Carla shares her thoughts on how she manages her money and some of the lessons she’s learned. 

LYNN:    Hello and welcome to the Cherry Blossom Café Podcast. I’m your host Lynn Williams, owner of The Lifestyle Protector. This show is all about uncovering life’s mysteries about money. If you’ve ever wondered how other people manage their money or the mistakes they’ve made, that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about. We’ll uncover these mysteries and more. On this episode, we talked to Carla Wood. A recognized voice in business strategy and relational leadership. Carla is also a highly rated speaker, founder of All Strategy, a successful international enterprise focused on driving growth for service based businesses. Carla believes incremental shifts maximize results. Carla has supported small and mid-sized businesses in making tens of millions of additional revenue. Welcome Carla.

LYNN:    Thank you for joining me today, Carla. It is so wonderful to have you here. I think you’re amazing. I think you do a great job. I just love hearing what you have to say. Thank you.

CARLA: Thank you. That’s so lovely. I’m so glad and it’s mutual.

LYNN:    Oh, good. What I’d like to do in these sessions is really just get a bit of background and insight into people’s progression first of all, with their careers and their work. To start off with, what was your first job?

CARLA: My first, first job? Like in childhood?

LYNN:    Could be or whenever you feel like you had your first job that you could talk about.

CARLA: I think my first job, which is probably notable was when I was in grade eight maybe. I worked for a frozen yogurt place. It captivated me because I took it so seriously. It was a small business and they were very concerned about their expenses. They were concerned about breakage of cones and they were concerned about people coming in to get free samples because it was one of those machines that you have to push the bar like [inaudible] and the ice cream comes out, but it was behind the counter so we serviced it. I remember in my zealousness a woman asked for a chocolate sample and I gave it to her and then her husband asked for the chocolate sample. I said, you can just try your wife’s. Anyway, I got in a lot of trouble for it. What it helped me understand at a very young age is that while expenses matter, customer service matters even more.

LYNN:    A very, very good lesson. Yes. It sounds like a great first job because who doesn’t like frozen yogurt?

CARLA: You got to eat the broken cones so it was great.

LYNN:    Fantastic. Fun. Lots of fun. Then how did you get started in All Strategy, in your business now?

CARLA: This company actually started in 2013, but in many ways started all the way back in 2002 when I started my first company. It was really my quarry into consulting, which has eventually changed into business strategy. What I was trying to figure out was how can I help businesses in a way that allows me to be a part of the big picture, but doesn’t require me to be hands on in the environment. I find I have a bit of shiny object syndrome. With strength’s finder, I’m a real activator achiever, which means I’m really good at getting things going. I’m strategic so I can see the big picture for things, for people easily in terms of how to get from where they are to where they need to be. I’m not great at taking things over the finish line. So I need other people to finish.

CARLA: Business strategy and advisory is a really good fit for me that way. In my first company, I made the decision that if people were most important, thank you frozen yogurt ice cream store for teaching me that. That the best approach to marketing was to take any of the business contacts that I met and stay in touch with them. This was before I knew about CRMs. I would stay in touch with them at least twice a year. My goal was at least twice a year to invite them all out for breakfast, coffee, lunch, or dinner. I was hedging my bets that half couldn’t come and the other half would probably offer to pay if we did go out. Which worked out. I was young and didn’t have a lot. That principle, I’m not able to do it quite that same way because my data base has grown a lot over the years. That principle of staying in touch with people, understanding their value, and always asking how you can help them has stuck with me.

CARLA: As I’ve changed my company over the years and even left the industry and done other things and come back, when I launched All Strategy, I had a really wonderful launching pad because those relationships I’d been curating for 15 years came to pass so I could be, as I joked with others, an overnight success when I started. It only takes 15 years to be an overnight success.

LYNN:    Exactly. That’s easy. First your insight was so awesome about you seeing the big picture and being a big picture person and needing help to get the projects or the ideas across the line. That has to be such a great place to start for any business owners to really know their strengths. Then to delegate where it’s not your strength or not your genius. Then create a business around that strength is fantastic. Congratulations. That’s really well done. That’s a really good lesson for all of us.

CARLA: Thank you. I’m pretty passionate about leveraging your strengths and letting others leverage their so that you can all be greater than the sum of your parts.

LYNN:    Very, very true. That’s excellent. Once you started to become more successful with your business and with your work, which you were doing, did you handle money differently?

CARLA: Not at first. I wish I could say yes. It took some time. I haven’t always had a great grasp of the importance of money in terms of the big picture. It’s always been there for the most part. I didn’t have a lot of time in my life story that included financial struggle, which I’m very grateful for. The downside of that though is not really appreciating how much work it takes to have it and how important it is to use it well and plan for the future. It took several years of what felt like exciting financial success to spend all of that and realize that, that’s really not success at all. That’s just having, I don’t know what it is. A party. It’s just play money. You can’t build a life with play money. The importance of then starting to plan and invest and save. It took time.

