I have been mentoring a few small business owners for the past few years; some from startup. What a joyful journey! Coupling this with 32 years business experience mainly in executive positions gives me great insights. It is unimportant that I worked mainly in a large multinational business in many countries because the issues are similar. However, I think there are three particular areas a small business owner should check regularly beyond routine management of the business. And a new year is a perfect time to do it.
As a small business owner you have the joy of being your own boss; but this brings responsibility for the entire business. Unless you pause regularly to examine how you are doing, you can burn out emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and financially. And this happens gradually.
I will examine these three areas briefly:
- Emotional tank
- Debt to equity ratio
At the start of the business, often you are alone doing almost everything. You might have a primary job and are waiting for more security to go full-time in your business. Either way, you are likely to be working long hours, probably don’t have a business plan or budget, and so don’t have a road map of where the business might be headed.
A former colleague would say, “the future is not what it used to be.” To be sure, God alone knows the future; that’s why you are surprized regularly. You need to realize that changing economic and business conditions is normal, and you need to be constantly alert and pre-emptive as you decide issues in the business.
Running a business can cause your stress level to hike; I see this often with young business owners. What’s more, your business might be growing faster than you expect and you are scared to take the next step. That too, is normal.
There is good news! Everybody has 24 hours daily—that will never change. As well, your emotional tank is limited—so you must choose your priorities daily. Armed with these two unchanging facts, you have a simple decision. Will you trust the Lord to give you what you need to do His work at proper times? This is difficult to implement but simple to understand.
In 2 Peter 1:3, Apostle Peter tells us His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. And Matthew 11:18 assures us Jesus will give us rest when we are burdened.
Start the new year by asking the Lord to empty you of you and fill your emotional tank with Him.
However, it’s important you are doing His mission. Your business’ mission is its purpose. Are you doing what the Lord showed you to do? Are you doing what you set out to do? Or are you allowing the market to lead you where prices are “good” and “margins” are high.
Never decide solely on money. That will always produce a temporary fix, or major problems. Decisions must have substance. If your products or services do not have a sustainable competitive advantage surely you will chase prices and margins in the short-term and appear successful, but that’s not a proper base for your business.
Ensure you are following the mission and not chasing money for temporary gains. Apple, Microsoft, Starbucks, and Southwest Airlines are businesses that know they need sustainable competitive advantage. They know chasing prices short-term doesn’t fix structural issues. And they know they can’t stand still on today’s gains.
Debt to Equity
A creeping debt to equity ratio is a sign I see in small businesses that follow short-term fixes. As a small business owner you must be alert to funding needs; you need to understand you must collect receivables, minimize inventories, and pay suppliers on time. Poor working capital management shows up in rising debt. And unexpected debt is never welcome especially when you should be seizing growth opportunities.
As you start a new year, fill your emotional tank with the Lord, ensure you are on His mission, and avoid debt.
© Copyright 2014, Michel A. Bell
Michel A. Bell is an author of five books, speaker, founder and president of Managing God’s Money, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. For information on living a debt free lifestyle, visit http://www.managinggodsmoney.com/.
*First published on Managing God's Money blog on December 24th, 2014.