As bookkeepers, we all know about rescue jobs!
Why? Because approximately 90% of our new clients come to us in a total mess. And as bookkeepers, we can spend the lion’s share of our time fixing up accounts.
Rescue jobs can be very stressful for both the bookkeeper and the business owner for a few reasons. But I find that the main source of stress is often that the business owner doesn’t know their accounts are a mess until it’s pointed out to them.
After their state of accounts is pointed out, things can go a few ways:
- Your client accepts their accounts are a mess and engages your services to fix them all up, and they’re happy to pay
- Your client sees their accounts are a mess but doesn’t want to pay to get things back on track
- Your client doesn’t want to admit there really is a mess, and so they dismiss you (aka, they are in denial)
Hopefully you’ve experienced more of the first type of client! But the thing is, we all have the same set of choices when it comes to fixing things in our business. Allow me to explain…
We’ve all got blind spots in our businesses
It’s not just our clients who can be blind to issues in their businesses. We all need help to make sure we stay on track, accountable, and aligned with our goals. Even me, as an experienced bookkeeper, business coach, and mentor.
Yep, even though I’ve got over 20 years’ bookkeeping experience, I still have a bookkeeper myself! I’ve realised the importance of having a second set of eyes and someone to keep me accountable. Goodness knows I’d love to slack off on keeping all my own tax invoices in order! But thankfully my bookkeeper has integrity and helps me to do the same.
And as you know, I’m also a business coach and mentor, and guess what? I have a business coach too! Actually, I have a few coaches, because I’ve realised that I need coaching in a few different areas. So, even though I advise other people on their businesses, I still need someone to:
- Help me to see my own blind spots
- Guide me
- Help me see past my own publicity
- Remind me that it’s about the journey and not just the destination
My business coaches and bookkeeper help me see my blind spots. I know how important it is because the consequence of not being able (or willing) to look at our blind spots is denial. And the consequences of denial, as you know, can be fatal… both for businesses and for people.
Want some proof? Go look at the stats on business failure rates to see what denial can do:
60% fail in the first three years, but 50% of those that fail are profitable businesses.
And this tells me that it’s not profitability that keeps a business going, but something else. And it’s not necessarily a lack of profit that causes a business to fail either.
So, what’s the real problem?
Four things that can cause a profitable business to fail
When I first heard that statistic about so many businesses failing – even though they were profitable, I was shocked and decided to dig further. I found that there are four issues that can cause your business to fail, even if you’re making some decent money.
- Cashflow – many profitable businesses don’t manage their spending well or make sure they get paid on time, which leads to cashflow problems, and eventually, failure
- Lack of planning – most business owners don’t bother to write business plans because they either think it’s not important or because they don’t know how (or where) to start
- Lack of support – the business bubble (both online and offline) is an issue because too many business owners boast when thing are going well, but don’t admit when they’re not, which means that they don’t get the support they need
- No accountability – when business owners oversee their own financial affairs (or have a friend or family member do their bookkeeping) it can cause devastating problems, like not paying employees, GST or taxes correctly (or on time), which often means fines and legal issues
There are so many resources out there to prevent these four issues. Our government gives small business owners resources, training and mentoring – all for free. And they still don’t utilise them. Why?
Denial. It comes down to the fact that most business owners don’t think they need help.
So you come along and point out major financial errors in your clients’ accounts, it’s no surprise that sometimes it doesn’t go too well. Sound familiar?
But let’s take the focus off our clients and their mess. And let’s take some time tell the truth about our own businesses. Because like I said earlier, it’s not just our clients who can be blind to these issues… chances are we’ve all got at least a few issues to take care of for ourselves. Would you let me be that external source to help shine the light on some stuff you might’ve been blind to lately? If you’re cool with me doing that, then read on.
How do you know if your business needs a rescue?
I’ve put together eight signs you might need a rescue in your business.
