mentioned, especially when it even came to you paying yourself first, was the emotional response.
So let’s talk about it, because money and emotions are definitely tied together, whether we like to admit it or not. So any advice in helping? How business owners manage their emotions and really address that when it comes to dealing with money, whether it’s paying yourself first, having your money date, your financial plan, all of this, this whole conversation, how do we deal with those emotions? Well, the first is be kind to yourself.
It’s not our fault. Normally I’ve met a few people that have had families that talk openly about money and have financial education at that stage of the game, but most of us were not taught about money. In fact, it was something you didn’t talk about in our families. We didn’t really get a financial education in school, if any. So you’re coming in as a very young individual when it comes to money in your business.
And so as you would talk to a young person, just be kind and be okay that you’re starting from, yes, you might be 56 years old, but you still are a young person that are starting from zero. And so we have to pepper this in a little bit about what we’re going to learn on it. So be kind and then it’s about self awareness then, okay, what do you know? What is your triggers? What did you learn from your parents?
What was that story that kept going on and then being able to look at that and go, oh, yeah, that was true for my grandma and the depression, but it’s definitely not true for me now. Right. And having choice in how you look at those things. But the more awareness that you can have self awareness around these things, the easier it will increase that relationship. And again, we’re just getting to a point of like, money is energy.
Money is just something that happens. It’s how we exchange goods. People would give you a chicken or eggs for whatever service you would give. So those foods fed your soul and your body. The money is the same way for us.
It adds to our life. And so realizing that that’s what money is, what change it can create out in the world, in our communities or the world itself is can you have a better and love is going to be a really strong word here, but a better relationship that allows you to love and enjoy what money adds to the world. I love that. Maybe not the love of money, but what it adds and does out in the world. No.
That’s so good. Thanks. That is so good. I think as you’re talking about, even as we’re talking about the emotional parts, I know for me, one of my emotional drivers or fears around Lenny was making a know, I didn’t want to get it wrong, but building a business, we don’t always get it right. And so I think, again, I love when you’re just talking about be kind to yourself because things happen.
And so that was just I have to get it right. I have to get everything right. The first time. It’s. Like, seriously, Nadia, stop it.
Well, no, and a lot of that is blaming the school system. And that’s why money and numbers get so clouded, is you were in math and you got a bad grade if you got it wrong. And the numbers and money are somewhat similar in how they look or feel or how people have told you what they are. Yeah, we brought that straight from school into this. And it’s not it’s about innovation.
It’s about beta testing different things, and not everyone has that strength. So sometimes bringing somebody in to support you, whether that’s a therapist that was what I leaned into at the beginning, was a therapist. Wow. Then a coach. There are money coaches out there.
There are money therapists out there. And then a financial advisor will help you with that longer term goal. So there might be somebody you need to add to your team to help fill in some of those strengths. I love that. That is so good.
So as we’re talking about cash flow planning, what are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen business owners make when it comes to that? Yeah, I think the biggest mistake is in cash flow planning, which is different than creating your financial plan, aka budget cash flow planning. There is more. This is what we expect. These are averages.
Sometimes we are going to show, okay, we’re going to increase sales here because we’ve put into motion this one thing. But it’s not about, yeah, I’m going to go and I’m going to create a new product, and I’m going to sell $100,000. Right. That’s a dream, and that’s a goal, and you could put that on there, but it’s not really going to affect the cash flow until you actually see it start materializing. So a financial plan is all about the goals, the growth goals, the dreams of how you want money to show up.
But on cash flow planning is like, this is what I have in my bucket. This is what I know is going to come in, or I expect to come in based on contracts or team or whatever is happening and what the dips will be. And the dips are, even though they might be red and you might freak out a minute, oh, my God, there’s a cash less. We’re going to need money. That’s a really key indicator of, like, oh, okay, yeah, we’re going to need to create something or pause something or make a choice here.
But it’s not set in stone. It’s just an indicator of what might happen. So it gives us a lot of future vision.
I love this. I love the work that you do. I really wish all my clients work with you, because one of the things that I’ve seen in my experience, especially when we were doing more of this sales for support, is we bring in all this money, and I know all the money came in because I brought it in and they’re like, where did it go? When you’re talking to the business owner, they’re having team meetings. And I’m like, okay, it’s not just sales is definitely a big part of it.
But I think to your point in the work that you do, there’s also some tools that we can leverage so that we can really see the fruit. Because there’s a lot of work, especially like you said, startup and growth huge, right. And all the things that are happening that you need to do to bring in these sales. Let’s really leverage our money wisely to really support us in that. Because one of the hardest things and I had a colleague share, she’s like, I just work to pay other people, basically.
Yeah, and that’s not a fun place to be. No, it’s not a fun place. And you feel stuck. And that was probably my worst moment in the business was that so much of the money that was coming in because I hadn’t paid myself for six years was for everybody else. And that’s not a sustainable business model.
And yeah, people can bring in a lot of money, but realizing the choices you made of investments you made and added team members that might benefit from or different things like that, that’s all part of the planning and the forecasting. But yeah, it’s great to have a lot of money come in and it’s really even better when that money can last and provide benefits to the business long term, not just within the first 30 days, right? Or the first three in out, didn’t. Even see it and it’s okay. Own the fact.
Like if you’ve been putting off paying yourself to do that, own the fact, make it a line item, give yourself priority on that and then pay attention to what that’s going to do to the money. So many times I saw people do a big launch, get all that money in. That was supposed to be for a year long program, spend it all within the first 90 days, whether it was pay, the back end of what it cost, or the owner for not taking a salary. And then what were you going to run the business on? So then you’re stuck in the hustle culture of another launch, another thing, another, more money is here to support us.
And it doesn’t really matter what the top line number is as long as it’s a business that’s sustainable and adding to your it. I love that. So any final words of wisdom before we wrap up? Connie? Money is a relationship.
And so with all good relationships, it likes to have attention. It wants you to be appreciative of it and show some gratitude. It wants to flow. And the sooner you can realize those things and how you’reacting to it, you are going to be able to create a more sustainable business model that is going to be there for your life and the life of your family and your community for the long term. And it can be done.
We all can be numbers people. We all have a better relationship with money. You can do it. Totally do it. I believe it.
I love that. So how can people connect with you, Connie? Because I hope everyone is like, I need to talk to Connie to get some support with some cash flow planning. What does that look like? We make it easy.
We have a website, Moneyactiontips with an s.com. There’s a report on there. But most importantly is a free conversation. So if this sparked anything, like, you have any questions, is to have the conversation. We’ll just get together and chat about it.
There’s no sales, no pressure or anything but resource or conversation, whichever way you’d like to go. And then I also am over on Instagram mostly. I love it. And what’s your IG handle Connie. VanderZanden got it.
And we’ll make sure all of that’s. In the show to practice. VanderZanden got it. Well, thank you so much, Connie, for joining us today. This was such a lovely conversation.
Thank you for having me. I super enjoy talking about money and business, but I didn’t always. It right. Same. Neither did I.
But we have grown up and we’ve evolved, so I love it. Thank you. Well, thank you all for joining us for another episode of Straight Talk about Sales. We’ll see you again soon. Bye.