02/23/12

Cashflow matters.

If there is a single thing, a single activity and a single metric you should care about when building a business (or a sustainable open project - which you should run like a business anyway), it is cashflow.

Cashflow is simple: Money in minus money out. If your cashflow is positive your business lives, if your cashflow is negative your business dies. Simple as that.

Cashflow

Yet I am befuddled by the lack of understanding for this essential fact of business. I literally haven't had a single discussion about the actions which lead a particular business to get to positive cashflow or even the notion of cashflow with any of the many startups I've met over the course of the last couple of years. It seems that Silicon Valley's obsession with growth and the vague notion of "we'll figure out the business model later" led to a culture of people building companies with the single goal of selling them. And as Silicon Valley culture spreads throughout the world these days, founders all around the globe follow suit.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get to positive cashflow as soon as possible. Unless you're the next Facebook/AirBnB/Name-your-preferred-hot-startup and swim in heaps of venture capital (which to be honest you most likely won't be - the cards are clearly stacked against you... just look at the stats) having positive cashflow means you are master of your own destiny. Cashflow puts you into the driver seat. It allows you to do the things you want to do. And even if you want to raise money to accelerate your growth it puts you into a position of power, not one where you need to beg for money.

So - unless you want to build your business as an acquisition target (nothing wrong with that - just know that the odds are heavily stacked against you) but want to build a business which lasts, read up on cashflow, understand the principals by heart and make it one of your key objectives!

And to that end - we'll make cashflow discipline an essential part of Mozilla's WebFWD program. Time to build the next crop of 100 year organizations!

P.S. Here's some recommended reading for you - Don’t Build A Company To Sell, Build It To Last by Kanyi Maqubela and anything you can find by Norm Brodsky (a columnist at Inc Magazine), e.g. this piece on cashflow.