The Bookkeeping Project Episode 2

Amy talks about the challenges of running a Bookkeeping business, what she’s been doing this past month, and how to learn from your mistakes.

The real message of this story is: “Compassion and generosity goes a long way in building great client relationships…also, it’s okay to make mistakes!”

Read Transcript

Good morning. Welcome back. It’s lovely to be here with you on this Friday morning. Wherever you are right now, whether you’re driving to work or working away in your home office, I wanted to say hello to you. I hope that you’ve had a very good week. Today is the fourth Friday of the month, which means that it is the bookkeeping project update number two, which means we’re up to month number two of the bookkeeping project. For those of you who haven’t been following along, what I did was started my bookkeeping business from scratch and I have opened up what I’m doing to do everything in the business publicly and to be able to share with everybody who’s listening in to see exactly what I’m doing in resetting up this business. I’ve been sharing my templates and that kind of thing along the way.

If you haven’t been following along so far with the project, then you can just jump back on to the savvybookkeeper.com.au/podcast and you’ll be able to see the episodes named the Bookkeeping Project Number One. You’ll be able to backtrack. It was about four weeks ago that I came and I started this project. You can listen to that one and find out the back story of why on earth I would do something like this. I have had a few people contacting me privately. I think a few people think I’m a little bit nuts for doing this. There is method to my madness and you’ll hear about that in the first episode that I did four weeks ago about my heart for small businesses and my heart for the bookkeeping industry.

You’ll be able to go back and have a listen to find out why I would just do something so, I guess, kind of unusual in a way. It’s not really a very common thing that people, of course, there are people out there who will sell you a story about something that they did in the past and I’ll give you some templates and things like that. This is something completely different. This is letting you into my life and letting you into the private side of my business, something that we normally keep a secret and so I’ve decided to let you in.

This month, just a little bit of an update on what has happened over the past month with the project, it’s quite funny, but obviously, the reason that I teach what I teach, which is doing business in the right order. That’s the philosophy that I believe in which sits behind what the bookkeeping project is all about and what The Savvy Bookkeeper is all about. We’re all about doing business in the right order. The reason we need to do business in the right order is because when we don’t, what happens is we keep getting stuck and we’re spinning on wheels and we waste a lot of time and money.

You can backtrack on to that podcast page that I told you about before. You can actually look. I did a whole podcast on doing business in the right order. You can learn more about precisely what I actually mean by that and the benefits of doing that. I’ll just let you into my own backyard here and let you know that even though I teach doing business in the right order, it’s a very natural thing for someone to not want to do it in the right order, which they forget that there even is an order. I’ve taught this philosophy to hundreds of bookkeepers.

Yeah, I still need to remind myself. I have my own business coach, just because I teach other people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m able to see those things in myself. I also need help. I’m not some kind of guru who’s arrived at being able to do everything perfectly in the right order. I also need other people around me for that insight. The analogy that I normally give is that a camera cannot take a photo of itself, right?

You might be thinking, yeah, a camera could take a photo of itself in the mirror and that is precisely my point. The camera cannot take a photo of itself unless there’s some other kind of insight for that camera to be able to do that. Whether it’s a window or a mirror or a duck pond, I don’t know. Basically, the camera cannot do that. It physically cannot do that. It’s like we can’t look at our own eyeballs unless we look in the mirror or a photograph. It’s exactly the same with me. What I found myself doing was I already started to feel like, oh, what do I do? What do I do?

I have opened my life up to all of these people and I have these moments during the month where I’m like, oh my gosh, do I actually really know what I’m doing here? I’m not really sure what to do next. In the first month, last month, I got a new client. This was a rescue job, paid in advance and then an ongoing monthly fee. My team and I, we’ve started on that work. I’m not doing any of the work myself. As I said, I’ve got my bookkeeper. She’s actually my internal bookkeeper at Savvy. She’s doing the bookkeeping for me. It’s only a temporary thing. I don’t actually believe that sharing stuff between companies is a good strategy.

This is strictly a fill in the gap until we get things sorted type situation. I’ve got my internal bookkeeper from Savvy doing the work. That’s going really well. She’s been contacting with the client directly. It’s quite funny actually, because we did already have our first issue. What happened? I don’t know, we’ve been using Ezidebit and we just had all of these issues with Ezidebit.

I’m in the process, I’m about to change over to IntegraPay just because, I don’t know, I think it’s going to be a lot easier to manage. Ezidebit is good but it doesn’t have a feed. It doesn’t connect with Xero at all. Yeah. It’s really not very user friendly. Anyway, it was a bit of an embarrassing situation. I felt bad that this client … I on boarded the client and then I just couldn’t sign the Ezidebit form. I couldn’t figure out what it was. It turned out, I was thinking, “Stupid Ezidebit.” Then, I realised that the problem wasn’t Ezidebit, it was a user error. I had actually filled out the form wrong. Obviously, that was a little bit embarrassing. These are real life things that happen in business.

Anyway, I thought, “Okay, it’s not that much of a big deal.” What I don’t like to do is have a lot of back and forth with the client about silly things that are going wrong, especially right at the start because it sets a tone for that client. They’re going to think, “Oh my gosh, these people are really disorganized,” and that kind of thing. Everything went really smoothly. I’ve shared some of these templates as well. I did the initial client contact to meet through the website, initial client form. Then, from the initial client form, I had the information to do a … I gave her a quick call. Went through and collected the information on the form, did her a proposal. She had read the proposal, haven’t got back to me.

Then, I got one of my team members to act as like a relationship manager. She called and said, “Hey, do you have any questions?” Then, the lady signed the contract and we got started with her. Then, I sent her a lovely on boarding email to introduce her to myself and the team, with a couple of little video showing her how to add us as a Xero adviser and a few other little tips. Everything went smoothly up until that point. Then, the next thing was she couldn’t fill out the Ezidebit form.

She paid 50% of her rescue job upfront and couldn’t fill out the Ezidebit form. Anyway, what was happening is we just, over the last month, we went back and forth with each other a few times and she’s speaking to the bookkeeper. Anyway, it made me reflect on my previous experience with Off The Hook Bookkeeping, where I kind of had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about people not paying me on time. I found it really offensive. I would think to myself, “How dare you not pay me on time,” and that kind of thing. It’s really funny. It’s so nice doing business the second time around. I don’t know. If you’re struggling in your business, maybe just shut it down for a little while. Change industries like I did for a time.

