TDT CPA Managing Partner, Courtney Deronde, shares with us the best practices to be financially successful coming out of the pandemic. She gives us tips on using your data to build a plan for scaling your business. Courtney also speaks about taking the time to focus on what is doing well and what your customers need can really boost your business.
John Meese 0:24
Courtney, thank you so much for joining me today. How are you doing?
Courtney Deronde 0:27
I'm doing great, john, thank you for having me.
John Meese 0:29
It's my pleasure. It's my pleasure. I'm glad to have you here and looking forward to diving into our conversation today. But for those who are listening to this podcast, who haven't had the pleasure to get to know you a little bit, would you please share with us? Who are you and what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Courtney Deronde 0:43
Yeah, so I am a CPA and managing partner of TDT CPAs and advisors. We are a CPA and advisory firm focused on helping small businesses and nonprofit organizations. So we're located in central Iowa, we serve small business owners and nonprofit leaders all across the state as well as all across the country. And so our focus is really on helping them to proactively achieve better results and empowering them to use their financial information and the data that can come from from having accurate, relevant financial information to make better decisions and be more successful in their organizations.
John Meese 1:27
That's great. Well, what is TDT stands for if I could ask
Courtney Deronde 1:30
TDT is the initials of our founding partners. So we 45 years ago, our firm was started by three gentlemen with the last names Theobald, Donahue and Thompson. And so TDT stands for their initials,
John Meese 1:43
It's probably a lot easier to spell out than I already forgot the other two.
Courtney Deronde 1:49
John Meese 1:50
Well, that's great. Well, so you know, as we're talking, you know, the debt the end of 2020, you know, it's been an interesting year for interesting is an understatement. But it's been it's been a year for business owners and nonprofits. And a lot of that has centered around the financial balance sheet, you know, which is a lot of what you talked about. So can you just talk briefly to kind of what you've seen in terms of, you know, I guess what, what have you seen this year? I mean, really, you've been there seeing behind the scenes about everything that's been going on, I'm sure in several different industries.
Courtney Deronde 2:19
Yeah. So I have two perspectives, I have one my perspective as a business owner and managing partner of our own firm, our own small business, and all the clients that we serve. And so I would say one of the biggest themes that I have seen is that a lot of what has been needed to be done, like apply for PPP or other state and federal grants that are available, or line of credit, or evaluating your cash flow, or you know, any of these things that have needed to be done. It's, it's not really a problem or an issue and recognizing that, for business owners that we need to do this stuff, what the problem has been is a heightened awareness around how important having timely accurate financial information has become, I think, when things are going well, it's easy to ignore that and think, Well, you know, finance is not my thing, you know, I'm interested in serving customers, or creating value or innovating new products. And, and as long as I'm, as long as I have enough money in the bank, and can, you know, bring home enough to, to feel comfortable, I'm not really worried about all of those details. But when you all of a sudden have to take a closer look at that, or provide it to the government or to banks to substantiate, you know, getting funding this kind of this, oh, maybe I do need accurate, timely financial information more than just at the end of the year to prepare my tax returns. So I think that's been a big shift in mindset that we've seen, which has been really exciting for us, because we've always felt like that it just can be hard to convince business owners of how powerful this information can be until they really recognize the need for it.
John Meese 4:07
Hmm, that's interesting what I can Yeah. And I can attest that to myself, and I can, I've seen that. So that that totally makes sense. Have you I'm sure at this point, you know, now we're talking, like I said at the end of 2020. I'm sure you've seen a mix of businesses that have been able to succeed, and some that have not right, or some that have some of the that maybe have survived or maybe they're still limping along, some that maybe haven't survived, and some that are doing very well. Can you speak to anything that you've seen there in terms of trends or common themes in terms of what makes the difference between a business that, you know, survives or doesn't in this economy, and then who thrives or doesn't in this economy?
