EP 260: Tracking Complex Projects With On-Demand CFO Christina Sjahli

The Nitty-Gritty:

  • Why clear client communication helps on-demand CFO & cash flow analyst Christina Sjahli manage her complex financial projects
  • The system she uses to keep track of documents and change history
  • How she uses deadlines for herself and her clients to manage the progress of her projects
  • What Christina learned from her corporate finance experience that’s transferred to her own business—and what she left behind

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Can I really learn project management as an entrepreneur?

A few of years ago, it became trendy to explain away the operational problems in our businesses by saying something like, “Dammit, Jim! I’m an entrepreneur, not a manager.”

This trend was fueled by a book called Rocket Fuel, by Gino Wickman. In Rocket Fuel, Wickman argues that entrepreneurs are Visionaries.

He writes, “Entrepreneurs hunt. They don’t manage. They explore rather than analyze. They build companies with vision, creativity, and tenacity; not with policies and procedures.”

He continues by suggesting that every Visionary needs someone to be their Integrator. The Integrator’s role is to manage between the entrepreneur’s vision-driven ideas and the people on the ground actually making those things happen.

I bought it. Hook, line, and sinker.

The ideas in Rocket Fuel felt right to me.

After all, the idea of creating, managing, and—dear god—following procedures made me feel all sweaty and claustrophobic.

Finally, someone was telling me what I suspected all along: I just wasn’t good at managing. I wasn’t built for precision execution. I would always suffocated by routine, analysis, and consistency.

Lots and lots of other small business owners I know bought this argument too. Soon we saw job descriptions for Integrators everywhere. We saw virtual assistants and online business managers start advertising themselves as Integrators.

The language might be new to you—but I have a feeling that this distinction between the idea-creators and the idea-managers feels familiar.

Here’s what I’ve realized since I myself caught the Rocket Fuel fever:

While it’s true that some of us are gifted with natural aptitude toward one side of this spectrum between vision and management, that doesn’t get us off the hook for taking the time and care that’s necessary to manage projects well.

Just because I’m an idea machine doesn’t mean I can’t also be a procedure machine.

Just because I’m creative doesn’t mean I don’t have to follow systems.

Just because I’m fueled by vision doesn’t mean I get a pass on thinking through the process behind my vision’s execution.

Plenty of people will say that you’ve got to stay in your Zone Of Genius to be successful. At the risk of mixing metaphors, I say cross training is important.

I’m not either/or, I’m both/and.

And the more I’ve stepped into everything I can bring to the table, held my own feet to the fire, and chosen to take a bigger role on the systems and execution in my own business, the better the business has worked.

Coincidence? I think not.

I wanted to share this today because, as we continue our series on project management, I think it’s important to address the voice in your head that might be saying, “Oh man, I really wish someone could just do this all for me.”

I know that voice. I listened to that voice for a long time.

I wanted to believe that someone—anyone—was the solution to my problem. Heck, I pay people to be the solution to this problem! And they are wonderful, capable, and a huge asset to the work we do at What Works.

But what I realized is that I am the solution to my own problem. I can do this. I can decide to document and follow through. I can choose precision and care. And every time I do, the work gets better and better—and I feel immense relief.

This week, we’re turning our attention to the complex job of tracking financial reports and projections.

And continuing our theme, we’re not looking at the money side of things—we’re looking at the project management side of things.

I wanted to know how people who work with lots of data and reports manage the process, communicate with their clients, and organize all the work to be done.

So I asked Christina Sjahli, an on-demand CFO and cash flow analyst, to share her process. Christina started her career in corporate finance and now brings that experience to established entrepreneurs in the process of scaling to $1 million in annual revenue.

In this conversation, Christina shares how she manages the financial reports that help her do her job, how she tracks changes in those reports so the history of the project is never lost, how and why she uses Trello boards to interact with her clients, and why being deadline-oriented helps her manage her own work.

Now, let’s find out what works for Christina Sjahli!

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EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

EP 299: How To Design Your Own Sales System

This week, I’ve got 4 more stories to share with you from small business owners who have intentionally done things their own way when it comes to sales and selling. They’ve found what truly works for them–even if it bucks the prevailing wisdom or would make a bro marketing expert role his or her eyes.

These stories come from business coach Ashley Gartland, marketing expert Amy Lippmann, designer Mel Richards, and work reinvention coach Lydia Lee.

Listen for how they incorporated these same considerations into finding their own unique sales systems. They designed their systems with personal values, strong relationships, reduced anxiety, and agency in mind.

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

EP 298: Creating A Less Harmful Sales System with Wanderwell Founder Kate Strathmann

This show is called What Works for a reason.

Sometimes it’s a declaration: this is what worked for this small business. And often, it’s a question, “What works?”

Today’s episode is very much a question, many questions, really:

What works when it comes to selling when you want to avoid manipulative or exploitative practices?

What works when your values conflict with many of the best practices of selling online but you still want people to buy your stuff?

What works when it comes to sales in a business that is actively anti-racist and anti-capitalist?

And even more bluntly: Can you even sell things without causing harm or perpetuating harmful systems?

My friend Kate Strathmann is the founder of Wanderwell, a bookkeeping and consulting firm that grows thriving businesses while investigating new models for being in business.

Recently, Kate took a bit of a detour from how she’s used to building her business, which is 90% referral based and fueled by deep relationship- and community-building. She decided to offer a small group program called the Equitable Business Incubator as a way of exploring anti-capitalist business practices and how they apply to the small businesses we’re building.

To fill the program, Kate need to sell differently.

Which led her to asking the question: Can you even sell things as a anti-capitalist?

While that might not be your specific question, I have a feeling that you too have wondering how you can effectively sell your offers without causing harm, perpetuating harmful systems, or damaging relationships. And that’s why I knew Kate and I needed to explore this topic on the show.

This is a conversation about what a kinder, less harmful sales process could look like—and it probably contains more questions than answers. But I’m confident those questions can help you find the answers that are right for you and the sales system that you want to build to make your business stronger.

We start out by defining what we’re really talking about when we talk about capitalism and anti-capitalism. Then, Kate shares how the Equitable Business Incubator came to be and how she ended up selling it. And then we dig into what makes many of the sales formulas and best practices being taught today problematic—and how to think differently to create your own alternative practices.

Now, let’s take a look at what works for creating less harmful sales systems!

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

EP 297: Selling A New Program With Proof To Product Founder Katie Hunt

Today’s guest is Katie Hunt—who is a member of the former group and serves the latter group.

Katie is the founder of Proof To Product, which helps creative entrepreneurs run and grow thriving product-based businesses. She works with designers, illustrators, and artists to help them develop in-demand product lines and get them sold in stores all over the world.

Not long after the pandemic threw her business and the industry she serves for a major loop, Katie and her team launched Proof To Product Labs to provide a completely digital, ongoing support opportunity for business owners when they needed it most.

And that launch was a smash.

Katie and I get into all of the nuts and bolts of how she adjusted the offer to meet the moment and how she warmed up her audience before the campaign, as well as the exact mix of emails, podcast ads, and social media content she used to sell the offer when it went live. We also talk about how she sees the sales system evolving in the future and how the offer has been received now that people are using it!

What Works offers in-depth, well-researched content that strips away the hype of the 21st-century economy. Whether you love the podcast, the articles, or the Instagram content, we’d love your support