Helping You Put Profit First in Your Business, with Profit First Certified Master, Susanne Mariga: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar 0:56
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

Hi, guys, it’s me, Ludo Millar, your host of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Now after last week’s episode with Michael Bungay Stanier which was hosted by, not me, but Jack Simmonds, lead facilitator here at Qualified Tutor, I know you must be thinking, ‘When’s Ludo coming back? When’s Ludo coming back?’. I’m afraid, this week’s podcast will again be hosted, not by me, but by someone else from within the QT team. In fact, Julia Silver, the Founder of Qualified Tutor herself.

This week’s episode, we welcome on Susanne Mariga, who is the owner, chief accountant and chief profit advisor of Mariga CPA, which she founded back in 2008, not long after the birth of her daughter. Susanne is also the author of Profit First for Minority Business Enterprises, which is a real market-leading resource for minority business owners to take the next steps in their business growth. And of course, in amongst all of this, Susanne has time for her own podcast, The Profit Talk podcast, which you can find in the show notes below. This exists to serve entrepreneurs who want to continue taking in business no matter what’s going on around them. So for tutoring entrepreneurs, like many of you listening, this book and Susanne’s podcast will give you the confidence and tips to come out the other side of a lockdown and pandemic in a much stronger financial position than you would likely be able to achieve on your own.

Now, Mariga CPA was also selected as the Profit First Firm of the Year by the Profit First board, which is a huge achievement. So very, very well done Susanne and your team. Now without further ado, I will let Julia introduce today’s conversation with Susanne.

***

Julia Silver 3:37
Welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast. I am so delighted that you’ve joined us because in my mind, you’re really taking the lead in showing small business leaders from minority backgrounds how to feel empowered, enabled and give themselves permission to be successful as business leaders. It’s a message that’s very, very close to my heart. And you and I have been connecting on LinkedIn and through the writing community, through really encouraging, enabling people to think about how to lead their businesses in a way that gives them satisfaction in their life, so that they can really turn a project into a successful business. Is that a fair summation?

Susanne Mariga 4:27
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Julia Silver 4:31
Great. I’m really, really glad to welcome you here and today, I don’t know if you’ve been warned, but we always have a warm up question. And I have a feeling that it’s going to be a really beautiful answer. So our first question for you is: please describe to us your why in writing your book Profit First for Minority Business Enterprises, and explain to us what you’re trying to teach and why?

Susanne Mariga 4:56
Yeah, you know, Julia, I am from the United States. I’m based in Houston, Texas, and, you know, a lot of times, what happens in the minority communities, as you know, and the United States has a very interesting history, as you guys are aware, well aware. And my background, ethnically, and racially, I am half Chinese and half black. So, you know, when I, my mom’s family, I was the first to graduate from college. My grandfather was a sharecropper. And his mother was one generation removed from slavery. And I remember when I graduated from college, my entire family came down to celebrate on my mom’s side, they’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you know, this is the changing of a legacy. This is a pivot and our family for years’. And what I realised was that a lot of minorities, you know, and this country, and the United States, a lot of us are Gen 1 to pivot our legacy. And we don’t come from legacies of a lot of money, or maybe a successful entrepreneurship that’s been passed down to us. And so there isn’t that hand me down of information. And I thought to myself, by writing this book that, you know, we would pivot our communities by really creating that levelling, the levelling of the playing field, by really creating an education platform that maybe we didn’t inherit.

