And it all starts with you. Our resident bookkeeping specialist, Mel Dowie, shares five ways she grew her bookkeeping practice.
Technology may have promised the potential of six-hour working days. The ability to do more. Make an impact. Leave a more meaningful legacy. Yet for many of us, the reality looks like long working days, reactivity and frustration. If you’re feeling blocked, exhausted and unrewarded, you’re not alone.
When I ran my business ten years ago, I struggled with all of the above. I was caught in a constant cycle of fire-fighting and working until 3 in the morning while feeling overwhelmed and undervalued. I had clients who would email and call all hours of the day and night. And I would answer them, because I thought I was going above and beyond.
That’s what we do as bookkeepers, right?
I realised something had to give. I began making small changes in my practice. Just like I’d tweak a workflow or experiment with a new app, I started changing the way I approached my business. I found the below steps immensely helpful to finally tame the overwhelm and take back control of my business. Once I put this in place, I became more efficient, productive and guess what – a better bookkeeper.
Go back to basics. What got you into the profession in the first place?
I developed a mood-board that visually presented the kind of life I wanted, and the dream practice. Both are intrinsically linked. How will your dream bookkeeping practice make a difference to your work-life balance?
If your goals are to run a hyper-growth firm with national or perhaps even international clients, life may be very different to having a practice that gives you more time to spend with family or perhaps even work remotely.
If you’ve been in business sometime now, ask yourself:
- What have you experienced so far?
- What works for you, and what doesn’t work so well?
- What do you spend time stressing about?
- What amazing things have you accomplished?
When you answer these questions, think about all areas of your life. How will your business decisions impact your family life?
2. IDEAL CLIENTS
Working out who your ideal clients are help you focus on how you run your marketing activities, what problems you can solve, attract customers who value what you do and create loyalty to your business. And from loyalty comes referrals.
Marketing to everyone is marketing to no one. Even though it’s challenging, once you narrow down your ideal client it’s well worth the effort. What do they have in common? What are their values, age, gender, income and industry? Where do they hang out online?
Once you understand who you can apply your value to really well, who you enjoy working with and where you can find them, you’ll know how best to deliver your message.
SUGGESTED TASK: YOUR PRACTICE IN 3-5 YEARS
What are your goals, both personally and professionally? Start with the end in mind. Once you know your destination, you can start to design a map or strategy to help you get there. Set milestones and work towards them all the time.
Then take time to evaluate your value to the business, to clients and to your team. Write down all the tasks you do day-to-day in your business, and out of those tasks demonstrate your value to your clients and team. What are the skills that you excel in and add the most value to your business?
How can you delegate so that you can work ON your business more than IN it all the time?
3. THE SCIENCE OF SETTING GOALS
Goal setting is so important, both personally and professionally. One trick I learned when setting a professional goal was prioritising its measurability. Measuring your success will help you objectively improve, grow and ultimately succeed.
Then, you can set achievable goals and also one or two that speak to the bigger picture. What is your dream? Once you work this out, you can work backwards, confidently prioritise work and hopefully win back time.
SUGGESTED TASK: SET OUT YOUR PRIORITIES.
Science shows time and time again that we perform best when working to only one or two goals – any more and you risk losing focus. Decide on 1-2 goals to focus on and attach to a trackable key performance indicator (KPI). This will be your North Star. For instance, your goal could be reaching a total client-base of 200 small businesses, or achieving 90% 5-star reviews.
4. IMPLEMENTING SYSTEMS/PROCESSES THAT LIFT YOU UP.
Processes often sound like a business buzzword but they make a world of difference. Whether you work on your own or lead a team, having clear documented processes to hand gives you direction and focus. Even on days where you have a million and one things to do, you can rely on these to guide you forwards. It’s just important to stick to them – which is easier said than done!
It also sets you up for growth. If you systemise the way you work, this minimises mistakes among your staff, gives a clear structure and template for new team members and reduces risk of disruption when your employees leave.
You can also reflect this in your relationship with your clients. One of our Dext partners, Jessica Pillow, developed a Service Level Agreement that clearly scoped their service, managed expectations and aligned the team with their customers. Check it out here.
5. EMBRACE CLOUD TECHNOLOGY
To embrace is to welcome with open arms, to hold people, things or ideas. When I brought cloud technology into my life and business, it was like having an extra pair of hands from the get-go. In fact, it’s precisely why I joined Dext (former Receipt Bank).
While running my business, I took on a pub that was losing around £5k every month. I introduced them to cloud accounting platform Xero and Dext to help them get the data in quickly and accurately. This meant close to real-time data, an easy way to manage financial paperwork and a chance to drop data entry altogether. I spent time with the pub-owners to understand their situation then brought in a community of helpers, from cheaper wholesale suppliers to apps that simplified their payroll.
Chances are, you’re already living a little in the cloud. If you use DropBox, Gmail, Facebook, Alexa, Netflix or even Whatsapp, you’re already part of the way there.
SUGGESTED TASK: MAP TECH TO THE CLIENT.
Once you know who your ideal clients are, you can invest time into researching what tools and apps can help them. You can take the approach of Dext partners PJCO and Phool Ashraf, who chose a niche and designed a tech stack for their clients’ unique needs and challenges.
GIVE YOUR BOOKKEEPER THE BREAK OF A LIFETIME
They’re the unsung heroes of small businesses. The ones working behind the scenes to safe-guard business-owners’ financial futures, balancing books alongside entrepreneurship, business development, sales, marketing, support and guidance.
To celebrate Global Bookkeeping Week, we’re giving away the trip of a lifetime and calling on business-owners to nominate their bookkeeper. If selected, they’ll win their own luxury break for two. Plus if they win, you’ll also win your own luxury break for two.