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EPISODE 4
Putting People First in Finance with Luisa Alberto

Photo of Luisa Alberto, a woman with her hair in a bun on top of her head and wearing a light blue denim jacked with her hands in the front jacket pockets

Luisa Alberto (she/her) is the CEO of People First Finance, a complete financial service solution for women agency owners and service providers. She has almost 20 years of finance and operations experience working alongside visionary leaders of successful startups, and has founded multiple businesses from brick and mortar to consulting and coaching over the past decade. Her mission is to ease the financial burden and overwhelm that holds too many ambitious, enterprising women back from achieving financial autonomy. 

Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

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Luisa Alberto (she/her) is the CEO of People First Finance, a complete financial service solution for women agency owners and service providers. She has almost 20 years of finance and operations experience working alongside visionary leaders of successful startups, and has founded multiple businesses from brick and mortar to consulting and coaching over the past decade. Her mission is to ease the financial burden and overwhelm that holds too many ambitious, enterprising women back from achieving financial autonomy. 

Website | LinkedIn | Instagram

Discussed this episode:

  • Luisa’s relationship with the word feminist
  • The reason for her company’s name, People-First Finance
  • How capitalism can lead to people ceding their financial power to others
  • Why women having money is a really, really good thing
  • The two biggest money fears her clients wrestle
  • How productivity guilt causes people to make money decisions they may regret
  • Why it’s important to have a baseline understanding of your financial picture, even if you have a professional helping you
  • Luisa’s vision for incorporating mental health support into money management services
  • A compassionate approach to money management
  • How to find the right financial professional for you
  • The role intuition can play in your experience with money
  • What it means to have visibility into your finances and why it’s important
  • No one is born with an understanding of money management!
  • How understanding cash flow can help anyone with any amount of money (and be a tool for liberation)
  • The ways Luisa is walking her talk in her business when it comes to feminist values

Resources mentioned:

FULL GUEST READING LIST FOR SEASON 1

Learn more about accountability coaching with host Becky Mollenkamp at https://beckymollenkamp.com

Becky:

Tell me about your relationship with the word feminist or feminism, and it’s okay if it’s not necessarily a great relationship or it could be a beautiful relationship.

Luisa:

Yeah, I mean, I think personally, like I don’t personally identify with the word feminist or anything with an ist. Because one, I respect and appreciate the strength of words that end in ist, and like where people can really, like it does garner support, and like there’s an energy around it that I really love, like this principled energy. So I love that about it. And I love that it’s sort of like takes a stand. So that’s what I love about it. I don’t necessarily identify with it personally. However, I very much identify with this idea that there is like a feminine energy and a feminine way of seeing the world and a more feminine this and that. And so what in my work and in the way that I talk about these things, like that’s more of the like area that I flow in.

Becky:

I always ask because some people have very strong feelings about the word. And although the podcast is called Feminist Founders, it’s really about founders who are trying to say we want to envision business in a new way that is more honoring of everyone’s humanity and is trying to bring more people under the umbrella of business and, in your case, of money. Right, and I think that that’s such a big part of business and capitalism. And we have, we could probably talk a little bit about that too, and we probably will. But first, before we get into any of that stuff, I want to hear about your business name because I love it. People First Finance. When I talk about feminism and business and those intersections, for me, it’s always about… the way I come at anti-capitalism is people above profits, right? That we prioritize people over profits, not that profits and money aren’t wonderful and important and really critical in changing the game for underrepresented voices, but also people are what matter. So when I saw the name of your business, I was immediately like, well, I’m gonna obviously love her. So tell me about how you came to that and what it means to you.

Luisa:

Yeah, so when I first started in the world of finance, I was doing one-to-one coaching and consulting. And my business name at that point, when it was just me was High Five Finance, because I would high five my clients all the time when they’d have, like, revelations or hit a milestone or whatever. And it just felt like a fun, like a way to make money fun is like, let’s have more of those like high-five moments. And then as the business and my take on business sort of matured a little bit, and I realized, the direction I wanted to actually take my work was in an agency where we could really do and educate in a more hands-on way. I was like, I need, like, what’s the next thing? Like, what is this about? What am I about? What makes me different? What do people resonate with when they think about me and how can, what’s my lens, like a different lens that I can offer when it comes to dealing with something icky and tricky, like finance and money? And I literally, I was struggling. I was with my partner, I was like writing lists of all the things that I could call the agency and all this stuff. And then one day I went and did a hot sauna and I was like in this like brainstorming creative place and I just sort of like quieted everything. And this idea of People First came to mind and it just felt so warm. Like it felt like me. It felt like what, what I wanted people to feel and see when they came to us because the whole mission of People First Finance is to make money easier, simpler, so that the human part of business and of our lives that we live can really be front and center, and money isn’t the reason why businesses are failing or founders are stressed. That’s handled. Because there’s so much more, right? And it’s so much about people. And even the way that we work internally, like the people that we hire, it’s a very people-first approach, four-day work weeks, all that stuff, and I’m sure we’ll get into sort of, you know, how this, you know, the thread that’s woven through the business itself with this idea. But everything’s just really, it comes down to people. It’s all about people.

Becky:

I think so too. And yet we live in a very capitalist world that absolutely prioritizes profits. And you can see how it’s so internalized in all of us because it’s the waters we swim in. We all internalize that messaging and this idea that we need to be robots and it’s all about productivity and the bottom line is all that matters and all this messaging that we get. And I think it shows up for so many of us as business owners that we start to do that, we start to prioritize the profits in our business over ourselves, forget about our teams and our communities. Like it starts with that . We don’t rest, we’re churning and burning until we get to burnout. And so how do you, as somebody who’s working in finance, you’re working with money and teaching people about money and money is important, how do you reconcile that with that idea of people first and like, where do you fall on capitalism and business and everything? I’m kind of curious what it all means to you as somebody who’s in finance, but also cares deeply about people.

Luisa:

I think traditionally just this industry, it’s funny, I have sort of this like, different approach because I’m not a CPA, I’m not an accountant, I’m somebody who understands how business works, operations and finance and sort of the intersection of those three really critical pieces of any business, like how they come together. And I can sort of see the bigger picture and then work that into, you know, actionable parts. And so that’s the CFO hat that I wear, but I don’t have a traditional um, finance background. And what I’m finding is that’s really beneficial to the team that I’m building in the way that we service our clients because I’m not thinking how, like how many hours has this taken me? I’m not thinking in this transactional way. I’m thinking from a value perspective. What is the value that we add here? Not only to our clients, but also to any employee that comes into our world, also to any contact that I make. It’s a very values focused approach. And my belief is that in really focusing on the value side of the equation, everything else falls really beautifully from that place down to the bottom line, quite honestly, right? Because I’m not charging, I’m not nickel and diming people. I’m not micromanaging my team’s hours. I’m giving everybody room and freedom to breathe and find ways to add value. And people in business, clients, will pay if you’re adding value, and having an impact. And so not coming from a traditional accounting world where it is like tax time is crazy. Like if I had a nickel for every time I got on a call with somebody during tax time and they’re like, oh my God, you must be so busy. It’s like, no, I’m not, because that’s not how I run my team and that’s not how I run my agency. We’re not doing everything last-minute and I’m not overworking my team during busy times. I’m making decisions before the busy times show up to think how can we sustain ourselves through this and continue to provide that value? So I think it’s just like a little bit of a different place that I’m coming from that makes all the difference.

