This week has given me cause to ruminate on a bunch of financial things that relate to my entrepreneurial journey, and why my current position is a lot different to any that I have held previously.
This past week, I sent my first invoice with interest included, with a demand for immediate payment. I have a gut feeling that I’m not going to get it, and that the debt will go to a debt collection agency in just over thirty days’ time. I am perfectly okay with that.
Sorry (not sorry). I am not a volunteer.
This past week I gained two agreements to my customer contract by email, from people who didn’t sign the contract itself. That’s ok, I have your agreement in writing. I couldn’t care less if you ummm and ahhh about it. The point is, that contract sets some clear expectations.
Sorry (not sorry). This is my livelihood, and your signature indicates your respect of that.
This past week, every invoice I issued fell due. All but one of them are still outstanding, and nobody has contacted me to advise when payment will come through. That’s ok, I’ll send reminders on Monday. I am gently persistent, like a tide that doesn’t want you to go back to the beach.
Sorry (not sorry). If your cashflow is a problem, then it’s one that is not mine. If you have a system of payment dates, tell me because we can totally work in sync.
In this current business experiment, I will not apologise for doing whatever I need to do in order to keep my company afloat.
Once upon a time, I strongly believed that if I am nice to people, that they will reciprocate. In my past business ventures, I was not aggressive about financials; I did not have a set system, I assumed that if I paid things on time, other people will pay me on time.
It is not the case. Everybody, to a man, will pay an invoice late. Everybody, to a man, will insist on waiting until they get reminders to pay.
And, as a person whose company is in start-up phase (the first three years are properly start-up phase for any business), I can’t afford to wait to be paid.
We all know that having six months of money aside before you get into business is ideal. Well, you’re looking at a woman who has less than a month’s worth. I am in my mid-thirties, and my entire life changed at the age of 30 (I started from scratch). That godly pot of gold, of six-months-of-money-saved-from-working-in-a-nice-job-while-living-at-home-with-no-expenses is not a reality.
This doesn’t mean that I am not working to make it so. My financial distributions will make it so. But it takes time.
Currently, I am functioning on an almost non-existent margin. I regularly consider selling my car, and if I don’t get my money this week, I will be riding a bicycle into the foreseeable future. At least I have a bicycle.
Unlike a lot of entrepreneurs in the current space, I not only have hardly any margin, but I am a woman who carries a household. Our household is run on an arrears basis (that is, I keep things running, husband reimburses me every week for all household costs and vice versa).
In addition to working on my business, and keeping up my hobbies (easier now thanks to a year’s dance scholarship!) I make sure the bills are paid, the pantry stocked, the meals planned. I bake the most of the bread and all of the biscuits and cake that we consume. I am one frugal motherfucker. I do this for two people on about $300 per week, of which just under $200/week goes in rent.
So, when it comes to money, I am not sorry if I make my clientele uncomfortable by demanding payment. I learned that lesson the hard way. If my actions force other people to learn that lesson the hard way too, then we both win.
This all sounds really aggressive, I am aware. Perhaps I should put it another way. If I can’t pay my bills, people chase me aggressively. My power gets cut off, I can’t drive my car, there is no internet, there is no food.
Really, what’s the difference? Sorry, I’m not sorry about it.
It’s funny that even though I am realistically not in a position to piss people off because I might lose their business, I am not sorry about it. If they decide not to work with me because they don’t like being reminded of what they owe, they’re not the right clients to start with.
The calm reality of objectivity
The most Zen person in my life is my other half, whose wonderful perspective is: Money comes, money goes, there is always enough for everyone, even if right now it’s low it will pick up again. And when you get a lot, someone else will want to take it away from you. It’s just the way it is. So relax.
He’s right. He’s never run a business, has no interest in running a company, and is a fantastic rudder. His reminder is deeper than it looks. It says, if you do what you need to do, everything will be ok.
It’s that Buddhist lesson of detachment. If you think about it all the time, then you are attached, and attachment to things causes problems of all kinds. So… fuck it.
Lessons for you, if you’re an entrepreneur
As entrepreneurs we simply cannot rely on people being good to us. As good as your relationship with someone is, you can’t expect that they will pay you on time. You can’t expect that you will never have to put consequences in place. And you can’t expect that if you don’t have a framework for those consequences, that anybody is going to care when you are crying about being broke.
You need to get off your arse and take action. Sometimes you can only do that when you lose your attachment to it. Getting depressed won’t help you.
Also, sometimes you need to wait and let life teach you. It’s funny, what five years and a total change of life will give you. In my case, it’s the realisation that I am important, and that my business is important. And I am sorry (not sorry) if other people don’t like it.