Running Out of Money, Running Out of Time

I have never met a small business owner who hasn’t experienced running out of money, running out of time. I have experienced it myself, off and on, countless times in the past 28 years of my business. There is nothing quite like it.

You do see the point I’m making here, don’t you? That the two parts of this phrase — running out of money, running out of time — are not necessarily objectively true, but they are subjectively true, connected to the emotional hip like a whale to his blubber.

When you feel like you’re running out of money, you always feel like you’re running out of time.

It hits you, depending upon your emotional constitution. It is like a shiver of fear running through your body, so fast you have no time to adjust to it. It always comes when you least expect it, even though you’ve been living in silent, unexpressed dread of it — when a job is about through, and the payroll needs to be met, or a supplier comes to collect, and you haven’t received your check yet from the customer. It begins very quietly as a question which you don’t dare ask — is he going to pay me? — and rumbles along inside of you in its insidious, nasty, running-out- of-money, running-out-of-time way. It is a feeling like nothing else in the life span of being in business, on your own, no one to turn to, not knowing what to do about it, peculiarly your own problem, as the owner, as the one who’s got to pay, as the one who’s got to get paid, as the one who everyone else is depending upon!

No matter how long you’ve been in business, running out of money, running out of time is something no one ever shares with anyone else. No business owner dares share with the rest of the family. No employer ever dares to share with the employee. No one dares to share with his or her supplier or the bank or the friend you have coffee with every morning. No way, not me, not this one, this is too harsh and too scary. This one is the one I’ve got to go to bed with on my own and get it handled. I’ll get the sucker handled, won’t I? I’ve got to. There’s no other way. Is there?

But, running-out-of-money-running-out-of-time is not an event, it’s a continuous experience. It’s what goes on all the time in every small business. It’s a way of life. A way of life that no one in his right mind would commit himself to. But, we do it anyway. And that’s about all there is to that story; we just do.

And the business goes on, and we go on, and running out of time, running out of money is simply one part of it, one part of having made the decision, one part of stepping up to the plate, eyeing the ball, and swinging with everything you’ve got to hit it over the fence, or strike out. Whatever, there’s always another ball, there’s always another time at bat, there’s always another day.

So, then what?

Now that you’ve felt what it feels like, you’ve really let yourself feel it, knowing deep down in your heart of hearts that it’s a lousy way to live. That living like that doesn’t have to be a part of your day-to-day experience, then what?

You decide you aren’t going to do it anymore. You decide that running out of money and running out of time are absolutely, unquestionably the worst idea you ever had. And, you’re absolutely unquestionably going to do something about it.

In the meantime, keep doing what you’re doing at your own risk.