Becky:

That idea of transactional is so much what I think we think of with capitalism and what ultimately doesn’t feel good for so many of us inside of that system is that it is so transactional and not relational or values led or about the value you bring. It’s like, here’s this, you do this, right? And that never feels nice. And so that’s no wonder to me that so many women, you know, people of color, anyone in the queer community, people who have any sort of, well, basically non-male, non-white male identity, have felt so excluded by and harmed by, forget excluded by, harmed by living in a capitalist world. And yet we don’t get to escape it, we’re in it, right? So we have to learn how to also navigate that. And one of the tools of being in that is money, as much as we may hate that, we live in a world where we can’t just simply, at least most of us can’t just simply, reject the notion of like making money and having money and all of that. But because we’re raised in that, I think so many of us who have those kind of identities start to feel excluded and get this like internalized messaging that we’re not good with money, that money’s not for us, that we don’t know how to use money, we don’t know how to manage money, we don’t know how to save money, all of that. And I know that you specifically work with mostly, I think women business owners, right, or people who identify as women? What have you noticed with that? What is that internal messaging that women are getting about money, whether they want to sort of believe that or not? And how is that, like, harming them in their businesses, their finances?

Luisa:

This is a good one. But a lot of it comes from displacement of power. And a lot of people come to us and a lot of the conversations I have are where women or individuals have given power to their parents, their parents’ accountant, their spouse, their spouse’s financial advisor, their banker, their tax preparer, their accountant. Someone else. That is the common thread, they’ve given their power to someone else. And you know, not everybody’s perfect and the advice you get won’t always be good for you. But because you’ve given your power to that person, you just think that they’re correct and you do what they say. And then when it doesn’t feel right, or it comes back to bite you in the butt, you have nobody to blame but yourself because you gave away that power. However, it’s not surprising that that’s what we would do, right? There’s no judgment or guilt or shame that I impose on clients for that. What I try to do is I try to help them rediscover their power. What do you know? What do you have control over? What is your intuition telling you about this or that? Like, so slowly, and it’s funny, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to articulate this quite this way, but that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving them that, we’re asking them ‘well, what do you think?’ You know, I had a client come to us who her business is doing well and she like wanted to open another location and she just moves at the speed of light, but the business is kind of new and so it’s a little rocky and she came to us and she was like I have this opportunity. Should I do it? And I was like well, here are some considerations and she was like, oh my gosh I can’t believe you didn’t just say that’s a stupid idea like no way and put the kibosh on it. And I was like, why would I ever do that? It’s an opportunity, there’s an opportunity to learn, there’s an opportunity to look at your numbers and go, could this work? There’s an opportunity to ask questions, right? And so that’s very much where I come from as in my CFO hat is being able to ask those questions and get a gauge on what is your intuition telling you, and then how can we find the data, like the true financial data that either supports that or gives you a different lens or perspective, you know, to look through, but it’s actual data and to teach people how to then do that so that you don’t have to ask someone else so that you’re not coming to us, so that if we were to leave and, you know, not be working with them anymore, they’d be like, oh, I have no idea how to function. Like, no, if we come out of a working relationship with a client, they will have learned enough to make a really good decision about what other financial service provider or in-house support they need going forward. So it’s a lot about this power piece, I find.

Becky:

That idea of ceding our power to others, which we all get so conditioned to do because it makes sense. When we have power, we become dangerous, right? So if you condition those that you don’t want to have power that they don’t know how to handle it, so they better give it to someone else, then you keep the systems the way they are. And I had a question, which is, how are finances a feminist issue? And I mean, I think that answers it, but I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about like, finances as either a feminist issue or if, and that term maybe you don’t sit with as well, but as an issue, like as a part of liberation, a liberation from oppression, dismantling the systems. What role do finances play in that?

Luisa:

Women need more money. And we’re sitting here like getting in our own way all effing day long. And it’s like, we just don’t think we can or we don’t see it or we’ve never allowed ourselves to go bigger or think beyond the thoughts that we’ve been capable of thinking or whatever it is. It’s like, if there are more women in power, meaning more women who have resources, meaning more women who have money because money is a resource, right? Money is a resource, your network is a resource, your energy is a resource. If women have more of these things they become loud, they become persuasive, they help to make more impact in the world from a different place, right? And so my philosophy of our mission is really again to like help money not be the reason why ambitious women in business don’t reach for the fullest expression of the businesses they want, of the money they want to make, right? Add on a zero or two and let’s move from that place, right? Because in you achieving that, not only do you prove to yourself it’s possible, you prove to other women around you, to your community, to your family, to your children, to your partner, to whomever, that it’s possible. And in that coming to light, I think it gives more women permission and power and ability to speak up and to think bigger, and we really need to be doing that because the world needs to hear what we have to say and how we think and without that playing on an even field with the powers that be, there’s no way that we can move forward justly and in this like, in the fullest expression of what’s possible for humankind, if it’s just this one-sided approach to anything. Talk about a rainbow. Look at nature. Look at how diverse and how each little piece of nature plays a role. That’s what we want. We want the diversity. We want the different voices. We want the contention that comes with that. We want the questions that come out of that. We want the progress that comes out of that. And so I’m very clear every day how the work we do, which is just accounting and taxes and bookkeeping, ties back into this much bigger mission of give more women a solid financial foundation that they can totally jump off from, you know, in this bigger way.

Becky:

Yeah, that’s the seat at the table, right? Because when we look at who holds the world’s wealth, it’s not you and me, right? It’s white men. It’s mostly white men when you look at the top 20 richest people at the top, or more than that. And if you want to change the systems, you have to have a seat at the table. And in the world we live in, in this capitalist world, you buy your seat at the table. It’s money, right? That’s where the power comes from. And as much as we may hate that, and in some ways that does feel transactional, it is part of that system of dismantling the systems. Because when women and people, you know, all people, I wanna say all people with marginalized identities, not just women. When people of color have money, when queer folks have money, when women have money, we use our money differently. I mean, it’s been shown time and again that our money gets redistributed in ways that doesn’t happen. We’re not ones to hoard that money. And so we need to bring more of that in so that we can use that power to get that money out into the world. Do you find that that’s important for the kinds of clients that you’re working with? Do they view amassing wealth in a different way than maybe what you’ve noticed in other parts of the world of finance?

Luisa:

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s this like, fear also around what’s enough for women. It’s like, we just keep going and keep sort of like, because we’re like, isn’t enough? Is it enough? Like, I just need to make more because I don’t know if it’s ever going to be enough. There’s this enoughness thing that comes into play with women that I feel like it’s very different. And I work with men too, and I have a client that I’ve worked with for a very long time. And the nature of the way that business is conducted is very different. And so instead of being on this trajectory of more so that than we have internally for women, I think it’s like more so that I know it’s enough. That’s like step number one, more so that I know it’s enough. And I think a lot of women have trouble when they have more than enough. So another thing we see is like you are running this really successful business, you’ve got money coming in, and you freak out because you have never had money. You’re like, I don’t know what to do with all this money. Right? Like, what do I invest in? How do I? Then that’s the next phase is like freaking out because you have more resources than you’ve ever had, right? And how to wrap your head around that and being a steward in that way, because many of us haven’t experienced that from like a lineage, from like a genetic standpoint, we’re like, oh my God, right? So those are the two biggest points of inflection, I feel like, that are different from, I feel like there isn’t that like questioning fear, it shows up differently, I think, or I’ve seen in women than it does in men.

Becky:

It’s so interesting how we have so many stories around money and you know a lot of that is trauma based, right? So there’s that piece that comes into it, which I want to talk to you about later because you posted something on LinkedIn, which I’m going to talk about that was very interesting around that. So there’s that which is very much a reality. if we don’t have the role models, if we don’t see our moms, for those of us who are women and looking at our role model of our mom, if she wasn’t in charge of the finances in the home, or if she was a single mom who was always, all we ever saw was fear and stress about money, right? Like, it’s just interesting when we think about the messages that we saw and those tend to be very different very often for young girls than they might be for young boys as well, where we get a very different, we begin that relationship we have with money so early. And so it’s not surprising that there’s the fear of there’s not enough money. And then if I have it, I don’t know what to do with it. And now I’m scared of it and I’m gonna mess this all up because, again, we go back to that, ‘I’m bad with money,” that message that so many women hold that they are just, they’re bad with money. So then they either overspend it, underspend it, just avoid it like the plague, don’t look at it, which I’m sure you see a lot where people are just like, I’ve never even looked at my numbers or I just hope the bills get paid, and I hope everything’s okay. And you posted something else on LinkedIn, I’ve been stalking you at LinkedIn, saying that your time is best spent on three things, business development, this is for business owners, business development, building out your team and optimizing client deliverables. And yet, what I think you see very often is that business owners are spending their time on worrying about tax deadlines, checking out unpaid invoices, running payroll, processing sales tax, coordinating between your bookkeeper and your accountant. And so I wonder, what is it, do you think, that keeps so many of your clients—and again, most of them are women—that’s keeping them doing those things vs. the things they need to be doing. If they have a belief that they’re bad with money, which so many of them do, why do they still feel like this need to do all of the stuff themselves and not let anyone else in? Why do they not ask for help with their money?

