What Is Happening With The Cash Flow In Your Business with Carla Titus

Do you dread looking at the numbers in your business?

So many people say they aren’t good with numbers or don’t understand what’s happening with the money in their business. They make financial decisions without knowing where the money’s going and just hope they’re making the right choice or that it’ll magically pay off.

But you need to understand what’s coming in, what’s going out, and make very discerning decisions about where you’re spending the money. It’s key to halting the cycle of cash flow problems so many small business owners go through.

Wealth & Worth Within CFO Carla Titus joins us today in this continuation of our series on ending entrepreneurial poverty and hustle culture. She has over 15 years of financial planning, analysis strategy, and business consulting experience and has helped her clients have more cash to pay themselves and begin building more personal wealth.

And today on the Promote Yourself to CEO podcast, she joins me for a no-nonsense discussion about where you really need to be paying attention to your money. You’ll learn the cash flow mistakes that most entrepreneurs make and the internal shift it takes to move from employee mode to boss mode (and amazing the salary that can come with it).

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

6:06 – How did Carla get started with her business? She introduces herself.

10:15 – Carla reveals her non-negotiables before she took the leap to become the sole breadwinner for her family.

13:44 – Eighty-two percent of small businesses struggle with cash flow. What common cash flow mistakes does Carla see small business owners make?

21:17 – There’s a shift in the mind that needs to happen when you replace your job salary with an incredible business income.

26:10 – What’s it like inside The CEO Collective if you’re curious and thinking of getting more business support? Carla shares her thoughts.

Mentioned in What Is Happening With The Cash Flow In Your Business with Carla Titus

Racheal Cook: Have you ever wondered to yourself, “I know I'm making some money in this business but where is it all going?” If you have, you're not alone, 82% of small business owners struggle with cash flow, meaning that bills are coming in faster than the revenue is hitting our bank accounts. That is why I wanted to bring in Carla Titus, the amazing CFO at Wealth & Worth Within where she works with small businesses to help them proactively manage their business finances. Let's get into it.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Hey there, CEOs. Welcome back to this series all about ending entrepreneurial poverty and hustle culture. You know that this is a topic I am extremely passionate about because too many women-owned small businesses are struggling to make their business actually work for them. It becomes this vicious cycle of not enough money, meaning not enough resources, to hire a team, to get support, to buy back your time so that you can grow and scale your business without having to work 24/7 to make that happen.

Well, when we're looking at ending entrepreneurial poverty and ending hustle culture, we have to start thinking differently about our businesses. One of the areas we really need to start looking at is our business finances. I know, this is something most of us don't look at.

I can't tell you how many people I talk to who say, “Well, I'm just not good at numbers. I don't understand the money. I don't understand where this money is going. I can see that money is coming in but what is happening here?” When we don't have this clarity, we're often making decisions without having a complete picture of what is really happening in our business.

We're making decisions just hoping that we're making the right decision, we're making decisions hoping that this one investment or this one thing we're going to pay for is going to be the thing that helps us get ourselves out of this cycle of cash flow challenge, and there is never just the one thing.

We actually have to take responsibility and ownership over understanding what's going on in our business finances. This is the unsexy stuff. These are the unsexy things we have to do as small business owners. One thing that I know I always think about is the saying my dad had, who has been an entrepreneur for his entire career, “If you take care of your money, your money will take care of you.”

That means you've got to pay attention to the finances in your business. You've got to understand what's coming in, what's going out. You've got to be very discerning about where you're spending money, very intentional about what you're doing, and make sure you are using your money to help you create the freedom that you actually want.

This is where the conversation went when I talked to Carla Titus. Carla owns Wealth & Worth Within where she is a CFO with over 15 years of experience in financial planning, analysis, strategy, and experienced business consulting. She is a fractional CFO. She actually partners with her clients to provide that financial consulting and advisory service.

Her priorities for her clients include growing profits, having more cash in the bank, and paying themselves well so that they can begin to build more personal wealth. Carla's also been inside of The CEO Collective for about a year and a half since this podcast goes out and it has been incredible to see how she has continued to grow her business as the sole breadwinner for her family, both taking care of her family, taking care of kids and parents, and doing it all on about 20 hours a week.

