Clara CFO Group Founder and CEO Hannah Smolinski joins Founders Focus to talk about her entrepreneurial journey and why it's important for small businesses to focus on their goals as they plan their finances.
Clara CFO Group Founder and CEO Hannah Smolinski joins Founders Focus to talk about her entrepreneurial journey and offer advice on what to expect from service providers. Here's a hint: empathy and authenticity are just as important as facts and figures.
Hannah explains why it's important for small businesses to focus on their goals as they plan their finances.
The Clara CFO Group helps growing small businesses find financial clarity and hosts a YouTube Channel for business owners.
Dive deeper into the episode here: https://bit.ly/38vrBEh
Have feedback? Connect with Scott Case on LinkedIn.
Visit foundersfocus.com to join the live video sessions, watch past sessions, and see what topics are up next.
Scott Case (00:00):
Welcome to Founders Focus, a podcast made for founders by founders. I'm Scott Case, CEO and co-founder of Upside. And I created Founders Focus to help share free resources and actionable advice together. We're building a community for business leaders, entrepreneurs, and founders to come together to tackle today's challenges. This podcast is powered by my awesome team at Upside. Please visit foundersfocus.com to join the live video sessions or to catch up on past topics.
Scott Case (00:28):
I am very excited to be joined by Hannah Smolinski. She is the founder and CEO of the Clara CFO Group. It's a business that she started and she can tell her story about, but she basically helps other small business owners find financial clarity in their business. She hosts a YouTube channel about business and recently like yesterday, we announced her as a senior advisor for Upside Financial, a product Upside launched to help small business owners with getting their PPP forgiveness.
Scott Case (01:04):
And if you'd like to learn more about that, you can go to upsidefinancial.com. And with that, we're going to talk to Hannah mostly today about, basically accounting and being a CFO, but it's not just about the numbers. So much of it we kind of approach it through a very objective lens, but especially when you're talking about a small business, it's very much about who we are and how we define ourselves. So it requires a different kind of a touch. And I think, you know, Hannah has built a fantastic business thinking a little differently about how to approach finances. And so with that, I'm going to introduce Hannah and allow her to introduce herself. So Hannah, welcome to Founders Focus.
Hannah Smolinski (01:45):
Thank you, Scott. Well, I feel like he did a pretty good job introducing me, but hi everyone. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited. I'm excited about the role with Upside and just to make this connection. So, Clara CFO Group was really started because there was a need. There was a need for small business owners needing strategic advice that they weren't getting necessarily from their bookkeepers and from their CPAs that they talked to once a year. So what we really decided to do was that, it was like we recognize that growing small businesses need more interaction and they need more touch and they need assistance as they're trying to make decisions in their businesses. So that's really kind of where we sit. We've kind of focused on helping small business owners, making, you know, usually up to around $5 million in annual revenue, sometimes less, sometimes more, but we're starting to just recognize the challenges and the needs that these businesses are having. And then we're also recognizing like, Hey, this goes into deeper than just, Hey, what, what's the right decision for the business? We have to consider what's best for employees. What's best for the owners. What's best for the community in general. So it's been pretty exciting to kind of go along this journey and develop this business. So that's where that's Clara CFO Group and, I'm located just outside of Seattle up here in Washington where it's cold and rainy a lot. But I like up here and yeah, so I don't know, is that kind of the intro?
Scott Case (03:24):
That's great. Yeah. So why don't we start with your journey? So, in some respects, you started off on a very traditional sort of accounting finance background, but talk a little bit about what your experience was and what kind of inspired you to start your own business.
Hannah Smolinski (03:44):
Yeah. I definitely kind of went along the traditional route. Well, at first I never wanted to be in accounting. I liked business, but I didn't want to be in accounting because I thought accounting was boring and I thought accountants are boring. And basically, I just didn't want that to be me. But I did like business. And so I went ahead and started in business school. I thought I was going to go into international business and do that whole thing, but I really had an accounting professor sit me down and go, Hannah, you're really good at this and if you're good at this, you should consider doing it. And as much as I didn't want to, I also thought about it. And then I had another, a family friend of mine, he was kind of one of those like really charismatic type people and he was like, Hannah accounting is the language of business and if you learn the language of business, then you can do anything you want. And so that kind of like encouraged me to really just go and actually like dive into that piece of it. And I want to make sure I'm doing okay, my video is glitching a little bit, so I hope I'm okay on the sound side.
