Beliefs and Money: An Interview with Michael Katzmann

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eLab Contributor

eLab Contributor

Bastian Behrmann is the eLab Berlin Location Manager and has been involved and working in the Berlin startup scene since 2016. He coaches and guides all of our participants while on the program as well as getting them connected to important founders and investors in the local startup ecosystem.

Michael Katzmann is an investment banker and consultant as well as one of our amazing instructors here at eLab Berlin. He has the ability to explain complex topics and formulas in a way that everyone can easily follow, but overall it is his empathy, which makes him an outstanding instructor. He understands the mind and how people retain information:

I repeat important statements three times because then it sticks to your brain.

During his sessions, he gives an introduction to the Entrepreneurial Mindset and explains what it means to identify opportunities and solve problems. At eLab, we believe that the main goal of every entrepreneur and CEO is to find opportunities, set the right goals and execute them.

In his modules, he helps and gives advice on what investors are looking for and how to prepare and execute a sound Business Plan and Growth Strategy for building a healthy, fast-growing company. As a part of this, he is also our instructor for the Market and Competitor Analysis and Sales modules.

Michael always introduces himself by speaking about his passion, which is a relatively rare one called finance. Finance is a major focus in our program and in his module, the participants learn how to establish and forecast a “Profit and Loss” statement as well as a solid liquidity plan. They also learn how to read and project financial statements and the basic fundamentals of a balance sheet. 

In the sessions, you can see his eyes sparkle when he explains the difference between revenue, profit, and income as well as how to measure it. You can feel his passion and have no choice other than becoming excited about finance yourself! When asking him about his interest in this particular subject he exclaimed:

I love finance! Ever since I was 15 years old I had a passion to understand the relationship between reality and numbers. I was always wondering what relationship human behavior and numbers have in common.

And he knows how to explain it in a way that the fear of the monster called finance disappears during his courses when he talks about what numbers really are: 

In the end, I found out that numbers regarding finance are a mirror of human behavior. A language that can not lie, but can be tricked. If we are good at what we are doing the numbers are positive.

He makes clear that covering this mirror is one of the worst things an entrepreneur can do.

If our entrepreneurial behavior is suboptimal, finance will show us signs of warning long before there is a bankruptcy.

Throughout his career, Michael has been an investment banker, reorganization manager for small and mid-sized companies and has funded and helped launch a startup. Apart from eLab, he is running his own successful consulting company Geld Katze and is also running his own blog. He brings all of this experience into his sessions and explains:

Most people I work with, are terrified about finance. Most of the time I hear things like “I was not good at math so I can’t do finance."

This, of course, is not the real reason. As long as you know how to add up numbers and have a certain logic behind it, it is easy to learn and to understand, especially in a startup or SME environment. At the end of the day, finance is just a mirror of our past, present, and future, communicated in the language of numbers and he often uses metaphors to explain his points. 

Imagine you are driving a car from Stockholm to Gibraltar. The thing is that you can’t see how fast you are going or how much gas is left. Finance shows exactly how fast we are “burning” our cash and how far we can get.

But what is stopping so many startups from looking at the tachometer or the speed barometer? Why would we ignore these important measurement tools? In Michael’s opinion, it’s: 

Hidden belief systems and priorities. Finance is not the most important thing when building your company, but it is a very good guiding tool. Instead of creating a beautiful financial dashboard that provides us with important information, many people prefer to close their eyes. From my point of view, this is an unnecessary risk... and only because people think they’re not good in finance aka math.

Over the past seven cohorts that have gone through eLab, he has imparted his knowledge about flawed belief systems regarding finance onto our aspiring entrepreneurs and reminded them not to cover the proverbial mirror. Plus, he showed them how to implement the tools and methods necessary to create a financial dashboard for all of the startups on the program. Many of our students continue to stay in touch with Michael after their eLab experience ends to get his advice. But why is he dedicating so much of his time to our young entrepreneurs and sharing his passion with them? 

I love the glowing eyes when my students understand and say: “Wow, that’s not as hard as I thought”. It is incredible to empower my students to build their first profit and loss statements and connect these with their sales and cost planning. I love teaching, but what I love most is when my students understand and use the knowledge I have taught them.

Ready to tackle startup finances with the help of an eLab expert? Then check out our Programs page to find the best solution for your business needs.

If you want to learn more about our highly-qualified instructors and coaches, then check out our eLab Team page.

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