Category Archives: finances

Lemonade Stand

So, you have a great product idea.  You decide you want to make your millions on this product. Can you really make millions on this product?

My last post was about planning with the end in mind.  I’ve recently sat down with a freelancer, and two small businesses to discuss job costing.  I know that finance is scary, but think about your first entrepreneurial venture, the lemonade stand.  You borrow money from your parents, you mix up your lemonade, you set up a table in the front yard and then you get to work in the hopes that you can pay mom back, and buy yourself a new toy.

So, your end goal is that new toy.  It’s $10.  You borrowed $10 from your parents to buy supplies (they wanted you to earn the toy, rather than give you money for the toy directly).  It’s pretty simple math.  You need to sell enough lemonade to pay your parent’s back and buy the toy.  End goal, clear $20. Simple enough.

Other things to factor in.  Other lemonade stands in the area.  You need to price your goods competitively.  Then there is the actual cost of goods sold.  Ingredients, cups, a sign, and maybe some decorations for your front yard set up.  If you are lucky,  You can scavenge around for the decorations, and make the sign yourself.  You are down to cups and ingredients, and you have $10.

Around the corner, your neighbor is selling lemonade for $0.50 a cup and they are making it from a mix.  If you go with a mix,  You can’t really sell your lemonade for more. You could use better ingredients (although more costly) to raise the price.

Most small businesses, end up running right out to the store with $10 and buy the ingredients for their lemonade.  They get the nice cups, they get the organic ingredients, they make a glorious signage, they sit out at the curb, and sell lemonade until they have exhausted their supplies and themselves.  If they are disciplined, they spend their earnings from the day on more supplies and they show up the next day with more lemonade.

Does that define success?  Not really.  Your goal was to make money.  At some point you have to make money off the cups of lemonade, not just get more supplies for lemonade.  You want to make enough money to pay off what ever start up costs you had.  You want to pay off any loans you took out to open your lemonade stand.  You want to pay yourself for your time spent running the lemonade stand (at least minimum wage).

Plan with the end in mind

I recently gave a small talk about what I do at a business lunch. When people see that I am a Quickbooks Advisor, they automatically label me as a bookkeeper. By trade I am a project manager. In my 10 years of project management experience, I have found that the reason that most project fail is because of money, or lack thereof.

During my last 5 years at my old job, I was fortunate to apprentice with an a Fiscal Monitor. We would go on site visits with contractors and go over their books. Tracking grant money from our office, to their office, through the project. It changed the way I looked at projects. When I was thinking about leaving my government job. A friend told me that I should get Quickbooks Certified. It would up my game as a project manager. She was right.

My first Quickbooks install was for my own small business.  I planned with the end in mind.  At the end of the day, the end goal of a project is to make money.  I decided how I wanted to track my income, my expenses, reimbursable purchases, etc. I could track who owed me money.  I could easily run reports to see how much money I made in a month (or how much money I needed to make to pay my rent the next month).  I had actual numbers to support estimates for clients.  Then, when I sold my business a month ago, I had realistic information for the new owner on her sales projections.

I’ve been able to take a more holistic approach to finance than many of my peers because of my experience as a project manager and my time conducting contractor audits.  Most accountants and bookkeepers don’t have field experience, or they choose to just see numbers as numbers.  When I take on a new client, I let them know that I will be as invasive as they want me to be.  I can be just a numbers girl, or I can make sure that they make as money as possible.

Time is money

Time is money guys.  There’s the time it takes for me to work on things, the time it takes to meet with a client on things, and the time I could have been working on other things. There is also the time spent thinking about client things when I should be relaxing (I call that failure to unplug)

Lately, managing my time is like a cross between Tetris and Jenga.  Tetris, as I attempt to fit all of the client meetings and other work things into my already crazy google calendar.  Jenga, as I get cancellations and requests for rescheduling.  It’s great when I have enough notice, and I can reschedule something in that empty space, but most of the time, moving all the stuff around on short notice leads to an upset  in the system and I don’t end up with enough billable hours for the month.

One work around for this is to charge a cancellation fee based on when the cancellation was made.  The closer the cancellation to the appointment, the more the business may charge.  Right now, we happen to be in the thick of flu season.  Do I charge the two clients that cancelled?  One notified me a day in advance, the other missed her appointment completely.  Does it mean anything if this is the second time I’ve had to reschedule for the client cancelling in advance?