Sign #1: Working more than 40 hours per week
This is the easiest one to overlook because so many of us wear this one like a badge of honour. When your business is in order there’s no reason at all to work more than a standard week. But a lot of bookkeepers I speak to are working far more than this. Some working seven days per week. BAS time can be crazy, but even then, what’s happening to stop your work from getting done on time?
You might say, “It’s the clients! They don’t provide the information.”
It’s easy to blame someone else, but perhaps you haven’t thought about the fact that you might not be qualifying your clients before engaging with them. What this means is if you’re taking on clients that aren’t right for your business, they’re not going to respect you or follow your rules. Or perhaps that’s part of the problem. Maybe you never even set rules with your clients.
Excuses or not, this is a sign your business needs a rescue.
Sign #2: Not working on your own business
If you’re only doing client work but not working on your own business, it’s a clear sign that your business needs a rescue. And sure, not everyone wants to grow their business, and there’s a lot of pressure for us to do so. But I’m not talking about growing.
If you’re a bookkeeper who loves doing bookkeeping work and that’s all you want to do, that’s completely cool. I’m not specifically addressing you here in this next part. I’m only talking to bookkeepers who have reached the point where they ready to get “off the tools” and only run the business and be a business owner. In other words, you’re ready to focus on working on the business, not in it.
Is that you? If so, then it’s time you realised that continuing to do the bookkeeping work even when you’re ready to step back isn’t healthy. It’s not good for you, your clients, or your staff (if you have any).
If you’re not working on your own business, it’s a sign your business needs a rescue.
Sign #3: Clients not paying on time
There are very few legit reasons for clients to pay you late without communicating with you first. And if your bookkeeping is up to a good standard, there isn’t any reason for them to micromanage or complain about their bill. (If your bookkeeping is not up to scratch, and you’re taking too long or making a lot of errors, that’s a whole different issue!). If a client can’t afford your services, why have they hired you? Or more to the point, why have you allowed them to hire you? While it’s very common for bookkeepers to complain about clients not paying them, it’s quite rare for us to take responsibility for our own actions and admit it when we took on a client who we knew wouldn’t be a good fit.
And yes, usually we know when a client isn’t a good fit. But so often we ignore all those red flags, until things go wrong.
If you’ve got clients who don’t pay on time (or at all), it actually shows two serious issues in your business:
- That you haven’t figured out who you really want to work with yet (your target client)
- You’re still randomly accepting work
And in my experience, there’s only one reason that we “randomly” accept work, and it’s not random at all: desperation. The only reason to take on a client who isn’t a good fit is if you’re desperate for the money. Because when you’re not desperate for the money, you’d simply say “no”.
If your clients aren’t paying on time and if you’re desperate for money, your business needs a rescue.
Sign #4: Marketing efforts aren’t working
Do you find yourself doing lots marketing but not getting any traction? This is another sign that your business needs a rescue. And most of the time, it comes back to something I’ve already touched on: your target client.
If don’t know who your target client is, you won’t know what kind of marketing to do. You’ll either do nothing, or you’ll try lots of things, but mostly end up wasting your time and money.
Part of the rescue job you need to do on your business is discover who it is you really want to work with. When you hone in on those kinds of people, you can research them and find out where they “hang out”… and hang out there with them. And just as importantly, you can tailor your message to reach them.
Sign #5: Trying to implement too many things
It’s really important to do things in the right order. Often we try to implement something because everyone else is doing it and we don’t really think about how it fits into the big picture. If you’re doing this and finding yourself stuck or overwhelmed, it’s a clear sign your business needs a rescue.
When you actually plan where you’d like to end up, and design your business strategy around that first, then you can choose the tactics that will help you achieve your goals. Not the other way around. Too many times I’ve seen bookkeepers take on the latest software because they heard it was popular and then trying to squeeze their business to fit that model.
If you’re taking on too many things or doing something “just because” instead of being strategic, your business needs a rescue.
Sign #6: You’re not really sure where your money has gone
Are you earning as much as you’d like to be? And if you said yes, are you paying yourself, or getting anything out of it, personally? Maybe you’re how I was before I put a plan in place, spending more than I earned and unsure of where it was all going.
