Have you got the right priorities?

I’m the first person to remind you that you need to work ON your business as well as IN it and I will only take on coaching clients who agree to commit half a day per week to working on their business, but I’m a business owner too and I know how hard that can be to make the time.

We’re always torn between things that earn money now and things that will earn money later such as marketing and business improvements. Not to mention that we’d like to spend some time on the things we enjoy.

I’ve written before about my default diary which includes time for marketing and my own business and personal development. I then allocate particular tasks to those slots. But if you truly want to improve your business then you need to learn to delegate and think systematically.

I love lazy marketing when I use one piece of content in different ways. I also know that my strength is in writing/recording the content and then my wonderful VA tidies it up and distributes it across multiple channels. Whether you’re reading this in our Top Tips e-news or a blog or on social media then she is the one who has put it there (with the help of some software).

My job is to prioritise getting the content out each and every week. When I tried to do the whole job myself it took four times as long so I only got around to it about once a month, maybe less.

Look at everything you do, maybe keep a rough timesheet for a week or month, then go through the list with a highlighter to see what could be delegated to the right person. Then find that right person.

Your priority should be the things that only YOU can do.

If you’re an accountant, you can find somebody else to do the accounts themselves and some of the marketing (I write a monthly content pack for accountants who don’t want to do it themselves) so that you can focus on being the face of your business. If you’d rather be the one doing the accounts, then find somebody else to manage your business. Don’t think that you have to be the MD just because you’re the majority shareholder.

To create the business you want you need to be clear on your priorities.

Do you set boundaries?

I work with a lot of people who are overwhelmed in their business as they have bitten off more than they can chew. When we start working together it soon becomes clear that they need to improve how they set boundaries.

Here are a few ideas I often use:


• Practise saying “no” in front of a mirror. It makes it easier to say to a real person.
• Practise saying “no” without feeling the need to offer an explanation.
• Practise saying “no” with a polite smile
• Be clear on what you are willing to do for your clients. Your engagement letter should act as a reminder to you as well as to them of what you are contracted to do.
• When a client asks for something extra tell them “yes we’d love to help you with that and it will cost £X” (fixed fee or per hour)
• Do not discount your fees. You are not a charity. If people are struggling then reduce the scope so they do more for themselves eg we provide basic bookkeeping training videos if the owner is capable of doing this themselves
• Do not provide extended credit. You are not a bank.
• Set appointments in your diary to make time to do something for yourself
• Ring up an old friend and arrange to meet for lunch or an enjoyable activity. It will get you out of the office. If you’d prefer to be alone then book a facial or a massage or plan a bike ride with a nice cake stop.
• Set an alarm for when you intend to finish your working day and then leave your laptop on your desk when you close your office door
• Stop reading this and practise saying “no”

How welcoming is your business?

I’m on holiday and the town I’m staying in has all sorts of churches in the centre. But the thing that strikes me is how uninviting some of them are. I’m sure these churches would probably say that they want to welcome and encourage outsiders to come inside but that’s not the message they’re putting across.

One has a sign ‘Consecrated ground – no dogs’ which is short and to the point. Could this have been worded in a gentler way? And how many people know what consecrated means anyway?

One has a sign ‘John 3:16’ which is just a mystery to everybody apart from the initiated. Could this have been written in plain English without code or jargon?

As an accountant we’re often guilty of making people feel excluded through our use of jargon and poor communication skills. Have a look at your own business with the eyes of an outsider and see how you could be more inclusive and welcome in people who want to know more.

And don’t forget to book your holiday if you haven’t yet done so.

Do you invest in yourself?

Several years ago I started speaking to promote my old accountancy business, Hudson Accountants. Like most people I hate public speaking but I went to a school that taught this useful business skill and, by about the third event, I felt reasonably comfortable.

Until I joined the Professional Speaking Association!

Being an occasional speaker is very different from being a professional speaker and so I felt that I needed to relearn my craft. Fortunately the PSA is really good for helping speakers to speak more and speak better and I am now a full member, a former Regional President, and I’ve been invited to speak at one of their national conferences for the second time.

Usually I speak to accountants and business owners who are more interested in my content than the way I deliver it. At the PSA my peers will (kindly) analyse the way I deliver my expertise too. It can be quite scary but I know that, if I’m brave enough to ask for feedback, they will be very helpful.

How do you make sure that you’re always getting better at what you do?

PS. If you’re new to speaking then I recommend joining your local Toastmasters or ask me about individual speaker coaches.

Success spirals

I’m a self-confessed procrastinator so I use a number of techniques to get myself focused on doing the RIGHT work. Fellow procrastinators will understand that procrastination isn’t the same as laziness, we’re often busy but doing the WRONG things. My oven was never as clean as when I was supposed to be studying for my accountancy exams!

For me it helps to take the first step towards whatever I’m supposed to be doing. I have seen this referred to as a success spiral but James Clear, in Atomic Habits, refers to ‘habit stacking’ in much the same way.

For me the hardest step is, almost always, getting out of bed in the morning so I often head straight for my office in my dressing gown. Once sat at my desk my day has started and I’ll shower and dress when I’m ready for a break. Obviously I can’t do this if I have a meeting first thing!

