I couldn’t wait to get back to my desk after visiting the dentist last night. I find inspiration in the oddest places. For me, it was the dentist chair this time. I’m not aware of anyone who thinks the dentist chair is a great place to sit, away from the commotion of the office, and ponder huge subjects. If you can, there is probably a medal you qualify for. For me, there is no way I could concentrate on life decisions while the whirls, whizzes, and scraping sounds of the hygienist echoed through my skull.
Nonetheless, inspiration struck while I sat in the chair. The cleaning hadn’t started yet, but my dentist has implemented a new procedure at the start of a visit. Believe it or not, I learned I had high blood pressure at the dentist. This was way outside the norm of a cleaning, but it did cause me to think about my overall health in the moment.
Truth is, elevated blood pressure in not a new condition for me. In fact, it has lingered around since my late teens. I believe every doctor since I was 18 has made a comment about it. I have all the poor lifestyle habits you would think about a person with high blood pressure but have always kept it under control with diet and exercise. After seeing the results, I knew I had let some important things slip.
This wasn’t the first time I had seen the results rise to this level. The last time was in the mid 2000’s as I was building my company. One of the prime contributing factors of high blood pressure is stress. I have had several stress inducing jobs in my life, but being a small business owner has to rank near the top. In this capacity, everybody around you depends on you to succeed. Your employees, their families, your vendors, customers, and their families all rely on you to make good decisions.
The last thing you want to do is to let them down. I took this responsibility very seriously, even at my own expense. Cash is the tether that keeps everything together. A company with a strong cash flow has a strong heavy (read healthy) bond. Whereas weak cash flow shows signs of underlying health problems in a company, much like my high blood pressure shows in my body.
In the mid 2000’s, I had over 100 employees that I paid every other week. If you ever want to know what stress feels like; try to think about looking your staff in the eye and telling them you can’t make payroll. That never happened to me, but there were several times I withheld my own and my wife’s paycheck to make sure everyone else got paid. There was the stress. The company survived, but life at home was shaky a few times. This was also the first time my blood pressure worried me.
After the second time of missing a personal paycheck, I made a lifestyle change in my business. I was determined to understand how cash moved through my company. I didn’t want to look on the calendar and wonder what the next pay cycle would bring. I devoured articles and books about managing cash, and committed to increasing the speed of cash coming in. The working capital cycle became my new passion.
Once I understood the relationship between my accounts receivable base and my payroll cycles, the world opened. I could see problems before they even existed and act faster. The “knowing sooner” part of the equation, helped relieve my stress about cash flow. Which in turn lowered my blood pressure. Ok, so did the change in diet and exercise. Maybe losing a few pounds helped too.
In my opinion, it was the stress that put me over the edge. The constant worrying about making payroll or being able to buy more inventory was a constant fear. The fear was all founded in not understanding my business. The simple act of knowing made all the difference. Since then it has been a passion of mine to share this simple concept with business owners. I even joined a firm with the mission of eliminating cash flow as a reason that businesses fail.
Yesterday, I had that same realization that stress had crept up on my again. The reasons are different this time, but the feeling and the results are the same. Managing your cash flow and managing your health go hand in hand. The stronger your cash flow, the healthier you and your company will be. It just took my dentist to remind me of this.