Every home office business owner must learn to practice the phrase, “We’re having cash flow problems right now” with as much sincerity as they can muster. Not to ward off Revenue Canada auditors or vampire-like vendors, but simply to keep your teen-aged children, spouse, and in-laws at bay. Because they, as you will eventually discover, are the real cause of your cash flow problems.
Fortunately for you, the term “cash flow problems” is one of those nebulous, “is-this-person-speaking-to-me-in-English?” sort of phrases that most of your loved ones won’t understand or question you on. Their eyes will simply glaze over as they panic at the thought of an impending lecture about accounting practices that, lord knows, will end up in a diatribe about how the Dewey Decimal system correlates to the zero-sum budget practices of early Lithuanian garment makers.
The term cash flow, incidentally, was first coined (pun not only intended, but labored over for hours) by a Canadian, one Nestor Rebonsky, who discovered that if you crafted a small sailboat out of a fifty dollar bill and placed it on a fast flowing stream, or inside your toilet, your cash would indeed flow away, never to be seen again.
It was from this seemingly simple observation that Rebonsky, with Isaac Newton-like inspiration, realized that for our economic system to work, cash must always be in a constant state of motion, lest your in-laws will inherit everything you have earned. And if not your in-laws, then the fine folks at Revenue Canada. This constant state of motion ensures that not only will you never actually get to see any of your own money, but that really, like a log jam in a mighty river, you’re just getting in the way of things.
Here’s how it all works. You, as the owner/manager/big cheese-head of Home Office Inc., must create a service or product that “others” will wish to pay you for (important note: if you watch late night infomercials you will soon discover that creating a product of any real value to society is entirely optional). At first these “others” will be family members and close friends, until they start to stay away from you, at which time you need to market to a wider sphere, such as parents of your children’s friends.
This is where your cash flow challenges begin, because you’ll need a marketing budget, which, based on sample budgets for companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike, will cost tens of millions of dollars. The problem is (and this is what economists call a “really, really, big cash flow problem,” or “the mother of all cash flow problems”) that the product you sell at $1.14 a piece for a net profit of $0.03 cents a piece, isn’t going to bring in the kind of cash you need to flow into your marketing budget, thus creating a large vacuum vortex sort of phenomenon one might find in the middle of a tornado.
Not to panic. This is where the oh-so-supportive-of-small-businesses financial institutions come in handy. They will gladly extend what is know as a “line of credit” that will help ease your cash flow problems. The line of credit is a similar device to what fishermen use when they let out more fishing line in the hopes of luring in a big one.
Your line of credit will offer up the wonderful illusion that you are now a multimillionaire, even though you haven’t made your first sale. This will in turn allow you to expand your office into other people’s home offices across four provinces and one small Caribbean island (please see my article on “tax shelters and huts”).
Once the money begins to flow in from the unlikeliest of sources (including revenue from recycled bottles, garage sales, and garnering wages off your teenager’s allowance), you will immediately watch the money flow out of you hands, thus ensuring that the entire system is functioning as it should be.
Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Shouldn’t I save some of this money for the future as insurance, or for my kid’s education, or for things like food and clothing?” This notion of saving your money would not only dam the flow, it would cause certain tax collectors to think, “Clearly you don’t need the money you’re making, so we’ll just siphon off all your earnings for the use of society and for our next barbecue.”
This is why you must make like an eddy in a stream, and reinvest your cash back into your own business. No one, after all, likes to see money just sitting around, lazily building up interest when it should be out getting a real job and a haircut.
Which brings us full circle, back to the kids and in-laws. When they come for your money and the cash flow line offers only a temporary reprieve, then fall back on the always reliable line: “I’d love to help out, but I’m reinvesting all my money so I can make even more money so that one day I can retire and move far, far away from you.”
Copyright Michael Kerr. Michael Kerr is a Hall of Fame international business speaker, very funny motivational speaker, trainer, and author of six books, including Inspiring Workplaces and The Humor Advantage: Why Some Businesses Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank. www.HumoratWork.com
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