The way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time

Sometimes tasks can seem overwhelming. That may be a particular project or just the idea of growing your business to the size and balance that you want.

But the simplest way is to break it down into smaller tasks. To achieve £A sales I need to get B new clients. To get B new clients I need to write C new articles or blogs which means one every D days.

So now, instead of looking at the big picture (that’s for another day) you can calmly focus on writing 1 article every D days. One article at a time isn’t as intimidating as trying to grow a huge empire overnight.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on

Kids and cash

I was invited on to BBC Radio Bristol this morning to talk about how we teach kids about money. I couldn’t make it so I thought I’d summarise my thoughts here instead.

1.Live within your means

The best bit of advice about both finance and happiness comes from Charles Dicken’s fictional character, Mr Micawber

”Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

2.Have a plan

If you are taking on credit or a loan then have a plan of how you will repay it. Putting something on your credit card today is a bad idea if you won’t be able to pay it back as your debt will just increase each month.

3. Learn to cook

Eating at home is so much cheaper. Compare some of the prices charged for avocado on toast compared to making it yourself. The same goes for barista coffee.

Inviting friends around is a cheap way of socialising. At uni I would cook a Sunday roast while friends brought wine, beer and dessert. My brother went one step further and arranged for the girls in his student flat to buy the food for him to cook.

The same goes for learn to sew and do a bit of basic DIY so you can repair instead of replace.

4.Know where your money has gone

The new challenger banks will analyse where you are spending your money. A quick glance at the app on my phone shows that eating out is a big expense and this is a luxury that I know I can reduce if I need to save more money (see tip 3)

5.Consider the environment

Most things which help the environment will also save you money so it’s a win-win.

Reduce-your parents are right, turn off your lights! (and computers and chargers etc). Consider whether you need to buy something in the first place

Reuse-consider buying second hand, exchanging clothes with friends, etc

Recycle-easy enough to adapt clothes by adding something extra or cutting trousers into shorts when you’ve had enough. Best if you have sewing skills but a pair of dressmaking scissors and some glue can go a long way.

But best of all is to build a life where you are not dependent on oodles of money and things for your happiness.



Are your clients selling at a loss?

If your clients aren’t comfortable with their numbers* then you need to be working closely with them.

I used to have a client who was selling at a loss. Her materials were costing her more than her selling price. Even before taking her overheads/fixed costs into account. She also insisted on doing her own bookkeeping even though she didn’t really have time so it was always a long way behind.

8 months after her year end we received her books and pulled together her accounts. For the whole year she had been making a loss. If she had been up to date with her bookkeeping, or if she had used a competent bookkeeper, she might have spotted that loss when it occurred in the first month. Instead it went on for a year and 8 months.

Make sure that your clients’ bookkeeping is up to date and monitored by somebody who is happy with business numbers. That may be you or it may be them

*Take a look at our Finance for Business Owners webinar series if you think this might be of use to your clients

What’s your high score

What KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) do you use for your business?

There are so many KPIs that you can track but it is important to focus on the handful that are relevant to your business right now. Tracking irrelevant KPIs is about as helpful to my business as chasing my Tetris high score.

It may surprise you that, as a qualified accountant, I don’t include profit in my weekly KPIs. Profit is the consequence of doing the right things. I do, however, track my marketing activity quite assiduously. The number of industry events that I attend/speak at affects the number of books and courses that I sell. This is the right thing for me to do but your business will be different.

Our Strategic Planning Day helps to identify the best KPIs for your individual business but you can take a look and work some out for yourself. Do you need to concentrate on marketing, sales, cash balances or profitability?

Give it a try and let me know how you get on

Where did our dreams go?

Dream big, surround yourselves with great people and don’t be scared to ask for help.

To my children: dream big, surround yourselves with great people and don’t be scared to ask for help.

This is part of the dedication at the front of my first book, The Numbers Business; how to grow a successful cloud accountancy practice. I read it today as I was looking through the book to check some information for a new talk that I’m writing.

When my kids were little they were full of ideas. Their imaginations were limitless. Now they’re teenagers and their dreams are, to me, quite ordinary and definitely small. They’re mainly focused on their everyday lives at school. Where did their dreams go?

