57: Ciara Stockeland on What Numbers Every Business Owner Needs to Know and Why - Andrea Liebross
Why It’s Important to Know Your Numbers with Ciara Stockeland

57: Ciara Stockeland on What Numbers Every Business Owner Needs to Know and Why

Why is it important to know your numbers?

Maybe you’re not a numbers person, so you don’t worry too much about that side of the business. As long as you’ve got the basics covered, you’re good, right? I think you need to know more than just the basics in order for your business to thrive, so I invited a special guest onto the show to help me explain why. 

That’s right, in this episode we’re talking all about numbers. 

Our guest expert, Ciara Stockeland, breaks things down in a simple, non-scary way so that you can understand your numbers without being intimidated or overwhelmed. She’s teaching us how to get to know your numbers without being a bookkeeper or accountant. 

Ciara Stockeland has owned and operated businesses since her early teens.  As a serial entrepreneur, her business mindset and tenacity led her to open her first store, Mama Mia, a high-end maternity store located in Fargo, ND, in 2006.  Shortly after, she developed and opened MODE, a designer outlet store located next to Mama Mia. In 2008, Ciara chose to merge her two concepts into MODE and developed the concept into a franchise. Her vast experience in both retail and wholesale industries led her to launch the first to market wholesale subscription box for boutique retailers, which she built and sold within 18 months. Most recently Ciara has launched the Boutique Workshop, a coaching program for retailers.

Ciara has been recognized as a Small Business Champion through SCORE and most recently was awarded the Outstanding Franchise Small Business Award.  She is active with SCORE, the largest network of expert business mentors across the nation. Through her coaching program, the Boutique Workshop, Ciara strives to motivate boutique owners to dream big and build simply. 

In Today’s Episode We Discuss: 

  • Why it’s so empowering to know your numbers
  • Why you can’t make changes without the right information 
  • Things that cause you to avoid looking at your numbers 
  • Getting started when you feel like you don’t understand or you’ve left it too late
  • Looking at your numbers as the solution to many of your problems 
  • The importance of writing down your goals 
  • How to set measurable goals 
  • Why raising prices isn’t as scary as you think 
  • What value means to you 
  • How to know your numbers without being a bookkeeper or accountant

Information is powerful. The way to grow your business is to make more profit, and the way to make more profit is by looking at your numbers. 

Do you want to talk about your numbers and how to improve them? Schedule a call at www.andrealiebross.com/consult and we’ll talk about it together! 

If you want to dive deeper into your relationship with money, download my free guide to exploring your own money beliefs at www.andrealiebross.com/money-beliefs

Head over to www.andrealiebross.com/listen to listen to this episode and previous episodes on your favorite podcast platform!

Resources Mentioned: 


Follow @cstockeland on Instagram 


Other Episodes You’ll Enjoy:

54: How to Think Like a Business Owner (That Loves Their Business)

55: Client Success Story: How to Create Routines with Sarah Khan

56: How to Do Things Better Next Year

Andrea Liebross |

www.andrealiebross.com |

Episode 57

Speaker1: [00:00:09] You're listening to the Time to Level Up podcast. I'm your host, business life coach Andrea Libros. I help women in business commit to their own growth personally and professionally. Each week, I'll bring you strategies to help you think clearly gain confidence. Make your time productive. Turn every obstacle into an opportunity. And finally overcome the overwhelm so that you can make money and manage life. Let's create a plan so you have a profitable business, successful career. And best of all. Live with unapologetic ambition. Are you ready to drop the drama and figure out the how in order to reach your goals? You're in the right place.

[00:00:54] It's time to level up. Let's do this.

Speaker2: [00:01:07] Hey, time to level up, listeners, welcome back to the podcast. So today I have an amazing episode for you. I had the opportunity to chat with Sierra Stockland and she too is a coach. She coaches primarily retail business owners, and she coaches them on creating the foundational pieces of their business, one of which is the ability to look at the numbers. So we talk all about numbers in this episode and why it is important for you to know your numbers. Now, I think knowing your numbers is important for any business owner, not just retail, and the information we share here can actually be used by people who even aren't business owners. This stuff excites me, and her way of looking at it, I felt, was super clear and very helpful. So sit back, buckle up and listen in to my conversation with Ciara.

