You know what needs to go. I'm referring to the small business with the blind spot on their balance sheet or income statement. Most stores have a blind spot. Maybe it's an employee. Perhaps it's a luxury you think you can't do without. Perhaps you refuse to properly manage inventory because you're afraid of disappointing customers. For successful stores, who have conquered all the big problems, it's often owner compensation.
Some blind spots are a refusal to admit you are defeated. Rent that's far too high is often a sign you're doomed, as it's usually non negotiable. If you've got a bad lease, you may be sunk, spending your time re-arranging the deck chairs in hopes to slow the intake of water on the lower decks. As Dave Wallace lectures, when he attempts to acquire stores, the only deal breaker, the only unfixable thing, is a bad lease. If you're in this situation, you may be trying to wait it out, although it's possible to re-negotiate a lease. Everything is negotiable all the time. If this is you, bring your broken financials to your landlord and lay it out before it's too late. I did this during the recession and got a steep reduction with no increases for the lease term.
Debt is also one of those things you may be trying to wait out. I'm in that situation after a big expansion. As long as you can proceed slowly and it's not getting worse, you're not going further into debt, it's the bed you've made and you've got to lay in it. Debt can be re-negotiated as well though, as in restructuring it to kick the can down the road and smooth it out. It's a logical thing to do if you're against the wall. I did a little of that earlier in the year.
Staff is a hard one because you've invested in people and through no fault of your own, you can't afford them. It may also mean regressing in your personal lifestyle. You may need to work an extra day a week or take a pay cut to get things back in balance. You may need to stop expensing your personal life through your business. This is often the necessary strategy when sales take a steep downturn. The economy is strong in most places, but it won't always be. Rolling up your sleeves is something to consider and plan for, as a contingency. If you have employees, know who can cover what areas, and make sure staff are cross trained.
What I see are elaborate plans to avoid obvious imbalances. Any experienced small business owner in your field can look at your income statement and point out your obvious problems. It doesn't take an expert, an accountant or a broker to point out you're off course. So why is it so hard for many of us to do the same? The good news is when I see a bad income statement, I see profit. I don't see terminal mismanagement, I often see what's known as SDE, or Seller's Discretionary Earnings, all the dumb things you do that I would change to equal profitability. If you think you're in trouble, if you want to sell or restructure, maybe take a look at your SDE, take a deep breath and do the hard work of fixing your business. You go first.
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