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Episode 105: Getting Your Consulting Business Finances Right—with Jennifer Yousem

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. So this is going to be the money show. In particular, we're going to talk about what you should be paying attention to in terms of your finances, so that you can make sure you're actually supporting the life that you want to have. And this, by the way, is where a lot of consultants get tripped up, particularly in their first couple years. So I brought on an expert to make sure that you don't get into any hot water and that you're paying attention to the things you need to. So you know what's going out, you know what's coming in, and you know you're going to be OK. Jennifer Yousem is joining us. She knows all about what you should be paying attention to and what you should be doing. So let's get started. I want to welcome to my show today, Jennifer Yousem. Jennifer, welcome to the show.

Jennifer Yousem: Thank you for having me.

Deb Zahn: So let's start off. Tell my listeners what you do.

Jennifer Yousem: I am a fractional CFO, which means that I provide outsourced strategic financial guidance to companies on a part-time basis, particularly for small companies that cannot afford to have a full-time CFO.

Deb Zahn: What a wonderful gig to have. I know some of those companies who can't. That's a wonderful thing. Well, today we're going to talk about money. Making sure that consultants know what they have, know when it's coming in, and sort of get the money piece right so that they can have the thriving business they want. And at any given time. They know it's actually a thriving business. And I know that's your specialty, and you are especially a specialist in EBITDA. Did I say it right?

Jennifer Yousem: EBITDA. Yes.

Deb Zahn: Awesome. So define what that magical phrase means.

Jennifer Yousem: So the nerdy version is earnings before interest taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Deb Zahn: That's the way to say it.

Jennifer Yousem: Yeah. Yes, very sexy. The non-nerdy version or the business owner's version is profit success. It's measuring your bottom line.

Deb Zahn: Very nice, very nice. And obviously for consultants, always, that should matter. I think particularly in a difficult and tumultuous economic time, it especially matters. But say a little bit about if you were in front of a consultant and talking to them about the power of using this framework for understanding and tracking their finances. What is it that they need to know about it as it relates to their business?

Jennifer Yousem: So for consultants in particular, the biggest issue for them, or at least that I have found when working with them, is they don't have a good metric to value their time.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: And that's primarily all they're selling. Some people will outsource pieces of something that they're doing, but it's generally just selling their time. And so at the end of the day, it's like, “Do I have cash in the bank? I guess I'm OK.” But when you think about scaling your business, the best way for a consultant to think about it is if I had to outsource this to someone else, “What would I have to pay? And then what would be left over at the end of the day and also will have value in my providing.” So it provides you a good framework to think about that and really value your time.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah. And I think also because so many consultants default to charging hourly, and they think that's the only way to do it. And even when they do that, they either leave money on the table and they're not paying attention to whether or not they get enough money in, or they don't think about other ways to charge that would allow them to scale more easily. Get more money in their pocket for the tremendous value they're providing.

Jennifer Yousem: Right. It's really about parsing out what is your value add. I certainly do this with my own CFO businesses. What is the special sauce that only I can deliver? And then there are pieces of it that I can outsource and oversee, model building or bookkeeping, with the, I would say the more tactical pieces of it. And thinking about that is a way to scale, is really the only way to scale is outsourcing, quite frankly.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So that you end up doing only the things that only you can do, which I'm a huge proponent of. So a consultant shows up to you. They say, “What do you mean how am I doing? I have $15,000, I have $20,000 in the bank, I have whatever that amount is.” What's one of the first things that you do with them to try and help them disentangle things that they've priced mushed together?

