Customer Finance Programs Key to Increasing Sales

While studies show that technology spending is once again on the rise, there’s a reason you haven’t heard a collective sigh of relief from the software industry. While many budgets are once again allowing for the purchase of enterprise software, hardware and peripherals, there’s no question that today’s purchasers are smarter, savvier and more selective than ever.

Even though the purse strings have loosened, competition is at an all-time high. It’s no longer enough to provide a software solution that meets the potential customer’s needs, or even to provide it at the best price. Today, smart vendors are constantly looking for ways to stay one step ahead of the competition.

While increasing sales is always part of a competitive business strategy, software development companies often overlook a simple method of accomplishing this objective – making it easier for customers to buy.

One option increasing in popularity among software vendors is to establish a customized finance program that provides no-hassle financing solutions for your prospective clients. In addition to “one-stop shopping,” your customers can reap the other benefits of financing that make it easier for them to commit to technology purchases, including:

100 percent financing — Many finance companies offer 100 percent financing for the cost of software and maintenance contracts, which requires no down payment. Because customers don’t have to come up with a down payment, they can make a purchase immediately, rather than hold up the sale with a “wait and see” mentality that often accompanies a dip into cash reserves. It also allows your customers to invest more capital in revenue-generating activities.

Improved cash flow management – With software financing, your customers can conserve capital for reinvesting in their business and improve budgeting accuracy through fixed monthly payments. Financing also makes it easy for customers to access multiple-year budgets by paying for the benefit of your software over its useful life.

Flexible payment structures – Customers can optimize project budgets by taking advantage of the flexible payment structures available through financing to maximize the return on their investment. For example, with software financing, customers can ramp up payments to match the revenue generation of a new technology project that is utilizing the software being financed.

While financing provides a clear advantage for the buyer, when a program is well planned, the list of advantages for software developers, distributors and resellers can be even more beneficial.

Improved Customer Relations

As noted above, financing packages add value for the customer by enhancing their buying power, offering greater flexibility and providing convenience. It also increases their satisfaction through the ability to leverage their budget to acquire the total technology solution – which could include software, hardware, service, support, integration and training – rather than only the parts and pieces they could afford through an outright purchase.

Shorter Sales Cycles

On the sales side, any customer who expresses some interest in a product seems like a good lead. However, there are many times when the question of how to pay for the new software prevents the sale from happening. Time lost on dead-end deals can be eliminated when financing is part of the sale, as the ability to pay is immediately considered in the equation. In addition, many finance companies now offer fast, easy credit and documentation processes, so you can complete a sale quickly and avoid costly processing delays.

Another benefit is that as software needs are being discussed in the sales process, the finance specialist can work with the chief financial officer or accountant to determine which financing option and payment plan best suits business needs and cash flow.

Direct customer financing can also save software vendors millions of dollars each year by reducing the number of days a sale is outstanding. Consider a company with quarterly cash sales of $50 million. On average, it can take 45 days to collect payment. Assuming a borrowing rate of 6 percent, the 45-day lag in payment results in a carrying cost of $371,204. If the same numbers are run with a leasing finance program that generates payment within 2 days, the carrying cost drops $82,253, saving the company more than $288,951 in one business quarter.

The Big Picture

Overall, equipment financing programs can:

Generate larger, more profitable sales faster;

Increase account control;

Improve sales efficiency and productivity;

Lower days-sales-outstanding;

Improve cash flow;

Differentiate your company from its competition; and

Provide complete solutions for your customers.

Taking the Next Step

After identifying an interest in offering flexible financing as part of the sales process, the next step is to develop a finance program. By partnering with an experienced leasing company to develop a finance program for your customers, you can transfer all of the uncertainties of extending terms to your customer to the finance company.

Partnering with an experienced finance company also means you can concentrate on what your company does best – developing software – while letting a finance expert handle the intricacies of a finance program. Put simply, by working with a third party, your company will receive all of the benefits with none of the risk.

