3min ReadFinance 20 December 2019
There are two—old—pieces of advice for business owners looking to grow:
- In order for your business to make money, you need to spend money.
- If you want to create cash in your business so it can grow, you either need to get more clients or cut expenses.
That advice sounds great. There's just one catch. Even though there's not enough cash in your business to do the things you need to do, you're about to fall over you're so busy. To serve more clients, you need more team members, new equipment, guidance from mentors, new technologies. And they all require investing cash you don't have, leaving you in a Catch 22.
While you've been told that growth is the answer to your prayers, the reality is that business growth devours cash, sucking you into a never-ending cycle of needing to grow more, work harder, and deliver to clients faster until you are ready to spontaneously combust with frustration and exhaustion. This concept of business growth isn't working anymore.
Growth investments have a timeline.
If you invested in a five year CD, you have the understanding that you won't get a return until the end of those five years. Small business owners tend to think of investments in growth as quick returns, a sure thing. But growth doesn't happen that way.
Often the bigger the investment, the longer the timeline to see the cash return to the business. On the short end, you could begin to see a payoff in 90 days. More than likely though, the investment will need 12—18 months to show a return of cash to your business. Could you afford to make a five-figure investment in growth and wait 18 months for it to pay off? Very few could. Here's why:
Most businesses are investing cash they don't have. They are robbing Peter to pay Paul because of two things:
- Business Owners don't understand that the revenue they are bringing into the business isn't available because it was pre-spent. If you've ever made a purchase or investment, only to have a cash emergency within the next 1—2 months, then this is the problem you had. You spent money you didn't actually have because it was already spent somewhere else in the business.
- Most businesses are running on 14 days (or less) worth of cash. If you stress out about making payroll every month, but always seem to make it, this is the problem in your business.
Both of these are cash management issues.
Don't be fooled into thinking that this is a smaller business's problem. This issue is more likely to happen in businesses nearing or just past seven figures in revenue than it is with smaller businesses. The problem is masked in larger businesses because there is a constant flow of money.
If you are already getting consistent clients, both of these 'symptoms' are classic signs that you have outgrown the early stages of growth. It's time to move into the scaling stage in your business. To make this shift, you need to change how you manage the money in your business.
Find the Cash First
Back to the old paradigm of it takes money to make money. The thinking trap most owners fall into is that you have to grow first and then the cash flows. In the new paradigm, you get the cash first, then you scale.
The first step is to conduct a Business Audit that looks at how you can activate more cash with the business you have by looking for where you are:
- Leaving Money on the Table
- Ignoring Low Hanging Fruit Opportunities
- Leaking Money
- Missing the Profitability Mark
- Managing Strong Metrics
You then use all this information to activate the cash already hiding in your business. The audit also identifies your scalability factor and enables you to forecast where your business could go in the next 12—18 months if you focused on removing obstacles and taking advantage of opportunities.
Change Your Cash Intention
Most business owners expect profit to happen at the end of the year. Profit doesn't 'happen' at the end of the year. Profit comes into the business with each sale, and flows out the door for a million different reasons. If you have ever had your CPA say you made a profit, but you can't find it in the bank account, then you need a profit plan.
If you've read Profit First by Mike Michalowicz, then you understand the basic premise. A profit plan essentially puts intention toward your business's profit on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. The plan is different from owner to owner, but the process is that you take profit first, measuredly throughout the year. You transfer the profit out of the operational check account and give it purpose. Because you are not touching the money, the profit grows.
As your profit accounts grow, you gain the ability to make the investments that will help you scale without hurting the operations of the business. Instead of these investments causing stress, you feel powerful and successful.
Get a Crystal Ball
Ever wish someone could tell you the future? We all do, especially when it comes to managing money in business. Well here's a crystal ball for you—it's called a predictive cash flow tool. Imagine bringing your budget, your standard bills, and your sales pipeline together to form a more complete picture of your money. The tool I use with my clients is PocketSmith, but there are several on the marketplace including Float, Dry Run and Pulse. It syncs to your bank accounts and has a nifty calendar function that can allow you to see your anticipated daily account balances for up to 10 years in the future.
Managing the cash differently in your business requires you to move past the "balance the checkbook" management and use a tool that is as real-time as possible. Once you can predict your cash, you can make better money decisions in your business.
It takes a few hours to set up, but once you do, it takes less than 15 minutes to update and manage the tool every week. The payoff is that you can see where the trouble spots are. You can see what would happen if you make an investment here or what happens if a client delays a project (and payment) by a month.
All of these strategies are like creating a Waze pathfinder for your business. It gives you the confidence to manage your cash, make investments, and build the profit in your small business all while building financial stability. Now that's something to celebrate and carry into the New Year!
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Help! My Friend Is a No Show
Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I have a friend who doesn't reply to my messages about meeting for dinner, etc. Although, last week I ran into her at a local restaurant of mine, it has always been awkward to be friends with her. Should I continue our friendship or discontinue it? We've been friends for a total four years and nothing has changed. I don't feel as comfortable with her as my other close friends, and I don't think I'll ever be able to reach that comfort zone in pure friendship.
Dear Sadsies,I am sorry to hear you've been neglected by your friend. You may already have the answer to your question, since you're evaluating the non-existing bond between yourself and your friend. However, I'll gladly affirm to you that a friendship that isn't reciprocated is not a good friendship.
I have had a similar situation with a friend whom I'd grown up with but who was also consistently a very negative person, a true Debby Downer. One day, I just had enough of her criticism and vitriol. I stopped making excuses for her and dumped her. It was a great decision and I haven't looked back. With that in mind, it could be possible that something has changed in your friend's life, but it's insignificant if she isn't responding to you. It's time to dump her and spend your energy where it's appreciated. Don't dwell on this friend. History is not enough to create a lasting bond, it only means just that—you and your friend have history—so let her be history!
- The Armchair Psychologist