Marguerite Pressley Davis is a former Wall Street analyst who became an advocate for entrepreneurs in Atlanta and beyond. She is the founder and CEO of Finance Savvy CEO, a privately held company which improves financial literacy and business finance among entrepreneurs as a way to increase their profitability and to close the country’s gender and racial wealth gap. Through her work, she has helped small business owners to raise over $33 million in capital and increase their annual profits on average by 63%. She has two decades of international business experience which includes her work at Goldman Sachs, controlling over a $2 billion portfolio of private equity, alternative energy and commercial real estate investments.
Connect with Marguerite on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- Should Atlanta’s small businesses worry about a recession
- The Do’s and Don’ts of creating a financial plan for starting your business
- Why every small business owner should consult with a financial coach before they raise capital
- How can entrepreneurs and small business owners protect themselves from bank collapses like Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Atlanta Business Radio. Brought to you by on pay. Atlanta’s New standard in payroll. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:25] Lee Kantor here another episode of Atlanta Business Radio. And this is going to be a good one. Today on the show we have Marguerite Pressley Davis and she is with Finance Savvy CEO. Welcome, Marguerite.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:00:38] Thank you, Lee Thanks so much for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:40] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about finance savvy CEO. How are you serving folks?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:00:45] Yeah, absolutely. So at finance savvy CEO, we really focus on helping small business owners and entrepreneurs to really enhance their financial confidence and competence when it comes to the money side of running a business. So we focus on through our programs and membership only we focus on financial planning and overall financial education to help you make better business decisions. With the financial impact in mind.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:16] Now, are you working primarily as an educator or also as a financial planner or wealth manager?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:01:22] Yeah, yeah, great question. So ultimately, yes to the financial educator piece, but we only work with small business owners and entrepreneurs. So for the business finance side of things, so we don’t do kind of the wealth planning that some of our friends in the personal finance space do. But one of our core programs actually is your profit playbook, where we focus on financial planning for their small business. You know, what we see a lot is that small business owners and entrepreneurs, when they try to either A, raise capital or B, just operate daily in their operations, they really have questions around, well, I have limited amount of funds, limited amount of capital, so how can I make the best use of it? So that’s where our financial planning side of the house for their business comes into play.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:10] And is that a do it for you or do it with you or do it yourself offering? Yeah.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:02:16] So we we do it, do it with you. One of the things that I strongly believe in, what we really promote at finance savvy CEO is that we want our small business owners and entrepreneurs to feel empowered with their finances. We want them to feel confident that, Hey, I understand what’s happening financially. And by me understanding it as that business owner, it’s going to help me make better decisions. So we are all about at finance savvy CEO the do it with you model. So for example when we’re going through your profit playbook, we are actively working with our small business owners and entrepreneurs, hearing them through step by step how they’re doing it. But we’re there with them holding their hands because at the end of the day, we want them to be able to stand on their own two feet when they’re talking to investors or they’re with their team making a decision. We want them to hear us in the back of their heads saying, okay, I understand why I’m doing this. I understand the implications. So we’re all about doing it with you so that you can stand on your own two feet financially as a small business owner or entrepreneur.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:22] And then what is the profile of your ideal client? Are they at the beginning stages where they may not have a CPA or a bookkeeper, or are they more established and the those resources aren’t kind of providing the intelligence intelligence that you are?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:03:38] Yeah. Yeah. So ultimately, we work with clients across the spectrum of both revenue size as well as industry. So let me talk about the revenue size first. So sometimes our clients span between $0 in revenue, meaning their pre revenue, and they want to get things right from the start when they’re starting their business. They may have gone into it because they absolutely love what they do, but they don’t really necessarily understand or have a strong grasp on finances and the money side of business. So for those entrepreneurs and small business owners that are just getting started, we support them to to ensure that they have a great foundation of understanding of the financial decisions that they’ll have to make. But also we help them to say what is realistic for your financial plans, what’s realistic for how much you need to fundraise? And then that spans all the way as well too. We have companies in our community that are at the $10 Million revenue mark, but their questions are a bit different. They’re there because they say, Hey, we’re at ten, but we’re wanting to scale. We want to have that exit and you know, five years out, ten years out.