In order to succeed, entrepreneurs should have two key characteristics: a willingness to work hard and the ability to accept that they need to be constantly learning in order to keep growing.
Gaining new skills and continually improving your understanding of your industry not only allows you to get your business off the ground, but they’re also the very things that will facilitate sustainable growth over time. But while cultivating a learning mindset might come easily to the driven and the ambitious, translating this attitude into practical, actionable steps is another matter entirely.
One of the greatest learning challenges faced by entrepreneurs, undoubtedly, lies with their finances. Accounting and bookkeeping are widely perceived as being time-consuming and rife with complex rules and calculations. This leads many business owners to seek the services of a professional accountant instead of attempting the task themselves. While there’s no problem with this approach, a rudimentary understanding of accounting is essential to effectively managing your money and growing your business.
Fortunately, there are many avenues available to startup owners interested in developing their understanding of accounting. Here are five you can get started with:
1. Read blogs
The internet is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to learning more about accounting. Whether you want to better understand tax codes, compare accounting software providers, or learn the difference between accounting and bookkeeping, there’s bound to be a blog or video on the topic.
While the gov.uk website should always be your first port of call when it comes to tax-related matters, it isn’t the most user-friendly platform. As a result, it’s not uncommon for business owners to feel confused after reading about VAT regulations and tax codes. Fortunately, there are many blogs with accounting content for the general reader, such as The Blueprint and Small Business Trends, making it much easier to grasp basic concepts and get started.
2. Enroll in a course
If you’re serious about owning your accounting and have very little background in finance or numbers, an accounting for business course could be the best option for you. Depending on the level of understanding you want to have, you can choose between one-day workshops, weekly night school classes, or long-term online lessons and activities.
Alternatively, if you want to learn more than just accounting basics, consider a business course taster session. This will not only give you the skills you need to handle your books, but may also help you refine your marketing and sales strategies as well. It’s thought that around 32% of business owners have taken at least a few business classes, so while taking a course is far from essential, it could put you in good stead to grow your venture more smoothly.
3. Join an online community or forum
Sometimes we don’t need detailed instructions and classes to understand a topic, but the advice and support from our peers. If you have simple accounting questions, are looking for advice on how to organize your bank statements, or are wondering what type of software others in your industry rate highly, an online community will help you to find the answers you’re looking for. You can find these through generic platforms such as Reddit or Facebook, or more specialized services that cater to business owners specifically, like Startup Nation or LinkedIn Groups.
Before going ahead and posting your own questions or concerns on a forum, make sure you search through historic threads, as chances are someone will have already been in a similar position to you. You’ll be able to assimilate a huge amount of information about accounting while learning from the experiences of other entrepreneurs.
However, it’s important to fact-check any information you receive from a stranger with no credentials online, especially if it’s related to taxes. You should also pay close attention to the date that posts were made, as accounting rules and regulations may change over time. For example, accounting advice given in 2015 will fail to consider MTD implications, as this wasn’t relevant back then.
4. Network with other entrepreneurs
Similarly to participating in online discussions on forums, in-person networking can help you learn more about small business accounting. Instead of relying on the knowledge of strangers, forge deeper connections with fellow business owners while sharing and receiving tips and advice. With networking, it’s important to avoid treating the relationship as a means to an end. While your initial goal may be to learn more about accounting and bookkeeping, your efforts will be far more rewarding if you participate actively in discussions about industry trends, small business challenges, and your own opinions.
Networking is most effective as a long-term relationship, so even though you might learn essential accounting basics relatively quickly, it’s important to check in with your connections every so often. This doesn’t mean contacting them on a weekly or even a monthly basis, but maintaining an awareness of their work and role within your industry could reveal new opportunities in the future.
5. Find a mentor
A mentorship is very different from any other professional relationship you’ll ever have. Unlike networking where two business owners strike up a mutually beneficial connection, a good mentor will be focused solely on your growth and development. They’ll selflessly share their own experiences, helping you to learn from not only their successes but their mistakes as well. If accounting is your main concern, find a mentor who specializes in helping new business owners to implement effective financial strategies and systems. Alternatively, seek out an entrepreneur with an accounting background who is willing to act as your mentor.
While it might be difficult to imagine at this stage, at some point in the future you too may decide to pay your mentor’s time and efforts forward by becoming a mentor yourself. Once you’ve grasped the basics of accounting, the act of explaining them to others will only cement your understanding. Working with others can also bring your awareness to issues you may not have thought about before, helping you to improve your own approach to bookkeeping.