Guy Bauer Productions uses Fundbox to fund strategic growth and explosive success
At Fundbox, our obsession is giving business owners the financial power and flexibility to be more successful. We’ve seen, over and over, that in running a business, obsession and passion for what you do often pays huge dividends. For Fundbox customer Guy Bauer, owner and founder of Guy Bauer Productions, a creative video production agency in Chicago, IL, that’s definitely been the case. Since he began his agency nearly a decade ago out of his home, he’s focused his effort on delivering high-quality work for every single project, while also continually seeking personal growth and improvement as a leader to his growing staff.
Now the head of one of Chicago’s top video production agencies, Guy has come a long way from his start as a “single video dude working in his bedroom.” He’s learned a ton about leading a team, managing clients, business financing, and cash flow. We gave him a call to talk about the most brutal lessons he learned from his early projects, and how he uses Fundbox to keep his business growing, even in the slow months.
Fundbox: Guy, tell us about yourself and your company. How did you get started, and how has your life changed since you began the business?
Guy Bauer: I started my agency as a single video dude out of my second bedroom. The reason I started by myself in 2010 was simply because I could not find a job! I had video training, but I had no business background. It was during the Great Recession and it was just awful. In the beginning, I did literally everything for the business, which was really challenging for me.
Today, Guy Bauer Productions is a multi-million dollar company and I tell you…it’s not easy growing, from leading a small video firm, into being a real executive with 30 employees. Those people are all looking at me to know what I’m doing and sometimes, I don’t. But that’s also the fun of business!
These days, I’m trying to limit myself to focusing on sales and quality control. I help sell, since it’s my name on the door, and then I work to maintain our quality. Without that high quality, we would have nothing.
Fundbox: Can you share some of your biggest challenges and you’ve faced around cash flow and operating your business successfully?
GB: Cash is everything. I learned a gigantic cash flow lesson early on, in 2011. My company was just me at the time, hanging on by a thread. I got a new account and a big rush job for $15k, which represented a quarter of what I did in revenue at the time—it was a huge deal for me. I delivered their video and sent the invoice, due immediately. I couldn’t wait to get my check…and then they said, “We’re Net-120.” I had to look that up! I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t wait 4 months!
The client was so happy. They were going to hire me again. Yet, I was broke! I had to use my own money: I cleaned out my savings account to pay for the plane tickets to get to this job. I went broke to do this job. I did not have payroll or overhead at that point, so I just sort of starved for a couple of months. But imagine if I had overhead: I would have gone out of business, for doing amazing work and making that client happy.
After that I knew the game. You must stay in business long enough to get paid!
Access to financing at the right time helps us do that. My goal is to eventually have enough retained earnings to need less financing, but right now it’s crucial. In the past, I withdrew our whole line from Fundbox, and thank God for Fundbox.
You can’t run a business off of debt forever, but if your business is fundamentally profitable and healthy, then financing options like Fundbox allow you to take the edge off those valleys in your cash flow.
Fundbox: Transitioning from being a solo entrepreneur to managing 30 employees is tough, but you’ve clearly succeeded in making that leap. What’s been most important for you in that process?
GB: There are so many things. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do. I know video inside and out. I’ve been doing video since the 7th grade. But managing other people? I’ve only been doing that since 2012!
The biggest mistake I see a lot of people make is that they are in business for the wrong reason, and they take their foot off the gas. Maybe they get five years in and they get distracted. Maybe they start taking a higher salary or more profits and putting it in to the trappings of success: the cool office space with expensive furniture, or a fancy car. Those people lose the scrappiness that got them there when they start believing they “made it”—and they take their foot off the gas.
Not me; I am pedal to the metal. I was up at 4 a.m. today. I had a 12-hour work day and that’s my standard day. The biggest thing I’ve learned is, if you don’t bring it, every day, you open up room for competitors to steal your secret sauce. I never stop improving. Every day, I’m in it.
Now, the way I defined “working hard” six years ago was different. Today, it’s planning, strategizing, managing, and doing sales. The role has changed, but the effort hasn’t changed.
Fundbox: What would you most want to say to other business owners when it comes to managing your finances?
GB: Using financing is good as long as you’re smart about it. You can use it, but there must be an ROI on the debt. I know I can out-earn what I pay in fees.
We’re getting a lot better with cash flow forecasting. For example, we get a ton of cash in May, June, July, because that’s when things start coming it. We use a cash flow forecasting software service to see into the future of our cash.
Fundbox: Has your approach to financing changed over time? How?
GB: I used to be very financially undisciplined. The good thing is that the business was growing, and a high growth business can mask a lot of stupidity. In the past, I might use Fundbox to make payroll if I noticed, Oh crap, payroll’s tomorrow!
Now, as a more experienced manager, I can be more strategic. For example, in the past, I might pay for major expenses like a new camera in cash, but then find myself needing to borrow cash soon after, meaning that I was essentially financing that purchase. These days, if we make a withdrawal on Fundbox, we have planned ahead, and know where and how we will need to use it.
Fundbox is fast, and I can rely on it. Now, I use it more for operational expenses, rather than for capital purchases.
Fundbox: How has that access to extra funds helped you grow?
GB: Financing has allowed me not to be so paycheck to paycheck. It levels out the troughs. Psychologically as well—you know you are not going to hit a brick wall. You won’t have to empty your accounts, or miss payroll, to take on a big job.
The reality is, clients are late! They are late paying. The biggest lie in business is, “The check is in the mail.”
For us, Fundbox is the confidence that one late check will be ok.
You can find Guy Bauer Productions in Chicago and online.