Cash Flow

Cash flow is the top challenge for just about every new business in the world.

Most people who are new to business are fearful, if not overwhelmed, by the financial side of the business. Not many new entrepreneurs have a working understanding of the financial terms, much less the reports, used by business finance professionals. How many new entrepreneurs understand the differences between and the implications of cash versus accrual accounting? Not many.

This is a problem because people tend to avoid, downplay and fear that which they don’t understand. Accounting and finance are no exception. Entrepreneurs who have little to no understanding of finance and even less available time to go up the learning curve on it are naturally vulnerable to financial challenges, if not disaster, in their businesses.

The key to overcoming this is to focus on cash flow, because that is what will kill your business.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Diverse Offerings

This challenge is one I see a lot while providing management consulting, mentoring and coaching to entrepreneurs and startup teams.

For example, a business plans to offer the following products and services:

  1. web design
  2. web site maintenance
  3. web design instruction
  4. instructional packages for website owners
  5. life coaching
  6. photography
  7. public speaking
  8. writing
  9. professional skating instruction

You can make the case that 1-4 are related products and could be complementary offerings.

You can also make a case that public speaking and writing can address any of the other offerings.

However, you cannot make a case that attempting to sell all of these diverse products and services is possible in a brand coherent, much less an energy and capital efficient, manner.

I have personally been a professional photographer, public speaker and writer. I know, first-hand, how much time, energy and marketing focus is required to be a success in any one of those three endeavors.

And that is really the point here. It is tough enough to build a successful business around any one, single offering, much less nine, and especially nine that are either completely disparate or tenuously related.

Each offering you sell has its own set of development, maintenance, delivery and support requirements. Each offering has its own market and customers, each requiring very specific value propositions, brand positionings, marketing messages, sales channels and execution.

Each business is a bucking bronco in its own right.

Photo: Meralain via Flickr


Trying to ride multiple horses at once is tough enough as a rodeo trick.

It is not a valid business model.

You need to pick a horse and ride it.

Pick one horse, one market, one set of customers, one value proposition, one brand position, one marketing message, one sales channel and one business model to execute.

Find a market niche and own that niche. Then expand from there.

Nine horses is too many to ride.

Before you build a business plan, pick a horse and ride it.


* * * * * * *




Your accounting resource will be one of the most important vendor relationships in your business. An accountant often provides day-to-day tactical support via bookkeeping resources (or referrals to same). In addition, your accountant is a critical strategic resource for tax planning, networking and referrals into their network of professional services providers such as legal, consulting, business brokers, banking, etc.

Consequently, it is very important to have a solid, mutually beneficial relationship with your accountant.

Start by asking other business owners for referrals. Ask people who run businesses that you aspire to emulate for a referral. That immediately puts you into a network of professional and business suppliers that will match your business as you grow. If you start by asking business owners at the size and scale you are now, you can end up with an accounting resource that cannot scale with you as you grow and whose network is not well matched for your aspirations.

Next, talk with at least five potential accountants by phone and meet personally with at least three. Do not settle for anything less than a good to perfect fit with your accountant. In particular, it is critically important that you share common values related to integrity, honesty and trust.

Your accounting and bookkeeping resources can literally make or break your business, so choose them wisely and with due time, effort and consideration.

* * * * *


Finding a Business That Will Work

Finding a business that will work


I’ve personally had a few businesses that didn’t work. I had some that worked and then stopped working. I had some that never worked at all.

What I learned from those experiences was:

  1. Just because a business works now doesn’t mean it will work forever. All of the factors that make a business viable: market, customers, products / services, brand, value proposition, available resources, external forcing functions, etc., all change all the time. A business’ viability is actually a lot more tenuous that we think when we’re at the controls and everything seems to be working. What we don’t realize is that any of the key factors that makes the business viable can disappear or radically change overnight. That’s why businesses that survive long-term typically reinvent themselves every five to seven years. They have to reinvent themselves in order to adapt to the ever-changing conditions.
  2. Just because an idea sounds great, seems great and makes a fantastic diagram on a bar napkin does not make it a viable business. Every business that didn’t work at all for me was an idea I had that I was convinced was a “can’t miss” opportunity. Every one of them missed. What I didn’t do, that you must do, is start by identifying an unmet need in the marketplace and then meet that need. That’s the definition of a business: Filling an unmet need in the market in a sustainably profitable manner. The piece I missed was the “unmet need” part. I was convinced my ideas were so awesome that need wasn’t required. I was wrong.