Jennifer Yousem: Because there's no traditional cost of goods sold with the consultants, we like to look at operating expenses. First of all, what do we need to cover on a monthly basis for you just to live? Whether that's rent or maybe you have a virtual assistant, those are the expenses that go out the door, regardless of whether or not you book a job.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And I think it's really important for a consultant to always keep, but quite frankly, for any business owner, to keep that number always in the back of your head because it's the number that you have to hit before you can put a dollar in your pocket.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And it can affect the way you price. And then you touched on a really good point, which is then we get around to pricing. It's really easy to default to the hourly number.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: It's really easy to start comparing yourself to other people. And I find this a lot with women, particularly. “Why is she charging that much? Can I charge that much? Am I really worth that much?” I mean, there's a whole psychology.

Deb Zahn: All that stuff.

Jennifer Yousem: So much in there. That's like a whole other episode. So understanding the hourly framework and understanding how many hours a project is going to take you, that's important. But I do like to get people oriented more towards what we call value pricing or in all in. But there needs to be some measurement against it, right? If you're value-pricing yourself into a less than minimum wage, hourly rate, then you maybe value-priced yourself the wrong way.

Deb Zahn: That's right. So if you'd make more at Burger King.

Jennifer Yousem: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: But it occurs to me that people might not connect to those first two things you said. So what are the non-variable expenses that you have that you have to cover no matter what? And before you can put any profit in your pocket and pricing? I've seen those often get divorced, which they cannot be.

Jennifer Yousem: A lot of people think that they put their operating expenses into their cost of goods sold. So I differentiate between those two, as you cannot sell whatever it is you're selling without a cost of goods sold.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: You can do that without an office. You may not like it. You can do it without a virtual assistant. I know you haven't, but you can.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: So it's having those tough conversations with them and having them have those conversations with themselves. And then when you start to think about pricing, a really interesting thing happens. I think there's always a push for more volume in order to get revenues up. And that's not always the right way to think about it because if you have a client that might be a PITA, maybe your hourly rate is really deflated by the time everything's said and done because you've had to email or have 75 extra conversations with that client, as opposed to another client who is easier to work with.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: So you do have to keep track of those things though, in order to do it. And that's where the work comes in. And a lot of people don't like to, or set a different way, intuitively they know the answer is going to be something that they don't want to see.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you don't do the math because you don't want to know what the calculation is. And so I call it and lots of other folks call it the effective hourly rate, which is, even if you're charging using some other pricing model, whether it's a retainer, it's value-based payment or whatever, knowing your effective hourly rates can help you make decisions. Because it could be, you think you negotiated really good deals, but at the end of the day, volume is your only solution to make the income you want. And that's not scalable and it's not sustainable.

Jennifer Yousem: Absolutely. Because someone who switches into consultancy, who's never done it before, you quickly realize that even if you were at the top of your game and you are charging a gazillion dollars an hour because there's still only 24 hours in a day.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And you have to sleep. Even if you're one of those people that's like a four-hour person. Like, OK, so there's 20 hours in your day to work. There's a cap.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: So I really like to push people to think about what are some options for productizing your business.

Deb Zahn: Ooh, I love it.

Jennifer Yousem: What are options for outsourcing pieces of it to give you more hours back to your point to do only the things that you can do. And then that may have an effect. It's going to have an effect on your margin, right? Because if somebody is paying you to do it and now you have to pay someone else, you can start to factor those things in. And so I like to build calculators for people. It's my favorite thing to do, to give them a tool that they can use to price out.

Deb Zahn: I love it. And it gives them agency in making those decisions rather than defaulting to what they think they should do or other people are doing, or things like that, which gets you locked in a box. If you do that.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes. And interestingly, it's the people that I work with who have been in the business for a very long time that usually have the biggest aha moments because we begin to parse out the clients that you've had since day one. People that you love. The people that got you off the ground. And then we start to parse out, maybe you wholesale or maybe you're white labeling. When you start to look at your sales channels or you start to look at the different ways that you're measuring yourself, whether it's an hourly basis, you're going to come to some conclusions of I'm not charging enough. Or did I luck out here?

Deb Zahn: Those are wonderful, yet rare occurrences.