Luisa:

I mean, there’s a few reasons off the top of my head, but there’s this thing about us doing and being busy, like the doing is a big thing for women. Like if we’re doing, we feel valuable, valued, validated. Like there’s a doing thing. And so staying busy, doing the busy work and thinking, I actually had a prospective client say this, where they were thinking about hiring us and She said, you know, I just can’t imagine paying you when I could just do it myself. Like, it doesn’t, like, to her that equate, like the math didn’t math. And in my mind, I’m like, well, if you pay me to handle the stuff that you’re not great at, that someone else can do, while you go find more incredible people who are aligned to the services you provide. Only you can do that. I can’t go do that for you. So why, anyway, so it’s just this like, the math is off, the equation’s off a little bit. And so, but there’s this busyness in like my worth or my, what I can pay myself or whatever is tied to what I’m doing, the work that I’m doing, the doing, where the way that money works and the way that business works is you don’t have to do a lot. You need to really outsource the doing so that you can think, so that you can stay in tune with what your clients need, so that you can find talent, right? Only the CEO or leadership can really be in that position where they understand the mission and the deliverables and the client experience and can weave all that together. Everything else is busy work. So that’s a big hang up for folks is like, I just can’t make the math math. Like, why would I not just pay somebody $200 a month to do my books? Like, where’s the advantage in that? And the work that we do, the CFO work, is like pulling them out of the nitty gritty so that they can be up here and decide what they want their business to look like. A lot of business owners aren’t deciding what they want their business to look like. They’re sitting there going, well, I don’t know what my revenue is gonna be three months from now. And I’m like, if you don’t know, nobody else knows, right? And so again, it’s that focusing on what you have control over. Well, you may not know what your revenue is, but you have control over how many proposals you submit. You have control over how many new people you get in front of or make connections with or what you’re doing on a daily basis, right? So a lot of it is just focusing on what can you actually control, and how can you leverage those things to achieve bigger goals? And that takes space, quiet, thinking, right? But we’re so wired for whatever reason to do that that doesn’t feel as valuable. But that’s what really moves the needle. It’s fascinating. Because like women haven’t had time and space, you know what I mean.

Becky:

I feel like maybe a piece of that too is going even a little deeper on, because I agree so much of that programming that we get going back to capitalism and robots and productivity of like we have to be doing, doing, doing. There’s also that piece of like deserving, deserving help. I don’t I’m not sure that I deserve to have that help. Right. And I think that because I should be able to do it all. I’m supposed to be a superwoman who can do everything right. I have to prove myself. Like I think there may be a piece of that. And maybe you’ve experienced that. And the other part I wonder is and you can tell me, but I noticed from another thing you posted about people sometimes arriving to you with their books kind of a mess. And how much of that might also be embarrassment or shame around the fact that they haven’t, they don’t know, they haven’t learned again, not their fault, yet they take that on as like a personal failure. And then it’s like, I don’t want to let anyone in. I don’t want anyone to see this because it’s embarrassing.

Luisa:

Yeah, and I’ve had conversations with folks where, like sales calls, where I’ll ask them very pointed questions and they either don’t know the answer or they say something where they say it because it’s part of the conversation, but they do feel a certain way about it. And I’ll just sort of like take it in as data. No judgment, no like, oh, no response. It’s literally, I’m just like taking in data and I’ve had people be like, oh, wow, like I’m surprised you didn’t say something about X, Y, or Z. And I’m like, well, I’m just collecting data. I want to know where you are. I want to know where you want to go. And then I want to help you connect the dots. That’s all this, that’s the transaction that I like to do, right? It’s like, there’s a lot of rrrr-rrrr in between, but at the end of the day, it’s like, you’re here. Great. We acknowledge that. What’s it going to take for us to get over here? And we’ve had clients who have come to us with like, you know, a big mess and again, not their fault. They’re really good at what they do. And if I can identify that in a call, I’m like, great, we need a weekly call. And this is not part of my normal service scope, but if somebody needs the help, we’re a value, people-oriented service. And so if they need a weekly call where we just have a checklist of things that we go through to help them get to a better place, I’ll do that as long, I’ll put resources towards that, as long as it takes for them to start to like, regain control and power over their financial situation. And a lot of financial experts won’t do that. They’re just like, I need these things. You need to give me these things so that I can do X, Y, and Z for you. And I’m recognizing, and this is a conversation that’s come up and that there’s this side of it where like, yeah, there are deeper reasons why people haven’t faced these things head on, either because they didn’t know, right? Like they took on a loan or something. I was like, I didn’t know I needed to get documentation for that or I don’t, I don’t, you know, or maybe they have loose documentation. It’s like, no, we really need to make sure that that’s like documented, that we’re tracking that, that there’s interest showing on the books and things like that. But you know, it’s really our job just to be very matter of fact when it comes to the actual transactional nature of our work and to be very human, people first, service forward in all of the gobbledygook that just is a part of like living this life, you know, and being who we are and being where we are, you know?

Becky:

That’s twice though in this, you know, short amount of time we’ve been talking already where I’ve heard you’ve had clients be surprised when they’re met with either very matter of fact or very caring responses about their fears around money or their, you know, lack of knowledge around money, which tells me that a lot of women, because again, that’s who you work with, are being met with responses that are less kind when it comes to their finances, the way they manage their money, what they know about their money, which makes me angry and sad. Is that what you’ve noticed? Are you seeing that people are, which again, we’re gonna get to the trauma in a second because I feel like that’s part of that.

Luisa:

Yeah, I do see it a lot, unfortunately. And, you know, I think I posted this at some point, too. It’s just like, we don’t come into the world knowing this stuff. Like, they’re the world and I say this a lot, the world of especially business finance can be very complex. And so if we don’t even have a solid grip on our personal financial world to then go into business as a self-employed business owner and try to navigate each world. I just did a VIP day on this where I was trying to help people get clarity through a very simple framework on like, here’s what happens with the business, and then here’s you, you’re two separate things, and so you need to account for finances separately, but you can use the same methods to account for your finances in both worlds. And like some people had a really hard time wrapping heads conceptually around basics because it’s just not how they’re used to thinking about it. They’re used to money comes in, it’s mine, and then I make it work. But that’s not how, as a self-employed business owner, you actually need to be managing your money. But where do you learn this? There isn’t, I mean, if you are a photographer, and you have a fine arts degree and you started a photography studio and as a hobby because it sounded fun and then it took off, where in there do you get education about how to manage business finances? You’re just probably putting out a mayday to find a bookkeeper once you’ve got a pile of crap everywhere because you’re like, oh crap, I need help, right? And so you put out a mayday and then it’s like, how do you know you’re going to find the right bookkeeper for you? You probably ask friends or you probably ask family and you fall into whoever you have like an okay conversation with, and you go from there. And it’s just really unfortunate because not all financial experts are educators. Not all financial experts lead with a people-first, human-first mentality. And so that’s another reason why for People First and for this agency, my job is to grow it fairly large because I want to reach people who that’s what they want and that’s what they need in order for their, their true vision for the businesses they have to become and have the impact that they want them to have.

Becky:

And where do you even learn about personal finances? I mean, most schools aren’t teaching that to kids anymore if they ever did. Like, you don’t, it really is all sort of the luck of the draw if you happen to get parents that helped you open a bank account and figure out how to actually balance your checkbook and I don’t even know if they do that anymore.

