THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Day four in the house

After rather a late night at The Smoke House restuarant there were a few grey faces on Thursday morning – but the best cure for a hangover is to start thinking about finances (?) so we dived quickly into our main topic of the day. I have always been the “authenticity coach” and so there is no better way to demonstrate the application of an idea than revealing it’s operation in reality. Out came Chris Barrow’s personal and professional cash flow forecasts for 2006 (in Excel). I presented a printed copy to each housemate and showed them exactly where the money comes from in my businesses and exactly where it goes to both in business and in my private life. As an aside, I have been doing this for many years in workshops. It usually takes people by surprise as culturally we regard such information as being private and confidential. I don’t give a damn whether people know how much I gross (£600,000 this year), how much it costs me to operate the business and how much I keep and I’ve always adhered to a policy of complete transparency in that regard. Having detailed how I prepare my cash flow on the annual retreat and then change budget figures for actuals as the year progresses, it was time for the housemates to do the same for themselves. Out came the laptops and I wandered around The Riverside like a chess-master, observing and commenting as the spreadsheets were constructed. A couple of observations:

  1. Yes – constructed – everyone there was doing this for the first time;

  2. I was quite surprised at the lack of basic knowledge on the easy shortcuts in Excel – the moral being that a day’s Excel training would go a long way for most people.

After 2 hours or so of concentrated work, everyone had calculated what their gross sales target was for the year. Reconvening after lunch at The Shipwright’s Arms, we began the process of converting the number of income generating days (from yesterday) divided into the gross sales target (from today) to identify the average daily income target for each individual. By about 3.30pm the beans were counted, the numbers crunched and the reality was staring the housemates in the face from a hastily constructed spreadsheet projected onto the wall of the cottage. Everyone has to put their prices up. That’s the bottom line – they are not charging enough. Once again – I could see lighbulbs popping in the minds of many of the housemates. The advantage of having a spouse, partner or practice manager along is that the revelation is shared and endorsed by your nearest and dearest as well as by the peer group. Our conclusion was a detailed question and answer session on the application of the knowledge gained so far. And, interestingly, a unanimous vote that the housemates want to reconvene next year to repeat the exercise together and with my facilitation – oh dear, I seem to have invented another business here. Mind you, living somewhere nice for a few months each year and welcoming successive groups of housemates does sound like rather a nice business proposition. Dinner at The Riverside last night, lively chat, some rounds of applause for the “back stage” team and a confirmation that a few life-long friendships may have been created. Friday morning we will be breakfasting together and holding a final brief feedback and review session before the housemates disperse. I need a holiday!

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