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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

We Successfully Get Through The Month From Hell

Most articles about running your own business mention that you will work much longer and harder as an entrepreneur than you ever will as an employee. Upon hearing this it is easy to dismiss, but it can be hard to appreciate how your motivation to succeed can push you far past what you think you can handle.

This past month, we faced two major challenges:

1. We had to convert over 4.000 US dollar e-bay listings, one at a time before August 4, otherwise these listings would end and it wasn't clear what would happen to them then.

2. Our year end tax return was due and we needed to complete a full inventory in order to produce a meaningful set of financial statements - one that we could take to the bank this week.

Either one of these things would make for an extremely busy month, as the sales would not just stop - we would still need to blog and respond to customer enquiries as well.

With extremely hard work and determination, I managed to get through the conversion, re-numbering all my items one-by-one, by the end of the second week of July, while Steph continued to list modern Canada and Fabio worked on Small Queens. I managed to do it by only working late the normal two nights of the week. However, nothing could prepare me for what would happen when it came time to do inventory.

I figured that 2 solid weeks of work would be more than enough time to adequately count and professionally value the inventory on hand. This was critical, as we needed an inventory value in order to determine what our true cost of sales number was. We also knew that with very modest sales, that are growing steadily as a function of the amount of material that is listed for sale, that it would be critical for a prospective lender or investor to see an accurate inventory value, as this would make it easy for them to judge the prospective sales growth. However, it became apparent after just a few days that it would take a miracle to complete this on time. Even with Steph and I working until 3:00 am most days, it seemed like we would never get through it. We had thought of trying to ballpark certain sections, but our estimates always lagged far behind the actual values that were obtained after carefully examining and cataloging the stamps. So we realized that we would actually have to do this detailed examination and count for hundreds of thousands of stamps and covers.

Every day we worked with little feeling that we were getting close to the goal. The entire time we both worried about what would happen if the actual value turned out to be far below what we expected. However, we were both determined, and that determination saw us through 2 full weeks of 18-20 hour days. Finally, with two or three days to go, we started to see a light at the end of the tunnel and knew that it wasn't a train. We worked until nearly 3:00 am to complete the full valuation yesterday - August 1. Thank God Monday was a holiday because it meant that we got an extra day to file the return, since the 31st fell on a Sunday. It took another 2 hours to produce a set of almost correct financial statements. I woke up at about 10:00 am this morning and headed up to my old office to file the required returns and prepare information for the bank. I finished everything at just after 5 pm.

I must say though that I am very pleased with what we have produced, even if we don't get the funding we are seeking. The sales, although modest, have been growing and are more than double, in these first 5 months, what they were for the entire year in 2015. We can show that they will only continue to grow as we continue listing material and begin buying again. We have been able to make a profit the entire time, and pay a very small salary, which again, is pretty good for a business that has only been full time for a year. Neither the growth rate of monthly sales, nor the gross profit margin are quite as high as what were projecting last year, but that is OK - our projections last year were just guesses. Now we have lots of good, hard data from which we can learn. Finally, our inventory value turned out to be 60% higher than what we thought when we first formulated our business plan. This was mostly thanks to our inability to estimate accurately when we first put together the business plan, but in part it was also because we bought very successfully.

There is great satisfaction that comes from meeting this kind of goal and knowing that you did your absolute best, without having to rely on someone else to say it, or otherwise. This is why I won't give this up without a very long and hard fight. 

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