Luisa:

Well, that or something really bad happens in your life. And then you’re like, oh shit, I don’t wanna be with this person anymore, but they manage all my money. Oh no, I have a health crisis and I can’t continue my work. Oh, I’m gonna have a kid, my whole life is gonna change. There’s some event, something that’s like, oh crap, I really need to get my act together, but like, it’s just a shame that it has to come from that place that you have to start there. Instead of having a preemptive, proactive, intentional, educational, like, like entry into finance. Too often, it’s like out of crisis and trauma, like you’re saying.

Becky:

Well, and it’s funny because you did a LinkedIn poll asking, which is more painful? And I love that you use that word, personal or business finances and personal won narrowly, but won. And I thought, oh, that’s interesting because you would think business is more complex. But I wonder if it’s not a bit of that personal is more painful because I haven’t even figured that out, let alone my business and or those things are still one for a lot of people and they’re not seeing that differentiation.

Luisa:

Yeah, and I think people, two other reasons. One is people personally don’t know what they can and can’t afford to spend truly. Like they just don’t have like the discipline and the clarity and the tools and the framing to like think about that and understand that. And so that’s really stressful. There’s also a lot more like whiplash that happens in personal life, like unexpected expenses and things that just happen. And then also, you know, when people are in business, you can find a bookkeeper or an accountant or and have to do your taxes and like have some financial professional in your life who’s like giving you some advice. And so maybe you have a little bit more peace of mind on the business side, but on the personal side, a lot of people also think, well, I don’t need a financial advisor until I’m making like oodles of money, which is just simply not true, but that’s what people think. Oh, I can’t afford to hire a financial, like that’s what rich people have. They have a financial advisor or they have whatever and that’s not me. But really, if you’re a business owner, and if you’re somebody with long-term financial goals, or if you ever wanna retire, you should probably consult or find, it doesn’t have to be a hefty, hefty investment. There are tools out there. I love Ellevest, they’re a great educational resource, and investing resource with financial advisors, specifically for women. So there are resources out there. But we have to stop saying that’s not for me, that’s for someone else. No, we all really need a baseline understanding of how our personal expenses and habits around personal expenses are either helping us get closer to where we wanna be or really holding us back from where we wanna be.

Becky:

It’s so interesting because you’re right. That idea of, I remember those days when I first was going to get a financial planner and I thought, who am I to get a financial planner? I’m like, I have an average job making an average amount of money and like, what am I thinking. And even the idea of investing for a lot of people feels like that’s for, that’s for rich people. A financial planner, that’s for rich people. And, and that’s so unfortunate because honestly, the people who need it most are the people who have less because you have to figure out, like you said, what you’re going to do. Okay, I want to get to the trauma piece though, because when I found this on your LinkedIn, I’m really interested to hear from you. What’s come of it since, it hasn’t been that long ago so it’s okay if you say nothing yet. This is still like where my growth edge is and what I’m excited about learning about. But, and it’s going to be a little lengthy, but you posted: “What if it’s not your fault? Many clients come to us with their financial world, meaning their records and systems and stuff, in disarray. What if it isn’t their fault? Many of us are battling more than just disorganization —  neurodivergence, ADHD, dyslexia, even major life trauma. And in parentheses, I would say some of that life trauma is also what some of the stuff we’re talking about, like systemic trauma that’s been given to us around finances. These things make the complexities of business finance even more challenging and no one’s talking about it. And then I started thinking, what if we included mental health support as part of our service offering? What if we started to talk more about the impact of these factors? What if my team members were trained in ways of working with clients who need a different style of support? When I say that we provide comprehensive high-touch and holistic support, this is what I mean.” That’s only been like a month ago. So it felt very much like in the moment sort of revelations and learning. Where have you gone with that? I mean, the idea of mental health support inside of finances is not something I hear a lot of people talk about, like you said, but you can’t separate money from all of these other issues because it is just such an integral part of our lives. So, where are you at on that learning journey?

Luisa:

Yeah, I think so far, you know, I would like to incorporate it in a much more official way, but making sure that my team is aware and making sure that the way that we are you know conducting business with communicating with our clients is done in a way, in a sensitive way, right? Where it’s not, cause sometimes, you know, a bookkeeper it’s like it’s their job to get all the data and check it all off like it’s a very like you know, this is my role and you know if they’re not getting information that they need from clients, there’s a lot of sort of training and reframing that I offer around some of these things that might hold clients back from getting us the information that we need so that our team isn’t operating from a place of frustration around this it’s thinking how can I make it easier for both for each of us to get what we need out of, out of the work that we’re doing? Like how do we make that easier, more accommodating, you know, really understanding different clients’ communication preferences and having options that work for our team so that if it’s much easier for someone to like do a quick text vs. logging into email, like just being very mindful and aware of the fact that everybody operates differently and has different blind spots and abilities and just navigating that as financial experts who tend to be very black-and-white about things, I think is like the lowest hanging fruit for us, right? It’s like the simplest thing that I can do is just make sure that our team is aware. I would love to if somebody comes on and in the onboarding, you know, this like life things and whatever comes up or they identify as, you know, having a, you know, a certain way that they do better working or struggle with, that then I can say, great, and part of our service is also this, is that something that you would be interested in? Would you like a referral? Would you like a reference? Something like that. Just acknowledging that I’ve seen it before, I know it can be an impediment to them getting what they need, and I’m a resource, again, a people-first, value-oriented resource to help them get the kind of support that they need if it’s not enough just working with our team to corral their financial world. So, but that conversation came up as a result of a conversation I had with a mental health advocate coach who I met via LinkedIn and I just had that revelation because she was like well this may be some this may be a reason why that’s challenging and I was like, oh my gosh you’re so right so I don’t want to take credit alone for that revelation it was out of conversation that that came out.

Becky:

Well, I fucking love it because I am all about compassion and for self and everything because so much of the stuff that is, to me one of the things that patriarchy and systemic oppression does is it gaslights those being oppressed into believing that so much of the issues that are systemic are their own fucking fault when it’s not case at all. And of course, because if you internalize it and say this is me, I’m the problem, especially when you create shame around it, because then you don’t want to talk about it. Right. So then it becomes a dirty secret that you keep inside and then you feel like you’re the only one. When you feel that way, you’re not looking outside of you. You’re not looking at the systems. You’re not fighting those systems because you’re not even looking there. You’re just busy thinking horrible things about yourself. And that is so much of what preserves the status quo. And the way we begin to change is to be able to get that internal fortitude and it’s not easy, but to get to that place to be able to say, what if it’s not my fucking fault? What if this isn’t me? What if it’s not me? I’m not the reason that my finances are in disarray. What if it’s because everything out there is telling me it has to look this way and that doesn’t work for me? And what if that’s okay? That’s the piece that’s so missing in the world, in everything, whether it’s finances or anything else. And to me, that is where big change starts to happen. When we talk about individual change, that’s the kind of individual change that creates a big change, is when we can all start to say, it’s not me, I’m not the problem, I’m not gonna let you keep convincing me that I’m the problem. Just because big banking has always said, it has to look this way to bank. And what if that doesn’t work for everyone? And so I just love that. And it sounds to me like you guys are starting that already, just in the way you’re being able to give people that permission to say, ‘Oh, wait a minute, you didn’t just judge me. You didn’t just judge my idea. You didn’t just judge my messy spreadsheet system.’ And I’m speaking from personal experience on that. You didn’t just judge me, right? And that already begins to feel transformational for people. And to be able to take it that extra step and all the points along the way to say, for you to begin to explore as that provider, how can it look different from my end? Because I think a lot of the folks I hope that are listening to this are also people that are not just trying to run their own business differently, but trying to deliver their services in a way that is about changing systems. And that’s the big question I’m excited to explore: how do we do that? And we’re living inside of the system. But how do we sort of become, you know, rebels inside of the system saying, how can I, in my little part of the world, make a change? And what you posted there felt like that’s like this is it like that’s your, that’s the place where you get to start to chip away at that wall and say, no. I hope it gets you excited as it got me.

