There are only three states of any business:
- Not generating enough money to cover your running costs – Danger zone
- Meeting your budget by balancing costs so that your income covers your running costs
- Generating a net surplus above and beyond your running costs
The first means close up shop so that’s assume that isn’t us.
Option two is where most cultural organisations sit and should be the initial focus for everyone. Either generate enough money to cover your running costs before your reserves or line of credit runs out and/or reduce your running costs until money in/out match. Its not the most comfortable place to be but perfectly respectable. Most of the folks I meet have 2-4 years to get to this magic number. A commercial business would have 90-180 days. Apply the 80/20 rule. where you apply 80% of your focus on the 20% that will offer the best way to get to the magic number. For example 20% of our retail products deliver approx 80% of our revenue. Same with venue hire customers.
Once you are able to meet budget you can then consider option three generating a surplus. Option’s two and three should be running in parallel where possible (see my thoughts on Scale elsewhere). Option three is about using any surplus to build the future – reserves, continuous improvement (that lead to further surplus of money or resource) and enabling activity not possible under the other conditions.
Most folks in the sector don’t write a business plan to know which of the three states they are in. Write it down. Use Seth Godin’s “The Modern Business Plan“.