But, as an accountant, because I’ve worked with so many businesses, I saw the good, I saw the bad, I saw the ugly, I saw what worked, and I said, you know, ‘Let’s put this in a book, and really teach people what I’ve learned, so that they can quickly get to where they aspire to’. And it’s interesting, because I was writing the book, I said, you know, ‘I think we can go a little bit further in this book’. Because, you know, we’re already going to be changing communities, right? We’re gonna be changing communities, eradicating those bad areas across America by creating jobs. But let’s do something different. Let’s take this a step further. And one of the things that we did in the book was we created a permanent endowment. So we partnered with a nonprofit HOPE Worldwide. And I said, ‘You know what, that’s it. Let’s send girls to school, let’s send girls, high school girls, in Zimbabwe to school’. Because what happens is Zimbabwe, historically, the government has paid for college. But most kids don’t get to go to college, because they never are ever able to pay that tuition for that elementary school in that primary school. And so what if we created a dollar through the book, meaning that for the book, every book that sold $1, for every book that goes towards tuition for these girls to go to school, because, you know, girls particularly are vulnerable, because as a culture that has polygamy, you know, if a young girl doesn’t get an education, really the only thing that she can look forward to his marriage. And so I figure, it’s hard to tell a doctor that she has to be the second wife. So let’s go ahead and pivot this generation, I was really proud because after 30 days of our book coming out, we created 22 scholarships.

Julia Silver 7:56
Gosh, that is so awesome. That is so awesome. You are making change.

Susanne Mariga 8:05
Yeah, and you guys are too as tutors and educators.

Julia Silver 8:09
We are, we absolutely are. And we are small business people. And our background is not in business and marketing. And we have no financial education. And we’re just doing our best, but we don’t pay ourselves first. And we don’t value ourselves properly. And there’s tons that we have to learn from you, Susanne. So, talk to us about the Profit First model, we have had Mike Michalowicz on the podcast twice before, and I will cross-reference that in the show notes. But please dig into the Profit First model and show us how it works.

Susanne Mariga 8:42
First, it’s amazing and it was one of the biggest game changers in my business. And I’m an accountant. Okay, so when I say it’s a big game changer in my business, that’s a big deal. And it’s interesting, because the whole concept of Profit First is based upon working with our natural biological and psychological makeup, meaning that we got to make it easy for ourselves in order to be successful, because too many small businesses are failing, right? I know, in the US, we have a statistic that, at the end of five years, more than 75% of businesses are not going to be left standing that starts today.

And a lot of it is because of the MIS education that’s going on. So maybe it’s better that you don’t have financial education because you can learn to do this the right way. In school, you know, we’re taught that there’s this formula and as generally accepted accounting principles, revenue minus expenses equals profit. And the problem with that is when we teach our entrepreneurs revenue minus expenses equals profit, what we’re teaching them is sell, sell, sell, it’s a volume based business, get more kids to the door, get more customers out more kids drop your price that people are telling it to you and I, and then the responsibility, being responsible citizens: pay your bills, and then naturally profit’s going to be a byproduct.

But what happens is these businesses follow that model and what happens is they end up going out of business. And so what Profit First says is that, ‘We’re gonna focus on something called Parkinson’s Law, which is your natural tendency. And what that means is, you know, what happens  in our innate psychology is the more there is something, the more we’re going to use, because we’re efficient, we’ve been taught growing up as kids, you know, you get a plate of food, you clean your plate, you eat it all don’t waste the food, right? And so as, as human beings, you give us a big plate, we’re gonna eat that big plate, right, we’re gonna eat a lot more food. Now, if we go to that order of Ghana, right? We go to that meet-the-teacher event with a teeny, weeny six inch plate, we’re gonna eat a lot less, right, because our plate is smaller. And that’s exactly how it is in business, right? When the economy is flowing, and things are absolutely amazing, my clients are asking me like, ‘Hey, Susanne, I need a tax write off, can I get that? That big old car, that big SUV? So I can write that up?’

Or, ‘Hey, Susanne, I need some training, right. I need some training. And there’s this great class in Bora Bora, you know, right off, I heard, can I take that?’

Or, ‘Hey, Susanne, I’m thinking about building a facility, I’m thinking about getting a space, right? And when the economy’s questionable, when they don’t know where tomorrow is gonna lead, right, they’re making different decisions. They’re asking me, ‘Susanne, what little employee can I keep? Can I keep running my business, but at the same time can I be able to work on the cash flow that I have?’

