My Relationship with Numbers
Lately, I have been hearing many people say that the thought of looking at numbers in a way related to their practice causes absolute anxiety and disrupts their flow of life. During my experience working with other business owners I can 100% see this to be true. I see people do funny things just to avoid coming to terms with their financials. How about the “purchase and pray” method where you don’t even consult a financial document before making a large purchase. Some choose not to know how much their monthly expenses are for fear of that anticipated up-roaring flood of anxiety. Some even like to hand everything off to their bookkeeper or accountant and assume that those professionals will tell them in they’re in trouble. Please understand, if you’re guilty of any or all of these things I’m really not poking fun at you. In reality, I’m guilty of every single one of those myself! My relationship with numbers has not always been a good one, but I’m living proof that you can learn to make peace with your enemies [numbers] and possibly even learn to love them!
I can remember back before I was ever a business owner I had a relationship with numbers that was non-existent. My lifestyle at that time was one where the numbers were just not my responsibility and I fully embraced that! As life happened and my circumstances changed I had an eye-opening experience with the numbers that I never even knew, and boy was that life-changing! Life hit hard and I found myself in a place where I wasn’t quite sure where the next dollar was going to come from, however, I knew that my responsibilities were fixed and there’s was no way of getting out of those. I found myself at the bottom very fast and I felt like I was sinking. The common theme of my unfortunate situation always seemed to be centered around Numbers.
I went from a non-existent relationship with numbers to tumultuous relationship with numbers. The mere thought of them caused me to stick my head in dirt and choose to ignore the negative balances, the stack of bills that never stopped growing, and ultimately caused me to have a terrible association with numbers and negatively. This went on for about a year and I started to see a shift in my mindset. I began to get defensive over myself and take a stand towards these numbers that were wreaking havoc on my life. I made a choice that numbers were not going to make decisions for me anymore, that I would be the one that assumed control over my life.
I forced myself to look at everything, and I mean everything. I uncovered all debt, I built stacks of bills that were taller than my daughter. I turned those stacks into lists categorized by due dates, total debt, interest rate, etc. until I got to a point where all my mess, my red, my negativity, my numbers, were sitting there with me in that uncomfortable state and feeling of failure. It was then I made a choice to learn to love numbers and I was going to come back from this situation in a way that would [hopefully] prevent me from ever going there again.
Fast forward a couple years and my business was born. At this point I would classify myself as “intermediate” in my quest for conquering numbers but I was making progress. I worked at it daily. I started looking at my bank statements daily and realized that this was a terrible way to make decisions about my business. I went from the old fashioned accounting method with checks and a register to using Quickbooks, which has become my ride or die. I found myself watching how Quickbooks changed daily, analyzing the patterns that I was seeing, running a Profit & Loss statement regularly, and expense reports based on our locations. Some days I saw numbers that scared me and other days I saw numbers that gave me hope. What I did was intentionally put myself into my account in a way that made me uncomfortable and over time it made me empowered.
Quickbooks gave me the confidence and the insight to realize I needed dashboards. I needed quick views into my practice so that when I “check-in” on the operations of my business, the dashboard indicates whether there are problems, there could be problems soon, or that i need to do some further investigating. Before I knew it my practice was nearly on auto-pilot. I started to learn about billing, how to interpret Aging Reports, and most importantly once I gained enough knowledge in each of these areas, it all started to click. It was such a rewarding feeling to take our Billing Department’s reports, look a them in conjunction with our Account Payable/Receivable reports in Quickbooks, and use my dashboard to get a comprehensive assessment of where my business stands at any given day.
I can’t image trying to run a business with the mentality I had when I hated numbers. I would have no grounds to make business decisions, I would be operating out of fear not confidence, and I would be second-guessing every decision I made because I would have no real confidence in what I was doing. There was nothing pleasant about my battle with numbers, in fact, every day of my life during that time felt like hell. As bad as it was I wouldn’t change one thing. Not only did I battle numbers and win, but I learned to love them in the process.
The power of our minds and our spirit is such a powerful thing. We can do anything we set our minds to and when we choose to feel a certain way about a situation and back up those feelings by our actions, we can change our mindset, our behavior and our life. I choose not to ever make decisions out of fear, especially not business decisions. I choose to sit with all the uncomfortableness and uncertainty until I get to a place where I’m confident in my choice. Numbers have changed my life. If you know me professionally today, you would not have recognized me then and for that I am proud.
Are you looking to get on top of your numbers game? Here are a few of my favorite resources, some with referral links and coupon codes!
Mint (app for tracking spending)
Practikat (tracking forms, etc.)
Dubsado (client management system)
Google Sheets (for dashboards)
Bookkeeping (Marissa Handley)