EP127: Cheryl Baldwin - Why You Need A Business Continuity Plan

Expect the unexpected.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, family problem or serious accident, a shocking event can disrupt business operations at any company.No one can predict the future; however, you can be ready with a comprehensive business continuity plan.

With over 25 years of experience in financial management, project management, and all aspects of business operations, Cheryl Baldwin is an expert in continuity planning.

She is also a Certified Professional Bookkeeper who launched BCP Business Services with the mission to help businesses and non-profits prosper.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • The advantage of having a business advisor

  • The steps to having a foolproof continuity plan

  • The benefit of having a support system

To learn more about BCP Business Services, click this link.

To contact Cheryl, go here.


Michael Palmer: 01:02 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a good one. Our guest is a certified professional bookkeeper who launched BCP business services with the mission to help businesses and nonprofits prosper as well. She has over 25 years of experience in the financial management, project management and all aspects of business operations. Cheryl Baldwin, welcome to the podcast.

Cheryl Baldwin: 01:28 Hi Michael. Hello. Great to have you. Hello. Looking forward to it.

MP: 01:33 Beautiful. Well, Listen Cheryl, we know each other and I would love for our audience to know you as well as I know you. And so can you share for us a little bit of your career journey leading up to where you are today?

CB: 01:52 Well, well I'm not as young as I used to be, so it's been a while. As you said, I've been doing financial management and various formats for the last, I stopped counting after 25 years cause I've decided to age me two months. And uh, but on the side have also done a lot of uh, disaster management and other aspects that have kind of led to kind of a well-rounded career, doing a bit of a bit of everything.

MP: 02:22 Yeah. And so what led you into having a bookkeeping business?

CB: 02:28 Well, I always found I have a mix of really needing to be with people and really having a need to work with numbers. I love numbers that come naturally to me, always have. But I always found when I worked somewhere full time on one set of books, day in, day out, that I would get restless and bored and needed something more. So I also worked for the Winnipeg Chamber for a number of years and I guess got the, a bit of a for entrepreneurship than, so I decided to, uh, to take the plunge and I really wanted to help other businesses grow and, and meet their needs and meet their dreams as well as continue to do some work in the nonprofit sector. So this gives me a little bit of everything and a, I love it. It's been a, it's been a great ride.

MP: 03:20 So beautiful. And what, when did you take that leap?

CB: 03:24 Um, I guess a little over three years ago now.

MP: 03:28 But you know, there's a lot of listeners that have taken that leap, but a lot of listeners that are thinking about taking that leap. And what were some of the, like when you were doing that, obviously you were entrepreneur yourself, you mentioned that and it excited you, but what were some of the things that, that you were worried about when you did that?

CB: 03:46 Well, I mean we all like having a steady paycheck and that obviously, you know, wasn't a guarantee anymore. Many of us, myself included, have an innate fear of failure. So it's like, what if I can't do it? What if I make a mistake? Do I really know what I'm doing? Can I meet the needs of my clients? Am I, you know, that whole failure or gum, you know, circles in your head and, and I think that's something we all have to fight on a daily basis no matter how long you've been at up. So we all have our days of dope.

MP: 04:21 That's absolutely right. Well, I love that you, you bring it up. It, I think helps for those that haven't heard that before. And if you've been listening to the podcast for awhile, you had had this, a topic that comes up often because many people deal with it, right? So you had these fears and then now three years in, what did that journey look like? You, you obviously started as a solo in your business, but tell us a little bit what that journey looked like.

CB: 04:47 Well, you're right. I started out on my own. Um, I had a pretty good networking base which helped. And so, you know, I have done a lot of networking over the years. So I just went out and met a lot of people and talked to a lot of people and made sure people knew what I was doing. I also managed to subcontract with another o keeping from that, uh, although actually outside amount of Toba that did work within Manitoba. So I subcontracted with them for a little bit where she kind of got my feet wet, so to speak. And then as I got busier and busier, I went off, you know, left them and, and whistle only on my own, but things picked up fairly quickly and it became apparent that I had to either decide to grow my business or stop networking and looking for new business because I couldn't manage anymore.

CB: 05:41 And just decided that because I needed that PayPal in traction, really love the networking, that I guess I was going to grow my business. So I brought on a, a staff person that kind of grew with me. So she was, um, had just finished her courses at one of the local colleges and she worked hourly for me. And as I needed more hours, she worked more hours until she was full time. And so that happened fairly quickly. So I think I brought her on within probably about eight months of, of starting and then put a year later, brought on another staff person. Um, now there's six of us.