Jennifer Yousem: True. And to your point, it does give you agency. You can still make those decisions. A lot of the times the consultants will say, "Well, I know my business. I've been doing this for a really long time. I get it." And the worst-case scenario is you now have the financial wherewithal to back your gut up.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: You can lock that away and say, "I did this check once." I've never seen that happen, but maybe there's a unicorn out there.

Deb Zahn: There could be one unicorn. But it's interesting because what I found, and I definitely feel the draw to this myself, although I do pay careful attention. But the draws when times are good, everything's fine. And so you fill the blanks in with the unicorns in the happy pixie dust and good feelings. When times aren't good, you fill them in with your worst fears. So.

Jennifer Yousem: Profits hide bad processes.

Deb Zahn: Ooh, I love it.

Jennifer Yousem: I say this all the time. And so pre-COVID what you saw was a lot of people's businesses coasting along. Unicorns and fairy dust. Then it all seems OK. I'm making my rent. I'm busy. I'm doing the right things. And then COVID happens.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: And you don't have a strong financial understanding of the foundation of your business. And then you're right. You start to fill in the holes with PITA's and low margin clients, and things that you should say no to. And I'm not saying that you can't pay rent with good intentions. So I understand making those decisions, but make them out of intention.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And a place of knowing. Now define PITA because there actually might be folks who don't know what that means.

Jennifer Yousem: Pain in the arse.

Deb Zahn: Oh, OK. I think that's legit. So it'll be beeped, but people will know what she said.

Jennifer Yousem: Yeah.

Deb Zahn: But yeah, I actually, or sometimes the term I use is, they're sometimes chihuahua clients. Which, bless their heart, but they think they're a really big dog and they're a really little dog. And yet they're going to expect to have the contact with you, the frequency of engagement with you as if they were a large project. The problem with those is you might end up doing lovely work that makes your heart sing. And that's a good thing. But you will likely lose money and you will lose opportunity to do other things. Knowing what you truly need and want coming in and out the door helps you make those decisions about, can I handle another PITA? Can I handle another chihuahua? Or really do I need Dobermans from here on out?

Jennifer Yousem: And again, it gets back to this, I love the term agency. It's just coming from a place of intention of how you want to set your business up. There are clients that I meet with once a month for an hour. There's a number of those that I can do. And then there's clients where I am, for all intents and purposes, their full-fledged CFO.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: And they pay a fee that entitles them to text me on my personal phone if, and when they need me. And for me to look, act and feel like I am part of their staff.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: And you have to know beforehand how many of each you can take on. And having a good understanding of what each of those clients brings to the bottom line, what each of those clients brings to you from fulfillment and growth of your business, is super important. But it does all come back to numbers. And the other thing that's very important about it is you can't just think about it once. You have to check in.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Well, I think your example is a great one, which is, how many of what types of clients and engagements can you have? Because you also have to set expectations with them. So if someone is not paying your hopefully fabulous premium price to have that level of access to you where they can actually text you, you then have to make sure that's in the contract. That's part of the discovery process. That's part of every step along the way. So they don't buy something, think that they're getting the premium package, but they actually aren't. And now you're in a difficult, awkward conversation with them. 

Jennifer Yousem: I think setting expectations is probably one of the hardest things to build in.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: You only learn that over time. Mistakes are the greatest teachers of a consultant’s business. And there really is only so much that you can do. At least once a month, I will say, "Oh, backstabber. Oh, where did that come from?"

Deb Zahn: That's new.

Jennifer Yousem: That's new. That's something I'll have to put into my SOWs from now on that I could never have thought of.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or some new version where you're like, "That's a creative version of that. Interesting. OK. Let me think about what I need to do now."

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Absolutely. Now you mentioned COVID, which I do want to tap into. So COVID was a big disruption. But disruptions happen all the time. And what I saw is that a lot of consultants weren't prepared for something big, but even if that disruption had been smaller, weren't prepared for that. Now I personally was fortunate because the whole advice that I've heard since I was probably in diapers was to have six months of income available. And for most of my career, I have not had that. I happen to have it because I deliberately didn't happen to. I planned for it because I made a transition from a firm to being independent.

