As 2010 came to a close, I had an unexpected opportunity to buy an established business. I took the plunge, because I believe owning my own business is key to my dream of personal finance mastery.
In the process, I’m learning a lot about my money personality.
In the way of all things, the purchase didn’t go exactly like I planned. I signed the papers, opened a business checking account, had a positive cash flow for 3 days, and got hit with a radical change that made my cash flow nose dive straight into The Red Sea. If you know what I mean.
So I am facing rebuilding. This week, I met with some colleagues who have been the source for many referrals in the past. It was a big meeting for me. I kept wondering to myself:
Should I come across as confident and already-successful, or should I tell it like it is?
Which approach will have the best chance of keeping the referrals flowing? Will they keep sending me referrals if they think I don’t need them? Or is it better to tell them I really seriously need their referrals, and I’ll work extra hard for them?
It’s an old shibboleth, this reluctance to come clean about money. It shows itself in many forms.
Here are 3 Money Personalities:
1. The Tom Cruise Money Personality
I named it that because of the lengths to which Tom Cruise seems to go to look happy and successful. Check out a picture of him with Katie on the cover of a tabloid. Tom is grinning from ear to ear, his trousers are creased and his linen shirt is not. Meanwhile, Katie looks like she just emerged from a cave into a hot summer day at high noon – bleary, dazed, and disoriented.
But that’s a tangent. The Tom Cruise money personality goes to great pains to “look” successful, in the belief that like attracts like. Fancy cars, iPads and iPhones, matching leather briefcase, belt, and shoes, $150 haircuts, and Zoom-whitened teeth – it’s all about the appearance of success, even if privately they have to grind themselves into credit card induced poverty to get the look.
2. The Steve Guttenberg Money Personality
Guttenberg played Eddie in the cult favorite movie Diner. Eddie turned everything into a competition – he even made his fiancee pass a test about Colts football before he would go through with the wedding.
His type treats a discussion about money as a jousting match. Have you ever been asked by a potential employer what your salary expectations are? If you answered that question with a question, then you may be the Steve Guttenberg type. To wit:
Potential Employer: What are your salary expectations?
Steve Guttenberg Type: What is the range you are offering?
Potential Employer: It would depend on your qualifications. What is your salary history?
Steve Guttenberg Type: It depends on the position and my responsibilities.
Score: Employer: 0. Steve: 0. Nobody gets what they need, nobody says what they want, but the joust continues until one of them breaks.
3. The Chicken Little Money Personality
The sky is falling. I have no money. I can’t drive across town, because my late model Audi roadster might break down and I wouldn’t be able to afford to fix it – so I just hole up in my apartment watching pay-per-view boxing on cable.
Also, I can’t afford to eat. I have a case of chicken noodle soup that I got at the Gross Out (that’s the Grocery Outlet for you unanointed) and I know how to make one can last a whole day. I’m only a little dizzy and it’s only occasionally that I see the black spots. It helps when I wear the Ray Bans.
Oh, by the way – if you call me next week and I don’t answer, it’s because I’m in Paris. Subsisting on day-old baguettes.
So, who was I in my own money discussion?
I guess I was just me, after all. What I ended up doing was sitting down for the meeting, opening my mouth, and going with my gut: bought a business, had a healthy positive cash flow, and then the bottom fell out. As my words hung in the air and the clock on the wall shouted tick-tick-tick, I had a powerful impulse to turn it into a joke. Ha ha! Just kidding!
That’s me in a nutshell. Talk first, second-guess it later.
But then a funny thing happened. Everyone around the table visibly relaxed. They smiled and leaned forward and shared with me how their business, too, has its financial struggles. We all sat there without our protective money-armor on and got down to talking about what we could do together that would help us all. Instead of acting like Tom Cruise, Steve Guttenberg, or Chicken Little, we acted like ourselves. What a concept! We were just a group of human beings with some common interests and good ideas.
Still, I can’t help feeling I was lucky. Or dodged a bullet. Or like the other shoe is going to drop any minute. True to type, my second-guessing continues.
And who are you?
World of Dreamers, what’s your money personality? Leave a comment. I’ll be pleased to meet you.
Jayne Speich is a small business coach/consultant who writes, thinks, and coaches extensively on customer service, business finance, and ways to thrive in the new economy. You can find her at theselfreliantentrepreneur.com. Jayne’s post day is Saturday.