Whether you choose to refer your clients directly to your financing program partner or to work with a third-party finance partner to develop an in-house program, it is essential to choose an experienced equipment finance partner. During the sales process, the finance expert will be working closely with your customers, and it’s important that his or her actions and service levels reflect your company’s ability to meet your customers’ expectations. When searching for a finance partner, look for a company that:

Is flexible and willing to work with your management team to develop a program that will meet your financial objectives;

Is experienced in the IT and software finance world, since the sales process, client-decision criteria, and revenue recognition issues are different than that of capital asset sellers;

Provides marketing support and materials to help you promote your financing program

Is willing and able to provide your sales team with materials and training to ensure sales team members are comfortable and easily able to raise financing as an option with their clients; and Is a financially stable, long-term business partner.

The 4 Types of Real Estate Investor Financing

Throughout my real estate investing career, I’ve spent many dozens of hours speaking with lenders and potential financiers of my deals. With all the different types of loans and equity financing products available to investors these days, it’s important to have a good understanding of the benefits and the drawbacks of each, so you can choose the most appropriate financing option for your particular need(s).

Of course, given today’s credit situation, options are not only more limited than they were a couple years ago, but the definition of a “good deal” from a lender has changed as well. When I first started looking at financing for single family houses, I passed on a couple potential options that in hindsight were pretty good given today’s tight credit market; so it’s important to not only understand the types of financing that’s out there, but also which types are most prevalent and most easy to come by.

The point of this article is to define the four most common types of financing available to real estate investors; while there are, of course, more than four ways of financing real estate investments, most are a derivative — or combination — of the four we will discuss here.

1. Traditional Financing

This type of loan is generally done through a mortgage broker or bank, and the lender may be a large banking institution or a quasi-government institution (Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, etc). The requirements to qualify for a loan are based strictly on the borrower’s current financial situation — credit score, income, assets, and debt. If you don’t have good credit, reasonable income, and a low debt-to-income ratio (i.e., you earn a lot compared to your monthly obligations), you likely won’t qualify for traditional financing.

Benefits: The benefits of traditional financing are low-interest rates (generally), low loan costs (or points), and long loan durations (generally at least 30 years). If you can qualify for traditional financing, it’s a great choice.

Drawbacks: There are a few drawbacks to traditional financing for investors, some major:

The biggest drawback to tradition financing is what I stated above — it’s difficult to qualify these days. Just a year or two ago, you could have qualified under a “sub-prime” variation of traditional lending, where income and credit were less of an issue; but given the sub-prime meltdown (many of these borrowers defaulting on their loans), these sub-prime options have gone away. So, unless you have good credit, income, and small debt, you’re better off not even bothering with trying to get traditional financing these days.
Traditional lenders generally require that at least 20% be put down as a down payment. While this isn’t always true, investor loans with less than 20% down can be tough to find via traditional lending these days.
As an investor, it can be difficult to deal with traditional lenders who don’t necessarily understand your business. For example, a house I closed on last week with traditional financing almost fell-through because the lender wouldn’t provide the funds until the hot water heater in the investment property was working. As an investor, it’s common that I’ll buy houses with broken hot water heaters (among other things), and I can’t generally expect the seller to fix this for me, especially when my seller’s are usually banks. In this case, I had to fix the hot water heater before I even owned the house, which is not something I want to do on a regular basis.
Traditional lenders take their time when it comes to appraisals and pushing loans through their process. It’s best to allow for at least 21 days between contract acceptance and close. As an investor, you often want to incent the seller to accept your offer by offering to close quickly; with traditional lending, that can often be impossible.
If the lender will be financing through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae (and most will), there will be a limit to the number of loans you can have at one time. Currently, that limit is either 4 or 10 loans (depending on whether it’s Freddie or Fannie), so if you plan to be an active investor going after more than 5 or 10 properties simultaneously, you’ll run into this problem with traditional lending at some point.
There are no traditional loans that will cover the cost of rehab in the loan. If you plan to buy a $100K property and spend $30K in rehab costs, that $30K will have to come out of your pocket; the lender won’t put that money into the loan.
2. Portfolio/Investor Lending
Some smaller banks will lend their own money (as opposed to getting the money from Freddie, Fannie, or some other large institution). These banks generally have the ability to make their own lending criteria, and don’t necessarily have to go just on the borrower’s financial situation. For example, a couple of the portfolio lenders I’ve spoken with will use a combination of the borrower’s financial situation and the actual investment being pursued.