Scott Case (05:05):
It was great. We did lose you on video. Why don't you try turning your video off and turning it back on and I'll kind of tee up the next question. I don't know if that's going to work, but Zoom has strange capabilities. You never know.
Hannah Smolinski (05:23):
Yeah. I'm hardwired in too, so I would think that my connection is okay.
Scott Case (05:27):
Well, we'll see if it picks back up again, but we've got some motion for you.
Hannah Smolinski (05:31):
All right. We'll do what we can. So yeah, with that, I decided to go into accounting and then I did the really traditional, when you go into accounting and you do your undergrad in accounting, then they funnel you into, you need to have an internship and then you need to go to a CPA firm and you need to do the like very traditional routes. So I did that and I went into audit. I did the auditing track and I ended up going and working for Ernst and Young. So one of the big four accounting firms, and honestly I loved it. I loved it. They worked us really, really hard, but I worked with incredible people and I got to be put on really amazing projects. I helped with IPOs, I audited publicly traded companies. It was super exciting.
Hannah Smolinski (06:21):
And just, the caliber of people I was working with was incredible, so that was amazing. I wanted to do that. However, I also wanted to have a life. So I realized that a lot of accounting jobs really were not very conducive to having a personal life really outside of when you're working 60, 70 hours a week. It's not exactly the best thing for your personal life. So what I decided to do was I was going to leave and it was around the time that a small business that I am very connected to, actually my dad's small business, an engineering firm, needed accounting help. And so it was kind of just the right time I wanted to leave. He needed help and I ended up taking a job with him. But it was kind of at that time that he really kind of instilled in me the importance of small business.
Hannah Smolinski (07:21):
Cause I almost, finance has this almost a little bit of snobbery I would say, snobbery around the types of businesses that you support. So when I was working at public companies, I kind of turned my nose up at smaller companies like, Oh, they're using QuickBooks, like that's not very important or that's not very, you know, sophisticated. But when, so I kind of had the snobbery effect of like not wanting to work for a small business cause I didn't feel like it was, I was making an impact or I was being important, but my dad sat me down and was like, no, no, no, no, no, like small businesses are almost more important because you get to have that direct impact directly on the small business owner, and if you're working for a huge large corporation, you are just a little cog in a wheel.
Hannah Smolinski (08:14):
So it really kind of made a really big impact on me. And I remember him correcting me and going, and I was like, Oh, it kind of just shifted my whole perspective on what I was doing for small businesses. So once I started working for him, I just started to realize that the finance function on a small business, even a seven, eight figure business did not necessarily mean that you needed a full-time financial person there. Like you just don't always need that. So it really made me think, like, I need to think about how I could potentially serve more small businesses just in this finance capacity. Cause that's the part of my job that I love the most—strategy, cashflow projections, helping the business owner make strategic decisions. So after I worked for him, I realized like, Oh, I see, I have a business idea here. And it's to do this small piece of finance for businesses needing this support. So that all came around. And then a couple of years after working for him, I started on my own and started in 2017 doing this type of work, took a little bit of iteration, of course, but now we're here in 2020 and it's exciting. I like it a lot.
Scott Case (09:37):
So do you still have your father's company as a client?
Hannah Smolinski (09:41):
I do, yes. Yeah. I have hold myself out to now. He is one of the clients in the same service being provided, which has taken a very long time.
Scott Case (09:53):
When did you get your first two or three clients? A lot of our entrepreneurs, they have an idea, they kind of need to get out there, whether sometimes they're service businesses, sometimes there are other types, your business as a service business. So how did you get your first handful of clients?