I obviously went into doing website design for bookkeepers. I changed industries. Same industry, I’m still in bookkeeping industry but I went into web design industry. Leaving my bookkeeping business behind and then coming back to it, it’s so nice starting again from scratch, because as I have said before, I don’t have the attachment to any of these anymore. All I care about, I care that my clients have a good experience. I care that my team have a good experience. I care that you listening in on this and learning from me that you have a good experience. Aside from that, I don’t care. I don’t care if the client leaves. I don’t care if things go wrong. I don’t care if I generate leads and then they don’t come onboard. I don’t care if people say no to me.

There’s just this distance between what I did then and what I do now. Maybe it’s probably not practical for you to shut down your business and start again, but you could probably do that like a mind reset to be able to just reset your thinking and look at these from a different perspective. Anyway, rather than getting offended that this client hadn’t started paying her monthly fee and also hadn’t paid the balance of the rescue job yet. I thought to myself, “Okay, I remembered myself back to her initial phone call where she decided to work with me.”

I just suddenly put myself in her shoes and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this lady, she’s filed her statements behind. She wasn’t feeling good about it at all. I put myself back into her shoes at that time in the conversation and thought, “Oh my gosh, this lady, she actually needs some support and some understanding.” Rather than assuming that she was a late payer or disrespecting our business or whatever it was, I just said to our relationship manager, “Would you mind giving this client a call? Just check and see if everything is okay. We’ve had some trouble with the payments. I don’t think she’s trying to not pay or anything like that. I think that she might be just feeling a bit overwhelmed about the whole thing, because a few things have gone wrong. What I want you to do is if you can just call her and just reassure her, remind her of what life is going to be like once the rescue job is all up to date and just give her back that peace of mind.”

That was the approach that we took. The client was so happy to get the call. She was really pleased that someone called her. They didn’t just call to say, “Hey, where’s our money?” but called to see how she was going. Then, of course, like I guess, within a couple of hours she paid her invoices. That was a good lesson for me. Firstly, don’t get embarrassed. Firstly, things go wrong and I guess a lot of people very tolerant of that. This is a very nice person. It all comes down to defining your target market and only working with people who are good fit with you.

Because I know in the past, if I’ve had a client, I try to on board them in the payment thinking it was working, and I get a 50-page lecture from them or something like that. Not a 50-page but maybe like a full page of them telling me off and criticizing me. I just thought, “Okay. Once you know the type of people you want to work for, you can identify them from the get-go and work with those people.” Thankfully, I’ve got this beautiful new client. She’s great. Her rescue job is on the way. I’m looking forward to the relief that she’s going to feel when we say, “Hey, we’ve just launched all of your bank statement and you’re all up to date and happy days, we’re going to keep you that way.” That’s exciting. That was one thing.

Then, what happened from there, so then I got three new leads. Actually, all three of them were not a good fit. One of them was a lovely man, I shared about this in the last podcast so I won’t tell the whole story again. There was a lovely man running a health equipment company. He was transitioning from MYOB to a proprietary software. He’s looking for [inaudible 00:13:34] bookkeeper. There was a cross in every box. He was a lovely man and I’d love you to listen to the Bookkeeping Project Episode One, because I talked about this really amazing experience that I have with this client, which makes me even more … realise even more how important this project actually is for bookkeepers and for small business owners.

Yeah. I had that guy. Then, I had another guy who I had an initial consult with. It was funny, my gut feeling on the call was that he wasn’t a good fit. It was really quite funny and the other one was my friend. A friend of mine wanted bookkeeping. Both of those people I knew. I knew from the start that both of these people weren’t a good fit. I just have that feeling in my gut and I didn’t trust it. I still went ahead and I did a proposal for them and they rejected the proposal. Both of them rejected the proposal because they didn’t want to give tax invoices over the threshold and I make that a requirement in my engagement letter.

That was the reason that both of them rejected it and they decided to go with someone who, in their words, has a more straightforward process, a.k.a. is happy to just process off the bank statements, because I wasn’t willing to do that. It was good because, I guess, the point that I want to make here is that you get to decide. I have had people contacting me since that podcast who have been now asking, “Do I need to ask the tax invoices? Is that actually a requirement?” I would say, “It’s up to you how you want to run your business and what you feel comfortable with.”

As a BAS agent or if you’re in taxation, but if you’re a BAS agent, we are required to follow certain guidelines. We need to guide the client towards doing what the ATO requires of them. Of course, we may not need to cite every single tax invoice. For example, I don’t ask for tax invoice for recurring subscription. I ask them for the first one and then from there, the recurring ones, I don’t ask them to submit it every month. Because I already know what it is, I already know if it’s US dollars, blah, blah, blah, all that sort of stuff.

To me, I feel comfortable with that, whereas others might not feel comfortable with that. It’s just where you feel comfortable and also the trust that you can have in that client. For me, I want to know … obviously, you can put in your engagement letter and you can say to the client, “Look, I don’t need to cite any of the tax invoices, but it’s your responsibility to keep them, if you get audited, you will need to produce those tax invoices.” I saw a post in one of the bookkeeper’s Facebook groups this week about someone who actually got ordered the past 17 years of tax returns and I had not kept any tax invoices. I hate to think about the pain that that person is going through.

What I think is rather than looking at it like, oh, is there a rule in must I do this? What you want to do is put yourself in the client’s shoes and think about what you would like to encourage them to do so that they’re setting themselves up for success. For me, personally, what that looks like is providing the tax invoices over 75 plus GST. I also asked him, I say, “Look, I actually recommend that you send me all the tax invoices, even for the smaller amounts because it helps to do the allocations. It helps the bookkeeper to know exactly what the expense is without having to come back to them with many list of queries.” What I try and encourage is a habit of just sending every tax invoice. That’s what I do in my own bookkeeping.

I find it easy just to with Receipt Bank you can just forward it to Receipt Bank straightaway on the spot and you never have to really think about it anymore. My habit is to do that for myself, because the way that I would like things to go if I ever got ordered to by the ATO is I’d like to be able to have access to absolutely everything for my piece of mind. You might not feel that way. That’s fine. I guess, my philosophy is, treat others the way that you would want to be treated. Set expectations for others the way that you would want them to be set for you.