Luisa:

Oh my gosh, I was lit up after that. I mean, even just writing that post, it came from this place of genuine, yeah, ooh, there’s a there there. There’s a thread to follow there exactly as you’ve sort of followed it. It’s exactly that. And I think that’s why in the way that I talk about the work that we do and the way that I talk about finance, I hope that people see that I talk about it differently so that there’s permission to think about it differently. Even that, like I don’t like talking about, oh, it’s the tax deadline. Oh, have you done, do you know what a 1099 is, like a lot of people do that, great. That’s great information. That’s not how I wanna talk about money and finance and it took me a while to find my voice like it does any business owner, right? It takes you a while to find like, what am I talking about? Like, how do I wanna position this and where is this coming from? And so, LinkedIn’s been one of those great platforms that’s just enabled me to sort of have those revelations, share those revelations, and see if there are ripple effects or if they gain traction. And so that’s really what it is, is just like, how do I call out these different, these reframes, right? So that if someone does come across that content or that idea from someone like me who has 20+ years of experience in finance and operations with successful startups and working with founders and all of that. Like, ooh, maybe she could have a point there. You know what I mean? That’s all I’m going for. Maybe she’s got a point.

Becky:

I hope if nothing else from this episode, and I think there’s gonna be a lot of things people take away, but I really hope, especially for people who are in that place of still feeling that turmoil around finances, maybe they’re making a lot of money even, but just that notion of I’m not good with money, or this has to be hard, or it’s it’s awful, whatever that there’s some, like you said, permission, if you walk away just even feeling a little bit more like, What if it’s not me? What if I’m not the problem here? And that’s okay. And then to be able to say, and I’m also allowed to ask for help because it’s not my fault that this is a mess. It’s not my fault that this is fucking hard. It may not be me, right? And so it’s okay if I go ask for help, you know, and ask for help from someone like Luisa, someone who is going to be coming at it from that place of compassion and understanding and look for a judgment free-zone around money, which can be very hard to find, but I think it makes a huge difference. But I hope just the permission granted to say, it’s okay, it’s okay. First of all, it’s okay if it’s messy, it’s okay if it’s hard, and it may not even be your fault. Like it probably has nothing to do with you.

Luisa:

And that’s the thing, I think a lot of the bad feelings we feel are like the shoulds or the whatever’s like, they’re actually not, it’s actually not us. I mean, if you ask me what I believe, like deep down, like from a spiritual place, like what I believe, I believe we’re all perfectly perfect, incredible, creative, like unending individuals. Like we are life itself. Like. If you want to go really deep, I’m a philosophy major, so I am, I’m philosophizing all day long.

Becky:

I love deep and I’m right there with you. 

Luisa:

And from that place, it’s like, all this other shit, people made up. People made up the financial system. They made up these rules. like, it’s all fucking made up. So, like, shrug it off.

Becky:

And time too, by the way, time is a construct. It’s completely made up as well,. All of it is made up. We all these are all things we agree on. And I tell people time money is just paper. It’s just paper. And it’s also really important. It’s absolutely meaningless and critically important. It can be two things at the same time. It’s the same with time. But when we start to give too much power to it. And like you said, I love earlier about how we cede our power around it, that’s where I think the problems come in.

Luisa:

And just one final thought on that is like, as far as things that we can control, like it’s hard to get in yourself in the mindset. Like, you know, you get fired up in this conversation and walk away and be like, yeah, I’m gonna think it. And then you sit down and you look at the reality of your situation and you feel overwhelmed, right? Literally in those moments, like if I can offer anything, give yourself space, find space between you and what your reality is, right? Find space and find support. And when you find support or seek support or ask for referrals or whatever it is, when you have a conversation with that person, don’t just check boxes. Are they hearing me? Do they understand my business? Do they understand what I’m struggling with? Do they understand my goals? Like, do I feel comfortable with this person or do I not, right? Because then we get ourselves into situations where like, oh, this person will do my taxes, great, they’re available. It costs this much, I can afford it. Okay, great, I’m gonna have this person do it. And then they do a shitty job or they communicate with you very harshly or not at all or whatever that is, and that just helps to build more of that negative feeling around money. I talk about financial wellbeing all the time. It’s the same kind of thing, right? Like when you’re gonna look for a coach or a therapist or a skincare professional or whatever, you wanna feel good in their presence. It’s the same thing with money. It’s the same thing with finances.

Becky:

And how many of us have that experience? I absolutely do firsthand on more than one occasion. I can think of it with an accountant and with a financial planner and probably, oh, and a bank, a banker, and probably more if I really put even more time into it. That’s just literally right now off the top of my head of knowing in my gut, right away, this isn’t a good fit. But then letting all that gaslighting, all that messaging, all that internal stuff come up and say, they know better. They know better than me. They know better than me. I have to listen to them. These are, they’re the experts here, you know, ceding my power and saying, even though I can tell, I can feel it, this isn’t right. Who am I to judge this person and say no, right? And of course, every time I will say those were white men, not that that’s always the case, but that has been in my experience for sure in finance. And I loved earlier and I didn’t say it and I wanted to, so it’s great that you were talking about intuition. Because I think when we think about money, finances, it’s absolutely an area where intuition is never brought up. What are you talking about? It’s something that’s all about facts and figures, dollars and cents, spreadsheets, bottom lines, profit-and-loss statements. We don’t talk about intuition. That’s not allowed in this space. So I love that you’re holding space for that. Because as we know, that is everyone, men and women have intuition, but it is historically because women have been denied education, traditional education over such a long period of time, they had to rely on their intuition very often to save, literally save their lives, right, to know whether someone was safe or unsafe, became seen as a more feminine attribute. And of course, to preserve systems, we say education, traditional education is all that matters. Logic and reason is what matter because that was denied to women and to people of color and, you know, everyone who wasn’t a white man. So that’s one way we’re preserving systems is by saying logic and reasons, all that matters. That’s the most important. That is the righteous thing. That is the, you know, the, the thing that we hold up. And intuition, now that’s silliness. Don’t do that. So that is like the, just to give everyone a little education, that’s historical roots of why we treat intuition the way we do now and see it as a quote unquote feminine trait and that it’s less than. And it’s not, it is your body knowing. And when we talk about trauma, that is your body knowing, it is your body saying, this isn’t safe. And yet how many times in finance do we not listen to those signals and say, well, I’m gonna do it anyway. So thank you so much for bringing that up. And I would tell me a little bit more about intuition because I don’t hear finance people talk about intuition. So I love that you do.

Luisa:

Yeah, I mean, I always say, again, it’s so cool to talk about this because there are so many ways that I’ve just like, we’ve just very naturally, again, tried to not hand power back because they, you know, but just continue to support and encourage the business owner making decisions and not just relying on us to sort of say, be prescriptive. And like even just in the way that we deliver our services and we do our planning, for example, I want to know what are your goals? I’m not going to sit down and go, okay, here’s how you build a million dollar business or here. I want to understand what is your goal for the business. And sometimes they’ll say, oh, I don’t know, we could double revenue. And I’m like, cool, does that feel, like what comes up when you when you say I want to double revenue, right? Because the number might look good. Oh, I had this with someone the other day where I was like, tell me what your vision is for the business. And she said, well, you know, we have an office, we have five to six team members, and we, you know, take on these kinds of projects. And I was like, great, five to six team members, how much do you pay them in salary? And she was like, well, about this much. And we did the math to back up what her vision was. So all I did, she told me all the numbers or all of her vision, and then I helped her break down the numbers and I said, okay, great. If this is the vision of the business then you need to bring in $1.2 million of revenue. How does that feel? And she went, ooh, I don’t know how we do that, right? And so I wasn’t prescribing anything. I wasn’t telling, like, I was just literally like, that’s your vision, great. Let’s math out your vision so that you have numbers and then you can gauge whether that number feels like, ooh, okay, that would be, wow, we could really do that. And this is, okay, I’m getting some ideas, like, and I see the kinds of, like either you have that intuitive response, or you have a, oh shit, there’s no way in hell kind of response. And then you move from that place. Like, okay, maybe that isn’t, all right, what’s another version of like, so that’s how I approach CFOing, is like, tell me what you want, give me your dream, let’s math it out, right, and figure out what we can move to get you there. But I’m not giving you answers. I’m just giving you questions and then literally doing the math. So that’s just an example of one way that I sort of help clients lead and give them space to even like vision in that way with some actual data to back it up, you know?