Hannah Smolinski (10:07):
Yeah, the first handful were probably just from kind of getting the word out, sort of subtly. I had put something on Facebook to friends. I had told my banker, my business banker that I was doing this new venture. So one of my first larger clients was actually a banking connection. Just a referral, somebody who was getting their business set up, and it was a client for three years. They just hired internally, so it kind of was a nice little transition. They needed somebody internally, and we just off boarded them. But, a lot of that, the initial was just kind of almost putting yourself out there and just saying, Hey, I'm doing this thing. And sometimes people will give you a chance. Now I would say that my first couple of clients were not my ideal clients. As I wanted to do CFO services. I took on some bookkeeping clients. I took on just some like accounting projects in general, just to kind of see and I quickly realized that bookkeeping was not where I wanted to be spending my time.
Scott Case (11:15):
Talk a little bit about that. I think it's a trap that a lot of entrepreneurs fall into when they kind of leave a day job, they jump into what they think is it, they sort of take the clients and they say, yes. I was doing a one-on-one with somebody. I think it was last week. And they were talking about like, I'm doing this and I'm doing this and it's very customized, but there was no repeatable process. So how did you get out of like doing 20 bespoke things and actually honing in on, you know, whatever a handful of services that you could provide?
Hannah Smolinski (11:51):
I mean, I think that took me a little while, it took me a while. I mean, I realized pretty quickly I don't want to be doing that, but I think when you're first starting a business, you kind of almost get into this scarcity mindset of like, I need to take what I can get, right? So if somebody asks you to do something, you feel like you need to say yes, because you don't necessarily have 20,000 people knocking down your door just yet. So I think that, you know, that getting over that scarcity, but I think also that is a great learning lesson at the same time doing work and going, okay maybe that's not it, especially in a consulting role, if you're really trying to hone in on exactly what your message is, exactly what your services that you really provide.
Hannah Smolinski (12:38):
You almost kind of need to a certain extent some trial, and some trial and error, trial and error. And that's kind of where I wouldn't say error, but it was like I tried and I realized, well that's not necessarily what I do. And I tried and I said, well, this isn't really the best fit for like really what I want to be doing. So, it kind of just sort of formed naturally into like what I kind of tried to hone into a service. And then I started to realize, wow, well I'm doing this thing, I'm starting to get more people. So I started to say, well, if I'm going to provide CFO services, you need to have a bookkeeper and you need to have a tax CPA because I don't do those services. So if they have that, then they're going to be more likely that I'm not going to try to be getting into their bookkeeping and I'm not going to be trying to do those other services and expanding out when it really, I want to focus on just CFO. But the more I did that, the more I started to realize, wow these people need the same thing, totally different industries but they need the same thing when it comes to the finance function. And so then that allowed me to start to have more of a standard service offering without feeling like I had to go, you know, anything you want, I can do it.
Scott Case (13:54):
Well, it sounds like you've qualified your customer base. So you kind of took a bunch of things and then figured out, Hey, here's my ideal customer profile, they have these assets and features. About how long into your journey did it take for you to land there? Like you started in 2017, did it take you a year? Did it take you a few months? Did it take you multiple years? Did you just figure it out yesterday and you're just revealing it for the first time now?
Hannah Smolinski (14:19):
Thankfully I didn't just figure it out yesterday. But I know it did take a little bit, it took some months. I think it took me probably six or seven months to start to realize who I needed to be talking to. And then it took me probably another year to really kind of hone in on the exact service that I was offering. And then that kind of, that ended up kind of coinciding, I rebranded my business in early 2018 I believe it was to really like hone in and kind of double down on like the CFO service. And with that, it really kind of solidified my trajectory going forward.
Scott Case (15:07):
Got it. So fast forward to the end of 2019, you're coming into 2020, you're busy, you've honed, you've got your business laid down, you've got whatever clients you have. And, you ended up launching a YouTube channel, which when you, at least for me combined CFO services with a YouTube channel, what prompted that? How did you make that decision and what was that piece like as we all talk about content marketing, but a lot of CFO services would have been a painfully bland white papers to be downloaded. How did you end up with YouTube?