If you were working with a bookkeeper and they said to you, “Don’t worry we can just code off the bank statements,” and then a year later, you got audited. You would feel horrified that that bookkeeper haven’t encouraged you to do the right thing. If you decided to ignore the advice, you would at least go, “My bookkeeper did warn me about that. It is actually my fault.” Whereas, if the bookkeeper has not warned you of the possibility of that happening, and I’m not saying I alluded over people and make them feel afraid but we need to set expectations with our clients.

That’s what the on boarding process is all about. In the engagement letter, I just say in there that I do require them to provide the tax invoices. That’s just the thing. Thankfully, having that in there, what it did was … once you know how you want to operate and what’s important to you, you will actually be able to naturally, without saying anything, you will naturally be able to repel the people that you don’t want to work with. For me, I don’t mind working with someone that doesn’t have their tax invoices. The type of person I don’t want to work with is someone who goes, “My bookkeeper is telling me what I need to do in order to protect myself with the law and I’m willing to ignore that and take that risk.” They’re the kind of people I don’t want to work with.

I like those people to self-identify and put their hand up and say, “Hey, I don’t want to work with you.” That makes it easier because then I don’t need to say to them, “I don’t like to work with people who can’t be bothered with their bookkeeping.” Do you know what I mean? Inadvertently, that’s what I’m saying. I’m just saying, “If you can’t be bothered sending in tax invoices, don’t bother hiring me as your bookkeeper.” If you can’t put some of the basic things in place, get lost. Go somewhere else and get someone’s code off the bank statements. I really don’t mind if you want to do that. It’s just I really mind you working with me, so don’t.

What you want to be able to do is say to people without actually saying it. We want people to self-identify themselves as people who you don’t like to work with and for them to just quietly go away and engage someone else for their services. Obviously, those people, they go away happy, they’re not offended. I haven’t offended them but they’re like, “Oh, cool.” They’re now involved with their new bookkeeper who’s happy to do their bookkeeping at a lower standard. They’re happy about that.

You know if the time comes where they do get audited, they’re going to be very sore and sorry but at least, they’ll know that I told them the truth. Anyway, I don’t know. I know what I’m saying here might be pushing your buttons. It might be feeling a little bit controversial here or you might be feeling really good about yourself. I don’t know what your personal values are, but we just need to keep that in mind. I’m not telling you that that’s what you have to do. What I’m saying is you need to decide for yourself what you want and what type of clients you want, rather than looking at and going, “Amy does it like this, therefore I should do it like this.”

No, it’s not about that. It’s about deciding what you personally feel comfortable about. You need to be able to put your head on the pillow at night and sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, and you’re worrying about things like these, then you need to change your, I guess, the guidelines of who you let into your business, anyway. That’s one thing, a learning that came out this month about starting to see that I really am responsible for the type of people that I let into my business. The type of people I let into my business are going to determine the quality of the business relationships that I have and the type of work that I get to do with people.

That said, that was the first month, like four leads coming in via the website, brand new client. No hassles, really, in the scheme of things. I’m like, “Okay, this is so exciting.” Then, month number two, I didn’t get any leads. I was thinking, “Oh, that’s awkward.” I was hoping that I could come to the podcast this month and say, “Guess what? I got another four leads. I got another client,” and da, da, da. I didn’t. Guess what? Because last month, I don’t know if you saw my post about working at my conversion rate, that’s what I did this month. I worked out from the stats from last month. I worked out from four leads, I did three proposals. From those three proposals, I got one new client.

I worked that out of four leads, I can get one new client. I was so excited. I was thinking, “Okay. That’s great.” The upside of that, given that I didn’t get any leads this month is because I’ve broken it down into those numbers. What I did, this month, I shared my actual business plan with everybody. What I’ve done, not just my business plan, like the actual written document but I also shared my pricing strategy. This is a big document that plans like how many staff I plan to have? How many packages of each type of package I plan to sell? The total amount of income that I want to earn. The salary that I want to pay myself. It’s all in a spreadsheet.

I shared that spreadsheet this month. It was really good because what I did was I broke down … okay, so my sales conversion rate is 25%. I know if I meet with four people, I can get one client. Okay, so one in four. In order to get four conversations with people, then I just completely made an estimate for what my conversion rate is between the number of people who see what I do and actually contact me. I’m completely estimating here because I don’t have the stats to go off at the moment but I will sometime by next month, which I’ll share about in a minute.

Yeah. Basically, what I need to work out now is my marketing conversion rate, which is between, so your marketing conversion rate is basically how many people need to find out about what you do in order to get X amount to contact you. Then, the ones that contact you, that sign up, that’s your sales conversion rate. You can work out those two percentages and then you can work backwards and you can roughly predict how many new people you need to get exposed to your business in order for you to make X amount of sales.

What I did was I set a goal. I’d love to get the business up to $500, 000 turnover, and I set myself a quite realistic goal of five years to do that. My goal in the first 12 months of the bookkeeping projects is just to get my income up to 100,00 from selling a variety of packages. Given that I didn’t get any leads this month, it was quite funny because when I put that spreadsheet together, where I calculated my sales conversion rate and estimated my marketing conversion rate, I think I estimated it to be 5%, something like that.

Instead of guessing, I’ve just got the spreadsheet up in front of me. Okay, yeah, my sales conversion rate is 25%. Then, I estimated my marketing conversion rate to be 20%. For example, one person in every five people who find out about me will book a meeting. Out of every four people who book a meeting, one will become a client. What I worked out is to earn 500,000, I need 32 clients of these various packages. You’ll be able to see, if you log into my business plan, you’ll be able to see that I’m not planning … yes, I’m not planning to have a huge amount of clients, but I’m also not planning to have very large ones, which is why I need more.

First deciding to target clients who want a whole day a week or even two days a week, I might be able to get by and just having 10 clients or maybe 20. Because I’m going for the kind of eight hours a fortnight top client, like a day a fortnight, or a day a month, they’re the main size clients that I’m aiming for, sort of bit smaller. No big payrolls or anything like that. The biggest payroll would be 10 employees but more aiming around the five employees or less mark. Because I’m offering quite small packages, I need 32 … I actually need 32 clients. If I need 32 clients and my sales conversion rate is 25%, then I need to meet … I need 128 people to book meetings with me.

