Episode #098 Bookkeeping Solopreneur to Business Owner
Join us today for another exciting new episode of The Bookkeepers' Voice, as we are thrilled to be accompanied by podcast guest Malisa Clarence who is the Director of MBooks. Malisa is also a member of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), a registered BAS Agent and Xero Certified Consultant.
Malisa will be sharing her bookkeeping journey with us, including how she went from solopreneur to business owner, how she manages to juggle a busy family life whilst supporting her husband who is also an entrepreneur and how she runs her successful bookkeeping business.
Key Takeaway: “By getting your bookkeeping systems optimised you will be able to transition from solopreneur to business owner giving you more time to focus on what matters to you.”
Host: Angie Martin and Maia Coghlan
Guest speaker: Malisa Clarence
Topic: Bookkeeping Solopreneur to Business Owner
How to move from solopreneur to business owner and director
Keywords: business owner, xero certified bookkeeper, bookkeeping, bookkeeping industry trends, bas agent, business from home, business automation
Angie Martin 0:01
Good morning. Happy Friday, everyone. Hope you're having a fantastic start to your day. My name is Angie, and I'm here with Maia. We're both on the Savvy team.
Maia Coghlan 0:13
Angie Martin 0:14
And we're actually joined by a very special guest. I am very excited to be able to welcome Malisa Clarence from MBooks. How are you?
Malisa Clarence 0:25
I'm good. Hi, thanks for having me.
What are the current bookkeeping industry trends?
Angie Martin 0:27
We're so excited to have you on when we started doing this series, you were also one of our number one picks to have a chat with Mike and I were both discussing, but all the different things we could possibly talk with you about because you've been doing just fantastic things with your business over this last year. And I think it'll be great to kind of celebrate it and chat about it with the whole bookkeeping community.
Malisa Clarence 0:57
So thank you, because I don't celebrate it enough. I always think the worst.
Angie Martin 1:01
Yes, you do. You're actually very good at that.
Maia Coghlan 1:07
Something that you can be good at.
Angie Martin 1:12
I would definitely say she's good at it. Like you're one of the people I love every time we do co working stuff, you kind of have a moment I can see it. You're staring at everyone going I don't know what I'm doing. And then as you start talking about it, you 100% know what you're doing.
Malisa Clarence 1:31
Yeah, I suffer severely from imposter syndrome. And it's just something that I just can't seem to shake.
How to be a Xero Certified Bookkeeper
Angie Martin 1:38
It's hard. It takes a lot of self work to do that. I still continually do it. I think it's one of those things that any business owner or entrepreneur, it's a never ending journey. Yeah, definitely. So as I mentioned to everyone, you are the director of Mbooks, and you are a member of also the Institute of certified bookkeepers. So I see for all of us bookkeepers who actually know what that means, which I'm sure everyone does, listening to this podcast. You're also a bass agent in a zero certified consultant as well, which is super handy, since I'm just obsessed with Xero.
Malisa Clarence 2:23
And I just recently became a gold partner too. So that was a big gold tip for me. Oh, wow. That's so exciting. Yeah. It was a bit of a Debbie Downer because it was during COVID. So you don't get as much fluff from your partner manager, because they're not allowed to sort of take you out for lunch or whatever. Yeah. But yeah, for a small business to get gold. It's really difficult because you obviously have to have lots of files attached to you. Whereas an accounting firm, it's kind of like, you almost start off as a gold partner. Yeah.
Angie Martin 2:53
No, that's amazing. Congratulations. When? When exactly did that happen?
Malisa Clarence 2:59
Um, I think it was about August, August, September. Yeah. That's
Angie Martin 3:04
So exciting. I know how excited Amy was when she got to silver. So I can't imagine gold.
Malisa Clarence 3:11
Yeah, and I goes was Gold's fun, I get this little trophy that came in the mail. And I got 10 key rings. Oh, wow. I don't know what to do with the other nine. Like the One Ring is great. But I'm like, Am I supposed to give these out to people?
Angie Martin 3:29
Very strange. Very strang gift to give your clients.
Malisa Clarence 3:34
Right. That's right. So anyway, but it's Yeah, it's an achievement to to slowly build to that level of having that many clients on Xero I think.
Angie Martin 3:42
I think it's it's really impressive. And just like what we wanted to go through today is like, Yeah, really just sitting down and realising all the great things that you've done over these, like we've we've only been working with you since January. But we've been discussing chatting now for a year. I think the first call I made you was almost exactly a year ago.
Malisa Clarence 4:07
Yeah, I think so.
Angie Martin 4:09
So funny. And you've just you're in a completely different spot now. And it's impressive things. So what I wanted to share with the listeners today is going through and as most people would have noticed, you're actually a client of The Savvy Bookkeeper. So I want to go through your actual bookkeeping journey that you've had up until now and how and why you did decide to go from solopreneur to a business owner and director and how you kind of juggle all of that because fun fact about you is that your husband is also a business owner. Mm hmm. And you have you know, little ones And, you know, having, juggling all of that all at once can be very difficult. Yeah. You know, and I think a lot of our listeners would love to know what you guys do, because from the outside, it seems you guys do it really well.
Malisa Clarence 5:16
Well, maybe we just are good actors.
Angie Martin 5:20
I think, you know, you're both super supportive of each other's business, and you're super supportive of each other. And I think that creates a really fantastic life balance, not just like work life balance, but a life balance, which I think would just be fantastic to have a chat with. So before we go any further, I thought we could have kind of have a little rundown of how you became a bookkeeper, and just kind of chatting about your journey.