Because some portfolio lenders (also called “investment lenders”) have the expertise to actually evaluate investment deals, if they are confident that the investment is solid, they will be a bit less concerned about the borrower defaulting on the loan, because they have already verified that the property value will cover the balance of the loan. That said, portfolio lenders aren’t in the business of investing in real estate, so they aren’t hoping for the borrower to default; given that, they do care that the borrower has at least decent credit, good income and/or cash reserves. While I haven’t been able to qualify for traditional financing on my own due to my lack of income, portfolio lenders tend to be very excited about working with me because of my good credit and cash reserves.

Benefits: As mentioned, the major benefit of portfolio lending is that (sometimes) the financial requirements on the borrower can be relaxed a bit, allowing borrowers with less than stellar credit or low income to qualify for loans. Here are some other benefits:

Some portfolio lenders will offer “rehab loans” that will roll the rehab costs into the loan, essentially allowing the investor to cover the entire cost of the rehab through the loan (with a down-payment based on the full amount).
Portfolio loans often require less than 20% down payment, and 90% LTV is not uncommon.
Portfolio lenders will verify that the investment the borrower wants to make is a sound one. This provides an extra layer of checks and balances to the investor about whether the deal they are pursuing is a good one. For new investors, this can be a very good thing!
Portfolio lenders are often used to dealing with investors, and can many times close loans in 7-10 days, especially with investors who they are familiar with and trust.
Drawbacks: Of course, there are drawbacks to portfolio loans as well:
Some portfolio loans are short-term — even as low as 6-12 months. If you get short-term financing, you need to either be confident that you can turn around and sell the property in that amount of time, or you need to be confident that you can refinance to get out of the loan prior to its expiration.
Portfolio loans generally have higher interest rates and “points” (loan costs) associated with them. It’s not uncommon for portfolio loans to run from 9-14% interest and 2-5% of the total loan in up-front fees (2-5 points).
Portfolio lenders may seriously scrutinize your deals, and if you are trying to make a deal where the value is obvious to you but not your lender, you may find yourself in a situation where they won’t give you the money.
Because portfolio lenders often care about the deal as much as the borrower, they often want to see that the borrower has real estate experience. If you go to a lender with no experience, you might find yourself paying higher rates, more points, or having to provide additional personal guarantees. That said, once you prove yourself to the lender by selling a couple houses and repaying a couple loans, things will get a lot easier.
3. Hard Money
Hard money is so-called because the loan is provided more against the hard asset (in this case Real Estate) than it is against the borrower. Hard money lenders are often wealthy business people (either investors themselves, or professionals such as doctors and lawyers who are looking for a good return on their saved cash).

Hard money lenders often don’t care about the financial situation of the borrower, as long as they are confident that the loan is being used to finance a great deal. If the deal is great — and the borrower has the experience to execute — hard money lenders will often lend to those with poor credit, no income, and even high debt. That said, the worse the financial situation of the borrower, the better the deal needs to be.

Benefits: The obvious benefit of hard money is that even if you have a very poor financial situation, you may be able to a loan. Again, the loan is more against the deal than it is against the deal-maker. And, hard money lenders can often make quick lending decisions, providing turn-around times of just a couple days on loans when necessary. Also, hard money lenders — because they are lending their own money — have the option to finance up to 100% of the deal, if they think it makes sense.

Drawbacks: As you can imagine, hard money isn’t always the magic bullet for investors with bad finances. Because hard money is often a last resort for borrowers who can’t qualify for other types of loans, hard money lenders will often impose very high costs on their loans. Interest rates upwards of 15% are not uncommon, and the upfront fees can often total 7-10% of the entire loan amount (7-10 points). This makes hard money very expensive, and unless the deal is fantastic, hard money can easily eat much of your profit before the deal is even made.

4. Equity Investments

Equity Investment is just a fancy name for “partner.” An equity investor will lend you money in return for some fixed percentage of the investment and profit. A common scenario is that an equity investor will front all the money for a deal, but do none of the work. The borrower will do 100% of the work, and then at the end, the lender and the borrower will split the profit 50/50. Sometimes the equity investor will be involved in the actual deal, and oftentimes the split isn’t 50/50, but the gist of the equity investment is the same — a partner injects money to get a portion of the profits.

