Have you ever felt financially behind in your business? Growing a business can be a bumpy ride, especially when it comes to finances. In today's episode, Crista Grasso is joined by Nicole Lacovoni, a financial therapist and licensed psychotherapist that has set out to help entrepreneurs with the inevitable business blues. Nicole shares her experience with money management and how operating in scarcity mode can spill into relationships, beliefs and even mental health. By the end of this episode, you will have a better understanding of how you can improve your relationship with your business finances and how to utilize the power of money for the greater good.
In this episode, we discuss:
- 1:40: How to know if you have a toxic relationship with money
- 3:48: How Nicole went from $87,000 in debt to debt-free in two years
- 6:45: How Nicole began to reframe her money beliefs
- 10:02: How negative money beliefs can spill into other areas of your life
- 12:35: How Nicole makes smart financial decisions without putting her and her business at risk
- 18:20: What Nicole teaches her clients when it comes to scaling their business
- 19:16: One of the biggest mistakes Nicole sees female entrepreneurs making
- 20:33: How having control of your money can help when life gets in the way
- 24:42: Crista shares her hardships from 2020
- 27:39: Where you can learn more about Nicole and her work
- 29:57: How Nicole works smarter, not harder
Dive deeper into each of these topics over on the podcast.
Listen to the podcast here:
Dispelling Toxic Financial Relationships Through Money Therapy With Nicole Iacovoni
[0:00:52] I’m excited to introduce you to Nicole Iacovoni. She is a financial therapist and licensed psychotherapist with many years of experience. She writes a crush-worthy newsletter called The Comfy Couch, where she dishes on her latest financial crush, offers inspirational ideas for dating your money, and helps ambitious entrepreneurs deal with business drama. Her signature program, Money Therapy, teaches you how to transform your toxic relationship with money into a super-steamy love affair. She has been featured in Business Insider, CNBC Select and UpJourney. Nicole, welcome. I’m excited that you’re here.
[0:01:31] Thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here.
[0:01:35] I want to dive right into your bio here about toxic relationships with money because I feel like this is something we all know. However, help us understand what this looks like. Why do you think people have toxic relationships with money, and how do we know if we have one or if our clients have one?
[0:01:56] Our relationship with money starts early on in our life. We often aren’t aware of what our beliefs about money are becoming. We look to our parents and see how they manage money, how they talk about money, and how they feel about money. We think about our earliest money memories and learn important takeaways from those things. Unconsciously, all these beliefs about money form that we aren’t aware of, but they can creep up on us later in life. Some of the underlying beliefs about money can lead to a toxic relationship with it. For example, we might form the belief, “Money is the root of all evil.” How many times have we heard people say things like that? We start to feel as though we shouldn’t have money, or money is going to create problems for us, or money makes us greedy, selfish, materialistic if we wanting to have more money.
[00:02:54] That’s where we can have these toxic relationships. Feeling like money is hard to get, we don’t deserve money, and we’re a bad person if we have money, there’s never enough money. These are some of the underlying thoughts that we have about money that indicate that perhaps our relationship with it isn’t very health. That can manifest in a bunch of different ways in our life. It influences the decisions that we make with money, how we spend money, how we save money, how much debt we carry, how much money we earn. It’s important to take a look at some of those money memories, some of those underlying beliefs, and take a look at the nature of our relationship with money to see how it’s impacting our overall financial life.
[0:03:48] I’m thinking of some of my own journey with money as you’re going through that. I also think about many of the stories that my clients share with me. One of the things that you talk about that I think is interesting is your story, and how you went from $87,000 in debt with your business to debt-free in two years, which is pretty quick to move through that amount of debt, and then multiplying your revenue by five times in eight months. Let’s talk about this, how you did this, and where your ‘dating your money’ concept comes into play.
