Am I a failure?

Back in 2017 I undertook a huge triathlon over ironman distances.

The event was 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile (marathon) run.

On the day I found myself struggling on the bike and “only” completed 89 miles of the bike course. But this is still the longest, toughest endurance event that I have ever undetaken.

Was I a failure for missing 23 miles of the bike course? Or have I succeeded in pushing my body further than most (sane) people would even contemplate?

So why not take a chance in your business and set yourself some stretch targets?

 

5 things I never foresaw in a 5 year plan

  • Having kids
  • Starting my own business
  • Entering an ironman
  • Selling my business
  • Writing a book

Things often happen which you couldn’t foresee 5 years ahead. Some things only make it onto your agenda a year or two ahead and somethings hit you completely out of the blue. This is often used as an excuse for not having a business plan.

Here are the two main reasons that like to have a plan A.

  1. If you aim at nothing you’ll hit nothing. I didn’t actually complete the whole ironman. I “only” did 89 miles of the 112 mile bike section. But it is still the longest, hardest endurance event that I’ve done in my life. If I hadn’t set myself that target I would never have done more than an olympic triathlon which is a quarter of the distance.
  2. Which way do you turn when you pull off your drive? If you don’t know where you’re heading for then how do you know the first step?

So, grab yourself the back of a fag packet (or a laptop or pen and paper) and work out where you want to be in 5 years time. Then break it down into the smaller steps needed to get there. 

If you need a hand or a more formal plan then I can help you with a strategic planning day but start by getting your thoughts clear

How should I prepare for my first client meeting?

I opened a bottle of champagne when I got my first enquiry from my hand delivered mailshot. Then Iwondered how to prepare for my first meeting. Over the years I found a way which worked for me.

You need to have some idea of your pricing. Don’t get caught on the hop or you’ll probably price lower. I used to keep a sheet with various prices to consult or you may invest in software which prices for you. Later we put our starting prices on the webaite to filter for better quality enquiries.

The reason I had a price list with me was:

1. In case I didn’t know

2. I think it was Paul Shrimpling or Steve Pipe who pointed out that people accept prices better from a price list than from your head

Before the meeting do a bit of basic background research. Google, Companies House, their website and social media accounts as well as asking around. No need for a private investigator, just what’s in the piblic domain.

Confirm the meeting 24 hours beforehand. Include directions of how to find you.

Have an agenda for the meeting.

1. Ask about their business

2. Ask about their accounting needs (and why they’re changing accountant)

3. Explain how you can help with exactly what they’ve said. Use their own words if possible. 

4. If you can’t help don’t push it, refer them elsewhere if you can.

5. Quote for the service discussed

6. Ask if they want to proceed or if they’d like you to email the quote and speak again next week

7. Generate email quote or engagement letter etc as soon as you get back to the office. Look at Practice Ignition or Go Proposal as soon as you can afford it. They can be used to generate the “paperwork” in the meeting itself

8. Engagement letter for company plus each director, 64-8 for each, invoice, standing order or direct debit form. All can go out electronically for online signature. Also professional courtesy letter for former accountant.

9. Set up all files/directories once engagement letter is signed

10. Celebrate

How much should I save before taking the leap into running my own business?

I always recommend having 12 months living costs, less is you already have some established income

1. This means that you will only take on good quality clients and not be tempted to discount or take unsuitable work just to get somebody signed up. 

2. You will feel better if you aren’t trying to bootstrap in the business and at home too. 

3. Allow a couple of years to get back to where you were financially but there’s a huge variation deoending on the nature of the business and clients, how much time you put in, how much money you invest in automations etc.

How to handle the endless Summer

When we were kids the Summer holidays were something to look forward to but, as a working parent, they can be a mixed blessing.

We all make different choices on how much time we want/need to spend with our kids vs how much time we want/need to spend working. That can be anything from finding full time childcare so that important work is uninterrupted to arranging your work to spend the whole 6+ weeks with your kids.

If you are employed then you have the right to request flexible working. If you provide a foolproof plan for how you and your business owner can cover the necessary work then it is more likely to be accepted. If you run your own business then the responsibility lies with you anyway.

