Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash

Why Entrepreneurs Should Surround Themselves With the Right People

It became clear pretty early on that life as somebody’s employee was not my cup of tea. Sure, there’s a lot of benefits that come with working for a company: job security, supportive coworkers, mentorship and coaching opportunities, a steady paycheck — and much more. 

But it was different for me. I wanted to build something from the ground up — start from scratch and work to make it a success. And my determination didn’t stop at just one project. I went from making sandwiches to making companies: from a bistro with breakfast service by the sea and a network of bakers to marketing and websites for small businesses. My endeavors weren’t always successful, by the way — things don’t always turn out the way you envision them in your head.

I’ve got a ton of ideas, but the reality is that I’m not very good at the necessary behind-the-scenes analysis, and even worse at the required follow-through. To put it bluntly, there’s a lot of boulders, and sometimes I’ll strike a diamond — but more often, there’s a whole lot of rough. 

There’s undoubtedly many people out there who have the kind of raw talent and boundless energy that are vital when going it alone and achieving any level of success. I have nothing but respect for these people. But I have a hunch that most people can really only shine when they’re working with others — and that’s how it felt to me. 

I had to surround myself with people whose skills complemented mine in order to develop my ideas, and I also wanted mentorship. Coaching. Someone who could say to me, “Dude, have you ever thought about how you’re going to pay for that? Why don’t you keep it simple and do it this way?”

But I didn’t always consider these factors when diving headlong into an idea. Instead of finding a compatible business partner, I convinced my mother to work in the sandwich shop. A few years later, I persuaded my girlfriend to help me start a breakfast service by the sea.

(Pro tip: Your sweetheart and your mom aren’t always the right people with whom to start a business.)

To fill the coaching void, I joined Junior Chamber International, a global organization for young entrepreneurial people. JCI was fun, and I met a lot of incredibly interesting people there. The group didn’t fulfill my desire for mentorship, however, so I kept up my search.

Looking for like-minded people who shared my goals and continually coming up empty-handed left me frustrated and disillusioned. I quickly learned that not everyone has ambitions similar to mine, or wants to become an entrepreneur.

I eventually moved on from my initiatives in the hospitality industry for a couple of reasons. Number one, I didn’t like the executive; number two, I didn’t find the right collaboration partners; and number three, I had a general lack of direction.

Cashplannr developed much more slowly than my previous endeavors. The concept of ​​helping prevent other companies from failure had been on my mind for a while. This time around, though, I was sure of one thing: I wasn’t about to go it alone.

I knocked on the door of an old colleague — someone I looked up to who’d already launched a startup. His reaction to my pitch was fairly lukewarm, and he readily admitted that although I hadn’t convinced him to participate, he wanted to advise me.

Though he wasn’t completely on board, it seemed like a win anyway — I had an advisory board for the first time.

At his suggestion, I joined Bryo, a Belgian network for entrepreneurs. The group helped me get out and participate in inspiring events, while simultaneously expanding my network and learning from like-minded peers. It was fascinating to see how other starters had dealt with pitfalls similar to mine.

Meanwhile, I’d decided to devote the bulk of my focus on developing Cashplannr — but I still did software consulting on the side to pay the bills.

Eventually I came into contact with Birdhouse and attended two events centered on sales, marketing, and funding. I talked to the team, gave them my pitch, and eventually someone persuaded me to sign up for their accelerator

One of the selection criteria (there would eventually be more than 600 registrations, but only room for 10 startups) was an MVP (minimum viable product). In other words, the candidate should already have something to show. I had something, but it wasn’t much — and my documentation wasn’t quite up to snuff. The selection process involved several steps, and I wasn’t sure of my chances.

To my surprise — and complete joy — I was told that Cashplannr was accepted. Finally I’d found the mentorship, personal coaching, and network of experienced entrepreneurs who see the big picture — people who want to chase after their dreams. 

Of course, it came with a price — I had to give away a small piece of my business — but for six months, along with nine other startups of all kinds, I had the chance to be coached, guided, mentored, and trained. And that was just the beginning. 

In recent months, together with the right people — mentors, colleagues, and coaches — I’ve made solid progress toward achieving my goals for Cashplannr: solving a problem that many entrepreneurs face.

As far as finding the right partner is concerned, that search goes on. What the heck — maybe I’ll continue to go it alone as a business manager. But one thing is certain: if you know what you want, eventually you will find the right environment and the right people to make your dreams as an entrepreneur come true. 

Thanks to Birdhouse for the opportunity!

 — Thomas

Insolvency in the Belgian construction industry is at a new record high. How should we tackle this?

Research by our trainee, Justine, shows that the construction and transport industries in Belgium are heading for a record number of insolvencies, in contrast to the other main industrial sectors. However, what caught our attention is that the 2019 figure is almost as high as the 2013 figure, the annus horribilus of the last financial crisis.

