I've got a doozie of a dilemma and the only good thing that could come from it is that if it doesn't kill me, it should (hopefully!) make me and my organization stronger. I guess the best way to describe what I'm going through is to say I'm afflicted with the same gene entrepreneurs everywhere have: the eternal optimist gene. That's right, I'm always viewing the green grass that's right around the corner with our new product, new program, or new hire. Basically I live in the world of, "It can be, if only we can (fill in the blank here)." The challenge is that "if only we can" portion of my thinking. It usually requires something that is becoming exceedingly rare around here ... CASH.
Yep, the old Cash is King adage is very appropriate this year. Our top line sales are up, but our overhead is, too, and our gross profit margin is down. This has put me in the classic entrepreneurial dilemma of having too many great ideas -- and not enough money at my disposal to implement them.
Now if you wanted to be a pain in my arse -- or, in other words, my CFO -- you might ask, If my ideas are so great, why don't they produce enough money to pay for themselves? But since this blog post is less about ideas and more about how I've got to dig myself out of this hole, I'm not going to go there ... yet.
Knowing the dilemma I'm up against, my CFO recently gave me a very good but very scary book titled Me, Myself and Bob. Its author, Phil Vischer, is none other than the creator of the Veggie Tales franchise. For those of you who don't know about the meteoric rise and subsequent crash of Veggie Tales, here's all you need to know: Phil Vischer had a dream, he worked tirelessly to make it happen, he was lauded in Christian circles for his message-bearing children's videos, he wanted to become the Christian version of Walt Disney and built an organization around him to become just that -- only to see his empire crumble and his dreams along with it. Enjoyable reading huh?! It turns out Phil's eyes were too big for his stomach or more succinctly his pocket book. My CFO saw in Phil a kindred spirit to me and one I suspect is fairly universal in entrepreneurs everywhere. I want to go pedal-to-the-metal all the time. Bigger! Faster! More! The problem is, driving fast burns fuel, and have you checked out gas prices lately? Maybe with the economy booming or gas prices not being three dollars a barrel, a balls-to-the-wall mentality can succeed ... for awhile. But if there's one thing I have learned in business, it's this: If you want to be successful tomorrow, you better not plan on doing the same thing you did yesterday. Times change, the market changes, business changes, and if you want to survive, you need to change, too, which leads me to the point of this blog post: How the heck do you temper all the things that made your organization your organization and you you when you're faced with a cold bucket of water hitting you in the face during budget meetings?
As I write this, I am facing a 20-percent reduction in our budget going into a new year. Never before have I had to cut back on such a broad scale. Heck, I've never reduced year-over-year spending. Not even once! Now I'm making the choice to do it. How I arrived at this state, and the process I'm using to deal with it, is what this blog will be all about for a while. Where it leads and how deep I go has yet to be determined. What also is up for grabs is how my team, starting with my managers, will respond. And, of course, there's the little question of how I, The Pond Guy, will survive (and hopefully thrive) in a work environment that isn't all about go, go, go.
I shudder to think of it! My first task is to make sure my house is in order and my team is behind me. I'll let you know next time how it goes with my managers.