I am starting a business and have been advised that I should do the books so I can keep a very close eye on all the costs. But I am no good at the numbers and it will take a lot of my time. Do I do the books myself or outsource?
I had a very similar experience when I started SmartCompany. A director advised me to do the books so that I truly understood the costs of the business. I was horrified and refused.
Instead the first person I hired was a bookkeeper for $50 an hour. While I hired journalists to produce a high quality publication and went out to the marketplace and negotiated $100,000 deals with advertisers, she spent three hours a week ($150) paying wages and invoices, implemented MYOB and made sure we set up proper financial records.
She also did other really useful things. She would often bring nuggets of information from other jobs.
She also became the office bitch, questioning any excessive cost even after I had given it the okay. And she kept a very close eye on our cashflow. But there was one particular afternoon I will never forget.
The phone rang and it was the friendly taxman. Just a call, he said, to make sure I had registered for such and such and were paying such and such because there were penalties, didn’t I know.
My heart flew into my mouth as I struggled to think back. I couldn’t remember registering for anything. I had been so busy!
And then I remembered. I had a bookkeeper who had done all that. Just a second, I said. I will put you through to the person who looks after that.
My advice to anyone, whether they are good with figures or not, is to hire a bookkeeper or an accountant.
They will do in an hour what you will do in an afternoon. They will do it properly. You will not. And while it is their job, it is not your job.
You should be selling, networking, strategising, creating and driving your business forward.