And I Repeat…

I don’t blog often ‘cuz rhapsodizing about efficient office systems and how a P&L is a fantastic tool for running your business doesn’t do it for most folks and I have been advised not to bore people with the joy it brings me.

But today is April 14th (Aargh!!) and the first 2018 tax filing is tomorrow, or if you live in Massachusetts or Maine, Wednesday, April 17; and I am thinking about the reason you haven’t filed.

Could be any number of things. Could be you just don’t wanna. Could be you want to take a bit more time to review your information. Could be you need a new accountant.

First, file an extension  and breathe a bit.

Ok. Now let’s take a look at what’s up. Are you not ready because your information hasn’t been completed for 2018? That’s what is often the case with many of the business owner’s and solo entrepreneurs I speak with. It’s not that they don’t want to be ready. Every year they plan on getting everything in place so they can have this task checked off before the deadline, it’s just that they don’t have the time to take care of their day-to-day administrative tasks.

So, I am about to beat that drum again. Acknowledge the need and hire help. I know it doesn’t feel like it but it doesn’t mean that you lose control of your business.

The secret is to hire a person you trust to take care of the day-to-day administrative needs. And by day-to-day, I don’t mean that you need to hire a full-time or even every-week part-time employee. If your business is crazy busy and generates lots of paperwork, or you want to have someone available to answer phones then yes… hire someone for daily assistance. That doesn’t mean they have to be full-time, though.

First, figure out everything you need to be done but can no longer handle yourself during your normal business hours. Part of the consideration for bringing on staff (employee or a freelance worker like me) should be that you will get your evenings and weekends back. That would be lovely, yes?

So, you have the list. No? Can’t think of everything that gets done because it is always on the fly?

Let me get you started. In no particular order…

– Answering voice messages and returning phone calls
– Reviewing and replying to email requests for services
– Reviewing and replying to client emails
– Reviewing email for vendor bills
– Paying bills
– Invoicing clients
– Tracking outstanding monies due to you
– Ordering supplies for your services
– Ordering office supplies
– Reviewing time sheets and handling payroll
– Ordering uniforms
– Marketing
– Filing

That’s quite a list. Did you know you were taking care of all of that… and probably more things unique to your business? Of course you did, because you have been doing it all.

So let’s take a look again. What can you hand off without losing control of your business? How about almost everything.

It’s all about systems, training and hiring the right person.

Sounds like I think it’s easy but I can assure you that I know it is not. And depending on where you are in your business, it can take time to get it right. But you can get it right and once that happens, you can comfortably take your business where you want it to go and, get more of your personal life back.

How do you do it? One step at a time.

I know… How cliché is that? It is, however true. It can take time but each step will get you closer to your goal.

Don’t know where to start? Drop me a note and we can chat. I love helping businesses grow and owner’s keep their joy.

Just a thought.

 

A bit of help

I’ve been contacted by several owners lately who are looking for assistance organizing their businesses. Part of that organizing will include bookkeeping but the real need is to get systems in place that will make it easier to stay on top of the day-to-day, week-to-week business needs.

When money is tight, the temptation is to believe you can do it yourself. And you can, but often at the cost of your business. If you are the face or key employee providing labor or services, it isn’t a good use of your time to take care of the general administrative tasks. And the truth is, if you could, you would already be doing it.

The next time you are working on your budget. (You have an annual budget, right?) Include a line for office assistance. Then imagine what you can do with those extra 4 to 20 hours you get back each month. Grow your business? Spend time with family and friends. A new hobby?

Sounds nice, doesn’t it.

Just a thought

Kim at KC Solutions

It’s in the details

I subscribe to the Grammarly blog. I think words are fun and interesting and find these posts are always a good read. One that I recently read was titled “10 Biggest Leadership Mistakes You Really Should Avoid”,
( https://www.grammarly.com/blog/leadership-mistakes/) a 2017 GlassDoor post. It piqued my interest and upon reading it I couldn’t help but notice several of the items are applicable to my preferred client, the very small business owner. Folks who have less than 10 employees or just themselves.

The one that jumped out at me was number 2, “Forgetting about the details”.

It isn’t that most small business owners forget about the details, it’s that they just don’t have the time to get organized enough to identify those tasks that should be handed off, or hand off tasks but don’t schedule a time to sit down with the task owner to review the process or get an update.

