Productivity

Can’t pay your bills? Then why are you off chasing butterflies?

There’s nothing wrong with having new ideas for your business and chasing after them. But please be smart about it!

11 November 2015 by

In the past week I’ve had the same conversation with five different business owners, all of whom are struggling financially. They’re busy working on things that are new, speculative and might work somewhere down the line. But they can’t pay their rent today.

They’re ignoring their existing customers and the opportunities to make money that are right under their noses whilst on the elusive butterfly hunt, chasing new and exciting opportunities.

Sure, I understand the entrepreneur struggle; the need to follow your passion. I’ve been doing it all my life. Chasing butterflies is what we do – and rest assured I’ve been chasing butterflies for decades and I certainly intend to keep doing so for decades more. But I do it strategically, in a disciplined way and to my own set of rules.

And I certainly don’t chase them when I need to focus on paying the bills.

Before I go anywhere near a butterfly hunt my main priority is to ensure that I have my finger on the pulse with my existing work. This means making absolutely certain that I’m looking after my current clients, ensuring they are happy with the work I am delivering and the advice I am offering. I always ensure that I have enough work to cover all of my costs, including my salary for the next few months. I am actively developing business continually, even if it isn’t really the work I want to be doing in the future.

"Before I go anywhere near a butterfly hunt my main priority is to ensure that I have my finger on the pulse with my existing work."

If there is a cash flow blip on the radar (like those ones that happen when I have to lodge my BAS) I do something about it long before it’s due. I chase extra work, liaise with my clients to see if they have some new projects ready to start and I do whatever it takes to make sure that blip is well and truly under control ahead of time.

In other words I make absolutely certain my current business, the one that pays my rent, is totally rock solid before I start to chase butterflies. Once I am clear on this, and I know where I am at financially, I can allocate time to chasing butterflies. (Perhaps a nicer way to describe this is ‘allocating time to working on speculative and new projects’.)

It’s definitely not sexy is it?

I realise we’re all a bit seduced by the start-up dream of inventing a new app and being a billionaire by Friday. But trust me when I tell you that my approach, as boring as it is, gives you both the best chance of surviving in business AND for reaping the rewards that come when a highly speculative ‘butterfly’ hits pay dirt for you.

And it sure as hell beats the stress of looking at an empty back account and freaking out on a daily basis.

Can’t pay your bills but finding it hard to stop chasing off after butterflies?

Andrew Griffiths

has developed an international reputation as one of the leading global entrepreneurial authorities. His books and articles are considered street smart wisdom, designed to both inspire and challenge conventional thinking.

Comments

  • Andrew, I love your terminology here… ‘Chasing butterflies’ is the perfect name for it. Thank you for this great article, and the tough love you share in it. I know a few soloists who’ll appreciate your thoughts on this topic, and am looking forward to sharing the article with them. Love your work 😀

    • Haha – yep, chasing butterflies, a full time occupation for many soloists. It was for me for quite some time, then I had to pay the rent. Such a rude awakening!

  • Hi Andrew, This is such good advice on so many levels. I treat my core business as an asset and make sure it gets all the love it needs at least to stay on track, if not to thrive.

  • David Cleverly

    When things get tight for your small business, the first thing you do is look for new income streams and it could just be that new idea you had, or something you have been wanting to do for years. But, let’s face it, any new idea put in place even properly, is not going to assist financially four some time. Maybe 6 – 12 months. I produce video, which is a time-consuming product (conceptualising, planning, shooting and editing). If I try any new video idea, it is going to take me away from my current income stream for some time. And doing it in “dribs and drabs” is tiresome and you often lose momentum. When cashflow slows, my wife and I brainstorm new ideas, but we eventually conclude that it is better for me to attempt to make more money somehow from what I am already doing instead of chasing those darned butterflies that promise no return for some time.

    Keep your dreams alive, for sure, but don’t do so at the expense of current work/clients and their related possibilities.

    In fact, I have to say that, if we ever have cashflow issues nowadays, it is because somewhere “back there”, I neglected my current work/income somehow, for a little too long, to chase an idea I had.

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