It's Time To Put Your Cash To Work

There’s something that is instantly gratifying about being paid in cash - something kind of primal about it. There’s immediate feedback that the work you’ve just done for someone has been validated and that you now have 100% of the revenue you were promised in exchange for that value. Oh, and there’s also the fact that you now have just a little more of that sweet sweet medium of exchange to use to help you get the things you need for yourself and your business.

Cash really is king (or queen).

Even as a consultant I get excited when someone extends the offer to satisfy an invoice in cash for the work that I’ve done. It’s quick, clean, and final. I know that I’ve finished the job I was hired to do and I can move on to the next one. No worries about making phone calls, waiting on the mail, or dealing with people’s excuses for non payment.

Now, if you’re reading this odds are you know exactly what I’m talking about - regardless of the type of work that you do. It’s not always sunshine and rainbows though when it comes to dealing in cash. I’ve had quite a bit of experience coaching people in cash heavy businesses and can’t wait to share some of the lessons I’ve taught to them about how to not only make the most of it but protect you as you grow your business.

My first question has to do with what you are doing with the cash you have already?

Is it taped to the back of the toilet, in a sock drawer, or stashed in shoebox somewhere? Better yet is it non-existent because, like me sometimes, you succumb to your impulse shopping urges. (Hey even business coaches get weak from time to time!) If any of those describe you then someone should slap you on the hand, in a firm voice say “NO!”.

First thing you need to do is remove the temptation to spend and reinforce the cash that’s coming in and flowing out of your business. Now I know most of you who have hidden stashes will argue that it’s in a really good secret hiding spot. Even still, in the event of a flood, fire, natural disaster, curious house pet, or really good house party you might be exposing yourself to unnecessary risk.

Find your favorite banking institution, one you are comfortable with, and deposit! If you already have an account somewhere let’s start to use it. When you physically separate yourself or add an extra step in accessing your funds it’s been proven to help your cash management efforts. I’ll explain a little more deeper into this piece but you should have an emergency account, an account for bills, payroll, and general operation spending. I know this sounds like a lot but seeing everything working independently is a real key to keeping your business running lean and mean regardless of industry.

Next is a budget.

There are a ton of downloadable spreadsheets and websites you can use to help you with your budget if you don’t have one already. Don’t tell me that you do mental math and you always have an idea of what’s coming in and and what’s going out. I’m calling you out! When you leave things up to be mentally tallied you also are subjecting your finances to your internal rationalizations. What I mean by that is you are convincing yourself that it’s OK to spend a little extra here or there when you really shouldn't be. I’m a big fan of Quickbooks but if you feel like your too small or don’t have the time to learn something new then a spreadsheet works just fine - there are free templates everywhere. This is not just something you do once and forget about it or it tape on the wall only to eventually go blind to it.

You can’t be afraid to get a handle on your business’s finances. So we don’t even have to call it a budget. We can call it a spending plan!

A spending plan starts just like you think a budget might. You’re going to map out all the places your cash goes throughout the month. I want you to start by thinking about all your fixed expenses first: rent, equipment payments, internet, insurance, health care etc. Then work on variable stuff: office supplies, lunch meeting, fuel, electric bills, etc. At the very end I want you to create a space where you are saving between 5% and 15% of every pay event - we’re trying to bank at least part of your profit here.

So after all the traditional budgeting is done - I want you to look at what you have in front of you and make a plan for that spending. Start by breaking out a calendar and visually identifying when you might need to have cash for during the month. This can be for recurring stuff as well as payments you need to make for upcoming events, like conferences, you want to attend. writing the dates that you know you need to have cash for. It’s good to know what you have to SAVE for but it’s even better to anticipate what you are going to SPEND on. You don’t have to be afraid to spend money in your business. It’s all part of the game, especially for things like Facebook Ads, or other marketing, where it’s not clear what the real ROI might be. For those savings though you should set up a separate bank accounts I’m a big fan of divide and conquer - when you create different bank accounts for different goals or purposes it helps actually reach them because you can see real progress.