Or, ‘Susanne, hey, what am I going to do? What I need to cut? What expenses do I need to cut in order to make-‘. Or even better yet, my favourite one lately is, ‘Hey, what government subsidies are out there? What tax credits, what free money can I get as a business owner?’

And again, it’s about what’s out there, our situation is the same way it is in Profit First. And so what happens in Profit First, as we teach our entrepreneurs, we’re going to create smaller plates. And we’re going to create these smaller plates by taking our profit first, and we do this to the use of bank accounts, you know, you guys may have heard of Dave Ramsey’s envelope system, and it’s a lot like that. And what happens is, we collect all of our money into one big bank account, right, all of our collections, all your tutoring income is going to go into this one revenue account, and then twice a month, on the 10th and 25th, what’s going to happen is, we’re going to allocate money to different bank accounts based upon their predetermined purpose. So the first thing I want you to do is, Hey, you’re Profit First. So you’re going to literally allocate money from your income account straight into your profit account.

So from day one, if my profit first, all of you guys are going to be profitable from day one, then you’re gonna allocate to owners pay because you know, your MVP, if you disappeared and didn’t show up, you would have no business with me, no taxes, they’re part of life, you use the road, get over it, we’re going to allocate for the taxman, hopefully you don’t use at all and we’re going to take a bank account, we’re gonna allocate a portion, the taxes, and then whatever’s left over is going to go to operate expenses. So when you check that bank account, and somebody says, ‘There’s an amazing software available, and I’m going to sell it to you’, you’re going to look at that operating account, and you’re going to go, that’s all I have. And do I really want to make this purchase right now.

Julia Silver 13:07
I need this. You and I are going to have another meeting afterwards, because you make it sound so intuitive. You know, you talk about plates, and my equivalent is handbags. The bigger the handbag, the more junk you carry, right? That idea of, you know, there’s always a new software around the corner, that’s going to solve our problems. With me, I always think this new resource is going to be so useful. I’m going to use it with all my students, but it’s a subscription. And it goes on and on. And I rarely remember to cancel subscriptions. So if I can have that system of just looking in one specific envelope, and seeing that envelope doesn’t really warrant the numbers in that envelope, don’t worry, and that resource, you’re going to cause me to be more creative, right? You’re going to cause me to find my own solutions to find free solutions. And and that’s never going to be a bad thing.

***

Ludo Millar 14:20
And now, just a short word from Richard Evans, the CEO and Founder of The Profs who are proudly sponsoring Tuesday at the Love Tutoring Festival 2: the Business of Tutoring.

Richard Evans 14:32
Hey, it’s Richard from The Profs. We’re so excited to be partnered with Love Tutoring Festival, Jan 2022. Are you looking for the next step in your tutoring career? With hourly rates of £50 to £150 and all-important daytime hours, check out The Profs and join our network.

***

Julia Silver 14:54
Can I cross-reference our conversation with this book that I’m reading at the moment? Rich Dad Poor Dad:What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Susanne Mariga 15:02
I love that book, actually read it straight out of college, it was an amazing book.

Julia Silver 15:07
I made my kids read it. And my husband, because I feel like nobody taught us this stuff. And the story in there that I wanted to refer to was the boys working in a store for free. And they’re not being paid a salary. And so how do they make their money, they collect up the comic books at the end of the day. And the comic book owner says they’re only allowed to take these if they don’t sell them. So what did they do, they start a library for comic books. And they charge the children for an hour of coming into their home and reading the library. But they didn’t sell the comics. So they’re completely compliant. And I love the creativity that happens there where, instead of giving people- and just to point you back to tutors are not tutors or going it, tutors are doing something very brave. And we need all the infrastructure and all the creativity and all the permission that we can get to really be successful. So Susanne, let me ask you about the psychology. Because in your book, there are some beautiful stories about real women. Can you tell us about some of those women, please? And the journey that they went on?

