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How to Build a Healthy and Sustainable Business

Transcript 

Brigitte (host):  

Before we dive into the world of brands, I'm excited to tell you about my signature online personal branding course On Your Brilliance. This course is for you if you see yourself as a dreamer with no shortage of ambition, and you're tired of realizing someone else's ideas and visions. You're on the fence of building your own business that allows you to feel empowered, enjoy the freedom to build wealth, embrace a more balanced life ultimately, claim your power in shine as a courageous, authentic personal brand. But you are hesitant, something is holding you back, then this course is exactly what you need. I developed it specifically for you. In this four-week course, you will go from feeling unhappy in your corporate job to being confident and crystal clear in your path to becoming your own boss, thereby unleashing your authentically shining personal brand your customers will love you for. Check the show notes for the link to learn more and join the waitlist to be the first one notified when my course On Your Brilliance is available. I cannot wait to personally get to know you. Let's dive into the world of brands.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Ready for brands stories? Get inspired and learn from thought leaders, CEOs, business owners, and managers who tell their brand stories who share their valuable insights from their own experiences. Welcome to BrandsTalk! I'm your host Brigitte. For all Brand Lovers - this show is to help you develop and grow your brand in a more strategic and sustainable way. Walk the talk. Let's get started and dive with me into the world of brands.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Nowadays, many business owners struggle to understand their finances and not knowing how to use that information to plan for their business. Here my guest comes in who is a financial puzzle solver. I'm excited to have Kathy Svetina on my show today. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

Kathy is the founder of NewCastle Finance company offering fractional CFO services to women-owned businesses. Let me tell you a little bit about Kathy. For nearly 14 years, she did senior-level financial planning and analysis for Fortune 500 companies. She saw firsthand how big companies use financial information to drive those companies forward. She also didn't think it's fair how large companies have huge teams of experts taking care of their finances, but small business owners are accepted to do it on their own. She started a new cost of finance because she wanted to offer those same powerful financial insights to small businesses. Now, she helps women business owners as a financial puzzle solver to get clear on their numbers and their financial strategies so they feel confident. They are making good decisions that will result in a thriving business. Her business and financial mantra is healthy and sustainable. Aside from being a financial puzzle solver, she is a self-proclaimed Renaissance woman, a European living in Chicago, cat lover, audible addict, and no surprise here owns a giant collection of puzzles. I welcome, Kathy Svetina! Welcome to BrandsTalk!

 

Kathy (guest):  

Hey Brigette, thanks so much for this introduction. This was lovely. I'm really happy to be here.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Hi Kathy. I'm thrilled having you here today. Before we dive deep into what you are doing financial wise, I Kathy Could you tell us a little bit about your background, about your personal journey that brought you right here where you are now and you say you are a European living in Chicago. How come?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, It's funny how it happened because I never expected that I'm going to be living in the US for so long as I have been living it's almost been 20 years. It's funny how time passes? Yeah, but I originally come from a small country called Slovenia. It only has about 2 million people and when I came to the US, I came with intention to study here, and I wanted to study finance because us is such a great place to do this. And the intention was always to study, get a job, get some experience and move back to Europe. I still like going to Europe, I have a lot of family still there. But life happens, I got a job and another job, a new job and got married, and before you know it's 20 years has passed that I'm still here. So yes.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Wow, what happened afterward?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah. I was in corporate finance, like I said, in the introduction for 14 years, and I really saw how large companies use that financial information to actually drive the businesses forward. It is a very strategic move on their part because accounting is great as a foundation, and it takes care of the past. But you really need people that take care of the future. And big companies are really big on that taking care of the future and making sure that they have strategic plans in place. But when you come to the small business arena, in small businesses, they do not, they don't have the expertise of how to actually do that. And they're not really aware of the benefits that it provides for them. I really wanted to provide that insight that they can get from the finances, and I focus on small businesses, growing businesses, they're women-owned businesses. And that's because of my passion of trying to have more women be the CEOs of their own companies. And to get there, you really need to understand the numbers, and really plan for the plan, plan, plan. That's so important.