Here’s a real example. If in your entire business career you deal solely in cash do you think financial institutions will know you exists. Do you think they would be willing to extend credit to you? Probably not. Not only do you not show any kind of assets to back up the risk they would be taking on you, you haven’t showed them that you can be a credible or positive risk. When your paying bills you should be linking them to a bank account so that you can start to build activity and a reputation for being a good credit risk. As you grow you will potentially need that credit and financial history for borrowing/investment in more employees, more inventory, a new building, or just more stuff to help you deliver more value. If you don’t have the history it will be almost impossible to get anyone to lend or at least lend at any kind of competitive rate.

Without going into too much detail on this one, taxes are another issue (I have to save some of the good stuff for subsequent posts). Once you have your foundation tools in place you need to start working to protect yourself from an audit or unnecessary heat from the IRS. The easiest way to do that is pay your quarterlies. Paying something into the tax system on a quarterly basis not only lessons the blow come April (and December) but in the event of an overpayment or loss in the business, reduction of basis, you get a refund. What it also does is keep your business activities honest in the eyes of the government. When you are proactive and report properly you are less likely to draw the attention of an audit. Which again is good on so many levels.

I’ve given a bit of advice here but I’m going to offer some real tips in bullets below to give you a direction to start looking for resources that can help you - and that are free.

  • Quickbooks or any means of actually keeping track of your money - seriously take a look and budget. One caveat though is that you have to be HONEST! If you’re not honest when you start then any feedback this system gives you will be bogus. So I don’t care if you think you are in terrible financial shape, don’t mask it.

  • Start at least a checking account. Now there’s no need right away to go open 47 bank accounts. If you don’t have one for work yet go get one. Then from that account you can distribute your pay however you see fit. The benefit is that you have a running tally of what you’ve made for your own accounting’s sake.

  • Set some real goals. What do you want to do in 3 months, 6 months, and a year out? What about 3 years out? Write them out and revisit them regularly. Having goals creates an anchor to taking your money situation seriously. If it’s a new car or a new place you’ll never get there if you aren’t thinking about it.

  • Deal with your payments, invoices, and revenue right away!! The longer you leave that cash laying around the harder it will be to put away. The goal here is to avoid having to think about where the next rent check or even meal is coming from.

  • Automate as much as you can. Set up monthly withdrawals from account to be deposited into your specific business accounts. Even your bills should be set on autopilot when necessary. The more you automate the less you’ll think about it and the better you will save.

I know there was nothing revolutionary here but I hope that I at least got you to thinking about your own situations. In upcoming posts I plan to talk more about the different budgets you can try to employ and actually give a little more instruction on how to get it done. For now, let’s tackle mindset, get you putting cash somewhere safe, and start thinking about how you’re going to keep track of it.

Take Control Of Your (Business's) Money

Has it been a month already?! Well, I'm back and you're going to see some new and interesting (I hope interesting) formats coming your way. 

Late summer is an interesting time of year. Lots of business owners will tell you that August and December are their worst months because their customers disappear. While I have a whole bunch of problems with that kind of thinking the one counter I want to offer in today’s post is that this time of year (and in December) is a great time for a  little reflection in your business.

It’s important to pick your head up from working on deliverables to make sure you're making decisions that keep your business moving forward - in the way that you want. That means taking a look at how your managing your money everyday. Whether you’re just starting out or running a 7-figure business, understanding your budget will help you make better decisions when it comes to making bigger time, monetary or relationship based investments. And yes, even if you feel like you don’t have any money you still need to think in terms of a budget.

In today’s post I am going to walk you through the concepts, tips, and tactics that go into organizing your cost structure so you can price as strategically as possible. This post is going to explore the major cost questions and concepts that you should be considering when you are bringing your good or service to market. The goal is to avoid what I’ve seen so many other entrepreneurs do and just use mental math to think about the costs of doing business – and ultimately get themselves into a lot of trouble.

