A lesson businesses can learn from “What’s in my wallet”

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I have an important reason to check inside my wallet periodically. No, I’m not looking for that ubiquitous plastic credit card whose commercials pose the question in this column’s headline. Instead, I’m double-checking that the $100 bill I tucked away decades ago is still there. When I put it there, I really didn’t expect to spend it but, rather, to keep it, adhering to the tagline from another purveyor of plastic: “Don’t leave home without it.”

The take-away for businesses about the Benjamin Franklin I’ve carried around for my entire career coincides with what I learned as a Boy Scout. I was taught how to tie a few handy knots, but what stuck with me most was the lesson to “always be prepared,” thus, my hundred-dollar bill.

One interpretation of that Scout motto translates into another fact of business life: what can go wrong, at some point does, typically without warning.

Every company must have a plan B at the ready and have enough firepower in the form of extra liquidity to stay the course.

There is no better example of this than what occurred in March 2020 when COVID-19 emerged out of nowhere, engulfing the world in a near-global economic melt-down that was triggered by a full-fledged pandemic. As a result, companies were forced to shut down, while much of the workforce around the world was forced to shut in at home.

Everything came to a screeching halt, except for the money that companies still owed to suppliers, lenders, employees and the government.

Those companies that had backup funds on their balance sheet survived. The operators that didn’t have a reserve stash fell quickly by the wayside, including, and yet-to-be-fully tallied, unprecedentedly high number of mom-and-pop businesses, startups, and naive Pollyanna-type organizations of all sizes. Even some mega outfits went belly up because they couldn’t muster the capital to stay afloat without adequate sales. The rest is history. After the initial economic crisis subsided, those prepared went on to adapt to the new COVID norm, resuming operations and growing their businesses as the country experienced one of the fastest big business recoveries in history, including a stock market that roared back to pre-pandemic levels.

Prudent, bold, bright and, most importantly, prepared companies hunkered down, reassessed, and reengaged, ready to meet new needs that percolated from the turmoil. They had built reserves not only to merely survive but also to succeed and excel.

Being always ready for the unexpected is a prerequisite and strategic advantage for organizations of every size, from the corner-store operator to industry giants.

Businesses must begin planning today by pulling capital from the pot, at every opportunity, to fill their war chest for the “what ifs” that are always looming in the shadows.

“What’s in your company’s wallet?” may serve your business psyche best by providing the peace of mind that it’s there and ready to use, just like the badly creased $100 bill that I’ve had folded away in my wallet. And, unlike a piece of plastic, those paper greenbacks are ecologically appropriate and provide the fuel to keep moving forward. ●

Visit Michael Feuer’s website www.TipsFromTheTop.info to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”

Michael Feuer

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