The profit first formula flips the script on how business owners typically think about accounting: putting profit first and encouraging them to deduct profit from each sale, using the remaining amount for expenses. In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, host Marc Bautis is joined by Aimee Laliberte, owner of My Virtual CFO and a mindset expert. 25 years ago, Laiberte went from a bankrupt young adult into a hardworking mother and highly profitable advisor for more than 75 six to seven-figure business owners. Join them for a discussion about profit first, which Laliberte is certified in.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Benefits of the profit first system.
- How to implement the profit first system.
- What other systems to have in place for financial success.
- How to determine if you should hire a bookkeeper or virtual CFO.
- How to challenge limiting beliefs.
- And more!
myvirtualcfo.co | Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine | Bautis Financial: 7 N Mountain Ave Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to the Agent of Wealth Podcast. This is your host, Marc Bautis. On today’s show, I brought on a special guest: Aimee Laliberte. Aimee’s the owner of My Virtual CFO. She’s a mindset expert who believes everyone’s path to success is rooted in their subconscious. 25 years ago, Aimee transferred from being a bankrupt young adult, into a hardworking mother and a highly profitable advisor for more than 75 six to seven figure business owners. Aimee, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me.
Great. I’m looking forward to today’s topic. We work with a lot of business owners and a lot of them listen to the show. Everyone’s on a different trajectory with their business — some are just starting out, some have been in it for a while, some are thinking about starting a business — but everyone’s figuring out how to be as efficient and optimal with their finances as possible.
So where does someone start? I know it depends on where they are with their business, but how important is it for a business to get their finances in order?
It’s imperative. It’s so important because if you’re not in relationship with the finances, you’re missing a key ingredient to scaling in a sustainable, thoughtful way. That means understanding the cash position and how you are spending your money — which, in essence, is your energy — and whether or not the choices that you’re making are getting you towards your ultimate goal. If you don’t have clarity around that, it’s like trying to get to a destination without a map. So, what if we have the map? What if we have the financial system in place, so that you’re able to make thoughtful, intentional decisions to get where you want to go?
The Importance of Systems
Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I’m an enormous proponent of systems — whether that’s in finance or elsewhere in life. What are some of the systems that business owners should have in place when it comes to finances?
One of the things that I like to do before we talk about systems is really raise awareness and understanding of why the system is important. What I suggest business owners do is intentionally say, “I’m going to create the system that will grow with me,” and “I am in this business for the long-term.” Then you can start making decisions — not from who you are today, but who you will become in the future.
Something as simple as consciously deciding to separate your personal bank account from your business bank account is a good place to start. And then, in terms of collecting payments, the bookkeeping system is everything. There’s a lot of accounting softwares out there, like Xero and QuickBooks.
Once you have the bookkeeping system in place, we can start implementing a strategy like profit first. Or, let’s say that a business owner wants to implement a marketing strategy, but they’re not sure how to leverage it… Or if a business owner wants to determine the ROI on a marketing strategy that has been implemented… We’d look to the bookkeeping system for that information. It is the foundation.
How to Determine If You Should Hire A Bookkeeper
How do you preach that message to someone just starting a business? I’m sure you see this a lot: Business owners who get into it because they’re really good at something — whether it’s a skill, a trade or something else — and they think the finances will take care of themselves. I definitely see this a lot. Soon enough, it spirals out of control if they don’t set up systems. How do you get someone to start putting in that book?
When a business is just starting out, chances are there is more “free time” to create the bookkeeping system. Yes, sales are coming in, but there’s more time to allocate elsewhere, right? Now, if you find that you’re hitting the ground running because you’re a very in-demand person, what you need to do is bring somebody in to help. Even if it’s not a long-term commitment. You need to set the foundation — or have someone else do it and teach you how to execute and maintain it.
So check in and ask yourself, where do you fall? That would be step one. If you find yourself avoiding the numbers because of mindset issues, creating that awareness — recognizing why you’re avoiding it — is going to be helpful. Then bring somebody on who can help.