Benefits: The biggest benefit to an equity partner is that there are no “requirements” that the borrower needs to fulfill to get the loan. If the partner chooses to invest and take (generally) equal or greater risk than the borrower, they can do so. Oftentimes, the equity investor is a friend or family member, and the deal is more a partnership in the eyes of both parties, as opposed to a lender/borrower relationship.

Drawbacks: There are two drawbacks to equity partnership:

Equity partners are generally entitled to a piece of the profits, maybe even 50% or more. While the investor doesn’t generally need to pay anything upfront (or even any interest on the money), they will have to fork over a large percentage of the profits to the partner. This can mean even smaller profit than if the investor went with hard money or some other type of high-interest loan.
Equity partners may want to play an active role in the investment. While this can be a good thing if the partner is experienced and has the same vision as the investor, when that’s not the case, this can be a recipe for disaster.
J Scott is a professional real estate investor and house flipper in Atlanta, GA. His company, Lish Properties, specializes in the purchase, renovation and resale of bank-owned foreclosures, and flips approximately 20 houses per year.

Best in Class Finance Functions For Police Forces

Background

Police funding has risen by £4.8 billion and 77 per cent (39 per cent in real terms) since 1997. However the days where forces have enjoyed such levels of funding are over.

Chief Constables and senior management recognize that the annual cycle of looking for efficiencies year-on-year is not sustainable, and will not address the cash shortfall in years to come.
Facing slower funding growth and real cash deficits in their budgets, the Police Service must adopt innovative strategies which generate the productivity and efficiency gains needed to deliver high quality policing to the public.

The step-change in performance required to meet this challenge will only be achieved if the police service fully embraces effective resource management and makes efficient and productive use of its technology, partnerships and people.

The finance function has an essential role to play in addressing these challenges and supporting Forces’ objectives economically and efficiently.

Challenge

Police Forces tend to nurture a divisional and departmental culture rather than a corporate one, with individual procurement activities that do not exploit economies of scale. This is in part the result of over a decade of devolving functions from the center to the.divisions.

In order to reduce costs, improve efficiency and mitigate against the threat of “top down” mandatory, centrally-driven initiatives, Police Forces need to set up a corporate back office and induce behavioral change. This change must involve compliance with a corporate culture rather than a series of silos running through the organization.

Developing a Best in Class Finance Function

Traditionally finance functions within Police Forces have focused on transactional processing with only limited support for management information and business decision support. With a renewed focus on efficiencies, there is now a pressing need for finance departments to transform in order to add greater value to the force but with minimal costs.

1) Aligning to Force Strategy

As Police Forces need finance to function, it is imperative that finance and operations are closely aligned. This collaboration can be very powerful and help deliver significant improvements to a Force, but in order to achieve this model, there are many barriers to overcome. Finance Directors must look at whether their Force is ready for this collaboration, but more importantly, they must consider whether the Force itself can survive without it.

Finance requires a clear vision that centers around its role as a balanced business partner. However to achieve this vision a huge effort is required from the bottom up to understand the significant complexity in underlying systems and processes and to devise a way forward that can work for that particular organization.

The success of any change management program is dependent on its execution. Change is difficult and costly to execute correctly, and often, Police Forces lack the relevant experience to achieve such change. Although finance directors are required to hold appropriate professional qualifications (as opposed to being former police officers as was the case a few years ago) many have progressed within the Public Sector with limited opportunities for learning from and interaction with best in class methodologies. In addition cultural issues around self-preservation can present barriers to change.

Whilst it is relatively easy to get the message of finance transformation across, securing commitment to embark on bold change can be tough. Business cases often lack the quality required to drive through change and even where they are of exceptional quality senior police officers often lack the commercial awareness to trust them.

2) Supporting Force Decisions

Many Finance Directors are keen to develop their finance functions. The challenge they face is convincing the rest of the Force that the finance function can add value – by devoting more time and effort to financial analysis and providing senior management with the tools to understand the financial implications of major strategic decisions.

Maintaining Financial Controls and Managing Risk

Sarbanes Oxley, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Basel II and Individual Capital Assessments (ICA) have all put financial controls and reporting under the spotlight in the private sector. This in turn is increasing the spotlight on financial controls in the public sector.

A ‘Best in Class’ Police Force finance function will not just have the minimum controls to meet the regulatory requirements but will evaluate how the legislation and regulations that the finance function are required to comply with, can be leveraged to provide value to the organization. Providing strategic information that will enable the force to meet its objectives is a key task for a leading finance function.