If my marketing conversion rate is 20%, which we don’t know if it is yet, I’ll test it out this month then I need to expose my business to 640 people. Okay. When you break it down like that, it doesn’t’ seem too scary. What I did then is I split it into year one, two, three, four and five goal. My goal for year one, actually sorry is 125,000. I worked out, I need six clients, six new clients. If my conversion rate is 25%, then I need to meet with 24 people. If I want to meet with 24 people, then I need to expose 120 people to my business, to my services.

When you break it down like that, it’s not so scary. In fact, all that means, I only need to send out two proposals per month. Okay. The good thing about that is when I didn’t get any leads this month, I don’t why, like SEO whatever, I generate my leads through my website, through SEO. It’s sort of like a lottery in a way, like I’ve set my site up and I do, on average, get about, I guess two to four leads per month.

Some months are quieter and then some months are busier. It’s not guaranteed this many prospects, but when I remembered that I had documented all of these, I suddenly realised, “What a relief. Okay, I didn’t get any leads this month but I’ve got heaps of chance to catch up. I know based on my experience that that will happen.” Anyways, that was kind of cool in a way. If you can work out yourselves marketing conversion rates, then you’ll be able to plan it out. I know I only need to get half a client per week of prospects, so two clients a month.

I’ve only get to send out two proposals, two new client meetings and I’ve worked it out roughly that I probably need to make about 11 … maybe 11 phone calls a month. It’s actually not very many to be able to reach a pretty decent amount of money. When you think of it like that, I could use maps, but then you’ve got to get yourself in the spot where you can get those leads. I’m thinking to myself, all right, I don’t want to just rely on my organic SEO. Obviously, you got to shop each month and tell you what the hell I’ve been doing and maybe this month, you go, “Okay, she didn’t get any leads this month.” What happens if next month, I don’t get any leads and then the month after?

You might start to think, “Yeah, Amy doesn’t know what she’s doing.” What I’m going to do is I’m going to just implement of a little bit of a broader marketing strategy, still centred around my website because my bookkeeping services are virtual bookkeeping service, so I’m really going for the whole digital side of things. You don’t have to go digital. It just depends on who your target market is. It’s so funny, I saw even these sweet people go, “Should I join BNI? Just wondering what everyone else’s experience will be.”

I don’t mean to make fun of people by making that stupid words. I did grow up in Frankston, so I’m kind of good at it. Basically, the answer to the question, should I join a BNI group is, it depends. People always go, “Yes, you should,” or “No, you shouldn’t.” The reality is, it’s like, who’s your target market? Do those people go to BNI? Because if they don’t go to BNI then you shouldn’t go to BNI either, you’re just going to be wasting your time.

Of course, go to a sample BNI. I think BNIs attract a specific type of business owner. If that’s the type of business owner you want to work with, and I’m not going to say what type of business owner that is because I really have no opinion about that. I’ve never been before. There are certain types of people that go to certain types of things.

When you think about the type of clients you want to work with, you got to think about where do those people go? I’ve shared my business plans for Off The Hook Bookkeeping and so you’ll be able to have a look at that if you joined the bookkeeping project. If you haven’t, then you won’t get to see that, so you need to be in the Slack channel to get access to that. It’s not enough just to sign up on the page, you need to actually get into the Slack channel, otherwise, I’m not going to be sharing my templates with you. That’s basically the rules.

I’ll put a link in after this. I’ve decided to open the bookkeeping project back up again as a free version. I’m doing that until next week. You’ve got until, all right, let’s say the end of … I’m going to open it up until the end of Feb. You’ve got till the end of Feb to get back in there. I’ll put the link in the notes. You can just sign up and you can come in and you can get the updates for that. There is going to be still the paid version and the paid version people do get more from the project. They get some one-on-one mentoring time as well as access to some other templates that are not available to everyone.

I guess the templates are a bit more comprehensive. Anyway, back on topic, I’ve shared the Off The Hook Bookkeeping business plan and strategy document as well as, also go to my template for this. My target market for this business as I was sort of getting to before is digital. Look, the unique selling proposition for Off The Hook Bookkeeping as it stands now is the Off The Hook Bookkeeping is a virtual bookkeeping and accounting crew that work on your business to help you establish a paperless office and an online fully functioning accounting system so that you can work towards your goal of hiring your own in-house team member and build your team according to your business model and goals.

The type of business owners that I’m wanting to attract are people that are happy, so they, obviously, we may end up working with some clients long term. What I’m looking for is people that want a bookkeeper. Our tagline is your accounting crew, setting you up for independence and success. The reason I want to do that is because I feel that there are some business owners out there who want their own in-house bookkeeper or accountant but because of their size, they’re not quite at that stage yet. They’ve outgrown getting their accountant to do it but they’re not ready for a team member.

What I want to do is facilitate their moving to having a team member. I think as bookkeepers, we tend to go, “We want to embed ourselves in the company as much as we possibly can, because we like to ensure that we get income, ongoing income.” What can happen is we can inadvertently work to the detriment of the business owner and it’s going to depend on their goal. Some business owners, it’s going to work for them to have an external bookkeeper for the life of their business and that’s fine. I’m not saying anything against that.

What I am saying is that when a contractor comes into a business, what happens is contractors can actually hoard information and they keep their process as a secret. I think that this is really bad practice. This is just my very strong opinion, but I think that we are doing clients an injustice if we are simply trying to embed ourselves in the business. When a business owner wants to head towards having a team member, oh my gosh, have you ever seen a post in a bookkeeping Facebook group when a client decides to get their own in-house team member.

The comments that people write is just like, and I would have been one of the people to join in on this. Before I left my business and then came back in, I would have been one of the people who jumped on the bandwagon and it would have been something along the lines of, “Oh well, they’ll come crawling back.” “They’ll see that having an in-house bookkeeper, they won’t know what they’re doing,” blah, blah, blah.

Honestly, I think that if a business owner has worked with your service and if they then want to hire an in-house person to cut cost, firstly, that is smart business. You might look at it from the bookkeeper’s perspective and go, “That’s silly. They’re going to put themselves in trouble. That bookkeeper is not going to know what they’re doing. They’re just going to stuff themselves up and come crawling back to me.”