MP: 06:22 Wow. Amazing. And so one of the questions that's come up from our community is how do I know when to hire?

CB: 06:34 That's always the hard one.

MP: 06:36 What's your tattoo?

CB: 06:38 You don't, the hardest part about it is that you've got a, you know, if you're gonna hire and you know, you know, you're getting tight, you know, the workload's getting too high and you can't manage. But you also have to factor in the fact that it takes a while to train somebody to your level of standards. And as we become more automated and use more software, you have to make sure that they know that software and know how to use it properly. So I always sort of need to factor in the fact that it's gonna take two months before they're fully capable of doing their role. And maybe even longer before we, maybe you don't want them to be able to work totally solo, like going on to a client on site or something like that. So you have to factor that into your timing. And so it's sometimes an investment of money before you get the return. And that's always a challenge.

MP: 07:32 Hmm.

MP: 07:33 You know, if you, if you want to grow, you know, that's just one of the things you do and there is a point that you'll reach that it'll the scale tips. So now suddenly you're making enough that we'll pay you for that

MP: 07:47 lag time before the person's really bringing in income

MP: 07:57 And so this is one of the challenges that every, every business owner can face. And there's, there's other challenges. What have, what have been some of the challenges that you faced along the way and how did you deal with them?

CB: 08:12 Well, the hiring is Zoe, you know, is one of the hardest as far as timing. You know, I'm lucky that I'm also have an eater certification so we're going to have the background of how to hire and huddle, look for the right people. Um, but it's still working out timing. But for me it's, it's making sure you have the right network of people so that when you aren't sure the direction has somebody to talk through it with, you know, if you don't have a business advisor, get a business advisor, get somebody that you can feel comfortable with, sharing your fears and sharing where you're at and that can just help talk you through it. That's made the biggest difference to me. I work with the women's enterprise center quite closely and they've supported me a lot. And when I start filling dope full about what I'm doing, they kind of help to get me back on track and reinforce that I'm doing the right thing. I'm going in the right direction. But it's a, it can be a scary journey at times when you want to grow a business, but it's just learning to trust yourself and making sure that you have the supports around you that help bolster that faith in yourself.

MP: 09:29 Wonderful, great advice. And what an interesting concept of having a community like that and, and the women's, you, what was it called?

CB: 09:39 It was the women's.So when women's enterprise centers,

CB: 09:41 women's Enterprise Center, and I'm sure,

CB: 09:43 I mean, I guess I should also mention, of course the Pure Bookkeeping and I've joined the, uh, a mastermind group through the pure bookkeeping and, um, that's been a tremendous support. We meet once a month and we just talk about whatever challenges anybody's having, where we're at, what we're trying to accomplish. We help encourage each other, support each other, and they've all become very good friends. Um, and we, you know, in between meetings if something happens and we need support, it's a quick phone call or email away. So that's been a huge a support as well. So I'm surrounded by a lot of very talented people who are happy to give me support and advice. So that's great.

MP: 10:30 Beautiful. I think the key key message is really making sure you have great support around you that you can turn to for guidance, but as well when you're low, uh, any a need help getting out of that low. Uh, so I mean every community has support groups, uh, that, that people would live in. So that's, that's a place if you're trying to do it all alone, that's a very dangerous place to be. And so reaching out and being out in nature and you know, building your network, I mean that, that's key learning from, from what you've been telling us today. For sure.

CB: 11:05 Definitely.

MP: 11:05 Now you also mentioned you grew, you grew your business through, through a lot of networking. You then added staff and you had some staff that more maybe not full, like really experienced because of your experience. I'm going to assert that you're, you had the ability to do that because of your background. What would you say to people about hiring people? What, what, what does a good candidate look like for the average bookkeeper?

CB: 11:39 Well, I mean it's like you said, it depends a little bit on your own background and your comfort level training and where you're at in your business. I have found for the most part in, in hiring the, it's far more impart part and to hire for and aptitude than it is for skills. You can teach skills, but you can't teach attitude and you can't teach whether they have the aptitude to do the job. So trying to, you know, asking questions in an interview that tries to show you whether they have those skills like that, um, that aptitude is really important. And then, I mean, there are times that, yeah, you're going to need to hire somebody who has those scape senior skills right off the bat. And that's a lot harder to find because they're, uh, you know, they're not, uh, you know, people who really know what they're doing and bookkeeping as many of us know or aren't, uh, aren't as common as we would like to believe. So, uh, so it's, it's hard to find somebody really good, but you just need to, don't, don't hire just because he need to hire, find the right person, find the right personality, fit for the culture you've created in your business. Somebody you feel that you can be comfortable with that work with far more important than them having the skillsets you can teach that if you need to.