How to become a bas agent
Malisa Clarence 5:54
So basically, I'm going to show my age here, I started as a bookkeeper in the year 2000, which was the onset of GST. So that's a pretty good time to decide to open a business when the biggest change in taxation law was about to occur. And I did it with an I was married in 2000, was the young bride, my first husband and I went into bookkeeping, because I always wanted to have my family first. So I went into a career that, like I'd worked in an accounting firm since I'd left high school. Firstly, like in admin roles, and then the firm that I worked for, it was just a to a small two partner firm. And he really just taught me the ground rules of accounting, you know, all the processing and all of that kind of stuff. And back then, the way that small businesses operated was that they they did something weed during the ETL. And then they handed a box to their accountant at the end of the year, to how they run their businesses. I don't know, because these box would just arrive in the accounting firm, like, right, it's time to do business as accounts, and then that would be the only time in the day that they knew that they were doing well. And usually that was nine months later. Anyway.
Angie Martin 7:14
So crazy to think about now, like if I go a week without checking my business bank account, I've no idea what's going on?
Malisa Clarence 7:21
Well, I think that's the thing, I think they run their businesses from the balance of their bank account, as opposed to actually knowing what their business was doing. I mean, I'm talking clients that gave off a handwritten ledger books. You know, that was my beginning in accounting, which I have to say, in the world of electronics now has given me a really good base, because I had to learn how to do tea ledges by hand. So yeah, so 2000, I decided that I didn't want to travel into the city every day and work nine to five. So I started a bookkeeping business. And, and I basically just got myself a job, I was the slave to the client. And you know, and I, and it didn't bother me, I was happy with that. My husband was the main breadwinner, and he had a really good salary. So really, my business was just a bit of a hobby. And then in 2002, I had my daughter, and, and then my business sort of, luckily, I had a friend of mine who was just starting out as a bookkeeper. So she took over my clients for that, that nine months. That's great. And then I slowly sort of came back into it, you know, making sure that my daughter Emily was probably the main priority as opposed to the client work. And that just went along for a really long time. And then I got divorced in when Emily was three or four. And I had to slip the business, like overnight, it was no longer a hobby that I could just dabble in it was it, you know, basically became my source of income. And at the time, I was working for quite a few baristas in the city on on a floor of baristas. So I just hit up all the guys on that floor. I really need work. They've known me for a really long time. And so I quickly managed to build up my client list, but I was still just me working as a bookkeeper. So basically still running a job. And then that continued on for for a number of years and then I met my husband we got married and then we crazily decided to have more kids because it seemed like a good idea. So when Emily was 12 so she was just finishing musics going into high school I had a newborn baby funnel. And I had this idea in my brain that because Emily was such an easy baby. I used to just take her around in the capsule to the clients, you know she just did on the floor and I dropped the thing or have her in the pram and I'd be doing my work and she'd just be there happy. Well then I had to My son Sampson, and that was the complete opposite of what he wanted to do in life. So I nearly had a nervous breakdown, because I kept on saying to all my clients, you know, be fine, I've done this before, it'll be fine, I'm gonna have the baby in December, we'll have the Christmas break, and I'll come back and everything will just be like normal. And it was held lately how and so really, the journey from solopreneur to business owner began just out of sheer necessity to be able to continue the bookkeeping business with a newborn baby that didn't like sleeping and didn't like to sit still on the floor and just had to be completely looked after the whole time. And so the first thing that I did was I tried to find an employee, because I was working until midnight, one o'clock in the morning. And I was just hating my life. And Shawn at that time was running his gym. Yeah. So he was gone in the mornings in the evenings, but, you know, around a little bit during the day, but he was a first time dad, so he thought he was gonna break his baby. So he was like, really a nervous dad. So he wasn't even any help during the day, because, you know, Sam's gonna just be screaming unless I was holding him. So am I am I creating a picture for you here?
Angie Martin 11:18
A great picture I love it.
How to do business from home
Malisa Clarence 11:20
I'm not what I went through in those, those early years attempts and, and so I just couldn't go and see clients anymore, it just became impossible. You know, Samson would scream the whole time that I was gone, he wouldn't take the bottle, I'd be at the client, like, you know, burning through the work as quickly as I could possibly do it so that I can get back home and it just wasn't working for anybody. So I employed a person. I had zero experience in HR or employing a person and I just I go friend of mine said, Oh, I know somebody that knows something about counselling, like they're hired. me nothing about account. And anyway, we sort of we we fumbled along for about a year. And then it just became an untenable relationship. Because, you know, the business was changing, I discovered zero and I wanted to go fully cloud based and, you know, and and I was just leaving her behind, so. So she left the business. And then I was pregnant again, with my little daughter, puppy. And I decided that really, before this next baby was due, I really needed to get the whole employee thing working really well. So I, I then went out to re hire again, I think this time, I actually put an ad up somewhere. And I hired this lady and she came with me to all my clients, dessert tonight gave her an exceptional amount of detailed notes about how I did everything. And I had Poppy. And that was all great. And I was thinking I'll finally I've got a business that I don't actually have to work in and I can have some maternity leave. And then she clicked on me three weeks into maternity leave on like, a Saturday afternoon, and I was like, Oh my god, oh my god. And I had to go and say a client first thing Monday morning, and she was breastfed and had never taken a bottle. And I was like, oh my god. So the upshot of those two stories is I'm a really terrible test. And I'm playing Facebook. Right now what I'm doing. And so anyway, after that, I found another lady who ended up being really fantastic. And she worked with me for a couple of years off to that and but I had to do a lot of work. When poppy was a baby, which I didn't want to I knew she was my last baby and I just wanted to be able to enjoy her at an outfit. I had to do more work. So that was will puppies now three. So that was three years ago. I have two employees now that both work part time we are things to COVID completely cloud now. Yeah, there is there's one man that I still go to visit his office because I've been doing his bookkeeping for 18 years. And it's actually more of a coffee date than actually going over there to do work because he's about what he's basically retired. And I despite all of the things that I say to myself all the time, I think I've finally got the business that I want, you know, I work from home, I can go to the gym in the mornings or I can have lunch with my girlfriends every now and then. And I've got systems in place and and all of this the culmination of where I'm at in my business has really been the last two years of working with Amy and probably more intensely the last 12 months and having those co working sessions because I do think every time I'm on those co working sessions unlike the you know, bottom of the pack.
