Financial Planning

Little (coffee) shop of horrors (part one): Numbers never lie

Did we mention we had a coffee shop – of sorts?  Yeah, we wanted people we met to be at ease and to share our fondness for constructive chats.  So we turned part of our somewhat oversized premises into a café.

It was a really cool idea and one that most certainly would have worked under a different set of circumstances.  Under the circumstances that governed our reality at the time though, we realised that in order to highlight our customer service culture, we had gone against other rules that we live by.  Diversification is good and creatively liberating etc but if it isn’t in line with your carefully laid plans and imperatives – shelve it for the moment.

Why did we do it?

We often talk about the fact that applying the timesheet to every facet of the business we have built is counterproductive.   Simply put, when you’re charging by the six minute increment, clients tend not to talk all that much.  Furthermore, understanding only part of their story as a result, limits the depth of service we can provide.  This is bad.

We felt like we needed to go further than getting rid of timesheets, doing good in the world and valuing our service based on the measure of satisfaction (tax savings) we provide.  “Alright then, let’s run our own café, so people really feel like we’re on their side and are committed to devoting time, effort and energy to what’s important to them.”  But there’s a fairly harsh saying that actually has some truth to it:

“the road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Two important definitions that applied to us, that may apply to you:

  • Good business - working at aspects of your business that you (and your accountant) agree are logical, profitable and efficient
  • Good intentions - as trying to run additional activities, based on a good idea, that are time-consuming, confusing and are eating into your profits.
So just do my job? Where’s the fun in that?!

Alright, you sound upset.  But we’re not saying, don’t step outside the box, don’t push the boundaries, don’t try new things.  The point is that if your heart and brain say something’s a good idea, let the numbers confirm that before you charge in.  

Numbers are great for double-checking theory, logic and feasibility.  Some of you may be thinking that adding a new and interesting wrinkle to your business that you can “learn as you go” will eventually pay for itself.  Good but first test that theory with an analysis of the numbers which should also include the time costs.  Not everything’s about dollars and cents.  

Keep in mind that your business should be a vehicle, an enabler of some of your life goals shared by both you and those most important to you.

To be continued…