MP: 13:05 Lovely, great, great advice. And, and what about from a, from a, there's bookkeepers that are listening that aren't starting their own business, but you know, maybe they, they're just getting started. What advice would you give to them about maybe working for other bookkeepers?

CB: 13:22 There's always bookkeepers who are out, you know, that are looking for good people. There's lots of companies are looking for good people. There's companies like myself that are always looking for good people. Um, if you're wanting to work for someone else cause that's where your comfort level is. Um, you know, again, it's, it's just the reverse. Find the right fit for you, find what makes you feel valued and um, and comfortable and that you fit with the culture that, that of that workplace.

MP: 13:54 Beautiful. Beautiful. Well, you know, it is a, a wonderful thing that you've done. You've taken something from nothing. You created a business and now you have six staff members and, and growing. Awesome. To See and, uh, and, and to, to have you on sharing your knowledge about it is, is a pleasure. Now, one of the other areas of your expertise is, is business continuity planning. And you are a certified business continuity planner. What is this and how does that help your clients with what they're dealing with?

CB: 14:32 Well, um, business continuity planning is really helping business-like in simple terms is helping businesses prepare for unexpected events that would otherwise, uh, negatively impact their business. So it could be anything like, you know, owners, long term illness or it could be their work, play a fire in their workplace. It could be, um, as simple as construction. If they're a retail business and people can't get to their business, what do they do? What messaging do they get out? So some of it is communication planning. Some of it is just having a plan so that you know how you're going to respond to these things. In the case of us as bookkeepers, um, especially those who work on their own, um, the smaller you are, the more important it is to have some form of a plan in place. You've got customers and clients who are relying on you.

CB: 15:32 Um, they need to know that if something happens to you, if you're sick or a family member is ill or you even just want to go into holiday, they need to know that their, their stuff is still going to get done. Their payroll is still gonna be processed. So, and then as we grow and we're incorporated and you've got staff full, now your staff are relying on you on top of that. So you've got to make sure that you have a plan in place that somebody knows what to do if something happens to you so that suddenly all these people aren't less stranded. So it's important to sort of, you know, go through your head and work through, well what would somebody need to know to maintain the, keep the business going or to sell the business if that's a possibility or to at least wind it down in a way that's not gonna cause any undue impact on people.

CB: 16:28 Or ideally if you're, if it's a shirt, you know, an illness for a period of short period of time, then at least that you still have a business to come back to when you're, when you're healthy again. So you need to put some, some plan in place. And there's a variety of different ways of looking at that to do it. And as far as our clients are concerned, we can help them see that as well. Cause it's the same thing. There's things that they should be aware of that could have extreme impacts on their business, both financially and customer base and just their ability to operate and they need to at least look at it so and think about it. So what I do often as they don't really have the, the means most of them in order to do a full business continuity plan, but I like to get people at least thinking about things. So what's going to happen if something happens to you who, who's going to cover? Do you have a backup for this? And just periodically feeding the questions to them and getting them thinking about it so that if something does happen, they've at least got it, but wind in their mind and ideally on paper to or with the people who are their support so that they know what to do.

MP: 17:48 Now how you get into this?

CB: 17:52 Well, I the both the volunteer and staff person for the key Red Cross doing south management for a number of years. And when I kind of left that role, I still wanted to stay sort of in raised in that world a little bit. And I knew that I cared about businesses and I wanted to do something to help them. And so I took the certification in business continuity planning so that I would have that, uh, that support and knowledge.

MP: 18:21 Wow. And would you say the journey from that to now offering this to your clients was, is this adding value to your current bookkeeping business?

CB: 18:35 Um, I think it is. It's, it's not, um, it's, it's more subtle because I'm not, you know, charging for business continuity planning, but I still feel it's adding a value to my clients and it's adding of value to my own business because I do have at least a brief continuity plan of my own, so that if something happens to me that the business will continue to operate without me. So, and that gets stronger and stronger as we get into, you know, just a better position as a business and more resources around me. So, you know, so it's, it's helped me on all sides, I think of my business.

