Today I’m talking about two mistakes that are really easy to make in the exciting early days of starting a business.
To do this, I’m going back over a decade to when I was just starting Prairie Girl Bakery in 2010.
This was soon after I left a job in financial services and I’d recently received an inheritance from my parents’ estate. My husband, Andrew, himself continuing to work in financial services, really encouraged me to “go for it” with my new business.
Against that backdrop, I started the business with great excitement and a mindset of here is my available amount of money instead of how little can I spend?
There are certainly benefits to taking the view that one needs to spend money to make money, for example:
- With enthusiasm backed by cash, the results are often beautiful, comprehensive and spectacular;
- Your business will stand out from the crowd;
- Having a generous spirit instead of always negotiating to spend less helps develop strong and lasting relationships with suppliers, customers and employees;
- There is a sense of excitement in a business that is building and creating new stuff, not cutting back and always on worry-mode.
But there is also lots to be said for a good dose of frugality.
Eventually a business – even Uber and Amazon!- must:
(1) repay the capital used to start the business; and
(2) have revenue less expenses that leaves an industry-appropriate profit margin.
A budding entrepreneur is well-advised to reflect on these two issues early. No matter how slowly or quickly you want to be repaid your initial investment, and regardless of your profit margin goals, every business owner will someday have to turn her attention to the bottom line.
Because of its immediate popularity, PGB was profitable from Day 1, and by the pandemic, we had profitably grown to five stores with more expansion planned. So I am really proud of that, and I have no regrets.
But my personal reflections over the last year have helped me see that I could have been more budget-minded in the initial capital investment and I could have put in place an immediate process to monitor revenue and expenses as the business rapidly expanded.
There are many books and blogs on these topics; the challenge is not how to get the advice but rather to know to seek it out early, to not get a little distracted by the shiny baubles that are so fun, like the menu, the flavours, the logo, the packaging, the ads, Valentine’s Day…
Are these fun factors and topics important?
Is it often possible to do things more cheaply than you think at first?
Right now, with my new business idea, Sticky, I am feverishly perfecting my sticky bun and working on the packaging, the website, the brand, all the things. And these pursuits are SO FUN for me.
But I am also thinking long and hard on the exact amount I want to spend for my initial investment and the best approach for daily financial analysis.