#228 – Cash Flow With Alvin Narsey

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the episode today, we have Alvin Narsey. Alvin, welcome. Thank you Thomas, thanks for having me. It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Yeah, absolutely. So, I am a retail business coach, so I help retailers improve their cash flow and profitability so they can then go on to live and create an amazing lifestyle. Prior to doing this, I was an actual retailer myself. So I’m living in Germany at the moment and I used to live in Melbourne, Australia and over the past 15 years, my thing was buying and selling pharmacies, so I’m a pharmacist by profession. Bought my first business when I was 27 years old and then up until then and last year was buying and selling shops.

That’s my thing, that’s my expertise. There’s a lot to ask you about there. I’m very interested in the fact that you bought a business when you were 27, how did that come about and what was that like? Yeah, absolutely. Well, So I graduated from pharmacy school when I was 22 or so, went overseas as you do, backpacking a little bit and when I came back I decided enough mucking around with my life, it’s time to time to get serious. So I always knew I wanted to get into business, but I didn’t have any money, so I basically had to hustle my way into a partnership, so my first business was with two older business partners and they basically financed me in, and the reason they did that was I convinced them that it would be worth it, but the second part was they were sort of in the middle of their business career and I came in and said, hey, we could, with my ideas, we could grow this business, they were interested in getting a few more shops and etc, etc.

So, I came in and we quickly grew our businesses, bought and sold a few more and yeah, it was a great partnership. Kind of like you put in the hard work, they put in the money, right? Well, yes, in the beginning. I had to prove myself. So we had met through, we had a mutual accountant actually and they told their accountant they’re looking for somebody and my accountant knew me, so yeah, I went in and yes, I had to do the hard yards for about a year to prove myself, which we did. And then from there it was just almost on equal footing in terms of where we were and the ideas that we were spreading along. Is it the kind of activity that you don’t encourage other people to do if they’re going into business for the first time? In a partnership? Just in terms of like, 27, so I don’t know why it seems young to me, I must be getting on a bit in age, but I guess, did you have any prior experience to doing that business before you decided to be an owner?

I did a little bit of early days of internet marketing, a little bit of mlm, some affiliate sales and all that kind of stuff, but not really a physical shop. However, my dad always had a retail business, he had a coffee shop and my grandfather in Fiji, he had like a little department store, so I guess I was always born or brought up in the shop, so I was very familiar with retailing, that’s what I’ve always loved, but yeah, it was risky going into business, but I sort of knew this is what I wanted to do. And were you able to apply your marketing knowledge to the physical shop? Well, it turns out I had no marketing knowledge, so what I thought versus what would happen in real life when I got into business were totally two different things. So I was very, I guess I was very fortunate in the fact that I was really hungry and I was eager to grow and make money as, I can only speak for me, at 27 I was like the world’s my worst to give it, give it, give it.

So I was very fortunate in the fact that I sought help, so I got a business coach, I got a couple of mentors and so that’s why I really, I was able to accelerate my sort of progression through buying and building shops, because I just kind of hacked the curve really, I got advice and I followed the advice and I think I’m very good at following advice, so I just did what I was told and it worked. Interesting thing about that is I find that some people listen to advice when they’re, when they’re getting started and some don’t, they’re like, I can figure this out for myself type thing, but if you are sort of humble enough to follow the advice of someone who’s done it before, I do feel like that’s, I mean that can get some quite good results from people I’ve spoken to, I’ve heard anyway. Yeah, I think so, and I think that humility thing’s a really great point. I think where did I get that humility thing from? I think it was more out of a real desire just to jump really quickly.

So if I really think about it now as a young kid back then and I was just happy to take whatever help I could, anyone would help me and obviously I had to pay for help, but yeah, and were you ambitious in a particular direction at that time, were you trying to achieve something or were you just sort of directing your inner ambition, if you like? Yeah, I guess I was trying to, at that young age, to be honest I was just really trying to make a lot of money, and then it was only later on, once I hit 30’s, about three years into it, I realized there was so much more to life and business and I guess that was my teaching, yeah, that was my teachings. The business was showing me that there’s more to life than just slaving away and going for the bucks. Is that because you did loads of hours and it wasn’t fulfilling? Absolutely, so it was loads of hours at that time. I was a DJ, and I couldn’t play any gigs, I wasn’t really shopping for vinyl, so my life was disrupted on the other side and yeah, you’re right, I just wasn’t living my life, was working six days a week, pretty much late night and then coming home and working on the business etc. Only to realize that there’s so much more to life, and one of my biggest values is adventure and travel and freedom and that wasn’t happening.