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:04:49] And we have to ensure that we’re doing that. As a CEO, I’m making strong financial decisions. So it really ranges across revenue size and across industry. Now to the second part of your question. Is it like, hey, they don’t have a CFO, they don’t have a CPA, a bookkeeper? No. One of the things that we recommend is it’s what I like to call the financial trifecta. So the financial trifecta that I recommend, like every single entrepreneur in small business have, is like they have that bookkeeper on their staff or that’s outsourced. They have that accountant and the tax. On their team, but we also promote that that is still no substitution for you as the business owner. Being able to get intimately involved in your finances so that you can have intelligent conversations with your bookkeeper, so you can have intelligent conversations with your accountant, because ultimately they’re they’re steering the company forward, not the support resources. So we say that, hey, still is that CEO, we want you to know it, understand it, but definitely work with that financial trifecta as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:55] So what’s your backstory? How did you kind of find the heart to serve these people in this manner?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:06:01] Yeah, so I have been in the finance industry for almost going on 20 years now. Um, I actually started out on Wall Street. I was at Merrill Lynch, then transitioned to Goldman Sachs, where I focused on private equity and commercial real estate investments. So we invested in everything from like concrete companies to hotels and casinos and that to date myself. But back in the last recession we saw around the 2007, 2008 time frame, um, you know, we had this whole thesis around our investments built around that Vegas would be recession proof. And that thesis was absolutely wrong. And as we saw back then, the markets tanked, hotels went under, casinos went under in Vegas. But for me, it was my first realization that the work that I did, I didn’t want it to be so closely tied to something I couldn’t control. I can’t control the markets. So for me, it was the catalyst to say that I wanted to work directly with the CEOs, directly with the CFOs before those businesses went downhill. So I transitioned to a career in mergers and acquisitions consulting. It was all about buying and selling businesses, divesting unprofitable business units, and did that for about half a decade, worked in some really cool places like Ireland and Amsterdam and Mexico. But what I realized after that point was that when I reflected back to the last recession, we had small business owners were going out of business much faster than corporations.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:07:43] And so the missing component there that I found was really it was the mismanagement of finances, the lack of understanding of some of these small business owners for how to navigate really challenging times, just like we’re seeing now in the economy. So I from there, I started my own tech company. It was a retail tech company just to ensure that I could make that transition from the corporate space into the finance space. And, you know, for a lot of small business owners, the reality was, is that, you know, even if they went to MBA program and, you know, I was at NYU, but you learn a lot about corporate finance, that doesn’t always translate to how is a CEO? Do I think about my small business finances? So from there I found myself at a pivot point after we exited my first tech company and it was like, What’s next? I went on to work at a $25 million venture fund as a managing director, creating investor readiness programs, getting in small businesses ready to raise capital. And that was the missing piece. At that point, the light bulb went off. Hey, I really need to double down on making sure that small businesses stay in business longer. They’re actually profitable so they can generate wealth, not take away from wealth. And from that finance savvy CEO is born as we know it today.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:02] And then when you were trying to build this community, were the lessons learned kind of challenging to go from kind of a big corporate and dealing with, you know, mega companies with unlimited, seemingly unlimited resources, you know, to a person with a dream, you know, at their kitchen table. And, you know, was it difficult for you to kind of relate to that person and kind of see the struggle that they’re going through and have that level of empathy to really kind of feel like you can make an impact on them because the impact on that person is more personal, I think. And it’s more like you see the results with your eyes and how it affects their family and their neighborhood and their friends and their community.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:09:48] Oh, yeah. Lee, you’re so spot on there. You know, I we did for my team. We did bonuses this past year. You know, at the end of every year. And it’s the impact is not only on the businesses, but it’s also like as a small business owner that, you know, having my team and seeing the impact it has on them. Like one of my workers sent me a picture of a mattress that she was able to buy her parents with her business. So you’re right. It’s like that life impact they’re having. And so it was a different transition for me. Lee And I think that that was one of the biggest catalysts point of why I made the transition to small businesses, because in the corporate space, you find a way to, you know, save them a million, 5 million, and they want 10 million more. But when we’re talking about small businesses, like on average, our clients will grow their profits at least 63% on average when they start working with us. So that can mean a different life for them, a different ability of how they can pour into their own communities. And so it’s a bit of the why, why I do what I do is because of the immediate impact that you see.