As well as professional childcare and holiday clubs the options include:

  1. working from home so that you can supervise your kids yourself. While this is great for some of the time it doesn’t provide quality time with your family or you may find small children too distracting.
  2. working evenings/weekends while the other parent, or somebody else, is available for childcare. This allows you to spend quality time with your kids but it can be harder to communicate with a team working conventional hours and it may be important to you for the whole family to spend time together.
  3. postponing non-urgent work or doing extra before the holidays. This can free up time during the holidays but there is additional pressure on you before and after your time off
  4. take on less work over the holiday period. There may be a natural lull in your business when fewer clients are around working themselves. This is easiest to do if you work for yourself. The downside is that this may also reduce your income so you will need to ensure that you have sufficient savings to cover the break.
  5. arranging reciprocal playdates for your kids with other parents trying to juggle the holidays. This gives your kids a change of scene and may keep them away from screens. If you have more than one child this can require pretty complex coordination.
  6. Holiday clubs can be useful for ad hoc childcare but they are often much shorter than a normal working day. Some clubs just supervise your kids whilst they are watching DVDs or playing on computer games so you’re paying for somebody else to let a screen babysit your darlings. Sports clubs can be good for older children but not everyone enjoys these.
  7. Electronic babysitters can be okay so don’t beat yourself up if you use them sometimes. Just try and mix in a bit of quality time with humans and some fresh air and exercise.

In practice you may choose a mixture of these and other methods.

You may well feel that you’re not working or parenting well enough over this period but just keeping the plates spinning is enough for now.

Please drop me a line with any other suggestions

Is your business a little drunk?

You’ve probably seen a few in your time. The drunk falling out of the pub, absolutely intent on getting to his destination if only he could remember where he was going and how to get there.

Ask him his name and he can hopefully recall this but ask anything else about him (or her) and you may struggle for a coherent response. An incredible amount of energy put into going nowhere.

Too many businesses also seem to be reeling about with no idea of where they’re heading (stop reading now if you’re feeling in control) or how they’re going to get there. In this case it isn’t alcohol but just everyday busyness, firefighting and minor crises.

Take a moment and consider:

  1. What do you, the business owner, want out of life? (your life goals)
  2. What do you need from your business in order to achieve this? (your business goals)
  3. What does this look like financially? (your budget)
  4. How are you going to achieve this? (your action plan)
  5. What will this cost? (revise budget)
  6. Are there any financial or time constraints on the actions you can afford to take? (revise action plan)
  7. Does this still give you what you want? (check life/business goals and adjust budget/actions)
  8. Start driving
  9. Check that you are on the right track (management accounts and non-financial KPIs)
  10. Adjust course accordingly to take account of diversions (coaching satnav) or blockages (specific business advice or consultancy)
  11. Repeat until you reach your planned destination

If you need a hand then we can help with strategic planning days, budget days and/or regular coaching sessions or ad hoc advice to keep you on track.

Business is tougher when you go it alone.

Never throw away a good idea

I love ideas

When my son was small I’d praise him because he was full of ideas. And some of them were good ones. At the time of writing I’ve recently helped to judge a dragons’ den afternoon at a local primary school. Kids are so uninhibited in their thinking which is always great fun. (OK, perhaps not always fun as a parent digging your child out of scrapes but we usually laugh afterwards.)

As such I keep all my half decent ideas in a folder of post it notes, magazine articles, an ideas list and more detailed notes on my phone.

Even this article started off being typed on my phone as the thoughts just came to me between meetings.

For some time now I’ve been planning to write a book using the materials from my business articles, blogs, Money Matters talks and training workshops such as our Strategic Planning Day and Budget Day as well as our Directors’ Webinars. This was almost a pipe dream as it was so far behind growing a successful business myself (that’s taken a few years!) and then my June 20117 ironman attempt required 6 months of intensive training.

After my iron distance triathlon I knew that I’d need a new project to keep my interest so I spent my recovery week eating, sleeping and looking for something that excited me.

The following week I found myself putting together the outline of a business book. A mixture of business theories, my own practical experiences and stories of clients and friends. I also received my first payment for an article and a further two  commissions which means that I am now a professional writer.

The framework of my first two books (one for accountants and the other for general business owners) came together quickly because I’ve been saving ideas and material for a long time. In the process I also found enough ideas for two further books although they will require more research and content. The first book ‘The Numbers Business: building a successful cloud accountancy practice’ is due for publication 10 September 2018

This is quite an exciting time but it also emphasises that you should never throw away a good idea. Even our quarterly Money Matters events came out of a file of ideas pulled together with the help of Evolution PR (thanks, Kerry) and a few guest speakers (thanks you lovely lot)

So get yourself a notebook, paper or electronic, to capture all the ideas that you have. Even if you’re not likely to use them for years.