Posts tagged Numbers = Fun2
I love financial tools! Excel, Quickbooks and Microsoft Money are just fun. Today’s software lets me fly creatively when I’m trying to help a client understand how their business is doing, what’s working, and what’s not.
But as with most things there is a flip side to the amazing software we have at our fingertips. Quickbooks, meant to bring simplicity to accounting, easily becomes a behemoth, spitting out 3 page reports that no one could understand or connect with. And that is the point, the goal, of accounting: to connect with your finances. It’s not all about filing your tax return at the end of the year. It’s about understanding your business and the financial impact of your decisions and activities. Your numbers should tell you a story, a story that you feel connected to.
My first experience with accounting was at 19, bookkeeping for my family’s business, the The Buz Buszek Fly Shop. I used ledger paper. I don’t feel old enough to be saying that, but I guess I am. Today, one of my tenets for those who are having a difficult time connecting with their finances is to pull out the old ledger paper.
I’m not suggesting you literally do your accounting on ledger paper. What I do mean, though, is to get a pencil out, and a calculator, and a piece of paper. Write down, every single month, the 8 to 12 numbers that are really important to you. Not the 50 or 100 numbers that Quickbooks is telling you. Just the 8 to 12 numbers that help you feel connected to your business.
If you’d like to learn more about having an extraordinary connections with your finances, I’m being interviewed by Marcia Brixey on July 6th at 11:30am as a part of her Money Wise Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series. You can participate by signing up at:
You’ll also find a lot of great past teleseminars you can listen to. A personal favorite of mine is Mikelann Valterra’s interview “Earn at Your Potential: Embracing the Seven Challenges.”
“We never do anything well until we cease to think about the manner of doing it.” – William Hazlitt
The allegory of the centipede makes the point nicely: asked how it knew which of its hundred feet to use when, the creature found itself unable to move. I am frequently asked what I think is the best way to do recordkeeping, file your financial information, which is the best software to use, should I do it by hand or use Quicken or Microsoft Money or Excel, do I have to use Quickbooks, etc, etc. My answer is the same as Nike’s: Just do it!
It’s not that I don’t have opinions about the best way to do it. (Anyone that knows me knows I have opinions!) It’s just that when someone asks me that question, its not usually because they’re trying to refine and make better a system they are already using. The people that ask me that question aren’t using a system at all, and they’re waiting until they have a perfect system to start using it.
If you recognize yourself in this post, my suggestion is to pick the easiest system you can think of, do it consistently and with reverence for 3 months, and then evaluate how it worked.
Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas. Pick one:
- If you’re starting from scratch, get a little notebook and write down everything you spend. Everything. Then, twice a month, total your spending in some broad categories. No more than 12.
- If you’re using financial software (Quicken, etc.) but you still feel you aren’t doing it right, or you don’t KNOW your numbers, make acommitment to update it once/week. Once updated, write by hand, on a piece of paper,your monthly spending in each of your major categories.
- Try the old fashioned coffee can approach. Dole out at the beginning of the month into separate envelopes your monthly spending plan for groceries, eating out, entertainment and any other area of discretionary spending. If a month is too long, use a paperclip and post-it note to identify the 1st – 15th and 16th-31st spending.
Ok, now that you’ve picked one, just do it, don’t think about how you could do it better, just do it for 3 months. At the end of 3 month, let me know what you picked, how it worked, and how you’re going to make it a little better for your next 3 months.
Consistently, and with reverence!
I love Planet Money, NPR’s economics podcasting team. They can make you actually understand what a credit default swap is. And, they make it entertaining. Fun!
This podcast explained exactly how China manipulates their currency, and what that means to everyday Americans, and everyday Chinese. It was fascinating. If you like that kind of stuff, here it is:
But if you just want the cliff note, the part I found so stunning, it is this. They were talking to a small business owner that manufactures his his product in China. No surprise. We all know much of what we buy is manufactured in China. You don’t have to be an economist to know it must be way cheaper to manufacture in China. What I didn’t know was how much cheaper.
90%. That is stunning. If you were a mattress manufacturer, and could sell a mattress for $1,000, would you pay an American company $500 to produce it, or a Chinese company $50. Duh. I had no idea that it was that much cheaper.
How do we reduce the carbon footprint of global manufacturing when individual business owners are faced with such temptation?
I often begin my speaking engagements to business owners with the following:
“Hey, I have a really great job for you! You are going to be doing exactly what you love to do. You won’t have a boss. You’ll get to set your own hours. Some months I’m going to pay you a whole bunch of money! But, then there’s probably going to be some months that I won’t be able to pay you. Well, maybe a little, but not a lot. But I’m sure I’ll be able to catch up eventually. —- Will you come work for me?”
Did I just describe the salary structure you have in your business? If you laughed, I’m guessing: yes, it is. If so, read on.
I was working with a client of mine who has a goal of a $200,000 annual salary. She works in a field where it’s possible; it will take some hard work, but it’s possible. What kind of salary would that be? $16,666 per month. Her business will need to generate well over that to produce a net profit of $16,666 on a monthly basis.
So why would I advise her, for now, to pay herself a $1,000/month salary, no more, no less? Because it is an amount that she can successfully practice doing. She’d been paying herself big chunks of money when money came in, and then barely any at all for weeks, sometimes months. You don’t get into shape by exercising a whole bunch in one week and then not at all for another several weeks. When our businesses pay us large amounts during one good month, and then don’t pay us enough to meet our monthly needs in other months, we get out of shape, out of sorts, out of hope. Knowing what your monthly salary is, and sticking to it, no matter what, gets you and your business into shape.
She kind of thought I was crazy, or stupid, when I gave her the assignment. She did it imperfectly at first, and then she started doing it perfectly, and then, all of the sudden, she got it. It all became clear to her. It is the simple and mindful acts, taken consistently, that propel us forward in our lives, and in our businesses.
Have you ever noticed that most people follow the statement “I have to pay bills tonight” with the word “ugh” or “yuck” or, something that rhymes with “yuck”? Those are often the same people that will sheepishly tell you they haven’t reconciled their checkbook any time in the past decade. And those same people probably couldn’t tell you how much they spend on groceries every month, or eating out, or healthcare.
When you look at the order in which our personal or business finances are done, it’s really no surprise most people consider it drudgery or despise it all. First, hunt and peck and gather everything we need to pay our bills. Second, pay the bills (i.e. give some or most of our money to others). Third, well, there is no third, because by then, we are physically and/or emotionally done with the monthly finances. Many aspire to continue on to: third, update their account balances, fourth, reconcile, and fifth, look at the totals of spending categories. But there’s no time or energy left to do the third, fourth or fifth steps.
My advice: try, just try, to make it fun.
Make it a date night; schedule time every month to just focus on your spending plan and financial goals. Light a candle, open a special bottle of wine, or go to your favorite café. Divorce the bill paying monotony from the important work: providing yourself clarity about your finances by keeping your numbers, looking at your numbers, and planning for the next month. It doesn’t have to be drudgery! Numbers can be fun, when you allow your mind to open to the possibility.