LYNN:    I say that many of us have to be reckless with our money before we are responsible with our money.

CARLA: I’m a perfect case study for that. You’re welcome.

LYNN:    Now, in looking back, would you say that there was any one big money mistake over the years or were there several and then you learned from smaller ones? Or a combination potentially?

CARLA: Yeah, I think there’s a combination. I think in terms of big mistakes, probably the biggest mistake I made other than just not saving and investing, which was monumental but incrementally monumental. That was a decision I made over and over, and over again in essence by not doing it. I think the other one was taking the advice of someone else’s advisor that was intended for them and not understanding that advice, even financial advice needs to be customized to your own circumstances, to your own level of risk, and having to learn that you can lose money when you make investments. If the market changes or whatever, there’s nothing you can do about that necessarily, but that you can manage your risk based on your level of comfort and it turns out that I have more of a moderate level of risk comfort and I thought it was higher. I thought I had a higher tolerance.

LYNN:    That’s interesting. Interesting insight. That’s a perfect lead into the question, do you have an investing philosophy now?

CARLA: I do. My investing philosophy, although it’s moderate overall is that I think that it’s important to have some things that are higher risk and the fun, I can afford to lose it money. It’s not gambling, but it’s the closest I really get to it. I think it’s really important. Then I think it’s important to have the stuff that I’m just not willing to risk at all. It’s the lower risk pieces. My kids’ education that I want to make sure that I have that. I’m not really willing to take a lot of risk. I like some return on it. It’s in a mixed low to mid risk range. I think instead of just being in the middle for everything, I’m more of a roller coaster personality. I like to select my investments in a bit of a roller coaster way that’s strategic.

LYNN:    Very good. I think it’s a really good point that diversification is a principle of investing. But it can also be a different diversification strategy for different goals. The kids’ education fund has a different asset allocation that fits for that comfort for you and that need. Different from money that maybe you’re planning with your retirement versus money that you can say, I can be a little bit more speculative with money over here than I’m willing to take a little bit of a greater risk with. They’re all divided into different purposes that help you with the overall diversification as well.

CARLA: That sounds beautifully articulate. Yes. I concur.

LYNN:    Good. Then going to giving back. What is your philosophy about philanthropy?

CARLA: That is a point in which I am deeply passionate about. I believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. That I have the privilege of being someone who in terms of the world view, has been given much as is every person that I know really. Just being Canadian, we are incredibly fortunate. I think that it’s essential to be generous and in our home we have a principle of giving first. We give and then we save and then we spend. Also, with my company with All Strategy, we have what we call generosity alliances. Those are really important to me. Our generosity alliances are essentially proactive strategic relationships that we have built with non for profits. On our website we have a page about generosity alliances where people can apply for those. They’re minimum 12 month relationships. They need to qualify under one of the areas that we as All Strategy have chosen to give. What we commit to is if you’re selected as one of our generosity alliance partners, is that we will pledge a minimum amount of money, but also pledge [inaudible] services to you. Then you have to be willing to let us basically be an advocate and fan and brag about your organization to the world.

CARLA: I guess my philanthropy perspective is that you need to combine time and money. If you can only do one, then that’s wonderful. There’s times in my life I’ve only been able to do either or. That the goal is to get to being able to do both.

LYNN:    What a wonderful approach. You only touched on it, but I really love when you said your family, you have a philosophy of you give first, you save second, and you spend third. Which is in most people’s worlds, completely upside down. In that we spend first, we save second, and we give third. That’s an amazing view, which is not necessarily of the everyday view that you hear about.

CARLA: It is a little bit upside down. The fun of it is that you’re way less stressed when you live it out. We do it imperfectly. We can feel the difference when we’re not doing that. Because when you give first, it’s fun to give. You’re excited. You don’t feel like you’re giving someone your leftovers and you haven’t quite had enough to eat. Then when you’re saving, it takes the pressure off. You feel responsible. Then when you’re spending, there’s no guilt in the spend because you know you have it. You’ve already dealt with the other important stuff.

LYNN:    That’s fantastic. Amazing. Then I really am intrigued that you have, what did you call it? The giving alliance?

CARLA: The generosity alliances.

LYNN:    Generosity alliances and that you are intentional around initially a 12 month period of time that you will focus on certain charities or [inaudible] work. Then do those then become longer term?

CARLA: They do. Yes. I’ve said 12 months, but so far I’m having a hard time breaking up with anybody. It turns out I really care about these organizations. Dress for Success was our first generosity alliance. Dress for Success Vancouver. We have had a generosity alliance with them for four years. We then also have a generosity alliance with Forum for Women Entrepreneurs. Dress for Success helps women who are under employed or unemployed get back into the work force starting with helping them getting the suiting for an interview and then career skills and then even leadership skills once they are employed. It’s an amazing organization. Then Forum for Women Entrepreneurs helps women who are entrepreneurs. I’m a mentor there and donor and supporter. I’ve been a part of their E series program both as a moderator and as an alumni now. Then the third that we have currently is World Relief Canada, which is a global organization that helps in other countries, helps families move out of poverty so that they are not obligated to move into slavery, to starvation, to homelessness that they start to become self-sufficient.

