how to grow a dept free business

How to Grow a Debt-Free Business

There’s a thing my former boss used to say to us during every single management meeting – if you are late, you didn’t start out on time. And he used to draw every further bit of wisdom from this point of reference. He could tell you war stories, that one. When he retired, he had never known a day of failure, in any way failure can be known. All his businesses were worth ten times what they were when he started them. He was a huge name in our small town. He was the Man, with his Rolls and his Rolex and the brandy and the cigar. He was old school, as old school as they come. That one sentence has stayed with me for longer than any of his other bits of wisdom have though.

If we were to translate this saying into actionable staying debt-free advice, this is how I see it would run. Because managing finances can arguably be the most difficult part of running and setting up a business. You may be sitting there believing that there is no way to stay out of debt, that you will need to hit that obstacle at some point – but the truth is, you can run your business debt-free if you make the right decisions in a timely manner. I.e. start out on time.

As a startup, you will be facing the arguably worst odds on the market – you will have limited funds for developing an MVP, and even less of a budget to market it. This is precisely why there are so few startups that have spent their entire existence debt-free. You may choose to go into debt willingly, take out a loan, and storm the market – or you may choose to go the other way. And start on time.

Plan, and then plan some more

You knew I was coming to this, right? Every business venture begins with the exact same thing – an idea. It can come to you in the dead of night, while you are waiting in line at Starbucks, while you are sitting on the toilet. The idea is a mere seedling, as you already know. Nurturing it will take a lot of time and water. You know I am now going to be talking about market research – and why doing it wrong is the equivalent of shooting yourself in the leg. If need be, do it all yourself, but invest three times as many hours into it than you think you’ll need to. Make sure you know every single angle, every market share, every market opening, every competitor, every marketing agency that works for every competitor. Knowledge is power, indeed, but knowledge is money, more importantly. Your time, before you start earning and burning, is nothing. It will only cost you. While you have it for free, invest it, and it will be worth it six months into the venture.

Mind the cash flow

The cash that pours in will be the lifeblood of your business. You need to know where every penny is at all times. I don’t actually mean that you need to know it, you need to have one person in charge of all the money, and that person needs to be top notch. Don’t think for a second that an accountant is an expense you can save on. A reliable accountant is the first splurge you need, it you want to call it a splurge. I can highly recommend the wonderful people at Accountant Online – they have been there for us even when I had zero time for them, and knowing there is a file in my email where all the money flow is kept track of has helped me sleep better. How you will organize the salaries, the invoices, and the income is up to you and the accountant – just make sure you don’t meddle too much, and let them do their work.

Know where you are spending

If you are to stay out of debt, you need to know where the money is going too. Make it a point never to be late with a payment, and stay out of the red. This is especially true of taxes. Remember Al Capone, and do them right. This is again where the accountant steps in – calculating taxes can be a complete pain, but if you know they are being handled properly, you can focus on the product. Stay on top of your invoices as well – pay on time, set up reminders if need be, and make sure you revise every contract, every invoice, and every single expense you have as often as you feel you need to. I’d say once a month is fine – and no, it’s not a waste of time. Keep an eye out for better suppliers, better marketing agencies, anyone you work with whom you can replace if you can find a better offer. Renegotiate your contracts, and stay on top of the cash flow.

Beg, borrow, steal

If you can help it, don’t borrow capital. If you have done step one correctly, you will not need to, so piling a bunch of interest onto your startup’s back is not the way you will ever need to go. It may at a time seem a like a good idea – if you borrow money now, you can grow faster, which will help you earn more money. You can sacrifice the speed of growth for a sound growth though. Even though no one seems to do so in today’s business world. Scaling your growth is another one of those secrets to success no one talks about anymore. But the trick is, outgrowing your limits too soon can be like shooting yourself in the other leg. Which is why you should stick to the plan from step one, and get there on time.

This is a guest post by Michael Deane