You're going to love this no-nonsense conversation from Carla about where we really need to be paying attention to our money. Let's get into it.

Hey, Carla. I'm so excited you're joining me today.

Carla Titus: I am so excited to be here. I've been listening to the podcast for years and now I get to be a guest so it couldn't get any better than that.

Racheal Cook: Oh, you are so amazing. It was so great to see you when you finally were able to come back to Richmond, your second time coming in person for The CEO Retreat. For everyone who is listening, I have had the pleasure of working with Carla on her business for a little over a year now when you joined The CEO Collective.

Seeing what has happened for you over the last year or 15 months is why I wanted to really bring you on the podcast because not only is your story amazing, you're also underneath what's going on in the world of small business right now because when you look at the money, there's no hiding behind flashy anything. It is real information. I'm so excited to have you here today.

As we get into our conversation, I want to start with can you share a little bit about how you got started with Wealth & Worth Within? Because you've had this business for a while but you were also working full time in a more traditional role. Can you share a little bit about what that looked like for you?

Carla Titus: Yeah. Just to emphasize, numbers don't lie. Like you said, Racheal, there's no hiding. So just to be clear, the work we do for clients and what clients come to us for is for real results. But yeah, my background is in corporate finance. I have a career for 11 years that I actually loved and enjoy working in tech and corporate. I learned so much and was able to quickly go up the ranks, get promoted every 18 months, and I was on a fast track.

Then what happened was over time, I started to have kids, life got more complex. Even with having a stay-at-home husband and being the breadwinner for my family, it still felt like I was being pulled in so many directions. While I made it work for a while, because my business is five years old so this is not something we just started, we've been in business for a while, we have grown and learned so much, and we've also grown the team and the business at the same time, it got to a point where I really needed to decide where's my attention and time going to go to.

Of course, the first thing was being a mother. I just enjoy it. I want to be around the kids. I don't want to see them just grow up and one day blink and be like, “Oh, they're out of the house.” For me, that was a priority, giving time to my husband for us to continue to work on our relationship of 18 years of marriage. It doesn't just happen by accident. It has to be very intentional.

That left little to no energy to be doing a full-time job plus do a business on top of that. But we've always maintained the business to a very manageable workload. We were very intentional about how many clients we took on to make sure we had a high level of support. It never felt like it was a burden. It was always something fun that I got to do.

I got to put my experience from corporate to the test in real life with real businesses with real financial problems and situations that we needed to solve and it became a very fueling-my-soul type of endeavor for me. I wasn't willing to give it up. I wasn't willing to give up the corporate job.

Then just got to a point where three years ago, my husband's like, “You should really consider going full in.” Being the breadwinner, I was just really nervous. I had to build in my own cash cushion and my own security to feel like it was the right time. Ever since working on the business with your help in developing a consult marketing strategy, doing my every 90-day planning, which is very much like what I did in corporate, I just forgot to do it for my business which is very common, and bringing those systems to help support me to grow it in the right way were really critical.

Racheal Cook: I love that you just brought up three years ago, your husband said, “I think you should go all in,” and you were nervous because I feel this so much and I think this is where you and I are so similar in that we are the sole breadwinners for our families. This is very different from a lot of other small business owners. It's a whole other level of responsibility.

It brings up a lot of fear. I know there's all this hype about “I'm going to retire my husband and quit my job,” and all these things, but the reality is when you have a spouse that depends on you, when you have children who depend on you, you also, like me, have parents you're responsible for, you have a mortgage, you have all these real-life things that you have to be responsible for, it is a serious decision to cut that cord and say, “I'm going all in.”

Because it's not just a paycheck, it's the security system underneath that knowing that you have benefits, knowing that you have a little bit more flexibility. If you have an off week as an employee, it's not the end of the world. But if you have an off week in your business or an off month in your business, that can really, really impact the success of your business long term.

I want you to share a little bit about what did you do to get yourself over that hump of taking the leap, actually be brave enough to say, “Okay, we're going to make this happen.” What were your criteria, because I know you are such a strategic banker, what were your criteria that you wanted to make sure you had before you took that leap?

