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It happens at some point in the life of every business: cash has been coming in, things are going well, and then all of a sudden, things take a turn for the worse. Whether it’s a bad time of year for the business’ particular product, or a rough patch in the economy, weathering slow cash flow can be tough. But how the business comes out of the slump depends on how the business owner handles it.


Research by Jane Out of the Box, an authority on women entrepreneurs, has revealed there are five distinct types of women in business. Each of these five types has unique approach to running a businessâ€"and as a consequence, each of them has a unique combination of characteristics and factors. This article profiles three of the Jane “types” and the different ways they may handle cash flow issues.


Go Jane Go is a successful business owner with plenty of clientsâ€"but she’s struggling to keep up with demand. She may be a classic overachiever, taking on volunteer opportunities as well, because she’s eager to make an impact on the world and may really struggle saying “no”.  Because she wants to “say yes” to so many people, she may even be in denial about how many hours she actually works during the course of a week. As a result, she may be running herself ragged or sometimes feel guilty about the list of goals not yet achieved. 


Although Go Jane Go feels totally competent when it comes to running her business, a slowdown in cash flow can occur when Go Jane Go is not paying enough attention to money.  She may be behind in sending bills because getting the work done seems more important.  Or she may be reluctant to raise the money issue with clients who are late in paying, because she doesn’t want them to be embarrassed or to create conflict in the relationship.   


Here are some things Go Jane Go should consider when faced with cash flow challenges:


  • Clients want to pay.  Your clients value and respect you and they want to pay you well for the work you’ve done.  In fact, as a Go Jane Go, you may have even had clients offer to pay you MORE than you asked, because they can see how much you go above and beyond.  Relationships are a two-way street, and your clients want to help you succeed.  So, give them the outlet by billing them in a timely manner so they can uphold their half of the bargain.

  • Falling behind on billing or reminders also can cause relationship problems.  You not sending invoices in a timely manner or not following up on overdue payments may cause an internal problem for your customers, too.  If they are corporate types, they may get in a tangle with their accounting departments if they submit bills from you too late.  And, if they are smaller businesses or consumers, a forgotten invoice can cause cash flow problems on their end, as they scramble to find the money to pay you.  Take good care of them by keeping your financial house in order and helping them do the same.

  • You don’t have to do this alone.  One of the easiest jobs to outsource is bookkeeping.  And those experts are probably better at the task than you are.  If your books are a mess, bite the bullet and admit it.  And even if your books are in great shape â€" get help.  You have a unique gift to share with the world and you maximize your ability to do so when you delegate other tasks.  Best yet, your bookkeeper can follow up on late invoices too â€" just give him or her a system for how to do it so it is in keeping with your (probably gentle) values.


Merry Jane. This entrepreneur is usually building a part-time or “flexible time” business that gives her a creative outlet (whether she’s an ad agency consultant or she makes beautiful artwork) that she can manage within specific constraints around her schedule.  She may have a day-job, or need to be fully present for family or other pursuits. She realizes she could make more money by working longer hours, but she’s happy with the tradeoff she has made because her business gives her tremendous freedom to work how and when she wants, around her other commitments.

Merry Jane usually has an income other than that her business provides, so business cash flow challenges may not be as difficult of an issue, per se.  However, many Merry Janes do wish their businesses made more money.  In order for that to happen, money has to become a focal point for Merry Jane, rather than simply waiting and watching how business growth evolves.  Even as cash flow becomes a priority, however, it’s imperative for Merry Jane’s happiness that more money does not mean more work â€" her life balance is too important.


A few things Merry Jane should consider if she sees her cash flow slow down:


·         A little attention could go a long way.  Think about WHY cash flow is slow.  Has there been a downturn in sales in the business?  Have you invested in materials, equipment, or software that will help make money in the long run but are chewing up available cash in the short-term?  Until you know whether the problem is slow revenue or high costs, you won’t know the strategy to fix it.

·         If revenue is slow, leverage your connections, both on and offline.  Finding new clients is often the toughest aspect of business for Merry Jane.  Reach out to your existing customers with a plan that gives them more of what they want while also helping you grow your base.  Think about the upcoming holidays â€" can you make an attractive offer that gets them to buy gifts from you?  Or, maybe your business lends itself naturally to referral.  If so, what “Thank You” gift can you give them when they find you another customer?

·         If costs are high, it’s time to plan.  Stop spending temporarily and map out how many sales you need to cover the costs of the equipment, materials, or software you bought and make it all worth it.  Turn this into a game; play with the numbers.  And as you calculate how many sales you need to make your costs pay off, keep in mind that you can also raise your rates!  It’s fun to watch the number of sales go down as your price per sale goes up.  Balance it all â€" the fair price for your product or service, the number of sales you need, and the amount of money you wish to have flowing in each month to arrive at a plan that works for your business and your lifestyle.


Accidental Jane is a successful, confident business owner who never actually set out to start a business, but may have ended up with one due to frustration with her job or a layoff and decided to use her business and personal contacts to strike out on her own. Or, she may have started making something that served her own unmet needs and found other customers with the same need, giving birth to a business.  Although Accidental Jane may sometimes struggle with prioritizing what she needs to do next in her business, she enjoys what she does and is making good money.  About 18% of all women business owners fit the Accidental Jane profile.


Although Accidental Jane didn’t necessarily set out to start a business, she now finds herself full-swing into entrepreneurship and everything that goes with it. So she may feel unprepared to face cash flow issues.


Because Accidental Jane is successful, and overall has just the amount of work she desires, cash flow issues are most likely to result from marketing peaks and valleys caused by Accidental Jane herself.  A typical pattern for Accidental Jane is to network her way to a sufficient amount of work.  Then, when she’s happily working, she’ll stop actively marketing her business, only to realize as the work draws to a close, that she needs to start marketing again. 


Therefore, Accidental Jane’s key to avoiding cash flow issues is to find ways to keep her marketing efforts running at a continual, low level.  This will iron out the peaks and valleys so the work flow is steadier.  Accidental Jane can get creative with this, making it a game to develop creative marketing approaches in her business that require little time on her part.  This might include developing an effective referral system, launching a weekly “tips” email to keep awareness of her business high, running periodic “specials” during the off-season, etc.  Best of all, with simple, systematized campaigns, Accidental Jane can recruit part-time help to make sure the marketing is happening even while she’s enjoying the work she loves to do.


Every business owner can learn from Go Jane Go, Merry Jane and Accidental Jane when it comes to cash flow problems. A variety of techniques exist for dealing with slowing cash flow, and each one provides some help for entrepreneurs who want to keep their businesses in the black.


Interested in learning more about the five Jane types and which Jane you are? Check out

This Business article was written by Michele DeKinder-Smith on 12/18/2009

Michele DeKinder-Smith is the founder of Jane out of the Box, an online resource dedicated to the women entrepreneur community. Discover more incredibly useful information for running a small business by taking the FREE Jane Types Assessment at Jane out of the Box. Offering networking and marketing opportunities, key resources and mentorship from successful women in business, Jane Out of the Box is online at