I have found myself using another line from Jerry McGuire lately: “Help me help you; so why not show me the money this Tuesday morning?”
Tuesday is our day to look at infrastructure to support the launch efforts of your venture. We started speaking to the web environments for mail and a public face, and now we want to get focused on something that most people do not want to talk about – accounting.
The sooner that you put in the tracking system for expenses and income, the sooner you will look at your venture as a business and not a hobby. We have used Quicken for the last eighteen years to track our personal expenses, but for some reason resisted setting up Quickbooks for the business, putting it off for tomorrow.
Eventually, though, it became time to pay the piper, and the inevitable happened. We started becoming successful enough that manual and Excel tracking of the business became too cumbersome. Over the last three days, I have spent twelve hours a day entering history and balancing accounts for our small business in Quickbooks after taking a class in it last month. Not fun, but very doable.
Many second career ventures are self funded to start, and start as part-time gigs, so it is easy to bypass setting up the formal business plan and accounting systems. We follow the lean start up mentality of establishing the minimum viable product and testing and refining direction, which means that these are guidelines and not formal documents that have been used to get financing from the SBA or a bank.
But eventually, it is time to act. I do not regret following the approach that we have followed so far. However, we are far enough into our launch to be certain that this is a long term business, and to determine exactly what systems and processes we need to manage that business. The tweak that I would follow is to look at the online systems that are available to help you establish affordable systems for accounting and contact management even in the guideline phase of development.
Last week, in an American Express newsletter, we found the mention of a Paypal offering that allows new businesses to use cloud services for the items that every small business needs: invoice management and collection and forecasting, accounting, contact management and newsletter creation and distribution.
The services are free for thirty days and cost ninety dollars a month after that. It is possible to buy packages and run them on your PC that do the same thing, at a higher cost. Also, there are other cloud-based services that do these things together. However, if you are using or considering using Paypal for payment processing, these might make sense.
So while I do not regret the approach that we used, if these tools were available when we started this venture early last year, I would have considered it. In fact, even though we are down the path we have chosen, I am going to review this toolkit even if it just for my clients information going forward.
We will report on it after our review, but for now, you might want to check it out yourself.