Hannah Smolinski (15:51):
Yeah, I would. I mean, it's funny cause I have a friend who will watch my videos and she'll turn them on and her kids will walk by and go, this girl is boring because they're used to like, you know, like playing games and stuff on YouTube. So, I mean, I try to like not be too bland, but for accounting, you know, it's not, you know, super, super fancy or anything like that, but, really YouTube kind of started actually way before March of this year. I had just posted some videos up. Mostly because I thought it would be helpful for small business owners to see like walkthroughs of different tools. So I had done a walkthrough of a payroll service and like that kind of got me some traction and then I got a couple leads from it, even though the view only had maybe 7,000 views total over a year, you know, that's not a lot for YouTube.
Hannah Smolinski (16:44):
Right. So I had kind of been thinking, you know, I need to kind of like think about YouTube as a content strategy, because if I can explain something to someone visually, they might be more likely to understand it. And if I can help somebody pick a tool that's more helpful to them then all the better, right? Like if they can see like, Oh, here's QuickBooks versus Xero, and I'm trying to make a decision on which one is better for my company, like YouTube is the perfect place to do that type of thing. So I had already kind of had it in my head like, Hey, I want to kind of pick YouTube back up and kind of double down into that strategy and then COVID hit. And then the CARES Act was put into place and that was kind of a whole story, I don't know if you want, I think you want to get into that.
Scott Case (17:36):
I just think that it's interesting to hear about your YouTube strategy and the fact that you were experimenting with it as a channel. And I think that for a lot of small business owners, we forget that sometimes the marketing of our business is about running some experiments, right? You've talked about your early customers being referrals from a bank and your relationships you have. That's one strategy. Going to YouTube and sort of playing into what's working, so it's less about talking, we can talk a little bit about the CARES Act and PPP, but more about, I want to understand your strategy, thinking to say, I'm going to create I'm going to create content around this and keep publishing it and kind of what were the results overall and then what were the results for your business? Like, you know, to just talk a little bit about that from a strategy standpoint?
Hannah Smolinski (18:32):
Yeah. I mean kind of the way that my business runs is I don't need heavy, heavy, I don't need high volumes of leads because when the way that my business model is as people come on and then they come on for a long time and it's kinda more about like keeping, like getting really good quality people coming in, speaking to them and then keeping them on and keeping them happy. And ultimately like, hopefully if they're leaving us, it's because they've grown so much that they need to hire some money internally, you know, that's kind of the goal. So when I was looking at 2020 back in like January before any of this was happening, I was thinking, well I need to like, we all have limited resources and where we want to put our time and money. And I was starting to look at, well, what is working for me?
Hannah Smolinski (19:23):
I had done a lot of podcast interviews, which were actually very good marketing for my business, which were actually just evergreen and still sitting out there and still generating leads for me. But then when I was really looking at YouTube, I was realizing like, wow in 2019 I probably had three or four quality discovery calls with people who had watched one YouTube video. So what would that look like if I started produced more things that more people were able to watch that could sit out there and establish myself as like somebody who knew the challenges of small businesses. So that's kind of where it was like, well, this is easy enough to do. I mean, all you gotta do is record something on your phone and throw it up on YouTube. Maybe do a little bit of editing from that perspective. So I was like, well, it helps me control a message too, so I can control it. And then I can also like, have it sitting out there for years to come,
Scott Case (20:24):
Oh, fast forward. You find yourself with publishing your first videos around the CARES Act and PPP loans. And you kind of pushed out a series of them over a pretty short period of time. What inspired you to kind of keep doing that?
Hannah Smolinski (20:40):
Well kind of, it was almost by accident. I wasn't really necessarily to like become an expert in PPP. It actually came from, it was probably in March, I was doing a financial review. I had been in kind of a cloud, like with things happening personally from like December to March and I was just kind of in a little bit of a funk. So I wasn't paying attention to all of the news that was happening. And so it was in March, I sat down with a client, we were doing our financial review and she said to me, well, what about those forgivable loans? And I was like, forgivable loans, what, I don't know what you're talking about. So she was like, yeah I think this thing is actually going to pass and it's happening and there's going to be these forgivable loans.
