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Podcast Interview with Christine Searle

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:
In episode IAM114 of the I AM CEO podcast, host Gresham Harkless interviews Christine Searle, the owner of Searle Business Solutions, LLC, a financial control expert with over 30 years of experience helping businesses and non-profits understand and get control over their finances and taxes.
Christine provides tax preparation and planning services and financial process consulting. In the interview, Christine talks about her journey as an entrepreneur, the importance of financial planning for businesses, and shares her unique approach to financial consulting. She also provides valuable insights into tax preparation and planning for businesses, as well as financial process consulting.
Christine shares her CEO hacks and nuggets, which include staying organized and making sure you have all the information needed to make important decisions. Furthermore, she defines what being a CEO means to her, which involves being accountable and responsible for everything in the business.

Overall, the episode provides valuable insights into financial planning for businesses and the importance of personalized service in consulting.

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Transcription:

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Christine Searle Teaser 00:00

All those different types of experiences give me a lot of arrows in my quiver, so to speak. So even when you're talking about taxes, I've seen different scenarios or different tax situations come up. I even have had one because of my financial planning background.

Intro 00:18

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:42

Hello, hello, hello, this is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and business owners, or what I like to call the CB Nation architects, those that are looking to level up their organizations.

In this month, we are focusing on knowing thy numbers. I could hear the phrases from Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank and if you understand or don't understand exactly what numbers is, think finance, economics, accounting, capital, investment funding, bootstrapping, or anything that's around numbers. So, We have to understand how important it is to know your numbers and how important that is for you to forecast, make decisions, and to be able to truly strategize around your business and do that successfully.

Things are gonna be a little bit different, obviously, this month. So look for CEO hacks and CEO nuggets and interviews that focus around this. But more than everything else, make sure that you know your numbers because they're extremely important to the life of your business.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Christine Searle of Searle Business Solutions. Christine, it's great to have you on the show.

Christine Searle 02:07

Oh, thank you so much, Gresh. It's a real pleasure.

Gresham Harkless 02:10

Awesome. What I wanted to do was just read a little bit more about Christine, so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Christine Searle is the owner of Searle Business Solutions LLC, and she's a financial control expert with more than 30 years of experience helping businesses and nonprofits understand and get control over their finances and taxes. She provides tax preparation and planning services and financial process consulting.

Christine is a certified Internal Auditor certified in Risk Management Assurance and an Enrolled Agent. She also volunteers with and support several Arlington-based social safety nonprofits. Christine, are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Christine Searle 02:51

I sure am. I can't wait.

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Gresham Harkless 02:53

Awesome. Let's do it. So the first question I had was just to hear a little bit more about your CEO story and what led you to start your business.

Christine Searle 02:59

It's interesting you mentioned the Social Safety Net nonprofits. My volunteer work actually inspired me to take all my decades of experience and instead of working for a large corporation, recognize that there are smaller nonprofits, smaller businesses startups and individuals that are entrepreneurs that they need help too.

So if I were to write the story or the screenplay of my life, you'd think, oh, she was planning this the whole time. No, I just have accumulated a lot of knowledge that I think entrepreneurs and small business owners, and nonprofit leaders can benefit from. So I quit my job about four years ago, and that's what I've been doing ever since and things are turning out exactly the way I wanted to.

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Gresham Harkless 03:45

Awesome. It's just like you had it all planned. It seems.

Christine Searle 03:48

Almost, but it really was an accident. I just really was inspired and I felt that if my volunteer work was getting me out of bed in the morning and my job really wasn't anymore, then I should change what I was doing.

Gresham Harkless 04:02

Yeah. It takes a lot of courage to be able to do that if you're not feeling, I guess exactly where you feel like you should be and to be able to adjust path, so to speak, definitely a lot of courage for you in doing that.

So I wanted to drill a little bit deeper and hear how you're helping out these entrepreneurs, these nonprofit organizations and associations.

Christine Searle 04:17

Nonprofit leaders, people that start a business, finances, financial controls, taxes are not areas where they have the expertise. When they're starting, often they don't have all the information they need, and if they can find a trusted advisor like me to help them navigate through all the parts and pieces, budgeting, financial reporting so that you can manage your business, know where you are, forecast so that you can plan how things are going, and then be up to date with your taxes, all that takes a lot of information that people just cannot learn and keep up with on their own.

So I find that my best clients, my favorite clients are individuals that own a business. They also certainly have personal tax needs and I can help them understand all the interdependencies and then help them work on some tax returns. We have extensions due in a couple of weeks. Anyway, so those are just some of the things that people can not have to focus on how to do all that because they have me. Then they can focus on growing their business. When they're ready to get to the next level, they can seek my advice on how to do that.

