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Bursts of Color - Extending the Runway

Bursts of Color - Extending the Runway
By Geoff Donaker • Issue #4 • View online
My best wishes go out to each of you and yours in these crazy times. Please do your best to stay safe and sane.
On the business front: some of you timed the market perfectly and have 24+ months of runway to work with. That’s wonderful. This issue is dedicated to the others, who now find themselves scrambling to manage cash and extend runway as far as they can.
I’ve chatted with many of you already this week. FWIW, following are my top go-to suggestions for maximizing runway.

Runway = Today's Cash Balance / April Burn Rate
Runway = Today's Cash Balance / April Burn Rate
Manage to April Cash Burn
I suggest keeping the runway calculation very simple: (Months Runway = Cash Balance / April Cash Burn). This should help you focus on immediate changes that can improve cash flow now… and to discount or delay ideas that may help longer term.
Assume No New Capital for 6+ Months
Given all the uncertainty, it’s safest to assume that you will not get any incremental capital soon from either investors or debt providers. In the meantime, please stop worrying about growth rates and other such metrics that VCs cared about in a bull market. That stuff just doesn’t matter right now. When the market stabilizes, I believe capital providers will be delighted to work with those who best weathered this storm. “God helps those who help themselves.”
Cut All Discretionary Spending
When managing burn, I’d suggest immediately cutting any marketing that is not cash flow positive in-session. For most of you, this means turning off all Adwords and such. It also means turning off any WeWorks, team lunches, discretionary subscriptions, memberships and the like.
You can always turn these things back on. But you can’t go back in time to cut them last month.
If You Have to Reduce Payroll, Be Decisive
Unfortunately for tech companies like ours, cutting burn rate usually means cutting payroll. This is deeply personal and painful anytime; even more so given the current world health crisis.
Please remember that, if you must take this brutal step, you are doing it to save the company. So you must act decisively enough to make a difference. Here’s the typical scenario we want to avoid:
My team is all great. I am going to layoff the bottom 10% of performers on April 1 with 4 weeks severance.
What’s wrong with this? You still have all of the cultural and personal pain of a layoff, but with very little upside because: (a) those 10% of staff are usually only 6% of payroll and (b) we actually increased April burn with the severance.
Creative Ideas to Buy Time
If you have to cut payroll, here are a few creative ideas you may wish to consider as short-term options to help with cash while preserving your options (check with your lawyers, of course):
  • “Furloughs” - Unpaid leave with benefits for, say, 90 days
  • “Part Time” - 2 or 3 day weeks at 40% or 60% pay
  • “Half Rations” - Deep salary cuts for execs or across the board
  • “Minimum Wage” - Offer for a portion of the team
  • “Commission Only” - May be possible for some sales types
Compromise ideas like these can introduced immediately and then reversed as soon as conditions improve (unlike a RIF), so they may embolden you cut April burn meaningfully, while also supporting your team to the best of the company’s ability.
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Geoff Donaker

Bursts of Color is a newsletter for start-up leaders who work with Burst Capital. It's meant to include products, people and ideas that I think are interesting and maybe relevant for you.

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