Courtney Deronde 4:46
Yeah, yeah. So I think, from what what we have seen and what we talked about with clients early on, is that you really have to recognize, you know, the opportunity This, that there are so many things that crisis can accelerate. And if you are waiting for certainty, you're going to be left behind, you're going to actually be moving backwards, you have to be willing to get clear on some things and make some decisions, make some mistakes, and course correct along the way, and you'll be miles ahead. But if you are going to kind of sit tight and wait, then you're going to be left behind, you're going to be moving backwards, I think. And I think with in for 2020. I mean, nobody knew in March, what this was going to be like, and how long this would have an impact. And so I think a lot of people initially felt like, well, let's just kind of ride this out, let's sit tight. We saw that with even our own in our own firm, you know, new clients and proposals that we had out all of a sudden, people just froze, like, I don't want to make any changes, I don't want to make any decisions. I'm going to kind of wait and see what's going to happen here. And as it's gone on, you know, month after month after month, and we're seeing such, you know, huge spikes right now, I think, if you haven't done it yet, now is the time to say, okay, we're not we're not getting back to anything we need to evolve to, to our new state of being and, you know, one of the things that I heard early on, like, you know, kind of ground zero back in March, I happen to have the tremendous advantage of being at a Michael high end company business accelerator intensive? Oh, yes, yes, in mid March, when he all of a sudden pivoted the content from what we normally would have covered to a topic of leading through crisis. And he he talks about that. He talked about the Stockdale paradox, and that has stuck with me this, you know, this concept that you can't confuse faith that you'll prevail in the end with the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your current reality, this kind of, you know, it seems, you know, counterintuitive. So having this hope in this belief in this faith that we're going to get through this, and we're going to thrive without just ignoring the brutal facts of your current reality. And, and so I think that's where those who have already been really successful, they have been figuring out ways to take advantage of, of what this crisis has accelerated an opportunity to make changes that they wanted to or needed to make anyway, to really focus on how they can deliver what their customers and their clients need right now. And not focusing on making sure that it's all perfect and polished, but that it is relevant, and profitable. And then course correcting and improving as they go instead of waiting for certainty, because there's not going to be certainty for quite some time.
John Meese 8:16
Right? Well, and did we ever really have certainty?
Courtney Deronde 8:20
John Meese 8:21
Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. The Stockdale paradox. I'm pretty sure, actually, if my memory serves me correctly, that Michael talked about that on my interview with him on this podcast. So anybody who's curious about learning more about that can jump back to the Michael Hyatt episode, which was episode number one, the but as far as the Stockdale paradox goes, I mean, that's been It's huge. I mean, that, you know, and that's just to kind of back out a little backstory to that, you know, it's based on Admiral I don't look up to confirm the name, right. But Admiral James Stockdale who was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, you know, that's where that really comes from this whole idea that the prisoners of war, who were stuck there for self for a long time, the ones who really who survived, and who thrived in the midst of that really, incredibly difficult situation were those that recognize that they were in the midst of a very unpleasant time, right. And then they didn't want that, but also had to hope for a better future and they were able to balance those two conflicting realities, you know, sort of like the hope of what could be but also the acceptance of what is. I remember what stuck out to me because that was first introduced in, I believe, the first time I heard that concept was in Jim Collins, his book Good to Great. And I think what really stuck out to me was, was when Jim Collins referenced that was saying that, you know, who were the first really prisoners to give up and you know, and die and he said, Oh, the optimists and myself, is it. In the past, I've described myself as an incorrigible optimist. He was a little taken aback by that. He said, Well, no, the ones who just said Oh, it's gonna be fine, it's fine. It's fine. We're gonna get out of here tomorrow, we'll be home by Tuesday. They were the ones who really just had once they really couldn't deny reality any longer. They lost hope. Yeah, and so, yeah, and so here we are in the midst of an unusual circumstance, we, as business owners, as entrepreneurs, as you said, Courtney, we need to accept to face head on the reality that we need to evolve. As you said, Courtney, we need to evolve, we need to grow, we need to change, we need to adapt, we need to serve, but also that we're hopeful that that will yield a good future. So hence, survive and thrive. So let's talk a little bit more about that, as we're going into the new year, you know, and it's not like, it's not like, we can just hit the reset button, you know, 2021 isn't just, you know, it's not like forget 2020 happened, I think we will forever change the meaning of the term hindsight 2020 here's what I here's what I'm predicting, here's what I'm predicting, I am predicting that in 2021, something bad will happen. And people say, Well, you know, that's bad. But like, I mean, hindsight 2020. And what they mean is, it could be worse. And so I think we've completely changed the meaning of that terminology. That's my prediction.