If they're not pricing their product or they don't feel like they're making enough margin, we can look at their costs, their underlying costs and see if they're rolling price right in relation to the market and the value proposition that they bring to the table.

Gresham Harkless 05:41

That makes perfect sense and that's definitely huge. You always hear you have to know your finances to understand how much money you're making from a certain amount of things that you're buying or you're selling. So you have to make sure that you're always aware of all those kinds of nuances so that, as you said, you can not only continue to run your business but even be in business, which is important to do.

Christine Searle 05:59

Absolutely. So being aware also just timing, some people's cash flows are seasonal. My business is a great example of my tax practice. I'm really slammed to the wall about three months out of the year, and that's usually when I make most of my money. I have to know that, oh, there's still going to be work, but it's not going to be the same cashflow coming in. So I need to make that money lasts or make sure that I'm also working on developing a new business so that I have revenue streams coming in.

I also advise my clients on that. It's not just the numbers. Sometimes when we're talking things through, I have clients that can really get a breakthrough and understand that, oh, spending money on that now might not be necessary. Or figuring out when it's a good point to quit their day job and spend more time building a business because they're about to turn the corner, but they're just not able to invest the time that they need and just helping through those decisions and the return on investment of their time and their money.

Gresham Harkless 07:02

Which makes perfect sense. Yeah. That helps out a ton in trying to understand that in your making of those decisions with the data and the information, not just on a whim, so to speak, because you actually know if I do X, Y, and Z then I can get to that level.

Or this is holding me back for whatever reason. But you're able to do it with the ability to forecast according to all the information that you help people out with.

Christine Searle 07:19

Right, that's exactly right. Because you can't know everything. As I said earlier, you can't keep up with all the tax laws. It's not possible to have all the experience to recognize some of the interdependencies, the unintended consequences that might result from taking a particular course.

That is one of the things that is great about working with someone with a lot of experience like me because I've seen a lot of different scenarios and a lot of the challenges that can come up, so I can offer some perspective.

Gresham Harkless 07:51

Makes perfect sense. Now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce. You might have already touched on this, but this is something that you feel distinguishes you and sets you apart.

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Christine Searle 07:59

I think it is my experience, not only the length of time but the variety. Again, looking back on, starting out working in financial institutions, then working in the financial planning industry. From that, I learned how to do taxes. Then I took a veer, became a bank auditor, and then an auditor in a large nonprofit. So all those different types of experiences give me a lot of arrows in my quiver, so to speak. So even when you're talking about taxes, I've seen different scenarios or different tax situations come up.

I even have had, because of my financial planning background and some of the clients and situations I worked in, I'm able to recognize, for example, if you've got a great idea and you're trying to fund it with private investors, oh, you might be talking about a private placement that is going to spark the interest of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

It gets a little bit esoteric sometimes, but I'm that one-stop shopping. Then I'm also good at knowing what I don't know, and I've built a great partnership team, referral partners that I feel are trusted advisors in other areas that I don't really cover, like legal and other transactional work, the bookkeeping things to keep all the parts and pieces together. We can't be everything to everyone.

Gresham Harkless 09:16

Yeah, absolutely.

Christine Searle 09:18

So then I think that's my secret sauce is just the depth and breadth of knowledge.

Gresham Harkless 09:22

So it's good to have that trusted advisor like you spoke to and the experts that you know. And even though you've had vast experience, that helps out a ton. You also know that you can turn to people as well too.

Christine Searle 09:31

Yeah. Then we can work in a partnership. There's no sense in asking the client to translate the legal advice and then the financial information. So if the client agrees, then the different consultants can have conversations that are very efficient and can cut out some of the things that get dropped in translation.

Gresham Harkless 09:51

When you have somebody that's already working together and has that kind of synergy, I guess you can say

Christine Searle 09:55

Exactly.

Gresham Harkless 09:56

Awesome. Now I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This might be an app, a book, or a habit that you have, but it's something that makes you more effective and efficient as a business owner.

Christine Searle 10:06

It's more discipline or practice. It's something that I've developed over time and I think works really well in my business. I make sure that I keep really organized and that even during my business times of the season, I don't let any aspect of my business fall apart. I always keep up with my own financial record keeping, no matter how busy I am.

I'm always networking. I'm always planning. I even write a blog every week that does not stop when I'm really busy. So I'm always keeping my name out there and I cut back a little bit of my volunteer work during tax season, but I also volunteer. So I think that firing on all cylinders at all times, you might need to throttle a couple of cylinders back at different times, but keeping all that going I think is key to my success.

I've seen some other people forget that they've got a few things that they need to keep doing even when they're really busy serving their clients.

