Do What You Kick Ass At

You know what you kick as at doing. Deep down. Yeah, it's there. I recently watched one of those reality show where various contestants belt out notes that only our canine friends can hear and was reminded of an area I most decidedly do not kick ass at- singing.

I was not born with gifted vocal cords. Talk your ear off? That I can do (just ask my husband). Scream my head off at a baseball/football/basketball game? Sure. I am THAT crazy person. But singing? Not a chance. I even dread singing happy birthday at a kids birthday party (seriously). Always flat, sounding like some poor drowned animal. What can I say? Those girls (and guys) that belt out inhuman notes in front of audiences? Beyond my wildest imagination.

Numbers. Now, that's my thing. Not regurgitating sections of the Internal Revenue Code - although I can do that too. Numbers. I love them. I'm not talking about mental math - I can't tell you the square root of 925,444 on a dare. (I had to use my calculator. It's 962.)

But I can tell you whether I think a small business is going to make it - or if I don't, then what it would take to get them there. I can also tell you how much cash they are spinning off, what the net profit margin is, what their shareholders are making and what they should be making, how their AR is turning over, how aged their AP is, what it would take to turn their cashflow around, and whether their underwriter at their bank will most likely approve their line of credit. I can also tell them if their bookkeeper is incompetent, honest or just pissed off. And I can tell you all of this while taking into consideration the personal goals of the owners, their goal for their company and how much money they want to make.

I am not telling you all of this as part of my marketing. I am telling you this as a no nonsense, seriously aggressive nudge to inspire you to do what you love and what you are good at. The two miraculously intertwine and the planets align when you are there. If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life. Get out there, do what you love and kick some ass!

What is Small Business Saturday?

Thanksgiving is close, real close. Before we know it, we’ll be together with friends and family gathering over one of the largest meals of the year.

Thanksgiving in America has some surprisingly vast financial numbers, just think about the record year in 2010 when American consumed a staggering $4.6 billion worth of turkey, two thirds of which came from Thanksgiving alone. But, what is even more impressive are the shopping stats that come from the shopping days following Thanksgiving.

While you’re preparing to get down on some roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie, we want to remind you of a part of this holiday that many people happen to look over: Small Business Saturday--the brick and mortar version of Black Friday, the busiest corporate shopping day of the year.

What is Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday was orignially created by American Express in 2010 as a campaign to urge consumers to support small businesses in contrast to the large spending at corporate stores on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

At the time, American Express had accounts with Facebook, who in turn promoted the campaign to its merchants through rebates and online advertising efforts. These social media and PR strategies resulted in over 1 million Facebook likes and endorsements from at least 41 local politicians.

As a firm believer in empowering small businesses across the nation, VAST stands behind Small Business Saturday as a perfect opportunity for Americans to support small businesses.

So, this Saturday, when the malls are overflowing from the hustle and bustle of the holiday weekend, don’t forget to stop by the local small businesses in your community with your support.

Happy Thanksgiving from Team VAST!

 

VAST is an ambitious, cutting-edge virtual accounting firm based in Reno, Nevada ... with clients worldwide. 

4 Habits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Viewing the success of entrepreneurs from any generation in life often causes us to ask ourselves, what exactly did they do?

While The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People written by Stephen R. Covey was all the rage through the early 2000s, our focus goes beyond being effective: what we want to be successful.

From the traditional to the abstract, we’ve scanned our experience working with entrepreneurs (and the web) and compiled our top 4 Favorite Habits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs.

 

4 Habits of Highly Successful Entrepreneurs

Rise with the Sun

Time is valuable, but just how far are you willing to go to make the most of one 24-hour day? For the successful entrepreneur, waking up early (sometimes really, really early) is common practice. Doing so not only gives you more control over your day, but you’ll have clearer insight to what you need to accomplish.

Shower Time

Everyone takes showers differently. You can use this time to reflect and project your day, clear your head or simply sing your favorite shower jam. New studies have shown that alternating between hot and cold water in your shower helps wake your body and energize your mind. And, to no surprise, the trend is catching on with young and successful entrepreneurs.

Be Punctual

If you can’t show up on time, what makes your future partner, investor or client believe that they can trust you? Being punctual not only requires you to take your time seriously, but it tells other people your time is worth their respect. Plus, many first impressions are based off of punctuality, and we mean it when we say the difference between a future client or a hard rejection can, and does, depend on your ability to be punctual.

