Marguerite Pressley Davis of ‘Finance Savvy CEO’: Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Launched My Business or Startup

An Interview With Doug Noll

Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

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When it comes to marketing, don’t starve your company. Marketing decisions can be tough as the returns on your marketing efforts may not always be instant, but just because the return may be unknown, you can’t starve your business by not marketing your product or service. Be consistent in marketing. Even if you’re uncertain about the return, invest in marketing to increase your brand awareness.

Taking the risk to start a company is a feat few are fully equipped for. Any business owner knows that the first few years in business are anything but glamorous. Building a successful business takes time, lessons learned, and most importantly, enormous growth as a business owner. What works and what doesn’t when one starts a new business? What are the valuable lessons learned from the “University of Adversity”? As part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marguerite Pressley Davis.

Marguerite Pressley Davis is a top-ranked business finance expert, an angel investor, a serial entrepreneur, and the creator of Your Profit Playbook™, the leading business financial planning program for small business owners. As the founder and CEO of Finance Savvy CEO, Marguerite aims to close the gender and racial wealth gap by helping entrepreneurs improve their business financial confidence and the overall financial health of their business. She has helped small business owners to raise more than $33 million in capital and increase annual profits on average by 63%.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have been in the finance industry for almost 20 years now. I started on Wall Street at Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. At Goldman, I focused on private equity and commercial real estate investments where we invested in everything from hotels to casinos to concrete companies. But in the 2008 recession, we saw the markets tanked, and how hotels and Vegas casinos were not recession-proof as we originally had assumed. For me, it was my first realization that I didn’t want my career to be so closely tied to something I couldn’t control; I can’t control the markets. It was the catalyst to say that I wanted to work directly with the CEOs and CFOs before those businesses went downhill. From there, I made several career moves to get me on my way to building Finance Savvy CEO.

First, I transitioned to a career in mergers and acquisitions consulting. Then I founded a retail tech company which had a successful exit. I also worked at a $25 million venture fund as a managing director, creating investor readiness programs, and getting small businesses ready to raise capital. At that point, the light bulb went off. I need to double down to ensure that small businesses can stay in business longer. And that is how Finance Savvy CEO was born as we know it today.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

The hardest thing I faced when I first started my journey was getting people to know about Finance Savvy CEO’s work. It’s one of those things where you think if your business is great, your customers will come. But that’s just not the case. It was really hard in the first four to six months to spread the word about our company. We spent countless hours doing free workshops and webinars, but we weren’t reaching the growth scale that we needed. Once we shifted how we thought about our marketing dollars early on as an investment versus seeking an immediate return, everything shifted for us.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I think about my big picture of who I want to be and what I want my space in the world to be. I always focus on the why behind what I’m doing. It gives me the drive to continue when things are hard.

So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

Things are going great today. We have a thriving community of small business owners and entrepreneurs with our Finance Savvy CEO membership. They come together each month to deep dive into CEO-level financial topics that help to accelerate their business. It’s through grit and resilience that I never gave up on my potential and my purpose to help CEOs gain financial confidence and financial competence. That type of drive has contributed to my success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made when I was first getting started was saying “yes” to everything. I was so excited for us to get started and to have clients that I literally said yes to almost every inquiry. But I quickly learned that one of the most powerful things I could do is to say “no” — “no’’ to the projects that didn’t fit into the direction that I wanted to take the company. The more projects that I kept saying “yes” to that were not a fit, the more times that I was missing out on the projects that I really wanted. The biggest lesson learned is to get very clear on what criteria defines a “yes” project, and what defines a “no” project.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Finance Savvy CEO solely focuses on the financial side of business for CEOs; that’s what makes us stand out. We’re not providing general business services; everything we do at Finance Savvy CEO is focused on helping CEOs and founders to make better financial decisions that will impact the longevity and sustainability of their business. I also think what makes us stand out is our approach to business finances because we take a very relatable direction. Forget the jargon; we speak about finance in a way that it connects with our entrepreneurs.

I was teaching a workshop a few weeks back to a group of women entrepreneurs and one of the founders raised her hand and said: “Marguerite, I’ve heard about financial plans and projections a million times, but it never made sense to me as to why it helps me to have one as the business owner. I always just thought it was recommended, but now I see that without one, I’m hurting myself and my business; it’s really a requirement.”

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Batch days are key to helping me thrive and not burn out. With batch days I set specific days for specific focus areas and determine the days which I’ll focus on a particular area based on my energy levels and the effort required. Within those batch days one is an administrative-only day which gives me the peace of mind that I’m not juggling client and partner meetings on this day as well. I also have one day during the week that is a non-workday. I preserve this day for networking meetings, tea chats with new potential clients, and connecting with myself.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m a very spiritual person, so I never take credit for where I am today. I know that once I chart my vision, I have the best helpers ever: God, Jesus, and my spirit to guide my steps. Additionally, I am very grateful to one of my clients turned friends, Karen Hilton, who is such a phenomenal woman. She is always championing me and supporting me with each endeavor I take on. Karen is constantly asking me, “Marguerite, what do you need?”. This type of unwavering support is what pushes me to keep going, knowing that there are people out there who depend on me, and support me, and who need me to deliver in my genius zone.

