Hi Chantelle, welcome to our #bethegirl interview series. We would love to know more about your business, why you decided to take the leap and your advice and financial tips for women in business.
What is The Digital CFO all about?
We all know you can have a bookkeeper and everyone always thinks accountants can do tax but there are people in between that provide the analysis, review, reporting and strategic decision making. And that’s me – The Digital CFO. I am a conduit between your bookkeeper and can talk to your tax accountant. Or, perhaps you want me to do your accounts as well. But fortunately I leave tax and compliance to the specialists! A Virtual CFO helps you get your business ready for challenges by planning, having accurate and relevant financial data and they really get the business landscape. A Virtual CFO like myself, gets small business because I’m part of one as my husband runs his own building company and I spent ten years working for a family business that grew exponentially! I operate remotely, but if businesses are local we can arrange for some onsite support.
I specialize in hospitality, tourism and the wine and beer industries. Or women led businesses that need a helping hand. Honestly, I am all about trying to make your business better and help your business performance – which ultimately should reduce the stress that small business face. I am small (just me!) and my services are designed to help start ups, established businesses and entrepreneurs through providing small biz advisory skills, in depth health check, review and analysis and outsourcing your financial services so you don’t have to worry about the shoebox anymore!
So you started a small business advisory company, mainly designed to help kick ass women achieve their business goals…what inspired you to take this leap?
I was on maternity leave and talking to amazing women who had lost all confidence after having children. They had forgotten their superpowers! Most of them admitted to having little to no financial confidence, let alone the ability to understand the numbers.This lack of confidence was replicated in small business owners. I realised that something that was comfortable for me created a lot of stress and I wanted to be able to help them.
There are so many amazing women start up and women led businesses. And unfortunately there are times when you get the mansplaining accountant and it makes you feel like “why are you in the business in the first place?” I, myself, hate being made to feel stupid and I don’t want anyone who is with me to ever feel that way! I wanted women to take back their confidence and achieve their business goals and I was really inspired to help them do it. I felt like it would be an appreciated service but also one I was so happy to give.
What are your key services and how can we benefit from them?
The main services at the moment seem to be Xero File Clean Up. I am staggered and saddened by the number of users that have purchased accounting software systems but they have not known how to use them and feel silly (which they are not) asking “how do I use?” So they fumble along and the file gets messier and messier.
My key services are:
- business conversations you can understand
- monthly financial reporting
- understand your inventory
- POS systems / inventory systems
- track business performance
Understanding how hospitality and tourism businesses work and operate are my super powers. Then I have the wine manufacturing side to back it up (AKA I get how to cost up products). I want to help businesses respond to challenges, and this might include some business planning work and a full organisational health check. I love the detail so you might have amazing ideas but not know how to implement. I will get down to the nitty gritty so that we can turn ideas into real solutions.
And I can do all this from the beautiful cloud. My big passion is digital integration and efficiencies. I learned the hard way that when you hang on to the old way of doing things because it seems easier can create more trouble for you when you grow the business. You have to stay on top of your game and that means continually investigating the new trends (which, yah easier said than done).
Biggest challenge about starting your business and how you overcame it?
I think it is reasonable to say I am still overcoming my challenges….I started this business on Instagram in November last year and quickly recognised that networking was something I needed to do. People don’t randomly say “let’s google a virtual CFO” and at the moment my website doesn’t even appear – I am working on that SEO game though.
I joined in with a local Mornington Peninsula group called the MP Kick Ass Collective that was a free, business women focused group that wants to support inspiring women to achieve their goals and locally collaborate and support one another. The hardest thing though – these awesome women are like me trying to start their businesses and get off the ground and it can be extremely difficult to justify why they need to spend more money. I totally get it. I am the same – I look for the right opportunities to maximise my cash efficiencies whilst I am in start up mode.
The other thing is that (oh boy) I am not a natural salesperson. I am an accountant after all and I really struggle with the conversion – I don’t want to be pushy and in someone’s face. I also take rejection far too personally! I am overcoming this by really trying to focus on my brand and who I want to help and targeting my attention on meeting those people, demonstrating my value and what I can do to help them turn their business into a profitable operation. This has meant swallowing the nerves and actually reaching out to people – sometimes you need to be less virtual and more of a real face behind the brand.
I have also realised the power of being authentic and myself. I honestly see myself as an accountant with a personality, someone who genuinely wants to help small business and get involved in the community. I hope that when that message comes across then my ability to “sell” is really just an extension of my personality. *hopefully*
What tools and resources do you use/lean on?
Instagram and social media have been two huge resources I have used. My website is still under construction and relatively basic and unfortunately the powers that be (google) have yet to allow me to be present on search functions [shakes fist in air]. I also ventured into the world of linked in. Not going to lie, find that slightly overwhelming. It is not a natural playground for me! I have leaned on my support network, especially my husband who has had to deal with the emotional ups and downs of me starting this. One week I can be wondering what the hell I am doing and the next minute I am talking about the goals I am kicking and buzzing with excitement.
I am also committed to professional development this year so I have been utilising some free resources I have access to and trying to ensure each week I devote 30 mins to something that will help me with my goals. Women are amazing at supporting women. I have been astounded by the number of real connections I have already made over social media, genuine people that want to see me succeed. I really find it empowering. Social media cops a lot of flak but when it works, it is a total game changer.
Why is financial clarity so important (apart from the obvious!) for women in business?
Who wants to fail because they didn’t want to look at their numbers? Financial clarity is important for anyone. It helps us make better, more informed decisions. It ensures we rely less on our gut and more on tangible facts. Combine the two and entrepreneurs will go places a lot quicker! Financial clarity also removes your stress. If you have a clearer idea about how much money is going to leave your bank account, what you need to do to prepare for that and where you could be in six months times you will live a more balanced lifestyle. Feeling in control is something we all crave. Anxiety has a common place in businesses, that overwhelming feeling makes us unhappy and it doesn’t have to be that way. Clarity makes you more empowered and I don’t think that is a bad thing.
If you could give one piece of financial business advice, what would it be?
Have accurate data and then use that data to make decisions. This is the most simple advice I can give but if you want me to introduce CFO powers to your business I have to know that the information in your account is right. Make sure if you can’t get your books done in time that you get someone that can. There is so much amazing information contained within your accounts that can drive your sales strategy, your employment decisions and is the start of the accounting bottom line – budgets! But if it is wrong, outdated then it is worthless. I always say to the small business owners – I can’t do what you do so it is totally acceptable and ok to not be good with numbers. It’s ok. But if you aren’t good with them then you need someone that is. So you know, call me 😉
Thank you Chantelle for sharing your business journey, why #womeninbiz need financial clarity and some valuable financial business advice! To connect with Chantelle, head over to the website, and follow on Instagram.