As adults many of us are the same. The minutiae of life has left us no time for dreaming. When did you last take some time to assess the ‘big picture’ of your life? What makes you happy? And are you doing enough of your happy thing? This is what led me to sell my successful accountancy practice to focus on the coaching side business that I love.

When you know what you want to achieve you can set the detailed action plan and add some costs and timescales to it. A business plan, but for your life.

Sometime in the next month book a day just to dream. Start with the big, no holds barred ideas. Work out what you really want from life and write this down. Then book a second ‘reality’ day to work out what you can do to achieve this or something similar enough to be satisfying. How do you get from here to there and what help do you need along the way.

To all of you out there: Don’t be afraid to dream big

This week I have been mainly …

… celebrating the young people of Bristol.

Friday night I was privileged to be invited to join Amy Kington of Community of Purpose, Regional Mayor Tim Bowles and Lord Lieutenant Peaches Golding at the Bristol Young Heroes Awards dinner. It was a bit of a thank you for a few bits that I’d done for them (accountants are also human beings, after all) and because Xero had kindly doubled the value of a prize that I donated to the organisers, Community of Purpose.

As you may have gathered I’m pretty proud of my own kids but these youngsters had achieved so much against the odds. They were disabled, or young carers, or had suffered early hardships and still managed to do so much. They make a huuuuuuge difference to our community and provide a great inspiration for all; adult and child.

Needless to say there seemed to be a lot of people suffering from hay fever even though I couldn’t see any flowers in the room.

Here I am with Action Hero winner Mohamed Aidid and runner up Tyreke Morgan.

What’s holding you back?

I was always good at maths. At the age of 11 I won a maths scholarship to a posh school and I was expected to move up an academic year too.

I was ok at English but I was definitely more of a reader than a writer. Creative essays and flowery language were not for me (although I do Like poetry) and I particularly detest Thomas Hardy’s descriptions of the Wessex countryside. I much prefer brief, succinct reports. Even now I get great pleasure from finding the exact word that reflects all that I want to say. Concise should be my middle name (It isn’t, it’s Louise, but how were my parents to know all those years ago?)

As a business owner I had to move out of my comfort zone. I started to write blogs and a monthly column for a local free magazine and then, one day, I was asked to write some articles and other content professionally.

And now I’ve written a whole flippin’ book! Not just any book but a bestselling, award winning book! Who would have thought it? (Certainly not me)

I’m a polymath!

But the point I’m trying to make is that I wouldn’t be writing my second book, and commissioned by Bloomsbury to co-author a third, if I hadn’t typed those first few words of that first blog. If I hadn’t done something that I thought I wasn’t able to do.

So what’s holding you back from trying something new? Is it just fear or do you need to go and learn some skills first? Take the first step today and see where you get to. It may be the start of a new adventure or it may prove that you need to call on an expert but just take that first step.

Give it a try and let me know how you get on

Automating is child’s play

My entrepreneurial son has just discovered how to make twice as much £/hr.

1. Cycling his paper round instead of walking doubles his hourly rate

2. Boss is now giving him a longer route so he will earn more £ and still do it in less time

Has he been to my talks about automation?

What next? Delegation?

Making tax Digital for business owners

Hopefully by now you’re using software which is MTD compliant but there are still a couple of things to look out for:

1.Don’t forget that you will need to register with HMRC for MTD for VAT.

Go into your HMRC account (if you can remember the passwords etc) and sign up there. After that you should be able to use the new service through your software.

2.Watch out if you pay by direct debit as MTD is unable to process a submission under the old system and collect the DD under the new one. I suggest that you finish your final VAT return under the old system and wait for the final DD to be paid before you register for MTD for VAT

MTD for VAT – setting up your new HMRC account

This seems to be creating all sorts of problems for people.

1. Create your new gateway

2. Link to your old gateway

3. Port your existing clients across (sometimes problems if they were authorised by a paper 64-8 instead of online) (No, you can’t see the full list as the bigger firms didn’t want all their clients displayed to all their staff) 

4. Set up each client for MTD for VAT but watch the timing of direct debits eg March VAT DD is due mid May. If you move to MTD before then the DD is not recognised/collected (yes, it’s daft but just work around it for one month)

Give it a try and let me know how you get on

Update: apparently HMRC can now handle the seamless transfer of the direct debits