Three Tax Breaks if your in your 20’s

The tax breaks below apply to everyone but if your in your 20’s you are in a stage of your life where one of them will likely apply to you.  Lets face it, you are probably not married, you don’t own a home and you don’t have kids so you do not get any of the traditional tax advantages however there are some great tax credits and deductions that can work for you.

The first thing to check is to see if your parents are claiming you as a dependent on their tax return.  If they are still paying your bills and giving you a place to live they probably are.  But it might make more sense if they don’t.

If you are out on your own and making your own income, you should not be a dependent on your parents tax return.  Have a talk with Mom and Dad to make sure you are all selecting the most tax beneficial situation.

On to the three big tax breaks.

AMERICAN OPPORTUNITY CREDIT – If you are going to college, this applies.  Basically you can get up to a $2,500 tax credit per year for higher education expenses.  So if you paid more than $2,500 in higher education expenses, those can be a tax credit for you.  This is a tax credit, not a deduction so the $2,500 goes directly back into your pocket.  But it is not available if you are a dependent on your parents return or make over $80,000 a year.  Ask your school for form 1098-T and give that to your tax professional.  NOTE: If you are past your first 4 years, there is a lifetime learning credit which gives you back 20% of higher education expenses.

STUDENT LOAN INTEREST DEDUCTION – If you went to college it is likely you have student loans.  You can also deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest from your Taxable Income.  This is an above the line deduction meaning you get to take it regardless of if you itemize your deductions or take the standard deduction.  Ask the company you have your student loans with to provide you with a 1098-E and give that to your tax professional.

MOVING EXPENSES DEDUCTION – Many people in their 20’s are moving to find a good job.  They might have went to school in a certain area but needed to move for a good job somewhere else.  If you move more than 50 miles from your home, you qualify for this.  Make sure to keep good records of all moving expenses including miles driven, lodging, and transportation of household goods.  All of these can be an above the line deduction.

Have fun this tax season trying to ensure you are getting the maximum tax refund possible.



Discovery Of Envelope Budgeting

Envelope Budgeting is the single best discovery I made for personal finances.  It gets right at the heart of my obsessive love for having a complete understanding of the financial picture I am in.  I know exactly how much money I can spend on whatever I am currently coveting.  Which can be annoyingly sobering but great for self discipline.

So what is it?  Its Grandma and Grandpa’s way of budgeting.  The basic concept is that each time you get paid, you put the money into a series of envelopes which represent different expense categories like rent, groceries, clothing, etc.  Then you only spend the money that is actually in the Envelope.  When you run out, you stop spending until you get paid and can fill the envelope again.

It works great because you cannot overspend you budget and end up in debt.

Now lets bring this 21st century.  No one is going to actually cash a check and put the cash into envelopes and then carry around a stack of envelopes.  That wouldn’t make much sense and it would be impossible to purchase anything on the internet.  So what I do is use a tool called Mveleopes.

If you google Envelope Budgeting Software you will find several.  What I really like about this one is the following:

  • Auto-Uploads transactions from bank/CC accounts
  • Great Smartphone App
  • Cloud Based
  • Easy to share with a spouse
  • Free for up to 25 categories

I spend maybe 5 minutes categorizing the transactions that upload every few days and then maybe an hour every quarter adjusting how much money to autofill to each envelope.

A lot of these Apps also do not support credit cards however this one does.  I am a big fan of credit cards provided you are not paying monthly fees or holding a balance.  The rewards are too large to turn away from.  More on the best credit cards later.

If you are struggling to get on a budget, want to save more money, want to get out of debt or just want to know what you are spending you money on then Mvelopes is the way to go.  There are more common apps like Mint or Personal Capital that give a good picture of your net worth but they are not nearly as powerful in managing your monthly expenses.

Have fun setting up your first Mvelope Budget and watch your personal finances be transformed.  Also, I’d love to hear from you you have experience with Envelope budgeting or have any helpful tips and advice.

Five Minute Journal

I have been trying to keep a journal since high school.  It always starts well.  I write pages and pages for a few weeks and then I give up.  I get bored.  I run out of things to say.

