Q: Hi Lozelle, I am a personal trainer in Portland, Oregon, and I wanted to ask what advice you give to your accounting clients about evaluating expenses for their small business. There is a national conference that I’d like to attend, but with travel, the cost would be substantial. Is this something I should include in my business’ budget, or should I just make the most of webinars and other opportunities online?
A: I love this question –thank you so much for asking it. As a business owner, you must continuously learn, adapt, and grow to keep your business in the best possible position to succeed. This means that professional development isn’t something that sits on your wish list–it’s a necessary investment. To express this in accounting terms, create “professional development” or “conferences” as one of your business budget categories.
Why It’s Important
In addition to providing you with essential information for your field, conferences are prime networking opportunities. And that means a wise investment of marketing dollars in the connections, collaborations, and possible clients that result from conference attendance.
In our digital age, there are a wealth of online courses, workshops, and webinars to keep us help us stay up-to-date and expand our knowledge into areas we need to understand for our business. It’s important to create time in your calendar to take advantage of these opportunities.
That said, online isn’t everything. So, that’s a little awkward to say as you’re reading this on the internet, but I digress. In all seriousness, sometimes there is no replacement for in-person opportunities.
As you create your professional development category in your business’ budget, here are some steps to follow to create space for conference attendance. If you need to create that budget, here are some good templates to use to get you started. I’ve also provided you with some quick video tips to help with your planning.
1. Identify the possibilities.
What are the premier organizations within your health and wellness field? Create a list for the next 12 months where you write each event. Then, visit their websites to identify when they have national and regional gatherings.
2. Prioritize your picks.
Once you know the lay of the land, it’s time to ask yourself some questions to determine which conference opportunities you want to pursue. Here are some of the factors in your decision:
- Location: How far away is the conference? Is it within your region of the country, or will you have to fly cross country? For those located in Oregon, for instance, the expenses and time investment will be very different for events in Washington state and California than those held in New York City or Boston.
- Travel costs: Do some quick internet research to get a sense of transportation and hotel costs for the conference dates to help with your budget.
- Price: Annual conferences can be expensive. Add the price details to the list of possibilities you created to help you prioritize.
Here are some ideas help you think through and forecast these expenses further:
3. Explore scholarship and volunteer opportunities.
Now that you’ve identified the relevant conferences in your industry and have an estimated cost for each, it’s time to evaluate the numbers. The good news is that there may be opportunities to reduce your costs. Many conferences offer scholarship opportunities for attendance, and/or reduced price or free attendance for those who volunteer. If you don’t see anything written on the conference website, write to the organizers and inquire. It never hurts to ask.
4. Make a plan.
Once you have identified the opportunity you wish to pursue, it’s time to put your plan in place. If it’s not already a part of the planning of your business finances, moving forward include a line item for professional development. To me, this is a non-negotiable area of your business. Create an allocation for each year that you can build-up.
Regardless of the size of your business, conference attendance is an expense that doesn’t have to be out of reach. Investing in your professional growth directly benefits your business. With careful planning, you can enjoy learning about key updates in your area of health and wellness, connection with colleagues and the potential for new clients. This is one area where we work extensively
Here’s to your financial fitness!