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I can still remember that afternoon more than five years ago.
I had just gotten home from my day job as a Senior Economist for the federal government, excited to work on my business and I stopped to check the mail. The year was 2015.
My business was growing and I was nearing the breakeven number I had set for myself to give my notice and transition to full-time self employment.
Life felt exciting and brimming with possibility. My mood changed instantly upon opening my mail; however, discovering I had received a notice from the IRS, letting me know my return had been flagged, my 2014 federal tax return was being audited, and that I owed more than $5,000.
My first year in business, what a terrible omen I thought.
The daughter of an accountant and entrepreneurial parents…
The holder of a B.A. in Economics and an MBA…
Let alone the Certificate in Financial Planning I had been awarded for a two-year program I completed, purely out of my own curiosity and passion for personal finance…
I was dumbstruck by this news.
How could this happen to me when finances had always been an area of life where I felt in charge. Heck, I had all my finances and records in pristine order. Did they have any idea how long I had been an adoring mint.com fan and daily “Money Minute” checker?
In addition to the shock, I was overcome with shame and guilt. What had I done wrong, I asked myself?
In nearly 8 years of working with entrepreneurs at this point, I see this a lot with clients. We experience a breakdown in business integrity and we attach guilt, shame and make ourselves wrong for it.
Consider that if you struggle with procrastination or prioritizing business tasks you don’t want to do, you too may simply be experiencing a breakdown in integrity.
I felt like a terrible human being. For someone who has a commitment to honesty, integrity and a default commitment to get things right, this news was particularly hard to stomach…
And likely there are areas where the same is true for you.
We all avoid aspects of our business. We’re human, after all.
For me, I delayed handling the audit response (multiple times, in fact) because of the extent of guilt I felt at having had my taxes be flagged (EVEN knowing I was completely in the right and all my business expenses were justifiable.)
I felt like I had done something incredibly wrong, and I felt embarrassed by that.
Take a moment and reflect on this:
What do you believe about yourself that causes you to avoid handling your own business responsibilities?
In the coaching paradigm, we look at integrity through a different lens. When we separate the value judgment from what is true or reality, integrity can become an empowering conversation.
I have not always loved the business conversation about being in integrity because our value judgments are often deeply ingrained. Heck, it took me oodles of compassion and self-awareness to understand the distinction between the two on an embodied level.
That being said, being audited by the IRS really forced me to learn this lesson.
It took me five years to close my IRS audit, that’s a whole lot of time to practice!
Over that timeframe:
I worked with three different accountants to handle my audit paperwork. The first CPA I hired became unresponsive, the second left his firm and transitioned industries, and the third was the lucky charm…
I completed paperwork for three different Power of Attorneys…
I resent, rescanned, and reviewed my 2014 records countless times…
I resent the same records multiple times when my file was misplaced, lost, or never received by the IRS…
I learned to overcome the sinking feeling I felt each and every time I got a new piece of mail from the IRS, weighing what it could be by its size, shape, weight, etc…
And I learned to separate my emotions from what there was to do.
There were so many days, weeks and months over the past five years that I weighed the option of just writing the damn check, so that I could be free of the stress of this in my life.
Ultimately, I learned the value of having integrity in business this week when I received one final response from the IRS letting me know my audit had been closed, that I had been found not liable, and that I no longer owed $8,818.81 to the IRS.
Oh, and I also received a tax refund check for a couple hundred bucks.
This experience taught me a lot about being a business owner. Lessons that the women entrepreneurs in my yearlong UNBOUNDED mastermind and group coaching signature program have been deeply integrating into their businesses over the past 10 months:
The value of a quality referral you can trust can not be underestimated. Working with good people is the ultimate game changer.
Integrity is a business conversation. Not a value judgment of your internal worthiness as a human being or business owner.
Being a business owner can be lonely and we all need community to reflect our gifts and be compassionate with us when we’re not present to either. Community is immunity, after all.
Self-care makes business systems sustainable. When we show up fully resourced for our business, we can confront what we resist with more focus, clarity and confidence.
If you are a women entrepreneur and looking to uplevel your business success and lifestyle in 2021 and know you want a curated heart-centered and ambitious community to help you get there, stay tuned for my signature 2021 UNBOUNDED program. Email me to get on the waitlist now and take advantage of the Early Bird offering!