It’s your business – It’s your life

I have been working with small businesses for my entire work life. And to give you a hint of its longevity; when I started working, computers were only available in large insurance companies in separate raised floor air-conditioned rooms and in the tech world, dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

Since I became bookkeeper I have worked with very small businesses; frequently 1 person owners or “mom & pop” shops, and I have come in as a contractor to lend a hand with the books and quite frequently – all things admin.

This is something I think about a lot. You have decided to start a business. It is because you are fortunate enough to earn a living doing what you love, or you are simply happiest when you are the boss. Regardless of the reason; it is all yours. And this, to me, is where it gets interesting. I am often surprised by how many owners I have spoken to who try to Do It All –  well past the time when assistance or delegation is needed to let them, and their company, grow.

More times than I should be able to say, I have spoken to owners who ask me for a bit of help with their bookkeeping. In almost every case, their partner/spouse is handling the books. When I ask if this is something they want to do, about 50% of the time, I get a quizzical look from the owner as a reply. And I see this as part of the reason they need that bit of help.

It is an understandable decision to have your partner participate in the dream, especially if they don’t work outside of the home full-time. It starts off seeming like a simple ask. After all, you are just starting your company and there aren’t that many transactions in any given week, right? And if you have worked with your accountant (you have an accountant – don’t you) setting up your bookkeeping system to make the data entry a simple task, then it shouldn’t take up much time each week.

Or do you do everything yourself? This should work for the same reason I mentioned in my previous paragraph. If you have set aside 10% if your work week for administrative tasks, you should be able to keep up with things for a while.

However, if you are in the contracting trades, you know how difficult it can be to manage your projects from your office even if you have someone in the field. Or if you own a store or restaurant, how often have you needed to step in if an employee can’t come to work? You can find yourself leaving the office during your designated admin time, so you think that you can take care if it on the weekend or after dinner or the day your place is closed. And you can – but what about your life?

This is just a reminder: You need a life. The work/life balance thing (yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah) is important. If you are happy working 7 days a week and you feel everything is in balance, go for it.

Just keep this other thing in mind – it’s your business.

Do you have plans for it to grow? If the thing you love is the administrative side (and I am including marketing here)  – hold onto that when you are looking at expansion. Hire the folks that will successfully do the things you aren’t best at. If you love working in the field, love working with your hands, love contact with people – hold on to that. This will keep the joy in your life. Hand off the administrative tasks and it doesn’t have to be all at once. If you take a hard look at these functions, they can be outsourced in pieces.

As I am a bookkeeper, this is the 1st item I believe should be outsourced. A good bookkeeper can seem like a large expense but they should be able to perform these specific tasks, quicker and more efficiently than you or an untrained admin. They can know what to look for if seems like you aren’t making enough money, help you restructure your chart of accounts to break out your cost of goods & services gross profit and determine if you are charging enough, show you where you are leaving money on the table and keep everything in shape to make the end-of-year handover to your accountant an easy one.

The owner of one of my first contracted jobs told me something that has always stuck. She owned a store that was open 6.5 days a week. She said that hiring a bookkeeper 1 day a week freed up 2 days in her week allowing her to expand her business and give her back a day off.

And don’t forget, the cost is a business expense.

Just a thought.

QuickBooks Items – I love these things.

In my history as a bookkeeper I have not yet worked with an accountant that likes a dense Chart of Accounts. As the owner, you may want to know exactly what marketing campaign made money or widget sold well but your accountant most likely won’t care about that level of detail.

This is where items rule! Think about the way you sell your services or products. If you are a general contractor, you may sell carpentry, plumbing, HVAC services and definitely want to know how and where those funds are spent and income is earned. If you are a florist, tracking the types of flowers, plants or arrangements you sell will go a long way in tracking trends. And don’t forget those widgets…

But from an accounting perspective, do you need to know more than your income and expenses? Yes, there is a need for individual expenses and I am certainly not saying that all you need is a 2 line Chart of Accounts but does the person handling your data entry in Quickbooks need to remember the exact income or expense account number/name? The answer is no.

By using items linked to the individual income/cost of goods/expense accounts, you can collect as much detail as you desire without the need to over complicate your Chart of Accounts.

And it makes it a much easier way to handle all of those receipts. Whether we like it or not, the best way to defend an IRS audit is a receipt showing an accurate record of your purchase. Why not used pre-printed stickers with the QB item to apply to these receipts.

If you have field staff that make company purchases, they can turn in their receipts with correct item already noted. With pre-printed labels, no more handwriting questions.

Think of the time and cost you will save when your data entry person is able to quickly enter the data without the need to know a lot about your business and this means if that data entry person has been you, the owner, you can hand that responsibility over to your office support staff (you have an admin, right?) knowing that the details won’t get lost and focus on growing your company.

And if your bookkeeper does all of your data entry, think about how much faster the entries can be made when you hand over tagged receipts.

Just a thought.