What does it take to build a successful bookkeeping business?
Who better to ask than a bookkeeper who’s achieved national recognition for her success? Sarah has already achieved a phenomenal amount of success as a bookkeeping business owner.
After all, she’s the founder of Women Who Count, which has become one of the UK’s leading bookkeeping businesses. She also sits on the board of the International Association of Bookkeepers. And that’s not all.
Sarah’s passion for her work has also led to her becoming a finalist of the UK Women in Business Awards. And yet, Sarah tells us that she almost got into bookkeeping by default. It’s because she grew up inside her family business and learned early on that she’d have to go out and earn what she wanted in life.
And for some reason, she found herself drawn to the accounting side of the family business. She’d often get involved during her father’s meeting with his accountants and she learned a lot about different types of transactions that way.
Sarah also saw that her father made many of his decisions based on the advice of his bookkeepers. Still, she worked in the family business during the early stages of her career.
That changed in 2009.
It was in this year that Sarah divorced her partner. With two young children to support and no income to do it with, she had a crucial decision to make…
Should she look for another job?
Or should she start a business that would provide her with the income she needed, alongside the flexibility that would allow her to spend time with her children?
Sarah chose the second option.
Fast-forward to today and Sarah offers us an ideal example of what it takes to create a successful bookkeeping business.
And in this article, we’re going to share some of her key tips for people who are starting their own businesses in this field.
Three Tips in Growing Your Bookkeeping Business
Tip #1 – Build Your Business Around Your Values
Sarah employs a practice manager who’s an extremely bright woman.
This practice manager was once a mortgage advisor. However, she’d decided to get married and have children, which made it difficult for her to pursue her previous career. The lack of flexibility on offer also created a challenge. And as a result of all that, she ended up working as a cleaner.
Sarah knew her future practice manager could do so much more than that.
So, she provided this amazing woman with the opportunity to work in a role that gave her flexibility while allowing her to fulfill her potential.
Now, this may sound like a familiar story…
And the reason is that Sarah’s practice manager has the same values as Sarah herself.
When she started Women Who Count, Sarah wanted to have a business that offered enough flexibility for her to live her life how she chooses. What we see from this story is that these values extend to the people that Sarah employs.
Your values are the backbone of your bookkeeping business.
Express them openly and create a business that attracts people who share your values. The result will be that you’ll build a team that connects with your business philosophy, which means they’re more motivated to succeed.
Tip #2 – Focus on Building Relationships
Marketing is a key challenge for any new bookkeeping business.
For Sarah, the early solution was to build as many relationships as possible. That’s why she attended every networking event she could, knocked on a ton of doors, and handed out leaflets by the dozen.
Her goal was to make as many connections as possible. And it paid off, as one of Sarah’s first clients came as the result of her chatting to a parent during a children’s soccer game.
The point here is that marketing isn’t just about putting together campaigns and spending a lot of money.
The simple act of building relationships can lead to opportunities that can keep your business going in the early days. As you grow, more complex marketing can come. However, you must never lose sight of how important relationships are to your success.
Tip #3 – Avoid the Key Hiring Mistakes
As Sarah’s business grew, she eventually came to a point where she needed to hire some new talent.
Her first idea was to hire a trainee.
She believed that hiring a trainee would allow her to build her new employee from the ground up. Sarah could mold this person into what she needed them to be for her bookkeeping business.
Unfortunately, that’s not what happened.
The time she had to dedicate to training meant that she started cutting into her own billable hours. This led to the expensive lesson that hiring trainees is not the ideal choice for somebody who has a new business.
Avoid Sarah’s mistake during the early years of your own business.
When you start building a team, focus on hiring people who have experience and understand what you need from them. This will allow you to minimize training, which means you can continue focusing on revenue-generating activities.
As your bookkeeping business scales, you will end up in a position where you can bring in trainees. But while it’s still a small operation, know that hiring trainees can be a drain on your time and resources.
Set Yourself Up For Success
Sarah’s story teaches us that it’s entirely possible to create a successful bookkeeping business as long as you set yourself up for success from the beginning.
And it starts with understanding your own values so you can ensure they permeate throughout the business.
Think of your values as the foundation of the culture you hope to create.
From there, start building relationships with everybody, from fellow accountants and professionals to the parents you meet at soccer games. You never know who may provide you with a business opportunity.
And finally, be careful when hiring. During the early stages of your growth, experience will likely prove more valuable than the opportunity to train somebody to fit your image.
Of course, there is more to learn if you want to build a sustainable bookkeeping business. That’s why we encourage you to do any of the following during your journey towards business mastery: