I Love Bookkeeping is a global community of Bookkeeping Professionals. We all bleed bookkeeping and want to grow and prosper our businesses. This podcast is for Bookkeeping Professionals who serve clients, and it's for the woman or man who aspires to join our great industry. Join Ben Robinson every Tuesday to geek out on Bookkeeping.
What Corona Means to Bookkeepers and How to Profit From It with Paul Colligan
We are in the middle of some strange times right now but even with the challenges we’ve seen so far, we’ve also seen several people connect better with their audiences.
[1:55] There have been several unique opportunities that have emerged since the advent of COVID-19, and Ben happens to be right in the middle of a number of rapidly changing environments.
[3:30] With all the changes to the regulatory environment, bookkeepers have been extremely busy helping business owners figure it all out. Everybody who has been waiting to do their books suddenly has an urgent need to get it all done as quickly as possible.
[5:00] For bookkeeping professionals that are established, there has never in the history of time been a better time to be a bookkeeping professional. The word of the day in the industry is survive and just do what you can one day at a time.
[5:30] We saw a similar cycle 12 years ago with businesses that weren’t prepared, or that weren’t really businesses. They were the ones that didn’t make it through. The most important thing you can focus on right now is how you can help your clients and do whatever you can to help them survive.
[6:05] The urgency of tax day has been replaced by the urgency of getting your books in order to secure a loan. What we’ve seen so far hasn’t been as much of a stimulus as it was just enough to allow small businesses to survive. The only way that many businesses have been able to do that is by getting the benefits, and that means bookkeepers are instrumental.
[7:40] There is no COVID-19 version of your books, they are either done or not done. Not having the information on hand means your business is leaving free money on the table.
[8:05] Paul tells the story of trying to make Mother’s Day special and how different restaurants handled the lockdown. We hear a lot about the economic downturn but plenty of businesses are seeing a flood of customers that they may or may not be able to handle.
[10:35] When it comes to economic turbulence, some types of businesses will thrive and some will suffer, but any business that isn’t prepared is going to run into major problems.
[11:00] Ben always tries to have at least six months of operating expenses in his business’s savings account. If you have a team right now, they are nervous and there is no such thing as over-communicating and no such thing as giving away too much information. If you are secure, your people need to know that.
[12:15] You should work with your clients in the same way. People can typically deal with bad news, what they can’t deal with is unknowns. Having a fight you know about is way better than not having any idea about what is going to happen.
[13:15] Take care of the things that you can control. You may not know what is going to happen with schools in the fall, but you can get your books done and find out what your finances look like.
[14:05] Everybody is worried, but being in a position to give someone answers can be very valuable. The bookkeeping industry is a recession-resistant industry and bookkeepers are in a position to really help business owners get through the current situation. When we do come through to the other side, those businesses are going to remember who was there for them.
[16:40] Right now is a great time to start a bookkeeping business. There are no guarantees, but this may be the absolute best time to be marketing bookkeeping to businesses that desperately need the service.
[18:30] It’s also a great time to be advertising since ad costs are low. The one caveat is that hard tactics are out and building relationships is in. It’s the perfect time for bookkeepers to focus on the top of the funnel.
[20:00] Bookkeeper Business Launch will give you the fundamentals you need to start your bookkeeping business, but if you want to go far, it’s important to surround yourself with people on the same journey as you. The mastermind and community are huge assets to bookkeepers just
Your Vision for the Future with Kim Erick - Encore Presentation
Kim started in late August of 2017 after purchasing Bookkeeper Business Launch. Four days later she registered her business name and closed her first client, who later on became her husband.
[3:00] Kim had been in the banking industry for 16 years and knew that there was definitely a need for bookkeepers in business. When Kim’s husband decided to start his trucking business, Kim made the choice to start her own bookkeeping business at the same time.
[4:15] Kim currently has 8 active clients. There are always ups and downs in the business, and clients come and go. She mainly focuses on transportation due to her insider view of the industry.