Angie Martin 14:51
It's so funny to watch, to be honest as outsiders like I think Maya you can say this to like we can actually see it in your face that you're like it No idea what I'm doing. And by the end of it, you're like, yep, alright, I'll do this. And
Maia Coghlan 15:07
That's pretty much exactly what it's like.
Angie Martin 15:09
It's impressive to watch. And it's the amount of work that you have done, has just made in books, a completely different beast, basically, from what it was a year ago. And that's kind of what I also wanted to talk to you about today is kind of going in to discuss what makes in books a bit different from other bookkeeping businesses, you know, how you are really driven by the big picture for your clients, which I think is really great. And, you know, having that since going to zero. Having that mindset, that tech is really important to what you do, because I know you and Maya have done amazing things with your processes. So I thought we could come in and chat to you about that as well, because it's helped, I think, really made a big difference in allowing you to go and have those lunches. And yeah, you know, having that kind of more of a, you don't have to be at work 24 hours a day,
Malisa Clarence 16:26
I think one of the reasons that I'm so driven in process and technology is because I'm a complete control freak. If I don't know that people are doing that, like my two employees are doing the things the way that I want them to be done, then I feel completely out of control. And I would sit here and work until 10 o'clock at night, because I'd be like, I'd need to check everything to make sure it was all being done. And definitely in this last 12 months journey, there's been moments where I've just felt completely unhinged, that you know, especially when you get that email from a client that I'm happy, and then picked up a mistake or something, and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have the right systems. If we all just followed the same thing, then, you know, these emails wouldn't happen, which is totally untrue, you still going to get those awful emails from clients. But the thing is that if the system is there, to the standard that I want it to be, then I can make that phone call to that client with that knowledge in my mind. And I can feel more self assured during that conversation, because I still feel like and other bookkeepers will probably agree with me that there is this whole doctor nurses thing going on in the world, between accounting and bookkeeping, which has spilled over into the client world, the client also thinks that same thing, or my accountant, you know, when they tell me that they're going to do my job paper, I'm happy to pay them $500 to do it. But if my bookkeeper says, Oh, it's $500 to do my job, keep applique Oh, what do you mean, like, Surely it's not that much work, you know, like, it's this huge differential. And the thing is that, if I have those systems in place, and I know that we're following procedures, for me to have that conversation with the client, when they're unhappy, it's like, we've done everything that we need to do, like, I get that you're unhappy. And you know, this part of the business isn't working for you. But I can't do everything for you. If I didn't have that, I'd be like, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. Let me like give you all your feedback for the last month, and I'll work you know, for 12 hours for free. And, you know, I could see that. Yeah. So it's definitely helped a little bit in that imposter syndrome. Now, in terms of my tech, I have an extravagant tech stack, because over the weekend, we shipped the little kids off to my animals and my husband, I worked on my business on the weekends. So it was pretty amazing. I've done that before.
Angie Martin 18:52
Just one thing. I don't suggest everyone to do that all the time. But like you just said you had never done it on the before. And it was done specifically to basically implement in next chapter in the business. So try not to work on the weekend, guys, let yourself have a break. Just
Malisa Clarence 19:14
However we shifted the little kids off and we went out for dinner on Saturday. We go late being on Sunday, it wasn't all work.
Angie Martin 19:22
That lovely as well. So we're able to have that little bit of break. And you're right like you, you got to keep done with all of your talking stuff on the weekend.
How to create a business manual
Malisa Clarence 19:32
Yeah, so I actually wrote a business manual, which really solidified in my mind the business that I have envisaged in my head and haven't really been able to quantify. So in that business manual is a page called the tech stack. And as I was going through all of the processes that the new employee that I'm looking for at the moment is going to have to follow I was like, Huh, this uses three pieces of software. Oh, yes, this process is is too. So I, I have quite a big lot of software that's running the business, but it's all working and it's all integrating. I mean, I was talking to Meyer about this the other day, if carbon and x pm could get married, then I would have the perfect solution. So, to give you a rundown, I use, obviously I'm a Xero centred bookkeeper. So zero is at the middle of the whole thing. Yes, onboarding a client is through practice ignition, which then fires off my job over to x PM, x pm then looks off to the client manual and the time shooting and also all of the tax legitimate programme. In terms of BAS and is and then carbon is the workflow implemental and email triage system. And so that's how we keep on top of what work is getting done by who and then have I got left x pm practice admission? Zero. I use your ask when my clients were requesting documents from clients. And the communication between the team we use zoom and now zoom fine. Yes, so pretty much that's all of the software that we use an Active Campaign for. I was gonna say I feel like you're missing I was like, there's a fear I'm missing in this someone. Yeah, Active Campaign. I also have Click Funnels somewhere along the way, but I don't do anything with Click Funnels and then Facebook Instagram website. Yes. And I tried to use WordPress on the weekend. And I think I pulled some of my hair out.