As bookkeepers, we’re always dealing with other people’s money, but it’s kinda ironic that we tend to be so bad at keeping on top of our own. A lot of bookkeepers admit they don’t practice what they preach. It is then our human tendency to then make excuses for being hypocritical in the way we do business.
If you’re having money issues, it’s a sure sign that your business needs a rescue. You need to take the time to find out how much you need to pay yourself to cover your living expenses, and enter that into your business budget as a “wages expense” (even if it’s only on paper). That way, you can work out how much your business needs to earn each year. Then you can work backwards from there to pricing your packages and decide which revenue streams you want to hone in on.
If you’re in business and you’re not in control of your money, your business definitely needs a rescue.
Sign #7: No social life or hobbies
Does your social life totally suck? I know that in the beginning I invested so much time and brainpower in my business that my friendships dwindled away. All I ever did was talk about my business, so it’s not really a surprise that my friendships suffered. And as for hobbies… what are they? I found that I hardly ever left the house when mybusiness was consuming me. Except maybe to go to a bookkeeping-related even. I found that I only wanted to be around other business people who understood where I was at. Yup! It was all about me.
If your work and life are not in balance, that is a sign that your business needs a rescue. When you develop your business plan you can tailor it to fit in with your bigger vision for your own life. That way, instead of your business using you and running you into the ground, you can use it as a powerful tool for achieving your goals.
If you’re finding it hard to be around non-business people, or you never do anything fun anymore, your business definitely needs a rescue.
Sign #8: You often stressed or sick
If you find yourself frequently (or constantly) feeling stressed, it’s a sign your business needs a rescue. If you’re getting sick all the time (either physically or emotionally), then you’ll struggle to work at your best for your clients. And your family and your personal time will suffer too.
Stress can put you at a higher risk for health problems, including an early death if left unchecked. Concerned about stress? Have a look at my Savvy Business Stress Test just to make sure you’re not over the threshold like I was.
Other than my stress test, one sign that you might be under a lot of stress is addictions. Many bookkeepers post on social media about drinking and getting drunk. It’s actually an interesting culture I’ve noticed over the years. I’m not saying don’t ever drink, but ask yourself “Am I drinking to try to find a solution to my stress?” And if the answer is “Yes” or “Maybe” then it’s worth investigating
If you’re finding that your stress is high, and your health is low, or you’re trying to find ways to escape, then your business definitely needs a rescue.
So what’s the next step? Would you love to free up your brain-cells, prepare for the future and spot gaps in your business? Join me online for my free Business Planning training.
Learn more about the savvy Bookkeeping Business Plan
Join me for the Business Planning Basics webinar. It’s FREE!
During this 35 minute webinar presentation, you will learn;
- why it’s important to have a written business plan
- what’s involved in business planning
- which is the best stage of business to start a business plan
- why more people don’t have business plans
- how to get started with your business plan
- and earn a CPE point (happy dance!)
Find out if a business plan is right for you – book in for the webinar, or watch an instant replay now.
NOW Over to you…
Phew – that’s it! I know it’s a lot to take in, and having someone shine the light on these parts of your business (and life) can be tough – my mentor does this for me all the time, so I know where you’re coming from.
I’d love to know, do any of the eight reasons I mentioned apply to you? Do you ever feel like you want to say “I need help” or “I’m not coping” but for some reason hold back? Why?
My promise: If you’re finding it hard to ask for help, I guarantee you that
a) I understand because I’ve been in the same boat. And
b) this webinar is a no-judgement zone.
It’s not about making you feel bad for potentially needing a rescue, but providing a place where you can come and start doing things differently. Plus, no one will know you’re in the webinar. That’s just between you and me.
If you can’t make it live then sign up anyway and I’ll send you the replay.
In the meantime, please pop a comment below to let me know if you’ve experienced (or are currently experiencing) any of these issues. And of course, if you have any questions about direction and planning for your business, leave a comment about that too. I’ll try and cover your questions in the webinar.
See you there!