Susanne Mariga 16:26
You know, it’s interesting, because everyone has a different journey with what they’re going through. And there were so many women that I actually quote in my book, you know, some of my favourite ones are Dr. Avis DeWeever. And one of the things that she talks about is, you know, when she started her business, she had to find her own unique spark, right, she had to find where there was an area in the market that really needed her gift, and really how to provide that. And her background was more in the media. And a lot of times when people want to get into the media, they’re just looking for a spot, any spot on television, because you actually need to be in the right spot, right, in order to generate a return on investment for that media spot that you’re getting. And so she realised that a lot of the agencies out there weren’t putting people in the right spot, they were just getting them a spot on, you know, CNN or one of the channels, but it wasn’t as they were their audiences.

And so finding where there’s a need, particularly to target your customer. And that’s really important, because in the tutoring industry, where is there a need? And where is that pinpoint between that need versus that affordability? Right, because I think that’s one of the things that we struggle with, and a heart industry is, you know, we want to help everybody, right? And we’re willing to, but unfortunately, helping everybody for a fee, not everybody can pay your fee. And so, you have to realise that you have a business, right, you have a business, but at the same time, you know, if you have a heart business, that has to be separate, right, that has to be completely separate. You have a nonprofit, have a nonprofit, right? Run that like a nonprofit, but if you are looking to support yourself, you know, you’re gonna have to go, you know, where is there a need? And what do I need to earn from a pricing standpoint? You know, a lot of times when we start a business, we look at it as a job, right? Like, how much would I have made, if I worked at such and such job, right? Maybe I would have made it like $20 an hour or $25 an hour, maybe pounds, right?

Maybe I would have made this amount per hour. And we mistakenly charged what we would have made that hour, we mark it up a little bit. But what we don’t consider is, you know, there’s a time that we’re not going to be working right, maybe we’re gonna want some vacation time, and we want to, you know, even in the school year, you got three months of vacation being a teacher, right? Maybe I want to build in a four-week vacation, so I’m not going to be available 52 weeks in a year, right? And so there’s also gonna be times where I’m not gonna be able to teach too, right? Because there’s so many hours in a day, I have to write up what I’m doing, I have to market in order to continue to grow. If I’m scaling and I want to hire other tutors under me, right? I got to be able to have time to do that. And also you have to think about my future right? My future is you know, if I’m going to hire tutors and the future, right? You know, I can’t just bill that $20 an hour, I need to build in a multiple for that person working their vacation time. And by the way, at some point, as you start to grow, if you want to attract A-players, they’re gonna want benefits so not just vacation, they’re gonna want health insurance and you have to build all that into your price. So what I usually say is you want to get a 4x of what your market rate would have been as an employee.

Julia Silver 19:59
That is ambitious, right? That’s really ambitious. But when you set the bar so high for us, we step up. And we create offers that are more valuable. So lots of tutors are moving into group tutoring at the moment. And I wonder whether that’s a good solution and a good model. We also work in international tutoring. So we’re working around different time zones so that we can really lean into our specialisms. It’s a fascinating area. But I want to hear more about- I want to hear more about what makes us hesitate from valuing ourselves so highly. And how we can overcome the psychology of that.

Susanne Mariga 20:44
You know, in psychology, there’s an ego, right? There’s an ego and psychology. You guys remember, Sigmund Freud from high school psychology, and you guys are, you know, have gone through the teacher training. So you probably had that even more recently than what I have. But you know, that ego is there to protect us, right? It’s not all that bad, right? It’s there to protect us, it keeps us in that tribe, as we call it. And the thing about it is, when we try to deviate from the tribe, right, it judges us, right? It does everything possible to keep us in the same place that was safe. And a lot of times when it comes to charging prices, there’s a couple of things that’s going on with it. One is the ego saying, you know, ‘What do you do to deserve that price? What are you? Why are you asking that price?’.

