Overcome Small Biz Cashflow Challenges + Pandemic Support

written by Bari Tessler October 11, 2020
Overcome Small Biz Cashflow Challenges + Pandemic Support

Hi, it’s me again with another quick caffeinated Money Mocha to start off your morning.

And lest you think that I’m going to hog the microphone this whole time, today I’ve got a new clip of a conversation I recently had with one of the brilliant guest teachers in the Art of Money program, Amy Bradbury.

Every year we take a new group of money adventurers through the Art of Money journey, I listen to everything that’s going on in the community. All their questions, struggles, problems, and frustrations.

I listen intently for things that come up for people that may not yet be covered in my program, and then? I go to my Rolodex (wait, I’m not the only one with a Rolodex anymore, am I?) to find just the perfect colleague to interview about a given topic that can bring much-needed tools and help to the members of my program.

This is a big part of the Art of Money learning experience. There are about 30 different guest teachers in the program (and many more in the archive library) all sharing their own money wisdom to help the Art of Money members.

Today’s Money Mocha is a portion of a much longer conversation I had with Amy Bradbury, who is a profitability powerhouse, financial strategist, and QuickBooks guru who helps entrepreneurs with cash flow, systems, and business models.

Amy discusses the number one perspective shift she guides entrepreneurs through who are working on trying to figure out how much money their business needs to operate well enough to give them the level of lifestyle they need it to.

Her tools line right up with a foundational part of my Art of Money methodology but are applied in the realm of one’s business.

And because 2020 is being a handful of a year, Amy dives right into a series of tips and perspective shifts that people can use to get through the challenge that is the COVID pandemic. A challenge that is, unfortunately, causing so many of us to alternate from pressing the big red “Crisis” button and the big red “Financial Emergency” button.

If you’re anywhere near pressing those buttons, Amy has some timely pandemic help for you in today’s Money Mocha.

Listen Here For Pandemic Support And More:

Transcript:

Bari:

From your words, your experience, how do you define knowing what your numbers are – having a bookkeeping system in place, tracking it yourself, someone else tracking it – and budgeting and cash flow? What are the differences and what do each of those actually mean?

Amy:

Yeah, that is a great question and a great place to start. In our work, we look at knowing your numbers as knowing what your core most important numbers are the bills that you have to pay every single month. Then, what are the bills that you would like to be able to pay every single month, working from a good, better, best perspective.

Good would be: This is how much money I need to make to be able to just pay for the software subscriptions and the commitments that I have that are ongoing commitments. Then, what are the things that I would really love to add to my business? That takes you up to that better number. Then the best number is all of the things that you would want in your business.

I think when people try and look at what their numbers are, they include everything they could possibly want and then the number seems so large and overwhelming and so far apart from where they are right. It’s supposed to have this wonderful effect of “look at everything that you can manifest,” but I actually find that it has a different effect on a lot of people. They look at that number and say, “I don’t know how I would ever make that number.” I believe in laddering: Ladder thoughts and ladder numbers and stair stepping your way up. It’s setting goals incrementally. This is what I know that I need. I know that I need to make at least $1000 a month because I need to pay $500 worth of expenses and I need to pay myself $500 a month. Then, what does the next phase look like? What’s the next phase after that look like? That’s what I think of when I think of knowing your numbers. It’s really getting clear on if this is something that I really have to have. Is this something that would be nice to have? Is this something that I want in the future?

Bari

Let me jump in before I move onto the budgeting and cash flow and just say that I love this. You are basically giving us a business version of the money mapping that I do with folks on personal finances: the basic needs, comfortable and ultimate. I think there’s been discussions lately on how to do that for your business. That’s not my expertise. You can certainly do the basic, comfortable and ultimate for your business, too, but in this moment I’m realizing let’s leave the basic, comfortable and ultimate snapshot and numbers for your personal financial house so you really know what that is. Then you do the good, better and best for your business. That’s a business framework.

Amy:

Yeah, absolutely. One of the mistakes that I see a lot of entrepreneurs making is in their good number, they’re not taking into account paying themselves the level that they’re at for their personal finances. They’re looking just at, “This is what my business expenses are.” No, you need to be paid. The CEO in your business needs to be paid. Whether your business is generating $100 a month or $100,000 a month or $100 million a month, there is a CEO of that company and that CEO needs to be paid. Make sure that you’re keeping your CEO pay is accounted for in your numbers when you’re determining what your numbers need to be.

Bari:

Do you work with people on their personal finances as well to come up with their numbers and then head into the business budgeting or the tiers of the good, better and best? Say a little bit about that.

Amy:

Yeah, a little bit. In the work that we do with our clients, if they need a little bit more support on the financial side, we can give them a little bit of advice. We do, a lot of times, tell people to come take your course, honestly, to really learn for the personal side. There is just so much good information that’s in there and the way that you speak about money is so in line with the way that we look at money in so many ways.

We tell people to use the same good, better, best idea and framework on their personal and to sit down and have a money date with their spouse or whoever else they share household finances with and talk through what these numbers look like and what are the things you have to have versus the things that would be really nice to have. They do need to know that foundational number so that we can plug it in to the work that we’re doing to help them with their cash flow and all of that.