[0:04:24] First, let me say how I got into that financial mess to begin with, because some people who are reading might be like, “$87,000 of debt, how could you even let that happen?” When I was in my early years in business, I decided to expand and grow. I tried to grow too big and too fast. I invested a ton of money in my business, trying to add additional services. I moved into an expensive office space. I spent lots of money on advertising that didn’t work that great. It was a waste of money. I bought nice furniture so that the office was beautiful. I wasn’t sure at that point what was important to spend money on and what wasn’t. I was throwing money at a lot of different things, trying to get my business off the ground
"Your financial status is not isolated and separate from all the other pieces of your life." -Nicole Iacovoni Click to Tweet
[00:05:16] I took out loans, I used credit cards to fund all of that, and then the business was slow. I had already put the money out there and had all of this debt, but I wasn’t bringing in the money to offset that debt. That’s where a lot of that debt came from, the $87,000. I was losing money in my business every single day. It was during a couples therapy session that I had with one couple where I was listening to the dialogue between them. The wife was saying, “You’re never there for me. I can’t count on you.” The husband was saying, “You don’t do enough for me.” I’m sitting there thinking, “That’s how I talk in my own mind about money.” Money is hard to get. It’s never there for me when I need it, there’s never enough.
[00:06:04] That was a realization for me that my relationship with money was toxic, and it was keeping me from making good decisions with money. It was keeping me from managing it well and from earning the amount of money that I knew that I deserved. What I started doing was paying attention to the fact that I was avoiding money. I felt like it was confusing, overwhelming, complicated. I would brush it under the rug. I wouldn’t take time to tend to my finances or see where my money was going because it felt scary and uncomfortable to me, but that only made my problems worse. I thought to myself, and I realized my relationship with money is toxic, very much like the relationships I see with couples who come to me for couples therapy.
[00:06:56] What do I tell them to do to improve their relationship? I tell them, “Have a date night.” That’s one of the basic pieces of homework that I give couples, “Set aside time to make your relationship a priority, to tend to that relationship, to give each other your time and attention, to respect each other, to have fun and to flirt.” I decided that I was going to take that concept and experiment with it by applying it to my relationship with money. I started having money dates once a week for about an hour where I would sit down, and would tend to my finances. I would think about my relationship with money, personify money, and give it a character or personality. I would think, “How would I want to be treated in this relationship and apply that to how I treat my money?”
[00:07:51] I want to be respected. I want to be appreciated. I don’t want to be taken for granted. I don’t want to be neglected or abused. I started treating my money with respect, love, appreciation, making time for it, and seeing where it’s going from one week to the next. That made a world of difference because then those money dates became fun for me. I approached them with a sense of curiosity, and I would be a little flirtatious with it by making them super-pleasurable, like bring my favorite cup of coffee or getting my favorite donut to go with it as I’m looking through my bank account, matching up transactions and plugging in expenses. It eliminated the confusion too because as I was tending to it regularly, I could see how much money was coming in and how much was going out in my business.
[00:08:40] I was better able to take control over my finances and make better decisions with them. Also, I showed up better in my work because I wasn’t constantly distracted and freaking out over my finances because I finally had a hold on those. I was more present with my clients. I had better ideas. I was more effective with them, and that helped to increase my revenue, and all of that was connected. I didn’t realize that until I started setting aside time to tend to my finances and making that process fun. I look forward to doing it.
[00:09:16] There so much there that I want to dive into but one of the things that you said at the end there that’s important is, “How often when we have those things that stress us out in our business, like finances, do they weigh on us in such a way that even if they’re not front of the mind conscious, they make us less productive, not sleep well, more stressed? It weighs on us, and it overall impacts our business, impacts how we show up for our customers, on what we produce, and what we put out there.” It’s one of those things where you don’t always think money equals better business success, better client experience, but it does in a lot of ways. I like that perspective.