Well, what we don’t realise is that my zone of genius is going to be different than Julia’s zone of genius, right, and it’s going to be different than your zone of genius. And just because it’s coming easy for me, doesn’t mean that it’s going to come easy for you or for Julia, you know, I mean, I’m like, man, you know, if I can get tutors, my child was asking me about this, like math, a suit, I can’t pronounce it, where lines don’t ever touch and I was like, ‘Go ask your dad’ [LAUGHS]. We don’t do lines in accounting, it’s up to our ruler, and making sure the numbers are straight.

But just because you’re gonna be a genius doesn’t mean that it’s somebody else. And so you need to charge your work with that. So that’s part of the ego, saying, ‘Who are you to charge that?’. And also, it can come from peers, too, like, you know, your peers are not charging enough, they’re not scaling their businesses, and they’re like, ‘Who are you to command that price?’. And so getting over that money shame, and go, you know, it’s not about necessarily trying to perceive yourself as more than what you deserve. It’s literally about just running a successful business. And that eagle, it keeps a lot of people in the same place, which is why 75% of businesses go out, it’s because we listen to the advice of others who are not doing well. The other thing that happens is, you know, just going back academically, right? That revenue minus expense equation, right, we focus on revenue, get as many values as we can, right, and we take the wrong customer that ends up, you know, we’ve all taken a customer that it actually costs more to take them on, where you’re like, literally texting their parents at the middle of the night going, ‘It’s really not an emergency’, but, you know, it costs you more to service that client, right, because it’s not your zone of genius. Or maybe that was just not the right client for you, in this particular case. So that’s something else that happens too, with that is, you know, when you’re, again, working against your natural, innate situation, that is exactly what happens there.

So it’s a combination of academics and psychology that’s involved with that, you know, I always tell people, let’s start with what winning looks like, start with what winning looks like, and identify your why. Because when we start with the WHY, meaning that when I look back in my business, and I am going to retire, what are the things that I want to accomplish? What are the things I want to accomplish in terms of my retirement, when I want to retire? How much money I need? Well, how much do I need to live on each year? What do I need? And then algebraically going, you know, this is the amount of revenue that I need to generate in order to really feel that I want at the end of the day. And that’s important because, if you’re going to be a one-to-one tutor, and you’re going to go to houses, and you’re never going to have employees, right, it’s going to require a very different strategy than if you’re going to have a franchise, you’re gonna have multi locations, you’re going to grow online and have 10 students in this tutoring group, right? And you’re having multiple of those group trainings is going to require different strategies. So I would always say start with what winning looks like. And then algebraically determine a strategy that you need to do in order to get there. So look at it: yes, you’re in a heartfelt business, but also look at the mathematical side of it all too.

Julia Silver 24:56
I think what’s nice about that heartfelt business is we know there’s more than one right way. And we have to do that introspection to say, what does success look like for me? Yeah, we’re not treading a mainstream education path here. And therefore, some of us want to build big franchises. And some of us are happy with tutoring on the side and everything in between, and the permission to go ahead and design what your success looks like. And then work backwards and calculate what that would look like, per month and per week, I think is really, really enabling. So let’s come up with two questions. The first one is, you know, sometimes our listeners tell me that they listen to this podcast, when they’re walking the dog, and they listen to it on 1.5, I have a feeling no one’s gonna listen to this at 1.5 because you and I have spoken extremely fast and covered tons of ground. [LAUGHS] So let’s distill what we’ve just said. And last of all, one key takeaway for small business owners today. 

Susanne Mariga 26:01
So the key takeaway that I would have, as you know, there’s a couple things really with it, the key takeaway would be, again, just starting with why. What does winning really look like for you and algebraically, figuring it out? And then the other thing is, you know, we never arrive.

