Cash and Burn: How I Saved My Business From Financial Failure

There is simply no greater teacher than failure and my first lesson came about 10 months into starting my company.

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At 23 years old I started Infographic World a data visualization company working with brands to tell their story in a more visual and effective manner.

Since, launching my company I’ve learned that there is simply no greater teacher than failure. It doesn’t matter that I’ve practically studied business since childhood or that I have an MBA— I’ve had to acknowledge this truth more times than I can count.

The Problem

My first lesson came about 10 months into starting the company. At the time, I had virtually no systems in place to track money: how much was coming in, how much a job would cost, how much I would eventually need to pay vendors, etc.

More importantly, I never stopped to think about the payment terms I was offering my clients. In my head, I had been conducting a fair amount of business, so the money would come in whenever it came in, and I would be fine as long as there was a nice, comfortable amount of money sitting in the business bank account. To make matters worse, I always wanted to pay my vendors, so whenever I received an invoice, I would cut a check immediately, every time.

On a particularly fateful Friday, I was printing out the invoices that were in my inbox. For some reason, a lot of my jobs had come to a conclusion around the same time, which meant that there were now a lot of contractors that needed to get paid. I laid out all of the invoices on my desk, added them all up and wrote down the total number. Just before I began writing out the checks, I randomly figured that I should check my bank account balance and see what I’d be left with after paying these vendors on time, like I always did.

The next moment was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life—my bank balance wasn’t enough to cover the amount I had promised my vendors. It wasn’t even close, actually.

I closed the office door and sat there at my desk with a pain in my stomach that completely overwhelmed me. For the first time in my life, I felt like a complete and utter failure.

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