To start you need to understand that there are two kinds of costs, well there are more than two but, let’s start with the two big overlying arches of costs. There are explicit costs and implicit costs. Explicit costs are costs relating to money that is used to purchase your resources. That can be inventory, wages, works in progress, and even the packaging your products or service go into. They are probably the costs that you are the most familiar with because the money comes right out of your pocket.

The other category of cost that is a little sneakier to nail down is the implicit cost. An implicit costs is the cost associated with the opportunity either lost or gained in choosing how to use your resources. It’s also known as opportunity cost. Think of it as the cost of what you give up to gain something. It’s these two broad concepts that are at the hinge of every business decision you will make. You have to decide not only is the money your spending worth the resource you're spending it on but, what else could you spend that money on – could that money be best utilized in some other part of your business?

In answering the “what if” cost questions you have to break out your costs a little more to get a better understanding of how money is flowing out of your business. You do this by breaking your costs down into two major categories. I know another pair of terms but these are costs that you can put directly into the cost analysis worksheet that goes along with this post.

The first are variable costs.

Variable costs are costs that vary with your level of output or production. These are costs that are either growing or shrinking based on how busy you are. If you’re a restaurant owner it might be the produce you purchase that week and if you are a small service provider like an attorney it might be the amount of letter head you print. As you need more stuff to bring your product or service to market you need to spend a little more money. It’s crucial to keep track of these costs over time as they will not only help you keep your pricing competitive and profitable but they provide some insight on how your business is doing in the long term. You might be able to discover your busier times of the year or get some insight on how successful your advertising is for example.

To best track your variable expenses think about them in small groups. You don’t have to list every single purchase you have but think about the types of purchases you make regularly that may change over time. Are they office supplies, perishable food, wages, manufacturing costs, etc? Based on your level of activity you may even be able to negotiate lower costs per unit/purchase with your suppliers. Trying to discover ways to create strategic relationships with the people or businesses you buy from is a great way to keep those variable costs as low as possible and to protect that profit margin of yours.

The second type of costs to isolate are the fixed costs.

And, just like their name sake these are costs that remain relatively the same over time. These are the costs that you might not have input in and just have to pay as part of operating your business. They might be costs associated with rents, utilities, bank loans or notes, business or property taxes, mortgages, interest payments…I think you are getting the idea. Again these are costs will not change with your level of output. These types of costs are usually set by contract and can be revisited periodically.

If don’t have many fixed costs now I would encourage you to think carefully about the contracts or agreements you get into as you ramp up your business. Incurring overhead costs aren’t 100% avoidable but you can try to insulate yourself by doing your own due diligence and even just having open conversations with your providers about the type and stage of your business. Just like your variable costs, don’t lump them up into one number. Go through each month and pick out the groups of costs you are responsible to keep track of. It’s important to drill down a bit with these because you can revisit them periodically to negotiate rates and payment terms as you develop a history with your creditors.

When you add up all your variable costs and fixed costs you get to see your total costs. I encourage you to break these costs out over a monthly time span because that’s naturally when you’ll be paying for them and it’s a little easier to visualize how money is flowing in and out of your business. That monthly cost figure you arrive is called your cost of production and you can do a few neat things with it.

First you can divide it by say the number of hours you worked or the number of products you sold that month to get an idea of the average cost per unit. Remember, this isn’t how you should be directly pricing your product or service but it is a good idea to see how your costs are spread out over your business each month.

You can also use the worksheet. This worksheet is a great tool as not only does create a visual for your biggest cost drivers but it also maps it against a Pareto Curve. If you’ve ever heard of the 80-20 principle, this is the same guy. That curve is a guideline for efficiency. Guideline not a law and it might not always be appropriate for you.

It’s a starting point.

What this curve shows is where you might be able to find efficiencies in your costs. Costs that are consistently outside of this curve should be explored and attempted to be reduced. Now in some cases you might not be able to with say a rent cost if you are already signed into a year long lease but, that’s not to say you shouldn’t be thinking about a possible move or negotiation later on.

