EP120: Billie Anne Grigg – Embrace Challenges To Grow Your Bookkeeping Business

It can be terrifying.

Starting a bookkeeping business or running one, can have so many potential pitfalls that it could make you tear your hair out.However, if you have clarity in regards to what your direction is and determination to execute your goals, you can overcome challenges.

Our guest, Billie Anne Grigg has done that.

She has been a bookkeeper for years and is the founder of Pocket Protector Bookkeeping which aims to provide an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full-time, in-house bookkeeping staff.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • How to overcome the fear of letting go of clients

  • How to see hiccups as a motivating factor to grow your business

  • How to improve cash flow and profitability from the ground up

To learn more about Billie Anne, click here.

For her website, Pocket Protector Bookkeeping, go here.

For her Facebook page, visit this link.

For her Twitter page, discover here.

To learn more about Profit First Professionals, click this link.


Michael Palmer: 01:18 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a great one. Our guest is the owner of pocket protector bookkeeping, which provides an excellent virtual bookkeeping and managerial accounting solution for small businesses that cannot yet justify employing a full time in house bookkeeping staff. She's also a profit first professional senior strategic guide and a universal accounting school coach Billie Anne Grigg, welcome to the podcast.

Billie Anne Grigg: 01:50 Thank you Michael. I'm happy to be here.

MP: 01:52 Yes, it's lovely to have you. And you know, you, you've, you've been up to a lot of different things with pref profit, first professionals and universal accounting and your own growing your own business. In fact, and I can't wait to hear your take and your journey, but before we get into that, can you tell us about your career journey leading up to this point in your business?

BAG: 02:14 Yeah, so I'm one of those accidental entrepreneurs, our accidental business owners. I didn't set out to own my own business. I mean, it just kind of happened as a series of layoffs and other factors and just needing to have more flexibility in my schedule and in my life. So I'm haven't looked back since then. Bookkeeping is a passion of mine. Actually. Cashflow is a passion of mine and everything just kind of keeps moving me closer to being able to do the work I really want to do in that area. Helping small business owners become more profitable and manage their cash better.

MP: 02:50 Wow, that's awesome. And I love, I love hearing it. Put that way as cash for you love cashflow. And you know what? Every other small business loves cash flow

MP: 03:00 right now without cash or out of business. So let's say you have the cash flow.

MP: 03:05 Keep their cashflow coming. So a billion. Tell me a little bit about those first early days when it's like, hmm, okay, I'm going to start my bookkeeping practice. What was that like?

BAG: 03:18 Um, it was scary. Um, I thought I had the skills I needed. I'd been a bookkeeper for 14 years at that point. But you know, it's different when you're striking out on your own. There's a difference between managing a businesses books, um, even a small business and managing multiple clients books. So I was scared and that's when I found universal accounting center kind of as a validation that I knew as much as I thought I did. But it was also a really great refresher on the different kinds of bookkeeping and accounting. And I was very fortunate that I had friends and colleagues who helped me along the way to grow my bookkeeping practice. And then also that I found profit first professionals relatively early on and was able to add that consultative service to my offerings.

MP: 04:07 Nice. Well the student has now become the teacher because you're a or mentor really. You're, you're a coach now at universal accounting school.

BAG: 04:16 I profit first professionals.

MP: 04:19 Yeah, absolutely. And profit first we'll get into, I'd love to hear your, your explanation for our listener of profit first professionals, but getting back to when you got started, you know, what were some of the bumps along the way that, that you encountered, if any?

BAG: 04:34 So I think I made every classic mistake in the book, the ones that my business coach warned me against and I thought that won't happen to me. So I did it my own way. One of them, you're just so anxious to get clients that you'll do just about anything possible to get them to sign on the line, including pricing your services way, way too low and you know, promising the moon for basically what would equate to less than minimum wage. The other bump in the road was systems and processes. I wanted to create and provide a custom solution for every single client because that is where I excelled in my work experience working for small businesses without some sort of systems and processes in place though that's just not sustainable.