3) Value to the Force

The drive for development over the last decade or so, has moved decision making to the Divisions and has led to an increase in costs in the finance function. Through utilizing a number of initiatives in a program of transformation, a Force can leverage up to 40% of savings on the cost of finance together with improving the responsiveness of finance teams and the quality of financial information. These initiatives include:

Centralization

By centralizing the finance function, a Police Force can create centers of excellence where industry best practice can be developed and shared. This will not only re-empower the department, creating greater independence and objectivity in assessing projects and performance, but also lead to more consistent management information and a higher degree of control. A Police Force can also develop a business partner group to act as strategic liaisons to departments and divisions. The business partners would, for example, advise on how the departmental and divisional commanders can meet the budget in future months instead of merely advising that the budget has been missed for the previous month.

With the mundane number crunching being performed in a shared service center, finance professionals will find they now have time to act as business partners to divisions and departments and focus on the strategic issues.

The cultural impact on the departments and divisional commanders should not be underestimated. Commanders will be concerned that:

o Their budgets will be centralized
o Workloads would increase
o There will be limited access to finance individuals
o There will not be on site support

However, if the centralized shared service center is designed appropriately none of the above should apply. In fact from centralization under a best practice model, leaders should accrue the following benefits:

o Strategic advice provided by business partners
o Increased flexibility
o Improved management information
o Faster transactions
o Reduced number of unresolved queries
o Greater clarity on service and cost of provision
o Forum for finance to be strategically aligned to the needs of the Force

A Force that moves from a de-centralized to a centralized system should try and ensure that the finance function does not lose touch with the Chief Constable and Divisional Commanders. Forces need to have a robust business case for finance transformation combined with a governance structure that spans operational, tactical and strategic requirements. There is a risk that potential benefits of implementing such a change may not be realized if the program is not carefully managed. Investment is needed to create a successful centralized finance function. Typically the future potential benefits of greater visibility and control, consistent processes, standardized management information, economies of scale, long-term cost savings and an empowered group of proud finance professionals, should outweigh those initial costs.

To reduce the commercial, operational and capability risks, the finance functions can be completely outsourced or partially outsourced to third parties. This will provide guaranteed cost benefits and may provide the opportunity to leverage relationships with vendors that provide best practice processes.

Process Efficiencies

Typically for Police Forces the focus on development has developed a silo based culture with disparate processes. As a result significant opportunities exist for standardization and simplification of processes which provide scalability, reduce manual effort and deliver business benefit. From simply rationalizing processes, a force can typically accrue a 40% reduction in the number of processes. An example of this is the use of electronic bank statements instead of using the manual bank statement for bank reconciliation and accounts receivable processes. This would save considerable effort that is involved in analyzing the data, moving the data onto different spreadsheet and inputting the data into the financial systems.

Organizations that possess a silo operating model tend to have significant inefficiencies and duplication in their processes, for example in HR and Payroll. This is largely due to the teams involved meeting their own goals but not aligning to the corporate objectives of an organization. Police Forces have a number of independent teams that are reliant on one another for data with finance in departments, divisions and headquarters sending and receiving information from each other as well as from the rest of the Force. The silo model leads to ineffective data being received by the teams that then have to carry out additional work to obtain the information required.

Whilst the argument for development has been well made in the context of moving decision making closer to operational service delivery, the added cost in terms of resources, duplication and misaligned processes has rarely featured in the debate. In the current financial climate these costs need to be recognized.

Culture

Within transactional processes, a leading finance function will set up targets for staff members on a daily basis. This target setting is an element of the metric based culture that leading finance functions develop. If the appropriate metrics of productivity and quality are applied and when these targets are challenging but not impossible, this is proven to result in improvements to productivity and quality.

A ‘Best in Class’ finance function in Police Forces will have a service focused culture, with the primary objectives of providing a high level of satisfaction for its customers (departments, divisions, employees & suppliers). A ‘Best in Class’ finance function will measure customer satisfaction on a timely basis through a metric based approach. This will be combined with a team wide focus on process improvement, with process owners, that will not necessarily be the team leads, owning force-wide improvement to each of the finance processes.

