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"