MP: 05:22 Yeah, you can, you can only, you can only scale as fast as your ability to document and train and have other people be able to do those customized solutions. So that's fantastic. We love systems and process, uh, on the show and we love talking about it. You'd mentioned that you'd taken on clients that weren't maybe a perfect fit for you. And, and not at a price that was at the right stage. How did you get out of that mess?

BAG: 05:51 Well, by continuing to prove my value to certain of the clients, I was able to eventually raise my rates to a, a more fair rate for the work that I was doing, some of the clients. So I just had to let go. I just had to tell them, you know what? This is not a good fit anymore and this is not the direction that I'm moving my business. And honestly, if I'm not feeling it's a good fit, I'm not doing the best work for you. And by that point, I had built a network of colleagues that I could refer these clients to, so it didn't feel like I was just leaving them high and dry. I was able to help them find a provider who was a good fit for them. And that made the, made me feel good, but it also made the client feel really taken care of too, even though I was kind of divorcing them, I was finding them someone else to take care of.

MP: 06:47 Mm. That's, that's very generous and kind of view it, you know? And that's probably speaks to why, why you're so successful in your business. I'm sure there's many listeners right now listening and thinking, yeah, I've got some of those clients. What was it that had you say, okay, enough's enough. I'm going to take this action. And were there any fears or barriers that you needed to overcome before you started changing making those changes in your business?

BAG: 07:12 Oh yeah. I mean the fears and the barriers were real. Every person, every human has loss aversion. You don't want to let go of what you already have, even if it's not serving you. So the fear of if I let go of this client, I'm letting go of this income. And even though it's not a lot of income, a little bit's better than nothing. That was something that I had to overcome and I had to take the emotion out of it, which is a little bit more difficult for me because I do lead from my heart. So to take the emotion out of it and say, okay, yes, I can still be caring and kind, but I have to look at this logically and am I making a big enough profit on this client that it makes sense for me to continue to work with them?

BAG: 07:55 And are there any other factors that I have to take into consideration? You know, do I cringe every time I see their caller id come up on my phone? If so, it doesn't really matter if I'm profitable on that client, something has to change there. So I was able to take the emotion out of it a little bit, look at it logically. Um, in some cases, sadly I was not breaking even on these clients by the time I factored in subscriptions because I do include my quickbooks online subscription costs and other apps that I use in my pricing. So the client doesn't feel nickeled and dimed. It was a tough thing to see that on some clients I was making way less than a hundred dollars per month. And those I had to make a decision, can I try to turn this around or do I need to let the client go? If they had the cringe factor where I didn't want to answer the phone when they called, I found a way to let them go.

MP: 08:49 Hmm. That's, that is fantastic. Now you've mentioned a few things that have been supports to you. You've had a business coach, you mentioned two universal accounting profit first professionals. When did you decide that you needed more support than just yourself?

BAG: 09:09 Before I started my business, I did, I didn't even know, I mean, I didn't know anything about running a business. And unfortunately, I had the wherewithal to understand that there's a difference between being a very good technician and being a good bookkeeper and good at what you do and being a good business owner. And even with that realization, there were some stumbling blocks along the way. But I knew that I had to find an aligned myself with people who had been there and done that successfully, who were willing to help either through a mentorship or a coaching program. Um, help a new bookkeeper set up her business the right way.

MP: 09:49 Mm. So your, your, you had that, that was a probably a really smart decision on your part before you got started to go and get that help and set it up the right way. Did you, you mentioned, uh, a couple of hiccups. Any other hiccups that you can think of other than the ones we've already covered?

BAG: 10:07 Well, you know, when you're starting your business, or at least when I was starting mine, I was still working two part-time jobs. I had been partially laid off from one job. I'm the sole breadwinner for my family. That's a decision that my husband and I made. He homeschools our kids and I earned the income, but I had to fill that gap. So working two part time jobs plus trying to grow a business, that was exhausting. That was definitely a hiccup. But it was also a motivating factor as well to ramp this up, not only number of clients and you know, trying to move away from taking everything that came through my door, but also to pick the right clients and grow this business profitably doing what I love with clients that I love working with.