Instead of looking at your business as “Oh, I have all of this revenue and I’m going to pay these expenses and then what’s left is what I’m going to pay myself…” Spoiler alert: there will actually never be any money left to pay yourself if you do it that way. What we like to do is start with: How much money do you need to pay yourself? If you can’t even pay for groceries for your family, your mortgage or rent or any of those things, you’re not going to be able to focus on growing a successful business and doing those things. It really has to start with making sure that your basic needs are met and that the commitment that you’re making to the other people in your household to what you’re committing to bring in financially is being met.

Once you’ve got that covered, then you can look at growth strategies of your business. Sorry, that’s a little bit of a tangent, but we do say to come to us with that foundational number of how much you need to make as the CEO and then we add on to that your good number for your business expenses. Then you add those two numbers together and that gives you what your sales goal needs to be. It’s a very easy way to manufacture a sales goal that isn’t, “Everyone else in my mastermind said their sales goal is $100k a year, so I’m going to pick that too,” which is how a lot of people do sales goals.

Bari:

They do. They want to hit a certain number that’s based on what other people are talking about in the industry. Some arbitrary number instead of really what phase of life you’re in, what you need/want, where you’re at.

Bari:

Here’s another more concrete question: Hi, Bari. I’m an experiential artist and creative entrepreneur. All of my income has been tied to the arts for many years. Over the past four months, I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails canceling or postponing by months to a year my upcoming projects. I’m even hearing of former museum coworkers in my community being forced into retirement, furloughed and positions being cut in half.

I was extremely relieved to be receiving unemployment for the first time in my life. For the past couple of weeks since federal unemployment stopped, my stress and anxiety level has shot through the roof. I’m now looking at my accounts as numbers are dropping with no end in sight. I’m lucky to have a good savings cushion, but I’m noticing new avoidance habits emerging.

My income in fluctuating dramatically from month to month and I find that I don’t know how to budget for times like these, especially knowing this economic downturn in the arts will continue for months or years. I make a budget and then I ignore it. I’m just spending money from my banking account without feeling grounded. It feels as if I’m in a spending spiral in response to the anxiety of the unknown. I discussed this with my AOM accountability buddies last week and we all agreed that budgeting as creative entrepreneurs with fluctuating income is very difficult, especially in the light of COVID. We’re hoping for some suggestions of resources, interviews, tips of how to return to budgeting in times of financial hardship or fluctuation.

Amy:

Another beautifully written question – and what a tough question. It is something that so many people are experiencing, unfortunately.

I would say we want to first, again, get very clear on what the most important things are and make sure that there isn’t – I don’t ever want to come at numbers from a place of lack, as if there is not enough month, but also when there is a finite amount of money, you want to make sure that you’re very intentionally spending it on the places that you’re deciding to spend it.

A lot of us – myself included – do emotional spending and try to make ourselves feel better by spending money. That doesn’t help a situation when there isn’t enough money in the bank account to begin with. Then you feel badly about something and so then you go and buy a couple things on Amazon and all of a sudden there’s not enough money.

Looking at, again, really getting clear with the intentions of where you’re spending your money, the most important things that you need, are there any overlaps or extras. This is perhaps the time to cut out those extras. I think that COVID has taught a lot of people what things are truly the most important to us and really using our dollars in those places that actually really do matter and the places that they are the most important. That’s where I would start.

I also will say that the unemployment running out without a secondary program in place is unfortunate. I do hope that they will be renegotiating something when they come back into session and there will be further programs. There are a lot of other programs out there. The SBA has a couple of programs and perhaps the Future Heals Act will have a couple of programs. There are local grants. There’s a lot of people vying for the same money, so it doesn’t mean that you’re able to get it, but there are lots of places where you can look to get some funds.

We’ve worked with a lot of our clients during this time in looking at how else they can offer. How can you pivot? Where is the opportunity? Asking yourself, “Where is the opportunity in this that I now have the opportunity to create something new or to do something a little bit different.” Maybe you need to repackage whatever your programs/services look like before into something that’s much more bite-sized piece that you can sell for a much lower dollar amount.

I’m not recommending discounting. I never recommend discounting. Repackaging in a way that you can sell something that maybe used to be $1000… what could you sell for $100? Don’t sell the same thing that was $1000 for $100, but how can you repackage what was including in that $1000 for $100 so that someone can have a bite sized way of working with you that would also bring a little bit of income into your business as well.

The other thing that you can look at is – along with the intention of the spending – is are you only just making the minimum payments on anything? Is your mortgage company offering any assistance? There’s lots of things you can do with the different people that you need to pay money to in order to restructure some of that as well so that your monthly expenses can decrease a little bit as well. There’s some forbearance programs with the student loans that are going on right now, so you don’t necessarily have to pay everything. I know eventually you will have to pay it. That’s kicking the can down the road and not necessarily a permanent solution. But it might help you get through a tough time until you’re able to perform live music or whatever it is that is your way of art.