Becky:

And then trust what your body’s telling you. But it’s interesting because I love that. It’s so affirming for me because it’s a way I approach some of the work I do with my clients too around like their “enough number.” We live in capitalism that tells us that it’s always “more, more, more.” And I’m really a big fan of saying, let’s figure out what’s enough. That’s something we don’t ever talk about in capitalism. What’s enough? Is there ever enough? Because if there’s not an enough number, then nothing will ever be enough. And then you will always feel like you’re lacking. So I approach it in a similar way. And what I’ve noticed is that for many people, We have been so disconnected from our bodies and from our intuition for all the reasons that we’ve talked about and more, trauma in our bodies and everything else. It can be very difficult to even get into that place of being able to connect with and listen to and feel your body. And so it’s such a great, like, I hope people hear this too and do try it, like start to learn how to, and that’s what you said about getting space. I love that, get space, sit with, start to feel what’s happening in your body. And that can be. I only share that it can be hard so that if you do it and you think like, I don’t know, I don’t feel anything or I just feel confused, that’s okay. That’s also really normal. It’s really normal to feel so disconnected from your own body that you can’t feel it right away. That’s okay. And I see you nodding. So I’m guessing you’ve had that experience too of people being like, I don’t know what I feel.

Luisa:

Oh my gosh, yes. And like to not force it, right? To just like, and a lot of what I used to in my coaching and I played with like I did coaching and then I had a membership model and this stuff. And I used to call what I do and what I would ask clients to do a practice. Sort of like yoga where it’s like progress over perfection. You show up, you know, you look at your numbers on a monthly basis or a weekly basis or whatever. And maybe at first you just look at them. And that’s it, you get in, you get a sense of what’s going on, you get out. And then slowly over time, I also say, in budgeting, like if you’re doing budgeting work, you eventually start to naturally like feel when you’re hitting a ceiling on your spend. Like, you could look at, you know, people at first when you don’t look at your finances, you’re like, I don’t know, I probably spend about this much on food and you’re likely way off because you don’t know what those, you haven’t like looked at it enough. But when you build the practice of looking and staying close to how money flows in and out of your life, you start to build this natural like knowing in your body or at least that’s been my, I can speak from personal experience just on my personal budget and with my business where I’m like, ooh, I know this will, I’m overextending myself if I do this. I feel like I’m contracting, like, ooh, that doesn’t, that feels like I’m overextending myself. I know that. And then when I look at the numbers, I’m like, yep. Look at my cash flow and I’m like, yeah, I don’t really want us to dip below this, you know, marker or whatever. Same with personal finance, like you go grocery shopping, right? And you have a sense of like each grocery, you know, visit maybe if you’re going weekly, you have a sense of about how much you spend, right? But when you’re budgeting, what you need is a sense of how much you spend in relation to how much you want to spend. Because you have these other goals and other things in your life that you want to do. But if you’re not budgeting and you’re not looking at it, it’s just like, oh, I spent about that much. That’s about how much every time I go to the grocery store, right? Like, no, we can take it a step further, but like, that’s one way that I talk, because people have different feelings about even the word budget, right? It’s like, ooh, no, I can only do this much. It’s very restrictive and da-da-da-da-da, but it’s like, no, it’s deciding how you want money to flow through your life and then gauging how it feels to spend in that way. That’s my sort of, you know, different lens on budgeting.

Becky:

Here’s where I’ll do my confessional. For the first 10 years of my business, I was that person, my personal and business finances were absolutely intertwined. There was no separation. I didn’t have a separate bank account. I didn’t have an LLC or an EIN or any of the stuff, right? I was just like, and I spent, when money came in, I was like, oh, I have lots of money right now. And then when I suddenly didn’t, it was like, oh shit, where’s all my money? And what am I gonna do? And I got behind on taxes significantly for a while because of that. And I, it was all rooted in this fear of looking at my money. I was afraid to look at it. And every time I would go to look at it, it just didn’t feel good. And I was like, I don’t like this. It’s better just to kind of not know. And I’ll just spend the money when I have it. And then when I don’t, I’ll figure it out. Right? It sort of worked. But also, it doesn’t feel very good to live that way. And it was really hard for me. I mean, I did that for a solid decade of running a business before I ever started to get serious about if I’m going to really treat this business like a business, I need to really start treating it like a business. And that includes the money. And that’s very hard to do. So I say that for people, like, if you’re there, I’ve been there and I know, Luisa knows people who’ve been there and like, it’s okay. And if you are there, where do you tell people to start? And I love the idea of going slow, like just look, but you know, what do you find works in that beginning stage for somebody who’s been maybe avoiding their finances or just feels like it’s a mess?

Luisa:

Yeah, I mean, I really do think it is about looking, just looking, visibility. So this came up also in the group VIP day we had where I was just like, a lot of the work that we did was around visibility, right? No judgment, no, just like visibility, right, which means tracking what you’re spending on understanding what money is coming in. But more importantly, and this is the scary, oftentimes, the scary part is like what’s going out. And what we found is that some of our some of the people who are in that, in that workshop, didn’t have visibility into all of their finances. They actually didn’t have access to some accounts and some visibility. And so if you’re just operating, you can’t even access that, or you can’t even, like you can’t, even when you try, and oftentimes that’s a stop, that’s a stopping point for people is like, oh, I have to call the bank, I have to get an authorized, like whatever the minutia of like the details of the administration pieces, like, those are very real. I would just take a second to say they take time, they take energy, they’re frustrating. If you have to call the IRS, you have to call the FTB, you have to call all these entities, you have to call the bank. Nobody wants to do that. I totally get it. And if you can carve out one hour a week, start a list and just say one hour a week I’m gonna commit to looking at what I’ve spent money on this week, myself and my business. And if there are action items that you need to take, just make that one phone call. Just start checking things off the list. We do this, we handhold our clients who need this kind of support. This is exactly how we do it. Here’s the list of things that need to happen. Great, one at a time, because this stuff doesn’t happen overnight, and that should not be your expectation. It’s progress, not perfection. So I think that visibility piece is really, really important because if you can’t get a full picture of what’s going on, you will always be in the dark. The end, always. And we don’t want to be in the dark. Because shit happens. And so if you need to know, and you’re playing catch up in a moment of crises in your life, that’s the compound effect. And so if you can, just as part of your normal life, start to just chip away at visibility and whatever tasks need tasking, when a moment strikes, you’ll be far better equipped to handle it than you would be if you didn’t have visibility and you weren’t making progress. You know?

Becky:

When I think of the ways it can cost you, thinking about like the PPP loans, people who didn’t have a clue on their finances, you’re behind everyone else to be able to go after that money or grants or, you know, funding. These things are important and they hinge on knowing about your finances. And so as scary as it can be, I love that about just visibility. And I think some of it almost feels like exposure therapy for people who are afraid of a snake or something like slowly just exposing yourself a little bit to the finances and learning how to sit in that discomfort. And I’m going to have Brittany Tam on, I think probably the next episode talking about money mindset issues, like sort of more of the emotional side of money. So it’ll be a really nice complement to this. So if you’re in that space, that’s a good place to go. On the practical parts of managing your money, I also just wanna say that like I took a, you did a session, a workshop on forecasting and that wasn’t something I had done and it has been really great. I mean, this year I’ve been even more committed to visibility with my own money and looking at it in new ways. And honestly, if you can get there and get far enough along in that journey, I mean, ideally handing it off to someone else, but like you said, it’s still, you need to know. right? Even if you’re handing off someone else, because we still, even if it’s somebody amazing like you, we don’t want to cede our power to anyone. We want to have an understanding of what’s happening in our money so that we can be those stewards of our money. And I think it’s really exciting when you can eventually get to that place of it becoming fun and, or at least removing some of the charge, it being like, I like to think of it as just data. Right. It’s just data. And I’m a scientist and I’m getting facts and figures here. And it’s nothing about me. But then if you can even get to the place of it being kind of fun, I love a spreadsheet, so like a good spreadsheet can be really fun to me. So it is possible to get there with some time.

