Is it really all about the money? Really? Most entrepreneurs are driven by ideas they believe in so strongly, they often give up steady jobs, hours of sleep, and any sense of security. Most of us are striving for some financial reward (or at least stability), inspired by Multi-Millionaires/Billionaires heroes like Jay-Z, Michael Jordan, Rob Smith or Oprah Winfrey.
But what happens when instead of making it rain, or poppin’ bottles in the VIP with Migos or Diddy, you’re barely making it? What happens when every day is a struggle to make sales, increase cash flow, and the thought of looking at your bank statements make you break out in hives?
All of these are common worries from business owners. Most times, we feel like our businesses aren’t making enough money. In fact, it seems no one ever feels like they’re making enough money, even if, statistically, they are making a lot. This was a personal experience back in 2008 when I overshot my goal and quadrupled my business revenue. Still, I felt like I was drowning.
What’s at the root of this? It could be many different things. Here are five things I have tweaked to enhance and enjoy my financial accomplishments as a small business entrepreneur. Hopefully these will help you too!
PROBLEM #1: Re-evaluate Your Pricing Model….It Could Be Wrong
Think about it. How did you actually come up with those prices? Most entrepreneurs make a huge mistake of basing their prices off competition or on what they feel is fair. Wrong! This approach is flawed because that formula doesn’t take into consideration of what YOUR business needs to be successful. All businesses have different models, overhead, hard and soft costs. These variables are things you should take into consideration when basing your prices off competitors.
In order to create this, you need to figure out your business expenses. What is your potential tax liability? Is there any debt? How much you are going to pay yourself (YES YOU MUST PAY YOURSELF DUH!). You can implement the following formula to get an idea of what your annual gross revenue needs to be:
(Business Expenses + Desired Salary)/(1-Tax Liability Percentage Expressed as Decimal) = Minimum Gross Revenue
Business Expenses — Payroll, interest payments, subscriptions like Photoshop, Microsoft Office, freelancer payments, etc.
Desired Salary — How much do you want to pay yourself? This is very important. If you are currently employeed and not 100% self employed, try not to pay your self and invest this dollar amount back into your business. Its not unheard of for business owners not to pay themselves the first 3 years or so.
Tax Liability — This is very important! Do not make the same mistake I made and end up with a $66,000 tax bill after 3 years of not filing my 940s and 941s! Get an ACCOUNTANT!! Save yourself the headache. If you can not afford an accountant, I would suggest taking 30% out of your gross reciepts every month, logging into IRS.GOV and sign up of the electronic filing option. This will ensure you make your monthly payroll and income tax payments!!!! This is not a game. You will be finished before you even start.
Heres an example.
($6,000 + $85,000)/.7= $130,000
Based on the above formula, this entrepreneur would need to gross $130,000 per year to be able to pay his/her business expenses, pay a $85,000 salary, and save 30% for income taxes. Now that you knows that number, you can work backward and structure your prices and services in a way that helps you meet your income goal.
Again, that’s just the minimum you need to make to break even in your business, and be able to pay yourself your desired salary. Yours may be different, but it’s a great jumping-off point in determining how to price your products or services for profitability.
PROBLEM #2: Your Product or Service Isn’t Viable
This might be a two-pronged problem. Either your product isn’t viable because it’s too costly to make (in which case, you’ll need to revisit your pricing strategy), or it’s not viable because no one actually wants to buy it (in which case, you should consider validating your business idea with a simple Profitability vs Possibility vs Interest test. Ask yourself questions like?
- What would I sell this product or service for?
- Realistically speaking, how much can I make per month with this?
- How large of a market is there?
- Can I realistically devote the necessary time to this?
- How much will this cost me at start up?
- Can I talk about this all day with a friend on a Saturday morning?
- Would I consider myself an expert on this?
- Realistically speaking, can this be something that fulfils me?
