Accounting for Your Future


A successful future requires a plan. That comes under the heading of finance. For a business, it may mean putting together a budget or a marketing strategy for the coming year.

Even in everyday business life, we are all required to have some kind of reconciliation: a closing of the books, a tax return, a final inventory. That’s where accounting comes in. It’s a look in the rearview mirror that tells you where you’ve been and what has happened over a given period of time. But what about the future? A successful future requires a plan. That comes under the heading of finance. For a business, it may mean putting together a budget or a marketing strategy for the coming year.

For an individual on a career path, it means a personal plan that they can use as a roadmap to take them to the next level. Career goals in general might not differ much between individuals. Chances are that everyone wants to be successful and achieve whatever it is they want in the shortest time possible. The differences lie not in what they want to do, but in how they intend to get where they’re going: the plan.

I’ve found there are four simple steps to planning a successful business future—whether you’re hoping to take your company to the next level or trying to work your way out of the mailroom:

Step One: Define your goals. This is about what you want, your wishes and biggest dreams. Write down your goals in order of importance and look at them often. Cross off the ones that appear to be simply unrealistic or put them at the bottom. Making your goals fit who you are and who you want to be will enhance your chances for success more so than creating an image of what you or someone else thinks you should be. And remember that success is sometimes in the achievement of the goal, not in its monetary compensation.

Step Two: Evaluate your skills. What will it take to get where you want to be? Do you need additional education or certificates? Better communication skills? Should you reconsider your chosen profession and move on to one that takes advantage of the talents you already have? Create a list of everything you need to achieve your goal and add or subtract from it as often as necessary.

Step Three: Take action! Once you know what you need, you’ll be ready to set your specific objectives. Start small so the tendency to procrastinate doesn’t have time to overtake your ambition. Set up a timeline by which you will accomplish each objective. Gather information and then lay out the tools you’ll need. If you don’t have them, go get them! And by the way, although you may have composed at a keyboard for most of your life, the act of physically writing out a list of things to do and crossing them off actually does make the goal seem closer.

Step Four: Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Many businesses have mentoring programs to provide support and advice to those up-and-coming in the profession. But if you find you are out there all alone on your personal road to success, find friends or colleagues that share your interests, goals, and values. Start networking to enlist more supporters but remember that networking is a give and take relationship—don’t just ask for advice, give it when you can.

So how does this advice on goal setting relate to the analogy between accounting and finance? Take stock of where you’ve been (accounting) and plan where you want to be (finance). If you don’t have a plan, you won’t get where you want to go—or if you do arrive, you might not be able to stay as long as you’d like!

Carly Layne