Luisa:

Yeah, and I feel like that’s where I was too in the beginning. I mean, I didn’t come out of the womb or out of school knowing anything about personal or business finance, like less than average about personal or business finances. But I knew that I never wanted to feel beholden to money. Like I knew that money if I had that as a resource, I would always have more options, more opportunity. Like I just always knew that. but I had no idea how to manage money. And so I threw myself into learning about it partially out of necessity and also because like, I’m a type A Virgo and I like it when things are very organized and like neat. So numbers always spoke to me, not when I was in school at all and the way that I learned math in school, but applying that in the real world always made a lot of sense to me. And so I really enjoyed it. And so once I got into it, when I saw how money worked, I did start to get this feeling of like, control and this feeling of like fun in learning more and more about it learning more and more about decisions that I could make to put myself and my family in a better financial position so that we have more options, so that my daughter has options, so that I can serve more people and be creative and and live my life in a way that feels good, you know. So I think for some people there is this point of like turning over. And I see this with clients a lot where they get into a cash flow spreadsheet at first, they’re like, eee, and then they get it and they use it for years because they’re like, oh, this was the missing piece. So you never know if you keep going, you never know when that missing piece for you will reveal itself. And if you listen to a lot of different, like the foundational principles of money are like pretty like they’re just some foundational principles, but the way that people explain money and think about money, there are lots of different ways. So listen to a lot of different people. Listen to a lot of different ways that people are describing finances and talking about business finance until you find the thing that is like, oh, that’s how that works? Because I guarantee you, you’ll find it, if it’s of interest to you, if it’s a place where you really wanna build your skills and put your head, you’ll find it because there isn’t one way. There are lots of different ways to really dissect and look at finances.

Becky:

And I like that you mentioned to that about being beholden to money, because I can I can also sort of feel perhaps some people listening who are kind of like, as an intersectional feminist or however you identify, but as somebody who cares about equity in the world and about humanity that and may feel some anti-capitalist feelings and being like, I don’t like money, like there’s tension there because of that as well, which I absolutely get. And I like that you’re talking about like, it’s also about my legacy and about my family. And for a lot of moms, especially, I find that’s one really great entry point into saying like this is important, even if you don’t care about money, you don’t wanna give money any more power than you have to, it’s about legacy. Or for me, I didn’t, it didn’t really like click and get exciting for me and wanting to grow my own wealth until I started to realize, I always, always thinking, I don’t wanna, I don’t care about having a 6-figure, 7-figure, 8-figure business, none of that, like, just building a big empire for empire sake never appealed to me until I started to think about how could I use that money to model what I want a business to look like, and starting to think about what would it look like if I could run a business any way I wanted and be able to treat my employees and give back into my community the way I really think a business ought to? What if it started with me and what would it look like? That’s when I finally got excited about money and like making more money and thinking now it has a purpose that’s not just about that. So I love that you mentioned that and think about, and I think that’s what you talk about your intuition, checking in and say, why do you like, what is your goal? A goal has to feel good to be motivating. And even with money goals I think that’s especially true.

Luisa:

Well, yeah, and in the business too, you know, because I monitor my cash flow and I understand how to manage resources and I’m able to have a 4-day workweek. I’m able to know what cap of hours, like I’m able to set realistic expectations for a team. I’m able to give time off. I’m able to, and I have done this, for clients who are experiencing personal trauma, adjust their services, their scope of work to a more limited scope of work for a period of time to give them a little bit of breathing room. I’m able to do all of that because I know how to manage money. If I didn’t know how to manage money in my business, I would be very fearful making hiring decisions, figuring like does 4 days work and how do I pay people for that? And if I’m gonna give a customer a break, how does that, I don’t know, it seems like we have enough money, but I don’t know. So I don’t have to worry about any of that. I can make decisions from a place of control and like almost like I have a dashboard that tells me when I plug in, because I run a cash flow projection, it’s like, okay, well, if we were to reduce revenue by this much and do that, what’s the impact on cash 6, 9, 12 months from now? I know how to do that. So it makes like, I was talking to another founder friend this past weekend, he was like, yeah, I just like, I have, I can’t sleep at night. Like I’m worried about the business. And I was like, huh, I don’t really worry about my, like, I don’t, I don’t have that level of anxiety because I mitigate risk the best I can and I just look at my cash flow and I’m like, okay, this is the cash position I can expect the business to be in in the next 6 months. Cool. Close my laptop. Go to sleep soundly. You know?

Becky:

Yeah, and you know, I can hear some amount of people saying, ooh, there’s such privilege in that, and I’m sure there is. But also, again, even if you don’t have a lot of money coming in right now, even if your business isn’t making a lot of money, even if your personal finances aren’t, you know, if you don’t consider yourself wealthy or even if you consider yourself to have very little money. One of the ways that we change those circumstances is by understanding our money and learning how to manage it and make sound financial decisions instead of, one way to certainly make that situation worse, I’ve been there, is to make decisions without knowledge about money, without any knowledge about your finances, and to just spend and to just sort of ignore it. That doesn’t make it better. Letting it stay in the dark doesn’t make it better. And so even if you don’t have a lot of money or you feel like, well, my business isn’t making enough money to be able to do all of that, that sure sounds like a lot of privilege, yours didn’t start that way either. It got there through really responsible stewardship of your money. And so I think it’s important to keep hammering in, too, no matter how much money you’re making. And I would say in a lot of ways, even more so when you’re making less, it’s important to learn the fundamentals of this stuff so that you can make those sound decisions that allow for that growth. Because otherwise it’s like you’re throwing spaghetti at the walls, like they say, and often, yeah, it’s not good.

Luisa:

That cash flow is how I got to this place. It is how. So, in my first brick-and-mortar business, I declared bankruptcy, personal bankruptcy in 2019. How I got to where I am is through that cash flow. So now, yes, it looks more stable, but when I was dealing with 3 or 4 figures in any bank account at any time, how I got through that was with this cash flow. The principles remain the principles. And being a good steward of, even if a dollar comes into your world in a month, how are you going to use that dollar to make your life better and make better decisions? Everybody has the ability to think about that, to feel if that resonates with them, to think, oh, well, if I wanna do that, where do I start? What are some resources, right? There’s local SBAs that provide free education and resources. There’s like, take it or leave it, free advice on TikTok, right? We have access to, we can expose ourselves to these things, right? In a way that we have never been able to in the history of the human experience. And so I just wanna be very clear that like, over the past, I’d say 7 to 10 years, I have mastered this skill and prioritized this skill, but they’re the same skills that I had when I was crawling my way out of debt, to the point where I’ve built this more sustainable business that’s poised for growth.

Becky:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that because I just think it’s so important. And also, of course, fully acknowledging all of the systemic issues that create inequities in money in the world. Like that stuff is very real, because I really hate money conversations that don’t acknowledge that the world’s really fucking unfair when it comes to money. Right? It is. And so fully acknowledging that. We need to change that. We also, so it’s not an either or, it’s an and, and at that individual level, what are you gonna be able to do? What can you learn? Because every time you learn how to manage your money, how to set a budget, how to live by a budget, how to maximize that dollar, all of that, how to save, right, how to invest, when you learn those principles, that is your way of those little chips out of that wall of patriarchy that we all get to do, right? And still the wall is there and the wall is bullshit. It’s both. Okay, I want to, because we’re gonna run out of time, I want to shift to your business, but you just answered, I think, but I’m hoping, I don’t know, there maybe there’s more or maybe that was it. I want to make sure I hit on it, is how are you walking this talk about people first, about equity in the world and all of that? How are you walking that in the way you’re running your business, not just in the way you’re delivering your services? We’ve talked so much about that, which has been incredible. But I heard the 4-day work week. What are the things you’re doing inside of your business to try to make it people first?