MP: 10:53 Hmm. No doubt. That sounds like something I think every listener is looking to do is build a business that they love. You mentioned profit first. Tell, tell us a little bit about profit first. What attracted you to them? Why did you seek them out and, and how has it been helping you in your business?

BAG: 11:14 So profit first really played into my love for cash flow. Um, I had been frustrated for a while, not just in my business because I did find profit first, relatively early on in my business, but also as an employee. I knew the problem that small business owners faced was cashflow because I'd seen it happen several times and I would model out these wonderful cashflow projections and show my employers and then later my clients exactly what they needed to do in order to have a profit and have positive cashflow. And they would look at this spreadsheet and they would do an all over it and say, oh my gosh, this is great. And then they'd put it away and never look at it again until the end of the period when they pulled it out and said, hey, where's all this money I was supposed to have?

BAG: 12:04 And I had to tell them, well, you weren't following the plan. And it wasn't until I discovered profit first, which I found through one of the business coaches that I had worked with. She had the, um, sample chapters in her newsletter that I realized that the disconnect was that I was thinking about this from an accounting mindset and my employers and clients, I had been looking at it through a business owner mindset. Business owners don't go into business, of course, to be accountants unless they are accountants and bookkeepers. So we had a language barrier so to speak. I was speaking in certain terms, they were speaking in different terms and we just weren't connecting. So with profit first it took that issue of cashflow, put it into terms that a small business owner could understand. And that connected with me as far as something that I could do to really help my clients improve their cashflow and improve their profitability to where you don't have to wait for someday to be profitable. You don't have to spend money to make money, meaning that you don't have to just throw a lot of money at your problem hoping someday that it will pay off. But you can be very strategic about making sure that you grow a profitable company from the ground up from the very beginning.

MP: 13:17 That is so exciting. And we've, we've had lots of conversations on the podcast about profit first, but I think it's refreshing to hear you say talk about it and how that, how it, how it occurs to you and how you've been using it. How's, how's that now impacted your business?

BAG: 13:35 Oh my gosh. The impact has been tremendous. First of all, one of the things that we have to do as profit first professionals is implemented in our own business. And I kind of chuckle now about my story because I thought that, I said, look, you know what? I'm not like my clients. I can read my spreadsheets, I follow my plan. I don't need to go open up these multiple bank accounts. And Ron Saharian, the cofounder of profit first laughed at me and he said, yeah, you've got to go open your accounts. So I grumbled all the way to the bank and I opened my accounts and I did my allocations and I had to eat crow a quarter later because I had more money in my bank accounts than what my spreadsheets said I should have. So that was definitely the first way that profit first worked for me.

BAG: 14:17 The other way that profit first has really worked for me is instead of being a compliance bookkeeper, meaning that I'm only doing the bookkeeping, so the business owner can file their tax return at year-end. Now I'm a consultative bookkeeper, meaning that I have a system in place that I use with all of my clients. And as a result, I dictate a higher price that does disqualify some prospects. Um, I do have prospects ask me, you know, what, can we just do the bookkeeping without doing this cash management and strategy? And I, I tell them no now because I feel out of integrity that I have something that can help any small business. But if I'm not doing it with all of my clients, that makes me feel bad. And the other option is to give it away for free, which I'm not willing to do.

MP: 15:07 Yes. Yeah. So you have had a pretty interesting career. I, I'm always curious to know if there was a breakthrough moment or a turning point moment in your business where it was going one way and then this happened and ever since then it's gone in a completely other way that you're completely happy about. Any moments like that?

BAG: 15:35 Yes, it was the moment that I drew the line in the sand and said, this is the way I want to work with clients. I only want to have a consultative relationship with clients and if a prospect is not willing to do that, then they are not the right fit for me. And that's scary when you have a lot of prospects coming your way who only want what they think of as traditional bookkeeping or accounting, meaning classify my transactions, reconcile my bank accounts, and gives me a profit and loss statement at the end of the year. So I've been filed my taxes, but once I had that moment of clarity as this is the direction I want to go, everything changed.

MP: 16:19 Wow.