If that is the case, then you have not done your job properly. I hate to break it to you but it’s you that’s done a bad job. If you go into a business, and their goal is to one day have an in-house person to cut cost, which is smart business, and you will know this, if you’ve tried to hire employees, you will know that it is actually smart to be able to have your own employees. It’s good for your brand. It’s good for your team culture. To be able to transition towards that, if that is your goal as a business owner. For a contractor to come into your business, and just run things and have their own systems and their own processes, but to keep those systems and processes a secret and to hold on to those and to protect those, that and again, this is my opinion, that is wrong.

Okay. What I do is I liken it to scaffolding. On a building site, when a building is getting built, the scaffolding company comes in and they set up the scaffolding during the initial build. The purpose of the scaffolding is to … it’s a structure that stays in place until the business is stable and self-supporting. What I want to liken this to, a contractor who hoards information and is secretive about their processes or unwilling to share their processes and documentation with the business owner, is like a scaffolding company coming in and saying to the person who’s had a building built. Let’s say, it’s a house.

The scaffolding company comes in and goes, “We’re just going to leave the scaffolding up.” Scaffoldings are really expensive, okay. If you’ve ever had to rent scaffolding, which I’m sure maybe you haven’t, but maybe you’ve worked for a scaffolding company or a building company, scaffolding is expensive. It’s a temporary structure. It’s brought in for a specific purpose and when that purpose is met, it’s time for the scaffolding to go. Can you imagine a scaffolding company coming in and going, “Yeah, it’s better for you to keep the scaffolding. You need it. Imagine the benefits of having the scaffolding in place. You’d be able to clean your gutters more easily, wouldn’t that be great?”

The reality is, the scaffolding company would be doing the wrong thing by the person who own the building, right? Firstly, they’re lying. Secondly, the building is self-supporting. If the scaffolding were to be removed and the building fell down, well, then that’s bad. That means that the contractors who have come in have not done a good job. Sometimes, a bookkeeper will say, “My clients, they tell me all the time, they wouldn’t survive if I left,” or “they can’t live without me.”

I’m not saying that’s wrong. Obviously, we build these relationship with the client where they’re like, “I love having you around. You’re a real asset to my business,” but I’m not talking about that, okay, so please don’t get offended. What I’m talking about is just make sure that the business owner is not saying, “I can’t live without you if you go,” because that business owner is fearful that when you go, you will take all of your systems and processes with you. I’ve heard about bookkeepers like they leave offended that the person has hired an in-house staff member and refused to do a handover.

This is encouraged in the Facebook groups, people actually encourage bookkeepers to do this. This, in my opinion, is completely … it’s actually unethical to do that. Anyway, without kind of getting too much on my higher horse about it, and again, I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong to do it this way. What I’m talking about is a business owner whose goal is specifically to have an in-house person. Your role, if you’re a good bookkeeper, like if you are actually worth your money and you’re working as a contractor in a company, it’s your responsibility to understand the goal of that business owner and to actually put in place systems that belong to the client.

To go in there, not just go in there and do your job and keep all the information in your head, but you should be documenting everything that you do for that client into a bookkeeping manual so that if you leave, that person can easily handover the role to someone else. If someone outsources, if someone gets to the point where they say, I’m going to get … Let’s say you’ve held on for dear life and hoarded all your processes. Then, the business owner goes, “We can’t afford this expense anymore, we need to hire someone in-house,” so then they get rid of you.

Then, you get offended and then you hope that they come crawling back to you. If that business owner comes crawling back to you, you’ve done a bad job. That’s just the reality of it. What I want to do here is for the business owners that want to have their own in-house bookkeeper eventually. The way that I’m going to brand myself with Off The Hook Bookkeeping is that we setup. We’re not there to just do their bookkeeping we are there to establish their accounting department with a full operating manual.

So that when we live, they can become self-sustaining. Of course, we will offer to them that we can stay around and help integrate that new staff member. We can train them. We can work there as a backup person if that person needs someone to go to. Or end goal is that this business becomes self-sustaining. That they become not reliant on our service if that’s not what they want. If they’re planning not grow beyond a certain level and they’re the type of business who they’re happy to … because, say it’s only a day a week or something like that, half a day a week then for that business, they may never have their own internal accounting department. That’s a whole different story.

That’s not what I’m talking about. If that’s what you do, that’s fine. What I’m talking about is business owners who want that. The way that I’m branding Off The Hook Bookkeeping is to say, “We will operate as a fully functional virtual bookkeeping and accounting crew.” I’ve called us a crew because I want to create that experience of like a crew comes in, set stuff up and then they go once they’ve finished their job. I’m specifically targeting what we do towards people that tend to be upgrading more in the digital space.

I know that was a long way around to get to my point but I’m talking about generating leads. I’m talking about finding new people to work with. I’ve decided to go with a digital marketing strategy. I won’t be going to any BNI groups or anything like that because I don’t think that the people that I best will work with will be there. What I’m doing is setting up, I guess, I’m broadening the digital marketing strategy. Rather than just relying on blog post and organic SEO, which I’ve got a plan over the next 12 months to flesh out my website with blog posts.

Blog posts are a really good way of targeting specific keywords. There are some keywords that are more competitive and harder to reach. For example, bookkeeping Melbourne. There are some highly competitive keywords or is there other keywords that you can easily target with a blog post and get it to rank number one. Yeah. That’s the way that I’m going to do it.

What I’m going to do and I’m actually very excited about this. Next week’s guest is going to be Lucas, who is our digital marketing strategist. He’s just been a fantastic asset to my other business, Savvy. He’s played a huge role in setting up our Facebook ads system, I guess. He’s dedicated a lot of time to that helping us develop our marketing strategy, like our digital marketing strategy. He’s going to come on and speak to us next week. We’re going to have a good chat to him so you get to know him better.

He’s a very switched-on guy. He’s got an MBA. He also runs his own business. He’s just a very switched-on person. Also, very generous with his time and how he’s been willing to help us. I think he really enjoys working with us, so that’s good. We’ve now started branching out into rather than him just offering his services to Savvy. Lucas now offers his services to our clients as well. We’ve build out some packages for our clients through that. Yeah, just utilizing his services and blending them with my skills as well.