MP: 19:18 I think so. And I think it's, I mean it would be, it's one of those interesting ones where anytime you're offering something to, to, you know, to somebody that it's like, this is the future, right? It's like the future. I mean, many people, and I think entrepreneurs would be optimists and so it's like, well, it's all going to go well, right? And so that can lead to disastrous outcomes, but at the same time it's difficult to have them be aware of it, to have them value it. But I think it's part of that similar conversation as to what the work that you do in your bookkeeping business and why you're there is to help them be successful. And so I think it's incredibly valuable.

MP: 20:05 I think a good analogy is sort of, you know, to think CRA will ever audit you. You know, it's not a question of, and, and yet actually the probability of needing a, some kind of having something happened that will negatively impact your business is higher than the risk of Cra audit auditing your books.

CB: 20:26 Yeah. Which is, which is the really powerful, right? It's not if it's when and so, and so, you know, this comes back and a really, Lao speaks loudly towards systems and process, right? So, you know, we often talk about system and process about being more about, you know, but just to think about continuity, it's like do we have systems and processes to enable our business to continue? If there's one of the wheels brakes on the machine, what's gonna replace that wheel? What's going to continue on and, and what's realistic that could happen. The business, like you say odds, right? The odds are more people are worried about an audit then than something else and the odds are greater for that something else to happen, which is really interesting.

MP: 21:15 Yeah.

CB: 21:16 And I mean our whole business is about like bookkeeping's all the planning, right? It's all about helping our clients plan financially. So it's only one more step to think of planning for their business and for things that could happen in the future.

MP: 21:33 Yeah. Uh, you're absolutely right. So if, if one of our listeners was intrigued by this conversation and wanted to start creating a continuity plan for themselves, what would be some rough steps that they could take to start doing this?

CB: 21:48 No, it's a little different if you're one person than if you're a team, but at the very least outline, you know, who should be contacted if something happened to, you know, it's like Kinda think about what's, what's the worst thing that could happen to your business? Once you sort of an outline of what's your biggest, you know, fears are things that could impact your bookkeeping business the most. Then kind of break it down and say, okay, what things can I do to help mitigate that risk? If you're a single bookkeeper, is there another bookkeeper I can partner with that is in the similar situation that I know and trust who you know, we can, we can support each other if something, if in the short term, you know, a short term illness or you know, family emergency or something happens, you know, that's a really quick thing.

CB: 22:39 If you've got in place, that's not a hard thing to do. If you don't have it in place, it can, you know, cause you to lose vast majority of your clients. So it's, you know, it's a little, a little step making sure that people know, you know, that somebody knows who to contact. So if something happen to, who would they contact? What would be the main players who manage yours? Your who's your bank manager. If you've got an independent accountant, who's your accountant, who's your business advisor? People who could help them walk through either the winding down of your business or working out a path to sustain your business until you're well again. So just kind of working through some of the things that would help support your business. Make sure that you know you're not the only one that knows everything so that there's someone else who knows where to find key information.

CB: 23:37 If you've got staff, how do you make sure the staff continue to get paid if you're, if you're one of your biggest is the loss of your workspace.

MP: 23:42 Okay. Well, what's an alternative space that you can work? CB: 23:46 Many of us, a lot of our stuff is in the cloud so we can work from anywhere. So where's your alternative space that you're going to set up if he needed to in hurry? If you've got stuff that's on your hard drive, make sure you're backing it up properly. Making sure that you've taken your, uh, your stuff on your computer, off-site on a regular basis or a keeping it on a cloud or whatever you're most comfortable with. So just thinking through some of your key risks for your business and try to figure out how you can mitigate it.

MP: 24:25 Wow. You know, some of those things, they're just so simple yet I'm sure so many have not thought about, I mean, just the one step, right? Who Do you call when something goes wrong, have a list of the different people. I mean that that is something as a great beginning for many to start with. And then some of these other questions just keep adding to the document, to the, to your pine. Just like you, you said your plan is evolving all the time and as your business grows, your, your, you as you move away from being a person that has a, basically a business you work in to having a business that runs itself, you're building more and more continuity into it. So that, that is a, it's almost like it operates without you. And this is one core core piece that is often overlooked. Thinking about our own mortality is not something that most, you know, and to have part of their day. Right? So have a coffee and think about the worst things that can happen to you. It sounds like a blast. Uh, it's also what can happen around you.

