Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The funk.

Someone told me early in my career that I took the ups and downs of business too seriously.

How could I not?

Is it possible I'm still around because I do?

Anyway, over the years, I finally did learn to leave work concerns at work. Once I'm away from the physical presence of the store, I'm good. I learned not to work past posted hours, usually. Get it done at work, or leave it for another day. And I have found ways to work through my angst, as well to tone down my glee.

Still, it always surprises me how much stress I'll feel if business is slow.

Here's the thing, the slowness of the last ten days means that I've lost a few thousand dollars off the top, that is off the profit part. But I still have made a few thousand dollars in profit, nevertheless.

The difference is in expectation. I was probably being unrealistic to think I could get through this with no pain. Just because I saw it coming.

And as I've mentioned before, this is nothing compared to the past.

In the old days, the difference may have been delayed bills, or bounced checks, or borrowing off the credit cards. Now, it's not setting aside as much money as I wanted. In some ways, it's good that I find the setting aside of money to be an imperative. In the old days, I would've felt that was money to spend on the store.

Thing is -- it feels the same. And it shouldn't. I should be able to just shrug it off. "O.K., Dunc. You didn't make a couple thousand in profits this week, you only made a thousand. But you still earned a profit..."

What I've noticed is, if business starts off strong, then the day goes pretty smoothly, no matter the end result. Whereas, if business starts off slow I get in more and more of a funk, even though I might end up with good business at the end of the day.

I've learned to try to work through that funk. Get busy doing something else, engage in conversation with a friend. Quit thinking about it.

But the last ten days were so slow, that the funk sort of settled in -- thus the obsession that Blackdog points to.

So I worked out the details of my August budget, and I'm going to try to get back the money I thought I was going to make in July next month instead. I was hoping to get my IRA contribution out of the way, but I'm only halfway there, dammit.

But actually making plans to deal with it has helped.


Duncan McGeary said...

Obsessive Alert!

At the risk of revealing my obsessiveness, I shall continue. Some of you may start a business some day and can learn from my mistakes.

Thing is, the total sales at the end of 21 days was at exactly the level I expected before the month started. It's down about 20% from last year, the same as it been almost every month. I had planned for a good profit based on that total.

Why the funk?

Because the first ten days of this month were HUGE. Way outperforming the average. I negotiated with myself.

"Look, if you do your original average the rest of the way, you'll still be way above your estimate. And I really need this product...."

So, as usual, I spent it. It's the same mistake I make over and over again.

Instead of doing average the rest of the month, I dropped an almost exact amount below the average in the next ten days as I had done above the average for the first ten days. Canceling it out.

But I had spent the money.

Good stuff coming in today, from three different suppliers.

Phil quitting on me may have been a good thing. I'll save one third the shortfall just by not having an employee.

The other two thirds of the shortfall I can make up by rejiggering the August budget.

I would hope that if I have a HUGE first ten days of August, I won't get fooled this time.

Just call me Wiley Coyote.

Duncan McGeary said...

One last thing.

Technically, I didn't lose the profit at all. I put it into inventory. At least the IRS thinks it's profit, and I have to pay taxes on the inventory increase.

But I'm really wanting cash profits, right now.

Meanwhile, though, it makes the store even better making it more likely I'll make future profits and so on....

But that wasn't my goal.

RDC said...

The nationwide small business survey indicated that most saw shrinking business and only 13% were planning on add staff. Not a good sign at all. Especially since small business is normally the key driver for job expansion.

blackdog said...

Dunc, when I mentioned your obsessiveness about the minutiae of your business I was not complaining about being bored -- after all, it's not your job to keep me entertained -- but expressing a sincere concern about your physical and mental well-being. All work and no play and all that. I don't want to find out sometime in January or February that Pegasus Books has become Bend's version of the Overlook Hotel. (Just kidding.)

Duncan McGeary said...

All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy...

All work...

Oh, it's O.K. I've always been this way. Actually, I've improved. Now I'm only this way when I'm actually at work.

Jeff said...

"Someone told me early in my career that I took the ups and downs of business too seriously."

Only the paranoid survive ... long live the paranoid!

jared said...

Dunc, I suggested "A Canticle for Lebowitz" to my buddy Joe after I finished (per your suggestion). He loved it so much, he did a post on his book review site.

Joe is a 26 and a small business owner in downtown nampa idaho. I will also say that he is one of my favorite people. So maybe take a look at his blog if you get time.