February 11, 2016

The Not Fun Part of Running a Business

We all have things we aren't good at, and for me, that's keeping up with my bookkeeping. You'd think I would have learned to keep on top of my accounting throughout the year by now, having worked freelance off and on for nearly a decade and running a small business since January 2011. But I'm that stubborn, or lazy as the case may be.

Our booth at Yomu_Con 2015 in Tuscaloosa, AL.
I'm good on the fun parts of the job, and even a few of the not so fun bits. I churn out a fair bit of high quality creative material. I handle customer service and what little bit of marketing we do. I schedule events and keep the store updated. But no matter how determined I am to do better at the start of every year, I invariably fall behind with entering all the store's sales and expenses in the ledger. Then I end up having to spend a good week or two come tax season combing through a huge bag of receipts, emails, balance sheets, sales records, etc. 

Let's be painfully honest for a minute. With my history in mathematics, numbers scare me. When those numbers equal money, namely my income or expenses, I get tense real quick. Perhaps it's no surprise the procrastination monster gets the better of me on this one.

It goes beyond the fear though. As I'd guess is the case with a lot of other "mom entrepreneurs" there's a good bit of guilt and other hangups that come with the overhead of running a small business, especially in the early years where you're either losing money or making just enough to buy a pack of diapers or the odd family dinner every few months. Every notation in red feels like a personal failure, and there never seems to be enough in black ink to make up for them. You start questioning if you're actually contributing to the family's wellbeing or being detrimental.

It's easy to get overwhelmed with despair and guilt during the slow seasons, when the books look like they've been bled over. So putting off entering those dreaded numbers starts looking pretty good. It's easier not to give up when you aren't entirely certain if you're in a hole or how deep it is if you are. Any progress feels bigger, and the expenses don't seem so bad.

It's a fool's game though. Without a clear picture of where you stand, you can't plan ahead effectively. You can't budget for expenses beyond a few weeks, if that long, if you have no idea what you'll need and when. Then on top of all that, you lose days or weeks worth of production and momentum handling something you should have been doing in a few minutes each day or week.

No, I haven't learned my lesson up until now. I did the same stupid thing last year, and I'm paying for it. (See how little the word count on Icarus has moved lately? Case in point.) It took until the middle of last year for me to finally set up effective inventory tracking. I knew I needed by the middle of 2012, but I kept putting it off as something too expensive or complicated to try. When I stopped making excuses, I figured out I could manage what I needed for my tiny soap business with simple Excel. I'm going to have to do the same with the bookkeeping: stop making excuses and just do it!

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