Managing Financials – in good and bad times


Finance is probably the top topic for many entrepreneurs – especially now in the Corona crisis. In hard times, negative feelings around money might arise. Some no longer respond to payment reminders, do not open letters or fall back too quickly on credit offers that are actually unattractive.

In the following, I will describe the strategy I have used to manage my personal money and the finances of my companies for the last 5 years.

Basic Money Rules:

  1. Stay organised and active
  2. Keep your equity
  3. Future first
  4. No regrets
  5. Talk about money

1. Stay organised and active

For as long as I can remember, I have been organising my personal and business finances in a really simple Excel spreadsheet. Keep it easy yet logic, just to know what’s coming in and what’s going out – even when things don’t come in or go out.

If you have an overview and know who to contact, you not only have an overview in good times, but you can also ask for payment deferrals or negotiate instalments in bad times within the shortest possible time. The less overview you have, the greater the chaos, the mental strain and the time it takes to get everything back in order.

In addition to your obligations, write down your acquisition plan. This does not have to be as extensive as a calculation for a business plan, but it should at least cover the next three months. This way you have everything in view and can set priorities as soon as there is budget again.

2. Keep your equity

Company shares are the most valuable thing an entrepreneur owns. Of course, there are always seemingly attractive offers that might work as a quick fix for financial bottlenecks. However, these business partners then also own a part of your company.

Think carefully about whether this will really help you or whether it makes more sense to wait out a financial dry spell – such as a global pandemic. Check out all (!) other options first before selling shares.

3. Future first

There are situations in which the topic of finances takes up so much space that you get the feeling you have to focus 100% on this problem in order to somehow get out of this predicament. That’s kind of human – but it’s also bad for business.

As long as you don’t own a bank, you need money “only” to lead your business into the future – your business purpose is completely different. This gives you numerous possibilities to get ahead without money.

For example, you can start sales campaigns, send emails, pick up the phone or produce content about your company and your offers at any time. Even if you don’t have the budget for a website, you still have the social media channels. There are always ways to keep working.

If you ask different CEOs, many will probably tell you to think more short term or more long term. I’m always a fan of looking at the future first and foremost. Sometimes you just have to be able to deal with short-term situations. But if you don’t know where you want to go in the long term, then your company has much bigger problems.

4. No regrets

Especially during the crisis, I have often seen people reconsider their historical spending and purchases. Many things that made sense before Covid now seem pointless – money wasted. How nice it would be if that money would still be in the bank account now?

I find this kind of mourning behind the scenes very counterproductive. What’s gone is gone. You made a decision at the time you invested your money. So let it go. Concentrate on getting along in the here and now and working out the future.

In the best case, you have learned from your bad investment. Or maybe you were able to enjoy it at the time. Then stand by it and be proud of your decision. Regretting won’t get you anywhere anyway.

5. Talk about money

A mean connection is that between finances and mental health. Financial insecurity can be a real pain in the neck, and it can put a strain on relationships with friends, co-workers and business partners. There will always be people who will go through a crisis with you – and those who will want to hurt you even more. The best thing you can do is to be honest.

Talk to everyone honestly about your financial situation and try to find individual solutions. Give updates when things change and explain that you at least have a good overview of the situation (see 1.) Also share information about your future plans and how you are working on them despite the current finances (see 3.). This way you strengthen relationships and make it clear that you are not just waiting for external factors to change.

With these 5 tips, you can stay active and communicate transparently in any situation – regardless of the number on your bank statement. If there is enough budget, you can set priorities and plan expenses. If there are financial bottlenecks, you can manage them easily and timely. This way you can concentrate on what is important: your actual business purpose!

Pro tip: Keep these basics in mind even when money doesn’t seem to matter any more. In my working life, I have met many wealthy managers and entrepreneurs who really no longer had any overview of their private and business finances. Not only do they lose money, they also open the door for CEO fraud. But that is another story…

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Carolin Desirée Toepfer is the founder & CEO of European company builder Group and Estonian cybersecurity training provider Cyttraction. As entrepreneur, political scientist, computer engineer and prolific international speaker, Carolin has been immersed in technology and coding since her teenage years. With a past as a bridge builder on the challenges of digital transformation, a certified data protection officer and IT security expert, she takes a keen eye on IT infrastructure, future technologies and the social behaviour of humans in the digital age.