So I had it. And then I had some fortunate serendipitous things happen that enabled me to be perfectly fine, even if some of my engagements shifted, which they did. But a lot of folks didn't plan for it. And I know that you talk about the three scenarios that consultants should be planning for at all times when they're doing the math, when they're doing the numbers. You want to run through your best-case, base-case, worst-case scenario planning. What should that look like?

Jennifer Yousem: Yeah. I mean, you can be very draconian, which is to say all of the clients that I have right now, what if they all disappeared, and I don't get a client for six months. Depending on what your lead time is. And that can be your base case. I always take a more conservative approach. Obviously, if you have historicals like you know that there's 50% drop off. Or you know that it's a six-month lead time. Maybe you assume 75% drop-off in a nine-month lead time. Just exaggerate those and see what effect it will have on your business.

The reason that I tell people to think about best case scenarios is because a lot of people say, "Well, I don't need to plan for best-case scenarios.” Best-case scenarios happen. Like, awesome. No, be thoughtful about what you would do and also manifest that. Be thoughtful about what you would do in a best-case scenario because it would mean, “Oh, I've always thought that I could scale up if I had somebody doing the X, Y, Z portion of this.” “Or if I had a virtual assistant to handle, or an operations assistant,” whatever that is. Be thinking about that because then you can start to layer in those what ifs and what your business can look like.

Deb Zahn: And develop some stretch goals related to those. Or allow yourself to say, not just what if, but how? How could I get there? And that's your, I think great examples of, well, if I had a virtual assistant and I invested in that, would that let me do X, Y, and Z? And now I'm in my best case zone.

Jennifer Yousem: Right. And the funny thing is, is that what happens then? Because I've had clients say to me, "Oh, well then I'd hire a virtual assistant." And I said, “What does that get you?" "That buys me back 20 hours of my time." I'm like, "Then what are you doing with the 20 hours of your time?" And it's like, "Huh?" I'm like, "Great. You want 20 more hours of your time because you want to spend more time with your family? Say it. You want 20 more hours of your time because you're going to do business development? What are you going to do? That's going to cost money." I like to think about all of those things. But you said something interesting, which is, there is this classic you should have six months of savings. And honestly, it's probably not feasible for a lot of people. It's definitely not feasible, I think for some people that are, let's say were less intentional about going into consulting.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or they're suddenly in a position where consulting is their best bet, and they didn't have time to plan for that.

Jennifer Yousem: Exactly. So I like to tell people that there are ways to be...Because sometimes if you say to somebody, "You should have six months." They're like, "Oh cool. I should also win the lottery." But like, awesome. So I like to give my clients, I'd say more like actionable planning tools.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: Because to your point, people weren't ready. And you can never be ready for losing a client. That's just awful. You lose a client for whatever reason, but there are things you can do to set yourself up for success in a different way. Even if it's just a simple shift of taking a deposit.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: If you take a 50% deposit on someone, or you get paid at the beginning of the month for the month you're going to do, there's less risk associated with the work you're doing. It doesn't change the fact that you lost a client.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: No one had lines of credit line debt because they think they didn't need them. They had cash in the bank. Get a line of credit before you need it.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And just have that rebuild those relationships before you need them. And that's not a...You better have six months in the bank before a global pandemic hits you tomorrow. That's...

Deb Zahn: Which everybody should have done, right?

Jennifer Yousem: Of course.

Deb Zahn: Exactly.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And again, I hadn't had it for a long time. I decided to be intentional. And then I broke it down into smaller goals, including what account am I going to put it in such that I'm not going to touch it.