Luisa:

Yeah, so a few things. One is definitely this idea of an abbreviated work week. Most of my folks, I have contractors and an employee. And so nobody works, we work Monday through Thursday and that’s in our client contracts, Monday through Thursday. If people wanna jump in on a Friday cause it feels good because things are quieter and you can get some time, like that’s totally up to my team members but Monday through Thursday is when we’re on. And then the way that we’re able to support that is that there is a lot of cross training. So, the idea also that if some like one thing that comes up in my reviews with folks is do you feel like you can take time off? And if you don’t, what are the things we need to make sure are codified and clear so that someone else on the team can step into your shoes? Right, so like it’s very very important for me for people to feel like if they even if they want to leave early because they want to see their kid’s game or whatever, that yeah, the client work doesn’t suffer, but we can support each other and work collaboratively to make sure that everything else is taken care of. That starts with making sure that the work that they do is set up in such a way that somebody else can come in and very easily handle something. A lot of back-end operations work, I’ve invested in that a lot. to make sure that my team has the infrastructure they need to communicate like effectively and efficiently and that they’re not going to a million different places or confused about how to get the information they need to do their job. So again, a lot of efficiency so that we can fit into this four-day work week. In my interviews, I asked this question. I was like, okay, so let’s say it’s the end of the day and you’ve got your to-do list all checked off, all emails are answered, and you’ve got like a couple of hours left in like, you know, your actual work day, like what you’re being paid for, what do you do? And all of the people I interviewed were like, well, you know, see if somebody needed help, or I would look and see if there’s a project that we’re working on, or I would do X, Y, and Z. And I was like, well, that’s all lovely. And know that if you come to work with People First Finance and you’d rather like open a bottle of wine and get in the bathtub, like if your work is done, you’re done. I don’t want you sitting at your desk for longer than you need to sit at your desk to get something done. So that’s really important to me from like a values perspective is that everybody feels like they have autonomy over their time. Yes, they’re contracted to perform work and get certain deliverables done. And I’ve experienced that if you give people or not even give people, but just like create a space and allow for autonomy over how and when people spend their time, as far as it, as long as it’s in alignment with like what’s in the best interest of the company and our overall objectives and our clients, they will overperform. We probably get more done in a 4-day work week than we would if we had a 5-day, 9-to-5 work week because there’s so much idle time, right? What human can sit at a desk and actually perform work for 8 hours a day, it doesn’t actually happen. So why not just acknowledge that and call it what it is and let people have their time outside of what our prescribed business hours are, you know? And my team takes it. Friday, Slack is dead. Thursdays, we’re sharing wins. We’re talking about team updates. All through the week, we’re ba ba ba ba ba. Friday, it’s like crickets. And it’s the most beautiful thing to me because people don’t feel like they need to be on. There isn’t this culture of, oh, well we still need to be on and available. Like, no, we’ve set boundaries and expectations around that, so go live your life. And so that’s a big part of my retention piece because I want the work that we do to feel sustainable. for everybody in the company so they can stay with the company as long as it feels good to stay with the company, right? I don’t want to be not only from a profit perspective or like the turmoil that happens when you have turnover, but like, are people happy? Do they feel like they can live their lives and do this work in a way that like, where everything’s jiving and in alignment, right? Like that’s ultimately what I want. And so far, so good. Like, you know, and I like starting, I like that we started the 4-day work week. so early in the life of the business to just set that expectation and build for that instead of like, I know a lot of other companies because it’s becoming more popular, which is so great, they’re having to sort of like rejigger and sort of figure out how to then implement that and we’re just like from the get, that’s just how we do, which feels really good. So anyway, those are just some examples of and it’s mostly team, you know, it’s mostly like how I take care of our culture and our team. And then in turn, because I’ve spent so much in ops, and this may seem kind of like a funny connection, but I’ve invested a lot in operations so that the maintenance work, the compliance work, the normal work, my goal is for that to happen either automatically or very, or like very in an expected intentional way so that my team is available when the shit hits the fan. So I don’t want my team busy doing the busy work, and then a client comes to us and needs us and can’t access us. I want work on a daily basis to feel easy, simple, yes, yes, check, check, done, done, so that then when there’s a, they really need us for something, we’re like, we’re there like that because we’ve got the bandwidth and the capacity to hold space and help them problem solve because that’s really the value of the service that we provide is like, we’re with you for the long haul. If stuff comes up, we’re gonna help you sort it out. And yeah, we’ll also categorize your transactions and send you a P&L and do your taxes. But other stuff will happen. And our team is there for it because they’ve got bandwidth, even with the 4-day work week.

Becky:

I love that question in performance reviews around do you feel like you can rest? What a great question. Do you feel like you have time you can take off? I mean, such a simple way to center it. I mean, we have to rely on our employees being truthful with us, which is always an issue too around power differential and dynamics, but hopefully you create that culture where they can answer you. And what a simple question to ask. So if you’re somebody who’s like wanting to make some of these changes and like even just that, what a question to ask that again puts it back on people and helps them understand priorities and helps them see that you value that. The 4-day work week is definitely, I mean, they’ve been doing it in Europe and they have found the exact same thing, like the productivity rather than losses, I think there’s been gains, right? What a beautiful gift. Okay, I could talk to you a lot longer. I have to go pick my son up from school soon. So this is the real life of being a mom and doing business and all of that. But before we go, Two more things I want to ask you. One is, is there or who is a voice, whether it’s somebody on TikTok or social media or a book you’ve read or just somebody you’ve been learning from, either somebody who’s been really powerful in your journey of sort of unlearning all of the BS around money or about how to run a business or just somebody you’re currently interested in and as a voice has been teaching you. But I always love to share resources.

Luisa:

Somebody who I think is just doing really magnificent work in this area is Rachel Rodgers. Sometimes I say her name and people are like, oh yeah, I know her and some people haven’t heard of her and I’m like, everybody needs to read the book, “We Should All Be Millionaires.” She talks a lot about these systems and the history and why and why it’s important to, you know, amass wealth and what that looks like and how that is a revolutionary act. She also provides a lot of support on the business side. So if you’re somebody who’s like wanting to scale a larger business or start your own business or whatever it is, she provides a lot of resources in that department as well. So it’s sort of the best of both worlds. So I really love her work.

Becky:

And then finally, I like to extend my thank you to you for your time by making a little donation to something that matters to you, and also use this as a little opportunity to shine the light on organizations doing great work. So is there an organization that I can donate to and that means something to you?

Luisa:

Yes, so this is a throwback. This is sort of a nod to my former life and food and beverage. I got my first, my first business was a juice bar in San Francisco. So we sourced all these organic produce and made these beautiful drinks. And it was awesome. And I learned so much. But the organization that runs the markets there that provides food education to young people and support in the community is FoodWise.org. They run the markets in San Francisco that provide access to these incredible vendors, farmers. They need us, food supply is another totally screwed up area of the world that affects everybody. And so this organization is doing really great things as far as education and just cultivating sort of an awareness around food system issues and educating the next generation.

Becky:

So FoodWise.org. So if anyone’s listening, and if you got anything out of this episode, and if you listened to this whole episode, then I think you’ve gotten a lot out of it. I would love for you to consider to also make a donation to FoodWise.org alongside me as our thank you to Luisa for her time, because I think it’s so important. And I love getting this opportunity at the end of every episode to learn about these really amazing organizations and like different cities that are doing such cool work so thank you for sharing that. And thank you for your time. This has been a great conversation. Every conversation we’ve had has been great, and I’m sure like every other conversation, we could talk for another hour and a half, but we better stop it here. So thank you for your time.

Luisa:

Thank you so much for having me, Becky. It was awesome.

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