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Sarah Haston: Checking in on your own business

Sarah Haston • Updated Sep 12, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Running your own business means keeping a close eye on all parts of it month to month. Record keeping, balancing accounts and taking inventory should all be done monthly. Keeping an up-to-date record of all business transactions will make your business run smoothly throughout the year.

As your business grows and changes, your systems may need to grow and change right along with it. What works for you when you’re a one-woman shop might not be as effective when you’ve got three employees. Doing a review and asking yourself business questions month to month is a fantastic habit to have.

Here are three business questions to start the habit of a monthly check.

• Are my payment systems working? Are you using the right payment platforms and operating on the right payment schedule? Some people collect upfront fees before beginning to work with a client. Some people bill as the work gets done. Each month, you should check in with your payment system and see if it is working for you.

If you are missing payments, having a hard time balancing the books or simply aren’t making enough money, then something’s got to change. Payments are what make the whole business run, so this is a top system to review regularly. Also, embrace technology and accept credit card payments. It sounds like a nice idea to still accept checks, but in the long run it’s safer for clients to use credit and it will save you time in the long run.

• Am I meeting my workload? Do you find yourself struggling to meet your workload each month? If you’re getting bogged down between the actual work and the work of running a business. Think accounting, updating systems, pitching clients and social media. You may need help. This can be a great thing. Maybe it’s time to hire an employee.

If you find that your workload is comfortable and all the backend business is getting done, you may have found your sweet spot. Try and maintain this for a few months and then re-assess again. Maybe it’s time to push your growth.

• Is my company growing in the direction I want? The thing about starting a business is that everyone wants a piece in some way. People will ask to syndicate your content, have you speak on panels or want to pick your brain over coffee. Even if you think your business is just small fries, other people will want to get in on it. This can be overwhelming and make you lose focus of what is the true economic driver of your business.

When you’re constantly receiving asks, you can easily move away from your original plan. With so many opportunities in front of you and a business to grow, you don’t want to say no to things, even if they weren’t what you originally saw for yourself.

Each month, review what you did in terms of growth and ask yourself if that aligns with your personal goals for the business. You are the commander of the ship, and it’s important that you are hitting milestones you want to hit. This is your business, not someone else’s.

I can’t stress enough how important a monthly check in is for your business. Staying on top of things month to month will not only make the nitty-gritty of business, like your taxes, much easier to deal with. It will help with business development and growth.

Sarah Haston is economic development director in Lebanon.

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