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WIBO Week 16: Personal Finance

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So I’m finally completing my final WIBO blog post for Week 16 on Personal Finance – only 5 months late! 😉

While a participant of WIBO’s “Start a Growing, Profitable Business” Workshop at the South Bronx location, I was recruited to become a WIBO workshop leader and began training (hmm, I’m starting to see a trend here…), so the first time I “took” WIBO’s Week 16, it was actually my debut as a WIBO Course Leader, so I actually led that class. For this go ’round of Week 16, I was again a WIBO Course Leader at the Washington Heights location, but since I was a Co-Leader with Larry Feldman, I had another opportunity to study this lesson.

As Week 16 is about personal finance, we learned how personal finances affect our businesses. We discussed financial management “best practices”, and learned the formula for determining net worth:

NET WORTH = ASSETS – LIABILITIES

Our visiting Discussion Leader was a NY Life Insurance Broker who didn’t believe in budgets. Okay, he didn’t say that exactly, but he did say that it’s nearly impossible for people to stick with an ambitious budget that affects their lifestyle. Instead, he recommends that you decide on a set amount for your savings or investment plan, pay yourself first each month, and then move on with your life!

And now that I’ve finally posted this Week 16 blog post, I can move on with this blog – haha! See you at the WIBO Graduation on June 13th!!!

WIBO-WashHts2011
The Spring 2011 Washington Heights WIBO Class!

For more information on Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO), please visit http://WIBO.org

Dear Entrepreneur:

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WIBO
Just heard from one of my friends starting her own yoga studio. She sent an email to all of her friends asking for referrals and other suggestions. While I’m not a yoga enthusiast, I’m an entreprenerial enthusiast, so you know I had to tell about Workshop in Business Opportunities (aka WIBO)! Here’s my open letter:

Hey Sarah!

So great to hear from you, and that you are following your path! I’m happy to spread the word to my friends and contacts about your yoga business, and if you ever need any help marketing your business online, don’t hesitate to contact me.

While yoga is not my thing, business is, and I MUST share an awesome resource with you. I will soon graduate from a four-month entrepreneurial course, “How to Build a Growing Profitable Business”, sponsored by a non-profit organization, Workshop in Business Opportunities (aka WIBO), and this course has literally changed my life!

This once-a-week course goes into everything you need to know about building your business, from marketing to break-even analysis to cash flow. Because it’s a practical course, your homework is focused on solutions for YOUR business, not some random company that you couldn’t care less about. In addition to your
regular workshop leader, each week there is a visiting business owner who has expertise in the particular week’s lesson. Students and Alumni have access to free and low-cost legal and accounting clinics, as well as the network of other WIBO businesses, which has already come in handy.

Sorry to wax poetic about this class, but I learned things in the last 4 months that I never even considered, and I’ve had my music consulting/marketing company for over 10 years! There were lots of things that I just didn’t know, and WIBO has helped me turn my business around without the usual trial and error.

I do not receive compensation for telling you about WIBO. I’m just a fellow business owner sharing a great tip. WIBO is offered twice a year at 9 different locations in NYC, and the price is only $199 for the 16 weeks ($99 if you’re receiving unemployment or other government assistance). Feel free to learn more about WIBO at http://WIBO.org, as well as my WIBO-related blog posts at http://rockstarlifelessons.com/category/wibo/

I wish you all the best with your yoga studio, and in life!

Carla

WIBO Week 15: Ethics and the Law

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In this next to last unit (BOO!) of the WIBO “How to Build a Growing Profitable Business” course, we learned about hiring an attorney, protecting our assets, and avoiding gray areas in our businesses.

At some point, we will need to seek legal counsel for our businesses. Whether you’re seeking a record label deal, taking on a partner, or trademarking your band’s name, it’s time to find an attorney who suits your needs.

There will inevitably come the time when you are presented with an opportunity that will be a little shady. We have to consider the consequences of our actions, especially when they have the potential to affect our business. The law is often complex, so having an attorney will help you make wise decisions.

We also discussed the different forms of business entities to operate under: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, or Limited Liability Company. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, so you have to decide which one will work best for you.

As most musicians are working with intellectual property (in the form of music and other creative works), it’s important to protect them by filing copyrights.

Remember: “He who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client”. The two key words in dealing with problems are “avoid” and “prevent”.

Since I was spending my Christmas holiday in Atlanta, I doubled up on classes last week and went to the Washington Heights class to take this unit. The ironic thing is that this week’s blizzard in NYC caused my class in the South Bronx to be cancelled, so I’ll actually take this unit twice!

