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My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #620: Looking At Things Realistically Can Be a Good Thing

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 02-21-2012 01:53 PM 5237 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 619: How Can I Make Doing Taxes Sound Exciting? Part 620 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 621: A Clean Slate »

I really am proud of myself. I know it is probably silly to be proud of yourself for doing something that you should have been doing anyway, but I can’t help feeling like a huge burden is off of me.

I spent the entire day yesterday working on organizing and categorizing my paperwork and getting everything in order. It isn’t one of my strong points, but it isn’t a disaster either. At the very least, I keep just about every scrap of paper and receipt in one place. That is a good start. At this time of year, it then only requires me to sort through and document each expense and put it in the proper category.

The trip that we took added on to things a bit. I did have the foresight though to pay for everything that I possibly could on my charge card so that there would be documentation of every transaction. While some things (such as tolls) required cash payments, I think for the most part I did pretty well. I kept a folder in the car and every time we came from a restaurant, store, or hotel, I promptly placed the receipt in it. This also was helpful when we crossed the border, as we needed to claim the new items we brought back into Canada. While the three weeks away produced a mountain of receipts, sorting and classifying them wasn’t very difficult and everything went smoothly.

I began the day thinking that I would do things the way I normally do – by handwriting everything on paper. However, by doing that, it was difficult for me to put everything neatly in date order, as there always seemed to be a ‘rogue receipt’ that showed up and upset the neatness of my balance sheet. I am not a fan of Excel, but after trying for an hour or so to do things by hand, I found that it was inevitable that I use a program such as that to keep things neat, organized and up to date. It was time I took the plunge and ventured into uncharted territory (for me, anyway!)

So I bit the bullet and fired up the Microsoft Excel program that has been laying dormant on my computer for years. I have used it on occasion, as sometimes my sales reports from my wholesalers come in that format, but I have never initiated doing something in it, as it seemed to be ornery and intimidating.

Fortunately my partner Keith is very ‘mathematically minded’ and comfortable with that type of program. He likes programs like that and does very well with them. He uses Excel all the time to tally our monthly reports from the companies we wholesale to and seems to fly through it with little problem. I asked him if he would ‘be a lamb’ and volunteer to do the tallying for me, to which he responded with a laugh. Not a chance. He did help me set up a page to do the work on and put up with my stupid questions along the way without getting annoyed with me (at least not outwardly!)

After an hour or so of feeling really stupid, things started to make some sense and I was feeling more and more comfortable with the program. I was getting it to do what I wanted and the awkwardness began to fade and something quite unusual and unexpected began to happen. I actually began to ENJOY what I was doing.

As the months of figures rolled by, the terror that I felt began to be replaced with a sense of pride and accomplishment. I stopped worrying about getting everything in order and began thinking about how good it felt to have a real, working business. Seeing how much the business has grown on so many levels – even in this economy – made me realize that what we are doing here is really beginning to work.

It is difficult to say whether you are successful or not by just ‘estimating’ or guessing. While you may feel you are busy and running a successful business, without the numbers to back it up, it is only a guess. While we still have a long way to go, we see the momentum of our business moving in a positive direction. And that is a great feeling and motivator.

Seeing everything spelled out on spread sheets, without emotion or personal feelings added into the mixture, gave us a sense of a true bottom line to what we were doing. And seeing things presented like that was something that I felt for the first time was a GOOD thing, and actually FUN. After all, how can we make good business decisions if we don’t have the real facts of the business in front of us? I think that may have been my downfall in the past – and is also the downfall of many others who start their own businesses. We all tend to look at it through the proverbial rose colored glasses and try to make it work on our hopes and dreams, instead of counting on facts and figures.

I finished my posting at exactly 12:02 last night. I still have some double checking to do today, but for the most part I am ready to present everything to the accountant on Thursday. I will be able to go in to the meeting feeling like I have a viable, legitimate business and present my figures to her in a professional manner. And that is a good feeling. In fact, it feels so good that I already made a chart for this years’ figures and plan to add to it continually as things come in the door. It is so much easier to do this way that I don’t think that even I will fail to keep up with it. I think it is an entirely new approach to this paperwork thing on my part.

So the moral of the story is “Knowledge is power.” I have used that phrase many times because it fits so many aspects of our lives. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own well-being. Sticking our heads in the sand (like I have done so many times when I don’t want to deal with things) may delay the inevitable, but eventually it will catch up with us and we will have to suffer the consequences. You can’t plan if you don’t know the facts. And if you aren’t able or willing to look at them, maybe you shouldn’t be in business for yourself. Business is no place for “pink cloud thinking”, as much as it pains me to say that. While pink clouds have their place in our lives, they are best left to the creative side.

I hope you all have a good day today. I know that mine is much better looking at things clearly.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"



10 comments so far

View Bluepine38's profile

Bluepine38

3341 posts in 2547 days


#1 posted 02-21-2012 02:55 PM

No matter what the task, doing it right to the best of your ability, will usually give you that feeling, and I am
happy that you, your partner and your business are doing so good. I have thought about doing some
woodworking for profit, but have been able to fight down the urge so far. Thank you for sharing.