Gresham Harkless 11:02

Yeah, that makes sense. I think that's a great CEO hack especially because a lot of times consistency is such a big part of being in business and being able to, like you say, do that blog post, do that networking event and always continue to be active even when you're extremely busy. It can help you out, three, four months down the line. So you always have to make sure you have that consistency.

Christine Searle 11:19

I really think, and I've noticed every year, because I keep records. I know that my business has grown every year and last year, I really noticed it, but this year has been amazing. I have constant referrals. Now I am doing business with people.

Everyone that comes to me now has been referred by a client or a networking partner, someone that trusts me. So many of those referrals end up being clients.

Gresham Harkles 11:46

Nice. Nice. And that to me, that's a show and proof of you providing great service as somebody wants to, of course pass it on and say, Hey, I know this great person that can help out. So I think that's an awesome example.

Now I wanted to ask you for a CEO nugget. This might be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It could be around advice that you have for entrepreneurs and business owners, or it could be something that you might tell your younger business self.

Christine Searle 12:07

I think two small ones because I think they go hand in hand. First of all, make sure that you have information for the decisions that you make. I do see too many often, and it's a little painful to see new entrepreneurs especially react to the newest, shiny object without delving into whether or not they are really gonna gather whatever information you can about the return on investment of that activity or building that relationship.

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It could be a networking group, it could be investing in marketing, it could be a new tool or software or something. But really understand that because one thing like that is not going to save your business or keep your business going and also knowing when to say no. So that bright, shiny object, somebody thinks it's a really cool idea, work for somebody else. Assess it, is it gonna work for you? And don't be afraid to say no.

Gresham Harkless 13:00

I love those.

Christine Searle 13:00

Yeah. Saying no is gonna open the door for some other things that are good.

Gresham Harkless 13:04

Absolutely. Yeah that makes perfect sense. Like you said you have to be able to create that space and sometimes by having that space you have to say no to certain opportunities or maybe even certain, like you said, shiny objects that come up that are fancier, that are gonna be the end to everything you need to do in the perfect solution.

A lot of times that's not the case, so you have to be able to say no or not now, maybe later on, and then start to figure out like you said if there is some ROI by adding that on later on.

Christine Searle 13:29

Exactly, because we only have so many resources. Time, money, and energy. You have to focus on where it's gonna really do the best for yourself and what your plans are. They're your plans.

Gresham Harkless 13:40

Absolutely. Absolutely. Now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show. So I wanted to ask you, Christine, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Christine Searle 13:51

It's being ultimately accountable and responsible for everything in your business, even if you're not the one that's actually performing the activities. So the buck really does stop with you. So making the decisions that you know are good for your business and then maintaining your reputation and all the other things that it takes to succeed because you are your business when you're out there. You know that is you.

So I really think that even when I wasn't just working for myself, I made really good choices for the organizations that I worked for. Now I get the opportunity to benefit from or work through the challenges of every single thing that happens in my business, and I love it.

Gresham Harkless 14:35

There you go. Yeah you actually have you make the decisions and you bear the fruits of whatever it is that you do or sometimes they're not yet ripe fruits, I should say. You have to wait on a little bit longer.

Christine Searle 14:48

Yeah, absolutely. Even if I have something that's challenging, I think, is this better than what used to be my life?  Yes, absolutely, no question. I have never for one moment regretted my choice to start my business and become my own CEO.

Gresham Harkless 15:03

I love to hear that. Christine, I truly appreciate you taking some time out of your schedule. What I want us to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional you want to let our readers and our listeners know, and then how best people can get ahold of you.

Christine Searle 15:14

I just encourage people to take the leap if you've figured out that this is what you really wanna do and get somebody to help you. If you can't figure out the numbers and how to make a business plan, doesn't have to be formal, but you do need a plan, a vision, energy to execute it. Be adaptable because you're always going to get more information that you need to make adjustments and make everything better.

So just, you know, be confident and you can do it. You really can. So the best way to reach me is through my website, www.searlebzllc.com, there's plenty of information about me. That's where my blog post is. You can also contact me through the website, put in a service request, or just request for a phone call so that we can get acquainted and I can find out more about how I can help you.

Gresham Harkless 16:11

Awesome, awesome. Well, that sounds like a plan, and I appreciate you so much again, Christine. I'm glad you made the decision that you made. I'm sure there are a lot of other people that are happy as well. We'll make sure to have all those links in the show notes.

So again, I appreciate you and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Christine Searle 16:25

You too, Gresh. Thank you.

Outro 16:26

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us iamceo.co.

I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five-star rating.

Grab CEO gear at www.ceogear.co. This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.

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Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(CEOBlogNation.com), podcasts, (CEOPodcasts.com) and videos (CBNation.tv). CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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