When I think about what keeps me up at night the most, it would definitely be worrying about money. Even when I am making money, I still am concerned about the most effective ways to reinvest in my business and be sure that I'm maintaining sufficient cash flow. This process is a constant balancing act.
A new business owner might think after raising the money to start an enterprise, that the most challenging financial situation is behind him or her. But that's far from the case.
Naturally, as a business grows, it costs more to run day-to-day operations. This can be stressful!
Jamie Walker, CEO of San Francisco-based SweatGuru, which offers online business-management solutions for fitness professionals, explained that cash flow presents entrepreneurs the classic chicken or egg quandary: "You need cash to build your business and you need a business to generate cash.”
Here are some tricks I've learned along the way for lessening pocketbook pressure:
1. Put a bill collector's hat on. It surprises me how scared business owners are about asking for money. Don’t get me wrong: I used to be pretty awkward about it, too, but now I have become more fearless. I clearly state on my invoice that payment is due within 14 days. If I do not receive the payment by then, I have no problem with sending gentle reminders -- until I get the money.
This isn’t a fun part of my job, but someone has to do it. I need to be sure my clients are paying me in a timely manner, so I can stay on top of my bills and growing my business.
I try to issue invoices every two weeks so I'll be paid more often. This prevents me from putting a lot of charges on my credit card so I will always retain some cash in the bank. But since I get smaller amounts of money in each check than, say, a monthly payout, I am more careful about spending. Whereas if I got paid in a large sum, I might be tempted to think I have more money to blow through. It is a mind game!
2. Think creatively. “One way to increase cash flow is to get creative," said Walker, who also launched Fit Approach, an enterprise that sets up fitness communities: "Even before our product was fully functional, we knew we had something of value to offer -- a community and a full bench of fitness experts. We were able to monetize and generate cash flow by leveraging our current assets rather than playing the waiting game.”
It's fine to launch services at different times. When planning what to offer first, figure out what people will pay for immediately. This will leave some money to reinvest in the business.
3. Don’t be afraid to pay for things to boost efficiency. Only recently have I become totally comfortable with the idea of outsourcing tasks. Before I would antagonize over whether to spend money if I technically could do the task myself. Then I realized this practice was costing me money.
Everyone has items that fall to the bottom of the to-do list day after day. I have decided that I will always hire someone to help me complete those things, unless it's imperative that I do them. This way I can spend my time focusing on tasks that make me money.
4. Getting what's paid for. When I first launched a website for my business, I focused on the most cost-efficient solution. I was looking for something to be done fast, and I chose service providers who didn't understand me: Our visions just didn't align. That was a big mistake. In the end, I ended up spending three times the amount I could have paid. Sometimes it's worth getting things done the right way.
Now I definitely try to focus on quality and arriving at mutual understanding on price. This can save money in the long run because there won't be a need to pay to have things redone.
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