Jean Chatzky’s Small Business Secrets to Success

February 14, 2012

You probably know Jean Chatzky as a personal finance author and journalist but when I interviewed her last week I was curious to hear a little about Jean Chatzky the business owner.

Over the last 20 years she’s built a successful business out of helping people figure out thier money problems.  I wanted to know more about how she handles her business finances, networks in the industry, and connects with her customers.

Jen Chatzky Interview Highlights

Below is a video of our interview and (since I was on a cell phone and kind of hard to hear at times) a transcript of what we talked about.  There was a bit of a delay in hearing her responses so please bear with my awkward pauses between questions. 

Something Jean suggested, that I agree with and practice, is setting up systems for your money so you can focus your attention on other things in life.  It seems even more important for small business owners who always seem to be short on time, so they can focus their attention on their business. 

One thing Jean’s focusing on right now are small business makeovers, that she’s offering in conjunction with Office Depot.  This interview was part of the small business makeover event so be sure to pay attention when she mentions it at the end of the interview.

Ben: You run a small business.

Jean:Yes I do

Ben: You obviously get big results but you run it yourself and we’re really curious to know what tools you use to keep your small business and finances in order and to keep yourself focused and organized.

Jean: My primary tool is actually my bank, quite frankly.  I mean I keep my finances fairly organized by banking at one institution.  I use their online application.  It keeps me very much in order.  And I feel like I know what I have coming in and what I have going out at all times.  And where it’s going – which is the most important thing.

Ben: So I guess then selecting the bank you are going to use then is an important part of that.

Jean: Well I think that it’s certainly an important part in terms of convenience.  I mean this has been a year where we are talking so much about bank fees and that sort of thing.  And you need a bank, and institution I think, or a credit union for that matter, that is convenient enough so that when you have to get cash or when you have to get to the branch to actually talk to somebody that it’s not so far out of the way that you feel like its some sort of  a hardship. 

But most of the major institution and a lot of the smaller one these days and many of the credit unions have put a lot of time and effort and money into their online applications.  And they are incorporating great personal finance management tools.  Some of which are coming from Yodlee. Some of which are coming from other sources like Mint. 

They’re a terrific resource and it’s just a matter finding the one that you are comfortable with and making a commitment to it, because the most important thing is that you do that tracking. That you know where your money is going, that if you have a question about whether you paid a bill and when you paid it, and whether the check  was actually cashed, you don’t have to go to 5 places.  You can just log on and know.

Ben: Sure that makes sense.  So it’s almost like something that you don’t have to worry too much about. You want your bank to be able to make it easy so you can spend your time and your focus on your business.

Jean: Exactly, exactly, and I feel that way about money in general.  I think you get your personal finances organized. You get your systems in place for managing money.  So that then you can focus on those things in life that matter more. You can focus on your kids, you can focus on the pursuits that make you happy.  Money is a tool that we use, whether it’s in business or in life to get us where we want to go.  And having enough money is of course very important but for me it’s not the ultimate outcome.

Ben: Yeah definitely, I agree with that.  Money is a tool get where we want to be. 

I’m curious in your business, one of your biggest assets I think is your network – your personal network and your business network. I’m curious how you kind of organize your network people, your trusted advisors, or the people you go to if you need help.

Jean: Well I’m definitely making more use of social media than ever before.  I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook (you can like my page), I have a website,  I keep in touch with people that way and they ask me their questions and they tell me their stories. 

I still, I have to say, I like a good old fashion phone call.  I like to hear the voice of the people I am talking to.  I like to sit down and network in person.  I think that’s really important.  Particularly, for people who have come of age during this technological Internet social media boom, I think it’s important to remember that sometimes you’ve gotta get out and you’ve gotta have lunch with somebody. 

You’ve gotta sit down, and share a meal, and share your stories. You have to really get to know each other, because when it comes time to hand somebody that next job, when it come time to pick up the phone and make a recommendation for some additional business, those are the people that you are going to remember.

Ben: Sure, and you’re good at building those kind of relationships.  I know you have a new show coming out where you get personal with people soon.  It’s called “Cash Call”, is that right?

Jean: I do it’s call Cash Call on RLTV.  We’re launching in late February.  Very, very, excited about that, because people will be able to Skype in, they’ll be able to send us their twitter questions and we’ll be able to answer them in real time.

Ben: Yeah it seems like these days, we’re able to get a lot more personal connections with more people, with some of the tools that are out there.

Jean: It’s interesting right?

Ben: Yeah you’re able to get more, involved with people’s lives and help them with their personal finances.

Jean: Yep, definitely.  I remember the first time (I’m looking at your blog Money Smart Life),  I spent many years at Smart Money magazine, and that was the first place that I really discovered I could use the Internet.  I mean back then we were using Prodigy, it was even before AOL, to reach out to real people and to tell their stories.  Too learn about their personal finances, and report using that technology… Been many, many years.

Ben: Yes and it also makes it possible for small business to kind of extend their reach, and to reach a lot of people. You’ve seen a lot of success with that.

Jean: Yeah well, and we’re hoping that we can improve the success for some additional people.  I’m working with the folks at Office Depot, and we’re doing these small business makeovers.  Three of them. 

We’re giving away three small business make overs, and you’ll win some office furniture, and some financial organization tools, and a new laptop, and a financial coaching session with me.  If you go to Office Depot’s facebook page you can find all the details on that, but essentially we want to hear in 100 words or less, why you need a make over.

Ben: Well I’m sure you’ll be getting a lot of responses.

Jean: I hope so.

Ben: Well great, thanks for taking the time to chat about money and small business with us today.

Jean: My pleasure.  Thanks for having me.

Ben: And definitely people should check out the small business make over and send in their 100 words.

Jean: or less!

Thanks to Jean for taking the time to do the interview.  As I mentioned earlier, I think creating a system for your money like she recommends is a good idea.  There’s another point she touched on that I think is important both for small business owners and for people building their career – face to face meetings.

I know when I make the effort to meet someone for lunch, attend an event, or go to a conference I always end up with great ideas, more connections, and deeper relationships.  It is easy to miss out on that face-to-face time because we’re busy and technology can create a virtual bubble around us but often times making the effort to meet in person can make a big difference.

If you have questions for Jean, you can submit them to her on Twitter, Facebook, or via email jean [at] to see if she can answer them on her new show Cash Call.  The first episode is coming up so be sure to check out Cash Call.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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3 Responses to Jean Chatzky’s Small Business Secrets to Success

  • J. Money

    Dude, that’s a helluva interview! Loved it – great work bro! Way to snag an official guru, haha… let’s catch up soon 🙂


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