 

Brigitte (host):  

You had a career as a corporate, right? And then you left that kind of safety net you were in. In 2019, and you became your own boss with NewCastle Finance. You were shifting from entrepreneurship into starting your own business. What made you leave that safety net? What made you want to become your own boss? What is your vision?

 

Kathy (guest):  

I never thought that I'm going to have my own business, and I'm going to be my own boss. Originally, I thought I'm just going to be climbing the corporate ladder and go into higher levels of finance in the corporate world. But I do come from a family of entrepreneurs, and I think it was always a little bit in my blood, whether I knew about it or not. As I was leaving my last corporate job, and I kind of looked around and said, "Well, what am I going to do now? What should I do?" And the ideas park that now it's the time it's either now or never. And I've been doing this for two years. And it's has been if you ever wanted to have curvier and personal development on steroids, it's that's what business owning a business is. 

 

Kathy (guest):

It really exposes a lot of things about yourself as a person about yourself as an as a business person. And it has been such a really gratifying journey. And I've gained so many insights about not just about myself, but also about the business as well, the marketing world, the sales world, coming from a financial background, I really didn't have that type of experience before. I work with people in marketing and sales, but not in a capacity that I'm doing it right now. It has made me a much better finance person as well because I'm able to relate and put the dots together. Put those puzzles together better for the businesses that I help.

 

Brigitte (host):   

If you would say "Okay, that is my big why, what inspires you, what inspires you that inspires others?"

 

Kathy (guest):  

My big why is really helping women - women business owners. I want women to have a seat at the table. And to have a seat at the table you have to be in certain circles and you've been you really have to be the CEO of your own company. But as I said, to get there, you have to know the numbers and that is what's driving me. I want more women to be in leadership positions and help them get there. That is my why and that's what drives my company. Everything that I do to help women get there.

 

Brigitte (host):  

You say you need to have the number what is it exactly that you offer to women?

 

Kathy (guest):  

When they come to me, they have a lot of issues at that point. The company has really, really grown and has grown exponentially. The businesses that I work with are, as I said, women-owned businesses between a million and $10 million. And there's something that happens in that particular threshold over 1 million-2 million, and it's the business gets a lot more complex. As before, they just had a bookkeeper, they had an accountant, the accountant might have, give them the reports, and there's money in the bank, and everything's great, right? 

 

Kathy (guest):

But the problem is, when you start growing, the business becomes more chaotic. Because everything that you do in business eventually ends up in your numbers, in your financials. The financials become complex, they don't really understand how the pieces come together. The profitability is off, they look at it, they didn't really understand what it means. That's what where it sparks this, "What should I do? Who do I contact? Who can I help who can help me." Especially as they're trying to grow, and they need, let's say, they need a bank loan, a lot of them come to me because they need a bank loan, and they need to have financial projections because the bank is just not going to give you money. They want to see, what are your plans for the business? They want to see these financial models and accountants and bookkeepers don't do that stuff. 

 

Kathy (guest):

You really need someone who's in finance, who knows how to do this, who knows how to do financial projections. That's when they come to me and they say, "You know, I really need help with that." And usually, the way that comes through me is through their accountants or the bookkeepers, because they understand that certain pain that they have is not what they do and they refer them to me as a fractional CFO.

 

Brigitte (host):  

What are their really major pain points they have? If you say there are three pain points, that is it that the bookkeepers are telling them, "Hey, listen, you have to get help." 

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah. The management decisions, for example, am I ready to hire more people? When should I hire? How should I compensate them? That's a big one. Especially if you're going to be offering bonuses, how much you should be offering to them. If you have salespeople, how do you put them on the right sales compensation, that it's fair to them, and to you as a business? How do you structure, that one? 

 

Kathy (guest):

The other one is things are not happening in the business that you would like to see. For example, you have all the sales, but the cash is not there. There's something going on with the cash, and usually, it's the contracts are not set up right or people are paying late. We have to figure out how to manage that. That's another pain point. 