Yeah, like you mentioned, it could be someone that sets up the books and teaches you how to maintain them, or it could be someone to manage them monthly, quarterly or at certain periods of time. What’s the value of doing that? And what type of engagement is typical?
Aimee Laliberte’s Sustainable Scaling Exercise
I think it boils down to this exercise that I invite my clients to do, called Sustainable Scaling. If you are someone who is looking to scale I encourage you to do this at any point.
Write down your answers to the following questions on paper:
- What are the things that are working for you?
- What are your general thoughts on money?
- What are your thoughts on your business financials?
- What are your thoughts on scaling the business?
After writing down your responses, you really start to see what your brain thinks. We always have all of these thoughts firing in our mind, but once we slow down and look at our internalized beliefs we can determine what changes should be made to reach our goals.
So often, business owners believe that they need to make a specific amount of money to support a specific area of the business. I’m here to tell you that’s just not true. It’s really about creating a recipe that is customized for you and what you need.
You know yourself the best, right? So if you know that you’re going to avoid your finances, then you need accountability. That will help you elevate.
In terms of when you need a CFO, it’s really based on the individual and the business. What I have generally found is based on profits:
From $0 – $100,000: Having a bookkeeping system setup is necessary. If you don’t want to set it up on your own, hire someone to do it for you and teach you how to maintain it.
From $100,000 – $499,000: Six figures is a financial mile marker that usually leads to scaling through hiring. This can be a good time to hire a CFO if financials is not where the business owner wants to allocate their time.
$500,000+: At this point, it’s usually necessary for the bookkeeping to be outsourced.
Now, the needle starts to turn back at the five million marker, where it makes sense for companies to bring bookkeeping back in house.
Some of my clients have worked with me for so long, so I’ve been scaling with them the whole time. I’ve helped clients ascend into a seven figure business. When I know their business, I can help them with it. Once they get to the point where they want to build a formal finance department, that’s when there’s a pivot.
Working with someone who understands the life cycle of a business and can meet you where you are, and get you to where you want to be, is the key.
The Profit First System
You mentioned profit first earlier. Can you give our listeners a background on what profit first is, and what’s involved in executing or implementing it?
Profit First is a system that was introduced to me through a book written by Mike Michalowicz — Profit First: Transform Your Business from a Cash-Eating Monster to a Money-Making Machine. It is essentially a cash flow management system that sits on top of your accounting software, and in the system a business owner takes a percentage of each sale as profit. The word I want everyone to take from the profit first system is “constraint.”
The implementation is simple: You create five bank accounts, one of which is specifically designated to hold all of your income (the income account). Then, using a basic implementation twice a month, the money that comes into the income account is sent through the four remaining accounts, which are: profit, operating expense, owners pay, and tax. And what you’re doing is allocating money based on percentages to maximize profit.
The profit first formula flips the script on how business owners typically think about accounting and budgets. Traditionally, business owners deduct expenses from sales and consider the remaining amount profit.
Traditional Profit Formula:
Sales – Expenses = Profit
The profit first formula puts profit first and encourages you to deduct profit from each sale and use the remaining amount for expenses.
The Profit First formula:
Sales – Profit = Expenses
From the start, you’re accounting for profit, taxes and pay. What’s leftover is the budget your company has to spend on things like rent, salaries, material costs, utilities, etc.
Benefits of the Profit First System
Because this system takes out profit first, we are guaranteeing ourselves profitability in our business. So many businesses get so caught up with spending that they end up having to scale themselves in revenue, in order to pace themselves with the amount of money on the expense side. As owners, they don’t pay themselves nearly as much as necessary, considering the energy that they’re putting in. They have to keep feeding this cash monster in order to keep the business running.
When we have constraint and intentionality, we’re able to allocate the income — we’re giving it very specific jobs.