By the way, I was totally unaffected by this week’s blizzard – Whew!!! I went to Atlanta a few days earlier, and it even snowed on Christmas Day! Fortunately, NYC’s “Blizzard 2010” was right in the middle of my trip so while THOUSANDS of flights were cancelled because of the winter snow storm, all of my flight reservations were unharmed. Thank you, Goddess! 😉

Over the holiday I finally completed a new CASH FLOW PROJECTION for my company, and even did my WIBO homework for this week, so I’ll be able to catch up with some other things – such as the Rock Star Life Lessons podcast series!!!

I love the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Day. This is when I plant new seeds for the coming year! Watch out, World!

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 14 ~ Controlling Finances: Recordkeeping and Taxes

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Ha! You didn’t think we’d skip a section on keeping your books and paying your taxes, did you?

This was a good “nuts and bolts” week. As written in our WIBO workbook, “Money is like fire: to get the most of it, you must keep it under strict control.”

I liked that analogy. While I’m good about keeping receipts, and organizing them for my accountant at tax time, there are more things I can do to manage my company’s financial books better.

In the music business there’s a saying, “It’s not how much money you MAKE, but how much you KEEP.” While the idea of growing my company seems daunting at times, I realize now that creating a regular process to watch my numbers, and possibly hiring a bookkeeper will make a huge difference in my bottom line.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a songwriter a few years ago. The songwriter was talking about a well-known (and successful) recording artist, saying, “That guy is so cheap that he counts his money every month!”

At the time I didn’t know any better, and probably agreed with the songwriter. But NOW, all I think of is, “DUH! That’s how the recording artist will KEEP the money he MAKES!”

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 13 ~ Using Other People’s Money: Financing

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Before working on my grant application for the International Women in Media Foundation, the idea of getting money from others was a foreign concept for me. I had no desire whatsoever to seek funding from a bank or private investors.

Perhaps you feel the same way, and that’s fine. But this week we learned about determining how much capital we need to build our businesses, and how to go about getting it.

Even if you don’t want to borrow money, it’s a helpful exercise to consider the various ways you can obtain what your business needs to grow.

I’m ecstatic about WIBO right now because my IWMF grant application required an Executive Summary of my business plan, which I realized was a not-so-obvious benefit of taking this WIBO course. The thought of creating a business plan always seemed too daunting a task, but if you take WIBO seriously, and do your homework, you will also create the business plan for your company!

WIBO doesn’t brag about it, but I slowly realized (DUH!) that each week’s homework corresponds to information required in a business plan. When I researched Executive Summary examples online, I discovered that my WIBO homework had laid the perfect foundation for creating an Executive Summary for my business plan.

For most of the questions in my grant application, I had already answered them in my earlier WIBO homework assignments, so the answers were fresh in my mind. I was no longer intimidated by business plans. I already had the information I needed!!! Now I’m looking forward to drafting my official business plan after our GRADUATION on Jan 31st.

This is the coolest feeling – kinda like finding out that your favorite food no longer has calories! 😉

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 12 ~ Financing Your Business Growth: Cash Flow & Credit

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So this week’s lesson was pretty intense! On one hand, we learned about using credit in our business: for ourselves, as well as with our customers.

On the other hand, we had to create a CASH FLOW PROJECTION for our business. This took me a while to complete, but it was beneficial as it forced me to plan for the next year. Not only did I have to come up with projected figures for my earnings, but I also had to project next year’s plans for my business.

It was incredibly helpful for me to write down what I needed to earn, as well as how I needed to plan my time. Projects that I assumed I’d start immediately had to be pushed back because of other projects that would be due.

It seems to always come down to time for me. And after all, time IS money. I realize how much stuff I’ve piled on my own plate, which makes it tougher to complete things on time. While I often juggle multiple tasks, I also understand what I lose in terms of quality of life. By creating a better plan ahead of time, I can make money, and still be able to stop to smell the roses. What a concept!

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Breakeven Analysis Coaching Session

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After spending three weeks learning about breaking even, WIBO offered a Saturday coaching session for those who wanted more help with this topic.

I felt okay with Breakeven Analysis, but I wanted to get more coaching on it, so I could feel solid about it. I’ve been asked to volunteer as a WIBO backup course leader next semester, so extra coaching will prepare me to teach this subject when the time comes. I want to be able to share this skill with my music students and clients too, but ultimately, I want to make this work in my own business!.

