Mackey McNeill is the Founder of MACKEY, a Cincinnati-based firm offering family-owned businesses an invaluable and innovative combination of coaching and CFO-level financial expertise to help them stop settling for profits and learn to prosper.
Mackey is the author of several books including the award-winning, The Prosperity Playbook. She has been quoted as a financial expert in major media including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Money, and USA Today.
Mackey holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree with honors from the University of Georgia and is a CPA/PFS (certified public accountant/personal finance specialist).
Her affiliations include the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), bcorporation.net, The Goering Center for Family and Private Business, Small Giants Community and Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- The Standard Playbook – Work Hard, Grow Sales and The Bottom Line Will Follow Doesn’t Work
- Why Settle For Profits, When You Can Prosper
- The 5 New Paradigms to Assimilate
- The 3 Freedoms of Prosperity, Money freedom, Time freedom an and Freedom from Worry
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:02] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s time for Coach the Coach radio brought to you by the Business RadioX Ambassador Program, the no cost business development strategy for coaches who want to spend more time serving local business clients and less time selling them. Go to brxambassador.com To learn more. Now, here’s your host.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Coach the Coach Radio, and this is going to be a fun one today on the show, we have Mackey McNeill with Mackie. Welcome.
Mackey McNeill: [00:00:42] Thanks, Lee. It’s great to be here with you.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us about your practice. How are you serving, folks?
Mackey McNeill: [00:00:50] Well, I help people prosper. I help them achieve the three freedoms of prosperity. Money, freedom, time, freedom and freedom from worry.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:01] So what’s your back story? How did you get into this line of work?
Mackey McNeill: [00:01:05] Well, I sort of wandered in from the perspective. I started as a CPA and I, my clients are primarily business owners, and I noticed how much they struggled to really generate a decent return on the investment risk and effort they were putting into their business. So I started iterating and trying new things and seeing what helped and and discarding what didn’t. And over the course of years, I developed a whole system for helping people make more money, keep more money and grow their money. So it’s been a wonderful, lifelong journey that I’ve enjoyed and had a great. Many have worked with thousands of business owners at this point, and it just continues to grow, so I’m excited now.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:53] Do you find that because of your background as an accountant, that you have maybe a better understanding of the numbers part of the business where a lot of entrepreneurs have the passion and maybe have a great idea, but they don’t really have a good handle on the financial aspect of their business.
Mackey McNeill: [00:02:14] Well, that’s exactly it. What I learned early on when I was working with business owners is they often went into business because they were passionate about something, but they didn’t really understand business and they certainly didn’t understand how to make the numbers work for them. They tend to to work hard and try to focus on selling more. And they assumed that they would make money that way. And you know, it would be nice if it work that way. And when you start out, really, let’s face it, you don’t have any customers, so you have to focus on sell, sell, sell. But at some point you have to get a little more sophisticated about, OK, I’ve got revenue coming in. How do I maximize that? So there’s something left over at the end of the day that makes it worthwhile for me to be here.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:57] So now what does that look like? So what frustration are your entrepreneurs or your clients? Are they just just feel like they’re banging their head against the wall? They think there’s there’s got to be more to this. This can’t be what I signed up for. Like what is kind of the frustration where they’re like, I better call Mackie.
Mackey McNeill: [00:03:14] Well, I think there’s several. One, there’s really kind of three drivers that people reach out to us. One is that they’re trying to make a generational transition and if they’re making a generational transition, you know, basically the next generation is buying out the current generation. And so there’s a lot of money that’s got to go from that into new places into somebody else’s pocket. So that becomes a financial challenge for the business. And so to help them build a business in such a way that they can, the business can afford this transition is one way that we get involved. Sometimes we have clients who come to us because they have done everything they know how to do and they’re kind of at their wit’s end. That’s not my favorite client because basically it’s like, you know, a fire hose and we’re putting out fires and it’s an emergency. But you know, it’s always great to see what when they turn around. But it is very nerve wracking when we first get started. And the third kind of client that tends to work with us is people who really are at a point where they’re ready to scale to the next level. You know, there are places in our business where we we’ve developed a sort of level of competence and confidence that we can get to say two million in sales. But for some reason, we’re sort of stuck here. And, you know, it’s often that there may be structural processes and systems, and we’re just not really have the the bandwidth yet underneath us. We don’t have the right structures to get to four million or five million or where they were wherever they’re trying to go. Or maybe they’re at 10 million and they’re having struggles getting to 15 million. So they’re really working on some issue of scale that they’re being having a hard time getting past and usually with the financial tools that we’ve developed in all three of those cases, it helps business owners see their businesses from a different perspective so they can make new choices and really drive the business forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:06] Now, a lot of business folks think profit is really the objective, but in your model, prosperity is what you should be aiming at. Can you explain why that is? Why are you put prosperity ahead of profits?