Organizational Improvements

Organizational structures within Police Forces are typically made up of supervisors leading teams of one to four team members. Through centralizing and consolidating the finance function, an opportunity exists to increase the span of control to best practice levels of 6 to 8 team members to one team lead / supervisor. By adjusting the organizational structure and increasing the span of control, Police Forces can accrue significant cashable benefit from a reduction in the number of team leads and team leads can accrue better management experience from managing larger teams.

Choosing the Correct Partner for Leasing and Financing

One of the best ways to limit your company’s overhead, particularly when you’re in the early phases of development for your business, is to lease equipment that you will need to conduct all of your business operations. If you have a bit more cash to work with and want to buy equipment to save money in the long run, financing could also be an option.

But when you’re looking to find a partner for leasing or financing, how can you be sure that you’re working with an organization that will be reliable in providing you with the financial assistance you need?

Know exactly what your needs are

Before you even begin to look around for the right leasing or financing partner, you need to know exactly why you are looking for help in the first place. What are the exact services you need? How much cash flow do you have moving in and out of your business’s accounts? Are you registered as a business yet? The answers to all of these questions could have an impact on your decision.

Even if you know that you’re just getting started out and believe that all you need in terms of your finances is a checking account and one or two pieces of equipment, you need to consider the growth potential of your business in the coming years. Will you be expanding so much that you’ll need a loan? Does your equipment need to be regularly upgraded?

Take the time to figure out what your needs are as a business before approaching any leasing or financing partner, because that will help you to find the most effective partnership.

Analyzing potential partners

After you have determined what your needs are as a company, you can start to more closely analyze potential leasing and financing partners.

When choosing the right partner for your company, you should first look to make sure that it has a history of excellence in providing services for your company’s industry and that those services fit your business’s needs. As you would with any other potential business partner, do some research into the company’s reputation, including its track record of success and any reviews that are available from previous clients.

Customer service should also be an extremely important factor in your decision. Your business’s needs are important, and anyone that you are in contact with at a potential leasing or financing partner should be attentive to them. They should be extremely responsive and willing to have an in-depth conversation with you about your company’s goals and what the best leasing or financing strategies are to fulfill them will saving you money and hassle. Knowledgeable sales representatives can be a great help in clarifying your options.

Make sure that you’re taking note of any potential red flags, as well. For example, you should never be expected to do business without a contract, and you should never have to pay any fees up front. If your potential partner has terms that seem unreasonable, then you shouldn’t have to feel as though you’re locked in to using their services. You should be absolutely comfortable with the decisions that you make.

Using Equipment Leasing Company

Pick a leasing company that will understand your needs for current and future needs. The goal as a customer is to find a company that will satisfy your financing / leasing needs for the next 12 to 18 months. Creating that budget with a equipment leasing company will help your business to grow.

Finances Can Make or Break a Marriage

Most first marriages start with high hopes and dreams that the uninitiated lovers share in boundless enthusiasm. Such optimism often includes an assumed trust and faith in one another. At the beginning of a new life together it can be easier to share assets and debts equally. As the marriage progresses and years are added to the relationship there are many factors that contribute to a decline in enthusiasm for sharing the money equally such as egos, selfishness, varied ideas about necessities versus wants, etc. Adversity sets in, as it does for all of us. Perhaps there are problems holding a job, or health issues arise, or maybe accidents occur or maybe it is as simple as mistakes which are made while balancing the checkbook. As troubles tax a couple’s finances resentment might build as one or both partners look back and wonder if they could have been more prosperous by staying single. If finances are kept separate the chances of working through such adversity together are lessened. Isolated into whats yours is yours and whats mine is mine people feel alone and disheartened even though they share life with another person through marriage. On the other hand, if finances are shared both partners are equally responsible for the successful financial outcome of the union. By jointly holding the money each spouse seeks the inputs and wisdom of the other to manage the accounts for maximum profit. What challenges one faces both face together. What success one achieves both enjoy together.

