Cash-strapped business owners can tell you their biggest, greatest, most-pressing need: cash. Right? Cash is essential. You've got to pay vendors, purchase inventory, handle the costs of overhead, invest in marketing, pay employees, maybe even pay yourself. Without cash, those are tough things to do.
But is cash the answer for a business that is struggling, either to make it (in general) or to make it to the next level, to make a profit, to increase the bottom line, to thrive rather than merely survive?
Seems like a simple answer.
But cash alone will not save a business, nor cause it to succeed. Small business owners need to possess not only a decent product, but the qualities required to take a product from embryonic brain state to action, production and ongoing sales. That's never an easy process. Before you go in search of more cash, take a look at the other keys to business success.
We'll assume you already have one—or many—and it's the premise behind your business. You're selling widgets or making doodads or providing some sort of doodad consultation or widget-fixing service to other businesses or consumers. You've got a product. Is it the right product?
No enterprise can exist for itself alone. It ministers to some great need, it performs some great service, not for itself, but for others... or failing therein, it ceases to be profitable and ceases to exist. – Calvin Coolidge
Your business without a market is merely a hobby. And the market "in general" won't do. You need a well-defined, understood, identifiable segment of the market at large. You need people who are not just interested in what you sell but who need it, who would have a very difficult time getting by without it, who depend on your product or service to make their own lives and businesses run. If you don't know who those people are, or if you can't find them, or if they simply don't exist, then your problem is much deeper than cash flow.
The absolute fundamental aim is to make money out of satisfying customers. – John Egan
If your target market truly wants and/or needs what you sell, then you have your demand. Be aware of latent demand, as well; in many cases, it can be more powerful than its obvious counterpart. If you have the shrewdness to find, identify and pull out that latent demand, then you can proceed to show your target market how your business meets that demand.
The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed. – Henry Ford
You can talk great ideas, new products, new service levels, new formulas, all day long. There's a need for research, for brainstorming, for talking and for generating ideas. But at some point, sooner rather than later, you have to settle on one idea (at a time) and go with it. Act on it. Make it happen.
But good decisions must be followed through with action. Without action, a good decision becomes meaningless. – William Clement Stone
5. Continuity of purpose
It would be easier to simply say "purpose" here, but that doesn't quite capture the point. It's easy enough to have a purpose; in fact, it's too easy to develop multiple purposes which muddle your business priorities and leave you chasing one thing after another, giving none of them time, energy or effort enough to fully develop.
...spasmodic, disconnected attempts, without concentration, uncontrolled by any fixed idea, will never bring success. – Orison Swett Marden
An idea half-done is no better than an idea undone. Your execution of ideas doesn't have to be perfect, but it does need to go all the way from beginning to end in order to profit your business. Profit. Catch that? That word, as you know, is related to cash. How much better to take your business ideas from Point A to the point of completion, where they can generate profit for your business, than to spend your energy on scraping in more cash from other sources?
Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion. – Thomas Hardy
In many cases, another influx of cash would simply enable you to keep leading your business haphazardly, rather than dealing with the real problems and plugging in the real keys to business success. If you find your business in constant need of another cash infusion from outside sources, stop and look at your business—and your leadership—and figure out what else your business needs first.
Annie Mueller is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. She covers small business topics with a focus on lean/zero budget start-ups, business blogging, and simple (sane) ways business can use social media without selling their souls to Facebook. Her work can be seen online at Investopedia's Financial Edge blog, Young Entrepreneur, Wise Bread, Organic Authority, Modern Mom, and her own site, AnnieMueller.com. Find her on Twitter: @AnnieMueller.