Mackey McNeill: [00:05:23] Well, when you say I put it ahead, I would say that if you settle for profits, you’re selling yourself short. So, you know, and here’s why is that? I define prosperity as the ability to have money, freedom, time, freedom and freedom from worry. So, you know, you can produce profits by working yourself 60 70 hours a week, and a lot of entrepreneurs go about it that way. But maybe you’d like to have some time freedom too, and maybe you’d like to worry a little less along the way. To me, that combination of having the money that you need, having the time that you’d like to have and being free of worry, it’s really gives us a ground to live better lives, not just to have more money. There’s only so far that you can go with more money. We want to have a good. We want people to have a good life to.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:14] Now, when you’re having that kind of conversation with folks, are you telling them or are they hearing that maybe less as more? Maybe I shouldn’t work so hard. Maybe I should focus more on other things that I’m valuing. So it’s almost like a mindset shift in terms of I always thought the objective was to just keep growing and getting bigger and making more money. And what I’m hearing you say is that maybe you should shift that kind of mindset.
Mackey McNeill: [00:06:44] Well, I I expect everyone that we work with to make more money. Don’t get me wrong. Absolutely. In fact, I would say if they’re not making more money, then we aren’t doing our job and. And so I know that all of our current clients are doing that because otherwise I would be firing ourselves. We would be firing ourselves, you know? So the number one job definitely is to make more money that’s not beyond, that’s not on the table and not improve their profits. But what along the way, we want them to build their team so that they, I call it, stop being a fulcrum where everything has to go through you and rather build a wheel. So build your team so that the team begins to create some energy and to help you build the business and help you grow the business. We use a set of metrics. We teach the people the key management team in the business how to use those metrics so that they can begin to create some energy to drive the business forward as well. So it’s not only the owner that’s doing that, and really that’s where the time freedom comes in and the freedom from worry comes from. I have enough. I have enough information coming to me. We put together a set of reports that are, you know, I’d say, beyond financials, but are also much easier to read than a set of financial statements so owners can very quickly get their finger on the pulse of where their business is. And they don’t have to worry Am I going to make payroll tomorrow? Am I going to be able to scale this business to do? I have the cash flow of working capital to do what I want to do. They have that confidence so they can go about doing the things that they need to do to grow the business free of worry and building their team to help them along the way.
Lee Kantor: [00:08:23] Now what attracted you to the family owned businesses? What about them was kind of, Hey, this I can really make a difference for these folks.
Mackey McNeill: [00:08:35] Well, I think there were too early on I ran into, I’m always a person who I run into a challenge that I can’t solve. It just drives me nuts and I had a business owner that I was working with and he had was a there were, I think, four siblings. This was a second generation business. So the parents had left and the four siblings were running it and they were slowly dying. I mean, the business was dying. The margins were, you know, kind of crushing it on. And I said, you know, you’re really going to have to make some changes here and this business and everybody, all the four there were all brothers. All the four brothers received an equal salary regardless of what they did. And I said, you know, if we’d started paying people based on the marketplace salaries that they should earn based on their jobs, first of all, you would you would have more money. The company would have some profits because we didn’t have any money to plow back, end or kind of reinvent the business. And he said, I just can’t do that. And I said, Well, you’re going to have to choose, I think between whether you keep all your brothers employed at this level or whether you have your business. And he just couldn’t hear that and he went out of business. So everybody lost their job. And to me, it was like, this didn’t make any sense. This was, you know, any family there always the dynamics of things that you think you can or can’t do, the sacred cows, which makes it just all the more challenging because everything is not a business decision. Sometimes it’s a family decision.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:11] Now I’ve been in doing the work that I do. I’ve been involved in shows that focus on family business, and this was completely an eye opening experience for me to understand, like you were saying, that they run. They look like businesses, but they run completely different because a lot of things are in play that a typical business isn’t have to deal with, like holidays or dinner or or, like you said, one sibling doing more than the other. It’s a fascinating, fascinating world.