Rather than, in the past, I’ve been building websites for bookkeepers since 2016, but our focus is now building lead generation websites and holistic marketing ecosystem, seeing the website as part of a whole. I’m practicing what I preach here. I’ve got my website, Off The Hook Bookkeeping website. I’m not going to just sit there waiting for the website to do something. What I’m going to do is I’m going to do some Facebook ads and I’m going to do some Google AdWords. I’m going to do it as just to add to the excitement to the bookkeeping project. I’m going to do it as a competition.

It was actually Lucas’ idea. What we’re going to do is we’re going to place a bet on Facebook versus Google AdWords. What we’re going to do is we’re going to set up Facebook ads for Off The Hook Bookkeeping and Google AdWords for Off The Hook Bookkeeping. We’re going to build a specific, like a custom landing page just for the ads. When I come on to the landing page, they won’t see any of the menu or anything like that. It’s just going to be a landing page leading them straight to signing up.

It’s a page that helps you to qualify the leads as well, whereas with the broader website you’ve got people … They’ll come on your website, they’ll look around, they’ll go and just look at that. They’ll look at all the different menus. They’ll read stuff most likely get a bit confused or not sure what to do next. You don’t want that. Also, when your website is very generic what’s going to happen is you’re going to get generic people contacting you as well. You want to be very specific in the way that you brand your website but not just that. Like in the way that you speak on the website, you need to speak to the type of people you want to work with.

You design the website to appeal to those type of people. With the actual landing page, what we’re going to do is it’s going to be even more specific. This page, what I’m hoping is from this page, I’ll be able to increase my conversion rate because the leads will be more highly qualified. My guess is I’m going to get to a sales conversion rate of 50% because I’m pretty confident, once I get people on the phone, I felt like they’ll just want to work with me. I don’t know why.

I’m really good at selling the bookkeeping service. I just don’t like doing bookkeeping anymore. Anyway, so this is going to fine. What we’re going to do is we’re going to put a bet down. We’re going to place $100 on Facebook ads and a $100 on Google AdWords and we’re going to set them off against each other to rise. Next week, we’ll talk more about that. We’re going to invite you to come in and put your bet down. When I say bet, I’m not talking about gambling here.

All you’re going to do is let us know who you think is going to win, Facebook or Google. That’s pretty much it. You don’t have to put money down or anything like that because I think maybe that’s probably illegal anyway. We don’t want to encourage gambling but what we do want to encourage is just a little bit of excitement about who might win. Then, from there, what I’ll do is I’m going to share all of the numbers that come from that.

I’ll show you, for example. How many clicks we got on the ads cost per click. How much the ads cost per person that clicked on there. Then, what I’ll do is I’ll be able to also tell you how many people went to the landing page? How many people filled out the landing page? That’s the conversion rate there. Then, out of those people, how many people came on board as clients. Anyway, I haven’t done this before with a bookkeeping business.

I’ve only done it with Savvy, whereas Lucas has got pieces of experience doing this kind of thing. Whereas I’m like, I feel like I’m a bit of a newbie when it comes to that whereas, he’s absolute legend when it comes to these kind of things. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be very exciting. Obviously, you’ll be able to learn a lot of things for your own business, about how you can use a digital marketing strategy and how you can set up that up. In the next episode, next Friday, we’re going to talk to you in a lot more detail about what you can expect from Facebook or Google AdWords and also what the difference is.

Because Facebook Ads aren’t for everyone, everyone thinks, “I need a social media strategy,” just because everyone else is doing it. Social media doesn’t work for everybody. It really depends on who your target client is and where they hangout. If they don’t hanging out on Facebook don’t do Facebook Ads. If they’re on LinkedIn you got to go to LinkedIn. If they’re not on LinkedIn, don’t do that. There’s lots of ways to do marketing. You can connect with accountants. You could do fliers. You could, I don’t know, talk to your friends. You could talk to the accountants of existing clients. You can ask your existing clients for referrals.

There are so many different ways that you can meet new people. It depends on who your target market is. I encourage you to get into the bookkeeping projects. Then, if you want to work out who your target market is, you can actually go and get a copy of my business plan and strategy document. That will help you to brainstorm everything that you need to know so you can figure out your target market.

Then from there, you’ll know what type of approach that you need to take. That’s it about the marketing strategy. I guess, the other thing that I was going to say is that, this month when I started to feel a bit overwhelmed, I had my business plan there. To be honest, I hadn’t actually started the business plan, my head was spinning a little bit and I thought, “I haven’t got any leads this month and my head is spinning a little bit. What shall I do? Should I finish setting up my CRM?” I thought, “No, no, Amy, go back to the diagram with the six steps on it. Which one haven’t you done?” I’m like, “Oh, I haven’t done my business plan, okay.”

I never had a business plan for Off The Hook Bookkeeping. I’ve never started a business plan since I’ve started Savvy. That’s when I started it was when I read the statistics from the ICB website that I need 20% of bookkeepers running a business to have a business plan. I thought, “What the heck. I need to do something about this.” Firstly, I did one for myself. I did it for savvy whereas I’d never had one for Off The Hook Bookkeeping so I thought, “Duh, that’s the first step I need to do. I don’t need to be setting up my CRM. I need to be working on my business plan.”

It was really good. What I did was I got the template that I normally use with my clients at Savvy and I started to write my own business plan for Off The Hook. Yeah. You can have to look it. What I’ve done so far, I’ve written a bit of an overview to give background as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. Then, obviously, I’ve got my business name. I’ve drafted up my tagline and my unique selling proposition. Unique selling proposition is what you do for who and why. I did a webinar last Friday for a whole bunch of people from the bookkeeping project. If you join, you get to do free webinars with me where I teach you how to work at your unique selling proposition, for example, so that you can work that out.

I worked that Off The Hook. I’ve got a section for values. I know what my values are but I need to just re-visit that for this specific business. For me, like my number one value is doing meaningful work. For me, if the work that I’m doing doesn’t mean anything, if it’s not relevant, if it doesn’t tie in to a bigger picture that makes a difference for others, I can’t bother doing it. There’s no way I could sell something that I didn’t believe in. For me, it’s meaningful work.

My number one value and my next value is actually customer satisfaction. I love it when my customers are satisfied. When my customers are not satisfied, I feel like so sad because I know that what I offer is something that can help them to do meaningful work as well. Because I know that I can do that for them, if the client is not satisfied then it’s like, I don’t know, it just feels like there’s something so good that they could take a hold off. If they’re not satisfied, I feel like they’ve missed that.