Hannah Smolinski (21:32):
And so it made me kind of wake up kind of out of my fog that I had been in just from life and kind of called out like, Oh I need to figure out what this is if my client is telling me about it, I should have been the one telling the client not the other way around, you know, like that's how I want to operate as a CFO. So I went and started reading the CARES Act and reading everything about the PPP, and then I started to realize this is first come first serve. And then I started to realize how many small business owners don't have access to a professional that's going to tell them about this, how many people were not paying attention. Like even I was not paying attention and I pay attention more than a lot of people. So it just kind of made me go, Oh crap basically, like this is not going to be good cause I was thinking about all the little guys that don't have anybody in their court. And like that made me go, well I have this at least way to get messages out so I ended up doing like a Facebook Live first with another CPA friend of mine. We did a Facebook Live talking about the rules as we knew them at that point, this was before you could apply so we were kind of teaching people like this is what you think of if you need to apply. And then we threw that up on YouTube and that started to get traction and people started to have questions. And then it was like, wow this is how you get the message out. This is how you can reach thousands of people in a really short amount of time.
Hannah Smolinski (23:03):
And so that happened and then people had questions and then I made more videos, then people had more questions and I made more videos because there was a lot of questions. And then there was new guidance and there was a new interim rule every week or so there was new information coming out and people just needed to know how to interpret it for their business. And so it was really kind of that feeling of like these people may not ever know the answer if they don't get it from YouTube, because either they don't have the finances to be able to afford to hire somebody or, you know, they might like maybe like some of that stuff is really confusing. It's legal jargon. Sometimes it's not written in plain language. So I wanted to explain it in plain language for people.
Scott Case (23:52):
I think that's so important from especially being an advisor is breaking it down. Small business owners are busy, and you know, approaching it, not just as, Hey, you can just read the form, but it's like, well, what is this, what are the implications of it? It's much more strategic. So with kind of with that in mind, what do you think some of the biggest mistakes are that business owners make kind of as they're going on their journey when it rates relates to the finances of their business themselves, are there two or three kind of key questions that you typically ask a business owner that everybody should be thinking about in any way on a periodic basis?
Hannah Smolinski (24:37):
Yeah. I mean, I think about it from like different levels, like kind of depending on where you are in your business, but kind of from the clients that I'm serving, you know, they're typically a little bit more established. One thing that I really have to ask people is what are your goals really? What is the purpose of your business and what do you want it to accomplish? Because the finances are supporting that. And if you're trying to make decisions, it oftentimes needs to go back to, well really, what are you trying to do? Because you can make decisions and we can make a decision basically, you know, based on just straight numbers, you know, I mean, okay, it's more profitable to do X over Y but what if Y is going to be the next stepping stone to get you to where you really want to be in your business?
Hannah Smolinski (25:31):
So I think getting really clear on goals ends up being like one of the things that we help people with the most. You know, I often say like, if you want to sell your business in three years or never, like I need to know that right away from a CFO perspective, because I need to know if, you know, if that's something we need to be preparing for right away. I also see people kind of either just pretending like the numbers don't exist, they kind of just totally go with their gut, and, that can get you pretty far. I've seen some business owners like getting into, you know, the multimillion dollar annual revenue place, but they're not necessarily, may not necessarily be really making the right decisions or be profitable from there. So, you have to pay attention to the numbers to a certain extent and having somebody, if you don't understand them yourself, having somebody who can help you along, that is pretty huge.
Scott Case (26:34):
So do you think that getting that kind of assistance like right from the beginning, right, Is it valuable to have somebody helping you? We have a question that, that somebody posted, like if you're just starting, you know, should you should just start with a bookkeeper, should you start with somebody more strategic? You talked about needing sort of three roles, a strategic thinker, a bookkeeper type and a kind of a tax advisor. Is it important to get those people to start? Do you wait until you're at that multi-million dollar level and hope for the best. What's your counsel there?
Hannah Smolinski (27:14):
I always say like the very best place to start is to have bookkeeping. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have to hire a bookkeeper if it's a competency that you have and you're okay taking that on, you definitely need to get some kind of bookkeeping in order. I mean, usually bookkeepers are fairly inexpensive, so I often recommend people outsourcing. As long as you can make sure you're looking at the financials, what we don't want is people outsourcing the financials and the bookkeeping, and then never looking at them again, because that's a good recipe for either fraud or never being able to track your business. And then it's like, what's the point of really having the bookkeeping to begin with. So definitely if you have a bookkeeper, you know, have some kind of regular monthly review of those financials.