[6:05] Kim always had the desire to open her own business, but she never really knew what she wanted to do. The high costs of most business models made them prohibitive. When she discovered the idea of bookkeeping, it made a lot of sense given her background and experience. Time-freedom is the word Kim would use to describe the idea of running her own business.
[9:30] Retail banking is extremely time intensive, and Kim felt like she wouldn’t be able to go much further in the industry without sacrificing more of her time. Instead of just working more, she wanted to find a way to make more money while working less.
[11:20] Sticking to her niche was one of Kim’s first challenges. Many of the clients she initially took on were not the right fit because they were either too small or not appropriate. It can be hard to say no to a client that wants to work with you, but sometimes it’s necessary.
[14:50] Kim’s husband has been a very valuable insider who has helped shape her marketing and how she finds clients for her business.
[16:05] Take your time as you go through the learning process. While you’re working your way through it, try to put processes in play that will make your life easier. In a lot of ways, time-freedom is a double-edged sword. It’s all too easy to do work that doesn’t actually build your business. Busy work is the work we do to avoid the work we really need to do.
[19:00] The biggest challenge today for Kim is that if her business continues to grow, it’s going to take up more of her time unless she hires someone. The trouble is she isn’t sure if she wants to manage people again.
[20:35] For Kim, success means the ability to do what she wants to do and having the means to do it. Reaching true financial security is when she would define success. Given that definition of success, Kim doesn’t really need to take on more clients.
[22:50] One of the best aspects of the business for Kim has been the option of working as many hours as she wants. In terms of capacity, Kim could probably take on another 3-4 clients without eliminating the time-freedom that she values so much. At this point, she should focus on finding quality clients and upgrading her existing client base.
[26:40] When Kim hits a milestone, she takes a moment to enjoy her achievement but also look towards the next goal. She has to realize the pressure is off her. She can shape her business so that it fits her goals instead of doing things to generate an income.
[30:50] Paying off her mortgage and becoming debt free is one of Kim’s major goals. The other question is how does she want to spend her time when she’s retired. When Kim thinks about her goals, she always sees herself with other people and how she can help and serve them. To serve others, we have to serve ourselves.
[36:30] Whether or not you have team members, your business is a system. Systems are even more important than a list of clients. Once you define your processes and efficiencies, it pays off continuously over time. Start out where you are and map out your processes, and then think about how you can improve them. Processes revolve around your client; if they don’t, then why would you do it?
[42:15] You can gain a tonne of momentum and leverage in your business by hiring a virtual assistant. We think we need a b
How to Differentiate Yourself from the Competition with Melissa Broughton - Encore Presentation
Melissa was working 70 to 80 hours a week at her job and was starting to get really burned out. She decided that she needed to make a change and that was when she was injured during a run. This gave her plenty of time to look for opportunities to work from home. She found her first client online and that gave her three months to find more. Word of mouth and BNI has been how she’s found the majority of the clients she has now, with the process being largely organic.
[4:45] Melissa serves 62 clients that they work with every month and she has a goal to get to 100 clients by the end of the year.
[5:25] We rarely stop to smell the roses and appreciate everything we accomplish. Remember to write down how far you’ve come and keep that in mind.
[6:20] Melissa has made plenty of mistakes over the past 18 months. One of the biggest things she’s learned is to stick to her pricing and not negotiate. If the client wants to negotiate, that may be an indicator that they don’t value your service.
[8:15] Melissa works solely from home and most of her clients are local to Sacramento. One of the motivations for her in starting her business has been to spend time with her kids and this led to her finding a team member that likes serving clients face-to-face.
[10:30] Working at home can be very isolating, so Melissa really appreciates the chance to go to BNI meetings and meet people on the same journey as her.
[11:40] The best piece of advice for someone considering starting their own bookkeeping business is you have to be a self starter. There will always be things out of your control and you just have to push through it and get things done. There is also a major difference between dealing with multiple clients instead of one boss. You need to develop a thick skin.
[13:30] You have to be very self reliant as a business owner because the buck stops with you.
[14:25] There is a lot of room for growth in the bookkeeping industry. Melissa hasn’t run into any real competition in her area. If you’re thinking about getting into the business, now is a great time to jump in.
