Course Correction

I would like to thank you for your readership of this blog.

I am a big believer in the fact that you have to open up some space in your life to give new things (things that you don’t even know exist yet) space to come in.  But as a working mom, executive, entrepreneur, volunteer, board member, etc., it has been a while since there was space for anything new in my life.

Until now.

Effective December 15th, 2011, I’ve closed my business, PEER Coaching Network.  Not because I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, because I did – especially the people who I’ve had the honor of working with over the last 2 1/2 years.

Why? – because it has become clear to me that it is time to simplify my life, and focus my energies “elsewhere”, even if I don’t yet know exactly “where” that is.  Like many people, I have looked forward for some time to retiring from the day-to-day obligations that running a business entail, and some personal changes have made it sensible to move toward that goal now, instead of in a couple of years from now.

Like many “retired” people, I still intend to work, but in a different way.  Simplification, first – that’s hard work in and of itself.  Then, we will see. I am sure the challenges will be interesting and the people fascinating.  I’ll still have a few clients, and I know I will continue working in the non-profit sector.  Travel? Writing? Back to school?  We’ll have to wait and find out.

I don’t think of this as a major change, but as more of a course correction as I travel through my life.  It’s not the first time I’ve made a shift, but it’s by far the biggest one.

So, I may see you here on these pages again, or I may not.  Either way, I wish you luck in your own course of travel, and in any course corrections you decide to make along the way.

Since I write this on December 16th, 2011, I also wish you the very best of holiday seasons.  And Peace on Earth, and goodwill towards all.

My best,


Posted in Principles for Success | 2 Comments

Last Chance! Great class for Non Profits-Raise more $ and manage it well

For the last two years, I have taught a class at UCSD Extension (San Diego) called “Financial Management forDonation Button Nonprofit Organizations”.  It runs for 6 weeks, and the cost is a very, very reasonable $330.

The class is all about telling the best possible story about your non profit, using the tools that the funders use – your financial statements and annual report.

I developed this class to assist non profit managers and board members look at their organization through new eyes, learn the accounting rules and financial statement presentation issues that may be confusing them, keep the organization running lean, mean, and under control, and learn how to tell the story of their organization to funders and contributors in a better, more powerful way. The reviews have been amazingly positive.

I will be taking a hiatus from teaching after this academic year.  The FINAL opportunity to take this class will be online, starting on February 6, 2012.  If you are at all interested in improving your skills in this area, please join me from the comfort of your living room!

You can register online at the following link:

UCSD Extension

If you’d like more detailed information, email me at joanneberg(at) and I’ll send you a copy of the syllabus and answer any questions you may have.  I’d love to “see” you there.


Posted in Accounting and Financial, Non-Profits | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The 6 C’s of Successful Small Business Owners

How do you define success?

Money? Time with family? Personal satisfaction? The creation of long-term business value? Job creation? A change for the better in the world around us?

Most small business owners use one or more of these definitions. Some aspire to all of them!

Your definition may be similar, or it may be different. The important thing is to know what success means to you. How do you make sure that you have what it takes?

To achieve success, I believe that there are six characteristics that all small business owners need. Fortunately, these traits can be developed by anyone who chooses to do so.

Here is my list:


Successful business owners have excellent character. They are ethical and trustworthy; they make decisions based on what is right rather than what is expedient. Whether you are their employee, partner, investor, customer, client, friend, colleague or family member, you know that you can trust them to do the right thing, and they do what they say they will do.

Trust pays huge dividends in business. When your customers trust you to treat them fairly, give them good value for their money, and provide excellent service — your retention and repeat business goes up, marketing costs go down, and your profitability is enhanced. When your employees trust you, productivity improves and turnover is reduced. It’s not hard to imagine the cost savings and increased profitability that results!


Successful business owners make a commitment to a goal, and they see it through. They are tenacious. They don’t give up. When they hit a bump in the road, they find another path, and they keep going.

As Knute Rockne said: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Without that commitment on the part of the owner, no business will reach its highest level of success.


Compassion is good for business. In the book Values-Driven Business: How to Change the World, Make Money, and Have Fun (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, 2006) by Ben Cohen and Mal Warwick, the authors show how even small businesses with limited resources can benefit from caring policies towards their customers, employees, suppliers, community and the planet.

Many business professionals understand this intuitively. Even if all you can do as a small business is become involved in making your community a better place (for example, through membership in a local service club or service on a non-profit board), your business eventually benefits in ways that you may not have foreseen when you joined.


Conviction is the absolute belief that the products or services that you are offering, and the business that you are creating, is valuable and serves a need that has never been filled in exactly that way before.