Ask Yourself …

Before you go to bed, ask yourself this question: “If I lived every day of my life like I did today, would I be happy with the outcome of my future?” It’s as simple as that. You’ll be surprised at the impact this simple reflective question can have in your life.

 

The future rarely depends on one large decision; rather, it’s composed of small, habitual, everyday actions that eventually make up that big picture of our lives.

What habits do you have that make you a successful entrepreneur? Please share with us.

The VAST Virtual Accountants Award for Breaking the Glass Ceiling

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the U.S. Department of Labor defines the glass ceiling as "the unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements." While anti-discrimination laws designed to dismantle the glass ceiling do exist, they are often enforced in lax or non-existent ways. In light of the modern day where equality is being fought for on social, political and professional platforms, women around the nation are working harder and working smarter to become pioneers in industries long-dominated by men. Women who redefine their industries, women who work not only for themselves, but also in the name of women’s rights and the idea that gender should not and cannot hold them back.

The VAST team is all about progress; therefore, it only seemed fitting to highlight a woman who has made waves in the field of technology for women around the world.

Esther Dyson

The VAST Award for Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Known as the most influential woman in technology, Esther Dyson is no stranger to challenging the status quo.

She enrolled in Harvard at the age of 16. She attained immense success as a reporter for Forbes. She’s even a trained cosmonaut (what? woah). In the male-dominated technology industry, there’s really no one like her.

According to a May 2014 article by the BBC, Esther has built her empire by investing in new technology for decades—one of few female tech investors of the century.

As the CEO of her own company, EDventure Holdings, Esther spends her time today investing in new business models in the areas of health, technology and even aerospace. She works to help men and women around the world through her investment in companies aiming to boost health practices through advances in technology.

Esther Dyson has rocked the tech industry from the day she stepped onto the field after graduating Harvard. She has shown the world success can, and will, be achieved by anyone in any field through hard work, ingenuity and innovation.

Esther Dyson, our hats go off to you from the team at VAST for all you have achieved and what is to come from all that you’ve done!

 

VAST: Growing the Era of the Small Business

Still recovering from the brunt impact of the Recession, the American economy is once again growing. Business seems to be booming, start-ups are sprouting around the nation at a surprising rate and overall things are looking good. As the economy continues to grow, it’s difficult not to notice the overwhelming support of small businesses in nearly every industry. At VAST, our purpose is to help small business owners maintain accurate financial records for their success, and VAST itself is a small business, so naturally we have some interest in the topic. So, the team at VAST did some digging and uncovered some interesting small business facts. Welcome the era of the small business.

A small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), is a business with less than 500 employees. This includes businesses of all shapes and sizes, from sole-proprietorships to companies operating with just a few employees under the national quota.

Whether we all realize it or not, there is a towering number of small businesses in the U.S. today, roughly 28 million in fact. This equates to over 50% of the working population being employed by small businesses around the nation. And whoever said you can’t work in your pajamas? Nearly 22 million of the 28 million small businesses in America operate from the home base of home sweet home.

While corporations surely have their place in the world, the role that small businesses have played over the past two decades is not only surprising but also critical to the growth of our economy. Small businesses alone are responsible for the creation of 65% of new jobs between 1995 and today. This coincides directly with the fact that nearly 543,000 new small businesses are created each month in the nation.

Small businesses are driving today’s workforce, playing a larger role in the economy than ever before. Forbes reports that small businesses in America are not only beneficial for economic growth, but they’re even better for the environment because of their role in promoting local growth rather than national or international.

Needless to say, we are living in the era of the small business and the folks at VAST couldn’t be happier with small business facts like the one we've highlighted here popping up all over the web. Whether you’re purchasing your food from a local organic co-op or getting your morning started with an Americano at the corner cafe, small businesses are a real part of nearly every U.S. community.

For facts and figures, see http://www.sba.gov/

Entrepreneurship Tips: Staying Focused on the Pride of Owning Your Own Business

Simply said, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Staying motivated, keeping your business above water and living a healthy life outside of your business may not seem overwhelming on paper, but if you've lived it, you know it's enough to swallow you whole. The world of owning your own business can be the most rewarding endeavor of your life, but it can also be the most detrimental. While VAST handles the financial side of small businesses, we do so for the sake of small-business owners so they can stay focused on the heart of their business. We’ve picked our brains to come up with the following entrepreneurship tips to stay grounded when owning your own business.

Remind Yourself “Why”

On a regular basis we hear stories of individuals setting out to achieve their dreams and make a difference in their community through their business endeavors, but all too often they become consumed with the idea of a dollar. When the going gets tough, reminding yourself of why you started your business in the first place can be a breath of fresh air while keeping your morals in line.

