Stressed Over Cash Flow? How to Stop Worrying About Money as an Entrepreneur

Cash flow is a constant concern for business owners. According to Quickbooks, 60% of small business owners say that cash flow has been a problem for their business.

Even when you’re making a lot of sales, your business can still be strapped for cash because, as you know from experience, the money from these sales don’t always end up in your bank account in time to pay the monthly bills.

Entrepreneurs, especially in start-ups and micro-businesses, who worry about limited cash flow–in other words, scarcity–can find themselves in a fight/flight response.

First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that we can’t bypass our body’s survival instincts and the specific psychology that arises from scarcity and the accompanying survival imperative.

The anxieties around cash flow are normal. There’s nothing wrong with you.

The human brain’s inevitable response to threats to survival is to engage the fight/flight response.

Scarcity is read as a threat by your body and nervous system.

When a threat is perceived, the body-mind’s threat-response system is activated. This is beneficial, because we need to be mobilized in order to be able to respond.

The problem arises either when you never get to rest between mobilizations (which leads to burnout) or your nervous system becomes too mobilized and you flip your lid.

Then you can’t access the skills you need as a business owner: to plan and organize, concentrate and manage focus, complete tasks, interact productively with others, analyze and process information, manage emotions and behaviour, remember details, manage time, and solve problems. All things you need to be able to do in a cash flow crunch.

Care for your nervous system

When you’re experiencing scarcity, the first step is to care for your nervous system and the associated emotions. 

It may be true that there might not be enough cash in the bank at the end of the month. It is also true that there is no literal threat to your life in this moment–despite what your nervous system may be telling you.

In order to regain your capacity to think creatively and come up with solutions to the challenge, some nervous-system soothing might be in order. You might have some ideas about what would work, and there are some suggestions here.

Breath awareness

Breath awareness might also be helpful. 

Focusing on the breath can support simple awareness in the present moment. This helps the nervous system know that, in this very moment, there is no threat.

In addition, the effects of mindful breathing can engage the body’s brakes (aka the parasympathetic nervous system), giving your body and mind some relief.

Here’s a short breath awareness practice you can try.

The best thing about the breath—other than how effective it is at helping you bounce back from stress—is that it’s the ultimately portable and practical tool.

Your breath can be a powerful and accessible tool. We are all always breathing all the time. Your breath is also always with you.

You can engage in this kind of breathing at any time. You can use the breath to care for yourself in the midst of a stressful situation, and no-one will be any the wiser.

Even this simple act of bringing awareness to your breathing can help you get your head back on straight.

Offer yourself kindness

Self-kindness is an important part—in my experience, it’s the foundation—of a healthy entrepreneurial mindset.

It’s also a way to get some relief when the crap has hit the fan so you can bring your best self to addressing the crisis.

Step one: The first step is the moment of awareness. You see that your bank account balance is in the red. Or you’re doing some planning and the math works out to a negative number. This is the time to practice self-kindness by saying to yourself: “Oh. I see what’s happening. I’m noticing I’m feeling panicky about that.”

Step two: The second step is to validate yourself. You can take a mindful breath, and say gently to yourself something like, “Hey there. I see you’re having a hard time. And of course, you are. What’s going on right now is tough.” 

Step three: The third step is to offer yourself some comfort.

It might be as simple as placing a gentle hand on your heart, or it could be

  • a few minutes looking out the window at nature–even just the sky,
  • making yourself a cup of tea,
  • putting on a song you like and moving around in your chair a bit,
  • texting a supportive friend or biz bestie.

Choose whatever would feel comforting to you and is doable at the moment.

Ask for help

Once you’re feeling calmer, you can assess the situation and what’s needed. Maybe you still can’t figure out the appropriate solution. It’s OK to ask for help, because you’re stronger with support.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one. Just like high-performance athletes have coaches to help them address challenges so they can perform better, business owners also benefit from support to address the challenges they face–like a cash flow shortage, for example. 

Most of us are technicians having an entrepreneurial seizure. In other words, we are experts in providing the services we were trained to provide, but know nothing about how to run a business. 

A good business coach is a CPA or has an MBA or other business training or extensive business experience (and isn’t a coach coaching coaches to be coaches) and can guide you in running a sustainable business.

Get a handle on your numbers and your money mindset

You may have fears about cash flow. You may be telling yourself, based on what is happening in the day-to-day in your business, that there won’t be enough in the bank at the end of the month.

Managing your cash flow goes better with a plan. 

Plans in general give a sense of security. They are like a map for the unknown territory you will have to enter, limiting the uncertainty that is a drain on you, emotionally. Plans help you organize information, and put it all in one place, reducing stress. They help you focus, and create clarity.

Cash flow plans are crucial for small businesses. They help you make informed decisions, such as what investments you want, or don’t want, to make in your business. 

Over time cash flow plans help you identify cash flow cycles, which makes it possible to plan for the lows. Then, when the lows do come, you know they’re coming and have a plan to address them. All of which helps you stop worrying.

Avoidance is a common way of coping with anxieties, especially money anxieties. Just the thought of looking at your numbers can provoke anxiety. But ironically, often when you actually look at your bank accounts, budget and accounts payable you can find your worries are out of proportion to the actual situation. It can feel daunting to do this, so you can recruit your accountant or bookkeeper to go over things with you. Having company and support can make what feels like a daunting task easier.

The way we think and feel about money can play a role in cash flow, or lack of it. Many business owners, surprisingly, feel reluctant to ask for payment, as one example. When this happens they can have a significant amount of accounts receivable, but no cash in the bank. 

The support of a therapist who focuses on healing money trauma can help you develop a more satisfying relationship with money so that you are more at ease issuing invoices and following up on payments. Getting organized in your business and setting aside time specifically to send invoices on a regular basis and follow up on outstanding basis can help alleviate anxiety about cash flow. 

Another option is to hire someone to handle your accounts for you who is comfortable having money conversations with clients.

If this resonated with you and you would enjoy receiving more support like this, please consider subscribing to my newsletter below.

About the author 

Shulamit Berlevtov  -  Shulamit (she/her) is the Entrepreneurs' Therapist. She is working passionately to mitigate the entrepreneurial mental health crisis through keynote speaking and educational workshops and by supporting women entrepreneurs 1:1 to care for their mental and emotional wellbeing and their money psychology in an era of relentless stressors that can make you want to lose your crap on the daily.

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