CARLA: What I love about that organization is that we partner with local organizations on the ground there. It’s not the western superhero showing up to save the day and do it our way. We’re actually partnering with people who are on the ground who do it their way that’s reflective of their culture. We’re able to respect that. Being locally respectful on a global level. Those are the three that we support currently.

LYNN:    That’s fantastic. That’s awesome. Thank you for that. Just going back to your younger self and money, if you could go back, what one piece of advice might you give your younger self about money?

CARLA: Well that’s easy because I’ve got two younger selves. They’re my children. They happen to be boys, but potato, potato. What we have done with our boys, which I wish I had learned as a child is that they each have three piggy banks. One is for giving, one is for saving, and one is for spending. When they get allowance or any money, then they need to divvy that up accordingly. We haven’t talked to them about percentages and that because they’re not at that stage of life yet, but eventually we will. Our only parameter is that whenever they get money something needs to go in each of the three. We put into the giving first and then the spending, and then the last part … or then the savings. Then the last part goes into the spending. What’s been really beautiful to watch and what I see happening with our kids that I wish I had, had the opportunity to do as a child myself is that they’re thinking through when they want something. At this stage if there’s nothing they need to pay for if they need it, so they’re spending money is purely for wants.

CARLA: They can look at something and ask how much it costs or see how much it costs. They can go home and count what they have. They know. They’re on a fixed income. They know what their allowance is. They can figure out how many weeks it will take to get that. Quite often by the time we get to those number of weeks, they’ve actually decided on something else. Then when they do go to make a purchase, we’re able to talk about the fact that there was something else that they also wanted that is now going to have to be delayed or deleted from the list for them because their money is now gone. They’re learning how to really make decisions about that. They also get to decide what they do with their generosity money. We try to partner that with action. Then their spending, it’s a big deal when you get to a hundred dollars and you get to go open a bank account and enjoy that. That would be the advice I would give to my younger self is to do that and always do it. It would’ve been much nicer to learn that in my elementary school years, than well into my adult years.

LYNN:    It’s about those habits created when we’re younger that we just do because the important adults in our lives get us to do it. Then it just becomes second nature. We don’t even think differently. We just think that everybody does it once we start [inaudible] you’ve give your kids.

CARLA: I hope so. We’ll see.

LYNN:    Great insight. Then just one last question. What piece of advice would you like to give your older self about money?

CARLA: Oh, that’s a great question. My older self about money. I think I would say to my older self, remember to keep being generous as your time here wanes. Because what I often see in the later generations is that they are fearful of letting go of the money because you don’t know how much longer you have and how much you need. I hope that I will be in a place financially that I can choose to be generous to my kids or the organizations that I care about or to the friends and family that I have so that I can enjoy blessing them financially while I’m still here, rather than waiting until I’m gone. Although it’s a gift to be able to leave things financially to people when you go, I feel like quite often by the time that happens if we live a long healthy life, those people that we left things to may not be in as much need of it. What that money could be doing for them if they had it and learned how to do it earlier could be amazing. Really I guess it’s a generational succession planning would be. I would want to remind myself of that.

LYNN:    That’s wonderful. That’s a wonderful legacy. That reminds me of just the ideas that how many of us remember our grandparents, our great grandparents, our great, great grandparents and what that kind of thinking could be your great grandkids that are remembering that you passed on that idea of generosity and responsibility with money.

CARLA: For sure. Especially because if we accumulate wealth and if it’s not my generation, than the next generation accumulate enough wealth. Than statistically by the third generation, they’ve squandered it. I think if we’re just leaving it to them instead of educating them and teaching them and equipping them about money as a tool instead of money as an entitlement, then hopefully it goes longer than that and has a bigger impact.

LYNN:    That’s fantastic, wonderful lessons for us all to remember as we go forward and as we continue to have our own success. I think it’s like you said. Too much is given, much is expected. That is part of it. Is how do we ensure a legacy that is something that we would want to be remembered by. Thank you Carla for your time. So appreciate it. Thank you for your openness and sharing your views about your money. I know that it can be a sensitive topic for people. I really, really appreciate your openness and your thoughtful responses because I think you’ve given us a lot to think about. Thank you.

CARLA: Good. You’re so welcome. It’s outside of my comfort zone, which tells me that it’s probably really important.

LYNN:    I look forward to chatting again soon. We’ll talk to soon.

CARLA: Thanks for having me. Thanks.

LYNN:    Thanks.

LYNN:    That’s it for today. Thank you for listening to the Cherry Blossom Café Podcast. You can check out the notes below for links related to this podcast. If there’s someone you’d like us to interview, we’d love to hear from you. Visit our website LifestyleProtector.ca for contact information and more episodes.

 

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