If your business is not making a profit, no matter how you structure the pricing, and/or you’re able to validate a better business idea, your best option (other than shutting down your current business) is to pivot. Some of the most famous and successful companies today have pivoted from their original business ideas. YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram just to name a few.
If you’ve grown an audience for your product, but you’re finding that your business is not profitable, then flip it around and create a product for your audience. For example, here at DELUX and many other print publications have been feeling the “digital era” when it comes to advertising. Print sales, especially for magazines, are at an all time low. Instead of closing because I definitely considered it, we cut print publications by 60%, focused on SEO, created a mobile app, and developed 4 signature events (Power 100, Women Who Inspire Luncheon, 100 Father Salute, and 30 Under 30) to attract our advertisers and our consumers. The result is an 300% increase in sales over the last 2 years and growing.
As you can see, if you’ve built up an engaged following, you can reverse your strategy and design a product that’s perfect for them. If you’ve launched a business selling financial coaching services for stressed-out creative entrepreneurs, but then you found out your audience needs someone to get their bookkeeping set up and organized, you might consider selling bookkeeping services instead.
PROBLEM #3: Your Business Is Attracting The Wrong Type of Consumer
You have to define your ideal customer.
Do you have a great product, but you’re not making many sales? Are you amazing at what you do, but you can’t get prospects to convert to paid clients? Are you getting a lot of difficult clients or dissatisfied customers? You, may be attracting the wrong people to your business.
If your business is attracting the wrong kind of customers or isn’t attracting any at all, I’m afraid it’s time to go back to the drawing board. You need to revisit the “who is my ideal customer” portion of your business plan. If you never thought about that or have it written out that’s your first problem!
In fact, if you’re struggling to figure out who your ideal customer is, look at current customers or clients who love your product or service. One way to find them is to look at who shows love to your business on social media. Do a quick search on Twitter of people who mentioned your business handle.
— Boys & Girls Clubs (@bgcstl) March 5, 2018
Who are the customers that sent you emails thanking you for what you do? Search your inbox. These are your ideal customers. Learn more about them. Conduct customer interviews. You’ll learn more about why people choose your business, what makes them happy with your product, and how you can improve your product to better serve them.
All of your marketing communications should flow from your customer avatar. Without one, you’ll try to target everyone, which will lead to you attracting no one.
Top questions to ask yourself right now to determine your ideal customer:
- Who are my product’s “ambassadors”? Who are the customers who rave about my product without prompting?
- How old are they?
- What are their job title and income level?
- What do they worry about?
- What were the latest purchases they made?
- Which brands do they love?
- How does my product or service solve a specific problem they have?
Once you define who your ideal customer is, here are some quick actions you can take to attract them:
- Write a clear tagline that appears above the fold on your site so visitors know if they’ve landed in the right place. Not sure how to do that? Here’s a quick formula: “[Business name] helps [your ideal customer] [benefit your customers gain].” For example, “Innovate Solutions helps time-strapped sales teams grow their email lists with qualified leads.”
- Go where your ideal customer hangs out. This includes both virtual and physical places. For example, if your ideal customer is a mid-level manager at a tech company, but you’re spending all your time growing your Instagram account, consider switching your efforts from Instagram to LinkedIn. You want to go where your ideal customer will see you.
- Revise your Facebook ads target audience. If you’re running Facebook ads, you can get really granular on who to target. Now that you know what kind of customer would need and love your product, you can go to Facebook Ads Manager and target them better.
PROBLEM #4: You Don’t Know Where Your Money Is Going Because You Don’t Track Your Spending
You should update your books every week. Every Monday, I’m updating DELUX Magazine’s cash flow and income statements.
“What gets measured gets managed,” as the old saying goes. If you have no idea what your business cash flow or income is, you will never have a good grip on your business’s finances.
Note that cash flow and profit are not the same things. Cash flow shows the cash coming into and flowing out of your business each month, while profit includes revenue earned but not necessarily received that month. There’s no doubt profitability is important for determining if your business is sustainable in the long-run, but positive cash flow is what keeps it running on a day-to-day basis.