[00:10:02] It’s like a domino effect. If you are stressed out about money, it’s going to affect your relationships with other people, particularly your partner. If you’ve got money issues, that’s the number one thing that partners fight about is money. You’re going to have relationship issues and health issues because research shows that when you’re under a lot of stress, your immune system is suppressed, you feel more tired, you sleep is disrupted, so that’s going to affect your overall health. You might get sick more frequently. You don’t have energy. It impedes your creativity and ideas. All of that is connected. Your financial life is not isolated and separate from all the other pieces of your life. It’s important to make sure that you are devoting some time and attention to your financial life, so it can become what you want it to become and so that you can keep all the other facets of your life healthy.
"Try to exhaust your free options first before you resort to investing money." - Nicole Iacovoni Click to Tweet
[00:10:57] There was so much about your story that I resonated with as well. When I first launched my jewelry business, one of the big mistakes that I made that put me in a lot of debt was I did what I call ‘I played Lotto with my business.’ I would invest in these things hoping for the big payoff, the semi-delusional overnight success thinking, “If I do this, I need my sales team and PR team.” I invested in all of these people who are making all these bright, shiny promises to me. I invested in the product thinking that it was going to sell through. A the end of the day, those things didn’t come together. I didn’t get the big lottery moment where the collection landed in the way that I thought it was going to.
[00:11:41] What I got instead was a whole lot of debt and stress. My husband was my business partner at that time. We talk about a lot of stressful conversations. A lot of things are going on there. It ended up not being a great scenario. To this day, I’m still paying off some of those early mistakes in my business, even though I’ve had so much success in the business since. The thing is, looking back, it’s easy to say, “How could I have done that?” The thing is, we go in, we’re excited, we’re confident. We “know” that things are going to work out and it’s going to be super successful. Everybody’s going to love what we have because we know that we can either help people in our coaching business or our service-based business. Our products are going to be exactly what our customers want in our product-based businesses.
[00:12:31] We go in with that optimism and that confidence, then we play Lotto with our business. Looking back, I know how to do this properly now in my business. I make smart investment decisions now, but I see my clients go through this a lot. I frequently get asked this question, and I want to know your perspective on it. How do you balance taking risks in your business and doing things that may help put you on the map or help you scale your business or grow in a big way with also making sure they’re smart financial decisions, and you do not put yourself in a ton of debt?
[00:13:15] The answer ties in well to what you do in your business with keeping things lean. Keeping things lean helps you to protect yourself from risk, to know what risk to take and how much. Risk falls on a continuum. It’s not like, “I’m going to take risks all of it or I’m going to take none of it.” We want to take enough risk that is safe, but we’ll put ourselves and our business out there in a way so that we’re doing something, making progress and growing. When it comes to finances, keeping your expenses lean is the best way to go. Testing one thing at a time, instead of investing in a whole bunch of things all at once, because when you do that, you don’t know what’s working for you.
[00:14:08] Let’s say you do start making more money but you’re like, “What helped me to do that? Was it the Facebook Ads that I spent money on? Was it the print marketing that I spent money on? Was it the team that I spent money on? What one of those things catapulted my business forward?” You don’t know. Also, then you’re out a ton of money right upfront. If it doesn’t work out and you don’t increase your revenue, you’re like, “Now what do I do? Which thing do I eliminate?” Starting small and spending money on one thing at a time and seeing how it does, limit your risk but it’s still helping you to put your business out there, to take steps towards growing revenue and gaining more clients, and gaining more visibility.
[00:14:57] Try to exhaust your free options first before you resort to investing a lot of money. For example, there is a big push for social media advertising now, and a lot of people have heard that, “You can’t have a successful business if you don’t have a strong social media presence or if you don’t invest in ads.” I would argue otherwise. I’m living proof of it that you don’t need a large following. I am not at all on social media. I have a Facebook account that I use occasionally to participate in three groups, and that’s it. I’m not doing posts, I’m not doing ads or any of that, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t have visibility in my business because what I do is I spend my time pitching podcasts, to be a guest on their show or sending articles to magazines for different online media publications or asking people if they’re interested in spotlighting my business and my work.
