As part of my series about the “How to Navigate and Succeed in the Modern World of Finance,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Stevie Jones, Virtual CFO & Founder of the Profit to Prosperity Membership.
Stevie Jones is a Virtual CFO, podcast host and Business Finance Coach for female entrepreneurs. As the founder of Profit to Prosperity, a membership for driven women in business, she provides educational content and guidance on managing business finances. She has helped hundreds of women increase revenue, cut expenses and take home more cash.
Stevie is a former accounting specialist for a billion dollar international public company, who stepped away from the corporate world after 10 years, and found a PASSION for lifting up & supporting female business owners as they navigate the incredibly confusing world of business finances! Stevie frequently speaks to female entrepreneur groups and has guested on numerous podcasts. Her goal is to empower female business owners to be financially literate, and feel confident in their financial process.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my accounting career with a stint in public accounting preparing tax returns for corporations & partnerships. For those who don’t know…working in public accounting fresh out of college is almost like earning your right of passage in the accounting industry. Its brutal. It requires many late hours, and often you’re left to figure things out on your own as a first or second year staff. It has a vibe that is very much so “sink or swim.” But you form strong bonds with the other employees who are in the same boat. I actually met my husband and two of my very best friends through my job in public accounting. So if nothing else I would’ve walked away from that job with life-changing relationships, but what I didn’t realize at the time was how much knowledge I was gaining about the intricacies of small business taxation…something that greatly benefits me now as a Virtual CFO to small businesses.
After two and a half years in public accounting, I accepted a job for a billion dollar publicly traded corporation where I worked my way up from Staff Accountant to International Accounting Specialist. I absolutely loved that job. I spent eight years there working my way up the corporate ladder. By the age of 33 I was making six figures (which was a big deal for me because we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so this was a goal I had set for myself at a young age.) And I felt as though I was really great at my job. But then something changed when I had my precious second child. I remember the exact moment that everything changed. I was home with my second child (Jack), because he had an ear infection. He was crying constantly because he was in pain. I remember holding him and just pacing the floor, and all I could think about was how guilty I felt for missing work. And once the realization hit me that I was more concerned with missing a day of work than I was about my sick child, I knew in an instant that something had to change. My priorities were WAY off. That day I knew that I had to walk away from a job that I loved, and it was heartbreaking. But I knew that my children had to come first.
Within the upcoming months I submitted my resignation and found myself jobless, aimless, and confused about what my next move should be. I knew I wanted to work. But I needed something flexible. I needed to be able to be there for my kids when they needed me. I had all of this accounting knowledge, and so I started doing some bookkeeping for some small businesses in my town just to “pass the time” until I figured out my next move. And what I found was that there is a vast and unmet need of accounting help and guidance in the small business sector. I was working with clients who were running hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue through their business, but they didn’t have a budget, cash projections, or an understanding of how their business is taxed. I quickly realized that I could provide so much more than just bookkeeping. I could provide education and guidance. Before I knew it, I had developed an intense passion for this because I could truly see the difference that I was making in the lives of my clients. I started to learn more about the gender gap in financial literacy. That’s when I knew that I needed to create an educational resource & community for women who are business owners who aren’t able to on board a full time CFO, but desperately need the knowledge that a CFO would bring to the table. Out of this desire to create this came my Profit to Prosperity membership. I am able to delivery Virtual CFO services through a membership platform (which isn’t being done very much right now.) It’s quite revolutionary which is also extremely exciting! Forming this membership didn’t come without setbacks and learning curves. But I think we’ve worked out all of the kinks at this point, and the membership is currently serving 20 women & helping them succeed in business!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
With absolutely zero technical knowledge on the subject, I thought I could definitely build my own website for my business. What gave me this false sense of confidence, I have no clue. But I was determined that I could do it. After day three of wasted money on website templates purchased from Etsy, trying to build a website on Wix, Wordpress AND Squarespace, I broke down in tears of frustration and defeat when I realized that what I created looked like absolute garbage. It was an absolute dumpster fire. Picture those images of “expectation” vs. reality” or “pinterest fails” to give you an idea of what it looked like. At that point, my husband lovingly suggested that I hire someone to handle the website. It was at that moment that I realized that this whole building a business thing was going to require me to know my own limitations and recognize when to outsource.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
My biggest concern from day one has been my lack of knowledge of how to effectively market a business. So I THREW myself into learning everything I could about marketing. I binged Amy Porterfield’s “Marketing Made Easy” podcast for weeks and weeks. I still listen to it when I can. She gives such great advice! I tried to find podcasts of other Virtual CFOs, and I couldn’t find any which lead me to actually create one! I created my podcast, “The Balancing Act” from my basement, and I still publish podcasts every two weeks! It’s become a really great platform for me to reach my audience!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I have so many ideas swarming around in my head. I predict that there will be either a 6 month group coaching program or course launch in 2022. Through listening to my clients, and teaching hundreds of women over the past two years, I’ve realized that there is a central theme that keeps them from really diving in and learning more about the business finances, and that’s lack of confidence and the feeling of overwhelm. I think it could be incredibly powerful to release a program that not only focuses on healing their confidence around the subject of finances, but also teaches them the skills they need to successfully mange the cash of their business. When women realize the power that lies within them, that is when they become unstoppable.
Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the central focus of our discussion. Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
My vision for this company was and still is to help women gain confidence and knowledge around the business finances so that they can ultimately achieve financial freedom. I also have a passion for lifting up & supporting other entrepreneurs. Just this morning a Virtual CFO client messaged me to tell me that she landed a new high paying client! This spoke volumes to me, because she wasn’t reaching out to me for advice or financial guidance, she was reaching out to me so that I could celebrate her win with her! It brought me to tears, and I love that my clients see me as one of the first people they text when they achieve a goal!
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
A mentor told me early on “you’re not for everybody, and that’s okay.” That was very helpful to me in getting past wanting to please everyone (which is completely impossible.) I also know that building a business is not instant gratification. It takes time, experimentation, and risk. You try something, and if it doesn’t work you pivot and try again. I remind myself that everyone fails even if we don’t see it.
Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
I love offering something that is free and valuable as a lead magnet. My most recent lead magnet is “Success to 7 Figures- How to Manage Your Cash Like a Millionaire.” It’s a plug and play template that instructs the business owner on how much cash they should be setting aside throughout the year so that they don’t overspend in their business and then get hit with an unexpected tax bill or a few low revenue months without being prepared.
I also love appearing in business coaching programs as a guest speaker. I like to show up and give really solid advice without fluff. I’ve found that when you approach people from a place of service and you truly just want to help them, they respond really well.
If a fellow business leader would ask you for advice about whether to bootstrap or to look for VC capital, how would you help them weigh the pros and cons of that decision?
I would first start by explaining that with VC capital, the founder is giving up a portion of their ownership. That means that they are no longer in complete control of decision making for the business. The VC will also request certain financial reports on a regular basis going forward. If you find the perfect VC partner it can be a great opportunity for both parties. However, I would just encourage that the founder really vet the VC before agreeing to any terms. Sometimes a line or credit can be a better option.
What measure do you use to determine the value of a company? What advice would you give to other leaders about how to get an optimal evaluation of their business?
I start with the balance sheet…what is the value of the assets being held by the business, and what are the liabilities owed? Next I would look to the Profit & Loss Statement and Projections for the next 12 months to identify revenue trends and recurring expenses.
What would you advise to a founder who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”? I have had this happen with clients in the past, and when it does we always meet to discuss things that can be done to quickly generate revenue. Many times, as business owners, we have so many different things that we’re trying to do that it becomes somewhat jumbled in our heads. This is when it can be so helpful to sit down with a CFO or business coach and create one solid goal…for example: “Bring on one new high paying client.” Most times, if the owner focuses singularly on that one goal they can achieve it.
What are the most common finance mistakes you have seen other businesses make? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
The most common financial mistake that I see being made is mismanagement of the business cash. It’s something that I see happening time and time again, so I always harp on this. It’s easy to look at the cash sitting in the bank account and think “okay I have enough to purchase the thing I need so I’m going to buy it.” But really there should be so much more to consider. Has the business been setting aside funds to cover taxes? Has the business been setting aside funds for future business investments? Are there funds set aside that the business can easily access to cover costs if revenue were to decrease for a few months? It can be difficult to know how much of your cash that you have on hand should truly be spent. This is something that I revisit monthly with my 1:1 Virtual CFO clients.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to succeed in the modern finance industry? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Generating Revenue is only half of the battle. The other half is managing the cash:
I once had a client who was running $800k of revenue through her business annually, but could barely make payroll every two weeks and had $50k of credit card debt. This was because she didn’t pay close attention to her spending and her cash management. Her business was always on the brink of folding due to this. And inversely, I have another client now who generates $100k of revenue each year but is able to pay herself, & set aside for taxes and additional funds to cover slow months. Running a successful business is all about managing the cash that you have.
2. Saving for taxes as you profit throughout the year will help you avoid unanticipated tax liabilities.
I will never forget getting a phone call from a new client, and she said “my tax expert is telling me that I owe $40k in taxes!” This was not something that she had planned for throughout the year. And to make matters worse, when she realized this she was nine months into the following tax year where she was going to owe another $40k in taxes. This can be an extremely devastating blow. General guideline- plan to pay 25–30% of your net profit in taxes. Save for this as you go.
3. Set aside cash during the higher revenue-generating months to cover your costs during the low revenue months.
Business is cyclical. Some months will be great and others will be not so great. You want to make sure that you are setting aside cash during the great months as you go so that you can pay yourself and your operating expenses during the months where you don’t have as much revenue. I have talked to many seasoned business owners who say “some months I pay myself and some months I don’t.” I want you to always be able to pay yourself, and setting funds aside as you go is a way to ensure that you can. Make it a goal to set aside the equivalent of three months of your monthly operating expenses (including your owner’s pay.) Tap that fund when you need it and replenish it when you can.
4. When you are generating a profit, take a percentage & set it aside for future business investments.
If you’ve ever wanted to purchase something from your business that you KNOW would move the needle forward but you just havent been able to afford it, then you know how frustrating it can feel. When you’re profiting, go ahead and set aside a percentage of that profit for future business investments. Then the next time you come across that perfect opportunity to invest back into your business the money will be waiting for you.
5. Reviewing your Profit & Loss statement monthly will keep you informed on the health of the business
Something that continually sets the successful business owners apart from the unsuccessful is their knowledge of what’s coming in and out of their business each month. This should absolutely be a part of your monthly process when you own a business.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Take time for yourself. As hard as it is, make sure that you are not dedicating every minute of your free time to your business. Also, PAY YOURSELF! Many new business owners are afraid to take cash out of the business. But don’t be afraid. If you don’t pay yourself you could start to resent your business.
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