Dealing with cashflow problems

InterBe is a transformative learning and development organisation and according to Director, Simon Daly, if businesses asked themselves this question, it could make all the difference to their financial wellbeing. He explained his rationale to Business Matters.

Our normal way of seeing the world is that we have to do things in a particular way in order to have the results we want and be the way we want to be (i.e. I need to work hard [the doing] to build a successful business [the having] so I can be happy and fulfilled [the being]. This view assumes the primary focus is on the “doing” and our “being” is merely an outcome of what we do.


The problem with this approach is that it leaves us at the mercy of circumstances – if our doing does not generate the results we want, we cannot have what we want and so we cannot be the way we want to be (happy/fulfilled/successful…).

But, when we place our being-ness at the heart of things, then what we need to do, in order to be congruent with our way of being, becomes obvious. Our being-ness shapes everything else that happens. So, we actively choose to be a certain way which causes us to have certain results and it becomes obvious to us what we need to do that is in line with our chosen way of being.

I realise all of this probably sounds a bit wishy washy and vague for a sensible business magazine like this so let me show you how this relates to cashflow.

Business conversations

What typically happens for SMEs when cashflow problems occur is this. The conversations about money become conversations about failure and survival. Business people may tell themselves things like “if we don’t get a grip on cashflow, we’ll go under”, “we won’t survive unless we can get people to pay their bills on time”, “as a small supplier, I’ve got no control over when people pay” and so on. If the owners of a business have a failure mindset around money, it generates a particular way of being, which is largely fear-based. The conversations about money are characterised by speaking about lack. There is very little creativity, inspiration or vision around the whole topic of money. The business goes into survival mode and each month it is a struggle to balance the books.

Money, life and death

As a society, we are accustomed to relating to money as a matter of life and death. Our language reflects this. We say “money makes the world go around”, “cash is king”, “when poverty comes in through the door, love flies out of the window”. Just look at the press coverage about Greece – without a cash bailout it won’t stay afloat – in other words it will drown! Money takes on such a high priority that people become completely fixed in the way they relate to it. There seems to be very little that can be done to change financial outcomes.

Stop digging

So, how can SMEs be different around money and, in so doing, transform their cashflow problems? Take a different attitude to money. Warren Buffett, the world’s greatest investor said: “if you’re in a hole, stop digging”. In other words, if you do the same as you’ve always done, you’ll get the same outcomes, so do something different. I would add to this, don’t just do something different but be something different, take a different perspective, have different conversations about money.

I recently worked with someone who had won a large public sector contract worth several hundred thousand pounds. The normal course of events is for a contract like this to be paid on completion but that would have created huge cashflow problems for the business in question. So, we spoke about how they could be different around that and how they could stand in a more empowered place. This way prompted them to have a number of conversations with the client which led to an agreement that the client would pay 30 per cent of the contract up front. The potential cashflow problem was resolved before it had occurred.

Transform your being

I coach hundreds of people in business, from Chief Executives to frontline staff. Money often comes up in the conversation. If your business is struggling to manage its cashflow, here are some questions you might like to consider that could transform your way of being:

  1. Take one particular financial challenge that you face – for example, it might be that you run out of money on the third week of every month. Regarding this challenge, what do you believe is possible for your business? (Not likely, or probable, or predictable but possible) What do you tell yourself about this? What’s your story (description) about this? What beliefs do you have? What conclusions do you draw?
  2. Can you see any links between your answers to these questions and what is happening?
  3. What are you committed to accomplishing in terms of your business’ financial performance?

Now look again at the situation you described and:

  1. Consider how you might be able to think differently about it and generate some alternative thoughts and beliefs. Write them down.
  2. How would you describe this new way of thinking about money? What characteristics would you embody if you were to be this way?
  3. If you were to be like this consistently in relation to money what outcomes could you anticipate? And, what do you think you might do differently if you were being this way?
  4. Now, go ahead and give this way of being a go and watch what happens.

InterBe is a transformative learning and development organisation that works with businesses across the UK. For more information visit