There are thousands of bookkeepers in Australia and thousands more ready to do the work of a bookkeeper offshore. You could say that bookkeepers are a dime a dozen — plentiful and not highly valued. Add to this that many business owners do their own bookkeeping and accounting firms are including bookkeeping in their service delivery, it’s no wonder that bookkeepers are struggling to understand their own value and to communicate the value of those services to the broader market.
Often the bookkeeper falls into the role of bookkeeper and then decides to make a career out of it. It is a profession that lends itself well to the female sector — flexible hours, work from home, and no significant capital outlay. The very benefits that make the profession so appealing to women can also be detrimental as their enterprise develops without significant thought to the business it could become. The business limps along more by accident than design.
Not every bookkeeper wants to grow a business, but all bookkeepers need to maintain a client base. Successful bookkeeping firms are a success because they follow formalised processes and systemisation. When it comes to setting goals, developing plans and creating processes, there is no reason that a bookkeeper with a handful of clients cannot follow the same business principles as the bookkeeper with a growing business. The only difference is scale.
The key is to understand and define your individual business. That clarity will project itself outwards and amazing things will happen. Business owners will want you to do their bookkeeping. Accountants will want you to do their clients' bookkeeping. Other bookkeepers will want to work for you. You, the bookkeeper (and your firm) are in demand.
Use these six keys to unlock your own business growth potential:
1. Believe – Without vision your business is rudderless; being carried aimlessly with the tides. Have clarity and focus around what you want your business to look like. Set goals for the next 12 months, the next five years and beyond. The clarity of your vision must be your ‘why’. It is what motivates you to get up in the morning. It becomes your basis to be held accountable to. Your passion about why you do what you do should be tangible. If you can make others feel it then they want a part of it. If you understand your ‘why’, a culture develops around your belief and what it is that you do. There is power in your ‘why’. As Simon Sinek states in the Golden Circle, “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it”
2. Define – By understanding what it is that you do and why you do it means your service offerings can be documented. Once you know your offerings, you can begin to understand the value you provide to your clients in their terms. Be ruthless in not undervaluing the services you provide. The power of your conviction enables you to be clear around what defines the ideal client for your business. This may mean that you are aiming for a niche market where you are the best in that industry, or simply, to attract the client who has a similar belief set and values as you do. Your clarity around your value will by definition sort the ideal from the rest.
3. Process – Creating documented processes means that services are delivered accurately, consistently and within allocated boundaries. Process documentation must account for internal and external systemisation. Internal systems determine how things are run within the business. The external processes are the ones the client and accountant will appreciate. Consistent and accurate execution delivered with timeliness and precision will soon build your (and your firm’s) reputation. For added measure, a business that is systemised is a business that can scale at consistent quality and could be sold.
4. Brand – if people can identify your business out of the pack then you are already ahead. Branding must be consistent across all platforms. It must also be embraced by everyone in your team as brand encompasses business culture. Branding can be simply website and stationery, but be distinctive. Invest in a graphic designer who understands your vision and can create a brand portfolio unique to you. Extend your branding to social media platforms. The more you are seen, the more familiar you will become. Realise the dripping tap – small, regular engagements keep your business front of mind. Understand what makes your business unique and makes it stand out from the many competitors of the bookkeeping industry. You already know your ‘why’, can clearly articulate your value, and have processes in place to keep it all consistent. These alone will differentiate your business.
5. Network - building associations with key affiliates is integral to promoting your business and to gain new business. All affiliations should be two way, though the best relationships develop when you give without expectation of return. Create that trust and the referrals will come. Don’t expect that just any key affiliate will be your referral partner. Much like working with the ideal client, cultivate relationships with partners who get you and you relate to them. These relationships are powerful and respectful of each other’s services.
6. Change – finally, all of the above requires you to embrace the culture of change. Change is a constant and by adopting a mindset of change your business will be more successful. The forward looking client embraces change as much as you do and so is naturally drawn to a like-minded business. Accept that change is the new normal and a must to business growth and the dynamics of your business will project accordingly.
There is no quick fix to building a business or to growing your client base. It all starts with you and how passionate you are about what you can achieve. It is easy to build a business encompassing everyone. That course may compromise the fundamental aspects of you, and you may not even realise it. Take a step back, reassess and re-evaluate; your business will appreciate the renewed conviction and will reward you with growth.
Diane Lucas, director, Direct Management