Back in school, I wasn’t big on maths.
It wasn’t because I sucked at it or even because I didn’t enjoy it… it was because my maths teacher also happened to be my Truancy Officer and I ditched a lot of classes back then so naturally I used to avoid him like the bubonic plague!
I was *almost* a high-school dropout because of all the classes I missed. I remember one day and called me into his office to show me a calendar with my name on it pinned to the back of his door. It had big red crosses through all the days I’d ditched. And boy, it was a lottttttta red! Yikes!
You know when something just festers and the problem gets bigger and bigger until you don’t know what else to do, so you just avoid it? That was me and maths, or should I just say school in general.
Funnily enough, despite all the classes I skipped, he actually went into bat for me when the head of education wasn’t going to give me my school certificate. I respected him for that. We had a chuckle and I attended a few more maths classes in my final years.
So perhaps my aversion to maths and numbers came from my Truancy Officer and the bloodied calendar. Or maybe it just didn’t float my boat. Maybe it’s from my Dad who made me do Accountancy for my work experience stint when I was 16 (YES!!! I was climbing the walls out of boredom and I still don’t forgive him!!)
I’m not entirely sure where it stemmed from, but I’ve had a real allergy to numbers and finance for most of my life.
I believed these three dreaded myths:
That creatives should blissfully create and accountants should crunch numbers.
That it’s “just not how our brains are wired.” You know left side, right side yada yada.
That you shouldn’t be interested in it because you’re a creative.
So as you can imagine, starting my business 11 years ago with a hatred for finance made for interesting times.
For years I kept as much distance as possible from the number crunching (without being a reckless business owner of course). The thought of P&L’s, balance sheets and MYOB made me cringe. Seriously, my stomach would do flip-flops and my face would go red at the thought of having to work on entering receipts or balancing books. I hated it.
My Mum and two sisters were both in finance so in the early days, my Mum did my books, my aunty was my Accountant and I lived a blissful (albeit ignorant) existence creating whilst not giving much of my headspace to finance at all.
Fast-forward 10 years and I’m the complete opposite.
It took a near catastrophic event for me to change my mindset and embrace finance, but one that I am eternally grateful for. It was the kick in the butt I needed to realise that these ‘myths’ around creatives and finance are just that… myths!
So with my life story out of the way, and near catastrophe averted, I’m going to use this opportunity to dispel these myths one by one, and hopefully pass a little wisdom on to you.
Because if you’re even a little bit like I was when it comes to money, my recent experiences will most likely help you in some way.
Myth #1: Finances are impossible for you to manage.
The way I see it, there’s ‘doing’ and then there’s ‘managing’.
Now I’m not advising you to spend 3 hours a day entering receipts into your accounting software or doing your own tax returns, that’s just silly and you should delegate that sort of stuff. That’s the ‘doing’ which I don’t recommend you do! Pardon the pun.
But as a creative entrepreneur in control of your own destiny, you need to also be a Manager. And you can’t be a great Manager if you don’t know your numbers.
It’s important to note here that I also think it’s something that you shouldn’t just leave up to your bookkeeper or accountant either. I have a great accountant and an insanely awesome bookkeeper but at the end of the day, the buck stops with me.
(A bit of backstory here to bring you in the loop… My ex-business partner used to take care of all the finances in our business and he left suddenly in February leaving me to take the reins.)
So when I stepped in and took the lead with our finances it was bloody scary at first… all those numbers and decimal points and… things. I never wanted to learn how to ‘properly’ use Excel, but yet here I was trying to understand formulas and… stuff. I missed my beloved Photoshop and I’d only been doing this for 30 minutes!
However after a while it dawned on me: it was empowering. It took me almost 3 months to really get my head around everything but it was worth it. Once I was across it I developed daily/weekly/monthly systems for both my accountant and bookkeeper to follow then started to implement rapid changes.
And you know what? Since taking the bull by the horns and embracing what I used to think was the ‘boring dark side’, our business has blossomed. We just had our second biggest month EVER! (And I’d like to think it’s all down to my amazing new Microsoft Excel skills).
I know our exact financial position every minute of every day, and to the penny! Let me tell you, it’s a different kind of rush I’m not used to but I love it. The daily cash report I get every morning at 10am on the dot is my favourite email of the entire day. No joke.
But I had to setup the systems first to manage the process. Don’t expect someone else to set it up for you. In my experience, it’s best if you lay out exactly what you want from your finance team first so you can run your business and cash flow more effectively.
Myth #2: Your brain isn’t wired to work that way.
I don’t know if it’s true but I heard that musicians are really quite analytical. Are they not creative?! I thought they would have been more creative than analytical but it’s my understanding they’re not. Reading music takes a real analytical left brain approach, not right brain. Pretty surprising, right?
So I was curious after hearing this and I went and did a test on my own brain to see what I was made up of. I thought for sure I would be more right brain and this was in fact the reason I was allergic to numbers but guess what? I got almost a 50/50 split. I was 54% right brain and 46% left.
I was blown away. Here I was after 15 years in design and a whole childhood of creativity with a half linear analytical strategic, half creative free spirit. What was going to be my excuse for avoiding numbers now? Eip!
I guess over the years of running a business, my brain had adapted and picked up the strategic and analytical skills without me even realising. It just goes to show that you can train your brain. In fact, it’s amazingly adaptive.
So if you think your brain isn’t wired that way like I did, why not go and test it for yourself? The results might surprise you.
Myth #3: You shouldn’t be interested in it because you’re a creative.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love nothing more than to design all day every day, but when you take that leap into the land of being self-employed, you get confronted with a whole lotta stuff they don’t teach you in design school.
When it comes to running a profitable, prosperous and enjoyable business you love (and I hate to break this to you) you can’t ignore the financial side of things. Unfortunately you just don’t have a choice.
I stupidly left it up others to manage and it was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made. I believed this above myth; I thought I could blissfully create and that money would just continue roll in. Maybe I should of asked for a flying unicorn whilst I was at it because when it all came to a screeching halt, the reality was very, very different!
That old saying “Do what you love and the money will take care of itself” does not always ring true when you’re a 7-figure business with 20 people’s wages to pay, let me warn you!
The biggest lesson I learned recently was that by embracing my biggest fear, I actually became a better businessperson in so many other areas that I didn’t expect. I got more confidence, I became a better leader, I became a better negotiator and I became a lot more frugal with our money (instead of the old me who was the carefree creative always shouting everyone at the bar).
I think I finally grew up. And when I did, our business did too. Facing your fears is liberating. If you’re anything like I was, whereby money is a thorn in your mental backside, then my advice is to suck it up and tackle it head on.
If I can do it, anyone can.
In my next blog, I’m going to share with you in detail the exact systems I set up for my bookkeeper to follow which now allows me to manage our entire company’s finances in less than 60 minutes a day. Stay tuned!
Okay, so it’s a touchy subject for some but let’s sound off in the comments. Let’s face these icky feelings together. Got questions? Let me have ‘em!