Use this worksheet along with your financial statements to develop as deep an understanding as possible in your costs. Keeping them as efficient as possible will help you keep you profitable in good economic times and even not so good economic times.

How To Keep Track Of Money In Your Business

When was the last time you really looked at your finances? It’s tax season right now so I’m sure you’ve been a little extra sensitive about where your money is coming from and where it’s going but, checking your online statements from the bank or credit processing company does not count. 

Better question – are you still on pace to make/earn/generate whatever income you quoted for yourself in those initial projections in <insert time of start here>? 

Are you tracking everything or is it more of a check book balance ballet? The checkbook balance ballet is a display of grace, creativity and checkbook ninja’ing that makes you proud that you made it to the end of another month, quarter or even week.  

Last question I promise, do you actually understand how QuickBooks works or are you just winging it? I would rather hear that you are keeping track of expenses in a raw unedited list of an Excel file instead of winging it through QuickBooks. 

One of my favorite things to hear about a business’ finances is when I hear owners and entrepreneurs tell me they are too busy to worry about the minutiae details of the finances and that as long as there is cash in the register they are doing OK. 

Those individuals couldn’t be any more wrong. 

This post is aimed at being your businesses minimum viable finance fundamentals crash course and it is going to teach you how to organize and what to look for in your Income Statements (Profit/Loss) and your Statements of Cash Flows. These steps and tips will help you plan better so that you are spending better (read: more efficiently). It’s also a good idea to know when your endeavor is hemorrhaging resources so that you can do some entrepreneurial triage and get yourself back on track. 

Cash Flow Statement  

A Cash Flow Statement (CFS) measures the amount of cash and cash equivalents that are coming in and going out of your business. A CFS literally follows the money. No, your bank account statements, check register, or receipt tapes are not CFS’s. All the information that those sources and sources like that provide should be housed in one easy to find and easy to read place. Remember it’s all liquid resources, no Accounts Receivable or Accounts Payable here – just cold hard cash (flow). 

Here’s what cash flow will look like. First it starts with your cash on hand for the period you are measuring like days, weeks, months, quarters, etc. Then you should break it out into three big sections. Cash flows from operations, finance activity, and asset activities. Within each one of those sections you will be listing the cash-ins then cash-outs and a subtotal for each section. (Positive cash flow implies more cash in than cash out which is a good thing most of the time.)  Lastly you tally the three sections add in your beginning of period cash and what you are left with is your cash at the end of the period all nice and tidy right?! Not always. Now that you have an idea of what the statement will look like let’s break out those sections. 


This is the cash that comes in or goes out that is directly related to the core business operations. The biggest cash-in you will probably encounter is the income/revenue received from sales or services offered. After that common cash-outs will be stuff like: rent, utilities, payroll, and inventory. If the expenditure has anything to do with the core business operation and it was paid in cash it will be categorized under operations. 

Asset Activity (Economic Investment)

This is the cash flow activity surrounding bigger ticket items. These are things that would be categorized as plant, property or equipment. Let’s take a look at an example. Say you sold an old delivery van so that you could buy a new oven for your bakery. It would be a cash-in under Asset Activity for the sale of the delivery van and a cash-out for the purchase of the oven. If those were the only two transactions that period and you had cash left over you would have a positive cash balance in this section. 

Lastly is Finance Activity

This is the cash activity that relates to how you are using your money. If you took out a loan and have to make payments every month. That would be a cash-out. If you are an S-Corp or an LLC and you pay dividends or make disbursements to the shareholders that is a cash-out.  If you issued any stock or sold any bonds to raise money then those activities would be cash-ins. 

The goal for the CFS is to stack the information from period to period next to each other. You want to be able to look for trends, patterns, or things that are out of the ordinary. This will be able to help you find spots where you could potentially save money or give insight on where your money is going every month. One of the most popular things I hear from entrepreneurs is that they feel like they pour huge sums of money into their businesses and then look around and are unable to fathom where that money went. Your CFS will show you exactly where all that money went. 

