The Design Business Show 171: Understanding Your Financials as an Entrepreneur with Danielle Hayden

Director : Melissa Burkheimer | January 11, 2022
Check out episode 171 of The Design Business Show with Danielle Hayden to learn all about how to navigate accounting and financing as an entrepreneur!

Danielle Hayden is a reformed corporate CFO (chief financial officer) who is on a mission to help rule-breaking female entrepreneurs understand their numbers so they can gain the confidence needed to create sustainable profits. After spending 10+ years in the boardroom as a corporate finance officer, Danielle is now in her sweet spot as the co-owner of Kickstart Accounting, Inc. where she helps business owners with bookkeeping, financial analysis, and education, and as the author of the Profit Planner book series. When Danielle isn’t crunching numbers on her clients’ behalf or crafting the next iteration of the Profit Planner, you can find her hanging with her two kids as she inspires them to lead their fullest lives or doing any, and almost every fitness-related activity ranging from Spartan races to pilates.

Here’s what we covered on the episode:

Danielle’s Background + Career Pivot

  • How our mutual friend, Angie connected us and why I wanted to invite Danielle on the show to talk numbers because her expertise is one we’ve never really talked about before
  • Danielle shares that she went to school to be a hairdresser and was working in a salon but taking classes so she could someday own her own salon – she realized she loved the numbers behind the salon that had to do with data and goal setting, which was accounting
  • The pivot from hairdresser to accounting and how Danielle received her master’s degree in accounting and financial management
  • The story of how Danielle started working in the global department for Ernst & Young, where she analyzed accounting software and worked her way up to being on the executive team where they were looking at the numbers to figure out how to make better business decisions overall
  • How accounting and bookkeeping roles are important because if the data is not entered correctly, you can’t use it to accurately analyze the business or make business decisions
  • Danielle shares that she worked at a few midsized companies as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), where she was able to work with teams that had the goal of building the business and then sell it to a private equity firm or set of investors, which taught her a lot about maximizing growth as fast as possible with an exit strategy
  • As entrepreneurs, we should be thinking about how we can grow our business and how it can still operate without us if we ever want to sell it or if something were to happen to us
  • Danielle did volunteer work at a local entrepreneurship hub in Cleveland, Ohio, where she would hear business owners say they didn’t understand the numbers and felt frustrated because they didn’t know where to go for help or how to put a bookkeeping system into place
  • After hearing so many business owners’ struggles, Danielle was motivated to find a way to help them and make an impact because she understood that they couldn’t make solid business decisions without the data needed to grow the business
  • How Danielle went on a mission to help small business owners get bookkeeping in place, get organized, help them understand the numbers, and never put the bookkeeping back on them because it’s usually the last thing creative entrepreneurs want to do
  • What’s important to find in a bookkeeper is not someone who just puts in the numbers, but someone who will have a conversation with you about what’s going on in your business and wants to help hold you accountable Danielle explains
  • Danielle explains that her favorite way she and her team are making numbers sexy again is by giving their clients beautiful charts and a dashboard with their financials that are easy to read rather than their clients having to dig into every number and every excel spreadsheet
  • Kickstart Accounting’s goal is to create a safe place where clients don’t feel judged on their financials and can ask the questions that they’ve been embarrassed to ask in the past

Business Systems + Business Planning

  • Danielle’s advice for entrepreneurs is to separate business and personal finances, have a tracking system like QuickBooks, and then make sure all your transactions are in your system and categorized correctly
  • When it comes to reports, Danielle suggests starting by reviewing your numbers each quarter; this includes looking at the profit and loss, the balance sheet, and Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that matter for your business – some KPI examples are revenue retention, number of leads, closed leads, revenue, profit, or net income
  • Not all bookkeepers are created equal, so it’s important to find a firm that has the background and resources to give you all the information you need or have a conversation with your current bookkeeper and ask if you want to see your financial statements monthly and review with them if that would be included in your fee
  • When clients want to make a pivot in their business, Danielle will have a planning session or a budget session with them which can be in a group session or one-on-one.
  • During planning sessions, they look at the last 12 – 24 months of the business with clients focusing on where revenue is coming from, where expenses are, and see what worked and what they learned – the next step is to plan for the next 12 months
  • When planning for your next 12 months, Danielle says you need to think about where you need to invest and who you need, when you need them, or how much money you need to save to make this pivot in your business
  • Danielle advises her clients to use the 48-hour rule when they see something they’d like to invest in – she says wait for 48-hours to give yourself enough time and space to consider the investment; after you’ve waited for 48-hours, Danielle says to email your bookkeeper and ask them how it would impact your financials and goals for the year
  • If you’re new to starting a business, Danielle says the first thing you need to do is create a business and financial plan because any bank or investor is going to want to see your business plan – in it say why your business is unique, how you plan on growing the business, layout the cash you need and why and explain when and how you’ll make that cash back
  • Once you have your business plan in place, Danielle explains again that you need to separate your business and personal finance and have a tracking system because how can anyone invest in your business if you can’t track where you’re going to spend that money
  • Danielle shares different options you can use for funding, such as banks, debt financing companies, and even suggests going to local small business groups and hubs because they usually have several resources that can help line you up with investors who might be willing to invest in your business
  • If you’re starting a business and don’t see a profit within the first year, Danielle says to give yourself a break because she doesn’t see very many of their clients start their business and are profitable for those first 1-3 years – go easy on yourself, you’re investing and growing a business

Creating a Sellable Business

  • We mention a book we’ve both read called, Built to Sell by John Warrillow that transformed our businesses – the book is about a marketing agency that was offering everything under the sun then met with a consultant who said become really good at one thing so you can build your business and sell it
  • Danielle explains that in order to have a sellable business, have the standard operating procedures in place, know how your company does it and ask yourself if every piece needs to touch you
  • Think about how you could create systems and processes so that when you hire your first contractor or employee, they can come on and be effective and do it with the same level of care as you do
  • Anyone who wants to invest or buy your business is going to want to see how you’re making money and where you’re making it, which is why Danielle says it’s so important to have those accounting systems in place
  • Danielle says to start small if you need, you can take one thing you learned from today’s episode, implement it and then build on it – remember to go easy on yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need help
  • Visit their website and check out their resources or connect with Danielle on Instagram


Links mentioned:

Kickstart Accounting, Inc.

Profit Planner

Built to Sell by John Warrillow

Connect with Danielle on Instagram 


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