Carla Titus: Yeah. I'll start by saying that my motto has always been “Failure is not an option.” Because I think as an immigrant and as a business owner, I just always figure out a way and that's always stuck in the back of my head that no matter what, I will always figure it out.

But before we get to that point, because we never want to be under pressure, my non-negotiables, as I call them, were I needed to be able to have cash in the bank to feel good about both on my personal and my business so it wasn't just, “Well, if the business fails, I have nothing personally.” I need to have it on both sides of the equation to make sure that we felt okay taking a risk and going for it.

As much as we want to think a job is secure, we all know that things happen and you're not in control of your employment. If they no longer need you, you're gone. When it comes to being a business owner, that doesn't get to happen. You get to be the boss, you get to decide who you work with.

Now, there's a lot more work involved that I think we give credit to business owners, and the scaling, the growing is much harder than people believe it needs to be or the work they need to put in. Having the cash cushion really was what allowed me to sleep at night and know that even if I made the wrong decisions, even my business was off for a week, a month, it didn't matter because I didn't need to earn another dollar for the next 6 to 12 months in order to be able to feed my family, pay my mortgage, support my mother, do all the things that people depend on me for.

Also, if I got sick, if something happened that I was not even in control of, like things happen to you sometimes, life lifes, like you always say, Racheal, and I feel like we got to be prepared. We need to have time between when the situation happens. Instead of reacting, give ourselves the luxury of time to respond well and be strategic about what are we going to do about it.

If you don't have that time, sometimes you make the wrong decisions or jump at the problem from the wrong angle because you have no time. For me, it was I'm just going to buy myself time so that I can decide what to do, think about it, and then go to solve the problem.

Racheal Cook: This ties so beautifully into talking about the work that you do because so many entrepreneurs are not set up this way and this is why there is so much fear over making the wrong move because the stakes are so high when you haven't built a strong financial foundation.

You don't have that buffer of not just business savings but your personal savings, you don't know what the cash flow is looking like, you don't know what your projections are throughout the year, and you're showing up saying, “Okay, not only did I have buffer in my personal and my business accounts, I also knew exactly what I was going to be making over the next 6 to 12 months so I had my projections ready to go,” and you bought yourself the luxury of time to make decisions.

Oh, my gosh. Let's please put that on a t-shirt somewhere because it is so important. I always say panic is not a business strategy but so many small business owners find themselves in that entrepreneurial poverty where they are doing the cash flow dance, which is very stressful, and honestly, this is so common.

I read that 82% of small businesses struggle with cash flow and you're a CFO, so what are you seeing behind the scenes of small businesses when it comes to how they're approaching all of this? What are the common mistakes you're seeing?

Carla Titus: Yeah. Like you said, panic is not a strategy, we always say hope is not a strategy either. We want to plan it out, write it out, and start being intentional about the direction we're sending for our businesses. From a cash flow perspective, a lot of clients come to us—and these are very well-established businesses, two, three years in business, a team of at least 10-plus employees—and they're still not able to make payroll or still struggling to pay themselves.

They're not sure what they're doing wrong because they have a very viable business and they've been in business for a while to know how to get clients, how to get paid, and hopefully, have the price accordingly, but if not, we help with that as well, and they just have no idea where their money is going. We go do an audit and just, “Look, okay, here's the cash influx of the business when money comes into the business,” and it's all about the timing.

It doesn't really matter if you're making a lot of money if your timing is off and all your bills are due before you get paid. That's when you start to get into that cash flow cycle of poverty where you're outlying cash before you're receiving it. Depending on how you bill, how you invoice, how you receive money, if you're not getting paid upfront and in full, sometimes that delays the time and you need to collect 30, 60, 90 days after and it's all industry-dependent so you have to deal with that as well.

Understanding the timing of that cash flow is really critical in knowing are we behind? Are we ahead? Do we have runway? If you don't have runway, guess what, you get to create it. As a business owner, if you have cash in the bank, you get to create that runway so that when business goes ups and downs, you don't feel it as much because you have that cash cushion. You're just not worried about running payroll because you got three months of payroll in the bank.

You know you're going to collect anyway so it's not about not having the business to support it, it's just the timing of it. We see often the business owners are just struggling with not having clarity around their cash flow, let alone budgeting or making any projections, and they're spending money like it's no one's business.