It’s not that I don’t ever do anything wrong, like of course I don’t do everything perfectly. I feel like, you know how sometimes you work with someone and no matter what you do, they just don’t ever seem to be satisfies. It’s like, “Oh my gosh, please, I know that you’re here because you want to do meaningful work. You don’t want to be just showing up for work every day, thinking why am I even doing this?” There’s actually a verse in the Old Testament of the Bible and it says that “without vision the people perish”.

I totally subscribed to that. I would say, if I was Jewish, that would be my number one value. Without vision, the people perish because I know I need vision. For me, I just think, “Oh my gosh, that is so true.” I have met people through my life who have lost their vision. Those people, how it manifest is they’re just hyper critical and never satisfied. It’s so hard, because I feel like it’s so close, but you’re so far away. Please understand that everybody’s life has a purpose and when you can renew your vision, your life will have meaning again and you’ll be able to go to work every day.

Every day I wake up, oh my gosh, I remember the decades that I spent thinking, “Why am I here? Why am I doing this? What is the point of all of this?” Feeling like there was just no point to the work I was doing and I was doing bookkeeping. For years, working in an accounting firm and I’d sit down and go, I always felt I was meant to be somewhere else. The thing is I’m still in the bookkeeping industry but I have vision now. Every day, I wake up oh my gosh, I wish you could see … like if you could see how much time and effort I dedicate to helping bookkeepers, because I believe in the value of our industry. I believe how bookkeepers can help small business owners. I believe that small business owners need our help.

Because of that, I wake up every day and I’m like, yay. Even when I don’t feel like it, like even when I’ve been sick or whatever, I can still get up. Whereas in the past, when I had no vision, literally, people who have no vision perish, and does perish mean? It means you die, you’re in hell, or you’re suffering, or you’re being tortured. That doesn’t sound very nice. That is how it is.

I don’t know. I don’t know, if you’ve ever thought about hell, but to me that is hell. Living without vision, it’s horrible. It’s such a dry place. It goes round and round and round like Groundhog Day and it’s just like every day feels the same. Every day I’m waking up and I work my ass off and I feel like I’m just not getting anywhere.

For me, that’s why my primary value is doing meaningful work and working with clients who are satisfied. It’s not necessarily that I’m satisfying but that there are people who are looking for satisfaction and willing to push themselves to a point where they will find that satisfaction. Not just putting the whole thing on to me. Okay, I gave you my money now make me satisfied, but like let’s work together as a partnership and find where there’s a lack there in vision, where are you perishing just to use that funny word. I don’t know. Anyway, meaningful work.

Then, for me, I guess, probably my third top value would be generosity. I feel like I would die if couldn’t be generous. I don’t know if you feel like that but just, I don’t know, I don’t understand stingy people. I just think like, why? Why? I don’t know. I think I’ve always been like this. It’s not like I’ve ever been especially wealthy. If you listen to my story in the first podcast, I grew up in a lower class family. We’re not working class family although I guess I can say we are now. I’m married to someone who’s a tradesman/factory worker, who now works for Off The Hook Bookkeeping. Technically, we don’t fit in any category anymore. I don’t think we’re middle class. I don’t know. My husband’s family is middle class. I’m definitely not middle class.

I grew up in Frankston. My mom was on a disability pension. I don’t know. The people that I used to hang around when I was a kid, they’re people that ask for money at the train station kind of people. I’ve not grown up in any measure of privilege whatsoever, but I’ve always been generous. I had a severe accident. I was a victim of crime in my early 20’s. I had a serious accident, broke my neck when I was 26. A couple of times, I’ve been completely incapacitated like having to rely on Centrelink, not in a good place, financially, mentally, emotionally.

You know what? I’ve always been generous and I think to myself … There’s actually another story in the Bible I like to bang on about that. There’s a story in the Bible about a widow who has only two mites, it’s like the smallest denomination of coin that you can find. She comes in to the temple to give her tithes, which is that’s a Jewish practice. The tithes, to give a 10% of your income away.

She comes in and she puts the two mites, which is everything she has she puts it in there. I’m like, that’s been me. I don’t know, I couldn’t live if I wasn’t like that. I feel like, I think, in a way it’s a blessing. I think in some way that I’m not taking credit like, “I’m such a generous person”. I think what it is I think that it is a blessing from heaven. I think that the ability to give beyond what you actually have, that is a supernatural blessing. I couldn’t live without that.

Obviously, I love being around other people who are generous. To be generous, I love to give beyond what I even have. I’m not saying I give until I’m completely empty. It’s not that kind of giving. I guess, it’s a sense of giving to others knowing that to have them in whatever it is, where there it’s financial, whether it’s giving of my time, or whether it’s giving all my templates and things like that. It’s like generosity is where it’s for me.

I love to work with people who either they’re generous themselves or they appreciate generosity. I think that is massive. Then, the other thing and it obviously ties into meaningful work would be inspiration. How do you get up out of bed in the morning without inspiration? I need to constantly renew my inspiration levels. I do it all the time.

I’m not saying that I can completely feel inspired all the time, sometimes I feel really over it. Sometimes, I feel like, oh my gosh, like I hit a wall. Then, what I do is I need to re-find that inspiration. The inspiration comes from finding your vision like what are you doing for who and why are you doing it? For me, finding that has been a huge value to my business.

All of this needs to go in the business plan, understanding what your values are and what type of people you want to work with. It’s all going to go in the business plan. That’s the next section that I need to fill out. Obviously, I’ve just told you verbally. Then, from there, I started step one. I’ve talked about the problems that we’re going to solve for our clients, the solutions that we offer, who we work with and what’s the alternative.

The alternative is basically a nice way of saying who are our competitors? I talked about the competitors without actually talking about them. I go through and I list five of each and that’s what I suggest. If you’re trying to figure out your niche, let me just be clear here. A niche is not a target market. You might think, “I want variety,” and all that sort of stuff. It’s not our target market at all. A niche is it’s a combination of if you add target market to the problems that those people are having and the solutions that you offer. Then, you contrast that with your competitors, that is your niche.

