5 Steps to a Better Business in 2012

I have to admit, I’m a perfectionist about planning my business. While making dinner, my mind races through lists of ways to perfect my craft. When folding laundry, I’m usually strategizing about my next potential project. My mind seems to always be at work on the next “better” idea, even when daily mundane tasks rule the moment.

I was reading management guru Tom Peters recently, who stated that balance is baloney. Top people in any field don’t have balance. They obsess. They strategize non-stop. They’re always looking for the better idea, the perfect “new thing.”

As a bit of an obsessor myself, I mostly agreed with his statement, except in one area. You shouldn’t obsess about your money.

It’s actually easier to obsess about business if you’ve done a good job of setting up a sound financial structure. By taking care of some small details today, you’ll be able to focus all of your energy on your craft.

There’s no better time than the end of the year for this kind of activity. Think of it as cleaning the slate so you can come barreling out in 2012. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to begin the year completely focused on nothing but your work, knowing that all the “little things” are in place to achieve success?

Here is a list of five “little things” you should “obsess” about before 2012 begins:

  1. Set up your business entity professionally. If you’re being paid by clients, do you have a separate business entity? Why not set one up late this year to begin January 1? Meet with an accountant or attorney to talk about the differences between an LLC, service corporation and DBA. Need a good place to start? Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration descriptions of different business entities.
  2. Create a separate business checking account. Don’t muddle personal dollars with your business expenses. It’ll be difficult during an audit to convince the IRS that your business expenses weren’t being used for home purchases unless you keep a thick wall between your business and personal acccounts. Find a checking account with a debit card for your business to more easily track transactions.
  3. On the subject of tracking transactions, look into good software to manage business expenses. Quickbooks is a good place to start, especially if you have many client transactions. You might need training to use the software. I performed a YouTube search for videos on “Quickbooks training” and was impressed by the result. Don’t like using the computer to track expenses? At the very least, keep a separate ledger.
  4. Buy a 2012 business calendar. Write in times that you’ll work on the “business” of business. For me, this is Monday morning. I take care of all of my bank statements, bills and invoices so that the rest of the week I’m focused. By setting aside a time each week, I know there’s no excuse to not get business tasks completed. This is an area I don’t like to go cheap. Purchase a robust calendaring system that you’ll keep all of your weekly activity in. This way, you’ll have a central hub that organizes your life.
  5. Create files for taxes and receipts. Paperwork will be arriving for your tax return shortly after the new year. Won’t it be a pleasure to already have a system in place to handle the paperwork? Don’t be the person who’s trying to dig through papers April 14th to file on time. On this note, I like an “in basket” for IRS and business bills so that these are immediately separated from the rest of my mail.

If you obsess about these five areas today, I promise you’ll start off next year on the right foot. This is for two reasons. First, you’re telling your subconscious mind that this is a business. You are serious about the business of your craft, and about treating it professionally. Finally, you will be free to focus on training, honing and practicing your art. With your mind free to obsess about the important things, you’ll find you’re that much closer to your true artistic goals.