“When you get married you become one.” “Money is a key area that helps bring unity.” David Ramsey, Financial Expert. “… spouses should combine all finances and work together towards common agreed upon goals… Separate money equals greed. The bottom line is this: couples that plan their lives and finances together are much more successful financially and with their relationships.” –Marriage and Money – Dave Ramsey vs. Suze Orman, March 20, 2012

The old saying goes ‘There is no I in team’. Is marriage a contract between me and me, I and I, or is marriage about we, our, us? Going into life together can be tremendously beneficial to both partners. When two become one in all things each becomes more than they are by themselves. Math changes from 1+1=2 to 2 together = anything is possible. Many families have a tradition of saving their nickles and dimes to use to go on vacation. It strikes one as ridiculous to consider each family member saving to go on vacation separately. Mom saves to go see Grandma and Dad saves to go camping and Marsha saves for Disneyland while little Johnny saves to go to the ice cream parlor down the street. Agreeing upon a mutual activity takes negotiation and more effort than going on separate vacations, but it also builds shared memories that are held precious later.

This is not to say that one partner should demure in passiveness and yield to their spouse all financial opinions and decisions. Often there are stark differences in the perspective each companion uses to view resource usage and risk management with. One spouse may be analytical in nature and the other might make their decisions from more of an emotional base. Such dissimilar viewpoints can make it challenging to reach an equilibrium both are comfortable with. It may seem easier just to separate finances. However such a decision can result in grave consequences. “Divorce attorneys have told me that when money is the issue that brings a couple in to see them, as it often is, the specific issue is usually that the husband and wife were living separate financial lives. Want to mess up your marriage? Live separate financial lives.” How to Mess Up Your Marriage, Monday, December 12th, 2011, Matt Bell, author of Money and Marriage.

Is there more to a union of two souls than that of corporate mergers? Ironically, finances are often merged in shared business arrangements yet there are some who recommend the opposite approach for couples as if married companions are “… Independent Operators, my term for pairs who keep their accounts entirely separate.” Jessica Crouse.

Healthy marriages are built upon compromise, respect for each other, and the willingness to entertain the thought that together you are smarter than you are separately. Nature witnesses to the efficacy of sharing the resources- even birds and animals bring home the bacon to be shared with the whole pride. Think about the survival rate of any animal species that behaved as if each was responsible separately for their maintenance and subsistence. “Life is not 50:50, nor should it be… when did this degrade from a marriage to a micromanaged contractual partnership?… I see a continuum from the first bit of separate money in a marriage to basically living as roommates.” Evolving Personal Finance: The Slippery Slope of Separate Money.

Sometimes we might find ourselves wondering why some people make the financial decisions they do. During the recent housing crisis many opinions were expressed via twitter, internet forums, and even talk shows about where the responsibility rested for so many foreclosures. Terms like ‘predatory lenders’ and ‘irresponsible borrowers’ were bandied about. It is natural to become couch quarterbacks and passenger seat drivers when viewing problems others encounter, especially when we had no contribution to such problems. How easy it becomes to do the same with a spouse when married partners hold the finances separately. Harboring criticism instead of openly communicating about financial troubles does little to foster unity in marriage.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19:6). Today it seems as if half of society would amend these Biblical verses to ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, except financially; and they shall become one flesh’ and ‘So they are no longer two, except the bank accounts, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate, except the money’.

In this world of hyper competition stress rules. If children are part of a marriage the love and joy that come to parents can also be accompanied by even more stress as the demands on available resources grow. If outside influences threaten the financial stability of the family stress levels rise even higher. Money is one of the major contributors to divorce, and it’s easy to see why. Many people are constantly worried about taking care of their families, and as they grow older taking care of themselves through retirement. Such worry can breed fear. Fear can eat at the faith and trust in one another that was assumed at the start of life together. As faith and trust erodes the bonds of matrimony can begin to resemble chains tied to a sinking vessel where it becomes ‘every man for himself’. However, if couples are committed to each other ‘for richer, for poorer’ they can lean on each other for the strength necessary to endure and overcome the challenges of life in these modern times. Years of struggle and effort together can help forge a tie that can defy financial obstacles in favor of the security such strong bonds ensure. Such security might not be financially based, but instead it might find a strong foundation in emotion. This means that sometimes spouses have to choose what is most important to them- money or love.

While comparing the pros and cons of united versus separate finances in marriage a clear conclusion emerges that supports the unified approach. Consider the following from Engaged Marriage: “Reasons Why a Joint Bank Account is Best: Encourages regular communication about finances. Built-in accountability partner on spending matters. Fosters unity in money matters. Strong sense of working together to meet financial goals. Clear that all household income is treated as “our” money. No conflict or administrative work in ‘splitting up the bills’… The use of a single joint account also encourages (requires, really) open communication about your finances, which is absolutely critical to a successful marriage.” –Should Married Couples Have Joint or Separate Bank Accounts? By Dustin of Engaged Marriage.