[16:00] In three years, Melissa would like to be in a commercial space with 10 bookkeepers working for her. The key piece of the puzzle will be a solid office manager to bring it all together so that she doesn’t need to touch client accounts anymore. If you can pay somebody to do something better than you, you should do it.
[18:15] Strategy is marketing, and marketing is the core of your business. It’s hard to outsource the marketing because they don’t have the same incentive as you as the owner of the business.
[19:15] In some ways the desire for an office space is about ego but a commercial space does come with some other advantages. Melissa estimates that she’s lost approximately one client a month that didn’t decide to work with her because of the lack of physical space.
[21:40] A physical space also comes with a lot of baggage. It can become your golden handcuffs or an anchor.
[22:40] Managing people is difficult, every person you bring on increases the complexity of your business. It’s important to think of things from the standpoint of the result instead of the function. Melissa doesn’t want to have 10 people work for her, she wants the result that 10 people can bring.
[26:50] Melissa’s challenge is setting her business apart from the competition. Answering the question of “how are you different from other bookkeepers out there?” is hard.
[28:45] Bookkeeping is first and foremost a relationship business. If we try to compete on the tasks, we’ll lose. You should think about how to deepen and build upon the relationships with prospective clients and existing clients.
[30:45] You have to know how to communicate with your client in a way that they will understand, and then go above that by advising them. Take a vested interest in their success from the deliverable standpoint.
[32:30] Bookkeeping used to be about abdication, now
Team and Execution with Jaime Rodriguez - Encore Presentation
Jaime has been running his bookkeeping business for the past two years and has acquired 13 clients in that time. He’s hoping to get more clients and continue growing, but it’s a scary thing to think about.
[3:10] When Jaime first started, he was going to partner with a friend of his that had a degree in Bookkeeping. He discovered that a lot of random tasks end up on your plate as a bookkeeper and felt that he just didn’t want to work for someone else anymore. His friend wasn’t ready to make the leap at the same time though, and Jaime decided to go out on his own. He discovered that he was in over his head and looked for help; when he found Bookkeeper Business Launch, it changed his business.
[7:10] After signing up for the course in April, Jaime got his first client in June. He reached out to his former colleagues who had ventured out to create their own firms and one of them said yes.
[9:00] One of his clients has been very influential in helping Jaime find new clients. He has referred Jaime to a number of individuals and created new connections for him. It’s important to have as many referral sources as you can.
[11:10] Jaime had to overcome his fear and negative mindset before starting his business. We are all limited by fear but we have to bust through it.
[12:20] One of Jaime’s biggest challenges was something that many people might find easy, putting a photo of himself online. When Jaime got started, he didn’t know that he would be serving attorneys but it ultimately worked out really well.
[16:00] Jaime enjoys putting the puzzle of a client’s messy books together. It’s one of the few tasks in bookkeeping that has a definitive end point. One of Jaime’s least favorite activities is receipt management.
[19:10] Jaime has been really challenged with his systems recently. He recently lost a contractor and has found that the systems he has in place may not be sufficient. In many ways, this is actually a good problem to have and should be celebrated.
[23:00] Jaime started documenting things via screen sharing. He would record himself doing the task and then upload the video to Dropbox. Processes before people, the processes that Jaime has developed have been largely the same for all of his clients. It’s important to limit the procedures that you have that are unique to one particular client, which is one of the advantages of operating in a specific niche.
[27:25] When handing off the receipt management task to a contractor, Jaime realized that he didn’t really explain what he wanted accurately enough so he found the contractor was making a lot of the same mistakes. In the beginning, it’s important to spend more time holding their hands and walking them through the way you want something to be done.
[31:00] We often try to bite off more than we can chew. You should offload one task at a time, not look for the perfect person for every task. When you bring someone on board, they will not care about your business as much as you do. Give them a small puzzle to work on and get rid of the tasks with the lowest hourly value first. Handing off too much at one time is recipe for disaster. Don’t hire by client, hire by task.
[37:30] Overloading a new hire is a big mistake. Give them one task to master, then once they’ve got that down, give them more to work on.
