by Kim Lavine
The next day our new part-time CFO was sitting in our living room. I wanted to find out how somebody could have once been as bad off as we were, then turned it around and sold his company, enabling him to retire. He didn’t look to be more than five years older than us.
“I didn’t make enough to buy my own Caribbean island,” he explained, “but I don’t have to worry about money for the rest of my life either."
“What are you going to charge us?” I asked him after going through our narrative and showing him our pathetic balance sheet. “Look at our balance sheet. Have you ever seen a worse one? We don’t have any money.”
“Everybody’s balance sheet looks that bad!” he assured us with a wave of his hand.
Apparently, we were joining a secret society of entrepreneurs, in which everybody shared a common language and the same abysmal problems without ever discussing them with the public.
“What about going bankrupt?” I asked, looking for the tie-breaking vote on the conflicting advice I had gotten from my attorney and Sayers.
Finding the Courage and Determination to Fight For Your Business
“Because it’s not right! It’s like the nail in the coffin of your business. You can get out of this!
This is nothing. Everybody’s been through times like these! Fight for your business! Fight!
"You just have to go make sales. Bring in money, that’s all you should worry about right now. Find a way to drive cash through the business.”
“What about all that inventory?”
“We’re going to straighten that out right away. I’m going to go in there and negotiate a new number on what you owe, then we’re going to term out the debt in a personal guarantee loan with 7 percent interest, payable over five years. Get that monkey off your back right now. That will give you some breathing room and let you sell that inventory to make the cash you need to make this business run! I’m going to knock at least 30 percent off of the cost of the stuff.
If anybody asks, I didn’t say this, but what they did to you was a crime. That’s the oldest trick in the book, an owner inflates his manufacturing receivables so that he can drive up the price on his business.
"The new owners were left with a ton of costs, and no money to pay them with. They’re going to take whatever deal I give them, because if they don’t, you won’t pay them a dime. I’ll tell them that you’re going to go bankrupt. That will scare them! They don’t know how to sell that stuff. They’ll be caught holding all the costs!”
This guy was the real thing
He knew exactly what to do. His disclaimer, “If anyone asks, I didn’t say this,” impressed me.
He seemed to understand that two parallel universes operated at the same time in business: in one lawyers, CPA’s and accountants functioned in an antiseptic environment in cushy offices and every decision was made strictly by the books and numbers; the other was the real world, in which people were getting dirty all the time.
I have leverage and I know how to use it
This guy understood that the secret language of this society of entrepreneurs was leverage, and he really knew how to speak it.
Leverage means using any tool you can find to gain advantage over another, whether it’s money, the promise of success or even a threat.
Terming Out Debt Between Two Private Parties
- If you find yourself in a difficult situation and you owe a vendor a lot of money, hire a CFO to draw up a legally binding agreement to term out the debt for a prescribed amount of time at a reasonable annual interest rate.
- This will enable you to negotiate payment terms that your cash flow can support with the possibility of repairing your relationship with the vendor to allow you to continue doing business.
An Excerpt from MOMMY MILLIONAIRE