So how does this first business end, you still an owner or do you exit somehow? No. So basically, after a couple of years, within the partnership, we bought and sold a few more, and then about six years ago we decided to dissolve the partnership, so I think that was almost 10 years in together, and then I was basically, I was happy with one shop, so we kind of split up the businesses, I kept one shop, and I just grew that and then the pandemic came along, I was in Australia and pharmacies were doing very, very well and it was, we decided it was the perfect time for me to sell, so I sold at the top of the market, so we’re very lucky and then I moved countries, came to Germany. And what was the process like to sell? Easy. So what I was always taught very early on by my mentors and coaches is you always want to set your business up for sale and so, when you start to think like that you have all the systems and procedures set up, you’re focusing on, especially in my game, you’re focusing on ebit or your net profit and you’re always ensuring that your books are in order.

So it’s a real stickler for that. I understood that very earlier on and that was really important because when you start to get multiple shops and if you’ve got everything right and proper in the first one, you can just wall it out. So that was really apparent to me and I knew that, so really it was a matter of making a decision, well, in fact the market was making decisions for me. I had a few offers coming in and I wasn’t really entertaining it, and then my wife sort of suggested, you know, like, you know, she would like to come back to Germany, she’s from Germany, I was like, okay, let’s do it. So it was basically a very easy process in my case. Yeah, thank you for going into it. And typically I asked at the beginning of the conversation, what is it that you’re passionate to talk about? But, you know, sort of jumped at the opportunity to get a bit of your backstory there. So if you have, if you had a particular topic that you want to discuss or you wanted to share your learnings from, what would it be? Yeah, So I think um it’s basically what I work with my clients with now is the importance of cash flow and profitability in your business, and it’s the unsexy but very easily forgotten aspect of running a business and this can apply to all businesses.

So that’s that’s the main thing that I focus on, because that was taught to me probably a couple of years into it into my business building career. And once I got that fundamentals, once I understood it, everything just becomes really easy. I actually think that cash flow is probably something which most people struggle with if they’re in business and there’s not a lot of discussion around how to tackle that? So, did you learn it the hard way, or were you given some lessons that you actually again that you actually use straight away? Yes, I definitely learned it the hard way in the beginning. So it’s like in a retail business, especially when you’re growing um you know, you a lot of capital gets out leg for stock and stuff and you know, marketing etcetera, and you know, your accountant tells you your turnovers, increase, your profits are up. And so I’m looking at my bank account going, where’s the cash? So at that point, you know, well they said you have a cash flow problem, but no one really explained that to me, but I was very, very fortunate that I had a really good coach at that time, Glenn and he basically simplified everything.

And it’s basically what he taught me, which is what I use with my clients now. Like you said, cash flow is often not talked about because I think we tend to overcomplicate it and by keeping it really simple and applying it to your business, it’s like wearing x ray goggles, it’s, it can really open up your eyes how so well if you’re, so what I recommend if when you start, you need to start recording your cash flow and recording a cash flow and on a weekly basis and making decisions from your cash flow recording on a weekly basis. So that’s that’s the first thing that I would do. um and just give you a really simple, nothing fancy like some simple google sheets or an excel spreadsheet, very old school. It’s just so you as the owner can actually see what’s coming in, so you look at your income coming in, look at your debits going out, who you paid out and what’s left over and I encourage um the way I was encouraged to do it was just to ensure that everything balances with the balance on your bank account.

So, using internet banking, it’s really easy now to download the credits and debits and to marry it up that way. But once you get your cash flow recording sorted, then the next part is you can accurately forecast your cash flow, which is another thing that um most business owners sort of don’t do or they leave it to the accountant, but forecasting is really important and you can predict, you know, I think with a high degree of accuracy, the way your business is gonna Pan out from the cash sense 12 weeks into the future and it makes it really fun, you know, so for instance if you want to um I don’t know you want to buy a piece of capital equipment or you want to purchase something. So you can add that into your forecast and you can, you know, with a high degree of accuracy, have a look 89 weeks down the track, how does that affect your cash position and then you can make a decision like, well maybe should we get financing for this bit of equipment or product or should we really maybe split the payments or you can just make some far more intelligent decisions that won’t strain your business.