Courtney Deronde 10:58
Yes, I think that's a good prediction.
John Meese 11:01
But going into 2021, as business owners and entrepreneurs, you know, maybe that means that we've made it this far with our business, maybe that means those are there are people listening to this podcast, who are part of those who've been newly promoted to entrepreneur this year. What advice you have in terms of what to focus on in 2021, from your vantage point to really, you know, to make the best of that Stockdale paradox philosophy of accepting and embracing the world we're in, but also hoping for the future and building for the future.
Courtney Deronde 11:33
I think the first thing I would say is now more than ever, it's important to focus on your most relevant and profitable products and services. So, for a lot of people, they feel like they kind of intuitively know this, like, they kind of have it, you know, in their gut, of what it is that they do, and how much how relevant it is to their customers, and how much profit it yields them. But the reality is, most people, especially as they grow and scale their their organizations can't keep all that accurately in their head, as you start to add different customer bases or different locations, different key products or services that you're selling, it starts to the water, the water starts to get muddied. And if you if you don't already have a way to capture from your, you know, financial records, the sales mix, and margins of each of your core products or services, or, you know, whatever makes maybe for you, maybe maybe you do sell only one or two products, and you know the margins on them. And you need to get more specific about, you know, the the customer base, or the distribution channel or the geography or, you know, whatever, but having some dimensional level of data and profitability, so that you can see which products really do yield the most margin for my business, and what solves the problems that my clients and customers are having right now, I think having those two pieces of information, and then building your plan around that is the first place to focus. But it does start with that foundational level of you've got to have some good information to be able to do this. And then that needs to be part of your regular, ongoing non crisis, you know, MO is that you constantly have this as part of your financial reporting systems and, and, and processes that you know, your margins by those key, you know, levels, whether it's product or service, or geographic or whatever, that you know that because once you know, where you really make your money, then you can really discard some of those other efforts that aren't as relevant or aren't as profitable. And maybe you still deliver them when the opportunity comes about. But you put all your efforts, all your marketing and, and focus on innovation and improvement around the ones that have that mix of being profitable and relevant to your customers.
John Meese 14:31
I think that's really important. And so let me just make sure I understand what you're saying or make sure that this is clear for everyone who's listening, that what you're saying is that it's not enough just to make revenue, right to sell a product, right? It's not enough to say, Well, hey, we made $10,000 off that product launch. Well, maybe. But what you're saying is that you know what, a lot of people, a lot of business owners and I've seen this a lot of entrepreneurs really love to look at the top line, you know, what's the revenue number, but what you're saying there is you need to really dig into the details. Little bit, just to understand how much money did you actually make in the sense that you get to keep it, you know, like, and I've seen this firsthand with clients where I've worked with clients before who have, I'm thinking recently, earlier this year, I was working with a client who had a mix of digital and physical products, they had a physical journal they're selling, they had a membership site that generated recurring revenue, they did an online course. And they were really treating all that revenue the same. And so when they're looking at their sales reports, they're like, oh, man, we made this much money. And it was like, Well, wait a second, we had to dial in a little bit deeper to understand what was truly profitable. Because with a physical journal, there's costs that come with it like, Well, of course, the actual printing the paper, and you know, then there's the fulfillment costs of just storing it, you know, have to order inventory and storing that in a fulfillment center. And then there's the shipping costs, which some of that can be passed on to the customer, which still to track it. And then on top of that, they were running a paid advertising campaign to make some of those sales. And so then we started saying, Well, wait a second, if you're paying, you know, five, or six, or $10, for a sale, then you have to deduct that as well. I mean, you have to take that off of what you really made per sale, you know, so you've got the printing, the fulfillment, the ad cost, and then you started looking at how much money you're actually making per sale. And it was not good, all of a sudden made it, it seemed really cool that they were generating all this revenue, but then all of a sudden, you go, Well, wait a second, some of those digital products actually look pretty good right now, you know, just because of the the margin on an online course, or on a membership site, you know, is so huge. And so I just even though I know there are entrepreneurs who are listening to this right now are going like, I don't know, I mean, that sounds like I leave that to my bookkeeper, it says it sounds like my kind of thing. We're not asking everyone to become CPAs. Like you, Courtney. Right, right. But we are asking business owners to get clear on the fundamentals of what is truly profitable in a product basis. Is that fair to say?