You’re not worried about taxes, because you have that money set aside in a tax account.
You’ll always have a paycheck, because you put that money aside for that purpose.
You’re always going to be profitable, because you’ve taken your profit first.
Then, whatever is leftover of your operating expense, that is the money that you use to create your business and to grow your business.
It is a very simple concept, but sticking to it is hard because there’s temptation. When you work with someone like myself, who’s a profit first certified professional, we guide you through any temptations. We help keep you on the path of maximum profitability. We help you pay down your debt. We help you make sure that the personal goals that you have set, which is most likely the reason you got into this business to begin with, are honored.
That makes sense. I could see how a new business adopting the profit first system would be fairly straightforward. But what about established businesses? How do you convert the business into the profit first system?
All of the businesses that I’ve helped implement profit first were established. Most of them had debt, and most of their expenses were disproportionately high for the level of revenue they were generating.
I start by doing an analysis and creating a plan — which, at most, could take two years to complete. I am not in a rush to optimize profitability, I look at it as a long-term plan because I want the system to stay with you forever. I want to change your habits.
So let’s say I have a client whose recommended operating expense percentage is 50% of their real revenue. Let’s say they’re at 75% at the start, I’m not going to take them from 75 to 50% just like that. I’m not going to say, “Cut 25% of your expenses in the next 90 days.” That could hemorrhage the integrity of the business. What I would do is start with little things and, for example, do a reduction of 1-2% in the first quarter.
Is there a target percentage that someone should aim for, profit-wise? Is it based on industry? How does a business owner determine it?
It’s not necessarily related to industry. It’s driven by what your real revenue number is, and then we have recommended maximum profit percentages for those real revenues.
All businesses are going to have variable revenue, right? That’s the nature of business. What if the revenue varies a lot? Are they able to implement the profit first system, or would they better be off using something else?
All the questions that you’re asking are the reasons why you want to make sure that you’re working with someone who’s certified in profit first. Because if you have a business that has seasonality, we layer on a more advanced method of profit first.
If a business model has that seasonality component to it, we create a vault account. That account will hold money aside to offset revenue during less profitable seasons. We do have to have an understanding of how much money is necessary for that account, which a profit first certified professional can help you determine.
How to Identify Spending Leaks
You mentioned helping a business reduce expenses, but not going from 75% to 50% in a quarter. How can a business owner identify leaks that they may have in their business, in terms of expenses or spending?
If a business has a bookkeeping system in place, you can run financial reports and see where money is being allocated. You can examine those numbers and ask, “Are there things that we no longer need?” Those are easy wins.
A number of the companies that I worked with, regardless of their industry, had been subscribed to software tools they never used. Unsubscribing and removing those expenses are quick wins that can really help them take ownership and invest into the process.
But other businesses might have the wrong employee. You can identify this really easily when employees are in a revenue generated position — if they aren’t producing at the rate of it, it becomes obvious due to the profit first system.
That’s where you start to get into the nitty gritty of bookkeeping, in order to identify where the leaks are. Then you start problem solving to repair those leaks, if you will, so that everything is solid.
Yeah, that makes sense. You started explaining profit first by saying it sounds simple. Obviously, getting your books in order can be challenging, even if you are working with a coach. What do you see as some of the hold-ups or reasons why people wouldn’t be successful using the profit first system?
I think it comes down to mindset, limiting beliefs and self-sabotage. You can have everything laid out for you — the numbers, the results — and not want to take action. If you are in that boat, ask yourself why? Why are you struggling? I think it comes down to people’s limiting beliefs, which they have to challenge.
Yeah, it goes to show how much mindset plays into things. So, we’re just about out of time. Aimee, thank you for being on the show. You gave a lot of great information and tips on how business owners can get their finances in order. How can someone reach out to you if they want to find more information?
You can visit my website at myvirtualcfo.co. There, you can learn more about any offerings and classes, which you’re welcome to join.
Awesome, thank you. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.