So, my advice to you about finding a business that will work is:

  1. Identify an unmet need in the market.
  2. Test to see if you can meet that need in a sustainably profitable manner.
  3. Do so.
  4. Never, even for one millisecond, assume that just because the business is sustainable today that it will be tomorrow.
  5. Enjoy the ride!

* * * * *

Motorcycle Instincts and Startups

There was a good post today on the Fortune blog titled “Motorcycle Instincts and Startups” here:

I think the post is a good read and draws useful parallels for a few aspects of motorcycling and startups.

I’ve been riding motorcycles for over 40 years both on and off road and on six continents through most of 43 countries.

I’ve personally started about a half dozen businesses (depending on how you count them) and been part of starting dozens more.

You could say this topic resonates with me.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Questions for the Next Gig

I was asked to provide career coaching feedback on a new employment opportunity, so I worked up these questions. These questions are equally applicable to a startup or other business opportunity, with suitable modifications around manager / company / product or services .

Ask the questions before you become emotionally invested in the opportunity. Once you get past that line, your emotional investment will color or skew your perceptions to the point you will not be able to be objective about the answers.

Use as many objective, fact-based data points as possible, and keep a log or spreadsheet that rates and weights the answers.

Questions #1 – #3 are absolute show stoppers.

It can be possible to overcome #4 if you can see a clear path to obtaining the necessary skills, etc. Most entrepreneurs get to where they end up by answering “Yes, I can do that,” to every challenge and figuring it out as they go along. That approach does not disqualify you for opportunities, but you need to be honest about how that changes your risk profile.

The answers will never come back all positive, but the goal is to have the majority of the answers to questions 5-11 come back positive. Some negative responses, such as those around customers, products and services, etc., may provide leverage points for negotiations.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «

Fear, thy name is Ron Wayne

One of the little known facts of Apple’s history is that Apple wasn’t the creation of Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. Apple was actually founded by three guys: Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Ron Wayne.

The equity split was Wozniak 45%, Jobs 45% and Wayne 10%.

Wozniak recalls, “Steve had 45 percent of this partnership, I had 45 percent, and Ron had 10 percent, because both of us agreed that we could trust him to resolve any dispute, and we would trust his judgment.”

So what ever happened to Ron Wayne, a guy who had 10% founding equity in Apple?

Wozniak relates, “I had no money and Steve had no money. We didn’t own cars, we didn’t have savings accounts, we didn’t have houses. So Ron Wayne figured they’d come after him for his golden nuggets that he kept under his mattress. (He actually tells me it was in a safe-but he was afraid they’d come and get his gold.) So he sold out. It was too risky for him, so he sold out his 10 percent of Apple to [us] for a few hundred bucks. Maybe $600, maybe $800, maybe $300-but a few hundred bucks. And this was even when we had an Apple II designed and were heading toward future business. He was just scared that something was going to catch him.”

Apple’s market capitalization this morning is $181.7 billion, with a B. If Ron Wayne had stayed around (and assuming no dilution), his 10 percent of Apple would be worth $18 billion. With a B.

Fear, thy name is Ron Wayne.



  • Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days by Jessica Livingston
  • Yahoo! Finance

Doing It For Free

“If they didn’t pay me, I’d do this for free.” – Harry Cabluck

Have you ever had a job in your life where you felt like that? Have you ever invested your time and energy into a career where you literally couldn’t wait to get up in the morning?

Few people have that opportunity. I feel very fortunate that I’ve had more than one.

Many people get exposed to a job early in life and do some variation of that same job the rest of their lives, especially in the trades. Others pick a college major at age 18 or 19 for reasons that often have little to do with their interests, skills or abilities and more to do with factors related to friends or romantic pursuits. They end up with a degree unrelated to their interests or stuck in that career track for the rest of their lives. Others, especially in times like these, take any job that’s available, and as long as the paychecks clear the bank, they stick to it. Others get on a job or career track they don’t intend to pursue for a lifetime but are subsequently locked in by responsibilities such as loans, marriage, mortgages, and children.

In all these cases, it is not unusual for people to wake up one day and realize they are unhappy in their jobs and careers, but feel trapped there due to age, education or skills, unable to seek any alternatives because the barriers to change are too high.

» » » Click here to read the rest of this post « « «