November 1, 2004
Feast Or Famine
Q: I produce T-shirts by creating heat transfer designs, and the business has taken off. The problem is either I have more work than I can handle or nothing at all. I work full time, so when large orders come in, I need help. But it’s hard to keep a helper if the money is not steady. How can I get some marketing information to better stabilize this wave of incoming orders?
–D. Dunwoody, Via the Internet
A: This sort of “feast or famine” effect is fairly common with small businesses that provide low-cost products or services directly to consumers. But to answer your question, there are several issues you’re facing: irregular cash flow, whether to hire/outsource, as well as your question regarding marketing your business.
The irregular cash flow issue is something you definitely want to deal with early on. While your revenues may fluctuate from month to month, your bills will always come in on time. Often a small business will find that it is unable to repay creditors due to a cash flow crunch. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest you take your business online. This can lead to increased and more consistent sales, if you have an effective Website. I’d also recommend increased advertising and promotions during lulls to boost sales.
As far as the workload, most entrepreneurs just put in the long hours, hire someone part time, or use the “friends and family” method until they’re ready to hire someone.
In the meantime, I’d recommend reading books such as Cash Rules: Learn & Manage the 7 Cash-Flow Drivers for Your Company’s Success by Bill McGuinness (Kiplinger Books; $29.95). It offers solid topics on how to control, maximize, and track cash flow.