Profit and Loss Statement/Income Statement  

An Income Statement or Profit and Loss Statement (P/L) is a financial statement that outlines your business’ revenue and measures it against your expenses. The goal is to find out how profitable your business is for that period and the periods to follow. It’s a crucial planning tool because it shows you exactly what your business is doing and whether or not you are sticking to the budgets you started your entrepreneurial adventure with. The P/L can also help you keep tabs on things like rates of product returns, and making sure that your costs to bring your product or service to market don’t get too out of control. This is different than the CFS because it takes your Accounts Receivables and Payables into consideration as well as a few other non-cash accounting measures like depreciation. 

There’s a little more involved with the P/L so let’s jump right into what goes into it. Then, we can talk a little more about how to use both of these statements to keep your business running like the well-oiled machine you thought it could be at the start. 

Net Sales

The net sales figure represents the amount of revenue or income generated by the business. The dollar figure recorded here is the total sales, less any product returns or sales discounts.  This is what you want to keep an eye on if you are starting to look at how fast your business is growing.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) 

This represents the costs directly associated with making or acquiring your products or services. Costs include materials purchased from suppliers used in the creation of your product, as well as any internal expenses directly expended. If you are a service based like a cleaning business costs might include the supplies used to get to the final deliverable. 

Gross profit

Gross profit comes from subtracting the cost of goods sold from net sales. It does not include any operating expenses or income taxes. Focusing on how much your Gross Profit is changing over time in its own amount as well as in relation to your Costs of Goods Sold can be important to follow. Financial goals can be to manage and maintain your gross profits as you scale your production up. 

Operating expenses

These are the everyday expenses incurred in the operation of your business. Some of these categories will even match some of the items in your CFS. In this sample, they are divided into two categories: fixed expenses and variable expenses. 

Payroll and Salary

These are the salaries, wages, and payroll plus bonuses and commissions paid to your staff. It’s for full time and part-time alike. 

General, Selling, and Administrative

This item is made up of all the direct and indirect selling expenses and the administrative expenses associated with being in business. These could be costs associated with advertising or marketing your products or services, travel, meals, equipment rental, and printing costs. It’s an umbrella for everything that’s not Operating, COGS, or Payroll.  
Rent: These are the fees incurred to rent or lease office or industrial space.

These include costs for internet, cable, heating, air conditioning, electricity, phone equipment rental, and phone usage used in connection with your business. 

Depreciation is an annual expense that takes into account the loss in value of equipment used in your business. Examples of equipment that may be subject to depreciation include copiers, computers, printers, and fax machines.
Miscellaneous Expenses

Expense items that do not fall into other categories or cannot be clearly associated with a particular product or function are considered to be other overhead costs. These types of expenses may include insurance, office supplies, or cleaning services. It is crucial that you outline each of these costs as sub-items below this heading. 
Total expenses

This is the summation of all expenses incurred in running your business. It does not include any taxes or interest expense on interest income if there is any.

<Take a breath> A little recap. 

If you are following along, you have outlined the quantity of sales that have come in. Then you subtract away the cost of making the sales to get to Gross Profit. Then you subtract away all the rest of the expenses and costs of doing business in general and that leaves you with another magic number – Net Income Before Taxes. This, like Gross Profit, is another place you want to keep an eye one. An example of something that you may encounter is your Gross Profit is increasing but your Net Income Before Taxes is staying the same or getting worse. Big Red Flag! When you see that it’s time to get back into those expenses and CFS for the period and investigate where all your potential profit is going. Ok, on we go…

Net Income Before Taxes

This number represents the amount of income earned by a business prior to paying income taxes.  I had to state it like this just for the sake of good form. 