I have even kept a list of prompts to use so I can at least write about something.  But it still never took.  I felt defeated and it was hard to try to journal again.

I was missing something.  It was purpose.  I wanted to keep a journal because it was something that successful people did.  But I didn’t know why they did it or to what purpose.  I never felt like I was getting anywhere.

Then I found the Five Minute Journal.  I was listening to a Tim Ferriss Podcast  and he suggested it as the single best thing that has helped a lot of his audience.  What I loved about the pitch was the emphasis of gratitude.  I am not a naturally grateful person and it is something I wanted to work on.

So I bought the journal right away.  It has been the single best purchase I have made it years.  It is super easy to do.  It takes less than five minutes in the morning and the evening.

In the morning you write top three gratitude’s and top three actions that will make the day great.  It gets you thinking about what you love about life and how you will make today count first thing in the morning.  No need to drone on with a bunch of words to fill the page.  One sentence per item so 6 sentences in total.

In the evening it is 3 things about the day that were amazing.  Really easy to accomplish and keeps the gratefulness ever present right before I go to bed.

The other side effect is that I feel a huge sense of accomplishment each day.  It is easy for me to get caught in the day doing what others want me to do rather than being mindful in accomplishing my purpose.  Spending these five minutes to journal is one way I can do something specific that helps me get in touch with what is important.

Predicting Churn

Reducing Churn is the primary goal of every customer success organization.  Having low churn rates will lead to a very healthy company which is able to be more and more profitable.  Customer Success is in a unique position to effect this because they know the clients best.  They are on the phone with them every day.    In order to reduce churn you need to know why customers do churn.  The hard part of that however is that it’s more of a rear view mirror.  You only know once they have canceled.  So its important to dig deeper and try to predict the churn.  Once you can do that, you then can try and get in front of it by having an action plan in place each time a leading indicator of potential churn is triggered.

The place to start is to quantify the reasons clients do churn.  Try to be as specific as possible.  For example, having a churn category titled “switched to different solution” is not very helpful because you don’t know why they did.  They could have switched because certain features were missing that they wanted, they were not a product fit in the first place or they wanted to spend less money.  So pick reasons that get at the root cause.

From there, look into triggers that could put a client on a path towards churn.  For example, if you know you lose a lot of clients when the leadership of a company changes or changes priorities, monitor the usage of those key stakeholders.  If you notice a key stakeholder has not logged in or deleted their account, that should trigger the Customer Success team to find out why and attempt to get in front if it if possible.

From there, you will want to analyze and edit.  Review how many potential churn triggers you tasked your Customer success team with and how many resulted in a retained client VS a churned client.  Look at the churned clients, did you actually trigger Customer success to reach out.  If not, why.

Your Churn reasons and triggers should be agile.  Changing them frequently is not advised but don’t hesitate to edit them as the nature of your product changes or the client profile you service changes.  Having an agile list that you review and track performance on is exactly what you should be doing.

Value Based On-boarding

Buying new software is an exciting process filled dreaming about how the software is going to help solve many different business challenges.  It is filled with optimism and dreams of a better life.  A purchase often happens because buyer believes the product is going to benefit their business.  They see the value.  Then, what happens next is often the most challenging.

The phase post sale is often referred to as On-boarding.  The concept is simple, take an existing business and get them using the software they purchased by migrating data, configuring and training.  The execution is challenging.  It is very resource expensive for the business that purchased the new software.

Value based onboarding is essential.  Basically, instead of talking about a clients business, understanding how it works and then enabling features, you make each conversation about the value the feature delivers the business.  Its not more work, its just a different mindset.  You are mapping the on-boarding of the software to the dreams the client had during the sales process and then turning those dreams into a reality.

But what if the dreams were not realistic.  This often happens so knowing how to set great expectations during sales and then post sales is necessary.  If sales and on-boarding are aligned regarding expectations, it is really easy to speak to proper expectations and conversations that happened during the sales process.

The two requirements to show value is to have a deep understanding of the industry the client works in and deep understanding of how the software is designed to solve those problems and show value.