CB: 25:35 Yes. You know, what can cause you to just for even a short time to be unavailable, you know, whether like a family illness or you know, a parent that you need to support for a while and it just pulls you away too much. Like try to build in those supports and it gives your, you have a plan like that. It also gives your clients peace of mind so you can tell your clients, you know, I've got this plan just so you know that you know, so you're looked after. If something happens to me, it gives them peace of mind in working with you as well.

MP: 26:10 I love that angle. That's beautiful.

MP: 26:19 It's very true and I think anytime these thoughts happen, it just builds the business better because you'll see gaps and then there's an opportunity to fill those gaps and build, build a better systematic business that eventually gives more freedom there. I'll never forget one of my clients, totally unrelated business, but it was about systems and building systems and process and they were, they were going away. The two owners were going away for a trip and so they wanted to have a trip that was interrupted, nearly interrupt free, where they could just, you know, the business would be running without them. That's a big ass right now. They took a whole year planning that trip and literally planning continuity, Poe doing I guess kind of new eco. I wasn't, I didn't think of it in that way, but a big piece of it was continuity planning, which led to business systems and process that Michael Gerber talks about in his book e-Myth, which is all about building a system-dependent business versus a people dependent business.

MP: 27:19 And so they use this milestone of this big vacation that they were going to take to build continuity and systems and process and what if this happened and what if that happened? And what happened is that they built a better business through that. That business ran better after the vacation, before the vacation and their vacation was had less theirs. There's still problems that happen of course, but it, everything had a way to be resolved. And so I think it's a powerful thinking that will bring benefit not only to, you know, giving your customers confidence in yourself, confidence and peace of mind but as well will help you build a better business.

CB: 28:00 Yeah, very much so and on. And it does, you know if you do it for yourself and you work through the process a bit yourself, it's easier for you to think of it as how it would apply for your clients because you've worked through it in your own mind. So the first step is to do it within your own business and get that kind of experience. There's lots of literature around business continuity planning online and I'd be happy to talk to anybody about it too who'd like to.

MP: 28:26 So beautiful. Well we'll, we'll certainly have links to how mls that question in a second of how to get in touch with you and have conversations with you. I will mention that you are on the successful bookkeeper Facebook group and that's probably a great place to go and have some chats there. But I have one last question for you around this and it's about, it's about planning. What are the questions that came up from our community was when do you find the time to work on your business? So this whole concept of working in your business, you're doing the works, your, you know, billable time, all that good stuff, like where you're getting paid, but there's this time that you spend working on the business in order to make the business better to, you know, do all sorts of things in business improvements so that you have a better business that makes you more money, gives you more freedom, whatever it is that you're looking to do. So this concept of working on the business, how do you find the time?

CB: 29:23 That's the hardest part. You just, you have to make the time. And to me it's the part I actually love the most. And so it's sort of like a carrot dangling, okay, if I can just get these things done, then I can play on the business. But what I need to do more is, and what I'm trying do now is actually scheduling time in my calendar that this is when I'm working on the business. So, and I try not always successfully not to, not to, you know, book something else during that time. And that is my focus time and whether it be on a weekend, which you know, ideally wouldn't be, but, or a day of the week that you just set aside that, you know, every Monday or every other Monday, whatever you can manage that you're really focusing on your business and what you want to talk like and where you want it to go. If you don't have a picture of where you want to go, you're not going to get there.

MP: 30:18 Beautifully said, beautifully said and some great, some great advice and great thinking around that. And I, I think it's one that challenges every listener out there. I love that you've shared your take and how you're doing it. And, uh, and I think that's, that's some bang on advice. Cheryl, this has been awesome. You have been very generous with your time and sharing your wisdom. I, on behalf of our community, I really want to thank you for being on the podcast.

CB: 30:46 Well I enjoyed it and thank you for everything you do Michael.

MP: 30:49 My pleasure, my pleasure. And if people wanted to get in touch with you, Cheryl, what would be the best way to do that?

CB: 30:56 They can either go to my website or my email address, but I'll probably easiest through the website. So it's www.pcpmanitoba.com and there's a context thing there and I'll uh, I'll get back to you.

MP: 31:11 Beautiful. Well, that's excellent. We'll have the link in the show notes as well. And uh, this has been great and I know we'll have you back to give us an update and to what you're working on sometime in the future.

CB: 31:24 Great, thanks a lot.

MP: 31:25 Thank you. And with that, we wrap another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's wonderful guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com and until next time, goodbye.