For Breakeven Analysis coaching, we were asked to submit questions ahead of time, which enabled the WIBO folks to set up small break out groups of WIBO students with similar backgrounds with an entrepreneur coach. As the other students were from locations other than my own, this was also an opportunity to meet other WIBO students before our graduation in January.

The other two members of my breakeven “break out” group was a real estate broker, and a video producer. Like me, both of them were already working in their industry, and seeking to grow their businesses. Our coach, Zahra, was an experienced entrepreneur with an MBA, and she was fantastic in asking the right questions.

I have to say, though, that my breakeven “break out” group produced a BREAK THROUGH for me! 😉 During the past three courses on breakeven analysis, we chose one “unit of sale” that we based our numbers on. For example, that could be one CD for $15, or a monthly house concert that generates $500. Whatever the basic unit of sale is, we have to calculate how much of it we’d need to sell in order to break even.

If my basic unit of sale is a 99 cent MP3, and I need to make $2000 each month to break even, that means I’d need to sell over 2000 MP3s each month. That would also mean that I’d have to do a lot of marketing to sell that many MP3s. Frankly, that would not be the best use of my time, so the goal would be to choose a unit of sale that costs more, so I could sell less units, and make more money.

Since starting the Breakeven Analysis class sections, I’ve thought a lot about lifestyle design, and how I want to spend my time. I started this WIBO course with an eye to build my consulting business, but ironically, I’ve found myself questioning where music and performing fits into it all.

As much as I love helping others market their music, I feel out of sorts when I’m not singing or performing myself. Continuing to perform is what makes me a relevant music marketing consultant, so I wouldn’t be happy if I spent all my time consulting. While discussing my options, Zahra asked how much time I want to spend on a particular task, and my mind screamed “None at all!” I realized immediately that I had to change my basic unit of sale. Again.

But that was exactly what I needed. I went back to the drawing board to create my ideal life (which includes MAKING MUSIC!), and figure out how much it would cost to break even. I didn’t need to be a genius to know that selling CDs or eBooks could not be my main unit of sale. I’d have to think bigger.

In related news, I’ve also been working on a grant application for the International Women in Media Foundation (which is sponsored by the Ford Foundation). It has been consuming and exciting to create a new project that could be funded with a grant, but everything went to a new level when I asked myself, “If I won the grant, would I be happy following through on the plan I’ve created for myself?”

So I’ve decided to start the Rock Star Life Lessons TV show! My main unit of sale will be advertising. This will enable me to make and perform music on a regular basis, while also teaching others as I go, using video. I’ve also created a plan that will work whether or not I receive the grant. But working on the grant application is what forced me to think about the possibilities!

This idea was unexpected, and very exciting, so stay tuned as I learn how to bring this to life!

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 11 ~ Investing in People: Human Resources

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One of the lessons that keeps coming up for me is that I cannot do it all myself. In order for my business to grow, I need to replace myself so more work can be done, and more money can be made.

As resistant as I am to getting help, I finally understand that this is a necessary investment that will free me up to do other things.

During the breakeven analysis coaching, the video producer in my group taught me an important tip: In video production, you’re only as fast as your Grip (the person or people that move the gear from one location to another). In post-production, you’re only as fast as your video editor. If I’m doing all of these things myself, it takes longer to get them done. As I’m still editing my Music Success and Taxi videos, I’m painfully aware of this truth.

So if you know any video editors, please send them my way! 😉

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 10 – Making a Profit: Purchasing

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This week in WIBO we plan for the next investment that we’ll make in our businesses.

Whether it’s staff or equipment, we’re reminded that we have to evaluate the potential return for that investment beforehand:

* How much will we make as a result of purchasing an item, or hiring an employee?

* How soon will we get that money back?

* How else could we use that money?

These questions and others help us to decide how to spend our money wisely.

Our workshop leader says that it’s all downhill now that we’ve completed the breakeven analysis sections.

I am doubtful… 😉

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org

WIBO Week 9 ~ Making a Profit: Financial Decision Making

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Now that we’ve learned how to “crunch the numbers”, this week we use those numbers to solve a problem or evaluate an opportunity in our businesses.

I love how this course is so practical, meaning we apply everything we learn to our own businesses. Doing the math may feel tedious at times, but when you you’re doing it for your own company, as opposed to some random case history of people you don’t know or care about, it makes a huge difference in your motivation level. Onward!

For more information about the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO) course, visit WIBO.org