Those that have been reading a while undoubtably noticed I sometimes use this blog as a case study for a post topic. Sometimes this is simply because it makes a good example. Other times though it really is because I am asking questions about the future of Full Time Finance of myself. This post is a case of the latter but still written in a way that may apply to situations well beyond my personal situation. The question at hand, when to invest in your business.
Background on Full Time Finance: Not Financially Driven
I started Full Time Finance more than a year ago. The goal of this blog since day one has been primarily as a hobby, so let me say before we proceed any further that while finances do matter for this blog, they are not the primary goal. To be more explicit I would like my hobby to be revenue neutral, but I do not have a goal of creating a blogging income stream. Others have done it, and if I stumbled upon it that would be great, but it really is not why I write here week in and out.
In fact, this blog is not really even the star business in the Full Time Finance household. Mrs. Full Time Finance’s consulting business made more in profit with two hours of work for her business then this blog made in revenue for an entire year. Her business though is less constrained by capital investment and more so by her own desires. I.E. her business is an action of self, rather than an action of money. So this is not a question of investing in her business or my blog. This is purely a question of do I invest in my blogging business.
Finding a Purpose
So why is it even a question whether I should invest in Full Time Finance. Well one of the big reasons this blog exists is as a learning tool for myself. My purpose is to learn about digital marketing and other areas for my career enrichment. My second purpose is to enjoy talking to people about finance since very few people in my life truly enjoy such conversations. Ultimately when deciding whether to invest in your business the first thing you need to answer is what is your purpose or purposes. If you don’t know why your running a business you should not be investing and probably should shudder the business.
So this leaves us with 2 main goals for Full Time Finance. Goals in any business investment decision should be extrapolated for your purpose. The first goal in my case is experiment in digital marketing. The second is grow my readership so I have more people to engage with. Your decision to invest should be tied to your goals. If you do not have clear line of sight as to how your investment will bring you to your goals then you should not be investing.
To this we add a constraints. Constraints are the limits of how far you will go with an investment. They could be a desired ROI, based on your available funds, or even as in our case to stay revenue neutral. In case of our blog my constraint is not spending beyond our current projected yearly revenue.
Analyze Where You Are
Now that we have determined the goals and constraints we can analyze where we are on the trail to our goals. We’ll start with the easy part, the constraints. Last Year Full Time Finance brought in a whopping 30 dollars in profit. It’s only expense was hosting. But you can see the current reality means a second source of income would be a pipe dream. Glad I’m not shooting for that!
However, revenues are a higher percent in the last 6 months then the first 6. So if my current estimates have profit somewhere between $60-100 on current trajectory. Not exactly Scrooge Mcduck here chanting we’re in the money, but it does provide some ramp to invest. Also in theory any thing I do that increases viewership will at least somewhat increase revenue, so I feel confident a $100 investment would be relatively revenue neutral.
Align your Decision to Invest in Your Business with your Goals
But what to invest in. Well my stated goals are to increase readership and experiment with digital marketing. It just so happens I have left one major area in this space unexplored, email marketing. That’s right, Full Time Finance is starting a subscription list. The reason I haven’t done so to date is because of the costs. The biggest cost of a subscription email list is a Post office box. Due to anti spam laws all email subscription lists require a physical address on the email. I could use my home address, but that does not work so hot for someone like myself who wants to remain at least semi anonymous. So in order to play in this space I need to spend some money on a PO Box. It just so happens the yearly fee for a PO Box is $50. Well under our cost constraint and more importantly Aligned with our goals.
More About Our Decision to Invest in Our Business
I routinely hear that an email subscriber list is one of the easiest ways to increase repeat readership. Then again I also know I hate those email subscription pop ups on other sites. So for now the list signup will sit in the right bar of the page fairly innocuously. Feel free to signup, or not. The first email will go out this Friday, personally written by myself.
Set a Review Cycle for Ongoing Investments
This leads us to the last step in deciding whether to invest in your business. It’s really the most critical as well. If the cost is ongoing you should setup a review cycle to see if it works. Set metrics around the outcomes. Set both a goal and a point where you cut the investment if it is not working out. I have set a 12 month goal where if subscribers have not exceeded 200 or I am not at least seeing a 2000 views a month from the email I’ll cut it. It’s important to give the investment a long enough time period to truly see if it is effective. In my case 6 months may be too short as blogs come with a seasonality. But if I do a year on year comparison at the end and can’t see an incremental change then I’ll pull the plug.
So that is how I make decisions on business investing. I actually also use this process when making investments in education and other areas as well. The key is to always keep your goals and purpose in sight. Manage your constraints to those goals. Analyze where you are and then align your investment with your goals. Finally, continuously improve by setting metrics and review cycles.
Do you have a business? How do you decide to invest in your business or your education? Do you have a similar process?