Overcoming a Fear of Financial Numbers

Fear of Equations

How many small business owners know their craft (in my case Kinesiology), but have challenges with finances? Looking back it has been nearly 20 years since I first developed a fear of numbers. The words “don’t take math again” have been etched into my memory since they were spoken by my grade 10 math teacher.   Perhaps this new fear of numbers why I initially stared a degree in English and History?  It was near the end of my first year of university that I discovered that I really wanted a degree in Kinesiology. The irony is that a Kinesiology degree has numerous courses that have numbers and computations as part of their curriculum.

Now as a business owner it is even more critical to be competent at understanding my financial numbers as well various key statistics that drive my business forward. This fear of numbers has previously prevented me from feeling confident enough to develop cash flow projections and budgets.    I would much rather write, go play outside. update my website, go to the movies than sit down and complete cash flow projections however, I know they are important pieces to being profitable and running and an agile business.

What I think was missing from my financial education was how to properly manage cash-flow. One effective way to overcome a fear is to dive deeper into by seeking more knowledge and combining it with practical application. I found a couple of books that helped (see below) and started to in grain some weekly habits.

In addition have been working on  switching the “I am not good with numbers” thought to something more positive such as “I am in the process of being competent at understanding and creating cash flow projections“.

A business exists to make money, no shame in that. For me I enjoy the independence, but I also want the business to support my lifestyle and family.  There a few habits I am in the process of implementing to help my business thrive and strength my financial numerical literacy:

  • Balance books weekly
  • Complete weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly cash-flow projections
  • Added line items in the projections to pay off debt, pay taxes and pay myself
  • Use the projections to what cash as to be on hand to make appropriate payments and know what sales have to be.
  • Use the projections versus actual to make strategic adjustments, increase sales or decrease expenses
  • Keeping all my receipts organized with Neat instead of in a shoe box!

It isn’t easy in the beginning, however the more frequently that these items are completed I gain more confidence in my financial management skills. This process also keeps me focused on creating a bright future instead of the berating myself for what has already happened.

Educational Resources

  1. Unleash Your Cash Flow Mojo: A Business Owners Guide to Predicting, Planning and Controlling Your Company’s Cash Flow – Sandra Simmons
  2. Managing Cash Flow: An Operational Focus – Rob Reider & Peter B. Heyler

How to Evaluate and Add Value to Your Service Offerings

Chalk Board EvaluationShifting Lifemoves from a  large gym in 2011 that had a lot of sales team support to a few different smaller independent studios and now finally having my own clinic space has forced me to re-evaluate my marketing strategies as Lifemoves is rebuilt towards being a leader in the health and rehabilitation field.

The new space I have is 900 square feet and I am using half of it on a regular basis. Since, my company has been built with kinesiology as the primary services offered I am also looking to add various complimentary services such as physiotherapy and message therapy.  Even under the umbrella of kinesiology we offer various programs which to an average consumer  can be confusing.

I have often felt like Kinesiologists are in between Personal Fitness Trainers and Physiotherapists in terms of our skill set, but also how to describe our profession and sell our services. Nearly 10 years of direct involvement in a gym has kept me selling my services on a per session basis with discounts based on number of pre-paid sessions.

We can sometimes get caught up in doing things just because that is the way it has always been.   Online advertisers can be aggressive with pursuing the upgraded listing.  If you don’t have a marketing plan these sales calls can push people into doing things that take them off their original path.

Perhaps there is another way? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Simplify Services Offers – get clear on what you do. Can you pare down your programs then become excellent on providing the ones that are making you the most profits?
  • Add Value – is there a way to add value to the programs? Educational products or tools enhance results and build relationships.
  • Create Specific Programs – instead of selling per session basis, create a program with additional service, products etc that are designed for your clients
  • Evaluate Your Website Lifemoves Health and Rehabilitation is so 2008; it will be getting a complete overhaul. When was the last time you delved deep into your website using Google Keywords or Google Analytics? Is what you offer clear on your website? Are there pages that drive clients  a way or that are no longer useful? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Create Tactical Partnerships – are there people or companies in your network who have similar practice philosophies, share client demographics and offer complementary services? Maybe, just maybe there is a program that can combine both organizations’ expertise (start with one first).

