As the Finance Chair for Rising Sand, I can tell you with utter certainty that there’s one area in which we’ve excelled regarding financial matters: procrastination. That said, we were actually off to a pretty good start back in January, when Oren walked us through double-entry bookkeeping, providing a foundational understanding for business accounting practices. We decided then to hold off on further bookkeeping until May, when we’d change over more of the financials from the Field Notes books. May rolled around, then rolled past, and by early June, we finally met again to try and catch up. Given the nature of our physical workload at that point, we met outside at the farm, and with no Polly and no internet, sufficed to discuss big-picture steps forward: assessing our capital budget and loan thus far, and laying out a plan for regular Tuesday bookkeeping meetings. “Alright,” we said then, “that’s all we can do for now; let’s call it a night.”
Then a Tuesday went by. Then another. Then, finally, Oren, Corrina and I met on a Tuesday late in June and got started on some simple bookkeeping catchup. Before long, however, we realized that Polly was on her way to Appleton with many of the necessary deposit slips in her car, and we were quite clueless about the nature of her current entries. “Well,” we decided, “nothing we can do but call it a night.” The following Tuesday we met again, getting as far as the determination that Tuesday was the worst possible day to meet, as Polly is always out of town with the deposit slips, rendering much of the necessary information inaccessible. “Next Wednesday,” we agreed, “we will meet up and get this thing going for real.”
By next Wednesday evening, our brains were quite fatigued; we were missing the Grandmaster, and at our wit’s end. However, having Polly, the market deposit slips, and most of our bank deposit slips to date, we got a couple of entries done, slowly, before calling it a night. I decided to just take the documents with me and hash it out on my own time.
Finally, during a slow morning at work, I sat in front of my computer, spread all of the documents out in front of me, and opened up the appropriate files and online banking. I sat down and stared at the screen for a bit, before deciding I really needed a salad. Finally, after this last-ditch effort at procrastination, my fate awaited me, and I took a bite of salad and got started. Much to my surprise, some things actually made sense. I pieced together the market totals, and the wholesale checks on dates of deposits, and found totals that were right on, or close. Focusing primarily on the weekly cash and check deposits, I started to get a rudimentary picture of our cash flow, and put some pieces together.
Then, there were some things that didn’t make sense. Why are all of these market deposit slips so muddled and messy? Why don’t the cash numbers from the bank receipt ever match the market totals? What are all of these $.01 and $.02 transactions from Square? Why does Logan Brice spend his free time breaking large stones with a sledge hammer? My wandering mind told me it was time to take a break. Though I hadn’t completed the entire reconciliation and entry process, I’d gotten a start, and what had once seemed so gargantuan a task now appeared a bit more achievable. Around a week later, I picked it up and chipped away again.
Through this process of procrastination and practice, I’ve come to realize the value of timeliness and systematization. Business accounting can be relatively simple; basically entailing the tracking and documentation of what has happened, all of which should already be recorded somewhere. But, as with many farm processes, we need systems. On what day and time each week do we catch up on finances? Where will the deposit slips be? Can we make sure they will all be there? Can we get a final deposit total circled at the bottom of the market slips that matches the bank total? Can we keep receipts of small purchases? Once these pieces are in place, I can imagine monthly financial reports at Board Meetings; another step in the legitimacy of our organization. As is the case with much of the physical and organizational structure of Rising Sand, there’s a lot of work to be done. But hey, at least we can say that we’ve gotten started.