When I first decided to start my own business, that was pretty much the phrase I Googled—replacing ‘when I first decided’ with ‘how’.
Even back then, with all my naivety and blind optimism still firmly in place, the very first sentence of the very first search result annoyed me almost beyond the telling of it.
‘Starting a business is easy with our step-by-step guides’, it lied at me. Young and impressionable as I was, I knew full well nothing about this was going to be easy. It was one of the very few things I got right in those early days.
The single piece of consistent advice that actually was helpful in those first terrifying months, cropping up again and again amidst the seemingly limitless ‘how-to’ articles, was the need to find a simple way to keep my accounts in order.
Accounting is really not my thing.
It would be a bit much to say I have a phobia of numbers, but I tend to approach them as one would approach a very large and unfamiliar dog.
In my previous existence as a regular person with a regular job, it hadn’t been a problem. I’d do my shift and money would happen. A payslip appeared as if by magic and I might check it as often as once every 18 months. I’d always be careful, of course, to only look at the very bottom line and avoid the one telling me how much tax I was paying, unless I really wanted to upset myself for some reason.
But now, as a self-employed person, apparently all this was going to be my responsibility. I spent roughly four minutes trying to engage with the HMRC website before realising they’d made it intentionally incomprehensible, and then decided to let someone else take the strain for me.
After some research I realised what I needed was just some simple accounting software, so I drew up a list of the usual suspects to pit against each other. The thing that clinched it for me was Xero’s Small Business Guides.
Xero Small Business Guides
If you take a look at the list of topics included on Xero’s Small Business Guides page, the word that might spring to mind is ‘comprehensive’. Obviously, much of it is geared towards explaining the darkly mysterious world of accounting and bookkeeping, but it manages to do it in a relatable and, more importantly, consistent tone of voice.
It’s because of these guides that I now know what a ‘bank reconciliation’ is. (I’d heard the phrase before, but assumed it was something to do with a peace deal along the Gaza Strip.)
But as well as running back to the guides whenever I needed help with the accounting side of the business, I started to find myself returning to the Xero website more and more to pick the brains of their marketing and business management bloggers as well.
When I landed my first B2B gig with a well-known company (i.e. one I’d actually heard of) the corresponding article steered me through the tricky parts, especially the bit about my stress levels going through the roof.
My favourite piece, however, is the one about beating procrastination, which I finally got around to reading. Specifically the part suggesting you visualise your procrastination as being two people in a boardroom. One represents your brain’s planning centre, your prefrontal cortex—a serious-minded, productive chap who’s all about getting things done.
The other is your limbic system, an irritating, wilful child who runs around screaming, demanding immediate rewards and really just needs a good slap.
I’ve bought many books about overcoming procrastination, and I’ve read about half of them (I’ll get to the others!), but something about this particular visualisation technique struck home for me. Try it for yourself, you’ll find it useful.
If you’re starting up a new business, the amount of information out there designed to ‘help’ you is positively overwhelming. Seriously, it never bloody ends. Some of it’s good; a lot of it is a load of arse. The trouble is, you don’t know which type you’re reading until after you’ve tried it.
Getting all your information from one reputable source, one that’s aimed directly at small businesses and written by knowledgeable professionals, lets you sidestep all that cacophony.
Whatever stage you’re at with your business, I’d recommend swinging by the Xero website and checking out the guides. They’re broken up into easily digestible chunks and even tell you the amount of time it should take you to read each one, à la Medium. Although, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just see that as a challenge to your speed reading ego.
And if you’re as terrified of the thought of trying to do your own accounts as I was, I’d suggest you give their accounting software a go too. Click here for a free trial.