 

Kathy (guest):

The third one is just growth. There's a lot of growth, and when you're growing, things become chaotic, and it's not sustainable anymore. And a lot of times, and that's why I said healthy and sustainable in everything that I talk about is because the businesses that have come to me, they say to themselves, "What I'm doing right now, it's not sustainable. I need to be able to plan and I cannot just look for the next three months where I have cash in the bank. I have all these goals for my business. I want to take it from let's say 2 million to 10 million in the next couple of years. How do I do that? What is my goal plan? What is my roadmap? I don't know how to do that myself." And that's when they come to me and they say, "How do I do that?", and that's when I help them. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

How does such a consulting look like? How do you support them? How do you guide them?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, a lot of it is looking at where they are right now at a point A and where they want to be and then figuring out the roadmap where how do we get there. The way when I start engagements with every client. When they come to me, we do this thing called a financial health check. Essentially, I look at the business from five different perspectives. I look at it from the foundational perspective - what type of accounting they have, how are they do they have a month-end close, which is making sure that the books are regularly updated. Because I always say if you do not have that foundational piece of accounting, actually have a professional accountant and bookkeeper. It's garbage in, garbage out. You cannot make good decisions in bad data. It just doesn't happen. Having that in place is step one. Usually, by the time they come to me, they already have that. We have to make a couple of tweaks, but they are there. 

 

Kathy (guest):

And then the other piece is what type of reporting are you getting in the financial analysis - the analysis that's coming from that? What are you doing with that data? How do you understand it or using it? A lot of them don't use it and don't use it well. If they use it a little bit, they just look at their P&L statement, the profit and loss statements, and that's it. But there's so much wealth of information that your business is constantly giving you, and that's what I look at. I put the reports together for them that they can get it. 

 

Kathy (guest):

Then the third piece is the processes and systems that they have in place. That's another thing that I look at. Are they using the right type of software that's going to produce that data? Are they using the right CRM systems? Are they using the right things for their business, that it's helping them they're being more efficient because as you're more efficient in the business, you're going to need less headcount, you're going to be able to spend time on actually doing the client work or customer work, you don't have this waste? Waste is a huge problem, especially with growing businesses.

 

Kathy (guest):

And then the fourth piece is the financial strategy. Of course, where do you want to be in a couple of years from now, and how do we get there? Making sure that you have budgets in place, making sure that you have strategic plans in place, that you have forecasts in place, that we actually looking at your business, not just what happened, but what needs to happen. And constantly calibrating with everything that's going on, what do we need to do so that you're not being reactive to the business, you're actually being proactive to the business. 

 

Kathy (guest):

And then the fifth piece that I look at is their internal controls. And basically, essentially, what this means is safeguarding the business and unfortunately, with smaller businesses, there really lack this piece, because making sure that you are protecting your cash, you're protecting your inventory, in case of something happens, and so that your employees are not stealing from you, essentially, that's what it means. You're putting all those protections in place, that as your business grows, you are well-positioned to grow into a multi-million dollar company if you so choose. And you have that foundation, you covered with all these five pieces.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Do you have any numbers of how many companies are out there that are women-owned, and are in that situation right now?

 

Kathy (guest):  

I don't have a specific number. But I know there's a lot of them because I do talk to them. The pieces are either they're missing or they're there, but they're not completely utilized as they should be.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Okay, I'm so glad you're out there to help all these women. This is great. I mean, we need you. I'm sure there's a lot of companies out there that are really in need of your help. A branding question for you, why did you come up with the name NewCastle Finance? Is there a story behind this naming?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Oh, I wish there was, I guess it is a funny story. I'm a huge fan of castles coming from Europe, and I always liked exploring castles and I wanted to have a company that has something to do with castles, and of course you cannot call it old castle, that would be bad branding. ... I specifically remember the day when I named the company I said, "I want to have castle and finance in the name." And I think it was one of those like Google name generators or whatever it was. And the first thing spit out it was a NewCastle Finance and it just "Oh, it clicked for me. I love that.", and it just it was NewCastle finance since then on.

