Just to break from the usual property information as I did one blog ago, let’s talk about business and life.
Overtrading is not a well-known word for most people although, like Gearing, we often use it. It’s roots are in financial management so as bankers, we use it a lot. It applies to the tendency of a successful business to ramp up its turnover because it can and then fall over on cashflow. The reason is that increased turnover looks really good but increased debtors, stock and human resources bring about funding requirements that deplete facilities, and employees that require more cost and management focus. As a business partner of mine has explained often: “Businesses fail for two reasons, failure itself and success”.
The trick with business is to stage turnover increases according to available funds. In that way, you can bank an increase and then begin the process again once the stock and debtors have caught up. This staging enables the business to suss out the efficacy of the growth – is it fast enough, are our new debtors paying on time, are our stock suppliers happy and ready to support us with improved credit terms? There is so much to be said for staging increases in turnover. Perhaps the most important is facilities. Banks do not enjoy overtrading, but they love cashflow [sometimes even more than profits]. You can arrange facilities in advance of, and more than, what is required. Having financial capacity from your own bank can avoid bad mistakes like having to pay investors in your business high interest rates because they know you need the money, and even worse, investors who demand shareholdings in the name of helping you grow. Such shareholding is very expensive in the long-run when a business is well-sold off the back of your hard work. It’s good to grow; it’s better to grow in proportion to your own funding requirements and resources.
But then, there is the Overtrading that is less described as such. In fact, I use some license with the term when I apply it to your personal circumstances. How does this work and what do we normally call it? Perhaps the most important question is what is its long-term impact on you and those you care about?
I attended a Mens’ Retreat and came upon the term: “Always On” guy. Know one…….. or two or three? In the front of the class with the perpetual response: “Pick me!” Always ready to say Yes and not willing to say No. Otherwise, always thinking up the “next big thing” and going for it. Not just going for it but fundamentally believing that he or she really can do it together with all the other things. We call it “personal bandwidth” and we think it is infinite as long as we’re “going for it”. Distraction and lack of focus are not terms in our vocabulary. We are excited by the hunt and determined to win for reasons we best understand – because we can, gotta stop the competition, need to leave something for the kids, have to make people happy, grow while the opportunity is there, more money is better than less money and retire young. So many reasons and sometimes, just our own innate drive and desire to achieve.
If you recognise yourself somewhere in the description, here is some advice for you:
1. FOCUS: In his book, Essentialism, Greg McKeown quotes the poet, Mary Olivier when she asks:
“What is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
In a hard read, he continues to force the issue of being an Essentialist. In becoming so, you do that one thing. It’s big and it’s challenging but it is the thing you have decided to do often, to the exclusion of many other things. The result is clean, uncluttered, directed, relatively calm Focus and Execution. At the heart of his treatise is that “you choose to do” one thing, and are not driven by “you have to do” many things for many reasons.
It is unarguably sensible.
If you are a mere mortal like I am, the notion of “only one thing” may escape you. There is so much to do and so many opportunities to grasp that you become busy. Really busy! “Rat Race” often slips off the tongue for those trapped in “doing”. If you identify, then do yourself at least half a favour and begin to prioritise your activities. Simple questions like: What must I do? What would I like to do? What can I do whilst I delegate to another who I manage? What makes sense to prioritise given limited resources [including, my time]? All valid questions that redirect thinking and therefore actions. I sometimes speak of de-complicating my life – taking all the things I must do, comparing them with what I want to do, finding the overlaps and then settling down to do as many as possible over time. Simplifying life and time.
Allied to the above, is purpose. In defining it, a sense of purpose becomes the mirror against which every opportunity is reflected. I often think of it as the white barriers on either side of a horse racecourse. When I’m within my Purpose [read: personal life goal; the objective of my life; why I’m here…if you wish], I’m running on the track from the start line to the finish line. But if something comes along that demands my attention, I find myself, metaphorically speaking, over the barrier – you know, that area where the cars park and the catering tents are pitched. Definitely no distinct course of direction, lots of obstacles and distractions; bad going at best. Found yourself there? Out of purpose doing stuff you were not made for? I suggest to you, that the time you take to discover your purpose will save you years of your life “over the white barrier”.
4. TIME MANAGEMENT:
No good blog on personal overtrading would be replete without mentioning time management. Think of this: we have diaries that ding when we have an appointment, Suri and My Google which tell you when to leave and which way to go, anniversary/birthday/special day reminders, instant internet access to global sites, all in the palm of our hands. But, but, we can’t manage our time. Bottom line, you can’t blame the tool, you can’t blame others so you must be to blame; soree for you. Jack Welsh said: “Take control of our life or someone else will”. No truer word has been spoken. I listened to Cape Talk the other day and they were talking about Money vs Time. It was very interesting to hear the heart-warming stories about Time and how people had changed their lifestyle and income to have more of it. I heard no one call in to say, “Get a life, money is more than important!” However, truth is the majority of those I know de facto, choose Money. Manage your time, or your time will manage you.
Serious stuff, you may say. But really, just consider the consequences. Focus on everything is focussed on nothing. Something gives – your relationships, your health, your finances, your sense of wellbeing – something gives. In his book, First Things First, the late Stephen Covey talks about what’s Urgent vs what’s Important. When everything is urgent – dropping the kids at school, being up to date on your emails, social media – beware that you are not missing or missing out on what’s important. Often what’s important is long-term. Building character in your children is important and a mission-to-adulthood application. But nothing takes its place in the finished product. Is that email seriously more important than eyeballing your child when they come home from school!?
Failure comes in many forms. Sometimes you just fail and maybe it wasn’t you but the thing or project just wasn’t due to succeed. Other times, stretched on the “too much” rack, failure just drifts in and out as your focus reflects that of a happy bumble bee; flitting from one flower to the next in the hope that some pollen transfers. Success is Focus X Determination nine times out of ten. Be careful that you don’t really believe that if you do everything something will succeed – you may just be the reason why that is not the case. I’ll never forget that in my mind-map when I left the bank for entrepreneurship, I had 33 things to do. Of all of them, only 1 worked successfully for our benefit and we tried them all – do you have any idea how much work that took? Just think about it, are you the same?
Enough said. If you’re Overtrading in your business or personal space, think about it. If you continue, as most seem to do, realise the consequences. If you think you should reconsider, think about that and use one of the ways discussed above to re-focus on what you can do properly, what will give you maximum bang for your buck, and what demands your energy because you want to give it your all.
Homeloan Junction says to each of you: Strength to your Arm and much Success!
Yours in Property