They're buying courses, paying for the coaches, not getting any results, and no ROI from that, and then they wonder why they're so poor and they have nothing to show in why they can't take owner’s distributions on top of their payroll or why they're not in a healthy financial situation. That's when they come to us for some support to give them the clarity they're looking for.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. Step one, get clarity on your finances. Actually look at what's coming in, what's going out. I think this is one of those things where when things are going really well, it's easy to ignore. When things are going well, when you're making sales, when revenue is coming in, it can be so easy to let the little things add up but when things start to turn is when people get in panic mode.

I know I will totally, totally out myself, one of my panic mode habits that I'm really trying to break, and thank goodness, Amber is on my team, is I'll go, “Well, do you think I should hire so and so to do XYZ?” and she's like, “No, Racheal, stop, we don't need to go out,” because my instinct is always I need to learn something, I need to hire somebody, I need to do something else, and she's like, “No, don't do it.”

So y'all, you also need to, in addition to reviewing your numbers, have somebody who's going to know what your bad habits are and can call you out on them. I think Carla is really good at this, saying to people, “Hey, this isn't working. You're paying for stuff and not getting a return from it. You're investing in things that you don't really need to invest in.”

That clarity really helps you to start to steward your money better and understand how you can build that cushion, how you can build more buffer in your business when you stop panic spending or hoping that one new thing you buy is going to be the thing that gets you out of this cash flow cycle. It's never one thing that'll get you out of it, it's usually the boring checking your numbers, digging in, and being a little disciplined.

Carla Titus: You'd be surprised how many businesses actually have quite the opposite problem as well. There are business owners that are just savers. They don't want to outsource anything, they don't want to pay for anything, and they're wasting time and money and are not able to scale because maybe they didn't invest in the right marketing strategy or someone to come do it for them because they will never get to it. They're stuck in not being able to grow or being more profitable because they did not outlay the cash for it.

It could be on both sides of the equation. The extremes are never good. But at the end of the day, what I see works well for business owners is consistency and discipline. Dreams go to die with a lack of execution. We always focus around what are you doing, where are you spending your time, what are you executing on that is really going to make a difference, and testing.

You can test a lot of things before having to scale or put a lot of money behind it. But people always want to go for “I'll just hire the full-time person” instead of starting with five hours a week to see how it goes. If it's working well, then increasing the hours over time.

They always try to mimic what others are doing and it doesn't necessarily work for the business or they’re spending beyond whether a business can afford to support and they don't even know it because they haven't even budgeted or allocated for that consciously. They're just, again, reacting or throwing money at the problem thinking the one thing will save them and will make everything better.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. There is no one thing. It doesn't matter if you're looking at your money. It doesn't matter if you're looking at marketing, sales, or anything inside of your business. There is never just one silver-bullet solution. I think this hope that there is a silver-bullet solution is what is keeping a lot of people from the unsexy work of consistency which is just consistently showing up, consistently running your marketing strategy, consistently making sales, consistently delivering to your clients, not sexy at all. But if you do that consistently, everything starts to shift.

Carla Titus: Yeah. I think sometimes people overlook the power of automating things or utilizing software tools to save some time or be consistent in delivery. That's something that we've been focusing on a lot internally for us is how do we replace hours worked with some automations that make sense and then spend our time on the strategic focus or support that we provide clients, which is what they're paying us for and what brings them more value is having the CFO perspective.

That's really been so helpful in where my time is going so that I cannot work a full-time schedule because yes, I could be in corporate working 40, 60 hours a week but I don't want that for my life because we are trying to build a less workaholic environment around here because we all know that I love working and it can get very out of hand pretty easily.

I think being conscious about how many hours we put in, what we're dedicating our time to, and how I'm bringing in team to support me to feel like a fully supported CEO, like you always say, Racheal, it's really allowed me to keep a very manageable schedule where I can take my mom to appointments, I take the kids to the park, be at whatever things that I'm needed on, and not have to sacrifice that for my business.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I don't think any of us should have to sacrifice our lives, our families, our health, our creativity, our personal time to grow a business. You just said you could be working 40 or 60 hours a week in corporate, currently, you are making an incredible income out of your business, you've replaced your corporate salary and some, and how many hours a week are you averaging right now?