MP: 16:20 It's a, it's a, it's, it's an interesting conversation. I Ha I've had this conversation a few times recently round. Having the standards that you uphold inside of your life, inside of your business, and when you make those choices and you hold those standards, it brings, it actually works. It brings you your standard that you're looking for. Have you ever not held your standard?

BAG: 16:45 Yes, I have several times and it always bites me in the rear end when I do that, I have to go back later and say, look, this is not a good fit. I'm sorry. We should not have engaged in this relationship to begin with. I need to help you find someone else to take care of you. And it's the money. I mean, really that's what it comes down to. The money looks good. Um, the client sounds promising and it just doesn't work out when you violate those standards that you've set for yourself.

MP: 17:13 Yeah, that's fantastic. Very inspirational. I'm sure for, for, for the listener you, you probably have or be, maybe you haven't. Maybe this is an opportunity to look at it, but every, I think every business owner brings their own superpower, if you will. It's like what they're really, really great at that helps them take their business in the direction that they've, they've taken it in. What would you say your super power is in business?

BAG: 17:39 My superpower is being able to communicate and connect with my clients. So on a level, even beyond the provider and client relationship, to really dig deep and understand it, but that actually where they're coming from because the challenges that our clients face in business aren't just business challenges. Those are those stem from personal challenges and that could be cashflow issues, that could be growth issues, that could be some limiting beliefs that they have about themselves, but being able to really understand and connect with the client and then help them see and help them find their way to have a fulfilling life, not only just part of their business, but a full holistic, fulfilling life. That's my superpower.

MP: 18:28 It's a powerful superpower.

BAG: 18:31 I think so. Yeah.

MP: 18:32 I do think so. I mean, not the power to connect with peoples is incredible because you get to rapport quickly. You get to trust quickly and you can make a difference for them. If you're able to do that much more quickly and at the end of the day that's what they want are results. So if the, Eh, I would say awesome to here, let's look at the opposite side. Where are you, where is it always just not working for you that you need to go and find help elsewhere and help someone else help get someone else to help you with that part of Your Business?

BAG: 19:02 You know, employee management has been a challenge but also boundaries because I do form those connections with the clients sometimes. And it's probably that my, my issue with employee management too, sometimes I have a hard time upholding the boundaries because I am so connected and I do want to help. Sometimes it's difficult to see that I'm not helping, not only myself, but I'm also not helping the client by being so connected and not having those good strong boundaries in place.

MP: 19:34 Mm. And how, and and so how have you compensated for these challenges with staff and with being too connected or not having, sorry, not having those, uh, the boundaries maybe being pushed,

MP: 19:48 having, having some checkpoints in place. Colleagues, a my profit first community is also really good about if I can pose this question, hey, you know, I'm feeling a little strange about this situation or I'm not feeling very good about this situation. Can you help me think through it? Um, to just having those sounding boards so who can kind of let me know I'm not crazy. Um, because you know, many bookkeepers are solo preneurs or solo person, sole practitioners, um, and we don't necessarily have colleagues to bounce things off of. But having that support system has been really helpful for me.

BAG: 20:22 Yeah, I would agree. It's a well done for, for having powerful support system.

MP: 20:28 Now we've talked a little bit about where, mostly about the past and about way things were. Where are things going? What, what are you looking at now for the future?

BAG: 20:38 For the future? It's about continuing to leverage the automation. I do still have my bookkeeping business that is growing, not as, as I was growing it because I am working full time for the profit first professionals organization and in order to balance both and do them well, continuing to use the automation. And the technology and learning more about that. That's the way to growth, but also again, leveraging that consultative part of what I do. That is where my passion lies. That's where I have the biggest impact is and that's what I love to do. So I'm just reiterating that that is the kind of relationship that I want to have with my clients. And then also developing some evergreen products that will help people who maybe aren't quite ready to engage on that one to one level yet so they can still get the help that they need. And it's also generating passive income for me at the same time.