Create a yearly marketing plan based on an analysis of where your top clients are coming from as well as solid analysis of online marketing.  I started to take a look into this recently and made some interesting discoveries, such as my home page being very unclear about what we offer and the long-tail keywords that competitors websites are using.

What will you be doing differently in the next few months?

How to Rewire Your Brain from Being Angry to Celebrating Success

Rewiring the Brain

Flickr www3Billard

In June 2013 I was suddenly faced with moving my business.  Being asked to leave our previous location unexpectedly was shocking,disruptive and nearly devastating. The move meant a significant loss of revenue,  loss of my employee and a loss of marketing inertia.

There were parts of me that were extremely angry and stunned while other parts of me went into immediate action mode. Although it only took a couple of weeks to find a new location my anger towards this situation and the person who initiated the move stayed with me until last week.

While I knew this anger was not healthy or useful I wasn’t certain of how to switch my thoughts. Initially I explored counseling, but thought I would try to research techniques on rewiring my brain to achieve more resiliency and less anger.

For my birthday last month I received a gift card to a bookstore. That same day I found, purchased and read “Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being” by Linda Graham.

Bouncing Back CoverThe detailed neuroscience with practical meditation mantras was what I needed. Our brains are plastic. We can switch the negative rewiring by replacing those thoughts by positive ones. When I feel anger towards this situation I send a positive out to the universe and acknowledge the pattern that makes me angry. It has taken a few weeks for this to stop feeling forced, but now those wishes are more natural and genuine.

Last weekend helped me discover that I don’t celebrate enough. My current clinical space came about because Lifemoves needed a new home.  Now every time I unlock the door I celebrate and welcome myself home. Celebrating each small success by replacing negative thoughts with positive reframes has drastically reduced my anxiety while improving my happiness. I am also very grateful for the opportunity such a previously negative situation presented.

How are you going change your thoughts? How are you going to express gratitude and celebrate your successes today?

Being the Best: Helping the Hedgehog to the Other Side of the Dip

It always seems that a book or way of thinking is brought to my attention at just the right time when I need my thoughts redirected. Recently Dr. Susan Biali introduced me to Seth Godin’s “The Dip” which helps readers discover when they are in a Dip or a Cul-de-Sac and decide whether or not it is appropriate to quit or stick it out. The other book that is one of my favourites is “Good to Great”by Jim Collins.

The last two months have been challenging for my business and myself. Fitness World was once a place of growth, but it had become my cul-de-sac or dead-end.   After weathering the sale of our strategic partner for eighteen months we decided in June of 2011 that it was time to quit and find a new home.  Even though I had become lost and unmotivated, unclear of why I started Lifemoves others still knew what Lifemoves is about.

When I created Lifemoves I wanted to build a brand and company that stood for something, made a contribution to society and that had a unique selling position. Until recently I had forgotten how to articulate this.  It took speaking with a Physiotherapist, an outsider who believed in my business to help me reconnect to how unique and wonderful Lifemoves is, what we can be the best at and how much potential we do have. It is also clear from the enthusiasm from our clients, employees and her that the growth and changes are positive. Thankfully all of our clients have stayed with us.

The Dip is that period of time when whatever it is can be a bit of a slog, but there is greatness on the other side. During the Dip you might feel like quitting, but if you did you would be missing out. There were times over the last couple of years I thought of folding, however I knew that this was my calling and I still had a lot to contribute (I also couldn’t see myself working for someone else).

