7 Ways Business Owners Give Away Their Financial Power (And How To Reclaim Yours in 2024!)

Think about getting stuck into your financial data for a moment. Imagine diving into Xero or MYOB to get a true sense of what’s going on in your business - how do you feel? 

Does the idea make you feel:

  • Anxious?
  • Confused?
  • Frustrated?
  • Overwhelmed?

(Psst. This is a safe space with your business buddy Liz here, so honest answers only! 😉)

Words like this might go some way to articulating how you feel, but they don’t give you any hope for a solution in and of themselves, do they?

What if you changed up your language, as a way of navigating out of this whirlpool of worry you’re caught in?

I would argue that, at the heart of all these feelings is a sense that you have lost control over your situation, and the direction you are heading in. 

What you’re actually feeling is powerless.

So what’s the opposite of that, the direction you should be heading instead?

The answer: Power. 💪🏼

This is much simpler to conceptualise and pursue, rather than the opposite of ‘anxious’ or ‘confused’. I mean, the ideal scenario is of course to feel calm and clear, but where the heck do you find that?

On the other hand, ‘power’ is much easier to track down and take back - once you understand where you are losing it (or worse, GIVING IT AWAY) in the first place. 

After working with tonnes of business clients in getting to the heart of their businesses - their financial data, and their single source of truth - I’ve identified seven places that entrepreneurs are consistently surrendering control. 

Even without realising they’re doing it in the first place. 

I hope that by sharing my first-hand experiences with you,  you might see all the subtle ways you’re allowing control to be taken from you, and determine how you can begin to rebel against these forces to reclaim your own power once more. 

1. Your spouse

Let’s get stuck into the prickliest one early! This can be a really hard truth to face, but your spouse could be one of the biggest entities you’re losing power to. What makes this even more complicated is that this can take many forms, and it’s not always your spouse who is initiating it.

You’d be familiar with the overtly controlling relationship we’ve all been warned of, when financial decisions are completely taken out of one partner’s hands by the other. Unfortunately, this can happen in a more subtle way:

👉 “I’ll handle it, don’t you worry about it.”

👉 “Don’t you trust me? I’ve only got our best interests at heart.”

👉 “You’ve got so much on your plate, and let’s be honest, this isn’t your strength.”

Whilst many of these sound well intended, the key difference would be their willingness to show you their work (remember high school maths, anyone?) If you believe your situation is too much of a grey area here, here are a couple of questions to ask:

👉 How easy is it for you to access the information should you need it?

👉 Do they have an ‘open door policy’ for your questions?

👉 Are they willing to explain certain aspects to you? (Even if you really do struggle to focus the whole time)

If they do in fact welcome your questions and input, this might be your opportunity to reflect on your confidence in your own abilities. Are you abdicating to them out of insecurity or self-doubt? Do you question your own capacity to understand? You may find you’re actually giving your power away willingly out of fear that it’s better off in someone else’s hands. 

2. Extended family

Closely related (pun intended) to number one, family businesses can become complicated and tense when you have multiple generations at the proverbial table. Whilst these kinds of businesses can be impressive and hugely impactful, working within them can sometimes bring out your deepest insecurities as big personalities face off in a corporate environment (I mean, trying telling your mum or dad that their data management is a little sloppy after 50 years in business!)

This can be just as tough as confronting a spouse, but it won’t take long for the cracks to show in the silence. The same rules apply: there should always be an open-door policy on any and all information ESPECIALLY if you will be answerable for the business operations one day. 

This also shows up in Trust situations when businesses are involved, more so when key family members pass away and suddenly all those unanswered questions get addressed at the worst possible time. It’s a sad situation made unnecessarily worse, when a prosperous estate is lost to legal fees settling disputes in the wake of a loved one’s passing. 

The moral to the story: ask tough questions early. Trust me when I say you would rather know now, as this rarely gets easier as time goes on. 

3. Your accountant

This is a topic I touch on quite frequently. I see many business owners completely abdicate their financial data management to their accountants, effectively putting it in the ‘too-hard’ basket or the ‘not my problem’ box.

The trouble with this approach is that your accountant will then structure your financial data as best suits them, not you (and I mean, why not? If they’re using it more than you are).

What does this mean?

✅ A tax return so safe it may as well be bubble wrapped (which means no audits for them, but very little tax minimisation for you).

✅ ‘Vanilla-ised’ information that  looks like all their other clients’ (and means nothing to you)

✅ Sloppy data entry on your end (theirs is up to date, yours however…)

If you don’t make your financial data about YOU, someone else (i.e. your accountant) will make it about them. Reclaiming power here starts with understanding your financial data is about YOU. 