MP: 21:40 Excellent. So this, this would be for your, your potential clients that they're not ready for you, but you can, you can help them out in a, in a way that works for them. Right. Very exciting and yes, lots of changes happening in the industry. In fact of I've, it was in one of our groups, someone posted as a sign or a, an article on the end of bookkeeping. What's something along those lines? I'm sure it's not the first time that that conversation has ever come up. I'd love to hear what your take is on it.

BAG: 22:15 The bookkeeping is not going to end, but it's definitely going to change. And the one thing that I have noticed in the past six years is that the shift has gone from being able to do it right yourself, meaning that you do the data entry and make sure everything is posted correctly to now we're managing data that has been entered by an artificial intelligence or in some cases even our clients. And that requires a higher skill set. You have to know how a set of books are supposed to look, how is that a financial statements are supposed to look, be able to identify problems maybe on the balance sheet or something's not being posted correctly. And then also troubleshoot the technology as well. Because as great as this automation is, sometimes it breaks or some times it creates errors in the system. And if you don't have that more theoretical knowledge of accounting and bookkeeping, that's something that could be missed. So I think our value is actually increasing rather than decreasing. Unfortunately, many bookkeepers look at the automation as a way to keep their prices lower. And so when the technology does break or something goes wrong with it or there's a problem that needs to be resolved, then we get into a situation where we're working for little or nothing.

MP: 23:29 Yeah, I agree with you completely on all fronts and really just this whole technology stack. I've leaned on our bookkeeper a lot to keep the money coming. You know, it's one, it's like you've got to get the in, you've got to make sure that it's all recorded accurately. And while we used all the latest technology, all the latest technology breaks because it's until we have one, one ring to rule them all, there's going to be a gaps and, and things break all the time. And so it's, it's that what I want to be spending my time as a business owner working on and dealing with absolutely not. I need somebody understands it, can solve that and keep things going so that I don't need to deal with it. So I love that technology is definitely going to keep changing for a long time. And so with that change, uh, this industry has a lot of opportunity to embed themselves into being able to help leverage it, make sure that they keep leveraging it. So love that conversation. Is there any other tips? You have a lot of bookkeepers just like yourself at every stage of the, of your journey to date. Is there any tips or advice that you'd love to give and pass on to them as listeners design the business that you love or that you're going to love from the very beginning?

BAG: 24:46 That's probably the most important tip. It's difficult to do when you're trying to make ends meet and you're trying to pay the bills, but in the long run it pays off. If you have clients that aren't a good fit, go ahead and let them go. Because without fail, I mean, I talk to accountants and bookkeepers every single day through the profit first program when they let go of a client who's not a good fit within a week, a much better client who's a perfect fit comes along. It's just a matter of a wedding go of that, that not good fit client to make room for the better client to come into your life.

MP: 25:26 Beautiful. Well said, Billie. There is probably a listeners that would be interested in learning more about what you've been up to with profit first and use universal accounting. If that was the case, what would be the best way for them to do that?

BAG: 25:42 They can connect with me on either Facebook or LinkedIn or even by email. They can reach me at either mail. That's maIl@pocketprotectorbookkeeping.com or Billie Anne, B I l l I e a n n e@profitfirstprofessionals.com. I'm sorry I don't have a short email address. I have two other email addresses and they're equally as long, but uh, those are all great ways to reach out to me.

MP: 26:06 Yeah, beautiful. I will have all of those links in the show notes of course, and as well. Speaking of Facebook, we do have The Successful Bookkeeper Facebook group and we've added country-specific groups, so I'm sure that might be a good place to connect with Billy Yan in the future. You can find it at The Successful Bookkeeper, uh, dot com as well. But if you search the successful bookkeeper in Facebook, you'll find a group that you can join if you haven't already. Billion. This has been absolutely awesome. I love your story. I love how you're helping eradicate entrepreneurial poverty in the world. You're helping small businesses. We love that around here, so keep on doing it and we'd love to have your back at some point to hear how you're doing it even bigger tomorrow.

BAG: 26:45 Thank you Michael. I'd love to do that.

MP: 26:58 Beautiful. And with that we wrap up another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. Of course, we'll have links and all that good stuff in the show notes, but to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com. Until next time, goodbye.