Hannah Smolinski (28:01):
But I would say kind of, I have actually kind of this sort of hierarchy of accounting needs in my head and like the basis is like bookkeeping, because without bookkeeping, you can't really do any kind of compliance work. So compliance would be on top of that, which would be like reporting your taxes, making sure that you get your federal taxes done, making sure you get your state and local taxes done. And then on top of that, then it starts to get into kind of that more forward-thinking level. So we start to get into reviewing your financials and then using those financials to help you make forward-looking decisions. So that's kind of where that CFO level tends to start is when you start to look forward and you're looking to make strategic decisions. And then on that side, I mean, it kind of depends on really what you're doing in your business. Sometimes you'll need that level of support maybe pretty early, maybe you're around like a six-figure you've just reached like six figures or something. And then some people might not need that until they're in multiple six figures. It kind of just depends on the industry and kind of how fast you're growing from there.
Scott Case (29:16):
Well, you focus really on those on the smaller end of the business, you talked about $5 million in revenue. So you're working with companies that are at various stages and capabilities. And one of the things I always talk about, especially on those first two rungs around accounting and taxes, is the more that those can be handled reliably so that you as the owner don't have to think about them. It frees you up to be thinking about the more strategic forecasting and assumptions that you're making and choices that you have. So it's important to establish those kind of cornerstones so then you can have the opportunity to be thinking kind of longer term. Are there some big mistakes, are there things you talked about fraud or not paying attention to the books, Are there things you've observed with your clients or have you had clients that they just, they completely botched it and you spent your time cleaning up? Like, can you talk a little bit about an example of that?
Hannah Smolinski (30:19):
Kind of botched the accounting or just botched the finance?
Scott Case (30:23):
They just got their business in a sort of a sticky wicket where if they had been paying a little bit more of attention, they probably could have avoided that.
Hannah Smolinski (30:30):
I think the thing that I see the most is just the, like where business owners almost just don't want to look. They don't want to look and they don't want to investigate because they're concerned of what they might find. Because it's almost like out of sight, out of mind to a certain extent. Or like, I just don't wanna look at it because I'm not a numbers person. I hear this a lot. And I find this more. I work with a lot of female entrepreneurs and sometimes like, I mean to get a little bit feminist or something, but I think there's been a lot of like rhetoric for women of like, we're not numbers people, we're not math people. And that we kind of have to sort of get over sometimes and say like, this has nothing to do with like being a numbers person or being a math person or liking math or anything. Like finances are just addition and subtraction. And maybe some multiplication, maybe a little division here and there if we want to get fancy, but it's really basic stuff. And it shouldn't be scary to look at numbers. They're just digits on a paper. And, so that's kind of like part of something that I kind of help people work through. So kind of if they're afraid to look at the numbers, we just need to look at them because it almost is like pulling something out of the closet and going, okay, it's not that scary, like it's here, we know what it is now we can do something about it. So I think like, that's the thing I see the most is just people kind of pretending it's not there.
Hannah Smolinski (32:06):
The other thing I've seen sometimes is when you give other people too much control and you as the owner never look at it, that can become an issue as well. Like I recently heard of someone who had a fraud situation happen where someone internally that had control over operations and finance function was able to commit fraud. And I think in small businesses we think, Oh well, we don't have a lot of people so we can't separate our duties enough, but like, we can't give one person too much control and you can't just say, Oh, well I trust the person, like I trust the person it's going to be fine. There should always be at least like some level of like review or something that will help just kind of make sure nobody has all the keys essentially to do all the things.
Scott Case (33:00):
It's huge advice. And it doesn't, as long as you have one other person, you can figure out how to balance that in a way. To this day, I don't usually negotiate a lot of our contracts, we have general counsel that reviews them, we're a bigger company at Upside, but I sign every agreement because I want, and not because I want to check on anything, I just want to make sure I have visibility as the CEO of everything is flowing through. And especially if it's got, you know, an obligation to the company and that doesn't mean that I'm, you know, preparing the checks or preparing the contracts or doing all that, it's just that last step of saying, Oh yeah I remember why we invested in that or bought that service or hired that person. There's some simple things, but putting those controls and can really pay off and give you a better sense of what's going on as a business where it's easy to lose a handle on. And especially if you're deep in the operations of a day-to-day business, just a good check to put that in place. So it's smart to put those checks and balances in place.