Godin explains that there are the serial entrepreneurs who love the rush of the start-up, but jump from opportunity to opportunity without building something truly great. Some companies try to be everything to everyone. I have seen this when Personal Trainers who want to cater to ALL clients with ALL goals; it just leads to mediocrity.  Godin believes there is no point in being mediocre.
Collins’ book delineates what differentiates Good Companiesfrom Great Companies and one of those things was the Hedgehog Principle (Collins, p. 90). Great companies were able to figure out the intersection between what they were best at, what they were passionate about and what could sustain a robust cash flow and profitability. The hedgehog realizes what is innately simple – being able to curl up in a ball of spikes to ward of attackers instead of being the fox that is chasing at things at multiple levels.

Clients value companies who are robust, who have been around for awhile and who deliver a clear simple message. Moving our flagship location in North Vancouver and opening a new clinic in Coquitlam created a Dip where I was lost in the transitions. Several conversations have helped clear the fog. To push us through the Dip we have to be consistent with our hedgehog message:

We are a health and rehabilitation company founded by

a Kinesiologist which is focused on getting clients with

medical conditions, disabilities and or injuries moving for life.

We are diverging into new markets, because our brand awareness is growing. I have often spoken to store owners who have heard of Lifemoves.  People and opportunities come to us because we have been around for five years and our message is clear. Everything that we do, we believe in, we breath and we deliver has to embody the above message. Now is the time to really push forward.
The Dip can be a long process or it be getting to other side can be accelerated. I decided to accelerate it now that our move is completed. Coquitlam is going to be phenomenal. We are not thinking of this as a start-up. We are a maturing organization. This is our opportunity to be GREAT
We all have it in us to be great at something (for me it isn’t being a mathematician). Are you stuck and in cul-de-sac or is this a Dip? Figure it out and make some changes.
What can you be great at? How can you simplify and stop being mediocre? What are you going to do differently right now and tomorrow?

Further Inspirational Reading

Collins, Jim “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t,” Harper Business, 2001
Godin, Seth “The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick),” Penguin Group, 2007
Rufus, Anneli “Stuck: Why We Can’t (or Won’t) Move On,” Penguin, 2008

James Cunningham Race Sets Humbling New Standards

Today was a humbling yet motivating experience in the rain. It was just over ten years ago that I participated in my first James Cunningham Seawall Race.

Endurance running was never something that I had focused on so, I never became all that great at it, however I was proud of what I did achieve, including a 4:08 hr marathon after training for the half (not recommended, but I knew I could do it and that his a another story). In the early 2000s I was trying to prove to myself that my knees were capable of running great distances without giving me grief.

What is measured and acted upon will always improve. The past few months my training has solely been on the Grind; with very little endurance training in between. Entering today was a whim, inspired by a few friends who said let’s do the James Cunningham Race and see how closely our Grind times correlate. The point of today was to see how fit I was compared to ten years ago, as well as set a baseline for future training.

In the book The Running Edge, which I reviewed, the authors mentioned that a 10 km race pace is approximately equivalent to your lactate threshold pace. I had not done a blood lactate running test since a few months before Seek the Peak in July.

The Race

It was cold and raining before the race as everyone was huddled under tents trying to stay dry and warm. Unfortunately we didn’t have any warm-up time, but the rain did subside before the official gun went off. In big crowds I never seem to get my starting place right. The first ten minutes were spent bobbing and weaving as I strived to find a place to get into a running rhythm. My Garmin was set to beep and if I went below 8.3 mph or above 9.5 mph and every 1.475 miles which was one quarter of the distance. Eleven minutes went by and I was setting a good pace then a stitch hit me like a brick which made it difficult to ran faster without pain. My heart was 183 beats per minute. This is about 5-8 beats above my lactate threshold.