 

Brigitte (host):  

A castle and puzzle lover. I love that. All right, so amazing. Yeah. Kathy, in addition to your company, you also recently started your own podcast. It's called "Help! My Business is Growing". Sounds like a shout-out for help. I suppose there is actionable advice that you give on growing businesses as well. Who is this podcast for? Who are your guests? Why did you come up with this podcast in the first place?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, I'm a huge fan of podcasts from multiple perspectives because they're so easy to consume. You can be walking, and listening. I actually enjoy listening to podcasts as I'm doing the puzzles as well, and I enjoy guesting on them too. And so what I wanted to provide is a place for growing businesses where they can get actionable advice, and I'm very big on actionable, actionable advice that you can actually take on and implement and figure out what you can do it. The reason why the podcast is called Help! My Business is Growing because as I'm talking to these growing businesses, there are so many moving pieces, and like I said, a lot of times it feels chaotic and you don't really know where to get that type of expertise and what's really happening. The point of this podcast is to feature guests that have expertise in areas that help those growing businesses. It could be leadership expertise, marketing expertise, branding expertise. A lot of it is also in processes and systems in financial. Financial a lot of it I do myself, but I also have other guests on there that support these growing businesses from the financial perspective, such as accountants, tax advisers. 

Kathy (guest):

And the other piece, too, is how do you take care of yourself as a founder, and as a business owner, as the storms raging around you, and you're like red and middle of the center. How do you take care of yourself from terms of time management from terms of actually being able to take a break every now and then, because a lot of the business owners that I've worked with, it's 24/7, and it's constantly, it's nonstop, and it really takes a toll on your mental health as well? I also make sure that I invite people on the podcast that are able to support that particular piece of your business as well because if you do not take care of yourself and your health as a business owner, it will really, really affect your business as well. The goal of this podcast is to support this holistic view of the growing company, and the founder itself.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Cool, I really like that. I will become a follower of you definitely. So with what you're doing, Kathy, you are a very successful businesswoman, you are host of a podcast, you're doing a lot of different things, you have become a thought leader in your sphere, and influencer in your sphere, in your industry. And also with that, you have become a personal brand with a certain authority attached to it. Now, in your opinion, what makes a strong brand and authentic strong brand?

 

Kathy (guest):  

I do think a lot about what actually makes a brand, a brand, and what's really good brand. I've given this a lot of thought and for me, it's consistency. A lot of it is you talk to talk and you walk the walk, or as they say. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

Yeah.

 

Kathy (guest):

And especially for me is my one of my values is that I want to treat other people the way how I want to be treated, and in a lot of it is like with social responsibility, environmental responsibility. Weaving that into the brand and making sure that you're consistent that you're not just jumping on the bandwagon, because it's popular, but because you truly believe that. And I've seen some brands, especially in the last couple of years, where what they put out the messaging that they put out is completely inconsistent with the way how they operate in the actual company. And I have actually I've worked in companies like that where whatever you see on their web page, how they treat people, or how they view the world is completely different when you actually go in the organization. An authentic brand is one that it's consistent, you post putting out consistent messaging, and you're actually consistent within your company as well, how you treat your employees, how you treat your vendors, how you treat your customers and clients. That to me is an authentic brand.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Why do you think is that so important for leaders to be cognizant of? Why do you think is that important for them to know?

 

Kathy (guest):  

As you're leading people, and especially as your people can feel it when something doesn't feel quite right. Especially as you're trying, if you're a smaller company, and you're trying to recruit people, you're trying to hire the right people, whatever you put out in social media or in your web page, there's a certain expectation that people are going to have how it is to work for you, or how it is even for clients or for a customer when they come to you. They have a certain expectation based on what you put out there, and when they finally get through the door, whether they're a client, a customer or an employee even, if you treat them differently. As a leader, it's going to make an impact. It's you will see it in your business. Your employees might actually leave you because they will just see that, you know, it just there's this incongruency that doesn't make sense. And the same thing with clients and the customers as well, because there's an expectation that you put out there that you're not able to deliver on, and that takes a toll on your brand, and especially on your financials as well. You constantly have to worry about the turnover, you constantly have to worry about where am I going to make the next client and a customer? Having that consistency and a good brand, I see it as a huge, important piece as you're building a business or as you're running a business as well.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Absolutely. I totally agree with that. Great! Kathy, are you willing to share any experience that you had in growing your business that was a major learning for you? You think back and you would say, "Oh, that was really a setback, but at the same time, it was so important", and that shaped you as a person and has been shaping you since then going forward?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, that's a great question. I think for me, it was because I've been in corporate finance, and I lived and breathed finance for so long, and you just forget about other pieces of the business. When I started on my own, I did not realize how much branding and marketing is that important to the business, especially to a business that is unknown. You have to make your little island on the market so that people know you. That was a big piece of me that I did not understand and fully comprehend how important that is, and how important it is to be visible. 