Number of insolvencies per industry in Belgium (Source: Belgian statistical office (Statbel))

We wondered what could be causing this. We spoke to the Belgian Construction Association (Bouwunie) who told us that many people in the construction industry “don’t have a clue about business management.” Our contact went on to mention that insolvency is often due to poor management and incorrect costing or doing no costing at all. “We see a lot of people starting out in our industry. They usually know how to get cracking with the work.” However, running a business involves more than performing the work. Understanding the financial side of the business is almost equally as important.

Business management training no longer compulsory

Until 2017 in Belgium, you needed to have a Basic Certificate in Business Management before you could start a business. However, the Flemish Government scrapped that requirement from 1 September 2018. This is a shame, in my opinion. All the more so when you discover that this requirement was not brought in such a long time ago. The government only required you to demonstrate this knowledge if you graduated after September 2000.

I graduated in September 2000, so I slipped through the net, and I was able to get started without any problems. Nevertheless, I had a traditional education, meaning that I did not study one iota of economics during my six years in higher education.

This is a little like becoming the captain of a sailing boat if you have never had sailing lessons. I didn’t even know what a balance sheet was and how exactly VAT worked. I simply spotted a niche in the local market and I was determined to set up a successful business from scratch.

I still remember how I often used to get feedback from people, such as, ‘this business is a goldmine.” Almost everyone was a fan of our hamburgers and the shop would often be packed. I worked really hard and in order to do a good job I had to take on extra staff, but there wasn’t any money left over.

I didn’t pay myself a wage during those six and a half years and for quite a while my financial situation was really chaotic.

However, several things quickly became clear to me when I started to make plans. For instance, I discovered that we were selling some things way too cheaply. I also noticed that I was spending money beyond my means. I realised that I had to take urgent action. It was remarkably close, but I managed to prevent something far worse from happening.

You may be wondering why I didn’t talk to my accountant. In reality, many accountants don’t have time for this, because they are too busy working on the books. It took me quite a while to find an accountant who was better suited to me and who could give me real advice. Your accountant shouldn’t be spending all their time on your books as most of this is automated nowadays thanks to Yuki. (A quick tip: choose a firm of accountants that uses modern software. It’ll save both you and your accountant a huge amount of time, and money too. Take a look at our integrations.)

Identify your costs

A similar example, and you often see this in the construction industry, is setting an hourly rate for services. To work out their rate, “people look at the competition” and propose the same rate, or even a slightly lower one. This may be logical from a commercial point of view, but it makes absolutely no sense financially, and can lead to dire consequences.

The best way to set your rate is to first identify your costs. Every business has different costs. For example, consider the size of your workforce, vehicle fleet, insurance, training courses, infrastructure, marketing budget, and so on. When you know these costs and you have compared them to the work that you expect to carry out, you will be able to determine your hourly rate. Only then can you think about commercial factors, such as comparing yourself to the competition.

Conclusion

Most importantly of all, you shouldn’t just rely on your gut instinct. Ask your accountant for help or use the right tools to get an understanding of your costs. Even though you no longer need to have a Business Management Certificate, take it from me, get the certificate anyway, or at least do the course. After all, running a business requires financial know-how.

As the captain of your ship, you want to fully catch the wind in your sails. 

— Thomas

Photo byJohnson Wang on Unsplash

Back in business with cashplanning

2020 has changed business forever. If we have learned anything from this crisis, let it be that Cash is not just King, but also Queen.

Hello, reality

I learned that lesson a long time ago. The hard way. In my area there was a shortage of sandwiches for companies, so I installed a mini kitchen in the basement of my dad’s optics store. Six months later I decided to accelerate and rent a building. Delighted to convince the bank to lend me a lot of money, I bought the most beautiful interior I found. On gut feeling. It felt powerful to have a large sum of money in the bank account.

The consequence? When the first delivery of raw materials arrived two months later, I couldn’t pay. 

Why cash forecasting?

Was this period a line through the bill for you? Then you’d better make sure you know what charges are coming soon. Just think of VAT, corporation tax and open suppliers.

Cash forecasting – or cash planning – means: planning future income and expenses and comparing them with your cash. The result is that you get a view on your cash position, the total available cash. This gives you insight into the impact of business decisions on your cash flow. A solid cash flow planning also gives you insight into opportunities. Do you know exactly what costs are coming to you? 

Lessons learned

I don’t wish anyone the feeling of not being able to pay your bills. It is horrible: you can’t sleep because of it, it’s the only thing you can think about and you don’t dare to look some people in the eye. However, this is much more common than we think. In retrospect, I realized that if I had kept a solid financial planning from the start, none of this would have happened – after all, my business was always profitable.

So take it from an expert by experience: cash planning is a must.

-Thomas Hysselinckx
Founder, Cashplannr