There are many aspects of running a small business that can be overwhelming or even flat-out terrifying. However, there’s usually just one thing that keeps every business owner’s blood pressure running high, and that’s the dreaded world of finance and accounting. If you’re someone that struggled with math in the past or if you’ve never taken finance classes, you don’t have to let that stop you from pursuing your dreams. There are plenty of professionals all over the country who have found ways to deal with their financial struggles and who have learned quite a bit about the business world in the process.
Chicago-based Open Books is just one great example of a small business that was started with heart and passion, but has also found ways to make the challenge of accounting work for them. Described as a social venture, Open Books is an organization that provides literacy experiences to thousands of children throughout the Chicagoland area every year. It’s behind many different initiatives, even finding ways to provide free and low-cost books to at-risk and low-income youth. When it comes to the business side, Open Books has the added challenge of being a non-profit, so the importance of strong bookkeeping and good accounting skills is crucial.
Executive Director Tim O’Brien explains that a big part of his success has been relying on strong auditors who help track compliance. “We are currently fortunate to have very strong auditors who ensure we are staying compliant and help us identify any potential issues before they become an issue,” he offers. “That said, after we first launched ten years ago, like any startup organization, we had to go through the gargantuan task of creating all of the systems for tracking revenue and expenses. Even though these are now well-established, we are a complex organization that sells products in several markets, receives donations from wonderful supporters, and also donates to other non-profits. Monitoring all of these transactions real-time is enough of a task, but this is only aggravated when we need to aggregate these types of transactions into a strategic planning lens.”
With that kind of huge monitoring job ahead of them, O’Brien explains what worked best for Open Books. “Outside of our aforementioned incredible auditors, Quickbooks online has been a tremendous boon for Open Books. Their reporting capabilities, transaction analyses, forecasting tools, and profit and loss analysis, has provided us with a great tool for donor reporting, internal forecasting, board compliance and general management.”
When it comes to a task as important as your bookkeeping, don’t be afraid to hire the right help. “The best suggestion that I could have for any other small business is to find and appropriately engage expertise when you need it. We are all capable of spending too much time spinning our wheels trying to find the right answer when an expert may be able to swiftly provide a recommendation that could save you hours. The right expertise does not necessarily mean the most expensive expertise. Spend some time researching options for reduced rates or even barter.”
This article was written by Deb Flomberg for CBS Small Business Pulse.