Mackey McNeill: [00:10:45] It is. It is. And you know, as as time progressed, my daughter eventually joined me in my business, so it became a family business. So then I had the look in my look in the mirror and say, Well, I’ve got these challenges. And so I became even more committed to family businesses. And, you know, I think that the additional dynamics just make it more interesting. And and it is a it’s a I think something like 98 percent of all businesses in the United States are family businesses. People think of it family business as a minor niche, but it’s really a huge niche. And the truth is that I always say that even if you are the only owner in the business, you have a family business because at the end of the day, I guarantee you’re going to go home and you’re going to talk to your spouse about your business and you’re going to tell them your woes and their and how your family does is very much going to depend on how your business does. So the business and family is very much related to each other. No way around it.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:44] Now, when it comes to this kind of talent shortage challenges that are happening now, do family businesses have an even more challenging time because of the fact that if your last name isn’t the last name of the leadership and you’re kind of middle management and aspire to be more, you see kind of a ceiling ahead of you, whereas in a traditional business, maybe you don’t see that.
Mackey McNeill: [00:12:13] I think that all depends on the culture and the business, and I think family businesses can have a culture that allows people to have upward mobility. You know, I know many family businesses that have, for example, strong profit sharing plans that are that are not just retirement plans, but also cash bonus plans that employees can participate in all employees or a certain set of employees. So there are ways to structure the business to give the non-family members a vision of how they can make a great impact. I know another family business that I talked to the the CEO and there are a lot of family members in the business and he’s not family. But he said, I’m very attracted to this business because the family makes it stable. It’s a stable business and he loves manufacturing and he loves working in this industry. But he’d found it to be a situation where the businesses that he worked with in the past were constantly sold to a larger competitor and everything was disrupted. And he said, I want to work for something that’s going to stay. You know, it’s going to stay a family business. I know that my boss is going to be the same boss tomorrow. So there’s advantages and disadvantages. But a lot of the turnover that’s happening, I think very much is related to the culture inside of the business. I think employees and business owners will do much better if they begin to open their books, teach their employees how they make money and invite them into the conversation. You know, it is the days of telling people what they’re going to do and micromanaging or over, and this is the time for engaging and building community in your business.
Lee Kantor: [00:13:51] Now, in the in the Mackey playbook, can you share a little bit about how an engagement with you looks like? Are you kind of just saying, OK, this is I know you’ve written books and you have a lot of strategies and experience and working with a variety of folks. But what does it look like? An engagement with Mackey and her team?
Mackey McNeill: [00:14:12] Well, that’s what it looks like is we have we start every engagement with a whiteboard session, so we, you know, our job is to help a business owner get where they want to go. So the whiteboard is just to say, where do you want to be? Where do you want to be the next three to five years? Where what is epic for you? What would be over the Moon that you can’t imagine it being any better? We want to know that, and then we want to look and see, do we think we can help you get there? And if so, we’ll prepare our proposal and our system that we’ve developed over the years has a whole cadence to it. In other words, there’s an annual planning process, the strategic planning process, the monthly reviews are all set in, so we understand the services that we’re going to deliver. So we give them give them a price based on the size of their company basically, and how many key employees and key people that we’re going to be working with because we’re bringing the whole team along. So we’ll put together a proposal. They’ll know exactly what they’re going to spend with us, and every contract comes with the 90 day out. So for the first 90 days, well, we’re going to work with you. And if I always say 90 days, you may not be able to see new profit showing up. Yet that’s a pretty short time frame, but you’ll know that you’re on the right track or not. And rarely do we have someone leave after 90 days, but I do like them having that out so their one year contracts with a 90 day out. And and, you know, if we’re not, if it turns out we’re not a good fit, then we bless them and send them on their way. But most of the time they are a good fit and they continue in. Almost all of our clients renew year after year because they continue to grow and evolve and and we grow and evolve with them.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:52] Well, your background in accounting is accounting part of the services you deliver? Or is that kind of is this primarily coaching and advising?
