The basics

“Don’t become good at something you don’t want to do.”

That’s an anonymous quote I’ve run into twice lately. The universe is trying to tell me something. And, it’s too late.

At first when I ran into this quote this morning, I got a little upset. I’ve become good at bookkeeping and I felt for a moment that the meaning behind the quote. But then, as chance would have it, I read something by a woman who didn’t like bookkeeping and admitted that her artistic business wasn’t doing well financially.

Okay, so I’m going to step into my bookkeeping role for a moment. This is solely my opinion. Please bear with me.

You have to understand how money comes and goes if you want to have a successful business. At its very basics, that’s what bookkeeping is — recording money coming in and money going out. Yes, it can get much more complicated than that and usually does. I know too many people who have hired their wives or their niece who took a semester of bookkeeping in high school and passed with a D, so surely they know bookkeeping. Sorry. While the basis of bookkeeping is simple (money in/money out), I’ve seen people mess it up extraordinarily! Trust me, messed up books because someone didn’t know what they were doing is the worst.

And I can say that because I was once the untrained bookkeeper. It was bad. In my defense, I was used to keeping books by hand and this was in the early days of DOS computers. Bookkeeping programs then were not nearly as good as they are now to figure out what happened to make everything go wrong. As far as I was concerned, it liked to take numbers and hide them away. Now, I know that’s not true, but the setup can be way wrong.

The experience should have scared me away, but I do enjoy bookkeeping. It’s taken me a long time to really admit that.

So, when I was feeling down this morning, I realized that I am lucky because I understand bookkeeping. For a creative business (or any business really), well-kept books are the basis for a good business. I can make better plans and decisions when I know my numbers. These numbers flow all the way to the tax return. You want a good result on tax return? It all starts with knowing the numbers for you business. But here’s a little secret: don’t expect your accountant to understand your books. I’ve seen accountants make entries that make me want to shake them. And I, the lowly bookkeeper, have to fix it. In their defense, they have to deal with IRS regulations — that’s above my pay grade. But seriously, accountants are not bookkeepers. So, if you’re going to hire help for your finances, find a good bookkeeper and a good accountant. You’ll need both. Or you can learn to keep your own books and it will make your conversations with the accountant deeper and you’ll have more educated questions rather than just handing them your stuff and hope they diligently work their way through your every coffee stained receipt. At least, we bookkeepers who get this pile landed on our desks like to hope it is coffee stains and not something else.

When I realized that I want to understand my business through and through, and that the basis for that is understanding bookkeeping, I smiled to myself. I do want to be great at my business. I’m grateful I had the training I’ve have.

I’ll be glad to say no to becoming good at other things, like watercolors.