 

Kathy (guest):

A lot of times, I'm an introvert, being visible was a little, was not just a little bit, it was a lot uncomfortable for me, and I had to get over that. And that was podcasting definitely helped with with a lot of this and hiring people that we’re able to help me with it whether there were marketing people, they were speech coaches, public speaking coaches, business coaches, really getting that support and knowing that I'm not alone in what I'm doing. There's no other people out there that can help you, you do not have to be an expert in anything. I know a lot of business owners when the first start, it's like, "Oh, I have to figure this out on my own." But understanding that you're going to get there faster if you go and hire people who live and breathe that particular topic that you're struggling with, it's going to get you to the goal faster than you want to be.

 

Brigitte (host):   

Alright. Do you have any key financial takeaways for women who are scaling their businesses who need help? Is there anything that you say these three steps they need to do or there is this three-step advice or the three key points that you want to give them because they're so critical?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, the critical piece that I would say, make sure that you hire a bookkeeper and an accountant. That's the number one thing.  Because as I said, if you do not have someone who's been educated, and it's trained in how to actually put whatever is happening in your business into the financial term because it is a different language, you can think of it as a different language. You want to have someone in your business who speaks that language and speaks it well. Hire a bookkeeper and an accountant. Those are the foundation as soon as possible. As soon as possible. 

 

Kathy (guest):

Then start planning. Definitely put a plan together. There are a lot of tools out there. These are going to help you figure out how what the numbers mean, how do you put the KPIs together, how to do some basic planning, it really depends on where your businesses but there are two tools that I usually recommend for businesses that are trying to do this on their own, and if you want to do this on their own. There's two - one is called Fathom, and they integrate it with QuickBooks and Xero. The other one is called Spotlight Reporting. They give you financial insights and they’re also able to do some basic planning for you. Have that integrated with your accounting system that's very important.

 

Kathy (guest):

And the third one is to put a budget together and put a strategic plan together. The way how I like to explain that to my clients and to people that I talked to, you should be doing the budgeting every fall. In the fall, think of it as you're preparing. So as the nature's preparing, as the squirrels are preparing for the nurturer so - 

 

Brigitte (host):  

Exactly!

 

Kathy (guest):

Look at the next year and think about how is the next year going to look like. Budget is very short-term. Think about that what needs to happen, what are your goals for the next year, and how do you get to them, and then in spring, that's when you grow. If you have plans to grow your business, that is a time when you're going to be looking at your business for the next three to five years and really plan that strategic plan of "How do I get from where I am now to where I want to be." Taking, putting that on your calendar twice a year, it's going to make your business so much better, and you're going to be so much further ahead than anyone else because you consciously taking the time to take care of your business, not just working in your business, we're working on your business as well. In the fall, you budget, and in the spring, you go and you prepare for the next three to five years. That is when your strategic plan comes in.