A proponent of separate marital finances might argue that many of the benefits outlined herein can still be enjoyed even if spouses are not one with money. Without performing the work necessary for financial harmony it is like trying to describe the taste of salt to someone who has never experienced it before. There is just no substitute for experiencing the rewards other than doing the work it takes for two people to harmoniously live together financially. Communication can become improved as each works to understand the others’ point of view. Sacrifice can enhance mutual appreciation as companions work to compromise with each other. Trust grows as each spouse strives to achieve mutual goals set together. Sharing money in marriage is an opportunity, not a burden.

In summation, money can make or break a marriage. Just like most issues in life we can use it to achieve positive results or let it use us in which case negative results often occur. The easy road might seem to be separation of the marriage finances. However, putting aside the possible negative consequences a couple thus engaged will miss out on the opportunities to build an even stronger relationship with their spouse through working together in good faith and trust in one another. It does require work and sometimes it is hard. A couple will not realize the rewards from such hard work by avoiding the same through keeping their finances separate. That trust and faith in each other that was assumed at the start of their life together can, through such hard work, grow into absolute confidence as the years accumulate. I like the following quotation about shared marital finances and conclude with it as follows: “Call me weird, but I just don’t understand the logic of this. Call me old-fashioned, but I think marriage should be a partnership. Call me crazy, but I think separating your finances is a bad idea… (what) you are saying to each other is “I mostly trust you, but not with my money.” With this sort of attitude, how could you possibly fail??? ‘sarcasm drip, drip'” –Separate Finances: A Recipe for Marital Disaster, By Greg | August 28, 2012 | Debt, Income, Saving Money on Club Thrifty.

Focus On The Walk Not The Talk

Leading by example is precisely why leaders focus on always doing exactly what they say. Your actions should be aligned with what you are saying. Although, it’s tough to practice what you preach; you need to model the change in behavior you want to see. The core of focusing on the walk not the talk is to be the change you want to see in others.

In other words, you need to assess your own behavior first before communicating these changes to your fellow because changing habitual practices isn’t as easy as simply making a choice. It’s very important for a leader to be consistent with their actions. The single most essential component to effective management is trust. Everything will go out the window when trust is lost. And in the eyes of most people, a lie is a lie.

Too often leaders want to run and/or hide from their mistakes. Don’t make excuses, but be clear that you recognize where you went wrong. Being sorry isn’t admission of defeat. It revisits the human aspect that people screw up for a superfluity of reasons. You are not an exemption. It is a great start to admit your mistakes and apologize. However, be clear in asking for support in moving forward. If you choose to ignore it than acknowledge it, don’t be flabbergasted if things don’t get better.

Show people what the organizational values mean through your behaviors. People learn by observing their leaders. You must focus on your walk more than your talk. Bringing values to life is a behavioral issue because you are a role model for your people. Your values can be seen in terms of your behavior, where you go, what you say, how you spend your time and how you deal with problems and crises.

Actions speak louder than words. Everyone has lapses. Make sure that you acknowledge whenever you find yourself off track and in breach of values. When problems catch you off-balance, your immediate reaction might be contrary to your personal or organizational values system. Remember, subordinates follow your lead.

As a leader, you need to help your people succeed. You must smooth the way for them because there are always impediments and obstacles to achieving goals. You must identify these barriers, remove or lessen them, or show your members how to deal with those that can’t be removed.

People desire for recognition. The main reason why people leave their jobs is that they don’t feel appreciated. Recognizing a worthwhile behavior is the single best way to ensure organizational commitment. Although none of us would work for less money than we feel is fair, money alone isn’t enough for encouraging long-term high performance. People cannot be motivated when they feel that what they are asked to do is worthless or contrary to their fundamental values.

Most of us want to feel that we are valued as people, not just mere staff. We want to be respected for who we are, not simply for what we do. We also respond positively to be with others who share similar beliefs and with whom we can build relationships. That’s the very reason why we need to focus on the walk not the talk.