 

Stay Grounded Outside of Work

Some of the most successful professionals understand that work is simply work. They are passionate about the work they do because they know the impact of their performance (in the community, at home, etc.), but their professional life is only a small piece of their life puzzle. Spending time with family and pursuing your hobbies--among so many other activities you find passion in--will keep you motivated and grounded inside and outside of the office.

Develop a Trustworthy Professional Network

As the owner of small business, it’s easy to feel lonely and discouraged because you believe you are the only person in your shoes. While in some ways you are, there are millions of entrepreneurs in this world who know your struggles first-hand. Develop a network of similar-minded professionals from all industries and share your successes and your struggles. It helps, trust us.

Entrepreneurship is so rewarding. But at the same time, it can be so difficult. Team VAST takes pride in the work we do for our clients, and we are happy to provide entrepreneurship tips for success. Keep moving and shaking, all you daring movers and shakers!

Can Your Company Afford You?

When you embark on the adventure of entrepreneurship, there will inevitably be ups and downs for you financially.  At the end of the day, you pay employees, vendors and others and then you receive a paycheck.  Therefore, there are three numbers you need to have a solid understanding of.  I call them Survival, Comfortable and Ultimate. Survival is your worst case scenario.

It is the absolute bear minimum your company needs to pay you in order for you to survive and pay your basic bills.  It is very important to note though that the time you spend in Survival mode should be minimal.  If your company cannot pay you your Survival number other than in rare instances of growth or extra investment, then the hard answer might be that your company cannot afford you.

Once you get a handle on the answer to that all important question, then there are two additional levels of entrepreneurial compensation.

Comfortable is a step up from Survival.

At this level, you are taking a consistent salary, saving for retirement and taking vacations.  This is your Survival number plus the cost to do those things.  Comfortable comes with a different thought pattern.  At this level, you are supporting yourself and providing for your family, but you have the luxury of making decisions.  Maybe you can't quite get to the high end of Comfortable earnings but your passion for what you are doing makes it worth it to you.  That is your decision to make.

Ultimate is the highest number you can imagine your company providing for you.  

It's tempting to say "the sky is the limit", but try to put an actual number on this.  Goals are much more attainable if they are quantified.  This is a fun number to think about as a business owner...even if you are devoted to what you are doing and not in it for the money, passion can fuel the financial success of your company faster than anything else you can inject into it making Ultimate that much more attainable!

By knowing these three numbers, you can ensure that you know first and foremost whether your company can afford you.  Then you can build these numbers into other tools to fuel your growth likes budgets, cash flows forecasts and more.

To learn more about how to calculate these three metrics and tie them into your company's financial success, check out Tanya's on demand course for entrepreneurs - The VAST:Track Guide to Startup Success. Click here to learn more.

Wherever You Go, There You Are

I recently read a travel review from a woman who went to a five star Eco resort on a peninsula in Costa Rica.  All of the other reviews raved about the location, beauty, culture... This woman bitched about the sound of the birds.  Really?  It made me wonder if she would ever be happy anywhere.  But, then again, we all have a certain capacity for malcontent. Our ability to grow disenchanted or stagnant as humans is really astounding.  My husband and i joke about how when getting his MBA at USD, his apartment directly faced the fireworks at Sea World.  I thought this was the coolest thing i had ever heard!  But, the fireworks quickly lost their appeal and he and his roommates would close the windows and drapes with a sigh and a groan to be away from this annoyance after not too many shows...shows that we now purposely book rooms to see when we visit San Diego!

Do you love what you do?  I would imagine that the answer for most of you is a resounding...sometimes.  Being an entrepreneur, like any other adventure, has its ups and downs.  Sometimes we think, "I am so lucky to be able to do what I love each and every day!" And other days we think "what the Hell was I thinking?  I'm going to go get a normal job!"

But, wherever you go, there you are.  If you are an entrepreneur at heart, there is probably no such thing as a normal job for the likes of you.  You need to march to the beat of your own drum - in good times and bad.

Staying focused on the good, sometimes amazing, aspects of being an entrepreneur can keep you away from the thoughts of the bad, sometimes disastrous, parts that can derail your company's success.

Here is a sure fire focus list to ensure that wherever you are, is where you want to be:

1. The Compare and Contrast: reimagine the "day job" you had before you had your own company.  For me, this would entail a 270 degree view of gray felt, gray Formica, gray filing cabinets and gray carpet all topped with fluorescent lights while earning slave wages and working insane hours.  What does it mean for you?