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:10:57] I think for small business owners and entrepreneurs, though, the biggest lesson learned for me as I transitioned over was that it is every decision that they make. It has a life impact for them, right? So if they have a month that’s unprofitable or a year that’s unprofitable, that may mean less that they’re able to do for their families, less that they’re able to do for their community a real immediate impact. Whereas in the corporate world it is, okay, let’s just roll it over to the next quarter. So what I love about that in the work that I do is that I’m able to not only change the trajectory of what they can save, what they can pay themselves, what they are able to do. As it relates to hiring most of our business owners, they make, at least for those that are the zero revenue point, within 24 months, they’re making their first hire and that has a larger economic impact that they have immediately. So you’re spot on with that. Definitely a transition there. But it’s also part of the crux of the why of that transition for me from corporate to small business.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:05] So let’s educate some of our listeners. You brought up a point earlier and you used the word one of the metrics that matter, I would assume, is profit. You didn’t say revenue. And to me, as a small business owner and having interviewed thousands of small business owners, I think a lot of people keep their eye on the wrong ball sometimes and they think that revenue is the most important thing and you can have all the revenue you want without profit and you’re not going to be in business very long.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:12:35] Oh yeah. Oh yeah, spot on. So I think that, you know, for for decades, even if you look in the VC space there, they were using revenue as this metric. But I see revenue is almost a vanity metric. It is great you write your business can’t survive without sales. But the challenges with that is it’s not just about what you make, it’s about what you keep of what you’re making. Like I have had clients where they were making $1 million a year. Let’s call it, but they were only keeping less than $5,000 of it. But then I had companies who were only making 50,000 and they were keeping $25,000 of it. So who’s better off? Right? So I think one of the things that we have to change as a small business community and what I what we’re constantly pushing and finding finance savvy CEO is it’s about the financial management. It’s not just what’s coming in, but it’s what are you keeping? And I’ll even take it a step further. It’s not only what you’re keeping in profits, it is what are you doing to grow that money? So we also have to elevate ourselves also from the profits. How much of it is you’re keeping? Are you keeping? And that has a lot to do with again, how are you managing the money that comes in? How are you making those really tough decisions around how you’re allocating that capital, what you’re spending? But then also, what are you doing to grow it? How are you thinking about investing? Those profits. How are you thinking about what gets retained so that your business can grow into that vision that you have.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:10] Now in some of your work helping your clients with like, say, maybe they have several service offerings, but you see, if you do a deep dive and the metrics, the financial kind of signals that that each one of them has, one of them might be a loser and it might be popular and there might you it might be hurting you. Every sale could be, in essence, kind of damaging your business, even though, like you said, we call those metrics, the vanity metrics cause metrics where it looks like you’re killing it. But in reality, you could be kind of putting yourself out of business. Do you help the client analyze kind of, you know, put a PNL on each one of their service offerings to see, okay, do more of this and less of this, and maybe you should change the price of this because you’re losing money on every one of these.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:15:01] Oh, yeah.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:15:03] Absolutely. And I get so excited about that because that’s the core of one of the service offerings that we have is around the financial analysis piece. And sometimes what you’ll find is that when someone isn’t comfortable with the numbers, what they do is they avoid looking at their finances. And what I tell every small business owner and entrepreneur, I say it’s like you had lunch and you have a piece of spinach in your teeth. Well, how’d you just looked in the mirror? You could have taken that spinach out your teeth, right? It’s the same way with the finances of taking that time to analyze the end of every month, every quarter, every week, depending the frequency, depend on your business. But taking that time to see what’s truly happening, you know, sometimes when we’re making sales again, it’s vanity. It feels good, it feels great. We’re selling out. But you have to take that step back and say, But is it worth it? Am I only making so many sales because I’m spending more in marketing than I’m actually generating in the revenue? Or is it the fact that I’m selling because my price is so low so I can’t even cover my cost? So that’s exactly one of the core areas that we focus on is the analysis piece. But to also your second point there around the pricing, one of the things that we do is we have a pricing lab and a lot of the times what I find is that small business owners and entrepreneurs, when I said, Hey, how’d you come up with your pricing, they’ll tell me, Oh, well, I just looked at my closest competitor and that seemed about right.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:16:32] And I’m like, Hey, we can’t do that because we don’t even know how our competitors came up with their price. And now you’re just taking their prices. So being able to really do detailed analysis around the pricing, understanding the key value points that they’re delivering, what makes them different, justifying that that price that they’re charging is even sustainable is one of the core pieces in that analytics that we do. Now, another piece to that, what I recommend that every entrepreneur and small business owner is doing is something, what we call it finance savvy CEO is financial wellness checkups. Now these financial wellness checkups, you deep dive into what is truly the profitability that you have. Not only is a company wide, but your different revenue streams, your different product offerings so that you can see, hey, is this something we need to keep on or do we need to see if there’s adjustments that we need to make? Or does it just need to be retired altogether?