We’re constantly works in progress, so it’s important to enjoy the journey. But also, from a financial standpoint, because I am an accountant, you have a relationship with your numbers, you know, have a monthly relationship and your numbers when your bookkeeper gets those books done. Look at how you did this month, look at how you did last year, that same time on that particular month and go, you know, how did you do differently? If your revenue increased, how can I get more of that? How do I repeat? What was I doing differently this quarter or this month, compared to last year at this time? If I didn’t have a great month, what was I doing a year ago at that month? And how do I tweak that? How do I adjust that in order to get where I’m going? The other thing is, when you’re looking at those numbers, look at return on investment, look at the ROI. Look at what’s really generating income. Is that software, like Julia said, that I subscribe to- I’m telling you that one of the most cleverest thing that those software companies did was get you onto Software as a Service [Saas] subscriptions, right? Because most of them are too busy to breathe and go back and cancel, even realise you’re still paying for that. But look at what the ROI is, you know, is that software subscription? Is it something that’s covered in a free software like Julia said, or is it a duplication of something I already have, can I consolidate this to get more efficient with this or, or even like Julia with the group coaching that you guys are in a group tutoring, you know, can I do one-to-many type of tutoring events in order to again, generate greater margin. So again, focus on the ROI, focus on what does winning look like, And then you will determine your strategy to get there.

Julia Silver 27:58
So that was fantastic ROI, because you just gave us three.

So, thank you so much. And, you know, we were talking about the subscriptions, I’m thinking to myself, I could have already bought those winter boots already, if I can afford them subscriptions. So that’s what I’m going to go and do straight after this session. And I just want to point our listeners to  how to learn more about you Susanne, about the work that you’re doing, what’s coming up next for you in your projects. And just tell us how to get more, how to get closer and learn more from you. 

Susanne Mariga 28:30
Well, I definitely have the book Profit First for Minority Business Enterprises. You can check that out at any bookstore, Amazon.

Julia Silver 28:38
It’s a great read.

Susanne Mariga 28:40
Thanks. And that is a great way to do it. We do have the Profit First Masterclass where we teach you how to implement Profit First and your business. The next one’s coming out on the 8th, it’s free for five days, learn how to implement Profit First in your business and ask all your questions there. And that’s another one of the events that we’re hosting.

Julia Silver 28:59
I’m coming to join you on that session. So anybody with clients will see us there with me there as well. There is so much to learn here. And we are novices at financial education, we really, really are. And exactly like you’re saying, I’m so glad nobody taught me wrong. So now I can just come in and learn a system that’s going to be helpful. When you arrived, in this meeting, we had two of our Community members who are leading our Business of Tutoring Hub. And one of them said that Profit First changed her life. She was running a catering company. And she was working from five in the morning until one in the morning and weeping as she was cooking until she realised that she was doing it wrong. She read Profit First and she flipped her whole model and it became profitable. So blessings to all of our business leaders who are doing their best and making a difference. And thank you to you for enabling us to learn some of the skills that we’re really going to need to be successful. And I look forward to speaking with you again in the future.

Susanne Mariga 30:06
Thank you. Thank you Julia for having me.

Julia Silver 30:10
It’s been really fun. Thanks so much.

***

Ludo Millar 30:15
Now just before we close today, I wanted to let you guys know about a new feedback and commenting feature we have made available to everyone and anyone. SpeakPipe is a website that allows anyone to record a short audio message and send it in. We have created a special Qualified Tutor Podcast SpeakPipe page, which can be found at speakpipe com/QualifiedTutorPodcast. The aim of this is to allow you to leave feedback on any part of our show and really whenever it pops into your head, there’s no limit to how much feedback you can give.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Whether you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or you’ve just stumbled across it, join the Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within the Qualified Tutor Community. To stay up to date with our latest news offers workshops and of course, simply to meet other tutors like you, whatever your level is as a tutor, our training courses will be the next step in your professional development. Visit qualified tutor.org/training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

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