To continue I had to slow-down. I was holding on for the second quarter trying my best to slow down and deepen my diaphragmatic breathing to get rid of the stitch. There were even instances where I drafted behind someone to see if they were going at my pace. In a lap race like the seawall – take the shortest path, the inside lane; most of the time I hung there and somewhere above 7.4 mph. Along the third quarter someone kindly asked if I got rid of the stitch and offered advice about how to get rid of it. It subsided, but never really went away.

While climbing the Grind and now on this running race I noticed that I get a stitch if my heart rate goes above my lactate threshold; there is a lesson there. By the time I hit the fourth quarter I could see a friend ahead in the distance. 7

I repeated the following mantras in my head to stay motivated “Just keep going, place one foot in front of the other and pick up the pace a little”

I caught up to my friend as the tents of the finish line came into view. We encouraged each other as I passed by him. Seeing the finish line, I sprinted to finish in a time of 46:19. This is a minute and a half slower than 2000.

Age Graded Finish Times

How did I do? Do I compare myself to me 10 years ago? My age graded time is 57.7% and 55.6% of the world’s fastest times for 10 km. On the Grind my times are about 78% of the fastest in my age group; still in the top 30 As a fitness professional I have always believed that participation and self-improvement are important and need to be celebrated, however as a someone who participated in sport at a National level I still have the competitive drive. It is great to see where I fit on a regional, national and world-class level. To be the best at something you have to know where those standards are. When I competed in Biathlon international competition spots were given on a basis of how close you finished to the top as a percentage of time; the standard to meet was usually 90% or more.

Lactate Threshold and New Pace Zones

Today helped established new pace zones. I use The Running Edge: High Tech training for Peak Performance (p.54) Pace Zone Index to establish my training zones, which need to be evaluated every 6-8 weeks as fitness changes from training stimuli. Since my last blood lactate test this has dropped from 32 to 36.

Conclusions

Seek the Peak is awesome event which I trained for specifically by building my base then going for specific interval runs on the terrain that would be the event route. I want to in top physical condition related to my age as I age for both physical strength and endurance. That leaves me with a few things to focus on the half-marathon, 10 km, Seek the Peak and the Grouse Grind. Overall placement is not important however gradual improvements relative to previous years as well as percentage improvements relative to age group are important. I want to be in the 80% – 90% at the very least.

Now it is time to build a plan around these new standards and goals. There are striking similarities between high performance and business: the need to review, set standards, set a new plan and take actions.

PS – I find it confusing when the chip time and gun time are the same. I pressed my stopwatch when I stepped on the mat, which was a minute after the gun time (see the age group results – here). Either way I placed 16th in my age group and have four more years to reach the podium.

Find your age graded pace – click here

I am still very happy with the last six months of events and training. What are your standards? What are you measuring and taking action on?

How to Keep a Clear Mind After a Computer Failure

People often panic after a computer failure for several reasons: 1. we have developed so much dependence on them and we aren’t sure how to live without them; 2. they don’t have adequate back-up systems; 3. they don’t have an alternative system in place that can be used.

As David Allen of Getting Things Done says, our minds become cloudy when know there is so much to do, but are not clear on all that needs to be done, how to do it or even where to begin. My mind became overcast when my laptop which I am dependent upon to conduct my business wouldn’t boot up at 9:00 PM on Sunday.

Just before I purchased the five year old Toshiba, I also bought a desktop – exactly for this type of occasion. Since the screen was at my work office I had to cart the tower, keyboard and mouse on the bus to North Vancouver. After booting it up, I discovered that it had not been updated in a long time. Nor did I have a written system for getting back up and running.

How much work that needs to be re-done depends on how often computer files are backed-up. Having redundant systems in place minimizes the amount of downtime businesses have when one system crashes. This past week this lesson hit me squarely. After nearly five years my laptop decided that it no longer wanted to boot-up on Sunday night. Luckily the last time I backed-up most of my files as a few days earlier and some of the work information is located on a cloud system, accessible from anywhere.