Lee Kantor: [00:17:32] Now walk me through. Say, okay, I’ve heard what you’re saying. I like you as a person. I think you’re smart. I think you have all the qualifications I need to be successful. I’m in. What is that kind of onboarding? First types of conversations you’re having with me to get me up and running so that I can have, you know, a solid financial plan moving forward?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:17:55] Yeah, absolutely. So we’re having that conversation. Loved all the nice compliments now, but one of the first things that we do to get our clients onboarded with your profit playbook, where is the group financial planning that we do? We also do some one on one financial planning as well through more so the consulting agency side of things. But ultimately, one of the first things that we do is we never assume that is like the, the biggest, um, you know, it’s a huge core value of mine and finance savvy CEO. So we never assume that you have anything to bring to the table. What I mean by anything to the table you can come to us for, for support without any historical financial information. Meaning you may say, Marguerite, I don’t have any past financials to give to you. I’ve never done that. You know, I haven’t had the bookkeeper. I haven’t had an accountant. Help me. I have nothing. So we never assume you have those things coming in. So we start from ground zero. So when you get to us, we do an intake survey. And that intake survey is going to give us more information about just your business, your tenure in business, the types of products or services that you have, the challenges, the pain points that you have. But most importantly, Lee, when you get onboarded, the one core thing that we are focused on is where are you trying to go? I care a lot less about where you’ve been versus where you’re trying to go. What is that vision for your company? Because depending on where you’re going to go, we could build totally different financial plans, financial roadmaps, financial projections. Because if you tell me, Hey, Marguerite, my goal is to exit my business in five years.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:19:37] Or if you tell me, Hey, Marguerite, you know I want to keep this business and hand it off to my kids one day. Well, to that entrepreneur, that tells me you want to exit in five years, we’re going to build out a more aggressive financial plan for your business that allows for a lot higher growth so that you’re going to be more attractive to investors so that you can show the market size is really there and you’re able to tap into it and you’re able to capture a good portion of that market. It’s going to be an Uber growth model. We’re going to we’re going to build there. But now if you tell me that maybe you’re building that business from your retirement and you really just need this to to to maintain for your family, your risk averse, well then we’re going to build a much more conservative financial plan for your business. We’re not going to do as many aggressive marketing strategies. Maybe we may even ensure that the cash reserve that you have for your business is a lot more is a lot bigger than that company that told me they just want to exit in five years. Right? So, so I’ll summarize that and say the biggest thing that we need from you when you on board is clarity in that vision. Where do you want to go? So we can ensure that the plan is specific from, you know, templates here. That’s, you know, broken arrows is no, it’s about building out a financial plan, a financial roadmap that makes sense for where you’re going and that meets you in a place that you’re comfortable taking your company. Because after all, you’re the visionary.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:03] Now, once you hand me this plan, is it Now I’m off and you’re giving me homework and I have to do some work here or or there’s recommendations Like what? What happens next? And how do you keep me accountable?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:21:16] Yeah, absolutely. So once you have your plan in hand and you know you have your financial plan, you’re clear on that road of where you’re going. We actually have something it’s called our finance savvy CEO collective, and that’s our ongoing membership program. So what we hear from our founders, our CEOs, is that they really love exactly the word you used accountability, the ongoing accountability to make sure that they’re sticking with their plans. And guess what? Sometimes you can stick with the plan and things don’t happen as planned, and that’s okay. So the purpose of the membership that we do is our clients come into the membership and it’s monthly ongoing accountability and support. So ultimately what’s happening here is if things get off rail, things get off track. We’re talking about adjustments that can be made. If things are going great and you want to change things. Those are the discussions that we’re having inside of our membership. I think one of the biggest things that I see for small business owners and entrepreneurs is they build these financial plans. And, you know, to your listeners, right, if you have a financial plan and it’s sitting up on the shelf and you haven’t used it, I think one of the biggest things is, is why aren’t you using it? Did you get somebody to just build it for you and you weren’t active in the process? So it’s not connected.