How I manage to run three businesses (and still sleep 8 hours a night!)

People often ask me how I manage to run three businesses.

It started 15 years ago when I set up Hudson Business Accountants and Advisers to fit around my small children in just 25 hours per week. There was a lot of juggling parenting and business responsibilities to get the balance I wanted. I sold this business for 32% above average as it was set up to run efficiently without me.

Roll forward a few years and those small children have now left home for university and I run three new businesses

  1. Minerva Accountants does what you might expect: accounts, tax, bookkeeping and business (not just tax) advice
  2. Minerva Technology is a small fintech startup
  3. Hudson Business Advice is mainly me speaking, writing, and coaching other accountants and business owners how to run their own business more efficiently and profitably.

So how do I do it?
• I employ people better than me
• I am happy to delegate to these and other experts and subcontractors
• I invest in technology (hence why I had an idea for the tech business!)
• I choose clients that are a good fit for our services and don’t try to service unsuitable clients.

How could you manage your business more efficiently and profitably?

How to spoil your clients 

I often write and speak about how important it is to move along clients who aren’t suitable for your business. But today I want to speak about how you can spoil the clients who are right for your business.

You obviously need to do the work as efficiently as possible. This usually means investing in good technology and the best people.

And then you need to offer a wow customer service. If you are too busy doing the work then you may not have time to do this. In order to spend time with your clients you need to have time when you’re not involved in the day to day work. This means having a good team and not taking on more clients than you can handle.

Charging a good price will allow you to pay for your team and technology and means that you don’t need to take on too much work.

“Charge a fee you’re happy with. Find clients who are happy to pay it. And then spoil them. Answer their questions. Proactively support the needs they didn’t know they had”. – Megan Guest

If you want to spoil your clients (don’t we all?) then you need to charge enough to build this into your business.

We don’t take just anyone

It’s not that we don’t like you. Far from it. We like to serve people where we can provide the most value.

At Hudson Business Advice we only choose clients in certain industries and who have the time, resources, and motivation to implement any agreed actions. We don’t like people to waste their money if they’re not going to do anything. But we also want you to succeed in having the business you first dreamt about as I get my real reward seeing happy business owners with time freedom and financial freedom. (Yes, I do cry real tears of joy when that happens)

At Minerva Accountants we use a lot of automation to operate as efficiently as possible so that clients have up to date management information to make informed business decisions. We can’t provide the sort of service I’d like for people who aren’t tech savvy. We can help them a little bit but will often refer them elsewhere.

Similarly we encourage you to be picky about your own clients so that you can run your business more efficiently without trying to be all things to all men.

Work out who your ideal client is (have a look at your current best clients) and focus on finding more of these by creating valuable content and resources for them.

Collaboration for the win

A while ago our local post master observed my kids spending their pocket money and reported back to me. Apparently they figured out that if they pooled their money they could get a big packet of sweets between them which was even better value. Collaboration for the win!

Years later, when they were old enough, he gave each of them a job as soon as he had a vacancy. Watching their behaviour over the years had given him some idea of how they would get on with customers.

In our business we rely on each member of the team using our different skills collaboratively to provide the best service to our clients.

But it’s not just internally that we work together. We extend our support to clients’ bookkeepers. They can contact us through the year with coding or other queries. In return we benefit by getting neater records coded as we like them so the year end is faster. Sometimes we get early warning of areas we can advise our mutual client. We’re always happy to explain any year end adjustment journals so that Xero (or other software) records are better each year.

We also work with software providers to ensure that any new software is properly set up to give both year end and management information. Or with IFAs and mortgage advisers to provide the best information to help our mutual clients with nonbusiness finances.

How could you collaborate with others to increase the size of the pie?

What is a Clarity review?

We try to encourage all our business clients to have regular Clarity reviews. These can be monthly, quarterly or annually depending on the size of the business.

  1. We connect their Xero or Quickbooks to Clarity HQ software which analyses 7 key indicators that reflect profitability, productivity, and value of the business.
  2. This shows where their business is NOW
  3. We discuss where they want to be on each of the 7 indicators in the next 12 months
  4. We come up with an action plan on how to get there
  5. We have regular check ins to help them work through their actions. This is where Della’s business experience and coaching come in
  6. We celebrate clients getting closer to their goals
  7. We repeat with enhanced goals

It’s all about constantly moving forward

Tax tip

Cash is king and most small businesses fail due to lack of cashflow. Even if you have a relatively small business you can use accounting software like Xero to:

  • Add a link to your invoices for clients to pay by card using Stripe, Paypal, or similar
  • Plug a small (usually free) card reader (Zettle, Square, or similar) into your phone for clients to pay by card before you leave site

90 day planning

A lot of businesses don’t bother with a business plan because things change and they’re out of date almost as soon as they are written. 

