A couple weeks ago a very successful friend of mine (Jeff Goins) shared a post on Facebook about how his business was upside down. And how he was personally funding it to pay the team and cover all the expenses.
It resonated with me deeply, because coming out of our Sabbatical Year last year, I find myself in the same position. There is a lot of cleaning up to do from taking a year off. Additionally, over the years our expenses have increased considerably and as such it takes more revenue to maintain profitability.
In case you are wondering, this blog you are reading is the business that I am speaking of and has been my full-time gig for the last decade. I am so very fortunate to say that this is the first time in 10 years that we haven’t been profitable.
And just to be clear, this doesn’t mean that we aren’t making money, it just means that after paying all the expenses, salaries (including my own), and contractors, we aren’t quite generating enough revenue.
Almost any business owner will tell you that to go 10 years without an unprofitable month is absolutely incredible. Many businesses spend many years unprofitable (think Amazon) and it is just not that uncommon to have periods of unprofitability.
But, that still doesn’t make it easy.
I like to see numbers increasing – not going backward.
There is a tendency that most of us suffer from that causes us to think that both hard times and prosperous times will last forever. This is rarely the case.
In my case, I was naive to think that we would always be profitable.
An honest look at entrepreneurship
We live in the age of the entrepreneur and it really is the best time in the history of the world to start a business. But, to assume that running a business is a get-rich-quick scheme is just foolishness.
It takes commitment, hard work, persistence, and most of all (as a Christian) God’s grace.
And I can honestly say that other than my encounter with Jesus, starting my blog (my business) has been the most life-changing thing I have ever done.
The freedom of:
- setting my own schedule
- being my own boss
- creating something that I love and that helps people
- having an unlimited earning potential so we can give more
has been utterly amazing.
But, it does not come without challenges.
With each of those 4 things I mentioned that I love about it, there is the opposing side:
- I have to set my schedule
- I have to not only kick myself in the pants, I have to be a boss to others – which anyone who has been one knows is not easy.
- I have to fight mental battles of wondering if I am good enough and if what I create is actually helpful and adding value.
- I have to budget for the wildly variable income. Large variances in income from month to month is fairly common.
Isn’t it just like life itself?
It seems to me that almost everything I can think of in life that has a benefit comes with a corresponding challenge.
I remember dreaming about finishing college so I could finally get out in the real world. And I loved it when I did, but I also quickly realized that mom and dad were no longer footing the bill and I had “real-world” bills to pay.
And then I thought marriage would be the thing that would seal in my happiness forever. Having been married for 13 years now, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But even with being privileged to have the best wife in the world, marriage is still incredibly difficult sometimes.
And then I thought having kids would be the pure bliss that Instagram makes it appear to be. And it is sometimes. Some of the happiest moments of my life have been from the joys of being a parent.
At the same time, I had no idea that these little humans could test the limits of my patience the way they do.
But I will say that in each of these instances, I wouldn’t go back. The good definitely outweighs the bad.
Starting my business has been no different
It has its challenges, but as long as I have the choice, I would never go back to the alternative.
And so even though I am currently facing a new challenge with the business, I am tickled pink to not be working a job I hate and to have the “opportunity” to fight this battle.
7 things I am doing while my business is upside down
If you are in or ever find yourself in this situation, I hope this helps.
And as I was writing this, I do think a lot of these apply to our personal finances as well and probably many other challenges in life.
1. Meditating on Philippians 4
I know of no better way to fight off fear and discouragement than with the Word of God. And one of the greatest promises in the Bible is tucked in this chapter:
“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”
Phil 4:19 NIV
God’s word is eternal and I choose to believe that over what my current circumstances are saying.
And since faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), just continuing to meditate on the TRUTH seems like the best course of action that I can take.
2. Continuing to obey Him
For my specific situation, there are things that I have felt God leading me to do that are the direct cause of our unprofitability.
It is tempting to try and water-down His instruction to fix this problem, but I know that attempting to fix it in my own strength is not the answer.
So, I will continue doing what he has led me to do – even when it makes no sense – because He is God and last I checked He is still smarter than me. 😉
3. Learning the secret Paul talked about
Back to Phil 4:11-12 where Paul says this:
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
It seems there is a skill to be learned here.
If we can LEARN how to be content in both high and low times, then I want to learn that. It bothers me that my emotions and moods can be directed by the current success or failings of my business or bank account.
I want to learn how to do that. And as much as I hate to admit it, sometimes the only way to learn is through experience. So I’m going to praise God for the opportunity.
4. Ignoring sources of discontent
Social media is great for staying connected with friends and family. But, it is terrible at portraying everyone else’s life as being perfect.
I find that a social media binge feels just like eating a 2-pound bag of M&Ms.
- I crave it, so I start eating them.
- They taste so good, so I just keep eating more without thinking.
- I am starting to feel a little gross (discontent) – but not bad enough to stop eating them yet.
- Ok now I am really feeling gross, so I better stop.
- But I will just chase it real quick with a bag of Skittles (i.e. other social media platform) – because that is a little different.
- Yep, I am really feeling gross, I should really eat a salad (the Word) – but I am too full.
- I feel gross the rest of the day.
I can’t even tell you how many times I have followed that path. And I finally have begun associating social media with that gross feeling (of discontent) and reminding myself “if you click that app open, you are going to feel like that.”
Surprisingly, it has helped me curb some of those cravings.
5. Working hard, but not trusting in my efforts
If I look back on my life thus far and look at every moment of victory or success, I can see, without a shadow of a doubt, that it wasn’t because of my hard work – but because of God’s grace.
And while I do work hard and believe that is what we are called to do, all the glory belongs to God for any victories that I have experienced.
And when my head starts expanding a bit to think that I might have had more of a part to play than I actually did, God does a great job of gently showing me:
“The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the LORD.”
6. Staying flexible and open to a new direction
I have found that oftentimes God shuts a door when a new one is about to be opened. And there have been countless times where I was wedging my foot between the door and the jamb trying to keep it open as He was shutting it.
And finally, I allow Him to close it, only to find that the new door is far better than the old one.
I honestly have no idea what this means for me at this point, but maybe different traffic sources, income streams, projects, or anything else. I don’t really know, but I want to be open to whatever He might have around the corner.
7. Focusing on all that is good
In my experience, thankfulness does far more for me than focusing on the negative.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thes 5:18
I am making a conscious effort to continually thank God for all that is going well and all that He has done for me in the past.
I will never forget my 1st day running this business full-time. I was driving my 12-year old Ford Taurus on a sunny and 80-degree day with the windows down listening to Coldplay’s Strawberry Swing on my way to the Library to write.
The feeling of freedom that I felt still brings a smile to my face. I was stepping into a world that I had been dreaming about for years. I remember being so thankful and appreciative and telling God that even if I was only making $8/hr, the freedom was worth it.
Over the next several years, God would do the miraculous in our lives, ultimately allowing us to give far more than we ever dreamed.
And even if the internet disappeared tomorrow, and I had to go back to my old day-job with the cubicle and fluorescent lights in the corporate abyss, I want to be forever grateful for what God has done.
What would you add to the list?
I’d love to hear what you have done or are doing when faced with financial challenges in your business or personal life. Let me know in the comments below!