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:22:31] Being with you. It’s not meaningful. A financial plan. You have to actively use it. So one of the core things that’s really important is the ongoing accountability. So no matter if it’s your part of our membership and or not and you’re getting support, every entrepreneur needs to be able to say, Am I checking in on this financial plan? Am I making sure we’re going in the right direction? It’s no different than in your car where you have your gas light, you’re monitoring your speed. You keep a check on it to make sure you’re in the right direction. Because if you’re not looking at that gas light in it, it comes on and you’re 30 miles away from a gas station, you could be in trouble. It’s the exact same thing with the financial plan. If you’re not actively using it, you’re not actively monitoring. How are you doing Compared to plan, you could easily be off rails and your business could be headed to a downturn. So I love that we have the membership lead because that’s that monthly accountability where we’re doing our what I call our money dates. That’s where we’re doing our hours, our quarterly business reviews, the whole nine.
Lee Kantor: [00:23:36] And that’s an important component, right? Without that, it’s really difficult to grow if you’re not kind of keeping track. You can’t just, you know, use your bank statements as a measure of how well you’re doing. You have to really be looking at this on a regular basis in a strategic manner and really kind of diving into the numbers. Because without really understanding this, it’s really difficult to grow. You’re hoping for a lot of things to go well if just and you have control over more things than maybe you think.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:24:08] Oh yeah, oh yeah, you’re so right. And keep in mind too, I love what you said. If like you’re just looking at your bank statements, what you’re doing there is your bank statements have already happened. Right? So it’s almost by time you’re looking at your bank statements, you’re looking at something in the past. I really challenge small business owners and entrepreneurs to not just look at the past. Yes, the past can help inform our future, but what a financial plan does is it allows you to be forward thinking. It allows you to be proactive. You know, if you kind of think of a boat, if you’re just sitting on the boat, sure, the boat could just drift any direction. But what if you’re actively steering that boat? What if you’re actually actively taking it into the direction that you want? You’re going to get totally different results.
Lee Kantor: [00:24:53] Good stuff. Well, Marguerite, thank you so much for sharing your story. You’re doing such important work and we appreciate you.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:24:59] Thank you, Lee. Appreciate you.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:01] Well, if somebody wants to connect with you or somebody on your team, where should they go? What are the coordinates and where do you have a lot of resources to get them started, right?
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:25:12] Yeah, absolutely. So you can connect with us on finance savvy.com or just Marguerite Presley davis.com. One of the things with free resources if you go to finance savvy cio.com there is a ton of free resources on there. If you check out our blogs we have free downloads resources of recommended you know, support resources that we love. And then, you know, if you’re if you’re ready to take the step with more support, we you can find out more about our membership program as well as your profit playbook. But you can always also just shoot a note on the contact form. I’m always happy to connect with small business owners and entrepreneurs.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:54] Thank you again for sharing your story.
Marguerite Pressley Davis: [00:25:56] Thank you. Lee Thank you for having me.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:58] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Atlanta Business Radio.
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