I sympathise.  

Although I do like to have a 12 month budget to check that I have enough money to pay the team and to reinvest in the business we rely mainly on a 90 day planning cycle. Things are usually fairly predictable for the next 90 days so we get together as a team. It’s the only thing we try to do in person as we all work remotely the rest of the time. 

We loosely follow this agenda: 

  1. Review KPIs for last period
  2. Check actions from the previous meeting
  3. Discuss any issues and solutions
  4. I share my plans to move the business forward for the next 90 days and we all agree what needs to be done step by step, and by whom. 

After the meeting 

  1. My PA, Kate, emails me with a summary and the detailed action lists for each of us
  2. I add my actions to my to do list.
  3. If necessary I allocate slots in my diary.
  4. Kate works through all her actions (much more efficiently than me!) and gently reminds/nags me to get on with mine 

The result is that, over the next 90 days, we make a lot of progress. Even if we don’t quite get around to everything the business has moved forward a lot from last quarter.  

It’s like my running – CONSTANT FORWARD MOTION, no matter how slow. 

If you’d like a copy of our budget workbook you can purchase a copy here [please insert best link] or drop me a line if you’re interested in group or individual coaching to improve your own business.  

HMRC do not make the law

HMRC do not make the law, they interpret it in the same way that accountants and tax advisers do. If we can’t agree on the interpretation then the courts will decide. HMRC is not the final arbiter. 

HMRC have all sorts of helpful information on their website for the public to read. This means that it is often dumbed down and vital points can be missed in the interest of simplicity. This means that Google and ChatGPT can lead to ‘interesting’ ideas from clients on how they can save tax which ends up with me correcting them by quoting chapter and verse of whichever act is applicable.  

Our clients work hard so we don’t want them to pay any unnecessary taxes but we also want them to sleep at night knowing that they have complied with all laws and regulations. 

Too many accountants just rely on the HMRC website and forget to check the correct sources. Proper CPD is really important to maintain professional standards and to give the best advice. We should be better than Google!  

Software efficiencies

When you started up your business you probably ran it using a spreadsheet or a Word document. But now you’ve filled your time and you’re trying to grow you need better to software to ensure that everything runs as efficiently as possible. Here are some things that I use in my businesses:

Marketing – I use Active Campaign as both my CRM (customer relationship management system) and to email things like this top tip to our clients and prospects. Active Campaign links to forms on our website and to our scorecards.

Process management – Minerva Accountants has lots of beautifully repeatable processes so we use Bright Manager (formerly Accountancy Manager) to manage those processes, client documents, file client emails (so anybody on the team can see all the communication), and automated reminders. My coaching and consultancy business has fewer repeatable processes but it is much smaller so I manage my to do list on Trello

Cash collections – as far as possible we use recurring monthly invoices on Xero and collect payments through direct debit using Gocardless. Any invoice on Xero is automatically fed to Gocardless and, when payment is made, the receipts are matched to the invoices on Xero. Clients can also pay by card using Stripe which also matches the invoices. These save hours of debt collection time and bookkeeping in a small business.

New year clear out

You don’t have to wait until the new year to do it (see also Spring cleaning and back to school flurries of activity) but I do like an excuse for a good declutter.

Here are some things you might want to look at:
• Stationery – we run a paperless office and don’t have a printer but it still amazes me how much stationery we have around that might be useful to somebody else
• Poor clients – yes, we have a clear out of these every February after the big tax deadline. You probably have a few clients who could be moved on to make room for more suitable ones
• Inbox – how many emails are you subscribed to that you don’t read. If they’re not useful to you (including this one) then don’t just delete them but unsubscribe
• Wardrobe – not a business one but, unless you already do Project 333 you can probably get at least one bag of clothes and shoes to the charity shop or bin
• Client files – archive any paper or digital files you no longer need

Make space to plan your year with our budget workbook and video.