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

Jan 21, 2020 | Customers & Clients, Operations, Podcast

Tara McMullin is a writer, podcaster, and producer who explores what it takes to navigate the 21st-century economy with your humanity intact. Click here to support this work.

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

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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