003 - Basic disciplines around reviewing your business expenses

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Many would have heard the saying, "cash flow is like oxygen - without it, your business will die".

For nearly all small businesses, this is absolutely correct.

We are excited by the business we want to launch and run, but the reality is you must have both discipline and visibility around what the monies you are spending, and the monies you are making (or planning to make!).

Now this doesn't have to be rocket science, and the financials of many businesses can be monitored using 3 documents - the Profit & Loss Statement (P&L), the Cash flow Statement and the Balance Sheet.

Keep a close eye on these on a monthly basis, and you'll be helping give your business the best chance of success in terms of your financial performance.

I witnessed this approach being used to great effect in a small wholesale business I was involved with.  

Each and every month the accountant would prepare the documents listed above, and the team would review these documents; line by line.

This had two great outcomes:

  1. All staff knew the expenses associated with running the business, and their particular area within it. This approach gave those staff context and visibility on how they could assist managing expenses, whilst maximising returns from the funds spent in their respective areas

  2. There were no nasty surprises the next month (not in terms of expenses anyway!)

As a result all bills, taxes, salaries and other commitments could be paid.

During the monthly review, if the outgoings surpassed the incomings - and there were no other cash reserves available - the outgoings had to be addressed.  

It was often disappointing that a certain expense activity couldn't be pursued that month; but there was also a comfort enjoyed by everyone that the business was managing its financials well.

Whilst you may not have a team (it may be just you, or you and your business partner, husband, wife or accountant) sitting down and going through this exercise, it is still worth the effort.

It takes a little time to set up, but it will inject a discipline into your business that you didn't have previously.

Too many businesses have limited (or no) visibility on their cashflow situation - these are often great businesses with passionate owners - but they are in dangerous waters and vulnerable to suddenly realising the cash in the bank doesn't cover the bills in the in-tray. 

Inject some structure into your business around regularly reviewing your expenses, and you'll see the benefits.



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002 - Funding my business - do I bootstrap, borrow, crowd-fund, sell equity - or is there another way?


Questions (and challenges!) around funding are common, and are often the biggest obstacle someone with a great business idea will face. We can borrow money from friends or family; borrow from a formal lender; crowd-fund; bootstrap (ie. fund) the business ourselves; sell equity (ie. a part or % of our business) - or we can get creative.

A good friend of mine had a great business idea, but was cash poor.

He'd found a product; negotiated pricing; created a wonderful brand; and built a website, along with a 1000 other tasks required to get his idea up and running.

Supporting a young family with two children, paying a mortgage, and living of an average salary whilst staring up his new venture meant that the business struggled to grow and take full advantage of opportunities that were coming its way.

He funded it himself to start with, then sold some equity in order to buy stock, however still couldn't quite get the cashflow and inventory to a point that would allow the business to take off.

Borrowing wasn't an option (at least not from a traditional lender), as the business was required to have 2 years of full financials before it would be considered for an overdraft or loan, which is a very common, and very frustrating reality for many small businesses.

As a result, the business lived hand-to-mouth. There were generous and heart-felt offers of loans from family and friends - but as is so often the case, the Founder still had doubts (mainly self-doubts which are extremely common), even though from every angle the brand and business he was building looked solid and a sure-thing.

A funding option that would be both effective and acceptable to the business owner seemed to not exist.

Then came an opportunity out of left-field, and one the founder hadn't necessarily expected, as it wasn't the normal way a new, small business finds the cash it needs to grow.  

A business associate in a similar market was launching a new venture, however had some shortcomings in terms of skills and experience with online marketing, e-commerce and social media.  On the other hand, he had a depth of experience in retail, stock management, and had access to funds.

There was the ability for one business to make up what the other business lacked, and so a partnership was formed.

We cant be good at everything - and so whilst not the most obvious way to fund a business, by finding a business partner with the right needs, structure, culture, experience and fit, a great outcome is being enjoyed by both.

Funding a business can be achieved through a variety of mechanisms and structures - just make sure you are realistic about the pros and cons of each method - and stay open to ways to achieve your desired outcome that you may not have thought of.



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