Carla Titus: Oh, roughly 20. I think there are some weeks where obviously I'm needing more than others and I could get a little extra excited about opportunities and things that I want to do in my business. I might decide to put in more hours. Again, it's all intentional. It doesn't happen just by accident. My schedule gets blocked ahead of time. We're looking at a month ahead, three months ahead to make sure we have the right things.

We're not trying to overbook things. Sometimes I have to go to Amber to be like, “Should I add anything else?” and she's like, “You're fine.” We try to be very mindful because there are so many things I could be doing. Replacing my corporate total compensation, which is what I don't think we talk a lot about as business owners, is if you're going to move on from a corporate job, your total compensation is much more than your pay.

Sometimes it's bonus, stock, sometimes it's health insurance, that's a big one for us, and benefits that you used to have that you no longer do. Being able to put myself on payroll and make sure that my family gets supported through that but also take owner's distribution on top of that, and be able to afford all the cost of being unemployed for my business, it's been a critical aspect of making sure that I feel like I'm successful in my business.

That's just a start because then it has to be better than a job for me to build personal wealth for my family above and beyond what I could have done in corporate. Otherwise, I could just go work the corporate job and it's fine. I'll be able to retire early anyways. But that is a different path that I chose and we are taking that risk because we think the payoff is much greater but it's got to be worth it. It's what I always say. Otherwise, you might as well just go get the job and work it because it's actually not that bad honestly.

Racheal Cook: I think this is such an important topic for people to really dig into as business owners because I think a lot of times, what I tend to see is people leave a traditional job, whether it's corporate or working for someone else, whatever, and there's all this like, “I'm going to have so much freedom and so much flexibility,” but then they basically build the same experience they had in that former role in their business.

They don't actually think, “What would it look like if instead of working 40 or 60 hours a week, I design this business to work 20? What would it look like if I could make sure my business could provide all of the benefits, the health insurance, and everything that I'm leaving behind with this much larger organization?” It takes a different level of intentionality I think than most people, when they're starting, really get into.

I just want anyone who's listening to this to really take Carla's story and think through what is coming up for you, what opportunities are you starting to realize you might have to set yourself up even better as the owner of your business. Because you should have all of the financial payoff, you should have the time and energy freedom where you have more of it to put back into your life, your health, your family, and all the things that matter to you but it's not always as easy as it sounds.

On paper, it sounds simple but it does take making some big decisions, it takes going all in on certain things, and I think it takes a bit of courage to do things differently than a lot of us are used to, especially if you've already had 10, 20, or 30 years under your belt working for other people. There are a lot of habits and a lot of mindset that comes along with that that you've got to reprogram for yourself.

Carla Titus: It's not easy. I'm still working on it. We're not sitting here saying we're perfect. We are just very honest about what we want this to look like. We're very intentional about the hours and not wasting time, making sure that the work that you're doing is what you want to be doing, and then outsourcing the rest honestly to the team that enjoys it. It's much better at it than I will ever be pitching myself for podcasts or whatever it is, posting on LinkedIn.

I just would not be able to put up with any of that, and really focusing on the meaningful work that really brings in the dollars for the clients that are hiring us. The program in corporate experience for 11 years is not easy. It's not going to happen overnight either.

Sometimes I find myself questioning, “Is this intentional or am I just carrying this over from my corporate life?” Because it used to serve a purpose, it used to work for me, and there are a lot of things that still serve a purpose and I still do use like planning, sitting down, and strategically thinking about my business, which I do, I'm grateful for that experience from corporate to be able to do that for my business. But there are some things that just no longer serve us and that's okay to let go and it takes time.

Racheal Cook: Absolutely. Well, Carla, as we wrap up our conversation, you have been inside of The CEO Collective for over a year now, you have really seen some big changes in your business, what would you share with anybody who's been curious about working with us inside of The CEO Collective as they are thinking about getting more support for their business?

Carla Titus: I think if you're struggling with not being consistent, you don't have a marketing strategy that's fully fleshed out, you haven't had time to think strategically about your business, one thing that I can appreciate very much from The CEO Collective is all the accountability we get. I will not block my schedule and sit down to do a 90-day plan unless Racheal says we're doing 90-day planning.