Speaker3: [00:02:17] Hey, time to level up, listeners. Welcome back to the podcast today. I have with me a guest expert, but she's way more than a guest expert. Ciara Stockland and I want to just let her introduce herself, and then you'll probably figure out why I invite her to come on.

Speaker4: [00:02:36] Hey, good morning. Well, I'm excited to visit with you and thanks for tuning in, everyone. I am Ciara. Third generation entrepreneur from North Dakota. Believe it or not, so really used to cold weather, and I'm really excited that we get a beautiful fall right now as we're heading into our winter season. So a third generation entrepreneur here, my grandpa and dad both own their small business, own small business. And so what would be more natural than me doing the same thing? So I started my first little business at the age of 13, built that and grew that for a while, then headed into another venture, a retail, which really brought me to where I am today. So I'm excited to visit with you about my life's journey in the small business world.

Speaker3: [00:03:21] So it's interesting about Ciara is that, you know, I am an entrepreneur as well, but I am not in a retail space, although I have been, so I have done both and it's it's the same and it's all different, I think, right? Yeah, it's the same in all different, I think, well, first of all, tell us about your retail business now.

Speaker4: [00:03:43] Yeah. So I no longer have brick and mortar retail, which is I'm so glad to be on from that chapter. But what I do now is help other product based businesses, retailers, wholesalers really build a strong foundation because when I launched in twenty six with my first brick and mortar store, I did it because I knew I wanted to sell a beautiful product. I knew I could sell to anyone. I wanted to help women. I wanted to build a brand. But nobody told me that having a good foundation by knowing your numbers and really understanding the backside was so important to growth. And so when I got out of the brick and mortar space several years ago and just started chatting with boutique owners around the country, and they were asking me questions that I had the answers to, I thought, You know what? I can't just hold on to this information and not share it. And so from that was born, a coaching business where I work with product based businesses on foundational pieces. So the things that they're typically scared of, nervous about or don't even know like me that I knew I needed to know. So that's where we are.

Speaker3: [00:04:46] Yeah, and those numbers, I mean that like, no matter what business, everybody's always scared to know the numbers or to dig in, but they know they need to know them like they know they need. They should know them and they need to know them, and they probably know they need better systems and keeping track of them.

Speaker4: [00:05:02] But where do you even start? Where do

Speaker3: [00:05:04] You start? That's the big, but

Speaker4: [00:05:07] I know when I was talking to a retailer just a couple of weeks ago, actually, and she said, I know I should look at them, but I don't even want to look at them. And so that happens a lot of times too. Like, I know this doesn't feel right. I know I never have cash. I know I'm not paying myself, but I'd rather just avoid it. And so we just work through how we can simply take a peek at things, how we can break things down in a really simple, non scary. I like to say non scary way. It doesn't have to be intimidating, but when you have information, it's so powerful because you can't make change if you don't have the right information. And so that's what I help other retailers and product based businesses do.

Speaker3: [00:05:51] So I just last week started thinking about You can't improve anything you don't measure, right? Right. You can't. I mean, I didn't start thinking that, but that sentence popped into my head, right? You can't improve anything that you don't measure, which is totally true in any business. Yes. So, all right. So why do you think they don't want to look at the numbers?