If you’re not completely convinced of this, your customers won’t be, either. Think about that for a minute — your passion for what you’re doing is critical to your success. I can’t think of a better reason to choose a business that you love.


Starting and running a business is definitely an act of courage. It entails risk, uncertainty and a great deal of effort and hard work. Courageous business owners take the risk, accept the uncertainty, and do the heavy lifting needed to make their business succeed.

As Sir Winston Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

With courage, success is not guaranteed — but without it, failure is certain.


People who start and grow businesses are literally creating something out of nothing. The creativity that people apply to their businesses is awe-inspiring.

Sometimes we limit our definition of creativity. While some people are more inventive than others, or more artistically or musically talented than others, we all have areas in which we excel creatively. These talents can be nurtured and grown once you become aware of them.

The process of running a business can also be very creative. Apply your creativity to your business, and watch it grow!

Posted in Creating Value, Open Forum Articles, Principles for Success, Small Business | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Your Business Owes Taxes When It Didn’t Generate Cash

This originally appeared on American Express OPEN Forum on January 4th, 2011.  I am reposting it here since this is the time of year many of our thoughts turn to tax planning.  The Section 179 deduction in particular can take many by surprise – for more details read the last paragraph.

Your business has several silent partners: Uncle Sam and his state and local cousins. Many of the decisions you make on a daily basis will impact their take, so it’s wise to be at least somewhat familiar with the tax laws when you run your own business.

One of the most important financial metrics for most businesses is “How much cash did we generate?” However, business owners sometimes do not realize how much taxable income (not cash income) their business generated during the year. Then, at the end of the year, they get a tax bill that they do not expect. This can wreak havoc with cash flow and business growth plans.

Here are a few of the situations that can cause this, and some ideas for how to deal with them.

Your business is required to pay taxes based on the accrual method of accounting, but you’re keeping your books on the cash method.

Under the accrual basis of accounting, you must record income when you make a sale, not when you get paid. In general, this applies to any business that sells goods from its own inventory such as retailers, wholesalers, distributors, and manufacturers. However, the amounts you pay out for inventory are not deducted from your net income until the inventory is sold. For many businesses, a lot of cash is tied up in inventory, so it’s not hard to see how you could have taxable profits but no cash!

It’s extremely important to handle your inventory and sales accounting correctly. Be sure to have your bookkeeper or accountant prepare your monthly financial reports using the accrual basis. It’s worth spending a little more money here on good financial reporting.

From a business planning and management standpoint, this is where good inventory and credit management techniques come in. Learning how to manage your inventory levels so that you don’t have any more goods on hand than you need to run your business profitably and managing your receivables so that there isn’t a long lag between the time you make a sale and the time you get paid for it both make a significant difference in your cash flow and your profitability.

You paid off debt or bills from last year, during the year.

Debt repayments are not tax deductions! If you’re finally becoming profitable and paying off the loans and credit cards that helped you start your business, remember that you already deducted the expenses that those loans and credit cards paid for in a previous year. This means that your taxable income may be more than the net funds generated from the business during the year. From a business management perspective, ask your accountant to prepare a Statement of Cash Flows along with your monthly Balance Sheet and Income Statement. This will help you really understand what’s going on in your business because it reconciles your net income with your cash flow.

You’ve invested in equipment, vehicles, or other assets that are needed to run your business.

The Federal tax law allows for many of these purchases to be deducted immediately from your taxable income instead of being depreciated over time. This is often referred to as the “Section 179 deduction.” This is a great deal, but there’s a trap here. Many people do not realize that this is a tax deferral, not a tax savings. The tax savings reverses in future years because you won’t have the depreciation deduction in those years — you used it up when you bought the asset.

If you think your tax rate will be going up, you may be better off taking the depreciation deduction in future years, when it will save you more money. If you finance the purchase with debt, you need to be very careful. A typical scenario is that a business owner buys an asset, finances it, and then takes the Section 179 deduction, saving taxes in year one. However, in future years, they have debt repayments, which are non-deductible, and no depreciation expense to report. The result? Taxable income is higher than the cash generated from the business. This can result in cash flow problems if you haven’t planned for it. From a business planning and management standpoint, think of the tax savings from the Section 179 deduction as a loan from the government that you will have to pay back.

These are just a few examples of what can happen. Taxes can become complex very quickly when you have a growing business with multiple types of transactions. To avoid surprises, always have your tax professional do a tax projection for you well before it’s time to pay your taxes, so that you can make informed decisions when you’re running your business — you’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Business Strategy, Income taxes, Small Business | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments