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The Kitchen Table

I live in Prague. I have an Art Deco inspired flat… or I used to have until my girlfriend moved in. My girlfriend is Swedish (10 points), blond (20 points), and gorgeous (1000 points). But when you start living together, compromises have to be made. One of those was the furniture in the flat.

Her taste is ‘’that blah blah blah, clean, modern and designery look.’’ Negotiations commenced. I would give up certain items of furniture so that she could then put in some of her favourite pieces to ‘’make her feel at home.’’ One of those was the kitchen table.

I used to have a beautiful, round, walnut kitchen table, with elegant grains that shimmered in the sunlight from the window. Her table looked suspiciously like one from IKEA. ‘’I love my kitchen table,’’ she said, ‘’and it will look perfect in OUR kitchen.’’ Did I win? Nope. So, I now have a clean, modern and designery kitchen table, probably made by a guy called Gustafsson, who previously worked for IKEA.

The kicker is that I sold my Art Deco table to my friend Klaus, who told me it is such a beautiful piece, and looks wonderful in his flat.

Our kitchen table is where we eat, hang out and drink wine, entertain friends, watch YouTube, keep important papers, and where we run our business from… for now.

There are four of us in the business. We are a full solution IT company focused on small- and medium-sized businesses. When we started the business, we were acutely aware that our biggest initial problem was going to be cash flow. The initial outlay can be frightening. Here are some of our expenses:

  • Legal expenses
  • Accounting expenses
  • Salaries
  • Marketing
  • Website design
  • Server costs
  • Business cards
  • Entertaining
  • Office supplies
  • Transport
  • Marketing

Now, some of those are one-off expenses and some are recurring. You then need some money coming in – not just from invoicing, but payment of those invoices.

So, why don’t we have an office? Well, even when you think you have all the bases covered, something often has to give.

We started developing our pipeline four months before we even started the company. It takes a long time to contact customers, get a meeting, introduce our services, write a proposal, get feedback from the customer, agree the proposal, write the contract, implement the solution, and finally get paid. Depending on the company that purchased our solution, payment terms can be 30, 45, 60 days or even longer.

Since I am the sales and customer care guy and the internal accountant, I am responsible for managing the sale from start to finish, including invoicing and collection. One of the principles we founded the company on is customer service, and I believe that pays off in leaps and bounds when it comes to getting paid for our work. I have found that, when you have a happy customer, especially when it is a smaller business, they pay you earlier.

To maintain a healthy cash flow, the sacrifice we have had to make is the office. So for now the kitchen table it is. When you are starting a business cash flow is king. You have to make choices and we have chosen to focus on our customers and things that impact on our ability to deliver. Like a relationship, a business is often about choosing the right compromise to make things work.

I have come to love my new kitchen table and its sleek, designer lines. That Gustafsson must have learnt a lot while he was at IKEA.