Speaker4: [00:06:15] I think there's a couple of reasons. Sometimes it's because you feel really stupid, right? Like, I don't understand it and I don't. I should understand it because I own a business. So who am I going to ask? I feel silly. I feel awkward. So I'll just avoid it. Mm hmm. So that could be one reason. Sometimes I think it's just I've let this go on for too long. What's the point now in like doing it? I'll just it's more. Even though it's painful the way that I'm existing, it's more comfortable to exist this way because I know it. And so I'll just kind of keep going on and then complaining to myself. But it's more comfortable to say, Yeah. And then I think some, you know, just don't know that it's even something they should focus on. You know, so a lot of times I hear from retailers, product based businesses, boutique owners like how many times should I be posting on social media? I mean, should I have a photographer like that's what they're being told over and over and over is going to fix the cash flow problem. And so when I say actually and it's so funny because a lot of people don't believe me, you know, until we start talking a little bit more, but I'm like, Actually, you're probably right. Problem right now is not how many times you post on social media. It's the fact that you aren't managing your inventory because you don't even know how much inventory you own. And so if we can actually figure out how much inventory you own and what you should own and how that should move and turn, those are all numbers. Yep, you'll know naturally how and when to post on social media. And so I think one of those three reasons is what I most often find when retailers or product based business owners aren't focused on the right things.

Speaker3: [00:07:56] That's interesting, too, because I get the same question how often should I post? What platform should I post on? And I myself sometimes like, think about that stuff too. But I think they need to manage their inventory, and I always say in my clients need to manage their minds. Yeah, I need to manage their minds and figure out what is their inventory. In a sense, if it's more of a service based business or write in a if they're an employee, even like they're thinking is their inventory or that is their intellectual property or proprietary? Yes, that's proprietary to them. And if they have a better handle on that, then you're right. The posting comes naturally or the yes, whatever comes naturally. But I think also I don't know about you, but I always say we also want to do the passive actions, not the yes,

Speaker4: [00:08:48] We want to do the fun things to write stuff that's not too hard.

Speaker3: [00:08:52] Yeah, right? It's not super uncomfortable.

Speaker4: [00:08:55] Right, right. Right.

Speaker3: [00:08:57] Yeah, so OK. So looking at numbers, so then so let's say they say yes, OK, I know I should start looking at this like, you're right. You're right, you're right. You're right. How does one even like what's a baby step that they could? What's a baby step?

Speaker4: [00:09:17] So I have kind of a method, not kind of. I do have a method that I go through. So first, we kind of back up and we look at the big picture. What is your goal? And it's interesting to me because a lot of business owners don't even have a goal written down. I know what is up with that. I think that too is they feel fraudulent. How could I put a goal down when I don't know what I'm going to do? And I said, Well, that's the purpose of a goal, like we aren't going to know and we might not hit it, but we might exceed it, but we won't know unless we put that down. So first we say, OK, what's your goal? And so when I'll talk to a boutique owner, I'll say, What's your goal for the next month? What's your goal for the next six months? What's your goal for the next year? And that's very scary, but we'll put that now. Ok, so now we have this goal. Let's say it's two hundred and fifty thousand in the next 12 months. Now let's break that down. So we everything that I do, I take it and I break it down, so we break that down. And then next, we look at what goes into making that goal.

Speaker4: [00:10:14] So what is your current margin? So if you want to sell two hundred and fifty thousand with a product, what is that product going to cost you? And then we'll look at what you're spending in your business right now. So what are your expenses? So it's basically following a profit and loss statement. We just make our way down with those for no sales at the top cost of goods or what the cost is going to be of those sales. What does that leave you with? What are you spending and then what does that all leave you with? And does that make enough sense? So you might have a two hundred and fifty thousand dollars goal, but you have no idea in your margins, out of control and you're way overspending in your business because you're trying all the posting apps and you're doing all the magic fixes, right? Right. And so at the end of the day, do you even will that two hundred and fifty thousand leave you with a profit? And if not, we go back up to the top and we just can't keep working our way down. So that's the process that I use that really simplifies down. It doesn't have to be complicated or scary.

Speaker3: [00:11:09] It doesn't have to be complicated. You're right, no in the the goal piece. So I also find that sometimes especially women entrepreneurs have what I call fuzzy goals like, well, I mean, I just want to make money, make money so that you break even and make money that you have money in the bank so that you can reinvest in your business or make money to support your family. Like we get all sorts of

Speaker4: [00:11:35] Options, fuzzy goals are comfortable to. They are because if we don't define them, then we don't ever have to hold ourselves accountable to anything.