-- As ever, Gus-the 77 yr young apprentice carpenter

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9036 posts in 2381 days


#2 posted 02-21-2012 03:05 PM

It’s a rough call, Gus. That is why I don’t mind sharing with people. I honestly can say that for years, I convinced myself that I was making ‘good money’ and running a profitable business. While it wasn’t completely untrue, I think that I wished it to be more profitable than it really was. I see many woodworkers doing the same. I think that one has to be in a position in their life when they are willing to live quite simply for a (long) while in order to be able to survive on doing a woodworking business. I am sure others in the business agree. It is nice however to see progress in the right direction. But you can’t do that if you don’t look at it realistically.

Thanks for the comment. :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 2577 days


#3 posted 02-21-2012 05:50 PM

lucky you …
even as a logic math with liniar thinking …. (not a chance I ever will be artistic )
I have never liked excell and havn´t done anything serius on that software
since you can´t approch it and just slam in the numbers
before you have made a kind of a program in the program before it works

but on the other hand neither have I given it more than five minuts a year to play with it
even though I know several people that use it all the times and swer to it

have a great day
Dennis

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9036 posts in 2381 days


#4 posted 02-21-2012 06:16 PM

Well, same here Dennis! I have tried it before and I feel quite stupid because I would think you could just plug stuff in and hit ‘total’ or whatever and be done. But Noooo! It makes you jump through 53 hoops first! Keith kind of set it up though and after a little bit, I got the hang of it. It is much faster than by hand. So we will see how this works for logging in stuff for 2012. :) Ask me in a couple of months how I am doing on it and I will be honest and let you know if it is simple enough to encourage me to keep up with things and not wait until the end of the year! ;)

Take care, Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 2577 days


#5 posted 02-21-2012 07:16 PM

you will Sheila
when the setup with all the formulas is right in the different colummes
then its quite eseay to use

good luck
Dennis

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9432 posts in 3514 days


#6 posted 02-21-2012 07:53 PM

Sheila, it’s OK to be proud of yourself! After all, if you’re not happy with yourself, how would you get started in the morning to do anything?! You’re doing good…

Spreadsheets are good and handy… There are few tricks that can be used to make thing easier to meet your objectives… Being able to Sort the records easily to give you a new picture of the data… Applying codes, etc. to be able to display Pie Charts, etc. that might be nice… What is spread Horizontally vs. Vertically can make a huge difference.
It does take a little practice to become proficient at it…

You created a spreadsheet containing receipts, etc… detailed transactions… You now have bags of paper that are in a spreadsheet… How can you prove that a given transaction is actually correct? What bag do you start looking in to find the actual document? If you ever have to ‘prove’ figures, etc., it could be a problem… unless you have it covered… How you do that is another aspect of using spreadsheets making audits easily done, if ever required.

It can be kept simple… or it can get to be very complex… if it’s needed at all…

I like spreadsheets… they are fun…

For Example… Little things:

Dates: yyyymmdd … makes it easier to Sort & keep them in proper Date sequence…

Time: hhmmss … (24 hour time) makes it easier to Sort within a Day… if needed.

Transaction#:... Sequential # assigned to each Receipt as you’re Entering them and kept on file in That sequence… and Entered into the spreadsheet gives you a Pointer to the actual receipt.

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9036 posts in 2381 days


#7 posted 02-22-2012 10:24 AM

Yes, Joe. The sorting is really a plus! It is really great to make reports and get a great picture of things. I can learn to like database programs! It is kind of FUN!

There’s always something new to learn, isn’t there?? ;)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View HamS's profile

HamS

1809 posts in 1850 days


#8 posted 02-22-2012 10:43 AM

Sheila,

Good morning, I think I got up to early for this one yesterday. I am a fairly adept Excel jockey but I spend a lot of time helping the ‘professional’ accountants get out of their messes they make with excel. Excel is a great tool to add numbers up and to run projections and other types of what if analyses, but it is NOT a good accounting system because you have to set up all the checks and balances that should be in an accounting system to make sure your transactions are posted correctly and in their correct little slot. You probably have a relatively challenging business because you have a lot of small transactions rather than a smaller number of large transactions. I also suspect that you are not all that fascinated with charts of acocunt and double entry book keeping etc etc. I suspect that you also have some interesting tax issues operating in Canada and dealing with US customers.

Computers are fun, they are servants that make our life easier and they can be easily screwed up which is why I make an excellent living helping people unscrew their mistakes.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9432 posts in 3514 days


#9 posted 02-22-2012 06:17 PM

Oh, and once you get all of your data in place and verified / balanced, you can always Save As other copies / versions that can be used for other reports, etc. ... sorting & summarizing in various ways.
... and in some programs, you can setup another different Spreadsheet, say for example Recap #1, and Import Various Totals, from other spreadsheets for the New one… which can make it easier to display Pie Charts, Graphs, etc.

Limited ONLY by your imagination!

That’s what I love most about computer systems…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: http://www.WoodworkStuff.net ... My Small Gallery: http://www.ncwoodworker.net/pp/showgallery.php?ppuser=1389&cat=500"

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9036 posts in 2381 days


#10 posted 02-22-2012 06:24 PM

I love computers too, Joe! Opens a world of possibilities! :)

Sheila

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

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