Sometimes in an effort to build our business or maintain our business, we forget that it is our business. It is a temptation to put complete trust in the person who handles your week-to-week administrative responsibilities. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are, you’re ready to take the next step. You find the right person or company and even if they don’t understand the service or product you provide, they have a clear understanding of the administrative needs and the skills to get to get you where you want to go.

Now comes that big sigh of relief. There is someone else to help you share the burden of getting those tasks done: bill paying, invoicing, payroll, HR support, office supply or inventory stocking and all those other pesky tasks. You can get back to the computer or in the field or on the phone and do that thing that you do best and for which you are well compensated (or will be soon because you have taken that next step). Or even better, you can start having some personal time in your life again, (no worries – I’m not linking to my Joy blog post).

Here’s the thing; you need to make sure that you schedule the time to stay on top of the tasks you handed off. You don’t have to micro-manage, just remain aware of the status of things and be available for questions. It is your business and if you are a very small business it is likely that you have been doing it all. That makes you the greatest resource for information about your processes. It doesn’t necessarily need to be face-to-face; although I recommend a face-to-face meeting at least once a month or quarter depending on the type of work being done by your new administrative support staff, you should make sure there is a regular communication channel available.

It may not feel like it when you starting your workday with a 7 am meeting with your bookkeeper or office manager or spend part of your evening reviewing a report requesting answers to missing information or the Deeds and Needs email sent for your reading pleasure, but the time needed to stay in touch with your support staff goes a very long way towards the success of your business.

Just a thought.

Joy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Joy. Not really surprising I guess. ‘Tis the season after all. But what I have been thinking about is the joy I feel when I can help a business owner overcome that “thing” that is bringing them down or holding them back.

Sometimes it is a simple as handling the bookkeeping or acting as their office manager; allowing me to carry part of the burden of managing the business side of their business.

I often think of this as the back-end. Most of my clients have companies where they are the face of their business and this often means a lot of time away from the office. They are frequently in their company’s early stage which also means that a lot of the responsibility for the day-to-day administrative tasks falls on them.

And those tasks are more than sending invoices, phoning in payroll and paying bills. Even when we don’t want to, we generate paperwork. And tax audit support still requires receipts. Paper or electronic, those need to be filed and, hopefully, tagged with the purpose of the purchase. It’s a lot of stuff and when you are starting out it doesn’t always feel important but, as I often tell myself “Start as you will go” so even though it may not feel necessary now, having a system in place as your business grows can make that growth a bit less painful.

Creating these systems also helps you identify the tasks that should be given away as quickly as possible. Every task needed to successfully run a business is important but not every task needs to be performed by the owner (the most highly compensated employee – we hope) or manager. As I noted in my Happiness blog, there are tasks that can be handed off that not only relieve your stress but allow an enterprising somebody to learn and earn.

And now I circle back to Joy. But your joy as a business owner. Is the day-to-day administrative stuff taking that away? Are you beginning to forget why you started your business to begin with? Have you lost the time to do that thing that used to make your long days worth it?

Ask for help.

It’s not a reflection of an owner not being able to manage their business.

It is a reflection of an owner knowing how to manage their business growth.

Just a thought.

 

Happiness

I attended a networking meeting last Thursday and a lot of the members used independence as a theme in their presentations. This got me thinking this morning about the pursuit of happiness.

The administrative tasks in your business may not be its lifeblood but they often perform as the white blood cells that help keep your company healthy.

If you are wearing yourself down trying to do it all, perhaps you are not only compromising your physical well-being but that of your company as well. The next time you give yourself one of those highly necessary yet productive breaks, why not make a list of the tasks you love – and don’t love so much – that you do and are essential to your company’s operations?

Then make a bucket list. Add those things you would like to let go of and, if you or your business partners are not yet getting paid for the services you perform: think about putting that at the top of your list. It doesn’t have to be a lot, maybe $100 per week, but just being able to give yourself a little out of the company you are working so hard on, will bring you satisfaction.

Then give yourself a schedule. Write it in your calendar and try to check something off the list at least once a month.

And to get you started, these are a few administrative tasks you can easily “sub out” to an enterprising and dependable high school student for a few hours a week.

Scan and file receipts
Scan and file closed client files
Inventory and order office supplies
Inventory sundries and prepare the order list
Prepare a list of recently sold homes within your business area
Prepare your print advertising mailings/handouts/hangers

Just a thought.

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.