When I graduated from college back in the olden days I came out with a degree in business and accounting. Wanting to make it in the corporate accounting world I began to work for a Fortune 500 company as a staff accountant. Though accounting wouldn’t be where I would eventually end up spending the coming years earning a living, the business disciplines I learned from the accounting field have served me well over the years in a variety of employment opportunities.
As time has passed and balloon twisting has become a very serious hobby for me, I have not always applied the strict accounting disciplines to my balloon work that I required of my full-time professional job. About a month ago, I decided it was time to get serious about balloon accounting.
The obvious areas of focus are balloon costs and labor costs. I have never tracked the time I put in twisting balloons in order to determine my labor costs associated with customer orders. On the same order, I have also never inventoried my balloons more than just watching for the colors I get low on and purchasing new bags when the supply gets low. My effort to stop being a slacker with regard to my balloon business consisted of two steps;
1. Start keeping a time sheet associated with working on balloon twisting orders,
2. Accurately inventory my balloons and keep track of how many I buy and how many I use.
Step one was easy. I always twist in the same chair at the same desk, so I simply put a prepared time sheet on the desk and ‘clocked in’ every time I sat down to work on an order. Step two was a little more involved, but I managed it with two specific steps. First, I keep all my balloons in bins according to color or shape. In one bin there are white 260′s, in another bin there are 6 inch hearts, etc. With a white sticker placed on the front of the bin I started making entries on the sticker each time balloons were removed from the bins or added to the bins. Along with tracking the new balloons I placed a bin on the desk that was to contain only balloon scraps. Two scrap bins were actually created, one for longer scraps and one for the shorter pieces. I’ve always been good about keeping and using scraps, but never this serious.
For the last month I have kept track of my balloon inventory and saved every scrap that was produced from twisting balloons. In addition to the results I’ll share in a paragraph or two, setting up these tracking methods to quantify my work had other benefits. First, when I removed balloons from the bins I was much more careful taking only what I needed and not just grabbing three or four from any particular bin. I was very conscious of using only what I needed. In addition, saving the scraps in an organized way enabled me to use less new balloons. A good example is noses. I twist a lot of balloon characters who all need a balloon nose. Saving blush, black and red colored scraps in the short scrap bin enabled me to find what I need quickly and without wasting any time. I knew the nose appropriate scraps would be in the smaller scrap bin. Similarly, if I needed a balloon piece that required some thing less than a completely new balloon but more than a short scrap, I had an organized supply to consult to fulfill the need.
At the end of one month I can report the following results. I am now spending 1/3 less time twisting balloons to fulfill balloon orders than I was before I started tracking my twisting time. This is a big savings for me. I don’t have all the time in the world to twist balloons, but I can do more now because I’m tracking my time and have become aware of how much time I was previously spending in the twisting chair. Second, I am using 1/4 less balloons that I was using in the past. In fact, the practice of organizing and using scraps has allowed me to go a full month without buying any new balloons. Though the cost associated with buying new balloons isn’t overwhelming, I like saving a buck as much as anyone else.
The moral to this story for me is that I needed to treat my serious hobby in a serious way when it comes to tracking the time and materials I require to fulfill my twisting orders.