Speaker3: [00:11:43] Well, and then you run into the whole well, I mean, if I don't, I'd rather not have it because if I don't have it and I don't make it, then I'm not disappointed in myself. Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. So, OK, talk to me about that margin. Ok, so do we increase pricing or do we cut margins? Or do we cut expenses? I mean, these are all questions that I've gotten get to. Yes, what do I do?

Speaker4: [00:12:18] What do you think? Yeah. So I'm profit first certified, so we work a lot on the what what profit first would call real revenue in the boutique space or product based. We say gross margin, right? So you have your sales. Let's say you made $10 today because you sold one pair of jeans and that pair of jeans cost you five dollars, so your gross margin would be five dollars. So you sold 10. It cost you five. You have five dollars left. That's the gross margin. And so if it costs you five dollars to run your business every day, you're then left with zero. At the end of the day, your net profit is zero. So we have options. Like you mentioned, we could raise the price of that pair of jeans to $12, right? It still costs us five now we have seven left to work with. It only costs us five to run our business. And so now we have two dollars at the end of the day that we get to keep. So we could raise the price, we could lower the cost so we could get smarter and buy a different brand of jeans that cost us four dollars instead of five.

Speaker4: [00:13:13] We can eliminate some of that five dollars in expenses. We can cut out a dollar here or there. All of those things will add more profit to the bottom if we can do all three, even in small steps. It's more and more net profit we get to keep. And so usually we'll just talk about what is easiest for you. Where is the lowest hanging fruit right now? Could we just increase everything by a dollar? Could we go back and negotiate better rates? Or could you review your expenses and eliminate? And so we'll just start with one of those things. And then as we feel like, OK, now we have that under control. Now let's go back and let's look at the next of the, you know, of the three ways to add additional profit in. So that margin piece can come from different ways either increasing prices or lowering costs. And every business has an easier or lower hanging fruit when it comes to margin.

Speaker3: [00:14:05] Do people gravitate towards cutting expenses first? I'm just sort of curious.

Speaker4: [00:14:09] Yes, nobody wants to raise prices. So that is the hardest one. Yeah. Which actually funny enough. Is the easiest

Speaker3: [00:14:17] One I

Speaker4: [00:14:18] Know, and it is way less scary than you think. So I always say if you went through your entire store, if I'm working with a brick and mortar or I'm working with an online naval website, OK, let's go through your entire store. I want you to raise every single item by just two dollars. I can't. People will stop shopping. No, they won't. No, they won't. They won't stop shopping with you. They won't even notice. You know, so that's actually the easiest. But what they like to do is look at eliminating expenses. And while that's really good and I like it because you can get a quick win, you cannot build your business on eliminating expenses. So it is good to do that at the beginning. You need to look at that because we all overspend. We get very wasteful, especially if a lot of income is coming in. It's easy to just buy things and spend things and not even notice all the memberships and subscriptions, right? So it's good to do that. But you can't build a business by continuing to just lower expenses to make more profit. You have to either lower the cost of your inventory and or increase your prices or volume. That's another piece that comes in like we can just sell more of those 10 dollars means, right? So then we have extra. That's another option in there, too.

Speaker3: [00:15:25] So interesting because I thought you were going to say that that people shy away from raising things.

Speaker4: [00:15:30] And that's because we're very insecure. A lot of us as entrepreneurs are very insecure and we don't value our worth. And how, yes, the next door neighbor boutique, she might be selling those jeans as well, but her customer service is awful. Or like what sets you apart so that you can charge 12 instead of 10? Let's talk about that and adding value instead of saying I have to stay low to compete and

Speaker3: [00:15:56] Ok, so talk to me about adding value because this is something that just came up this morning, adding value. How do you know how I define it? But how do you define it?