 

Brigitte (host):   

Okay, we take that to heart. Perfect, good. And then another advice from you. Since I think you are also great in branding, I would like to know from you, what you think are some key branding essentials that our audience can take away from your experience when shifting into solopreneurship, when becoming their own boss when they are yeah becoming their own face, of their own company, building their own personal brand. What is important at the beginning, when it comes to branding,

 

Kathy (guest):  

I think I can see this from the experience where I had a hard time figuring this out. And a lot of it was that I was not sure who my actual audience is. Who is the person that I'm serving, who is my clientele? Once you have that, a lot of the unknowns actually fall out because you know exactly who your target audiences are, and when you know that you can use the language that they're using, you can have conversations with them, you know exactly where they hang out. And if you don't know that you can go and research, you can hire people that can actually research that for you. Knowing exactly who you're servicing, that is a huge piece that really niches down my branding and my marketing because now I know what are the problems that I'm solving? And how do they actually feel a lot of it is empathy as well, right? I can empathize. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

Yeah, absolutely. First, you need to know yourself, and then you need to know your customer inside out and then connect with them on a visceral level, emphasize with them, and really understanding what their needs are, what their wants are, what their desires are. And in your case, you can deliver them with the financial means to need, right, with the financial support that they need to have in order to scale and grow.

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah. And it's also it's a continuous conversation. I've originally when I thought I'm going to do branding, and then I'm like, "Yes! Duh, I don't have to look at it ever again." Right? 

 

Brigitte (host):  

No, no. 

 

Kathy (guest):

Yeah, it doesn't work that way. It's a constant conversation between the business and the market. When I have conversations with the people who are prospective clients, potential clients that actually become clients. Every single conversation that I have, in every interaction, I get more data, I can talk to them more, I can be more specific. And it helps because now you're not just talking to general public, exactly who you're talking to. And it's every single time you learn something new. 

 

Brigitte (host):    

Yeah. And also your customer is not remaining the same. The only constant we have is to change, and we evolve over time, and your customer might have grown until the next year. There are different parameters that apply again for that specific customer. 

 

Kathy (guest):

Yeah. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

All right. Kathy, are there any new projects in the pipeline that you want to share with us today?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, the big project that I just finished was started the podcast Help! My Business is Growing, and I do not have anything in the pipeline for this year. That was a lot of energy that was expended there. But I am looking into incorporating some video into my business because it's, I'm also looking at myself how I like to interact with other brands and video is a huge part of this. Hopefully next year, at the beginning of the year, I'm going to start doing more videos on my social media. I want to use LinkedIn. I'll be doing that and start repurposing that in the YouTube channel. That's something that's in the pipeline. 

 

Brigitte (host):    

Great, very progressive. Good. Before we come to the end of our show, Kathy, I would also like to do a quick bird wrap with you. Are you ready?

 

Kathy (guest):

Yes, that's so fun. I think I am

 

Brigitte (host):  

Finance?

 

Kathy (guest):

Power.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Women?

 

Kathy (guest):

Empowerment.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Castle?

 

Kathy (guest):

Fun. 

 

Brigitte (host):    

Leadership?

 

Kathy (guest):

People.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Empowerment? Women?

 

Kathy (guest):

Women? Yes. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

All right. And last but not least, brains. 

 

Kathy (guest):

Authenticity. 

 

Brigitte (host):   

Good. Kathy, for listeners who would like to find out more about you, where would they find you? And how can they get in touch with you?

 

Kathy (guest):  

Yeah, you can find me on my website, newcastlefinance.us. You can also find me on LinkedIn as Kathy Svetina, I'm the only one there. And if you have a growing business, and you need help with figuring out how to navigate your journey, you're also welcome to listen to my podcast Help! My Business is Growing.

 

Brigitte (host):  

It's going to be in the show notes. Kathy, thank you so much for being my guest today on Brands Talk. It was really a pleasure having you here, sharing your approach to investors, on how you help them and business owners as a financial puzzle solver to get clear on their numbers and their financial strategy. So they can feel confident they are making good decisions that will result in a thriving business. Thank you, Kathy!

 

Kathy (guest):  

Thank you so much for today. It was such a pleasure.

 

Brigitte (host):  

Thank you. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

And that was my conversation with Kathy Svetina. If you like my show, head over to bridgetbrands.com and sign up for my newsletter to never miss an episode. I look forward to welcoming you in my community. 

 

Brigitte (host):  

Also, don't forget to subscribe to my Brands Talk podcast on your preferred app. Share it on social media and if you find a minute or two, leave a quick rating or review. Thank you so much. I hope you will stay tuned for the next episode. When we dive into the world of brands!