Courtney Deronde 16:54
Yes, that is totally fair to say, and how you. So how do you practically do this, you have to have the systems in place so that transactions get recorded at the appropriate level of detail, to be able to report this back out to you. So you as the entrepreneur, you don't want to be, you know, doing this, but you need to make sure that whoever is whether you're outsourcing, you're having an internal bookkeeper or accountant, that they understand what information you need to be able to make decisions in the business. And we'd tell our clients, what that means to us is we need to know what's important and relevant for you, which which pieces of data do you need to know, we can help you design a process to make sure we capture the information and record it that way, so that we can then report it out. And that's usually where the biggest challenge comes from is, even if you if you recognize the importance of knowing the margin, per product, let's say, then you if nobody's captured the data to tell you the costs assigned to specific products, and all you have is you know how much revenue you earn, but you can't allocate? How much did it cost us for each product, you're missing this huge piece of the puzzle that could say, oh, my goodness, like you said your example. We've got all this top line revenue, and we are busting it to get this out the door. And we're working more hours and harder than we ever had before. And at the end of the day, we barely made any money from that. And so I think that, you know, from a practical standpoint, you have to get down to when transactions occur when you spend money on something when you spend money on marketing or wages or you know, production costs, that it is allocated, it is tagged in your accounting system with those relevant dimensions. So it's a product A versus B versus C, so that at the end of the quarter at the end of the month, at any given time, you can get that information back out to say, this is the margin per product. This is the mix of our sales by product. And if we sell more of this, this is what it's going to mean for us. But without that information, you can end up spending a lot of time and effort and not actually make any more money.
John Meese 19:21
That's good that's really important too, I'm glad you brought that up. I'm thinking of a very practical example here, because I know, there's still I'm sure there are still people listening in who are like, Okay trying to apply this to their business. So I own a coworking space with a small bookstore in it's called COVID, Columbia, we have a small bookstore in the front. And when we ordered all of our inventory for the bookstore, so that's a lot of books. I mean, we've got three to five, you know, copies of each of the 25 different titles we carry. Some of them, we got on bulk discounts, and so you know, have 10 to 20 copies of them. And then we also sell Michael Hyatt's Full Focus Planner, and Bare & Fig notebooks and pens. And so, you know, that all adds up, it would have been very easy and tempting once we figured out okay, well, technically, I can go to the distributor and find out what the margin is sort of right, like, I could go to the distributor and find out, okay, what I'm paying for a book is about 40% less than what the official price is, you know, that's just part of the whole business model of being buying from a wholesale distributor. So it could it would be tempting for me to be like, Okay, well, then I know my margins 40% I don't need to track anything. And we but we did thankfully, take the extra step. And it is an extra step on the front ends be like, Well, no. Okay, so let's take the, you know, in this case of books, you know, it's a skew, you know, it's that little, it's the number and then program that in square, which is our register point of sale system, but also in QuickBooks, so that whenever a sale happens in square, it gets synced in QuickBooks. And so the inventory is tracked in QuickBooks and reduced with each sale. And so we see the revenue coming in. But we also see that it automatically includes that deduction of the inventory cost. So that was like that was a couple extra steps in the front end, it took an extra minute it up. But now it's automated, like I don't like now I just look at the report. And it tells me exactly how much revenue we made exactly how much inventory that costs, because we paid for that inventory several months ago. And so it wouldn't like if it was just looking at a profit loss statement for this month, then it would look like I had a bunch of revenue without expenses attached to it. But that's not really accurate. And so we're using an accrual basis, because there's a physical inventory involved. And we're using that cost of goods calculation. And but I want to encourage anybody listening to this, and already their heads spinning and their eyes are getting crossed a little bit that that like this was like two or three extra steps when we first added the product, literally to say like, Okay, well, let's make sure that the number on the back of the book is exactly the same as what's the number in the system and square and the number and the system in QuickBooks. And then let's make sure those tools are set up to talk to each other. And then they handle all the automation in the back end, you know. And so that actually gives us more advanced reporting. Right away. So is that just I know that's a practical example for my business? Is that kind of in line with what with an example of what you're thinking? Yeah.