[39:20] Jaime’s first contractor was a virtual assistant that did some simple tasks like managing email that he found in a Facebook group. One of his favorite ways of getting to know a potential hire is asking them, “What Star Wars character would you be and why?” Ben recommends asking the unique questions because one thing he has discovered is that the people with prior bookkeeping experience usually come with bad habits that you have to work to fix.
[44:45] People want to work in fun places with people they like. Bookkeeping is a relationship business. Going after trained bookkeepers isn’t the best approach. You may train some
When, How and Who to Hire with Tracy Thomas - Encore Presentation
Tracy had been in the accounting world for 20 years and decided to leave the corporate world to spend more time with her kids. She ended up driving a school bus for a little while and decided that she needed to find a way to combine her love of numbers and spending time with her family. Tracy ran into Ben’s videos online, and that led her to buy his course and begin her bookkeeping journey.
[4:30] Tracy officially opened her doors in June of 2017 and got started by subcontracting for her fiance’s accountant a little after tax season. This was a good way to jump-start Tracy’s career and shift her mindset from employee to business owner. There were plenty of times when Tracy felt like she was overwhelmed, but she was able to persevere and push through.
[8:35] She didn’t start getting clients of her own right away. Tracy wanted to make sure she could do the job before getting in too deep, and working as a subcontractor gave her some people she could ask for help if she needed it.
[9:55] Tracy currently serves 13 clients through the accounting company. She works mainly in Sage but is transferring them over to Quickbooks. She also has 13 clients of her own.
[13:15] Tracy’s second goal was to allow her fiance to get out of driving a truck for a living and bring him into the business she was building. She created the goal in November 2017, and as of January 2019, he finished his last day of work and has come on board.
[15:30] The business started off a little slow but it has grown quite a bit in the last half of the year. Now Tracy and her fiance are available to spend time with her kids and manage their own time.
[20:20] Thinking like a business owner is about knowing that you have control of your time. It’s the flexibility of not just trading hours for dollars. One of the biggest challenges Tracy has encountered has been pricing her services. She usually starts them off at an hourly rate and switches them to monthly after a few months of service.
[24:50] The thing that we want as a business owner is flexibility but it’s a double edged sword. You’re not accountable to anyone but yourself, and for entrepreneurs, it can be really difficult.
[26:40] Tracy has experienced a lot of growth in the past few months, so marketing has slipped by the wayside.
[27:40] Don’t stop and halt your marketing. It takes momentum to get the marketing machine back up; so you should keep it going. The best time to market is when you don’t need clients, that way you can be selective.
[31:10] Helping people understand what is happening in their business is what Tracy loves to do when working with her clients. Doing her client’s bookkeeping allows Tracy to get insights into their business and helps her deliver value to them by solving their problems.
[34:40] Before we start hiring, we should understand what our Unique Ability is and where we provide the most value. List out all the tasks you do, and figure out what you are the best at and where you provide the most value. Then, list the tasks you don’t like doing.
[37:00] What are the things that you need to get other people to do? It’s not who do you need to hire, but what tasks do you need to delegate? Finding a freelancer on Upwork and outsourcing just one task is the first step. Build out your team from a task perspective instead of a person perspective.
>[41:45] Find the simplest task you don’t want to do and give it to a freelancer or virtual assistant. Don’t look for bookkeeping experience, hire for attitude and resourcefulness. Training someone else will force you to think of and write down the exact process for that task which is how you start to create systems.
[47:50] Getting your processes down gives you a resource that you can use to bring on additional team members. This gives you a huge advantage when hiring in the future. Having great people is a luxury; having great processes is a necessity.
[51:45] Tracy’s next steps are to continue with her
Processes for Sanity with Justin Boynton - Encore Presentation
When Justin was 19 years old, he was introduced to the idea of owning a business but he felt like he wasn’t ready to go it on his own. He decided on a career in banking which worked out well enough for the first few years until his wife told him they were going to have another child. This led him to looking at how to make money on the side and eventually Ben’s course.
