Today I want to address the thing that keeps a lot of people from starting a business at all: what to do when it all goes to hell and the rent is still due, and why it goes to hell.
This month my blog has featured some useful how-to articles about personal financial planning for entrepreneurs – you can read those here and here and here for the practical stuff. And you should follow that advice. It doesn’t mean the shit won’t hit the fan though. Because it might. There’s always that chance.
I’ve been mulling over whether or not to share this story for some time now. But you deserve to know the reality of this solo-entrepreneurship thing.
Because no matter how much you plan, even when you know the practical action steps and you know what you should do to manage your cash flow, there are times when the bottom falls out from under you – or it’s just hanging on by one, fraying, weak thread.
It happened to me. More recently than you might think.
When I write a business plan I always include a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis. The Strengths and Weaknesses are the internal stuff – the stuff you can control. The Opportunities and Threats are external, and mostly beyond your direct control and influence. Threats represent risks to your business, and in your plan, you are supposed to say how you’ll manage them.
But there are always threats that don’t make their way into the SWOT. Loss of a loved one, for example. Health concerns. Relationship struggles. Personal bankruptcy. It’s all possible, but it’s personal stuff. So you won’t include it in a plan you submit to a bank.
Realistically, though, aren’t these the things we all worry about most? More than currency fluctuations or the price of oil or the emergence of a new competitor. You started your business to help take care of your personal finances and give you control over your life, so the things on your mind are the things that affect that. Not the stock exchange.
You Can’t Control Everything in Business or Life
I love learning to harness the power of intention. You know, finding a way to handle what life throws at you with grace, being deliberate about where you focus your energy, visualizing your ideal outcomes. All that stuff. But there will always be things that force you to bend, wither or break and it takes a little time to get back to that positive place. To remember what your intention was.
That’s what happened to me last year when the man who raised me, who was as much a father as I could have ever had, passed away and I didn’t find out until the hospice wouldn’t talk to me about him and I Googled his name and found his obituary.
Then a health issue (you don’t need the details) reared its ugly, painful head and when the doctor’s solution was simply more painkillers, I didn’t know where to turn for a while.
And then my last remaining grandparent passed, and I broke. A little.
Enough to take this girl out of the business for a while. The consistent marketing I like to talk about stopped. The cash flow management was out the window. I didn’t care. Revenue was tanking. I didn’t care. Leads all but dried up. I worked every day without focus or intention. I did some things and let myself get distracted by other things. I let the business go, and off it went.
And well, that created a personal finance shitstorm, as you might expect it to.
A couple of months ago, I considered shutting down altogether.
Could you tell? I always wonder if people can tell when something’s going on.
Perhaps it was coincidental that it was right at the end of 2015 that I decided to shift my intention back to where it meant something. I consciously decided that it wasn’t time to stop being a fantastic business coach and business plan writer – it was time to get even better at it.
See, I’m part of a mastermind group and my “peers” are incredible entrepreneurs, with businesses I admire, and intelligence I can only wish for. And at the end of 2015, it was abundantly clear to me that if I didn’t get my shit together I couldn’t be part of that group anymore. And that would mean I wouldn’t benefit from the incredible insight that helps me be a better business owner, which helps me do better work for you, and helps you be better business owners.
So my new mission was born – to help 10,000 entrepreneurs start new companies by 2020 (and to listen to more music, and make more art).
The problem was I was pretty low on cash. But the mission was taped to my computer monitor and every day I did something to move towards it – finding referral partners on LinkedIn, following up with old clients, and more. Things that took time, energy and hustle but not money.
Jump ahead to today and my company is exactly where I left it, bringing in solid 5 figures a month, with an (almost) full client load and leads arriving daily. I have happy clients, I feel great about what I’m doing every day. And I miss my stepdad, but I know he’s proud.
And that health thing, I’m dealing with, one step at a time, with a naturopath.
All I’m Saying is These sorts of things might happen to you.
If you’ve done an exceptional job of scaling your business to a place where it runs without you, the things you can’t control will have less of an impact on your personal income. But if you’ve left a weak link – like I did – you might find yourself wondering how much longer you can keep going.
Maybe you have a mastermind group or a mentor, and if you do, access them – they can be incredible sources of motivation. If you don’t, the best advice I can give you is to recall why you started this business in the first place, and who you’re in it to serve. Do those people still need you?
Then forget about how much cash you need. Set your intention to help your people. And the money comes back. I promise.