Unknown Speaker 22:37
Yeah, that's a great example. And so I think kind of, to break this down, I'd say first step is, recognize that having this information can really be a powerful tool in making decisions and focusing your efforts. So kind of first step is just recognize the value of this. Yeah. And then the next step is to determine really, what are the drivers that I do want to know I maybe I don't need to know the margin of every single product? Or maybe it there, you know, what are those relevant pieces of information that are important to me and my business and my business model, nail that down, and then work with whoever handles all your accounting and transaction recording, to say, we've got to develop processes to where you're getting the transactions in at the level of detail to get what, so that at the end of the day, I can get out of this what I need, without the frustration and time lag of having to dig back through and try to recreate it, I think that's why so many people end up going on their gut, is because the data isn't easy to access. And so, you know, so I think, but it can be with just a couple extra steps, like you said, you really can enter at that level of detail and then have so much more valuable information coming out of your records. Because I think right now, so many people don't even look at their financials, because they aren't meaningful, right? This is a way to put them into a format that gives you relevant information so that you can actually use them.
John Meese 24:18
I love that. Okay, so backing up for a second, we kind of got on this not a rabbit trail, but we got by by talking about going into 2021 kind of what we need to do to focus and you said lean into which your products that are the most profitable but of course, a precursor to leaning into the products of the most profitable is actually knowing not just on your gut, but knowing on you know, in, in the math, which products are the most profitable. So what else should we be doing as we go into 2021? What else should we be doing to really lean into building a thriving business in this new economy?
Courtney Deronde 24:51
It's a another thing to focus on is getting visibility around your cash flow. So cash flow is a challenge. for small businesses, even in good times, so when there is economic uncertainty or things are more volatile, it can become an even bigger burden, and problem, and so on. So I'm not talking about reporting cash flow, you know, having a cash flow statement that tells you where money went, and where it came from last month, I'm talking about a projection or forecast that says, What do I think is going to happen? Into the future. And so this is a crucial piece. And you have to start out with, you know, where, what do I have right now? What resources do I have available to me? What is the cash I have in the bank? What is available on my line of credit? What perhaps, can I pull in from my own funds or other investors? What do I have now? And then you have to look out. And I would say, at this point, week by week, one thing unless maybe things for your business are more stable, and you can do it month by month, depending on how volatile or unstable things are, you might need to do this week by week instead of month I want but you're then you're looking at to say okay, what do I estimate is going to be coming in? What do I estimate is going to be going out? And what's the projected cash. And anytime that there's a low balance or negative? That's going to be a problem. And so the point of this is just a tool to give you visibility about where there could be a problem down the road. So that's the first step is just getting the visibility, then, you know, then we can talk about how do we identify the underlying root causes of these of the cashflow problems, but the first step is getting that visibility on it.
John Meese 26:46
Okay, well, how do you recommend we do that practically? Is that a report in QuickBooks? Or is that just a spreadsheet? Or is there a tool you prefer? Because Yeah, a lot of detail to track, like, What's going in? What's going out? When is it going out?
Courtney Deronde 26:56
Yes, so So we work with clients and a couple different ways on this, for some, it can be a spreadsheet. And and it's just a simple spreadsheet that that we have formatted, it's set up week by week, and it allows you to, to fill in those estimated amounts that I mentioned, and you know, it calculates through. And then each week you update, you know, where are we at now, and and do I need to change any of my projections going forward. So it can be as simple as an Excel tool. There's also some other software's out there that will integrate with your QuickBooks account, to pull in data from QuickBooks, and allow you to have a more robust tool. So it'll look back at your historical data, and your accounts payable and accounts receivable, if you have those recorded in QuickBooks, and let you apply some assumptions to that, to in a more automated and visual presentation, give you some visibility on that. So there's a couple ways that you can, you can do it. And I think the challenge comes with a lot of small business owners don't have a CFO to do this kind of thing for them. So it's certainly something that you could look into outsourcing we do this for for clients where we outsource, they outsource this function to us. We've also done it with clients where we give them the spreadsheet, teach them the concepts and help them understand how to get the information into it. And then you know, they maintain it. So it can be as simple as a spreadsheet. And it can be, you know, as robust as some tools that you integrate with QuickBooks Online, to be able to, you know, apply some different assumptions to your historical data and your current data.