When writing my books it is often hard to get started so I break the book down into chapters and sit down in front of a blank page to ‘type some notes’ on the chapter. Once I’ve started typing I’ll often get a complete chapter drafted before I pause to draw breath,

If you’re a fellow procrastinator what is your first barrier and what can you do to remove that?

Bring it on

2022 is here and, one week in, I’m still hanging on to my business plan.

What helps is that I have a list of specific actions for all 12 of my main projects for the year. And the actions for the first couple of projects have deadlines and time allocated in my diary. I know some of them will slip, especially the ones for later in the year, but at least it helps to make a good start.

Have you turned your New Year’s Resolutions into an action plan? I really find that it helps.

Make sure that your goals are SMART.
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Realistic
• Time-bound

New year, new plan

Welcome to the new year. What have you got planned? Incremental business growth, a better work life balance (how long have you been promising yourself that?) or world domination?

Now is a good time to think about what you want and what that means for your business.

Here are some questions to get you underway with your plan:

1. What do you want your life to look like in 5 years time?
2. How much do you want to earn from your business?
3. How much do you need to earn from your business?
4. How many hours per week/month/year do you want to work in your business?

This will give you some idea of how much you need to earn per hour in your business. Don’t forget that you will need to cover your business costs and taxes too.

A good SWOT analysis will help you to decide how to earn the necessary profit. Look at your strengths, your weaknesses, and any opportunities and threats around you. Covid and potential lockdowns can provide both opportunities and threats to your business to make a plan to eliminate or buffer the formers and to be able to take advantage of the latter.

Take a close look at what you are actually doing. What will you sell and to whom? What problems do you solve?

Now you can start on the details of the plan:

1. Sales plan
2. Marketing plan
3. Staffing – who, when and at what level
4. Technology and other resources
5. Premises
6. Other costs
7. Taxes

If you need a hand with any of this then we’re running a Strategic Planning Day on 19 January. We’ll work through templates together to help you come up with your own plan for your best year yet. Email us to sign up.

Communication overload – how accessible should you be?

This is the busiest time of year for accountants and we’re often overwhelmed by contact from clients (in addition to the clients who never respond to any of our chasing letters/emails/calls). How accessible are you? And are you too accessible?

My preferred methods of communication is email and I’m able to file these in Outlook and in my CRM for ease of use if I need them later. Many clients prefer phone calls so I take notes and file them in with their other documents and my CRM.

So far, so good.

But I also do a lot on social media for my businesses so people often message me that way on Twitter, Linked In or Facebook Messenger. And sometimes via Instagram or WhatsApp which I don’t use for business. With so many different channels these often don’t get added to my CRM so I’m left with a vague recollection of a message and having to find which platform it was on.

If you have any ideas on how to manage all this I’d love to hear.

I do have some wonderful tools to help with accessibility:

• VOIP + Answer It takes messages and forwards them to me by email
• Melu chat on both my websites is run by human beings based on a series of FAQs that I sent to them and which they are augmenting. They also forward chat summaries to me by email
• Calendly.com is great for scheduling calls directly into my diary and I receive email notification of these too.
• Voicemail – if I don’t recognise a number on my mobile, or if I’m on another call, my voicemail will record messages for me to follow up later.

How do you manage all your incoming communications or are you too accessible?

How to manage two businesses, write two books and look after yourself and your family

When I’m introduced at speaking events it usually includes something about how I run two businesses, write my books and look after two teenagers. It sounds a lot but here’s how I do it and how you can manage more too.

First, I try to limit my work to 25 hours per week to ensure that I have time for me and my teens. If I do something personal during the working day then I may choose to work an evening to compensate or I may accept that these is a quieter business week to make up for the weeks that are busier.

Pre covid I would try to book a holiday once a quarter. I think most of us have fallen into bad habits through lockdowns so do book your time off even if it’s just to pamper yourself at home rather than to go away. Rest is important to keep performing at our best.

I love everything that I do so no single part of it seems too onerous. I do find deadlines can be stressful so it is important for me to stay ahead of those by preparing early.

My life involves quite a bit of juggling so my diary is essential for my sanity. I have a default diary which schedules each morning to focus on a different aspect of my business. I split my main to do list between each of those 5 areas. The afternoons are kept free for meetings. If I have a speaking event that means that I can’t do one of my morning sessions then I move the appointment to another time.

On Fridays I double check my diary for the next week and move items from my to do list into an allocated morning slot.  My diary is usually pretty fully booked for two weeks ahead and probably half booked for the two weeks beyond that.

I’ve written elsewhere about the benefits of systemising, automating and delegating but please feel free to share your top tips too.

Do you invest in yourself?

As I write this I’m halfway through a two day coaching course which is really making me focus. I did my first coaching qualification about 10 years ago but never really used it until I set up Hudson Business Advice four years ago to coach accountants, bookkeepers and other business owners. In that ten year period I’ve forgotten a lot of what I already learned as well as picking up some sloppy habits.

I’m always very diligent about keeping my accountancy and tax knowledge up to date as that is a requirement of remaining a member of ICAEW. I also spend a lot of time perfecting my speaking as that is a newer skill for me and there’s plenty of room for improvement. I also go on business courses and read a lot around the subject so that I can improve my own business and also add expertise to my experience when helping other business owners.

I believe in continuous improvement of myself, my business, and the services that I offer. How much time and money do you invest in yourself?