I believe change starts with our youngest minds. What’s required is broadening young people’s minds, all genders. We must teach young children that they can do anything, the opportunities are there, and there are no gender-based opportunities. It is up to the individual themselves to strive and thrive, learn, take the risks and forge forward. We need to tackle this starting at school-aged children.
As a part of my series about strong female finance leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lil Roberts.
Lil Roberts is CEO and Founder of Xendoo, a cloud-based fintech company based in Fort Lauderdale that specializes in online bookkeeping and accounting focused on the small business owner. Lil is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for small business, and is known as an innovator with an enviable ability to foresee market trends.
Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the finance field?
Coming from a background in building and running businesses, I knew firsthand the responsibility and challenges that come with dealing with business financials. There are many difficulties that come with accounting, especially for business owners. Unpredictable pricing, lack of insight and archaic processes — this is what struck me. I knew there needed to be improvements made in this industry to help business owners across the globe.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
In my early days as a sales representative, there were many techniques taught to me in how to best determine the decision-makers name at a company. One of these techniques, which I came to learn was risky to use, was to pose the question “how does the business owner feel about you making company decisions?” to a receptionist who would generally be responsible for fielding these cold sales calls. When using this technique once, the ‘receptionist’ responded, “I’m the wife of the owner, and it’s my business too.” Of course, this was a painful lesson to learn but one I was lucky to learn so early in my career. You never know who you’re talking to and you must treat every person with respect. That’s the lesson. Respect at all levels — this has become one of my core values and something I live by.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
There are many exciting projects happening at Xendoo that will help business owners be more successful and have better insight into their financials. We’re improving our technology to widen our integration capabilities — allowing business owners the option of which accounting software they’d like to use when working with us. We’re establishing key partnerships with like-minded businesses to bring as much value as possible to each small business owner we have the pleasure of connecting with. Finally, we are grateful to be standing up a data warehouse that will deliver additional insights to business owners through our technology — this will be tremendously helpful for the small business owner who so frequently seeks out data and information to help inform their decisions.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our mission is to help small businesses and we consider this with every decision we make. Helping small business is not just our mantra, it’s who we are. What makes Xendoo stand out is that we speak small business language, not through an accounting lens, but through a human lens — the same of small business owners. We come from where the small business starts. A story we can share that helps highlight this is that we had a customer, small business owner, that was in desperate need of receiving PPP. Although this is not anything in our standard wheelhouse, we were able to make the right introduction for this business owner who, after being turned down by the top 3 banks, was able to get a loan processed, get the right attention and be able to keep his team members employed. This shows how we go above and beyond — whether it’s something within our standard service or not — if it matters to the small business, it matters to us.
Wall Street and Finance used to be an “all white boys club”. This has changed a lot recently. In your opinion, what caused this change?
Many industries used to be “all white boys club” and Wall Street and Finance are no exception. I believe it’s the natural progression that the world continues to be a melting pot of culture and opportunity and women in leadership is helping bring about this change.
Of course, despite the progress, we still have a lot more work to do to achieve parity. According to this report in CNBC, less than 17 percent of senior positions in investment banks are held by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support this movement going forward?
I have great passion around this topic. I believe change starts with our youngest minds. What’s required is broadening young people’s minds, all genders. We must teach young children that they can do anything, the opportunities are there, and there are no gender-based opportunities. It is up to the individual themselves to strive and thrive, learn, take the risks and forge forward. We need to tackle this starting at school-aged children.
According to this report in Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy. In your opinion or experience what is the cause of these unfortunate numbers? If you had the power to make a change, what 3 things would you recommend to improve these numbers?
The cause of this is technology. Prior to the advancements in technology, people learned to do math the long way, people balanced checkbooks, paid with cash, money felt real. We now have so much functionality available to us and we just trust what the technology tells us — not always learning the why or how behind it. As a society, we also no longer teach the value of money. Prior to technology, people received paychecks by hand, they could touch and feel them, held the cash right in their hands. Today, everything is digital and, in some cases, money doesn’t feel real.
We can do the following three things to improve these numbers –
- Teach children (middle school age) how to balance a checkbook, even though it’s virtual now
- Teach children how to budget — this is critically important
- Teach children the value of the flow of money. The cycle of money — cash in, cash out.
(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive things one should do to become more financially literate, what would you say? Can you please give a story or example for each.
(Choose) You are a “finance insider”. If you had to advise your adult child about 5 non intuitive essentials for smart investing what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each?
I would advise these 5 things:
- Read and understand principles of the stock market. For example, looking at money as a product so you can understand the value. If you are not appreciating the value of money, you won’t be aware of what you’re spending vs. saving.
- Pick 5 decades of people that have great wealth and find books that talk about the strategies they followed, what they invested in, how they did it. For example, learn as much as you can about Warren Buffet, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs. There are so many resources available on these people.
- Learn and understand real estate investing, such as Cap X.
- Leverage research and learn principles of leveraging assets and money. For instance, banks leverage 10X their deposits. Understanding the flow of how the banking system works will help you understand present value vs. future value.
- Treat money as a product. If you save money and you don’t invest it, that is a wasting asset. If you treat money as a product, you would understand it’s a wasting asset and it has to be grown.
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 about that?
There are too many to name but if I had to pick one, it would be Henry Johnson, lovingly known has Hank. Henry was an everyday person that had an incredible ability to see a trend, find the actionable steps to test thesis and methodically take it to where it was supposed to go. Henry (Hank), is the reason I started my first business. He was an innovative visionary, one of the founding fathers in the print industry, and he’s the one that put me on my entrepreneurial path. He started me on my first business and subsequently many others. Watching his innovation in his field inspired me to be innovative in my business. He looked at small business owners the way I do now — how do you inspire people to be better than they think they can be, to do better. How do we help each other on our journey — in a non-threatening, supportive way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never write the end of the story.” This has been incredibly relevant in my life. My background did not lend itself to where I am now. My father passed when I was just 10, I did not come from money, I was not formally college educated — who would have thought I would grow to build many businesses. There’s no saying what the end will look like — don’t write it before it happens.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
The movement would be, “Yes you can” and it would be about education and techniques on how to instill self-confidence and self-worth into all humans, starting at a very young age. If you look at the world today, there are trends of the same problems in all countries and cultures — they stem from the human experience. Low self-esteem, low self-worth, depression, feeling unproductive, self-hate — most of the problems in this world (prejudice, violence) stem from these ideas. People aren’t taught or given the opportunity to understand empathy. They aren’t taught how to understand how these things play into the larger picture. The movement, “Yes you can” will give people the right human tools to be better human beings for themselves and others around them.