Speaker4: [00:16:05] Yeah. So this is interesting with product based businesses because they really don't think about this at all. So they think about their product and what it's going for in the general market, and I just need people to see it and buy it. But if you want to grow as a retailer, product based business, you have to think about value before value, during value, after. So value before would be what makes you so different. Like how are you serving? What problem are you solving for your customer? Yes, I know you're selling denim. Great. So when you and five bazillion other boutiques, right? Right. So what problem are you solving that makes someone want to come to you to buy those jeans? That's the value before. And maybe it's the denim blog. Maybe it's how you fit your denim. Maybe it's you're really good at helping women understand how to wear denim throughout the year. I don't know whatever value they create. And then with denim, right, it's like, Yeah, so think about serving that value before value during we all do right. That's our customer service. Like, here you go. Good return policy and so forth and so on. Value after is another thing that we miss out on as product based businesses. So they made the denim sale great. Now what? How are you going to keep them in that loop to bring them back again? And so really helping like, I really work with boutique owners on understanding their value before, during and after and how to turn that into something that's much more valuable than the pair of jeans themselves. And when you can grasp that you have no problem charging more for your pair of jeans.

Speaker3: [00:17:38] Totally true. Totally true. I shop a little local boutique and she is always texting images and you come right. I know sometimes I'm like, Oh, but then when I see it, I'm like, Oh, I like that. Right, right, right. And I don't really mind. And you know what? You can always unsubscribe. I don't

Speaker4: [00:17:57] Do it. I subscribe. Scroll past it. Who cares? Delete that email. We need to stop overthinking. Like, Oh, how many times should I send? Send it in a way that makes sense for you as a business owner and be front of mind. And if they don't like it, they'll leave it

Speaker3: [00:18:09] Like you don't have to worry about, Oh, why do we? I mean, because I know Apple, just like I don't have a problem and subscribing, and I'm not doing it in a mean or spiteful way, right?

Speaker4: [00:18:19] Like whatever, right? And then when we want something, I so many times unsubscribed and like, I'm ready. I'm going to subscribe again. Now I want it right?

Speaker3: [00:18:27] Exactly. Totally. Yes. So what do you what's your biggest piece of advice to? Business owners or entrepreneurs retail for.

Speaker4: [00:18:41] I know this is not sexy or flashy, but you have to know your numbers, and when I say know your numbers, what does that mean? It means what is your margin? How much inventory do you own? Those kinds of numbers, it doesn't mean you have to be an accountant. You need to do your own bookkeeping. You need to balance your own checkbook. You can hire all those things out. But when you have a bookkeeper and they give you a profit and loss statement, what does it mean? Like, you should be able to look at that and in five minutes, it should take you no longer than that ever. You should be able to just scroll through that profit and loss and say, Oh, this doesn't look right, this is off. While I hit my metric there, you have to understand what the numbers mean because that's what grows. The business tracking and measuring the right things comes from understanding what you need to track and measure in the first place.

Speaker3: [00:19:27] So do you think it's helpful to have to outsource that kind of stuff?

Speaker4: [00:19:31] I do, because retailers, product based business owners, we tend to be very creative. So let's not sit and scratch our head and pull our hair out, balancing our QuickBooks accounts every week. If we can hire that out for two hundred and fifty dollars a month and take that time and put it into revenue generating activities that were actually good at, then let's go ahead and do that. If you love it, great, do it yourself. But that's something

Speaker3: [00:19:56] People want to get it. If they if they're coming to you, they don't love it. They don't love it.

Speaker4: [00:20:01] No. Yeah. But then we fight with like, do I really need it? So I always say, yes, you need the point of sale manages your inventory. The accounting system manages your cash. How can you grow a business if you don't have both pieces? You have to have an accounting system, but then C.R., that's another expense.