[00:16:03] A lot of those people say yes. That’s free marketing and advertising. It is a way to make your business more visible to gain clients and customers, to get raving fans, and you don’t spend any money on it. That’s another way to keep your business lean and to limit financial risk is it takes more time to do those things, but it’s a worthy investment because if you get a return on it, great, that’s bonus money coming in, but you haven’t lost anything. You’re not putting your business at risk by taking on a massive amount of debt that could weigh you down later on in the future. If those opportunities don’t get you more clients, you haven’t lost anything, and you haven’t lost any money. That’s what we want to do for our businesses. We always want money coming in without losing money, without going into the negative.
"Keep doing what you're doing and working on; always figure out new ways to increase your profit." - Nicole Iacovoni Click to Tweet
[00:16:58] It’s similar to what I tell people as well. You need that clarity on what’s important. You need to stay focused on what’s important, you don’t want to do too many things at once, and you want to be measuring what you’re doing to see what’s working. The scariest thing sometimes is when you do realize that something’s working, but you’re doing all the things, and then you’re afraid to stop doing any of the things because you aren’t sure which one is contributing to your success. That’s how people end up overworked and overwhelmed, and they get to burnout because they’re like, “I can’t stop doing that. I’m not sure which ones are bringing the clients in.”
[00:17:37] A lot of people try to do the same thing I did, which is to try to grow their business too big and too fast. There is a push out there or a culture that’s like, “6 and 7-figure businesses, this is what you need to have. This is how you do it. You can be an overnight success if you do all of these things or if you do X, Y, Z.” That isn’t reality, at least that’s not my reality, and that’s not what I see with the clients that I work with being their reality that slow and steady wins the race. We see that dream out there. We try to grow and scale too quickly, and that gets us into a lot of trouble.
[00:18:20] One of the things I teach my clients in Money Therapy is to pace yourself. To grow gradually, organically, step-by-step a little at a time so that you have a good solid foundation where you have profit. You want to have profit before you take the next step and invest in something else or before you grow and expand your business. You want to have the funds already available to put money into that stuff rather than going into debt to grow the business. If your business is struggling, you don’t yet have the money to grow, expand and advance, then keep doing what you’re doing, working on it, and figuring out new ways to increase your profit. When you’ve got that down, then grow and expand or add new services or move into the expensive building or whatnot. You want to have the money first.
[00:19:16] One of the biggest mistakes that I see entrepreneurs make, particularly women entrepreneurs, is that they outsource their financial management to other people. One of the things that I help clients with is to help them take a more active role in their financial life, to set aside time to date their money and tend to their finances and feel good about that, to gain confidence in their own ability to do this themselves because they know their business better than anybody else. They know what they want for their lives, other people don’t necessarily get it.
[00:19:51] They need to be the ones guiding the ship when it comes to what they do with their money, how much money they’re making, where that money goes. That’s something that breaks my heart when I see that happening because these are strong, smart, capable women who need a little support to change the way that they think and feel about money in order to behave differently and claim their financial power. That’s what money therapy is all about, it is changing the way that you think and feel about money, so that you can be in charge of your own financial life and feel very confident in your ability to do that.
[00:20:33] One of the things I want to dive into next with you is the freedom that money gives you when stuff happens. I know you’ve had a devastating loss in your life. I had a rough experience in 2020. Sometimes things come out of the left field. As much as we want to be in a position to have the magical vacation that drops in our lap, that we can go on and enjoy which is great, sometimes it’s the less favorable things that come at us when we least expect it. How does having control of your finances help in those scenarios?
[00:21:11] I will share with you that my mother passed away. She played an important role in my life and in my business. My mom was the administrative assistant in my private practice. She did all of the insurance billing, reconciled all the accounts. She handled a lot of the financial stuff in my private practice. At the beginning of the year, she was diagnosed with advanced-stage cervical cancer. Before we could even wrap our minds around the diagnosis, her health declined so quickly, that she was put on hospice and was inpatient. We knew that she had a few days or maybe weeks left to live. As you can imagine, I couldn’t think of being anywhere else but with my mom during her final days of life.
