What do accountants and dentists have in common?

We’re both viewed as necessary evils.

I was quite shocked when, a few years ago, an old friend told me that she would rather see her dentist than her accountant. As somebody who is terrified of going to the dentist (he’s lovely really) this really made me view myself as an accountant in a different light.

I see myself as an expert who loves to help business owners. Sometimes that’s keeping them out of trouble and other times it can put an enormous smile on their faces. And my dentist probably sees himself the same way.

So I started to think about why I had chosen my dentist and what I could learn as an accountant:
• I choose to pay a little more in the hope of a better service than mere competence. I want somebody to take a little more time to reassure me should I ever need any work done.
• They have a dedicated car park (although I walk as they are opposite my office)
• The receptionist, Belinda, is probably their biggest asset. She always calls 48 hours beforehand to confirm the appointment so there’s never any confusion.
• Belinda is very reassuring with her calm, competent manner. She explains all Covid restrictions clearly as they are constantly changing
• The waiting room is calm and has free Wi-Fi so I can distract myself by checking my emails or messaging a friend while I wait.
• There are calming videos of fish and wildlife, including on the ceiling of each surgery. (I’m not sure what the accountants’ equivalent would be)
• The dentist and hygienist themselves are always friendly and ask about my kids or work; something personal to relax me.
• They take payment as I leave and book in the next appointment.

How much more enjoyable would clients find it if we spent time on creating a welcoming environment in our business? Take a few moments to think about how you interact with clients at every stage.

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?

When should I recruit?

It’s a question I’m often asked.

You need to recruit BEFORE you get busy so that you have time to train your latest employee. Particularly if this is your first employee as all the training will be down to you. With my first employee, a trainee accountant, I was doing my own work in the evenings for the first two months.

You need to recruit early to allow your new person to get up to speed with the work, your clients, and your systems. Even with fully qualified accountants this took about three months.

You can accelerate both of these with a good induction programme. (I share ours on our courses)

You need to recruit early in case you find that you have chosen the wrong person. It’s something we all fear when recruiting but better to move them on quickly (and kindly) if they’re not a good fit so that you, and they, can find something better.

So, my rule of thumb is to recruit 5 months ahead of when I need the team member to be at full capacity. 3 weeks to advertise, 1 week to interview and decide, 1 month for them to give notice, and 3 months for them to get up to speed.

It’s much easier getting new business than new team members so, if you have the right person, you can soon find the extra work for them to do that will cover their costs.

What’s your experience of recruiting and onboarding new people?

We don’t need another hero

I’m currently reading Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller which is about getting the right marketing message for our business. It’s very good and I recommend it.

Miller suggests that we make our customer/prospect the hero and that we are not a hero but their guide. As you can imagine it set off a train of thought as I reimagined my own business in this light.

How do you and your product/service guide your clients to solve their problems and reach their goal? Now, how can you build this into your marketing?

Secrets of my success

This week I was asked to give a talk on what has made me so successful over the last 6-12 months. Well, I’ve shared a lot of tips here (51 per year) but the biggest non-secret is … ACTION!

It’s no good reading these tips, or my books, or paying for my coaching unless you carry out at least some of the actions. So, go back over the last few months and find at least one thing that you can implement. Preferably sign up for one of my courses 😉 but there were 51 free ideas last year. Tell me which one you found most useful and how it made an impact on your business

If you’re subscribed to my newsletter and you can’t find anything useful in the last 6-12 months then unsubscribe. I’ll be sorry to see you go but these tips need to justify your time spent reading them.

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?

Even Baldrick had a plan

As we go into a new year, do you know what you’re planning for your business?

When you plan a holiday, you have a destination e.g., Spain or Scotland or perhaps a requirement such as Winter sun or skiing. Then you can work out how to get there, the cost of travel, accommodation, and any other extras. You may need to run your plan past others to get their agreement before you can actually book the holiday. And the holiday that you book will dictate what you need to pack.

And yet many business owners pay less attention to planning their business, the source of their income and the thief of their time.

We’re running a Strategic Planning Day online on Wednesday 19th January. We will take you through all aspects of your business plan for the year so that you set off with a clear direction and certainty of each step along the way. This will be run 10am – 3pm on Zoom for up to six businesses for £600. If you can’t make this date, or if you would prefer an individual company day for you and your team then contact us to organise a suitable date for £2,000. As we aim to avoid having competitors on the same session the businesses that sign up first can veto any later applicants.

To sign up for the day, or for further information, please email us.

Making a come back

It’s been a busy conference season and, for a professional speaker like me, that means staying in hotels where I eat far too much and don’t manage to do any exercise. And now I need to step up the training again and get back into good habits. The same can apply to stepping up your business as we settle into the next phase of the pandemic.

Mindset – moving from day to day thinking to looking forwards and investing in the future.
Goals – set some goals, even if they’re just steps along the way to a bigger goal.
Plan – get a plan in place to move you forwards towards your goals.
Action – make sure you actually follow through. JDI

If you’re okay for now then let me know your success stories. If you want a hand with how to move forwards or if you need some accountability along the way then call us about an individual or group session.