Jennifer Yousem: You're my shero.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And lots of times I haven't been. Lots of times I've been unintentional. And then, "Hey, wait a minute. That didn't go the way I wanted it to." But losing clients happens. Delays in projects happen. Delays in payment happen. The best-case scenario of everything going fluidly is rarely the scenario. But I like that you can still build your own best-case scenario as long as you have reality-based thinking about how things actually function and operate.

Jennifer Yousem: Yeah. I mean, the reality is if you are net 30, you're getting paid net 60.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: It's just the way it works. So I tell people that all the time. If you are a consultant and you have variability in how and when money is going to come in, you should be net zero, OK? You did the work, get paid.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And if you haven't gotten paid, call and get your money.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: The number of people that I talked to that are like, "Well, I didn't want to bug him." Like, bug him?

Deb Zahn: You did the work.

Jennifer Yousem: Get your money girl. What do you mean bug him?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Well, and it's funny too because it will also help you make decisions about what types of clients to pursue. So for example, government clients, academia, sometimes large companies who know that they have better lawyers than you have, they don't pay quickly. And so if you want to do that work, if that's in your heart of hearts, that's fine. Then plan for it. Plan for, it might take you a year to be paid. Plan for your systems that are constantly going to try and get that money in your pocket. Or you might decide that's not how I want to live. And those aren't the clients I'm going to go after.

Jennifer Yousem: Plan for it, especially this is where I see the mess for people that do scale and people that do have teams working with them. Most people are pretty decent and they want to pay those people.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. 

Jennifer Yousem: Just because you haven't gotten paid doesn't mean that you can't pass the buck, right? You can't say it as someone who works for you, "I'm so sorry. They haven't paid me yet, but as soon as they do, I'll pay you."

Deb Zahn: That's right. Tell your mortgage company that and hopefully that goes well.

Jennifer Yousem: Exactly, exactly. I'll try that. And I'll try the good intentions. And I can tell you neither is going to work for mortgage payments. But yes, there's small tweaks you can make in your business to set yourself up for emergencies, and the like.

Deb Zahn: And I know one of the things you also talk about that enables you to do that is paying attention to the right key performance indicators that will either let you know how you're doing, or also trigger decisions and actions. So what are a couple of the big ones that you think all consultants should be paying attention to?

Jennifer Yousem: So I love that you use the term the right KPIs because there is not a one size fits all for every business. But for a consultant who is just purely consulting, the most important things for you to look at are going to be your accounts receivable and your accounts payable. And looking at them with consistency. Because the reason KPIs work is because they serve as early indicators to your point of things that are amiss.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: But that only works if you're looking at them. So if you don't look at your accounts receivable number, and I like to look at it in buckets. 30, 60, 90. How long are things overdue that were due to me? If you know that in the history of your business, 90% of your receivables are in that 30-day bucket because your clients are awesome, they always pay on time, and you start to see that, "Oh, now it's 80%."

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: That's weird. That client usually doesn't slip into the 60. And you call them and they say, "Betty, the payables lady, wasn't here. Check's in the mail. I'll get it to you." And then you look the following week, and now it's 75. Something's wrong.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: Your numbers are telling you a story. And they're like, "Hey, look at me. I'm not good." So the KPIs that are important are going to be whatever's important to your business. If cashflow is important, which it should be to everybody, accounts receivable is a KPI that you should be looking at.

Deb Zahn: I love that. It's the canary in the coal mine, which you don't look at every six months and see, "Did it die? It was alive six months ago. What's happening?"

Jennifer Yousem: People just generally stay away from their finances, and people's health, but budgets are stupid. They die the second that you do them. Budgets are great if you spend the time to measure your results against them consistently.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: So if you set out to have five giant clients and five mini clients, and you know that that mix is the right mix of taking your time and putting money in your pocket and you've done margin analysis and all that, and you don't look or think about that. And it's the middle of the summer and you're working so hard and you don't have any cash in the bank and you haven't reflected on that. And you realize you have 10 mini clients and no big ones. That's on you.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: But if you look in February and you say, "Oh, you know what? I'm at seven mini clients and three big ones. I'm not going to take on any more mini clients. I'm focusing my business development efforts on big guys. I need two big ones." You can be intentional.