"We can use our financial power as an unstoppable force of good in the world." -Nicole Iacovoni Click to Tweet
[00:22:12] I felt fortunate that I had done the hard work to tend to my finances, to get them in a good position, to know exactly what was happening with them. My mom and I would have regular meetings every week with each other about what the insurance payments were coming in as, and in my online business, I knew exactly how much money was in my bank account. That gave me the freedom to step away from both businesses, my private practice and my Money Therapy business for as long as I needed to so that I could be with my mom and not think about, “I’m losing revenue. I have to get back to work. I can’t afford to take this time off.” I didn’t have to think about any of that. I could just be present with my mom and enjoy those final days with her.
[00:23:03] That’s something important to think about is that you’ll never know what hardships are going to come up in life but guaranteed, they will come up. You’ll never know what unexpected expenses you are going to incur. It is so important that you do the work on the frontend and be proactive in taking care of your finances so that you can step away when you need to, or you do have the money to cover those expenses when they come up. The other thing I’ll say about that is it’s not just about you. It’s also about the other people in your life and taking care of them because now that I’m sorting through my mother’s finances, because I’m the person responsible for that now, I am so grateful that she was incredibly organized, that she had file folders for every debt that she had.
[00:23:59] She had the account number, passwords written down. Everything was so well-documented. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be for me to sort through those things and take care of her finances while I’m grieving, had she not done that. Not to be morbid, but we’re all going to die at some point. Our family, our loved ones are the ones that are going to be responsible for figuring all of these things out with our finances. Not only is it a great gift to yourself to tend to your finances, it’s also a gift that you’re giving to your loved ones who have to take over the show once you’re no longer here.
[00:24:42] I had my experience in 2020, where I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I ended up taking about three months away from my business to go through surgery, radiation and healing. In addition to not bringing in revenue during that time, there are a lot of expenses that come with the surgeries, being hospitalized, radiation, and all of the things that go along with that. I was grateful for the financial practices that I put in place and for those early lessons that I learned in my jewelry business, that had me in a great place in my consulting coaching business, where I could take that time away, and I could focus on healing and recovery, instead of being super stressed out about, “What am I going to do? Am I going to be able to pay my team?” It ended up being a totally different scenario. For all of you reading, I hope you never experience either of these things, but the reality is something happens. You get sick even. You’re right, you don’t want yourself to be the bottleneck in the business, and you don’t want your finances to make you feel that constant pressure and stress that you can’t take the time you need a way for yourself to process or deal with whatever it is that comes your way. It’s so important.
[00:26:01] We can use our financial power as an unstoppable force of good in the world. This is contrary to that belief of, “Money is root of all evil. If you seek to make more money, that you’re greedy, selfish, or materialistic.” No way. It is the exact opposite because when you have money, you have power and you have the ability to make a difference in the world, to help other people. When my mom was in the hospital actively dying, she was worried about her outstanding debt. She’s like, “I can’t believe that you’re going to have to deal with this. I can’t believe that it’s going to be stressful for you.” I had the ability to say, “Mom, you don’t have to worry about any of that. I have the money for it. It’s not going to be a hardship for me.”
[00:26:50] The reason I had the money for it is because I treated my money with love and respect that I invested in that relationship. Now, my money gets back to me, which gave back to my mom, then she had the comfort and reassurance, “I don’t have to worry about that.” She could focus on her own experience in those final days of her life. We can use our money in a number of other ways too. We can help support other businesses. We can care for our aging grandparents. We can put our kids through college. We can change lives for the better when we have money, but the only way we’re going to have enough money to do that is if we love our money, have a healthy relationship with it, and tend to our finances regularly, which is why it’s important to do those things.
[00:27:39] If people are like, “As she’s talking here, I realize maybe I do have a toxic relationship with money. I could use a little help here.” Tell people what you have coming up and where they can learn more about you.