🫵 YOU need to know what’s going on.

🫵 YOU need to make informed decisions.

🫵 YOU are the one who this data should serve first. 

I’ve covered some of the scenarios where giving too much power to your accountant can have disastrous consequences in this article. But suffice to say, this is another situation where a proactive approach could save you time, money and heartache in the long run. 

4. Your clients & customers

How often do you find yourself chasing invoices or payments? If the answer is any more than ‘rarely’, you may be allowing your customers to take your power from you. 

Talking about money, especially money owed, is tricky for most people. This is made doubly hard when you have a close relationship with those you serve, when you know they’re going through a hard time, or when confrontation is just not your strength. 

I have some tough love for both you and them in this instance: 

  1. How they pay for your goods and services is not your concern. If you were open and transparent with your terms, your pricing and your inclusions - which they accepted - then you are within your rights to expect payment as per those terms. 
  2. Disrespect of your payment terms is disrespectful of you. Your pricing and terms is the value you place on your time, your expertise and the product or service they invested in. If they do not respect the terms they agreed to, then this is by default disrespect

Now that isn’t to say that invoices don’t get sent to spam by mistake, due dates get accidentally missed, or good people don’t end up in bad situations. I’m not telling you to lose your humanity here. You are well within your rights to extend grace and understanding to those who are truly deserving of it. 

The key here is a pattern of behaviour. There is a difference between a long-term customer who proactively approaches you and asks for an extension, versus one who seems to swing from one drama to the next month-on-month. 

Getting woo-woo for a moment: often the hard ‘no’s we have to give is the universe helping us create space for the fantastic ‘yes’ that’s right around the corner. Don’t tolerate ‘clutter clients’, trust that your ideal customer is waiting for a spot to open in your calendar. 

5. Scope creep

This is closely linked to 4, affecting many service-based businesses I work with. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is when a project starts to outgrow the original quote (and you have an uneasy feeling that you might be averaging $2 an hour by the end of it). 

Brace for some tough love from Liz again: this one starts with YOU. 

Scope creep is the result of unestablished, undefended boundaries. Knocking it on the head involves clear lines around inclusions vs add-ons. It can take time to find your way with this, often involving some deep inner work around the value you personally place on what you do, before passing that on in a dollar amount to your clients. 

I’ve worked with a number of business owners in establishing these parameters; the relief and prosperity that follows can’t be understated. But the biggest, hardest truth is this:

No one will pay you what you’re worth until you start charging them for it. 

6. Delaying the implementation of better systems

Trust me when I say I completely get it: business often gets consumed by busy-ness. When you’ve had a massive week and you crash into the weekend, the last thing you feel like doing is:

🥱 Researching that project management tool that could be streamlining your projects OR

🥱 Starting that free trial for that new inventory software everyone in the industry is raving about OR

🥱 Putting some training videos together so each new employee doesn’t have to start from scratch. 

But if not now, when? How many more times do you want to collapse into a heap before you use systems like this to reclaim time, money and power?

Entrepreneurship is meant to be your ticket to greater prosperity and control over your future. Lack of time is a lack of priorities. Make investing in better systems a higher priority for the long-term success of you AND your organisation. 

7. Overwhelm

That all-encompassing fear and frazzlement that affects us all. Drowning in your own to-do list is the fastest way for the financial wheels to fall off. This one really captures the end result of power-suckers 1-6:

😫 A spouse who hoards knowledge.

😫 A family business suffering from multi-generational confusion. 

😫 An accountant left unsupervised for too long. 

😫 Clients and customers with sloppy payment habits. 

😫 Your sloppy boundaries (sorry-not-sorry)

😫 Your sloppy systems (again, tough love from Liz!)

If you’ve ever described yourself as feeling ‘stuck’ I can almost guarantee it stems from something I’ve listed here. The more you can dissect the origins of that feeling and put language to your unease, the sooner you can chart your course outta there to a place of greater clarity and control.

Have no fear, Liz is here.

If this is hitting you right in the feels, I want you to know I’ve created a safe space just for you. As an accountant-turned-financial-mentor, I truly understand what it’s like to sit on both sides of the desk. I can apply my wealth of accounting knowledge to your unique business, and together we can map out a path from confusion to clarity. 

I’m here for all the ‘hang on!’ and ‘aha’s you’re about to have, but I realise every business is different you you likely have some questions. Why not jump into a free discovery call with me? 30 mins, no obligations or pressure. 

Only possibilities.

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