Deb Zahn: That's right. Or I have a few big ones that are going to consume a lot of my time, but I got this little hole here that I need to plug. Let me go get a $20,000 gig. Let me go get a $10,000 gig.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And so I have an Excel spreadsheet, because any good consultant does. And the financial planning tool that I created for myself, which I share with people, has probability scenarios of not just getting revenue in, but when it comes in. But what I don't do is, I don't just replace the numbers. I actually do a new spreadsheet every time. And then I compare the two, "Is this making me happy? Oh, I'm so glad." But I compare the two because I want to know how delusional I was. And usually the answer is a fair amount. You're pretty delusional. But every time I learn, so the next time I plan, it's a little closer to reality.

Jennifer Yousem: And you touched on two really amazing finance core points there. So one is measuring against what you expected.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: That's super important. But something else to think about is, I think consultants get so excited about a signed contract, or a signed SOW, that they're not thinking about when the cash. In nerd finance talking, that's an order to cash cycle. So as consultants, I think we get very caught up in the sales cycle. And then it's a win as soon as they sign it. Well, if it's net 30 for the first 50% and you have to do a deliverable and you're not mapping that out in your head of when that cash is actually going to come in, then it doesn't matter. And then you're taking it a step further, which is to say, OK, I thought that the sales cycle was going to be 60 days. And then my cash collection cycle was going to be another 30 days. But my learning from this was that the sales cycle is actually 90 days. And the cash conversion cycle is another 60. You can build that in next time. Otherwise what you're doing is you're taking that assumption and taking them with you to your next thing.

Deb Zahn: And it gets worse every time. Yeah. It's funny.

Jennifer Yousem: It just gets worse.

Deb Zahn: It's what I've heard consultants say before. And I'm sure I've done this. Where they get a gig, and the contract is signed, and they will say the words, "I have a $100,000." And my answer is, "No, you don't. You have a contract." And that contract maybe, you actually will have $100,000 by this time, if you do these things. Or it could be that because of how you priced it, or because of the weirdness or things that happened with that engagement, you might have $60,000 at this point in time. You have to pay attention to that stuff. So that every time your ability to predict gets never 100% precise because human beings are involved. But it gets more precise every time.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes. It should be an effective feedback loop.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: I see it all the time. I meet with people, like I said, that have been in business a really long time. And they're like, "Well, my margins are 30%. They always have been." "OK, cool. I guess I won't even look at your financials then." And then, like I said, we start to parse it out. And one line of business is 90% and one line of businesses is 10%. And they're like, "Wait, what? What happened?"

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I love that. The analogy I just thought of is, it's like starting a diet and saying I'm 10 pounds lighter. No, you're not because you're four Twinkies away from being 10 pounds heavier.

Jennifer Yousem: I mean, it is a really interesting analogy because there's all this psychology except for people that count calories. They always have an idea in their head, but when they actually go to count the calories, it's almost always like 20% less.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: And so I tell people like, "You don't have to count calories forever."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: But let's do it over a six month period so that you can get in the habit of understanding what you're eating. Or let's get in the habit of understanding what you're delivering, and then it becomes more instinctual. Or you can take it with you on your next one.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And the instinct part, I think, is really critical because I've been doing consulting for so long that if I'm engaging with a client and they're saying, oh, X, Y, and Z. I noticed, say maybe X and Y. But I just listened to your senior leadership. I know that last part isn't happening. And it's not going to happen in the period that we talked about. So then I will not just bake that into my financial planning, but I will bake that into how I develop the proposal and contract related to that. So it's all sort of this nice virtual cycle of paying attention. And then what does that impact? And making sure that you're doing the contracts to minimize the financial delays by asking for things up front because you know that there's going to be big delays with this client. Always paying attention to those details, to just get better every single time.