[00:27:52] My website is the best place to find me, NicoleIacovoni.com. I offer a fun little free Date Your Money Planner. It’s a guide that helps you to get started dating your money. It gives you seven sexy money date ideas so that process can be fun, flirty, and something you look forward to. That’s what we’re going for here is to make tending to your finances something that is pleasurable that you enjoy and that you want to do consistently. That’s something they can grab off of my website. I also offer a free class it’s called The Money Therapy Quickie Class. It’s three days of fun, getting to know your money, loving up on it a little bit, and getting into the practice of transforming your financial life. To anybody who wants to sign up for that, it’s free, it’s fun and there are a lot of quick win takeaways from the class.
"If you're not making money, you don't have a business. You have a hobby." - Nicole Iacovoni Click to Tweet
[00:28:51] The thing that I love so much about your work and the way that you approach it is you take something that can be very stressful and overwhelming for people. You keep it serious. You don’t minimize the importance of it, but you make it fun and sexy. I feel like if you’ve got to do something in your business and it’s something that is not the thing that makes you jump out of bed in the morning to do, the best thing you can do with it is make it fun and sexy while you’re doing it, but you still have to commit to doing it because it’s important.
[00:29:22] If it’s not fun, we’re not going to want to do it, but your finances are one of the most important pieces of your business because if you’re not making money, you don’t have a business, you have a hobby, and you want to have a good lifestyle. You want to pay yourself. That is part of the joy of entrepreneurship is having freedom, flexibility, and being able to do the things that you want to in life. Investing in your finances and your business is important, but we do want to make it fun so that you do it and you want to do it. It happens.
[00:29:57] It’s something you look forward to instead of something you dread. I always ask everyone this same question, and I feel like you gave lots of tips on this, but how do you work smarter and not harder in your business, and keep things lean?
[00:30:14] Always keep expenses to a minimum and increase revenue. That is always the objective in my business. It’s simple. Every decision that I make, I ask myself, “Am I keeping expenses at a minimum and maximizing revenue? Is this thing that I’m thinking of doing going to create an amazing experience for my clients, where they are eager and ready to hand over money for it? Is this thing that I’m thinking about spending money on in alignment with my own values for my business and what I want to achieve in my business?”
[00:30:56] If the answer is yes, that is money well spent. At least I can test it out and see if it’s money well spent if it gives me the return that I’m looking for. If the answer is no, then I know that I don’t want to spend money on that expense. I don’t want to take that expense on. It’s a simple system to measure all your decisions against so that you aren’t going into debt, you’re not spending a lot of money on stuff that isn’t going into your business any good, but you are always thinking about how you can grow your business, scale your business, and make more money in your business.
[00:31:32] I feel like that is a beautiful advice to land on, and that fits so nicely with everything that I talk about with having your next level of vision and making sure things you’re doing are in alignment. I love this financial take on that because I think that’s important. Nicole, thank you. This has been an amazing conversation. I’m happy to have you on the show. I look forward to doing it again at some point in the future.
[00:31:54] Thank you for having me.
[00:31:59] Go check out Nicole. We will see you again.
About Nicole Iacovoni
Nicole Iacovoni is a Financial Therapist and Licensed Psychotherapist with 17 years of experience. She writes a crush-worthy newsletter called The Comfy Couch where she dishes on her latest financial crush, offers inspirational ideas for dating your money, and helps ambitious entrepreneurs deal with business drama.
Her signature program, Money Therapy, teaches you how to transform your toxic relationship with money into a steamy love affair. She’s been featured in Business Insider, CNBC Select, and Up Journey.
by Crista Grasso
Crista Grasso is the go-to strategic planning expert for leading global businesses and online entrepreneurs when they want to scale. Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact to scale a business simply and sustainably. She specializes in helping businesses gain clarity on the most important things that will drive maximum value for their clients and maximum profits for their business. She is the creator of the Lean Out Method, 90 Day Lean Out Planner, and host of the Lean Out Your Business Podcast. She is also the founder and CVO of the Profitable Planner Co and Criscara Jewelry.