You can have a positive income but a negative cash flow and vice versa. Any service-based creative business owner will understand the importance of this distinction immediately. If I own a design agency and we’ve just landed a $20,000 contract to design a client’s website, I might require a 50% upfront fee to begin work, with the rest being payable upon completion of the project two months later. My cash flow might be negative this month, but my income might be positive. Even though, I earned $20,000 this month, I only received $10,000 with the remaining $10,000 not hitting my bank account until two months from now when I invoice my client for the remaining balance.
Ideally, you should know both your cash flow and your income. You want to know if you’ll be able to pay the bills and your employees this month (cash flow statement), but you also need to know if your business is sustainable in the long-run (income statement).
Have your accountant create a cash flow statement and an income statement (also known as a Profit & Loss statement) so you can easily pull reports. Alternatively, here’s a free cash flow statement spreadsheet.
I personally use Freshbooks as my accounting software which automatically populates my P&Ls, Cash Flow, and Profitability.
Ignoring the problems will not make them go away. You need to face them head on to track your progress. Every Monday, set aside time to update your business cash flow statement and income statement. You need that weekly picture of your business’s finances in order to feel secure about them. Rather good or bad this monday motivation will kick your ass into over drive. But at the end of the day it keeps you “in the know” about your much needed survival cash flow.
PROBLEM #5:Your Relationship With Money Sucks
Let me ask you something, if you had $8 million, would you feel like you’re making enough money? In 2013, investment bank UBS surveyed 4,450 U.S. investors, and of those with $1 million to $5 million in investable assets, only 28% considered themselves to be wealthy.
It’s a common misconception there’s a certain milestone at which we’ll feel like we’re making enough money and all our fears will vanish. The chase for more cash never ends. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Eric Rhone over lunch and we discussed this very topic. I was telling him I was ready to retire at 50 and here’s my plan, blah, blah, blah. Then said I may never get there because shit I’m always chasing the dollar. I asked him when did he and Cedrick the Entertainer get to a comfortable place where it was smooth sailing. He said “Warren Buffet still goes to work every morning. The dollar chase never stops. This is the life we chose.” Bummer. But, I’m still looking forward to the challenge.
Usually, once you have a whole lot of money, a plethora of other problems develop. Like Diddy said, “Mo Money, Mo Problems.”
How do business owners wrangle the fear of losing money? To calm my nerves, every time I spend money on my business I always tell myself, “There’s always more where that came from.” You know the whole glass is half full ideology. Normally, that shifts my focus away from losing money and toward the fact of I can always make more.
If Your Business Is Not Making Enough Money…Apply these tips and FIX IT!
After its all said and done, I hope you realize that if you feel like your business isn’t making enough money, you’re not alone. Ironically, even some multi-millionaires don’t feel rich. The key is to approach this issue from a logical perspective by considering these five common problems that keep businesses operating in the red:
- Your pricing strategy is wrong. If you’re not pricing with profitability in mind, it doesn’t matter how many sales you make—you’ll never make a profit.
- Your product isn’t viable. It’s important to test the market and validate your idea to make sure it’s something enough people will buy.
- You’re attracting the wrong customers. Defining your ideal customer will drive all your marketing going forward. Ultimately, it will lead to increased customer satisfaction, retention, and sales.
- You aren’t tracking your business income and cash flow. To get a grip on your finances, you need to be tracking them.
- Your relationship with money is flawed. If you harbor intense money fears, you’ll never feel like you’re making enough. Gaining understanding and practicing new techniques will help.
And remember, as entrepreneurs, we are risk takers. We understand to make money, we have to spend it. There may always be a lingering concern and we don’t have enough financial padding for. To some extent, it’s the price we pay for a life of freedom and purpose. And for me? I wouldn’t have it any other way.