Jennifer Yousem: And asking for payments. So if you think about a very simple example, which is if you are net 30 and you send your invoice. And 30 days comes and goes, and you don't notice it for another 30 days. So now you're at net 60 and you call up the client and say, "Hey, haven't been paid yet." And they say, "Oh, I never got your invoice."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: That conversation should've happened on day 31.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: You've now delayed it by 30 days. Now you're going to re send them an invoice and confirm that they received it because obviously magically it disappeared. All of a sudden email didn't work that day.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And now they're going to say, "Great. I just put it into my payable system. We'll get that to you in 30 days."

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Jennifer Yousem: And your hands will be tied. So having the discipline and also the audacity to ask for your payment when it's due.

Deb Zahn: To expect to be paid.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And I think the big message I want folks to hear as they're listening to you is, guess what? Consulting is a business. And you can be an expert and fabulous at delivering outcomes in all of those things. And in fact, you should. But you have to be able to deliver the results for your clients. And that's one side of the equation. The other side is you have to be a savvy CEO. You have to attend to the business of consulting if you want to have not just the business you want but the life that you want. And so the financial piece for people who aren't nerds and don't love it the way that you love it, or don't like creating spreadsheets like I do to track it, but you still have to do it. And you have to find the easiest path for you to do it. So you don't find out that six months ago that Canary died and you're in trouble.

Jennifer Yousem: I tell people all the time, "I don't want to take credit cards because they take fees out." And I'm like, "Well, I would rather have 97% of what I'm going to get paid and get paid super quickly, than 0% of whatever." And so automate it. Do whatever you can to make sure that you're delivering the best that you're delivering but you're getting paid for.

Deb Zahn: I love that. I love that. Well, we could talk about this for ages because I love this stuff. But I do want to ask you my last question, which is, so the business side, the finances, all of that. That's part of it. But we also have lives. And so how do you bring more balance to your life, apart from all the fun things you do with math?

Jennifer Yousem: Well, I'm just going to say it. I'm just going to say it out loud, and I'm just going to be proud of it, which is, I love a Lifetime movie.

Deb Zahn: Nice.

Jennifer Yousem: And not a Hallmark one. I don't want a sappy love story. I want like a cheerleader murder.

Deb Zahn: Oh, all right then. I've never heard that answer before, but I suspect if people were really being honest, they would say something along those lines.

Jennifer Yousem: It is. It's a glorious getaway.

Deb Zahn: I'm vampires and werewolves and biblical plagues. If I can get something with a biblical plague in it, plus those other things, I'm golden.

Jennifer Yousem: Oh.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Jennifer Yousem: I feel like that's a new genre.

Deb Zahn: A whole new world for you. Well, and we're neighbors, which is the other funny thing.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: We met through someone that we both work with, Shaunice Hawkins, who's been a guest on the show a couple of times, and is a wonderful…

Jennifer Yousem: One of the greatest humans ever.

Deb Zahn: Exactly, right? And so then we're chatting, and we find out we live like what, 20, 25 minutes away from each other.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes.

Deb Zahn: So I know you also enjoy the Hudson Valley in the same way that I do.

Jennifer Yousem: Yes, very much. And now with the sun out I can actually enjoy it even more, very excited.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. Well, Jennifer, thank you so much. And hopefully people will take this to heart. They will mind their canary.

Jennifer Yousem: Don't let it die.

Deb Zahn: Don't let your canary die. And where can people find you if they want to find out more about what you can do?

Jennifer Yousem: I talk about all kinds of fun finance stuff on my blog at I can spell that it's E-B-I-T-D-A.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. And we will have a link to that in our show notes. So, Jennifer, thank you again so much for joining me.

Jennifer Yousem: Awesome. Thank you for having me. This was great.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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