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Running Your Business With Values-Based Accounting

Wandering Aimfully Through Creative Business

Running Your Business With Values-Based Accounting

Caroline ZookCaroline Zook Caroline ZookCaroline Zook

Written by

Caroline Zook

It was the Friday following our big Turkey Day celebration and hanging on to the remnants of my peaceful, turkey-induced state, I rolled out of bed with that easy-going feeling of rest still lingering.

I thought, I’ll take my time getting up, Jason and I will have breakfast, and then I can dive into catching up on a few work emails just to stay on top of things.

That’s when I made the mistake of checking Instagram.


The messages pulled me out of my restful state into an immediate panic, like someone had dumped an ice cold bucket of water over my head.

“Forget about savoring the holidays, would ya! There’s money just waiting to be made out there!!”

Then came the guilt.

Should I have planned a Cyber Monday deal for my shop? Should I have done pop up prints to capitalize on the holiday-shopping crowd? Should I have set up some blowout deal so that I could coerce a nice sales boost before the end of the year?

Should? Should? SHOULD.

I stopped myself.

And I remembered:

Being a smart, successful business owner does NOT mean you must squeeze every dollar of profit out of your business.

It means that you get to choose what opportunities are worth pursuing — to YOU.

Setting up some sort of Cyber Monday deal would probably bring me a boost in revenue, yes. But what would it cost? Instead of spending the past four days cozied up on the couch, eating turkey leftovers, telling old family stories, laughing at funny faces my tiny nephew makes, I might have been answering questions on email for customers, posting on social media, redeeming orders, managing payments, etc. And that’s just not a cost I’m willing to pay.

**Please hear me when I say this: the message here is NOT that Cyber Monday is bad. Or that taking opportunities to make money is bad.**

The message here is simply a reminder that you get to CHOOSE. And that we do NOT have to feel guilty for not taking advantage of every opportunity to make a penny.

“Leaving money on the table” so to speak is something that I do on a regular basis intentionally because I believe in what I call “values-based accounting” — the idea that assessing the livelihood of your business relies not just on its financial earnings but on its ability to bring you more of what you value.

Look at it this way: What is profit?

Put very simply, profit is the difference between what’s earned and what’s spent, right?

So what if we expand that definition beyond dollars.

“What’s spent” could be money, but it could also be time, energy, emotions, will-power… not to mention it could also mean hidden costs or trade-offs — the things we forfeit in order to work on something.

“What’s earned” could be money, but it could also be more of what you value: time with your family, flexibility, travel, fun, new connections, personal growth… whatever those values are to you individually.

So when I look back over the course of the year and I consider all the opportunities I’ve taken, the things I’ve created, the things I’ve turned down, I’m taking a look at my profit not just in terms of how much money I made compared to how much I spent; I’m considering my profit in terms of how much freedom, flexibility, and growth I gained compared to how much stress I incurred.

That’s values-based accounting to me, and it’s why I intentionally don’t do a sales webinar every week or come out with a new product every minute or why some years you won’t see me with a Cyber Monday deal.

“Sometimes you may leave money on the table, but in doing so your life can remain rich.”

This topic is inspired by my friends AJ and Melissa, who own a company called Misfit Incorporated. They do all sorts of things from building digital experiences for big brands, to publishing, to producing Shakespeare, to hosting an artisan conference in Fargo, ND each year, to funding philanthropic endeavors all around the world.

A few years ago, AJ told me about something they do in-house called “Impact Accounting.” He was referring to the fact that the conference they run each year, MisfitCon, despite having sponsors to offset the costs, ultimately is a break-even (if not a loss) project for their bottom line. In other words, financially speaking, there is no profit to be had.

BUT — and this is a huge “but” in their eyes — the net impact that the event has on their world through the lens of Misfit’s mission is STAGGERING. People’s lives are changed. Life-long connections are formed. Startups are born. Hearts are molded and forever marked.

Any business owner if looking at Misfit’s accounting books blindly would say: “This event is a waste of money.” That’s because they wouldn’t be able to see the non-financial impact. That’s why literally when it comes to keeping track of their records, they actually evaluate each project they undertake not just for the revenue it brings in, but for the positive mark it leaves on the world. How many lives does it change? Does it further the Misfit mission? Does it align with the Misfit beliefs?

This is what I want you business owners (or aspiring business owners) to think about this week.

What does maximizing profit in your business look like beyond the scope of money?

What do you want to earn? Quality time with your family. Global impact. One week off a month to travel. Working from home.

And what are OR aren’t you willing to spend to get there?

For me, I’m not willing to spend my precious time away from my family during the holidays to earn a few extra hundred or even thousand dollars to my yearly revenue.

That might be the case for you or it might not. The point is, you get to choose.

Either way, consider values-based accounting when it comes to making the decisions for your business, and remember, money can bring you flexibility but it won’t bring you the kind of happiness that living your values day in and day out can bring. Trust me.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful week as we kick off the last month of 2015 this week!

Running Your Business With Values-Based Accounting

(Big Fat Takeaway)


This article written by

Caroline Zook

She/Her | Artist, designer + writer passionate about helping soulful creatives grow into their brightest selves. Lover of bright colors + even brighter people! One half of the crazy duo running these parts!

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