On February 20th, Emma sat down with Simon Jordan, from the International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) to talk about her personal journey, and some of the steep learning curves she experienced growing Fresh Financials. The podcast episode covered:
- Why she started the business
- Her biggest learning curve
- How she helps her clients to grow their business
- Her biggest piece of advice you need to ask your clients
- How she invested her time to better improve her business
- The one thing she would have done differently
- Where Emma got her confidence from
- plus lots, lots more.
Often in the past, our industry has felt competitive. At FF, we believe in sharing our experience with our peers, and talking openly about what we’ve learned along the road, so that other bookkeepers can benefit. Wherever you are on your own bookkeeping journey, you may find some of the topics we talked about helpful. We hope this inspires you to take the next steps in your business.
Here’s a summary:
It doesn’t matter if you’ve come from a traditional background
My love for numbers started early. From school age, I was already buying and reselling chocolate to my schoolmates. A little further down the line, I started my career as a traditional bookkeeper, eventually setting up my own business in 1999 with a drive for more flexibility. At the time, I was a sole trader, and as my children got older, my career transformed again, as I moved the business into the cloud. Cloud accounting has transformed the way we work at Fresh Financials.
Key takeaway: Look for ways in which you can work smarter, rather than harder. Adapt your business to work for you, rather than being trapped within it. If you haven’t already, begin to move your business into cloud accounting for the freedom it will provide you.
The cloud is the way forward, but there is personal work in transitioning
When I moved into cloud accounting, I had to learn a lot more than what I was ‘trained’ for. I could no longer be someone who just understands the numbers – I had to understand the technology, internet security, and eventually how to manage a remote team. I won’t pretend that there isn’t learning involved, but the benefit of honing new skills is being able to provide more value for your clients (who need it!), and in turn billing for higher paid work.
Key takeaway: There’s a really great community of accountants and bookkeepers who’ve already been through the transition to cloud accounting, and delved into the world of apps, integrations and advisory. Take a look at App Advisory Plus and think about joining a community like the GoProposal one. These places are full of like-minded accountants and bookkeepers willing to give you the inspiration and practical guidance you need to take first, second or third steps!
Change the way you think about your bookkeeping services
We came to the point where we decided the most valuable work we could do for our clients was daily bookkeeping. It means we can truly help our clients know how they are doing now, not reflect on how they were doing in the past.
It’s the cloud accounting technology that makes daily bookkeeping so easy. These systems also enable us to add on extra services like virtual credit control, cash flow forecasting, bank payment setup, and general advice. Because we’re all experts in the systems we use, when our clients call with a question, they get an answer fast. They don’t have to wait to know what’s going on in their business.
Key takeaway: If you are still charging by the hour for your bookkeeping services, then these systems probably sound terrifying. You have to change the way you think about providing bookkeeping services. Think about the added value that you can give and the extra services you can add on by changing the way you work. Help your clients know how they’re doing, not how they did in the past.
Remote working may be advantageous if you want more more flexibility for your team
We are a team of five working parents, so remote and flexible working was a no-brainer for us. It can sound a little scary as an owner, to go from seeing everyone in an office daily to trusting them to work from home. The success of remote work is in having the right team, but also lies heavily in having the right systems.
All our meetings are carried out via zoom with our cameras on (team and clients). We don’t waste time traveling for client meetings – we use that time to put everything we have into daily bookkeeping. It means the work gets done, but also means when we do meet with clients face to face, it’s a social visit to get to know them. It has made our relationship with our clients stronger and closer.
Key takeaway: As a team, we all wanted a career that worked around us and not the other way around. It’s the same thing we provide our clients with – their time back! Some of our clients used to spend weekends reconciling their books and chasing up accounts – I’m sure you’ve experienced this with your own clients. To do our most productive work, work has to be fun, flexible, something we enjoy doing and somewhere we enjoy being.
Invest in marketing if you want the very best clients
We’ve invested lots of time in content marketing. We prioritised making our website very clear about the way we work, so that we only work with the kind of clients we want, who are willing to follow our process. We found the best app stack that fits with how we want to work, and when we onboard a new client, we are very transparent. We say: this is how we work and these are the systems we will be using.
Key takeaway: Don’t push marketing aside when you’re building and growing your firm. Content marketing helps you get unstuck from continually working with the wrong kind of clients, and instead places the focus on nurturing your ideal client base.
Having confidence in yourself and your decisions is vitally important.
I had a few clients back in the day who didn’t want to move to the cloud, and I was hesitant to be strong in our process. The reality is, we know this is best for our clients’ businesses and provides the most value to them. Denying them our process would be doing them a disservice.
I get my confidence from trial and error. We all have to learn how to price clearly and consistently and in line with the value we’re providing. We make sure to deliver 100% on everything we do. Having a team of trusted advisors around also me gives me 100% confidence that we’re giving our clients the very best work.
Key takeaway: Be confident in the value you are giving your clients, and remember that it’s in their best interests that you do your best work.
If you want to hear from Emma herself and get the full Fresh Financials story, listen to the whole episode here. If you’ve learned anything here that you’d like to discuss in person, you know where we are!