Mackey McNeill: [00:16:01] Well, I would say that the reason that most coaches cannot be successful in helping people take, you know, actually drive different financial results is because the accounting is lousy. So we have a team of accountants that are internal to our and but we have a set of coaches and they are very different people. A lot of accountants try to become coaches, and I certainly started that way. But most accountants are not cut out to be coaches, let’s face it. But we but the I would say of the business owners I’ve worked with, less than one in 10 have a set of books that’s really usable for decision making. So the first one of the first things we do is a financial systems analysis and we look at where are the places that the financial systems are not up to par that need to be fixed because if we don’t have good information, then we spend all of our time talking about the fact that the numbers are wrong. We don’t want to talk about the numbers being wrong. We want the numbers to be right so we can see where we’re going and see if the decisions that we’re making are producing the results that we want. And if not, what do we change so that we get the results that we’re looking for? So we have to have critical data. So we have a team that’s a great team. They says all they do is work with our clients to help them get their books in order and put their information sets together so that we can. The coaches can take that over and help them drive their business forward.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:27] And then is there kind of a minimum size you work with? Is it like $10 million businesses or is it one hundred employee businesses now?
Mackey McNeill: [00:17:35] Well, I say for a people get real caught up on sales, but you know, in a professional service environment, say a million dollar professional services firm is actually a fairly good sized firm. A million dollar manufacturing firm would be a micro firm, but I think the smallest business we’ve ever worked with is probably about a half a million dollar professional services firm, but I’ve worked with clients as large as 50 million. So but I’d say our average client is somewhere in the two to six million range when we start working with them. And then there’s outliers from there
Lee Kantor: [00:18:10] And then it’s industry agnostic. I would imagine it’s like a family business typically, but industry agnostic.
Mackey McNeill: [00:18:18] That is true. We’re industry agnostic. We have manufacturing clients and construction clients and service clients. And kind of if there are a few places, I won’t go. But we again, we pride ourselves on the customers that we’re working with. The clients that we’re working with are going to make more money. They’re going to put money in their pocket from engaging us. So if we don’t feel like we can do that, we will walk away. I mean, that’s because we hang our hat on that and our clients tell their friends so we can’t afford to be wrong.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:53] Now is there a story you can share of challenge you had? And maybe it’s maybe it’s the most rewarding in terms of the impact that you made with this firm that you were working with? Can you share something that may be their challenge that they were having? Then they engage with your you and your team, and then they got to a new level.
Mackey McNeill: [00:19:13] Well, I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you a story of a client that we’ve worked with, say, over about 10 years, they actually just made an exit from their business. But when we first started working with them, they were a very large player in their region and they had really done a great job of growing sales again. They were in that playbook of, you know, work hard, grow sales and the bottom line will follow. But the bottom line wasn’t following. And as it does, it often doesn’t. You know, that’s a good start up playbook, but it’s not a good scale up playbook. So they were struggling with their bottom line, and we came in and helped them put together a set of metrics and began to talk to him about how to really measure the right things in their business so they could achieve the bottom line results that they wanted. And over the next four years, they went on to 10x their their bottom line, and they eventually just took over all of that work. And then we did. The next thing we did was we worked with the owners to do financial plans for them personally, and then eventually they decided that they were ready to make some sort of exit.
Mackey McNeill: [00:20:19] So we helped them identify, Well, how am I going to exit? Am I going to sell to my employees? Am I going to sell to a competitor or am I going to sell to an upstream person? Am I going to sell to private equity? What are my options and what? What’s the best marketplace? And then we help them decide on what a broker to purchase to represent them. And we worked with them through all the negotiations on the financial end, and they sold the business for a good five million over what I really expected they would get because they had such strong culture and their earnings were so strong, you know, they could have probably I mean, they would have walked away with a decent amount of money if they hadn’t done that work to build their profits. But by having a company that was so strong and had such good systems and had had the bottom line to this, they were they were moved into a consolidation where, you know, there are four or five companies that are consolidating in that industry. So they would have consolidators are paying a pretty good price even if you don’t have earnings. But if you’ve got earnings, you can get even more so.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:27] So having kind of this CFO level partner as part of your team, I would imagine it’s attractive to a lot of folks. If somebody wants to learn more about you and your practice and your team, what is the website?
Mackey McNeill: [00:21:43] Our website is McCain advisors. That’s GMAC, KFYI Advisors, Advisors, SARS. And we have. There’s also, if you want to just learn more about us, there’s a ton of free resources. We offer free classes on a lot of our how to write malware. There are several classes coming online about how to get ready for twenty twenty one. And we’d love to to see people join us and and take a taste.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:14] Good stuff. Well, congratulations on all of the success you’re doing, important work that we appreciate you.
Mackey McNeill: [00:22:20] Thanks, Lee. It’s great to be on with you. I appreciate your time today.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:23] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see all next time on Coach the Coach radio.