John Meese 28:37
That's great. Well, I love that that's super helpful, Courtney. So I feel like you've given us a very practical advice. And so I wanna make sure we don't go too farther into trying to give our listeners a CPA license themselves. But focusing on the practical, is there any other advice or tips that you want to make sure we we provide to our audience today?
Courtney Deronde 28:56
Yeah, I say, you know, the last one is to Don't miss this opportunity to make changes that you wanted or needed to make anyway, I think when things are going well, it's so easy for cost to creep in, or inefficient processes to become kind of the norm. We also tend to avoid dealing with things like the wrong people on our team, the wrong vendor relationships, the wrong customers. When there's a crisis or a big kind of, you know, change, it accelerates the opportunity to do some things differently. So you know, scrutinize what you're doing, and be strategic and intentional about the changes that you make. Find leaks and waste, find things that you really wanted or needed to do, and do something about it. Like take action. Don't wait for perfection. You know, do something. Learn from your mistakes course correct along the way. But I think that, like we mentioned a little bit earlier on in the in the podcast, you know, people who think they're just gonna sit tight and wait for some from for certainty or some more visibility around what's going to happen are going to be moving backwards, they're not going to be standing still, they're not going to be where they were before, they're going to be way behind. So for those of us who are willing to step out and, and seize this opportunity is a chance to take action, knowing it might not be perfect, and that we might learn from, you know, we got to learn from those mistakes. Those are the business owners and entrepreneurs who are going to be just leaps and bounds ahead, because it's hard. It's not easy. So not everybody's gonna do it. Those of us who will, are going to really see the benefits of that.
John Meese 30:48
Well, I love that that's a that's a good word. And that's been incredibly helpful today. So Courtney, so thank you so much for that. So where can we go to learn more about you and your firm online?
Courtney Deronde 30:59
Yeah, so you can definitely go to tdtpc.com. And that has all of our information. But we also have for your listeners today, some some special information we like to make available for them so they can take action. So we have a special page setup at tdtpc.com/surviveandthrive.
John Meese 31:22
Courtney Deronde 31:22
So there you, you can download a free checklist, it's going to walk you through five steps to survive and thrive during economic uncertainty. So we talked about a couple of them, you know, in depth today, but there's five items on there with a checklist that you can really start working through and it gives you some direction as to what to do. We also took some of the tools and concepts we use with clients one on one in our consulting engagements, and build them into an on demand video course, this is something we did in March and April, when we were like, okay, people are gonna need help. And people are not gonna have as much money for one on one consulting, but they might have more time on their hands to kind of educate themselves around this. So it's, the courses are not designed to help you become a CPA or an accountant. They are designed to help business owners understand at the appropriate level, how to get visibility around some of these things and understand what needs to be done. So they can work in conjunction with their internal accounting or outsourced accounting team members to do that. So So those courses are on demand, they can be completed on your own time, there's a course book, there's downloadable templates, like the cash flow projection tool. And so for your listeners, we are offering 50% off that course. And as an added bonus, the first 25 listeners will also receive a follow up one hour video call with one of our CPAs to answer any lingering questions that you may have. Or maybe you feel solid about it. And you just need some, you know, affirmation that yes, this that's the right way to approach that. So anything you you want covered in that one hour consulting, as a follow up to the video course purchase is available for the first 25 listeners as well. So all of that information, the discount code and and the download the free download are at tdtpc.com/surviveandthrive.
John Meese 33:22
Well that is very generous. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Courtney. So let me make sure I got this right. No, actually, I've already got it wrong. So what is the URL again?
Courtney Deronde 33:30
John Meese 33:37
tdtpc.com/surviveandthrive Is that right? You got it. Okay, great. All right. Well, thank you so much, Courtney. Appreciate that. And the and I can't wait to check it out myself.
Courtney Deronde 33:48
Awesome. Sounds good. Thank you, john.
John Meese 33:50
Thank you, Courtney. Keep up the good work.
Courtney Deronde 33:52
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