Operational downtime also included going to get the problem laptop diagnosed. It was really bad but, thankfully they were able back-up the hard drive. Since repairs would have been $500, even with an unstable computer it was time to buy a new one. Having the desktop enabled me to continue operations at a minimal level – because I had access to our cloud, the files on the external hard drive and our online booking system. This process was clearly going to take most of several days, days that I had planned to use for writing my articles for IMPACT.

My mind was cloudy trying to make decisions on day-to-day operational tasks because dealing with this situation required a multitude of decisions including researching laptops available then purchasing it, figuring out where all my software was to reinstall and how to retrieve lost passwords that are so often conveniently stored in the browsers. The process of getting the primary system back up and running was a big distraction which would have been a lot easier had I made sure that my desktop was updated at least once per year, had a systematic back-up and if I had printed instructions of what needs to be done to get a new computer loaded. In my boxes of original program disks it is difficult to figure out what is still useful versus what is left-over from past systems.

A regular back-up system needs to be in place to ensure that all non-program files are saved on a regular basis, maybe once a week or even once every couple of days. It really depends on how much data changes on a daily basis. Keep back program disks together in a box or if they download files now often file downloads on a USB drive and store with their registration information in a text file or spreadsheet. Solutions also include a larger external hard drive or investing in an online cloud so that back-ups off-site and are safe from fire and water disasters (think of Australia).

What did keep my mind clear is that my own physical training sessions took priority. Completing each session gave me confidence that something on that day was done well. Taking physical breaks clears the mind. Take heed, make sure that you have a system and where all files are organized in a systematic way. Also, think about how many different ways your business could keep running despite various disasters.

Doing so will drastically reduce your mental fatigue and stress level by giving you piece of mind when something does happen. After all, it is only a matter of time. Another piece to have organized is passwords in a safe secure place so that you only have to remember one of them to retrieve the rest. Having a system in place that deals with the initial computer crash all the way to reinstall will make the process a lot quicker, keeping your mind clear.

Learning to Adapt: Troubleshooting the Garmin Heart Rate Monitor

Using the Garmin Forerunner 305 for the first time up the Grouse Grind came with a little troubleshooting. In business, I often find I have to do this because most often something comes up that we didn’t anticipate or plan.

The Garmin looked like a “plug and play” unit that, like my previous Polar, I would be able to use easily. Training for Biathlon, I had always depended on my heart for training intensity. I had a great deal of difficulty using the new heart monitor. Once I returned it to the Running Room, they fixed it by exchanging the receiver.

My original plan was to purchase a Polar HR monitor with splits. However, I was convinced that for the price and the features, the Garmin was my best option. Saturday night I had difficulty sleeping because I was so excited to use my device after uploading the laps for the Grouse Grind. I tried all the steps I knew to troubleshoot the heart rate monitor before I started, including dousing it in water and using my own saliva. It just didn’t work.
After 10 minutes I resigned myself to not having the heart rates and to make do with what I did have. I did a quick warm-up as part of the advanced workout I created. My pacing has always been done by using my heart rates, but I still roughly knew where I needed to be at each section to get my desired time. I managed to get a heart rate of 153 bpm somewhere along the way for nearly a minute and then it went silent again. Keeping a quick pace was difficult without the heart rates because of the slower crowds and the fact that my legs didn’t have the turnover they needed to go quickly.
At the top I scanned my Grind Timer card and then looped around to the back-side of the chalet just like in the Grouse Mountain Run finishes. Even though I didn’t have heart rates, I do have a better sense of split times and I still managed a 43:54 time. This is 5% faster than the same time in 2009. One thing I noticed was that when I completed the Grind with a day in between, the second day was one minute slower. Hint: Going after your record time? Consider more rest days in between Grinds.
My history comes in handy as I complete more training activities and become more comfortable with using the Garmin.
I am looking forward to using the Garmin for many activities including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. This is the start of my chronicle as I aim to reach the top 5 in the 30-39 age category on the Grouse Grind.