This is the amount of income taxes you owe to the federal government and, if applicable, state and local government taxes. Pro Tip: Don’t sleep on your taxes. I’ve seen instances where the IRS can and will issue liens on bank accounts. That makes operating your business very tricky if you don’t have access to your accounts. It makes paying employees even trickier. Stay on top of your reporting or get some help with it. The IRS aren’t the bad guys (not all the time anyway) and they are willing to work with you but you have to have your act together. 

Net income

This is the amount of money the business has earned after all your expenses, interest payments and paying income taxes. This is wrongfully the first place a lot of businesses look to figure out the health of the business. Don’t let this be you. It’s also easy to see extra money and just put it in your pocket – also a bad idea. You have to evaluate the opportunity costs of using that Net Income in a variety of ways. Sure your pocket is one way but so is reinvestment, increasing the pay of your employees, paying down and debt more rapidly, or just saving it for a rainy day. 

Lastly if it’s negative then you definitely need to dig back into these financial statements and figure out where your resources are going as well as ways to increases those sales numbers at the top. I don’t want to spend too much more time in these statements though – think of this as a reawakening to your financial management responsibilities. Let’s get into some metrics you can use to gage the health of your business without worrying about flipping through each line item of each statement.

You may have noticed that there was no talk of the Balance Sheet. Not because you shouldn’t like or care for the balance sheet but because when you are in the trenches and trying to make changes on the fly you will need the most up to date information possible. You are going to want to keep an eye on the speed at which money is coming in and out of your situation. The Balance Sheet is more of a long term snapshot. Just like with the P/L and the CFS, there is a template for the Balance Sheet and some information on Balance Sheets in the Resource Section at the end of this book. 

On to the ratios. 

The two types of ratios that are really important for figuring where you stand and how to plan are efficiency ratios and liquidity ratios. How this is going to go is I will give you a brief description and then the ratio. The idea is that you start using these ratios to not only track your own progress but that of your industry. You can get some industry ratios from places like and others by doing simple searches in Google. 

Quick Ratio

Is a measure of a company’s ability to handle debt if it needed to, or its short term liquidity. The higher the ratio the more liquid the firm - which is a good thing. 
= Current Assets - Inventory/Current Liabilities
Debt to Equity Ratio 

This measures your leverage. It’s how much debt have you used to help your company grow. Having and managing debt can be a good or a bad thing depending on how you handle it. The important thing is keep track of what the ratio is doing over time as well how you servicing your debt. More debt might not always mean more growth. 
= Total Liabilities/Owners Equity 

Interest Coverage Ratio

This is an interesting one. In the planning process it’s easy to get caught up in showing that you can cover and debt that will be issued. It’s equally, if not more, important to make sure that you can cover the interest payments that go along with that debt. Here the rule is a ratio of 1 or more means you can service all your obligatory interest. 
= Operating Profit/Interest Payment

Collection Period

This ratio will help you keep track of how long it takes clients or customers to pay. The longer the period the more working capital you may need to support your business while waiting for payment. Remember efficient businesses don’t really use much extra cash. It can also help keep your payment policies tracked and enforced. 
= Ending Accounts Receivable/ Revenue per Day

Lastly ROA and ROE

Both of these ratios will help you get a sense of how much return you are getting out of your Assets (A) and your Owners Equity (E). As you keep track of this you will be able to see how capital expenditures are affecting your bottom line or if you are really using everything you have to it’s best potential. Having the money to buy stuff is great but buying stuff alone is not going to make you money. You need to manage the stuff and the people in charge of that stuff appropriately. 
= Net Profits/Assets and Net Profits or/Owner's Equity

Now this is not the conclusive list. These are a few key ratios you should start with when you are snapping out of the entrepreneurial honeymoon. From here it will help you to pick the spots in your financials that you want to focus on and work on to make stronger. These are some of the ratios that can help you see patterns for better or worse before the raw data might indicate. The statements these variables come from also vary in length and complexity. You need to keep on top of this so that you can confidently focus more time on doing the work that matters most to the people you serve. 

Otherwise, you might not be in business for as long as you planned. #moneymatters