Angie Martin 21:50
Amazing in WordPress and other things is just like it's just easier to get clients to do it.
Malisa Clarence 21:55
Yeah, I just I thought it would be easy just to copy a page and then use that to. And then I looked back at my website in the whole thing and turn sideways. And I was like, that doesn't look right. Undo undo undo.
Angie Martin 22:09
Right button. Undo.
Maia Coghlan 22:12
Yeah. Some WordPress are really easy, and some are just awful.
Angie Martin 22:19
Why? Yeah, it makes no sense. Yeah, they haven't improved the user interface for certain words.
Malisa Clarence 22:27
Squarespace is particularly user friendly.
Angie Martin 22:29
Yeah, it is. But the quality is a bit different as well.
Maia Coghlan 22:35
Yeah. Yeah. I don't know what like theme or builder you're using in your WordPress, but it really makes a huge difference. Some of them are just terrible. And some of them are amazing.
Malisa Clarence 22:48
Well, I called Elementor. And I felt like it was from Harry Potter.
Angie Martin 22:56
I have heard some horror stories about that one.
Maia Coghlan 22:58
Yeah, I haven't used it personally. But I've seen it being used. And it is one of the more popular ones.
Angie Martin 23:05
It is but there's certain things with it. Yeah, that just don't strike me. Yeah. Yeah,
Maia Coghlan 23:13
I don't know, make it more intuitive.
Malisa Clarence 23:16
So basically, that's my tech stock. And it's, it's an it should allow the business to run if I was in Brazil, which we can't fly to at the moment. But, you know, it's, I think now that I've spent that weekend, I've created that business manual, it really shows a vision of what the business use, which is, you know, we're really centred on technology to help our clients, which makes us a little bit different from other bookkeepers. You know, there's a lot of manual process in bookkeeping, even though everything is computerised now. And, and I've tried to get rid of the manual, I've tried to automate as much as possible. Because otherwise, I mean, I think at the moment, I've got 70 or 75 clients, I can't retain all of that information in my head, I can't retain you know, who's sent me what bank statements and you know, whose superannuation payments are we looking after in terms of, you know, doing the zero SEPA payment as opposed to themselves so least an automation and software is really the key.
Angie Martin 24:21
It's why we love working with you. It's one of those things, we love chatting to you about any of this kind of stuff, because we know you get it and you love it too.
Malisa Clarence 24:34
But I think I may have confused my last week when I showed him my tech stack. And I was like, This is what I do here. And I do this one and I go here and I'm like, hang on a second. Just Whoa, bring it back.
Maia Coghlan 24:46
Yeah, actually, that was a great session. Actually. I really like that
Angie Martin 24:49
You use Zapier here as well to make sure everything does a continual workflow, don't you.
Malisa Clarence 24:57
I do use that for the glue that sometimes needs to happen, but the more that the programmes talk to each other. So at the moment, I think I'm booked in for a web webinar coming up, which is practice ignition integrating into carbon. But the moment practice ignition pushes my jobs over to SPM. But then my admin lady has to then go into carbon and create the work. But I think from what I'm going to discover is that practice ignition can also generate the work as long as the template is sitting in carbon. That's great. Yeah. So that will get rid of that manual process.
Angie Martin 25:38
Awesome. Not yet, with all the processes that you have a how, because I know you're really client centred. How does that help you and your team to have a higher quality of client service?
Malisa Clarence 25:55
I think we never miss anything. And we usually reminding the client before they ask us, so definitely for things like, you know, compliance things, they'll get an email from us at the beginning of the month, depending on what's happening, requesting information or letting them know that something's coming up. And for clients that have only ever dealt with their accounting firm, who very, very few accounting firms contact their clients at all unless it might like, you know, March or April of the following year, and they've got a tax deadline. So I think providing that constant contact with the client, even though it's not me, it's like an email or it's a, you know, yeah, no, yeah. But they feel like they're their businesses, you know, mind all the time. And especially, we'd like to jump keep reporting, that was all I created that as a processing zero, ask, so that all went out seamlessly. And I just think that it makes the client feel at ease that they don't have to worry about, have they forgotten something, when's the next bend due? And then that does free all of that time up for me to then ring them and actually just have a conversation with them. Because I don't have to go through all of the checklist of you up to date with this and that and everything else, because that stuff is all done. And then my conversation with him is just how's the business going? Like, how are you going as a person, because like I've discovered and you touched on a little bit earlier with three kids and a husband that runs a business that is not normal hours. So he's gone at 430 in the morning, comes home at 7am. And then he leaves again at 4pm until 9am. And then I'm working in the middle of day where ships in the night. A lot of small business people don't enjoy their life. They don't they just didn't their business and and whatever they thought their business was when they first got involved in it. It's morphed into something else and and then they just ended up having a job that they disliked. But then now they're running a business. So oftentimes, my questions to my clients aren't really bookkeeping related. It's like how you going? I usually remember they keep names. And you know, the last time we've had a conversation, they'll tell me something that I was like, Oh, you said you had that holiday? How's it going? All of that makes the client feel super loved.
Angie Martin 28:13
Yeah, it's really important. It's something that we do at Savvy, and we do it on purpose, too. Yeah, just checking in. It's very rare. I find a lot of people very few people have friends that are also business owners. So it can be very lonely, and you can't really talk to anyone about it, because they just don't get it.
Malisa Clarence 28:36
Well, you don't want to talk to sometimes you don't want to talk to friends about your business, especially if it isn't going great became embarrassing, true. And, and then there's the judgement that you don't want people to judge you and you can't talk to your employees, because you're the you're running the show, like, you know, there's some things that I will talk to my employees about the stuff that I have to make decisions on, it's all me. And it is it's sometimes really lonely, which is why this has been super fantastic. Because in those co working sessions, were all here, as you know, at a similar point, wearable pieces, we're all working pretty much on our own. And it's nice to be able to talk to somebody else about the problems that we're having. Yeah,
Angie Martin 29:17
It just really helps. And I think, you know, the decision you made when you first started to work with Xero, and going remote, it changes that intern interaction that you have as well. So I thought because I know a lot of bookkeepers because of COVID they're ramping up their remote services as well. So I'm thinking how we could maybe have a bit of a discussion on how your remote work has affected your client service and how your systems have kind of helped you with that because you're you're very good at you know, just picking up the phone giving them a call button. When you were going from physically going into everyone every week, and then slowly putting them on the remote, how did that affect your client service and your clients reactions?
Malisa Clarence 30:14
Yeah, it was tricky. It was a really difficult part of the growth journey, because I have these clients that I've done work for for so many years now. I mean, a lot of them. Most of my clients I've worked for for more than 10 years. So that was, that was that whole thing, whereas you know, I go to this client every second Monday, I'd go to that client since Tuesday from two to four, and then, you know, I'd have this whole sort of fortnightly timetable set up of travel. And it's really difficult to move a client from that to a different way of doing things even though and and it can also come off as you're doing it because it suits you better. And it's not necessarily best for the client. So it was a battle. And I, I always felt like I was not doing the right thing that I was always forever having to sort of like explain myself as to why this was happening. Why are we moving from desktop mild to zero when I've used mine? Ever in a day? And you know, and then you get an accountant thrown in the mix? I don't like zero, I don't understand that. Why are we changing from what we've always done. So there was a lot of like, pushback on so many different sides. But for me, it always just came back to my family and the fact that I always wanted to have a business where I just didn't travel every day, like I love going into the city. And I love going and having a client meeting and then going and have lunch and you know, making a bit of a day of it. But I don't want to be a slave to that. I don't want to have to go into the city every Friday all gets, you know, I live in north northwest Sydney. So for me to get into the city and the traffic is terrible. It could be an hour and a half each way. Yeah. And that's three hours of the day of stress of driving for nothing, you know, I could have done all of that work sitting at my desk, but and then so I did struggle with it. It was hard, it was hard letting the client know that even though the change didn't look like it was all for me, it was ultimately better for their accounts as well. Because you know, especially with zero being that ledger that you can have everyone have access to the accounting anywhere. That's right, the accounting can say it is seen as we pick up the phone and say, Hey, we're ready to get the texture turned on, they can look into the file. And I know that that's the same with mild. I just find that zero for me is way more user friendly. Lower law just going somewhere with that. totally lost my train of thought anyway. Oh, yes. So then COVID here, and COVID was the final straw for everybody. Because I could no longer come and see people. It just got rid of the whole rest of the argument. And now everybody knows that remote working is doable. I think this is you know, if you haven't turned in your worker, yeah. If this is your first foray into remote bookkeeping, now there is no going back, you just push forward, you never go back and say that client everything should be able to be done in your own office or off site somewhere because there's no excuses. Really. I mean, there's probably some systems that people will say, I have to go to the client for that. But then I look at them and go, but why, like, you know, is it because you're going to look at a piece of paper? Or then why can't that be scanned? in front of a ball, you know, payroll, you know, maybe you have to go and look at people's timesheets, or then get them onto a timesheet up. You know, there's, there's got to be a solution to all of the things that you're travelling for. And, you know, I'm not gonna say it's an easy journey to change your legacy clients from a face to face client to a remote client, but you can do it.
Angie Martin 34:00
You can even do it with zoom. And it's actually I love doing mentoring through zoom, because I can share my screen, my client can share her screen or his screen. And then, like we did the other day, Maya and I, we remotely accessed a client's screen. So it was her screen, but Maya was controlling it. Yeah. Technology is amazing. And it's something that this service that you can provide is so much higher now that we have all these applications.
Malisa Clarence 34:38
Yeah. And I think that I probably do talk to my clients more because it's not the monthly or quarterly visit in their office. And yeah, that whole taking remote control of someone's zoom screen. I mean, the first thing is you just got to teach them how to click the Share button if you can teach them how to share button and the top left screen, not the not the screen that they're on but The top left one, then you're away because I have a client that rings me every Tuesday. And he's always got a problem on a Tuesday. And I'm like, Don't even call me on my mobile. Let me send you a zoom. Link, I just need to see the screen. Yeah, exactly. And then I go in and do it. And he goes, I don't even know what you've done. And I'm like, it's, it's Yeah, I don't even want to teach you because it would take too long. Yeah, no. Yeah, no, definitely technology, I think. I think 2020 has shown the world that remote working is possible. And especially in our industry.
Maia Coghlan 35:38
Um, definitely, especially with travel time itself, like, the amount of time that you would spend travelling to see, one clients, and then the client come back to your office, that's so much more time that you could be spending, working on your business working on your clients needs, contacting them from home, and actually giving them a bit more, instead of just sitting in the car.
Malisa Clarence 36:05
Yeah. And I find that even now, when I do go out and visit clients for specific reasons, you know, like a meeting that we we really need to sort of have a few people in a room, whatever. By the time I get back to the office often doing that driving back, I come back, and I'm like, I can't, I just like I have to switch off because I can't sit back down at my desk again. And just like, you know, as if I just finished the zoom call, and I'm on to the next email, it's a totally different feeling.
Angie Martin 36:32
Definitely is definitely is I know, I definitely get that there's, I don't even like to do face to face meetings anymore. With business development things. It's just so much easier just to go. Okay, that's done. Now. There's the follow up, email gone out, and now I'm on to the next thing instead of the travelling because then yeah, you're done for the day, you don't want to do anymore. It's um, it's definitely changing bookkeeping as an industry, which is great. And what I kind of wanted to go through from here is how, you know, you obviously went from face to face from remote to remote for your family, and, you know, necessity at that time. But what caused you to really go from that solopreneur to the business owner? What made you do that big step? Because it's also like a big step for your business. It's a big step for you as well. So how did how did that process go for you?
Malisa Clarence 37:36
So I cried one night, when I was exhausted with a newborn baby, and my husband came home from work at like 9:30pm. And I just said that I'm selling the business, I can't do it anymore. I think I did a course. And the lady called it the ice cream on the floor moment, you know, where you've just come to the absolute end of what you can do. And I just felt like, I mean, I don't like ice cream. But I felt like that was a moment where I should have been sitting on the floor eating a bucket of ice cream. It was it was necessity for me, because I either had to sell the business at that point. If I couldn't change, because I just couldn't serve as people like eBay, you know, the clients were unhappy, I was unhappy. And it was either that or change. And so I had to change. And it was just as simple as that. And the other difficult thing I think, for bookkeepers that want to turn from a solopreneur into a business is that I know for me, I've worked on my own since 2000. I haven't gone through a firm and i don't i don't know the structure of how it operates. I've never had like a staff meeting where I've had an appraisal, like all of those things that go along with running a business I'd never experienced as an employee, because I'd always worked on my own. So it's been a huge learning journey, which is why I always feel like I never know what I'm doing. Because I've never actually, like I sometimes.
Angie Martin 39:13
You don't know what to compare it to.
Malisa Clarence 39:15
That's exactly right. I sometimes I think what if I went and got a job with somebody else's bookkeeping firm, and then learn how they do it, and then come back to my business and then go all right now it all makes total sense. So yeah, so it was really a necessity for me to change it. And I did have always an idea in my mind that I wanted to run a successful business. But I didn't want to be doing the work all the time. Because then you might as well just go and get a job. Which I have to say on like probably every one to two months. I will say to my husband, I'm killing the business and I'm going to get a job.
Angie Martin 39:51
Yeah, I think it's weird if you don't know those moments. Yeah, yeah, it's perfectly normal. I know. every business owner I work with says that to me at least once or twice a year, and they say that, to me being like, I'm just gonna throw in the towel, I can't do more. I get it, I do the same thing. But it's one of those things because it means so much to you. So when it's not going, for us control freaks exactly the way you want it to. It can be really overwhelming. And sometimes it's just easier to be like, that's done. Now. I'm going to go do something else.
Malisa Clarence 40:33
Yeah, I think the other problem that we have as bookcases is, we're definitely a female dominated interest industry. And we have that nurturing sort of caring personality. And so we really get invested in our clients, like, we really take our clients personally. So, you know, sometimes when you get those calls from people, instead of being able to sort of step back and see it, for what it is, I get personally upset that somebody is upset with my level of work, you know, it's almost like, you know, they've said something about my baby. And, and that is a really difficult thing for for me to get over. And that's usually the moment often was when I go, That's it, I'm selling the business. Because I think to myself, imagine if you had a job, imagine if you had a job and you went to work, and you got one of those calls from a client, you just go to the boss and say, Hey, I just have this like, really irate client on the phone, they're unhappy about this, and then it's somebody else's problem to go and deal with. And I go home and have a glass of wine, and it's all lovely.
Angie Martin 41:40
It's so true, actually, I, I completely get that, especially if it's someone that like, you really are trying your hardest, and it's just not working. And it can really break you. But um, one thing I know, because you know, every business has their highs and lows. I think doing the throw in the towel is always a low. But it usually brings a high after that. It's usually when something breaks, you either do throw in the towel, or you figure out how to fix it. Yeah. Which is Yeah, which is really good. And it's something that you've been really good at this last year. And, you know, I know right now you're working on your, you know, hiring process and trying to be that employer that you always wanted to be but not really sure how, because you've not seen it directly and with heart, all your hiring and everything. What would you do differently? In hindsight,
Malisa Clarence 42:45
I'd like to be one of those people that would be able to impart this sort of wisdom on the people listening. But and I have actually thought about this, because I thought this would be a question that you asked me, you actually just have to make the mistakes. And there's just no way around it. You cannot like I did some business coaching A few years ago, in the very first stages of me trying to change the business. And they kept on asking me all these questions about, you know, what do you do in this situation? And how does this process work? And it was almost, I had no ability to answer the question, because I hadn't been there. So you cannot, I cannot give anybody advice, because they literally have to employ their first person and fail at it, almost like he and then from that eager all that person didn't see it. And I hired them in the wrong instance, because and I won't do that again. And then the next person, you won't do the same mistake, but you might make a different mistake, like you just might really like them as a person, but they're really terrible at bookkeeping. And I just unfortunately, you just have to go through what you have to go through the process. I don't think there's a way that unless you go out and use like an HR company and use somebody else's knowledge of the do's and don'ts in employment. Which is great. Except if you don't have the same personality as that HR person, but you've got to work with your employee. I think there's a lot of stuff that people will go through between solopreneur and business owner, that won't make sense to them when they read it on a piece of paper until they've actually done it. Like how do you define the job role of the person that you hire directly after you? The job is almost it doesn't even exist. It's like you know, and you want someone for it? Yeah, like what else? Are you going to employ them full? Well, I don't know. Because at the moment I do all the work. So what do I give them like two hours a week, but what if that two hours takes them six, you know, because you're really fast. Like, all of that stuff is just
Angie Martin 44:49
It never ends? as well. Yeah. Yeah.
Malisa Clarence 44:54
I just think it's growing pains that you have to go through to understand and that's What I've gone through with the hiring process is from that very first person that literally it was like anyone could have walked through the door to now I'm like, Well, now I'm being way more selective. So this is hiring process that I'm going through. You know, I had all of these applications, and it's almost flattery when you get an application for a job if you like, or somebody like applying for my job. And then, you know, when you go on a call with Amy, and she's like, no, get rid of that person, get rid of that person, get rid of that person, I might, but they've got like, hold the green ticks. And she's like, no, they've described themselves in a way that you don't want them they won't be a good employee. And it's, you know, it's been a real eye opener, because I had no idea how to hire somebody.
Angie Martin 45:42
It's not just hiring someone, it's hiring someone that matches your business, you and your clients as well. Because that's something we always focus on with it savvy. For if we ever add anyone to the Savvy team it, we think about you guys, we think about the in person that is going to be directly impacted by these hires, and it's the same for bookkeepers, you want to make sure any new hire is going to be a positive addition to your clients. Yeah.
Malisa Clarence 46:13
I think the first person that worked for me, I was just grateful that they would actually work for me. And now my whole mindset is, well, I have a great job. Do you see that? So I've completely flipped out on the lately, you know, it's not I'm not a charity here, like, this is a business that I'm running, and they're going to have to do some really good work to get paid and to stay on the team. Whereas, you know, back in the, that very first house, like really, you'd really like to come like me, that's amazing. You do very much. It's amazing.
Angie Martin 46:47
And that's, I think, a big growth between the solopreneur mindset to entrepreneur, business owner, mindset. I think that is a lot of personal valuation of yourself. Like you're valuing yourself, you're valuing your business, and you're valuing your other employees that work for you that they do this level of work, anyone coming in should also be doing the same level of work, and it makes up so they can all be a real team, which is great. You know, and talking to teams, I just want to finish off today's episode by kind of coming back again, to why you created the business and talking about your family and how you all kind of work, trying work together to make it work. And, you know, I know a lot of bookkeepers created their businesses the exact same reason you did they wanted to be able to be at home focusing on their family and also creating income. What do you have any suggestions or any tips on how to you know, my partner is also an entrepreneur. So we both work I know Maya, the same same boat, Amy's the same boat, but um, you know, what tips and tricks do you have? That helps make it work for you guys? Would you guys do?
How to achieve business automation
Malisa Clarence 48:16
Well, back to my nature of control freak, it's all about the scheduling, about knowing where and who's doing what. Look, don't get married to a gym owner is my first person's advice. Fair, fair. I mean, like, honestly, if he just had a normal business that was in business hours, we'd both be just working at the same time. And we both have time in the mornings in the afternoon for the kids. And I think the flow would just be a little bit easier than what it is because, I mean, I feel like at the end of the day, I take a lot of the weight of the family because when Sean out in the morning, I'm doing the breakfast routine, and then lunch packing. And then he goes in the afternoon when my son's home from school. And so he's like a bundle of energy. And then I've got to do the dinner in the bedtime routine. So you know, and then on the nights that Shawn is here, because you know, he's got a business partner and that he's not working there all the time. Then I want to go to the gym, because I need to get out of the house and say we have this real like this sort of shedule where we both know who's at home at what time and we're usually the opposite. So if Sean's home I'm out if he's out I'm home. I meal plan. That is another key to the functioning of this household is meal planning.
Maia Coghlan 49:36
You would need that
Malisa Clarence 49:37
Yes, it means that at four o'clock in the afternoon when I walk out of this office and Sam is home from school and it's time to turn back into Mum, I don't have to go to the fridge and go oh my god. Yeah, it's just it's already written there as the ingredients have already been purchased and all we have to do is like make it or Sean will make it before he goes out so that I don't have to cook that night. So The tip is to have communication between you and your partner. And to divvy up the job. Because you can't do everything and you'll just burn out and, and just be really supportive of each other. I do a lot of work in John's business because, you know, I'm a bookkeeper, and I'm business minded, hated doing a little bit of work in my business, because he's really good. We'd like Facebook ads, and he's actually really awesome at perspective. Like, he doesn't know anything about bookkeeping. So when I'm going all complex on the issue, and trying to say to a small business owner, why they should work for me and just basically speaking jumble. Like, basically, all they want to know is, is when do I need to get paid? Next, when's my balance due? And how much money do I owe. And so he's really good at giving me that perspective back and like, this weekend that we did the business. Like stuff to give off. He was doing all the social media and, and just bringing a fresh set of ideas, like I'm a real analyst, brain, everything is data driven, I draw squares, I don't draw circles. That's really hard. That's really hard to get your message back to a small business owner who doesn't think like that. And so that's really good, having shown that because his world is fitness and you know, appealing to that, that inner thing that the person wants, which, you know, if we can sort of, you know, drive that into the bookkeeping space, we should be able to really nail some some new clients. So I think that's, that's all I can say. It's hard work there. It's really, really hard work. And I think for those people that maybe that Taunton is aren't supportive of your business. It's even harder for you. Yeah. Because I feel like I'm alone. But then I do have my husband who's supportive, but I still feel alone. If you don't have a supportive partner, then you're just alone alone alone.
Angie Martin 51:58
Yeah, that would be a massive difference. I know, I definitely couldn't do what I do. If my partner wasn't supportive, and, you know, days that I don't leave my chair for, like, 12 hours, he'll bring me food. And I do the same for him. And it. It's that Ying Yang, you need to have that support.
Malisa Clarence 52:20
Yeah. To be successful. No, I love them. You need wine and whiskey.
Angie Martin 52:25
Yes, that's actually Yes. is also very important. Yes. Or we're even going to start brewing our own beer.
Malisa Clarence 52:34
Oh, wow. That's going to be happening next. Yes, it is.
Angie Martin 52:38
It's a necessity. For us anyway. Know, this has just been so fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about all the amazing things you've done for him books, it's been just so fantastic to watch you from that one call that we had the beginning of last year, when you're like, I just need to do this now. I I need to get this all sorted. And you're just such a fantastic example of how you've successfully implemented technology and your bookkeeping business, while thinking of your clients, thank you, it's you are you really are and you do it really. Inside, like inside, it's not seamlessly, like you have a lot of stuff that you've done to make it seamless. But now that it's implemented, it's just a really well working machine.
Malisa Clarence 53:41
Yeah, and it took a lot of sweat to get there. Almost at that point where I can sort of see it as a whole ecosystem and go, Wow, I'm really happy with with that, like, it's all just flowing and working really well as a couple of tweaks that I need to make. But just generally, I think, you know, and, and once you get there, and it depends on where you want to go with your business, my business, once it sort of lines up those wrinkles is completely scalable to whatever level you know, I don't know how big I want to make it because, you know, it impacts on your family life because that your business becomes but you know, if somebody else wanted to take this business, like massive, everything is set up to do that. You just have to expand now.
Angie Martin 54:28
Yeah, and that's one thing that you know, I don't think we talk about very often in this podcast, but the ability of you know, let's say you get to the point where you're 65 you want to retire, you can sell this business and all of this work that you have done, you're right someone A it makes your business very sellable. And then B someone can just take this and just run with it to whatever level they want. And it's just a really great business model.
Malisa Clarence 54:59
Yeah. It's the key to being able to sell your business is to remove your face from it, which is the solopreneur is all about the person. You know, if you tried to sell your solo printer business, most of the clients would would walk away from the business when you leave, because there's a personal relationship. Some of my clients have been with me for a long time would do that if I sold the business, but the new clients that have come on board and post, this may face would continue on with this bookkeeping business because it's structured in a way that suits them to engage with us as a bookkeeper. So I've moved my face away from the forefront even like m books is a derivative of my name. Originally, I used to be Malisa's bookkeeping services. So m books is a derivative, but it's not my name so that anybody else can run this business. And it doesn't have to be me.
Angie Martin 55:51
Yeah, I think it's amazing. And if anyone wants to learn more about what Malisa has been doing, and what Mbooks is all about, please feel free to go to our website, The Savvy Bokkeeper .com because in the podcast notes, we're actually going to include all of the books, social media links, so that you can kind of get to know what you're doing. You've just joined the world of Instagram and everything, which is very exciting. It's, I've been enjoying it, I like to discuss my personal business as well. I've been liking your first few posts, and you can kind of learn a bit more about what inbox is all about and what you're all about with having. You're the figurehead. But you're now in the chapter now that you're kind of where Amy is where she wants to take herself out of the business, but still have the business, basically. So I hope everyone's been able to learn a bit from you. I know, again, you're just a great example of how you can really combine everything that you do want, and make it still a success. So thank you so much for joining us today.
Malisa Clarence 57:08
Thank you for having me.
Maia Coghlan 57:09
Great to hear your story.
Angie Martin 57:10
Malisa Clarence 57:11
I hope you get something from it
Angie Martin 57:14
Yeah. Well, there's a couple things that we didn't know, that was quite interesting to kind of learn.
Maia Coghlan 57:19
And I think that your your hesitancy to give advice about hiring people turned into really great advice.
Angie Martin 57:27
It was great advice. It was perfect. That's exactly what I was looking at.
Maia Coghlan 57:31
That was that's really great advice. Yeah. But you you're not for people to just not expect to get it right the first time and try something is a huge lesson that a lot of people.
Angie Martin 57:45
Everyone's human, you learn from mistakes. That's why like, as a kid, you want like, as a parent, you want your child to fall down and make mistakes once in a while because then they know not to touch that hot thing again, they know that they need to put their foot out so they don't fall or their hands out. And you know, it's it that's human nature is that we learn from mistakes. Yeah. So it's it's a great, great takeaway. And yeah, thank you so much for joining us today.
Malisa Clarence 58:16
Angie Martin 58:17
No worries. Awesome. Well, Maia Do you want to do the…..
Maia Coghlan 58:22
Stay safe, stay sane and stay Savvy!
Malisa Clarence 58:24
Maia Coghlan 58:26
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