One time in particular stands out at the beginning of the year. I was having a tough time getting back into the swing of things after the holidays and after my husband lost a close loved one. Around this time, Karen invited me to her annual vision casting workshop, and it changed everything. This session with Karen challenged me to be unapologetic about my vision, and then gave me the support I needed to get clear on where I personally needed to focus to achieve my business vision. Karen has helped me to become a better leader for my business through working on my personal growth. I’m forever thankful for Karen.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The Finance Savvy CEO Foundation is one way that I bring goodness to the world. Oftentimes, those that need the most financial support with their business are also the founders who can’t afford to pay the service fees. Through the foundation, we provide scholarships and direct programs to underrepresented founders to get financial support and resources for their small business.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first launched my business,” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1. Understanding the business landscape is important, but quiet the noise around you. While it’s important to network and talk with other business owners about what’s on the horizon professionally, don’t get distracted by other people’s successes. It’s easy to get caught up in the comparison game and get down on yourself about what you haven’t accomplished yet. Stay laser-focus on your vision and your path; no two paths are the same and you have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes. Elsewise you can find yourself constantly fumbling and starting over because you keep looking in different directions and trying to keep up with others. Set your own pace and have confidence in what you’re doing.

2. Vet all partners fully before moving forward, no matter how exciting the opportunity may seem. I worked at a $25 million VC fund where I designed, built, and implemented the program arm of the fund. I completed the task and successfully launched their first-ever investor readiness cohort. The downside to this story is the general partner and founder did not pay me for my seven months of work creating and launching this entire business unit. If I had done a little due diligence on her, I would have found out that she has a track record of unethical behaviors and other dealings of unpaid wages. The lesson here is to do your research on every single partner that you work with, no matter how exciting the opportunity is. Upfront due diligence on a partner not only saves you money, but countless mental hours.

3. Focus on building out your team early on. The smartest decisions I’ve made in my business are those about hiring. Each time I’ve made a new hire, my business has exponentially grown. Don’t wait to make hires that you need, you’re only delaying your business’ growth.

4. No matter how fuzzy it may be, force yourself to figure out where you want to be in five years. Don’t just think about the here and how. If you start with where you want to be in five years, every decision you make will align to that five-year goal. Five years can seem far out to plan for once you’re just getting started, but it’s a lot harder to turn a large ship around than it is to know where you’re going and just course correct if you’re drifting from the intended path. Once I figured out where I wanted to be in that time, every decision I made on a monthly basis was a lot more intentional.

5. When it comes to marketing, don’t starve your company. Marketing decisions can be tough as the returns on your marketing efforts may not always be instant, but just because the return may be unknown, you can’t starve your business by not marketing your product or service. Be consistent in marketing. Even if you’re uncertain about the return, invest in marketing to increase your brand awareness.

Can you share a few ideas or stories from your experience about how to successfully ride the emotional highs & lows of being a founder”?

No matter how busy you are, make time for people that know you and love you outside of work. You need those people in life who are just going to love on you, make you laugh until your stomach hurts, and not talk about work at all. Secondly, have a non-work outlet. It can be exercising, going to the movies, or traveling. Just make it something that you love to do as an outlet that has nothing to do with work.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

In looking at where we are as a society, I think we need to go back to the core of kindness; we can table love for now and double down on just pure kindness. So my movement would be to do one act of kindness each day.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find my work at www.financesavvyceo.com and www.margueritepressleydavis.com.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

About the Interviewer: Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA was born nearly blind, crippled with club feet, partially deaf, and left-handed. He overcame all of these obstacles to become a successful civil trial lawyer. In 2000, he abandoned his law practice to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. Doug teaches his innovative de-escalation skill that calms any angry person in 90 seconds or less. With Laurel Kaufer, Doug founded Prison of Peace in 2009. The Prison of Peace project trains life and long terms incarcerated people to be powerful peacemakers and mediators. He has been deeply moved by inmates who have learned and applied deep, empathic listening skills, leadership skills, and problem-solving skills to reduce violence in their prison communities. Their dedication to learning, improving, and serving their communities motivates him to expand the principles of Prison of Peace so that every human wanting to learn the skills of peace may do so. Doug’s awards include California Lawyer Magazine Lawyer of the Year, Best Lawyers in America Lawyer of the Year, Purpose Prize Fellow, International Academy of Mediators Syd Leezak Award of Excellence, National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals Neutral of the Year. His four books have won a number of awards and commendations. Doug’s podcast, Listen With Leaders, is now accepting guests. Click on this link to learn more and apply.

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Doug Noll
Authority Magazine

Award-winning author, teacher, trainer, and now podcaster.