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Turkey Tuesday: Owning your own Business

I have never taken a business class.  Not even in high school.  And now, essentially, I co-own and co-manage a business with my husband.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve had to learn a LOT.  Mostly, managing a farm is a lot like managing a household, except with bigger numbers.  Taking the Annie’s Project classes last summer helped a LOT, especially figuring out where we stand financially with our asset to debt ratio, a balance sheet, and cash flows. Those things are nice to know for your household, but vital for a farm or other small business.

But the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to do the payroll for our employees. 

We only have one regular employee, Beth the Brooder Lady, who averages 10 hours per week.  But when we unload our poults or move turkeys we have to hire a few people to help.  And in the summer, my brother did some mowing and other work for us.

Although we don’t hire a lot of help, it’s enough that we have to do the whole payroll taxes thing-a-ma-jig.  We looked into having an accountant do it for us, but it was something like $90 a quarter to file the taxes and $30 every time we wanted to cut checks.  That seemed a bit steep for the small amount of work it would be for us.

So my mom and I got to work. She has some background in accounting, although it’s been a few *cough* years. We worked with an accountant to get everything started – all the Federal and State ID numbers we needed.  Then, we visited a very close family friend and farm wife, Barb, who has done their farm’s payroll (for several employees) for years.  She helped me set up an Excel spreadsheet with some formulas that make it really pretty easy.

When we write a check for our employees, I just plug in their total hours and hourly wage, and it pretty much gets figured out for me. That part has been really easy.  I <3 Excel.

Then, every quarter, I have to add a bunch of numbers and pay the government.  This part makes me a little nervous, but it’s getting easier and easier.

Now, I have to issue W-2s.  Although we don’t hire a lot of help, there have been 9 different people throughout the year (some of them only worked for us once, though.)  And the whole W-2 thing is making me crazy.  Literally.  I tried to register for the W-2s online, got partway through it, and literally started to have an anxiety attack. 

So I waited a few days and tried again.  And it didn’t work.  And the end of the month is coming.

Like most (every) other aspect of farming, this has all been brand new to me.  Should have taken a business course or something, I guess!

Would you like to comment?

  1. I can relate. My husband is an electrical engineer and works as a consultant, which means he's self employed and owns his own company. I've been relegated to do much of the expense reports and invoices. It has been a bit of a stretch for me!

  2. There is a Annie's Project Class being offered here, but I am not able to attend. I do have a friend working with it thought, and she loves it. She is also an accountant so go figure! Steve does all the books for us, so it is all a bit of a mystery to me, but I know I need to become familiar with it all, "just in case!"

    Anyone who thinks farming is for dummies, needs to get the picture of Junior Sample out of his/her mind. To be successful, you have to be on your toes and have a spouse who will help keep you there! ;-)

  3. That would make me nervous too! Is there an online course you can take?

  4. Eeek. Payroll anything makes my skin crawl!

  5. While I was in High School and College I handled the farm books (for free). When I moved away they (hired) an accountant to do that for them. but I know it can be daunting at times, but each time you do it I know you will continue to feel more and more confident.

  6. I used to be a CPA, so I do our quarterly reports, the 943, and 940 for our farm, too. This year I broke down, though, and am having our CPA do the W-2s. I just can't stand buying the package of 50 forms and handwriting everything (we have a long name and long address). Because everything balances it will hopefully cost us about the same to have the accountant do them as it would have cost to buy the forms and envelopes and mail them out. Even if it costs a little bit more, I think it will be worth it.

    *A. Ott - I didn't do any accounting for my family when I was in high school, but when I moved away to college they finally bought a dishwasher...apparently their old, reliable model wasn't available anymore. ;)

  7. The rules, taxes and liabilities for us small self employeds makes me so nuts! Few seem to understand how hard it is to hire help. Okay, I will not rant. I will not rant. I will not rant. Good luck to you! I will think of you when I'm struggling too!