Today is Friday. I love Friday’s because I get to do my accounting.
You might think: Couldn’t a bookkeeper do that better? Why don’t I have an accountant manage my money?
Isn’t my time better spent doing something that only I can do?
Sometimes, but not always.
There is this idea that you should outsource everything that you can and make the maximum use of your time doing only creative special things that only you can do to move your business forward.
And that’s true to a certain extent. It certainly wouldn’t make sense for me to try to learn how to build my computer myself, or for me to do my taxes manually. There are some really easy and simple ways to outsource or buy ready made solutions.
But really hiring someone to do something takes a lot of time and investment. You’ve got to train them and manage them. It’s not such a simple decision.
If my only goal was to grow a giant company, that would probably be good advice to outsource nearly everything I could. If you are on the growth path, it makes sense to have other people do anything you are inefficient at doing, and stick to your core strengths.
But my goal is not to grow a big company. My goal is to enjoy my life.
And I enjoy doing my own accounting. I enjoy having manual and menial tasks to do sometimes. Sure, I could hire a VA, etc. Sure the attitude of “I can do it myself” gets in the way of growth. But I don’t care.
There is no way in hell I’m handing my money over to someone else to manage. I like doing it myself. I’m always happy when Friday rolls around and it pops up on my to-do list. And I am very picky and want to know where my money is at all the time anyway. So it works for me.
Never forget the point of your business.
I didn’t start my business to be in business. I started my business to support myself to be lazy and do what I considered fun all day.
Along the way, I’ve had goals to serve my customers and clients in various ways I consider cool. But my goal has never been to “grow, grow, grow”.
That’s a backwards goal to me. What is the point of growth? If you have an answer to that, for you, then go for it. But I have never found a compelling reason for me why having a big company is better than having a small company.
Note: I don’t mean “big” as in “famous”, I mean “big” as in “employees, payroll, a bookkeeper”.
Keep your own goal in mind and make decisions accordingly.
Here are things that definitely are better to outsource:
- things you hate doing, especially to the point where you avoid them completely and they never get done
- things that are so complex you don’t understand them (for instance, if I ever decided to have real employees and do payroll, I would definitely outsource that)
- things that you don’t have the ability to do and aren’t interested in learning
Then there are a whole lot of activities that you may or may not want to outsource depending on how annoying and time-consuming they are on a daily basis:
- things that you could learn to do but don’t matter that much to you and someone else could do just as well
- things that you are only kinda good at doing and someone else could do better and you don’t have much interest in anyway
But here are things I actually do not outsource:
- things that other people could do better…but I actually like doing in my slow, semi-lame way where I get to learn as I go and have fun doing it
- things that don’t require much brain power and others could do without trouble, and not doing them would free me up to do more creative things…but that I actually like doing and provide a welcome relief from more brain-sucking tasks
Programming is good example of something I could but don’t outsource – I’m not a programming whiz, it takes me a long time to do, but I’m super-picky and I like the challenge. Could someone else do it better? Definitely. Could my business grow faster if I outsourced it? Without a doubt. Am I likely to outsource it anytime soon? I doubt it.
I’ve poked and prodded under the hood, tried out a half dozen different programmers, and diagnosed myself with trust issues, but the truth is I just don’t want to outsource it.
I want to figure it out myself. I like figuring things out myself. Part of what I love about business is that I get to figure things out myself.
The other part of it is, while I could outsource it, it would be expensive. And I’d have to do things I don’t enjoy – managing people, growing enough to pay for the programmer – in order for the privilege of letting someone else do the thing that I actually kinda like doing myself. Doesn’t seem like a good trade-off to me.
Am I wasting my time?
Possibly. I’m never going to become a whiz programmer. It’s not one of my core strengths. And I don’t love it, I just like it.
But it’s my time to waste.
I’m not in business to be in business. I’m in business to be able to spend my time doing what I like to do.
Even if it seems inefficient and silly for me to do my own bookkeeping and my own programming, I’m much happier if I do it. And my happiness matters more to me than some ideal of outsourcing perfection.
There’s this ongoing storyline in Star Trek where Captain Kirk always ends up screwing things up so he doesn’t get a promotion to being an Admiral. But the thing is, he doesn’t want to be an Admiral. He wants to be the captain of his own ship. He wants to be out where the action is. So he’s not really self-sabotaging is he? He knows what he likes and wants to keep doing it.
Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you.
There are always standards and expectations that develop in anything, and business has plenty of them. There are always people saying what you should and shouldn’t do and what’s a good and bad way to run your business.
Don’t listen to them.
I mean, listen if they are saying something helpful to you, but always check in with yourself around if you really want to do what they are suggesting and if it makes sense for you.
If you are like me, you got into business to do things your way. You still get to do that.
If doing things your way is hurting your business, then look at that. But if it is just slowing it down, and you don’t really care to be a megacorp anyway, then you might consider just relaxing and enjoying yourself.
Tips for business DIY
It’s good to recognize when you need help learning how to do what you want to do yourself. I spend a lot of time researching various strategies on the Internet, but I also have a programming buddy to talk things over with. I talk to my business buddies about their accounting strategies and research things like S-corps vs LLCs.
Instead of hiring a bookkeeper, consider hiring an accountant for a few hours of consulting to go over your system and help you streamline it. Find mentors and tutors and advisers that can help you steer around the major pitfalls. Hire “consulting help” instead of “replacing-yourself help”.
Last but not least, affirm your choice:
- it’s OK for me to do my own ___ if I feel like it
- it’s OK for my company to grow as fast or as slow as I choose
- it’s OK for me to be picky about how this is done
- it’s OK for me to do it myself until I can afford someone who is as good at it as I am
- it’s OK for me to do it myself even if I can afford someone who is as good at it as I am
- my life and my happiness is more important than an ideal of business success
- I’d rather be happy than huge
Make your own affirmations if these don’t fit – it’s about affirming what is right for you, rather than going along with an established idea of what is right.
Sheryl Schuff, CPA says
I totally agree with your suggestion about hiring “consulting help.”
Also, I think it’s wise for business owners to know what’s involved in tasks like bookkeeping, blog updating, article posting before they turn those activities over to someone else. They’ll have an idea of how long it should take and will be able to recognize whether or not they’re getting the desired results from the “helper.”
Additionally, I think it’s NEVER wise for business owners to totally remove themselves from financial tasks. I’m not saying not to get professional help, but you have to understand that ultimately, it’s your (legally) responsibility.
You absolutely must understand what the numbers mean to run your company effectively.
Janet Bailey says
Ahhhh, thanks for this — I’ll quit worrying about the Outsource Police. A lot of those outsource-able tasks actually give my brain a welcome break. You can’t be creating *all* the time.
I agree with not outsourcing everything. And I agree that it is important to at least have some knowledge of the tasks that you are outsourcing.
A problem I have also found with outsourcing is quality of work. Some things are best done yourself.
I just started reading your blog – am enjoying it.
James | Dancing Geek says
Just a shout out. Haven’t seen you online in a while. Too lazy to email 🙂