A niche is not one thing it’s not a target market, it’s actually four things. When I talk about target market, I’m not talking about industry. Who cares about industry? It doesn’t matter. You can work in a hundred different industries if you want to. I’m saying, what type of people do you want to work with? You need to figure this out. If you do not figure this out, you are only going to reach a certain level of success. Not only success, but people that you will get to work with. Because if you don’t know who the people are that you’re going to be able to do like incredible meaningful work with, then you will not be able to recognise them and they will not be able to recognise you and you’ll never get to work with each other. Then basically, you’re doing them and yourself a disservice.

Even though you probably hear the word niche and think, “I don’t want to do a niche,” you got to. If you don’t do a niche like you might as well just, you can either, I don’t know, close down your business or you can just stay in Groundhog Day. If you want to stay in Groundhog Day, that’s completely fine with me. Don’t come complaining to me, okay, like I’ve warned you.

If you want to do that, you’ll have a niche and you might think, “I’ll have variety,” and stuff like that. You probably already have a niche and you probably don’t even know it. This is how you figure out your niche. You make a list of all the people that you hate working with, like their characteristics. Pick three of the top worst three clients of all time. Then, list out the characteristics and then next to each item, write the opposite. Then, make that into a list. That’s the type of people you want to work with. That’s your target market.

Then, you look at those people and you go, “Okay, what kind of problems do they have? What kind of solutions, do I have the skill set to meet?” There you have your niche. It’s pretty simple. Then, you look at, okay, what are my competitors offering? We can see what bookkeepers are offering. We only need to look at the conversation in Facebook. Men, if I was a client, a business owner and I saw how much bitching goes on with business owners behind the scenes, I’ll be thinking like, “I don’t want to work with these people.”

There are certain people with certain attitudes, I guess, what I’m saying. You want to figure out who are these people that have this incredible attitude who you love to work with? They love doing meaningful work. They appreciate your generosity. They love everything that you do for them. They also see your business relationship as a two-way street. That’s what you’re going to do.

You’re going to put all that into business plan and then the next step after that is pricing. With Off The Hook Bookkeeping, I’ve got a whole spreadsheet for that so I just need to paste that in there. Then, you go, you look it. You’ve got to figure out your salary. I’ve already done that. I’d like to pay myself, what was that, hanging on. I’ve got it here. I worked out, I want to pay myself $120,000. That’s by the end of the five years obviously. The goal is to get to $500,000 income paying myself a 120 from the business and my plan is to only to work in the business like, I think it’s less than one day per week.

That’s only doing consulting with the client. The rest is just all being built on my team. I’d love to earn 120 because I feel like about 50% of that will cover my expenses. Then, the rest can go towards projects and things like that. Then also, I’m very passionate about obviously being generous. I’d like to tithe 20% of my income. I’ve got some families who I contribute towards their mission work and that kind of thing. I would love to be able to build a sustainable income for a number of missionary families, who obviously they solely operate off being donated to by other people. I’d love to be able to support I guess 20% of my income. That would be about $100,000. I’d love to be able to give $100,000 a year away.

I know that sounds crazy. You might be thinking, “That sounds crazy. Who would want to give away 100,000?” That’s part of my goal. Part of my goal is to be able to, I’m thinking, I could support quite a few families on that who are you know, based overseas,, on the mission field doing the hard work and missing out on all of the … they don’t have the comforts of life that we have. I’d love be able to do that. That’s in the business plan too.

My salary, my business budget and then obviously branding and marketing, that’s the next part of the business planning. Template, with the branding you would just go in there. There’s a business personality slide out. You work out what’s the energy level? The dialect? The persona? The attitude and the mood of your brand? Or, what does your business sound like? If your business was a person, what does it sound like?

For me, I haven’t done the one for Off The Hook Bookkeeping yet but Savvy, energy level is interested, dialect is coffee talk, persona is confident, attitude is entertaining and mood is, “Hey, let’s chat.” You’ll be able to have a look in the business plan. I’ve got a little diagram that you can follow. It’s got all the different, I guess, tone of voice and moods and that kind of thing. Then from there, just your marketing channels. Your marketing channels is where you go.

For example, I was working for BNI or another place you’d go can be like Facebook. Then, your marketing activities are what you do when you get there. If you’re at a BNI group, activity might be to do a presentation whereas if you’re on Facebook obviously, it could be run ads or do social media posting or blog post or all sorts of things like that. What you want to work at in the third section of the business plan is where you go and what you do as part of your marketing activity.

Then from there, step five is about services. This is kind of about how you internally provide the service of bookkeeping to your clients. I haven’t done any of that yet. I’ll start to get into documenting that in the next, I guess, over the next months. This business plan will start to become more and more full. You don’t have to do your business plan in a day. It’s not going to happen like that anyway. You’ll learn stuff along the way and start adding to it.

Then, team development is the next step. The way I want to break that down is purpose, people, platform and presence. They’re the four aspects that you need to be able to have a team that’s in line with your vision, with your brand, to be able to build that great team. There’s a saying in our industry, which is good stuff are hard to find. Okay. Is that actually true? Or do we just weigh that?

Just because you couldn’t find good stuff doesn’t mean there’s no good stuff out there. It just means you don’t know what your niche is. It just means you’ve got no clue about your vision and your brand and so you don’t know what you’re looking for. In the same way, we’re really generic with our marketing strategy. You’re just really generic with your own strategy so it’s like no wonder that you don’t have a good team, you can find a good team because you don’t know what you’re looking for. You don’t know how to recognise that when you get that. Do you know what I mean?

If you’re being generic with your marketing strategy, you’re going to get a generic bunch of clients and a whole bunch of clients that are not a good fit. Same with your team, when you’re hiring everything from your business plan, the heart of what you do, it should come through in your hiring strategy as well. It should be in your ads. It should be in the copy of your job description. It should be in your employment contracts.

You need to be communicating what you do for who and why through every fibre of what you do in your business. Anyway, join the bookkeeping project. Jump in, grab a copy of my business plan of Off The Hook Bookkeeping and have a little peek of what I’m doing. Grab a copy of your own business plan and follow me along Burke’s Backyard style. Join me, fill out your business plan. Jump in to Facebook group. Ask me whatever questions you need to ask about completing the business plan. Get your act together. Get that vision, get clear, get off the treadmill, get out of Groundhog Day and come and join me be savvy, stay savvy. I love you. I will see you next week.