Speaker3: [00:20:18] Like this is

Speaker4: [00:20:20] What you're missing out on revenue because you don't see what's going on in your business. You're only seeing half if even half of the story and you can't grow revenue if you don't know where the leaks are, where you're bleeding cash. And so you have to have the accounting, you've got to output that instead of saying, Well, I'm just going to I'm going to try to grow this business, but I'm only going to ever see half of the puzzle. It will just never work. And you might. I mean, sometimes business owners will grow really quickly like I work with, you know, hey, I'm a million dollar boutique owner and my stuff's out of control. Like, it doesn't mean that you can't grow in the sales side of things. But I'll always say, how much margin are you missing out on? How much larger could your paycheck be if we could look at what your numbers are? So it doesn't mean that, you know, because you might say someone that's listening. Oh, but like I'm a million dollar store or I'm I'm growing really quickly and I don't have an accounting system, so I don't believe you like you actually don't have to have it all. You can grow, but you're going to come to a point where you're going to see that you're missing out on so much cash opportunity because you don't have that foundation built.

Speaker3: [00:21:26] And then I would add and they're missing out on so much, having freedom within their business. Yeah, being tied to that, yes, you've grown and you're selling more and more and more, but you're there for more and more and more hours or whatever, right? You're overwhelmed.

Speaker4: [00:21:42] Oh, speaking of that, because I know you work so much with this, with your clients time management, that's another thing people call like, Oh my goodness, I'm so overwhelmed. I can't manage my time. It's because they don't know their numbers like it all comes back to that. It is because you don't know where you're making your money, where you're losing an opportunity. If you don't know the metrics behind the business

Speaker3: [00:22:01] And you also don't know how much time you're spending on social media, right? Or things using all of this? Well, this has been super fun and helpful, and thanks for joining me today. If you want to follow Ciara and learn more about working with her, you can find all of her info in the show notes. But I think Instagram is your favorite social media handle, is it not?

Speaker4: [00:22:26] Yeah, Instagram. Just see Stockland. Make sure I have the E in there. But yeah, that's where I hang out and I have a couple of free masterclasses, inventory genius and profit. First, they're both free, so the perfect place to start. If you're just looking at starting to dabble in the numbers and just understanding what that means would be either my free inventory genius master class or my free profit first master class. Both of those you can find at the boutique workshop.

Speaker3: [00:22:53] Awesome. Well, thank you for joining me.

Speaker4: [00:22:55] It's thank you for having me. It was great. It's always good to to visit with another coach helping women really build an amazing life. So thanks for having me. You're welcome.

Speaker2: [00:23:06] So that conversation ended rather quickly because we were having technical difficulties, but that doesn't matter. What matters is the learning that came out of it. One of my biggest takeaways was her statement that you can't grow a business by eliminating expenses. The only way to grow a business is to make more profits. That's a pretty powerful statement. Just like information is powerful. So have you taken a look at your numbers lately? Probably it's glanced at them, but have you taken a deeper look at your numbers? There's the amazingness when you take a deeper look and you learn how you can use those numbers to your advantage. So. It's the beginning of a new year. It's a great time to look at numbers and to create goals, what's your goal? A lot of you don't even have a goal, a specific goal. So let's chat, reach out, direct message me. Send me an email. I would love to talk about numbers, and this is something that I am going to bring more into my podcast in the coming year. Both business numbers and personal numbers because numbers are powerful. All right, my friends have a great rest of your day and remember looking at numbers. That's a great way to upgrade your thinking and to level up in life and business toxin.

Speaker1: [00:24:52] Thanks for tuning in to today's show. If you're ready to commit to personal and professional growth, move forward, make money and manage life. Head to Andrea Librescu. That's Andrea e b r o Eskom to find out about the ways we can work together. Until next time, go level up.

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Who_s the Best Business and Life Coach in Indiana - AndreaLiebross.com

I'm Andrea Liebross.

As a business and life coach specializing in helping unapologetically ambitious women entrepreneurs from a variety of industries level up their businesses and personal lives, I provide strategies to boost clarity, confidence, productivity, and profitability while teaching you how to transform obstacles into opportunities. I’m also a speaker, host of the Time to Level Up podcast, and author of the best selling book She Thinks Big: The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Guide to Moving Past the Messy Middle and into the Extraordinary. If you’re ready to drop the drama and achieve time, money, and energy freedom, you’ve come to the right place. It’s time to combine Big Thinking with solid systems to unleash your success. Let’s do this!