In terms of budgeting and cash flow during this time, I would still recommend the 30-90 day layout of the money and the timing of the money to really get clear on the timing of when you need more money in your banking account. Is it at the beginning of the month? Is it at the end of the month? Going through that process also helps you look at every single thing that you are spending your money on to make sure that it is something that you want to intentionally spend your money on. Before you put it onto that cash flow sheet, say, “Is this something I want to spend $20 on? Yes? Okay, then I’m going to put it onto my cash flow sheet and I’m going to plug it in that it’s going to happen on the 10th of the month.” Again, with the intention setting of that as well. Bari:

Those are great tips and strategies, some of which I said a very similar thing when I answered it on the call. That’s great for me to hear that we’re on the same page. I just really want to clarify here that you’re saying the way it was going or the way it was working, it’s not the same anymore. This is normal in life. We know there’s ebbs and flows, there’s ups and downs. There’s cash flow planned and then things happened. We continually need to review and adjust every month and then every month create a new plan. Look at both from what money leaks you’re having, what you can stop paying that you’re not using, what payments you can put on hold. From the income side, how can you pivot here and where is the opportunity? Then, as you were saying, really look at the cash flow and map that out. If you’ve never done that before, do that. That will be your next practice in how to budget better – I still use the word – how to map it out better and that this is the next step about how to get more clarity about what’s working, what’s not, when the money is coming in and when it’s not and making all these adjustments can help.

Amy:

It can. Going through this at a time like this can also be where you can have the most breakthroughs and the most ah-ha moments. It’s very easy to cash flow, plan and do your spending plans when there’s plenty of money. It’s in the times that are a little leaner when our practices, routines and rituals are even more important. Spending that time and reflecting and really looking at your thoughts and feelings and the energy that you’re feeling when you’re doing this really could give you some great breakthroughs that can have long lasting impacts far outside of this, but not releasing those… I know it doesn’t feel good to look at the numbers when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be, but it’s actually the most important time to look at the numbers and to love yourself through that and help yourself really stay in that practice and do it even when you don’t want to.

Bari:

Do you work with people on their personal finances as well to come up with their numbers and then head into the business budgeting or the tiers of the good, better and best? Say a little bit about that. Amy:

Yeah, a little bit. In the work that we do with our clients, if they need a little bit more support on the financial side, we can give them a little bit of advice. We do, a lot of times, tell people to come take your course, honestly, to really learn for the personal side. There is just so much good information that’s in there and the way that you speak about money is so in line with the way that we look at money in so many ways. We tell people to use the same good, better, best idea and framework on their personal and to sit down and have a money date with their spouse or whoever else they share household finances with and talk through what these numbers look like and what are the things you have to have versus the things that would be really nice to have. They do need to know that foundational number so that we can plug it in to the work that we’re doing to help them with their cash flow and all of that.

Instead of looking at your business as “Oh, I have all of this revenue and I’m going to pay these expenses and then what’s left is what I’m going to pay myself…” Spoiler alert: there will actually never be any money left to pay yourself if you do it that way. What we like to do is start with: How much money do you need to pay yourself? If you can’t even pay for groceries for your family, your mortgage or rent or any of those things, you’re not going to be able to focus on growing a successful business and doing those things. It really has to start with making sure that your basic needs are met and that the commitment that you’re making to the other people in your household to what you’re committing to bring in financially is being met. Once you’ve got that covered, then you can look at growth strategies of your business. Sorry, that’s a little bit of a tangent, but we do say to come to us with that foundational number of how much you need to make as the CEO and then we add on to that your good number for your business expenses. Then you add those two numbers together and that gives you what your sales goal needs to be. It’s a very easy way to manufacture a sales goal that isn’t, “Everyone else in my mastermind said their sales goal is $100k a year, so I’m going to pick that too,” which is how a lot of people do sales goals.

Bari:

They do. They want to hit a certain number that’s based on what other people are talking about in the industry. Some arbitrary number instead of really what phase of life you’re in, what you need/want, where you’re at.

Also available on iTunes & Spotify!

I hope today’s Money Mocha brings you some much-needed relief. I think we could all use some more of that right about now.

With my dearest wishes,

P.S. If you like these quick Money Mochas, you’ll really like the Art of Money 2021 program, which is open for registration for a few more days. With a rich set of bonuses including a bonus live class with me, a COVID care package, Money Mapping workbooks, and instant access to my entire archive library, this is a very good moment to get on board and starting making shifts in your money relationship.

Art of Money 2019

And for the first time ever, we’re trying something we’ve never done, and it’s something we may never do again: you can join the program with a buddy at the lower couple’s rate, and then? The two of you can split the cost. (Half the price. Twice the enjoyment.)

Your buddy could be anyone. It doesn’t have to be someone you’re in an intimate relationship with. Your neighbor, your mailman, your dad…it could be anyone that you want to do the program with. So if you want to join the program at the lowest price point it’s ever been offered for, now’s the time to grab a buddy and join us in the Art of Money community.

You might also like: