Episode #025 Scoping Rescue Jobs And The Importance Of Bookkeeping Health Checks
Amy talks about the challenges of scoping rescue jobs and why you should always perform bookkeeping health checks before providing a quote or taking on a client!
The real message of this story is: “Trust your gut first, and then back it up with facts!”
Host: Amy Hooke
Guest speaker: None
Topic: Scoping Rescue Jobs And Bookkeeping Health Checks
Hey, everyone. Happy Friday, and thank you for joining me again, and I’m very excited. I told you that I’d have a special topic for you today, and so because it’s the fifth Friday of the month, and so that doesn’t happen all the time, so I thought I might do a special topic today. I was trying to think about what I should do, and I actually had no idea. Then, it dawned on me, so I was scoping out a job, doing a proposal today for a potential new client, and I thought it would be quite interesting to talk about this because it’s actually revisiting a quote for a client who I mentioned in one of my previous podcasts. Actually, I think it’s was last week’s podcast, so obviously, you can go back and catch up on that if you missed it, but here’s the update.
I just thought I’ve got to jump on and talk about this because this is a great lesson to continue on from what I talked about. Now, this is something that’s super important. It’s so important that I’m actually going to run a webinar on this topic that I’m going to talk about today, so the topic is how to do a bookkeeping health check and “a job.” I know, it’s very exciting. I’m as excited as you are, so let’s jump into it.
Remember last week, I was telling you that a client to me and asked for a quote. I was a little bit concerned about the situation, so I was tempted, based on how easy the client kept telling me that the job was going to be, I was a little bit tempted to quote him on the job, but my husband reassured me that I should follow my own rules and stick to my own way of doing business, and I’m so glad that I did. Last podcast, i told you that I’d sent a quote to this client. He told me the job was going to be really easy, but as he started to explain it and the more I asked questions, it sounded actually quite complicated. He kept telling me how easy it was and all that kind of thing.
Anyway, I forgot to ask him for access to the data file at the end, so I mentioned that I need it, but I forgot to actually ask him for it. I said in my quote … I did the quote anyway without having access to the data file, but I said, “Pending health check.” Thankfully, I listened to my husband. Anyway, I thought when I sent in through the quote, I thought he’d just look at it and go, “Too expensive.” I think it was only … It wasn’t much. It was only 160 a month and maybe a 500-dollar catch-up fee, so anyway, I didn’t actually hear back from him for quite a while. I did hear from one of the accountants who I work with who I referred him to. He called me and said, “What’s the deal with this guy?”
Anyway, I was hoping he wouldn’t contact me back because I was thinking, “I really hope he doesn’t accept the quote,” but anyway, he did contact me this afternoon. He said, “Hey, I’m just following up on the quote.” I was thinking, “Well, I did actually ask you for access to the data file, which you haven’t given me.” He gave me access to his data files. I went in there, so he did actually withhold the payroll access, which I didn’t notice until the end, but anyway, I went through, did a health check of the data file, made some comprehensive notes on some of the issues that I found in there. Then, based on what I found in there, I actually amended the quote.
Anyway, to my non-surprise whatsoever, I went in, and when I altered the quote, it turned out that the ongoing fee was about three times as much, and the setup fee, the onboarding fee to catch him up was probably about four or five times as much, and so I’m really, really glad that I did the health check and didn’t take his word for it. Thankfully, I trusted my gut feeling, which was that something just wasn’t really sitting right about how he didn’t really want to answer my questions and things like that.
Anyway, just before I jumped on the podcast, he’d actually sent me an email. He just basically replied within a few minutes saying, “thanks, Amy. That’s way out of my scope. Thanks anyway.” Then, he basically told me how I’d gotten it all wrong, and he told me that my original quote was more on the money. I thought, “Okay,” and so I actually just replied to him. I said, “Hi, Mark, I understand that you can’t afford our fees. The original quote was based on 150 transactions a quarter, which was what you originally told me, but when I checked the data file, there’s actually 150 transactions per month. It was based on the ball being straightforward, but after investigating, there’s been multiple issues with the file. I’ve included this specific VASP at no charge,” because he said the one thing that was wrong with my quote was that I’d charged him for a VASP for the specific company, but I had said in the quote that it was no charge because there was nothing to it.
I said to him, “Look, there’s no way that we can go lower than this, but thank you for your time and all the best finding the right bookkeeper. Thanks, Amy.” I was actually really relieved. I said to my husband, I said, “He’s not going to accept the quote. Either that or on the off-chance that maybe the fact that when he approached me, I’m able to straight up give such a detailed report about the condition of the file and to be able to give a fixed price quote without any qualms, whatsoever.” I would think that a fairly decent straightforward business owner would actually … They would feel confident in the level of confidence that I had in to be able to quote that job.
I actually think even though my quote was so much higher, I actually believe that I mean I obviously am not going to be able to ever find out, unfortunately, but my suspicion is that if he gets quoted by someone to do it by an hourly rate and they end up doing that file, I think he’s going to end up paying maybe twice as much as what I’ve quoted him. I know, yeah, I guess on some level, it is disappointing because I did spend about 40 minutes doing the second quote, and that included the health check. I’ll tell you what, that was a waste of time, and I thought to myself, “I’ve got to jump on this. This is what I’m going to do the podcast on because this is all of the various lessons that I learned through this process.”
Obviously, I shared last week about the lessons that I learned about trying to bypass my own system and ignoring my gut feeling about the client and that kind of thing, but going through the process, I guess it really made me reflect on where I’d come from in terms of the way that I used to try and win jobs before I understood how to do package-based pricing and before I developed my pricing method and got to try it out with hundreds of bookkeepers, and so yeah, it’s just been really good. I thought to myself, “I’ve learnt so many lessons during this exercise that I’m actually going to run an online training webinar, and I’m going to actually show you.” I thought to myself, “Wow, I’ve really come such a long way.”
I remember back in the day, I used to believe that it’s too hard to go to a rescue job. It’s too difficult to estimate how long’s a piece of string? You never know how long things are going to take, and I can say with full confidence that I quoted that job very well and not just for me but for also for the client. It’s funny even as we speak, the client has actually responded back to me and yes, he’s basically telling me how wrong I am for my quote and that it can just take a matter of minutes to reconcile. I know for a fact, it’s very hard. It’s going to be very hard to work for somebody who thinks that everything just takes two seconds. I’ve worked with people like that in the past, and it’s just really not what I want to do because how can you possibly feel valued when he’s telling me that I can reconcile his whole file in a matter of minutes, but he doesn’t understand that I require him to provide the tax invoices and that there’s this whole process involved in that.
I’m not really going to go out of my way to explain that to him. I have explained it to him in a fair bit of detail, so the health check that I did gave quite a decent recommendation. I’ve probably saved him a few hundred dollars in the next bookkeeper that he goes to. He’ll be able to give them that list, and that’s going to save him time, especially if they’re billing on an hourly rate. Basically, what did I learn today?
Well, I think there’s three main things that I learned. The first one is that you can scope a rescue job, and it’s actually not that hard. This is such a common thing that we always say all the time. I remember I used to always say, “Oh, you can’t figure it out, and how long is a piece of string,” and all those kind of thing, but it really comes down to the health check, the bookkeeping health check. If you know how to properly do a health check and if you know how to properly price your package, then you actually can scope a rescue job. It’s not that hard, and so that was definitely the first thing that I learned. As I was going through, I realized like wow, I’ve actually come a long way in being able to learn how to do this. It is a skill. It’s like a muscle that you have to work. Then, once you get better and better at it, you just become more and more agile at it. Also, you’re just going into a lot more detail in what you’re able to recognize when you’re doing that.
Now, the second thing I learned, which I guess I’ve already said this before, that that there’s no way you should ever quote a job without doing a health check. I don’t care if you’re in an ally or packages or pricing or whatever the kind of pricing, there it is. You definitely need to check the file, and of course, as you heard in my last podcast episode, I was tempted to skip that part. Thank you to my husband, I listened to him, and I actually did that. I made sure that I followed my process, so by going into the data file, I’m actually able to see what’s going on. I’m able to actually see that there’s a mismatch between what the client is telling me and what I’m actually saying in the data file.
