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Senior Correspondent

Financial Security: Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

Financial Freedom

Financial Security: Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

You’re in financial trouble. Your business isn’t growing as fast as you’d like. You’re spending more money on outsourcing bits and pieces and, when you add them up, they’re a bigger number than you thought. You’re a few months away from disaster.

You lie in bed at night wondering which will come first: a brilliant business-saving idea or the steamroller that threatens to flatten out the whole dream.

The Hamster Wheel

In the morning, you strap your entrepreneurial running shoes back on and jump on the hamster wheel. Within a few minutes, you’ve got it turning again.

Today you’ll run faster. Wiser. Take fewer water breaks. Maybe cut out a pee break or two. And you won’t take your mom’s or your friends’ phone calls … because (can’t they see?) you just don’t have time.

Damn, if you could just get your hamster wheel to turn faster …


Think about it. If you’re not getting where you want to go, does it make sense to amp up what you’re already doing?

Or does it make sense to see if the problem is the hamster wheel itself?

Your Plan B

What if you took the time to look carefully at your money, to see if you can find some relief somewhere?

Look at the numbers. Honestly, now. Look at the income. Look at the outflow.

Okay, for a moment, forget the income.

Examine the outflow relentlessly. List every expenditure you made in the past 30 days. Pull them from your online banking statements, from your credit card statements, all those recurring payments for programs and services you’ve signed up for … and maybe never used.

And don’t forget the cash receipts for any impulse purchases. Look at business expenses and personal expenses. (It’s so easy to commingle expenses in the early years of a business and they both affect what’s keeping you up nights.)

What are you spending on that is not needed NOW. What do you have in place “for when I make it big”? What services can you cut today that wouldn’t even be noticed, or that you can get on a smaller scale or cheaper until you do make it? What can you put on hold?

Then look at your life. What can you do without for a few months? Upgrades on cable service and other entertainment would be a good place to start. Gym memberships. Any niceties that you can freeze for a few months. Food treats that you “deserve” because you work so hard: out-of-the-house coffee, a $9 glass of wine here and there.

Strip back as much as you can without affecting your health or safety. It’s not forever. But get to a place where the distracting chatter in your head quiets because you have your income and outflow in balance … or much closer to balance.

Then your income.

Look at your hamster wheel. With a more focused eye, see where you might be putting your effort into less essential things.

Where are you staying on an ongoing learning path in order to avoid action?

What have you avoided doing because it makes you uncomfortable?

What activities are you doing because they’re fun, easy and you like them … but maybe they’re not moving your business forward? (Unfocused use of social media may be a first culprit.)

You Need a Plan

You need a clear structure of where you’ll focus your energy … and where you won’t.

So make a list of the most effective efforts you can undertake in the next 90 days. Set goals for them and then break each goal down into individual steps. Give priority to those that bring cash in quickly, to help take pressure off your budget. And keep things simple: small products and services you can offer right away instead of massive, complex, multi-part programs.

Then find yourself a 90-day calendar (online blank monthly calendars will do the trick, and they’re free). Write all the individual steps you identified on your 90-day calendar in a way that is doable, but a bit of a stretch.

You’re going to have to stretch to get the momentum you need in order to get off the hamster wheel.

But stretching is better than running faster and faster … in place.

So take off your running shoes, get some clarity, get a plan and put that hamster wheel up for sale on eBay.

You won’t be needing it anymore.

The Truth

We’re all guilty of at least some of these things. I am too. I wrote this as a composite of what’s challenging different clients of mine. And what’s challenging me.

Most of all, it’s a reminder to each of us that to get the momentum a new business needs, we can’t coast and we can’t run in place.

Let me know in the comments section below what parts of this may have crept back into your business while you weren’t looking …

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