The Key to Great Customer Success in SAAS

Customer_Success_and_SatisfactionTrust.  Your clients must trust you.  Excellent customer success  hinges on your ability to be a trusted voice to your client’s problems.  Over your clients life cycle, you will be spending more time with your clients than anyone else in the organization and your focus must be one of creating a relationship built on trust.  So how do you do that?  Relate to your clients, keep perspective and work towards aligned goals.

Relate to your client. You must learn relate, empathize and understand exactly what your client is going through.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Ask a lot of questions and make sure you get them talking so you can understand their story.  When you are able to do that, you are able to meet the client where they are at.  Ironically, great sales reps are excellent at relating the clients and selling value.  It is even more important for Customer success  reps to do the same.  You are on the hook for actually demonstrating value to the client.

Always keep perspective.  As a customer success representative you know that many times you are speaking with a frustrated client that is struggling with your software.  They are angry and they are taking everything you say personally.  That is because to them, it is personal.  To them, they are paying your company money to solve a business problem they don’t feel like is getting solved.  Keep this in perspective.  Being able to understand their frustration and work together towards a solution is much more effective than characterizing them poorly because of their lack of professionalism when they are speaking with you.

Your goals should always be your clients goals.  You have your own goals like cases closed, clients on-boarded, survey feedback, etc.  Don’t get in the habit of always trying to meeting your goals without considering the goals of your clients.  A narrow focus on your goals does not lead to success however a laser focus on your clients goals will.  Maintaining focus on meeting your client goals will in return allow you to meet your goals much more effectively.  It also makes the job more fun because both you and your clients are working towards the same thing.  The job becomes difficult when you feel like you are working against your clients or they are working against you.  This should be a sign that your goals are not aligned to theirs.  Figure out how to get that done and your success will increase tremendously.

Top 3 Plays in your Software Implementation Manager Playbook

playbook2A Playbook is essential to scale any Customer Success Department effectively.  What are they?  Much like in sports, it is a simple list of plays that contain tasks to accomplish if faced with a certain situation.  Maybe you notice a client is going through a business change that will impact their use of your software.  Or maybe the client is looking to use the software the handle a certain business problem and is having trouble figuring it out.  Getting Customer Success reps to be able to identify an issue the client is facing or opportunity for up-sell and then giving them a script and list of tasks that is proven to work is essential to scale the organization.

Today I am going to discuss 5 plays that every implementation or on-boarding team should have.  Implementation is often the first impression a client has of the Customer Success department which will be their primary point of contact for their lifetime as a client.  Its an important first impression to get right because it has so many downstream effects.  Most importantly, retention.

Play 1 –  But Sales told me …..
Every Implementation Manager has heard a client explain to them the promises that they received in sales when you give the client news about a certain functionality limitation of the software.  Dealing with this objection successfully leads to retaining the account however dealing with it in correctly can lead to churn.  You should have a script that allows you to get a better understanding of where the client is coming from and why this is an important issue.  You should also know how to gracefully exit the call on a positive note if you are not able to address the objection.  Every organization is different so the specifics to the play will vary but this must be in your arsenal.

Play 2 – I don’t have any time to devote to this right now ….
This is always an interesting one.  Your client just invested a lot of money into the software because they think it is going to give them a significant return on investment.  Its like saying, I don’t have time to make more money.  Good sales teams take notes about the return on investment and pass them to the on-boarding team.  These notes are your key.  Getting into the psychology of why the client feels overwhelmed is extremely important to accomplish quickly in order to re-capture the positive energy that lead the client to purchase the software in the first place.

Play 3 – I’d like to cancel service …
This is probably the most challenging but also the most important play in the book.  We should never be surprised when we hear this one and if we are, there are bigger issues.  So this play should actually get going if you suspect your client might say this.  Call it the Pre-request to cancel.  It’s important to be honest as well.  Is this a bad deal that we should cancel quickly or is this worth fight for.  Be honest and remember your paycheck comes from paying customers.  If the deal is worth fighting for, having your play well defined is going to be vital to saving the account.  You might need to coordinate with other departments and spend time on this.

I’d love to hear about any other plays people have in their playbooks. Feel free to comment and we can discuss further.