I am a cash flow, a spreadsheet person rather. So I do have the spreadsheet going. I do find that and correct me if, if you think this is not correct, but I do find that there’s some wishful thinking going on sometimes with the spreadsheet. So I do have to kind of, I don’t know, discipline myself to be what it is rather than what I hope it is. If you ever found that to be the case with people. Absolutely. Reality sucks. And you’re right. It has to be what’s exactly going on in your bank account, You can’t make up figures otherwise the whole cash flow thing goes out the door. Um, so yeah, there’s a certain level of hard honesty that you must show yourself. It’s, yeah, it’s really can be really hurt typing everything into the spreadsheet? Um, you know, reality sucks regarding the forecasting. It’s not something that I’ve had a lot of time discussing. So have you, have you got anything to share on that topic?

Absolute. So the first thing before we start forecasting, I think it’s really important that we have tracked previous 12 weeks. I think When you’re running a small business, 12 weeks is a good amount of time that you can start to see some ebbs and flows and some general trends in your business. And, And then from there it’s really just focusing and forecasting out for the next 12 weeks and keeping really everything the same, changing the dates and then start to manipulate some of the numbers if you want. So for instance, if you sort of know you might be expecting a little bit more income on that particular week, on week seven for instance or you want to do that capital purchase or you think there’s extra money in the bank account, I might take it out for myself. You know, how does that impact the business? But just keeping it really simple I think is the key thing. So coming back to the instance where you had no money in the bank account, but you, the accountant told you that you had made a profit, presumably there’s a tax issue there as well. As a, as a side note, you owe some money even though you don’t have any money, how does someone solve that problem?

Yeah. With the spreadsheet. Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So what we did then was we had to renegotiate some supply payments. Um once we had sort of gotten out of that and sort of spoken to suppliers and say we can pay later on from then on, once we learned this, the hard way it was a matter of allocating your tax from the beginning. So every, every time income would come into account, we would just split up where the money would go. So we’d put a little bit in the tax account a little bit in the cash account and just planning it forward like that. But in that instance where we were, we had to go the tax in Australia, you can make an arrangement with the tax office to delay your tax payment, which is what we did after we worked through that, then we were always in advance predicting what the tax is going to be and actively putting away money for it. And so the problem is that the money was being spent even though it was already owed to someone else and by spilling out the money, you actually don’t spend that money because you know, you don’t have it.

Right. Exactly, right. Yeah. I think Mike McCullough wits discusses really well, he runs, he came up with the profit first system and most, you know, most business coaches have some sort of system like that, but yeah, you just basically allocating money in bacchus, it sounds so simple, it just needs a little bit of discipline and it can work wonders and you’re right, eventually you need to make sure that your business runs on the optimum amount of cash, not, you know, not spending money really nearly. Well, thank you for sharing that. I think it’s an important lesson in terms of what you’re doing now. What’s your day look like, wow. So I’m so lucky. So I get to help retail business owners with their cash flow and profitability. So I work with clients a group setting, so I work with clients a couple times a week and the rest of the time I’m out there on podcast promoting my business and now I’m here in Germany, I’m making sure I live my life. So learning German, which is entirely very fun, meeting new people and doing a lot of reading.

So I’m really, really big on the lifestyle component and do you miss any of it running your shop a little bit? You know, I’m that guy that walks into a retail store and subconsciously starts to, you know, a little bit or I’m always paying attention to the customer service or their marketing, but right now I think, no, no, I’m good, I’ve had a really good run. I’m very excited to be doing the next part of my journey in life, so not to say I’ll never go back and earn another business um you know, a retail business anyway, I would, but right now it’s so much fun with doing what I’m doing so, and have you got any wins that you’d like to share regarding what you’re doing now. Yeah, wow, okay. Yeah, heaps. Um I guess I wasn’t really present on social media before, so you know, that’s, that’s a new win for me presenting myself on social media and sort of um sharing yourself with the world like I had never done before Henson doing podcasts and just really trying to get the word out there and I guess one of the nature of my business is that my clients are all over the world, so it’s part of what I need to do.

