Choose noise, choose heat… you can’t have both!

I was sitting with a group of new entrepreneurs this morning; we were working on the mundane but important reality of cash flow forecasting… trying to figure out how much money you’ll earn and how much you’ll spend.

Trouble is, when you’re new in business, there are so many areas of expense that you don’t even know about unless you’re sitting with someone who has some experience in these issues.

I was telling a story about the kinds of choices you make when you’re starting out… how very few people start businesses with a healthy bank account and a new car… how it’s an earned state that hopefully occurs during the life of the business but not usually in the first year.

Sometimes the stories mean more than the cash flow lesson.

It was 1980. My writing and editorial business was 18 months old. My car was 16 years old. I was juggling a toddler with a home-based business, no daycare, no fax machines, no computer, and there were a lot of business machines still to be invented. I had a contract producing the Chamber of Commerce monthly newsletter… Bob Hollywood was the Chamber’s manager and president Peter Howden had suggested I might handle this newsletter job. One of my first customers.

I was also writing, photographing, designing corporate newsletters for General Tire and Cooper Tools, for L&E Paper and for Barrie Press. I was teaching one night a week at Georgian College. I was as busy as I could handle at the time.

My car was old; the repair bills were pretty consistent; Kent Hall and Bill Bartko and Bartko and Hall BP Station out on Blake St kept the poor thing on the road as often as possible. In fact, I’d just picked the car up.

Because of my Chamber contract I usually attended monthly early-morning business meetings. Community business leaders were certainly part of the Chamber in those days, as they are now. Some of them were my clients with my other newsletters.

Now here was my dilemma. The meeting was at the Holiday Inn. There was no on-street parking so parking away from the business community and going in the back way was difficult to do. When you have an old, rattling car, sometimes you want to conceal that fact. I wanted to conceal that fact.

However, the parking lot awaited and I rolled up to a stop. I got out, about the same time as three other board members. “You should get a muffler on that thing,” yelled one.

“Yes, I should,” I countered back. “But this is February and I had to choose between noise and heat. I chose heat!”

With that we walked in to the meeting.

And why share this with you now? Thirty years later? Because entrepreneurs live like that. It takes time to build a business and make a reliable car an affordable priority. The business leader who made the comment didn’t laugh one bit at my dilemma because very likely he’d been there.

Starting a business is like starting a baby and it takes about as long to build the business as it does to grow the kid. Some days things go really well. Some days things (like vehicles and software programs and equipment) don’t go so well.

In the longterm, though, we do climb up the mountain and we do build viable businesses that serve our community with real excellence. I’m sharing this story for all those entrepreneurs in our midst who are struggling with dreams and who might be feeling like their dilemma is enough to defeat them. Not at all. Just choose between heat and noise and don’t apologize for what’s left over. Park in the back lot and do your best.

And that’s why it benefits all of us to buy locally whenever we have the choice!