Scott Case (34:07):
When you think about the small businesses that you're working with today that are your current clients, are there any patterns that you've seen as they're preparing, you're helping them with forecasting, as they're preparing for the future? What are some of the things they're considering about the next 12 to 18 months? Or how are you advising them to be thinking about it?
Hannah Smolinski (34:36):
Yeah. One thing that we really realized going through 2020 is the clients, especially in small business, the clients that were, I guess, had extra cash, let's just be blunt, like the clients that had extra cash in the bank, the clients that were less leveraged on their lines of credit, their credit cards and everything they did better, they just did better than the ones that were, you know, had a lot of debt sitting on their balance sheets. So kind of, as we're thinking about going back into 2021, a lot of clients have kind of come back out of a dip, right. So people have kind of figured out how to sort of operate in this post COVID. Well, I wish we were totally post COVID, currently in COVID crisis, you know, as they've figured out, they've pivoted, they figured out what they need to do. We are being a little bit more conservative. But we're also kind of trying to think about, I have clients thinking about estate right now. So we're trying to think about like potential timing of real estate purchases, and also trying to plan for like, you know, we know that the economy is kind of got, we have some major uncertainty. This whole year has been fraught with uncertainty and then going into 2021, we have a different administration that's coming in. We have, you know, economic teetering, I would say, but we don't know really which way it's going to go just yet. So I am kind of advising people to be pretty conservative. But also to just set themselves up for knowing that, you know, we don't know even what 2021 is going to look like just yet. We can't just look at last year and go, same as last year, just keep it going, keep growth, or just apply some sort of like, you know, basic percentage across like revenue growth or something like that. So our budgeting processes for 2020 right now are really trying to take a lot more, we're taking a lot more like qualitative data and applying it to the numbers, not just blanket percentages. We're trying to say, okay, like we know that this is happening in March. We know that typically April is really slow for us, but this year it might be different because of X, Y, and Z. So we're trying to take in a lot more factors so we can try to really think about what 2021 is going to look like.
Scott Case (37:13):
That's awesome. Yeah. I think that it's more important to continue to see if there's newest, if there's assumptions we made before that we have to reevaluate, right. If there's new information that we're planning that we might get, that might change things. How do we kind of calculate that in? I have one quick speed question, then we'll wrap up. We have one of our live members who got a SBA disaster loan. I assume it's an EIDL loan. And the question is that forgivable?
Hannah Smolinski (37:43):
The answer is no if you got the loan. Now I think that the question says tiny. So, I want to make sure that you actually got the loan portion and not the grant. So there was like an advance that just got deposited into your bank account where you didn't have to go in and sign any loan paperwork or anything for, but I'm seeing a no, I think so. So if it's a loan, if it's a big loan or a small loan, and you actually got the loan and you signed the loan paperwork, and you did the sliding scale thing and you asked for how much you wanted, those are not forgivable. Unfortunately. There's major, major, major confusion on that. And I think I'm very sad that there was so much, I tried my best. Not everybody, not everybody was able to watch those videos.
Scott Case (38:51):
Well, it was very, a lot of those aspects are very confusing and they've changed a lot of the rules around things along the way as lenders got weighed in. And so you and other experts, like you had to spend a lot of time kind of digging in and frankly interpreting the information to make some judgment calls on it. So some are clear bright line and some weren't. Well, Hannah, very grateful to have you here at Founders Focus today and to share your journey both as an entrepreneur and as how you work with other founders and other small businesses.
Scott Case (39:26):
Thanks for tuning into this episode of Founders Focus. What'd you think? Got any feedback for us? Got a topic that you'd like us to discuss, or maybe a future co-host? We'd love to hear from you. Just hit me up on LinkedIn at T Scott Case and join us at www.foundersfocus.com to stay up to date with the latest episodes and join us live every week at our Founders Focus sessions. Hope to see you there.