Yeah, and so I think it’s a really big win for me to be able to do this with you on the podcast, and do Facebook lives and get on Instagram and do all that kind of thing and really show my work um on the social media platforms and now you’ve got your cash flow sorted out what are some of the biggest challenges other than that in running this business or in my life you can do either. I don’t mind. Yeah, I think my life is good. My my biggest challenge, challenges in life are deciding which countries to go visit next. So maybe that’s not a good example um in my business, the biggest challenge for me at the moment is getting more clients and finding the right kind of clients. So that’s also a challenge and a great opportunity and you know, it just takes a little bit more work then um then what I’m used to I guess. But yeah, but it’s all panning out in the right direction. So I’m supremely happy.

And what about those people who are your clients, what are the challenges they typically have? Yeah, so I tend to, because I market for as a cash flow and profitability expert, a lot of my, a lot of my clients come to me with that same issue. So you know, a lot of them are having apart from the cash flow and profit thing, a lot of the retailers are still trying to adapt to the whole covid situation. So I’ve got clients who are sort of thinking about doing online as well as bricks and mortar or the other way around. I’ve got a lot of online e commerce clients who are then thinking of opening bricks and mortar and the same challenges that you get with retail for them, hiring customer service, all that fun stuff. Well, that’s an interesting um, place to navigate actually because I do think, as you say, people are always considering if there one should they go to the other. So have you got any advice as in retail and then bricks and mortar and online, Is that what you mean? Yeah. Yeah, I think it really depends on where you are with your business, the market that you serve and when I say where you are with your business, how much more would you like to go?

Are you willing to grow in general having an in retail talk and omnichannel presence is a really good idea. I think if you already have a bricks and mortar store and I think it’s almost almost mandatory that we have an online e commerce strategy as well um with the e commerce sellers, I think you need to reach a certain point and a certain value proposition before you get to bricks and mortar, you’ve got to have a unique product etcetera, etcetera. It’s going to really make it worthwhile. Um Yeah, thank you for that. Is there anything that I should have asked you about today? Let me think. I think you covered everything, my friend. Um No, well I did say that sort of near the end. I would ask you what you, what your definition of success is. So what does success mean to you? Yes. So you know, for me what’s really important is freedom, lifestyle and adventure. So that’s what success means to me if I can be living in this world and be free and have adventure and have a lifestyle that I want.

So for me that’s a lot of traveling, which I’m doing at the moment, taking a lot of time out of my day to read um connect with people constantly learning some learning german at the moment. Um that’s what success means to me now. Just just amazing connections and just being able to live in the world rather than hanging out on the, on the hamster wheel of life that I that I used to live on. So based on that criteria. Are you a successful person? Yes, absolutely. I am. That’s what you like to hear, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, and you know, it’s um what I learned very midway through was it’s such a success is what it means to you. And I remember doing some self development course once and you know, they said you can just set the bar low so you create what success means to you, whether you get up in the morning, so for me, a successful day is making sure I meditate, making sure I go to the gym and making sure I do a little bit of work, so I set the bar really low for me to be successful and happy and once I’ve done two or three of those things already today, just gotta do a little bit more work and that’s it, I’m happy.

So there may be someone listening to this right now who’s on that hamster wheel and they’re thinking, God, that sounds amazing what you just said, what do you say to them in terms of advice? I think it’s really important, what I find and this is what I find happens with a lot of my clients as well, because we’re so stuck in running around that wheel, it’s a matter of really taking a step back and really doing that clichĂ© thing of finding out what really matters to you and I think it’s that taking that time that we, I’m not sure what happens, like we don’t really take the time to take a step back or when we take a step back and try and plan out our ideal life. Get a little bit scared because we’re like oh we need the job for the income to pay the house to pay the cars etc. So I think it’s really important that we take a step back, have a look at what we really want our life to be, what really makes us happy and to be able to then start to take some steps to you know start to create that life. About having a purpose and a vision, right? Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Well congratulations on everything you’ve achieved. It sounds like you’re in a good place and you put the hard work in to get there, so well done for that. Thank you. Do you have any closing thoughts for us? No, that’s fantastic. Had a really great time, thank you. Well if someone wants to connect or perhaps learn more, where do they go? The best place is I spend a lot of my time on Facebook so just find me Alvin Narsey on Facebook. Shoot me a message, tell me that you heard me on here and yeah, let’s continue the conversation. Alvin, thank you very much for being a great guest. Lovely, thanks Thomas. Thanks for the opportunity