Now, I don’t mind how many times the client emails me and tells me that I’m wrong and that it’s just as quick as he thinks that it is because I know what I can see in there. Going in that data file was a real eye-opener. As I started, I looked at the first. I picked the small data files first and had a look in there. I thought, “Oh, yeah, okay, that’s all right.” As you start to really dig into it, and you start to look at all the different elements that you need to look at, and there’s actually so many. Normally, when I’ve been doing my quotes, I don’t normally document everything in the quote, but what I did was, I actually documented it into the quote.
The reason that I went into so much detail this time, thankfully, is because I did feel that this is going to be a risky client, and so I wanted to go into as much detail as possible because you need to protect yourself, but that’s what the scoping is all about. It’s not just about giving the quote, but it’s about protecting yourself based on the quote that you’ve given, and so that was definitely something that I learned. There’s no way you should ever quote without doing a bookkeeping health check first. If the client doesn’t want to do it, then you have to think to yourself, “Why?” Do you know what I mean?
Anyway, the next thing that I learnt was that it feels really good to quote for a job when I don’t care if I get it or not. It’s actually really good. When you meet these strange odd-ball clients and you think to yourself, “I don’t know if I really want to get this job,” these are really good ones to practice on because you don’t care. I mean I don’t really care these days anyway because my goal is not to be a bookkeeper. I want to be a bookkeeping business owner. Also, I do have my other business, and that kind of thing definitely keeps me busy. I’m at my capacity at the moment anyway, so it felt good to be able to go into a space where I was quoting for a job, because I remember when I first started off the hook. I felt like, I don’t know, I was always so desperate to get the job, and it wasn’t just about the money. It wasn’t really even about the money.
I guess back then, I probably thought, “Oh, yeah. It is about the money,” but I think it was more of a … Oh, I don’t know, just … I don’t know. I just didn’t like being rejected. I didn’t like people saying no for whatever reason. Also, I guess I just really felt that I wanted to prove myself that I could help this particular person. Also, a part of me didn’t trust that something else good would come along, and so I was impatient a lot of the time. I was just like, “Okay. Let’s just go.” Even if I had capacity or I didn’t have capacity or I didn’t have a good feeling about the client, or some of the clients back in the day who approached me, they just made me feel really anxious. That’s how this guy made me feel except that I was paying attention to it this time whereas last time, I was like, “No, no, no. It’s just me. I’m just being negative. I’m just being judgemental,” or whatever, and so that’s …
I did notice that feeling. I thought, “Hmm, something’s not adding up here,” and I thought, “Hmm, maybe I should trust that instinct.” Then, I’m like, “Oh, yeah,” but it’d be cool to … Well, I don’t know. I didn’t really even think it would be cool to get the job. It’s just I think for me, it was more with this guy, I really wanted to say no, but I don’t know. I’ve never actually said to a client, “I don’t want to work with you.” I think that’s what it was for me. It’s like, “Okay.”
I have actually done a little thing about this. I took a note somewhere. I think it was just an audio note. I haven’t turned it into a blog post yet, but one of these things that I was planning on speaking about one of these days is, is it ever okay to price someone out because you don’t have the courage to be honest with them? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t really think that, that’s necessarily a good style, but hey, I’m human, and I stuffed it. I don’t know. I just am not really that good. I don’t really enjoy being confrontational, but I’m getting better at it.
I started with an HR person, and earlier this year or last year so I could transition all my contractors into being employees, not the same people that moved the contract design and bring in employees. She really helped me with that. I had to let go of an employee who I actually really enjoyed working with. It just wasn’t a good fit for the business anymore, but this HR person’s really helped to be able to have awkward conversations with people. Yeah, I guess that’s what I … Normally, it’s me helping people with that. I’m always helping bookkeepers to have awkward conversations with their clients about their fees. Obviously, I struggle with that myself, but we’re all in a journey, and I’m definitely learning as much as the next person. Learning to be direct without being harsh is definitely an art form. Yeah, so that’s it.
Then, I guess that leads me to the fourth lesson that I learned, which is trust your gut. Yeah, it is actually okay sometimes to scare someone off by charging a really high fee, making it go away. I think that’s pretty much it. I think that, that’s the final lesson. I finished off on saying is it okay to do that? Look, at the end of the day, we’ve all got to muddle our way through lives, and sometimes, you just go to do what you got to do, and so I did what I had to do, and it went rather well. It also made a good podcast episode, so anyway, have a great weekend. I’ll see you next week. Bye.