Now envision yourself at your desk in your company on a great day.  Maybe you just won a large contract or were approved for a patent on a product you designed.  Maybe it was something a simple as getting your company's first printed brochure delivered.  How great did that day feel?

2. Fix what you can Fix:  if I ever get overwhelmed and feel like I no longer enjoy the entrepreneurial experience, I have a ritual that I make myself go through.  First, I get out of the office and go somewhere that I can be alone and think.  write down absolutely everything that you hate about your job, company, etc.  Now do the same with everything you love about it. This is just brainstorming.  Write or record everything that comes to mind- positive or negative.

The next step is that for every negative, you are going to write a doable solution.  Quit shaking your head.  This can be done and every problem has a solution even if that solution is to tell yourself to get over it.

When you are done with the exercise, you will have an action plan to attack every negative you listed.  Keep this visible (obviously somewhere only you can see so as to not freak out anyone affected) and stay focused on implementing every solution to all of the negatives you listed.

3. Control what you can control:  We all know the serenity prayer, right?  Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.  I have a fourth take on this.  Acknowledge what you can't control, but work to control how those things affect you.

For example, You can't control the tax laws in our country anymore than you can control crazy family members that drive you mad.  But, what you can do, is actively plan for and mitigate any negative effects either have on your life.  You can either be complacent and let the tax code have its way with you or you can aggressively plan for taxes to mitigate their effect.

Try these strategies for your business and also your role within it.  You may just find that wherever you are, you are happy to be!

Talk about the Passion

cartoon-8-9-2011 Willy Wonka said “if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it.”

Are you passionate about your work? I mean ‘drive ninety miles an hour across town and charge in the door with a flourish’ passionate? I know I am. Or at least I was. And it occurred to me recently that something had changed.

Now I’m generally known as an enthusiastic if not at times overly energetic person. And I have also been known to need to be peeled off the ceiling when energized by a particularly exciting idea. And I know that a lot of you are just like me in that regard…

But at some point recently in this “recession” or “depression” or whatever you call it, something had managed to pry my rose colored glasses off of my face.

But what’s the difference? Not much in my world had changed. True. I had clients that were hurting. And being married to a builder, I felt the sting of the free falling numbers. But professionally, my firm had faced its fair share of growing pains and struggles before and I had been just as passionate about my work at times when we had struggled more feverishly than in this new economy. I realized that I had to face my own paradigms about excelling in today’s business climate.

As an entrepreneur the passion and vision that you bring to your company is an art and your irreplaceable contribution to that organization’s pulse. Reinvigorating that passion while taming financial fear is something I talk to clients about every day – it’s something I myself try to stay focused on. Fear is the kryptonite of passion. It can undermine the greatest exuberance in a single blow. The challenge is to stare down that fear and maintain that passion to execute your purpose in this world.

What if Willy’s right? What if we really can change the world and the only thing missing is our passion? Well, I ask you then to go grab that passion. Because as Tori Amos says in her song, Crucify, “you’re just an empty cage if you kill the bird.” So go harness that passion, run with it and change your world.

How Valuable is YOUR Time?

cartoon-7-26-2011 While sitting at dinner the other night with my family, I watched for a moment as my five year old struggled to eat linguine with a fork. I showed him how to twirl his fork to pick up the noodles more easily. Being one to quickly master skills like these, he practiced for a moment and within a couple of tries had figured out how to twirl the entire plate of linguine onto his fork. He then attempted to eat this huge ball of noodles and by the time the evening was over, we ended up leaving a very large tip to make up for the pasta disaster left in our wake.

This small example of zeal reminded me of how we, as business owners, tend to bite off more than we can chew. With all the technology that is at our fingertips, we are inundated 24/7 correspondence. Let’s face it – you can be seen as inefficient if you can’t take on the over-stimulating volume of requests, demands, questions, complaints, information and propaganda coming your way on a daily basis.

Remember this saying? You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. You are only one person and you are required to wear a lot of hats.

Put a value on your time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. Are you capable of licking your own stamps and most of the other menial details of your company’s daily routine? Probably. But should you take it all on? Probably not.

By placing real value on your time, you more effectively focus on business development, client relations and bigger picture passions that allowed you to create your business in the first place. Focus on the aspects of your business that you are critical to and get help with the rest.

Your blood pressure, clients, employees and family will thank you.