[6:00] In early 2017, Justin was still working his full-time job while serving 11 clients, which was starting to burn him out. When he had the opportunity to take on a bigger client, Justin’s wife gave him the push to go for it and make his business his full time occupation.
[9:20] Justin developed a good network while he was working and spent his time getting to know who he wanted to work with and asking for specific referrals.
[11:50] When looking at new potential clients, Justin wants to see that the client is coachable and open to suggestions. He’s made mistakes taking on clients that weren’t a fit. It’s less about the niche or industry and more about the way the client works with him.
[13:45] The greatest challenge is to systematize processes. Once you get them done, it’s great, but for Justin, he finds it difficult to get through.
[16:00] The favorite part of Justin’s day is the ability to enjoy his time with his family and his wife.
[18:40] Justin’s first homework assignment is to take stock of all the challenges he has overcome so far and appreciating how far he’s come.
[20:20] Justin is in the process of onboarding three new clients so he’s focused on systematizing their processes from the start. Now that he has a team member to help him with the workload, Justin needs to optimize the way work gets done.
[25:00] The goal at the moment to spend 20 to 30 hours a week in his business so that he can focus attracting and meeting new clients as well as more personal things.
[26:50] The vision for your business is a framework that you can use to evaluate everything you do. Is your action going to move you closer or further away from your vision?
[27:40] One is none, two is one. You should always duplicate your efforts and build in some redundancy into your business processes so you aren’t in big trouble if somebody leaves. Finding team members using a service like Upwork can make the process simple.
[32:40] There lots of people who aren’t interested in building a big business but still want to do bookkeeping for a decent rate. Justin found his first team member by posting that he was looking for some help in the Bookkeeper Business Launch Facebook group.
[33:50] Calling yourself a bookkeeping professional is key.
[35:50] Take the traits of your best team member and write them down. Those are the traits you should look for in potential hires. The ‘whatever it takes’ attitude is the biggest thing that Justin looks for in his team members.
[39:30] Be slow to hire and quick to fire. This goes for your clients as well.
[41:45] It’s better to have two team members working 5 hours a week than one person working 10. Anything that the team member is going to be doing with your clients should be simulated during the interview. You should see exactly how they are going to do the job and interact with people before you bring them onboard.
[44:20] Add a little easter egg to your job posting that asks the person to include something in particular in their application so you know they pay attention to detail.
[46:15] Justin needs to find people that have the capacity to grow and are in the business for the long haul.
[48:50] If you want to scale your business, never stop marketing and never stop looking for good people.
[50:00] Finding a process to develop better processes can be tricky. Take your current bookkeeping professional and just document everything they do in the course of their work. Recording your screen while your working and narrating what you’re doing is a simple way to document what you do. Every time you
I’m Proud of You!
Ben delivers high quality and very valuable content on what feels like a never ending path to self sufficiency in the world of starting and running your own bookkeeping firm.
As a student in his course with so many ppl posting their success stories on our group’s Facebook page, Ben is never a stranger. Constantly commenting on how proud he is of everyone, making this whole experience extremely personal.
Well, I wanted to turn it around for a second and have been reflect on his accomplishments for a moment in case he reads this. Myself, and I’m sure many others, are very proud of you sir!
Thank you for being you! Keep up the great work!
Ben Robinson Delivers More than Just Numbers
This review is long overdue. I’ve been listening to Ben since he started his podcast and am always impressed. His common-sense approach and upbeat humor is refreshing. He can take a dry subject like bookkeeping and make it enjoyable.
Besides that - he instills a sense of hope for entrepreneurs wanting to start their own business that it’s not only possible, but it’s fun.
I enjoy the variety of guests he interviews - from the mega-successful to the just-starting out. Every single podcast has some gold nuggets that are worth listening to.
Fun and informative!
This is my favorite lunchtime podcast! I always learn so much when I listen to I Love Bookkeeping, but I also love how Ben and his guests seem to have fun with the show and not make it sound stuffy. Bookkeeping is a profession that hasn’t really been in the spotlight, until perhaps recently, and it’s refreshing to hear a podcast that allows it to take center stage in a way that consistently provides useful information in an enjoyable way.