Let's be honest, I know I have to do it, I know how to do it, I still wasn't doing it. That's because we just didn't have someone to be like, “Hey, let's go talk about that, let's go dedicate a day to go think about this.” An amazing community of women business owners that are also working on the same thing that are struggling with maybe the same type of issues or even different issues and supporting each other is this magical experience, when you come together and then you realize you're not alone.

If you've been feeling a little siloed as a business owner, which is a lot of us because we all work remote or wherever, no co-workers around to talk every day, then I think The CEO Collective can be a great way to bring camaraderie to your business, to bring that community of business owners that totally get it that are also trying to build the same thing that you are, a flexible schedule that is intentional, that gets you earning the money that you want to be earning, and growing to the level that you feel comfortable at because the beauty about the program is that there is no one-size-fits-all, you have levels.

Some people are on the scale side, some people are on that “I'm going to stay at this stage and I'm happy with it,” and you get to cater to the broader needs of all of us, which I found very helpful because I don't think everybody is up for building a seven-figure business like maybe I might be but there are certain people with different needs and I think that Collective is really meeting everyone where it's at so it's been great.

Racheal Cook: Thank you so much, Carla. I so appreciate that and I love that you said you know how to do your 90-day plan but if it's not on the calendar, you won't sit down and do it. I think this is where coming together in community is so powerful because there are so many things that we know we should do and it's just like how we do one thing is how we do other things in our life.

It's just like we know we should drink the water every day, we know we should move our body every day, we know we should eat some sort of vegetable every day, but sometimes it's hard to do the unsexy stuff, the consistent habits that really move us forward in any area of our life, and that's where we're here to provide that support and accountability because it is those things that build the foundation for anything else you're wanting to create in your business.

It has been so awesome to have you on the podcast, Carla. As people are now very curious about the work that you do, I want you to share a little bit about where they can find you and any resources you might have for people to dig into when they're starting to understand their finances.

Carla Titus: Yeah. They can check out our website wealthworthwithin.com and there's a contact page to book a call if you're ready to hire a fractional CFO or curious about how we can work together. We're happy to get to know you more, understand your needs, and see how we can meet your needs with our services.

If you just want to follow along, every month we send out a newsletter so make sure to sign up and subscribe. I promise I will not spam you. That's the last thing I have time for. If nothing else, we always love to put educational resources and content out there for people to be able to manage their finances and learn a little bit more. You can follow us on social media @wealthworthwithin.

I would say it's really hard to have perspective in your business when you're in it and that's why I joined The Collective to get someone else's perspective. I think our services are no different than you can be the one reading a label on the outside of the jar if you're in it. You just need someone that has the financial knowledge to help support you and bring perspective to your business from a financial lens.

Racheal Cook: Thank you so very much, Carla. I cannot wait for everyone to listen to this episode. Okay, CEOs, you know what to do. If you love this one, make sure you go over to Instagram, tag us @wealthworthwithin, @racheal.cook, let us know your insights, your ahas, your takeaways. We can't wait to continue this conversation with you. Of course, if you want to learn more about The CEO Collective, we are now accepting applications. You can get all of the details at theceocollective.com/apply.

Well, there you have it, friends. I love this conversation with Carla. I feel like we hit on so many great areas including being so crystal clear and intentional about how you're designing your business, really thinking about what is working for you right now, and letting go of the things that just no longer serve you, making sure that you are creating the luxury of time to make decisions, I loved that, by making sure that you have a strong financial foundation that you've built into your business, not just a buffer but that you really have a strong grasp about what is happening with the finances in your business.

I think these are the things that we need to hear about more. These are the conversations I love having with our clients inside of The CEO Collective and I love hearing from clients like Carla who are actively working on the finances in people's businesses because honestly, these are the areas that we tend to not really feel as confident in.

Unless you have a background in finance or accounting, it's really easy to feel a bit overwhelmed looking at all the numbers. But I'm here to tell you that the stuff is figure-outable, you can learn it, you can understand it, and it will give you so much freedom to truly understand and be able to wrap your arms around what is happening with the money in your business. If you love this episode, we want to hear from you. There is more coming your way in this series. I cannot wait for you to hear the next one.