EP133: Vicki Lynch - Business Tips From A U.S. Air Force Veteran

How do you provide your clients with peace of mind?

Our guest, Vicki Lynch, who is the owner of Bottom Line Accounting Pros and a United States Air Force veteran, does this by getting her clients on a regimented process of routine to help them understand the bigger picture of their financial situation.

After over 20 years of experience in the accounting field, Vicki realized that adopting a system oriented mindset is one of the key things that helped her succeed with her business.

During this interview, you'll also discover...

  • The importance of having feedback from your clients

  • How to identify your values and what you stand for

  • The benefits of having boundaries

To learn more about Vicki's firm, visit here.

For her LinkedIn page, click this link.

You can email her at vicki@bottomlinepros.net.


Michael Palmer: 01:19 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 a proud veteran of the United States air force and has worked in the accounting field for over 20 years. She's the founder of bottom-line accounting pros and I'm so very happy to have her on the podcast today. Vicki Lynch, welcome to the show.

Vicki Lynch: 01:42 Thank you, Michael. I'm so happy to be here.

MP: 01:44 Yeah, well it's great. I'm so excited. We've had lots of conversations about your journey and I'm excited about having those stories shared with our listener because every time I speak to you I seem to learn something new, some interesting insight and it really inspiration. So I'm, I'm excited about it.

VL: 02:05 Well thank you. I'm so happy you inspire me to, I listened to this podcast all the time, so I'm very, very excited to be with you.

MP: 02:13 Thank you. That's great. Well, I appreciate that. And before we get into some of these questions I have for you today, I'd love for you to share your journey leading up to where you are today.

VL: 02:25 Well, I've been in accounting for quite a long time. I started as a budget analyst working for department of Defense and then I got out of the air force, worked as a civilian for a while and we moved to Shreveport, Louisiana and as the investment accountant at Barksdale Credit Union. And then my daughter was born three months premature. So I kind of had to look for some alternative ways to uh, work. My husband started a chimney cleaning business. He's a firefighter, he was air force as well. He got us to go job doing the same thing he did in the air force. So when we moved here, some opportunities report because there's a lot of startup businesses here. So we decided to start the chimney cleaning business and then I kind of inherited a couple of accounts and it's just grown exponentially from there. Started in 2000 and we rebranded because after reading the email, I wanted to kind of take myself out of the business when I named it. So we rebranded to bottom line accounting in 2015 and we've just grown. I joined BNI in 2013 I feel like that, that kind of pushed my growth a bit too. But I have a full-time staff accountant and a part-time and ministrative person.

MP: 03:52 So now how, how have you brought your experience in the US air force to what you're doing today?

VL: 03:58 Well, processes regiment, you know, everything's kind of lined out and in the air force you have to have a routine for everything. And, and that was one of the things I loved about the military is there is a routine for how you do everything. Standard operating procedures, just preach, preach, preach, you know, when you're in the military. So I just kind of carried that over to and developing my routine for dealing with my clients. Each client is different, but there are certain things that are done every single month for each client. So we just kind of standardize those procedures and made our own book. And so I kind of like, that's why I liked the pure bookkeeping thing cause it's, everything's the same, your approach to it anyway.

MP: 04:53 Yeah. So you, you, you're a lover of systems and, and, and that comes a lot from the uUS air force. I'm really curious your perspective on business in general. The clients that you have when you come from this highly system-oriented mindset, which, you know, talk a little bit about how that's helped you in your business and, and, and what you see in your client's businesses that, you know, there's a, there's probably a gap, I would imagine.

VL: 05:21 Yes. I mean, when we see most of the time, not all the time, but most of the time we see some people in trouble with their business complete chaos. They come in and they'll have a big projects worth of backup work to do. And it's clear that they have no systems in their business as far as their financial skill. And, and that happens a lot when people go into business, they think, oh, well I can handle, you know, reconciling the checkbook and paying the bills. But when they're doing their business, I mean, their gifts are not an accounting and that, you know, they don't know what they don't know. So when we see them, they're at full tilt jungle madness. And so we find that it's better to give them this process and get them on a regimented process of every routine. And, uh, and catch them up.

VL: 06:23 And, and that way they, they can look at financials every month and then once they get out of the chaos, they can actually see the importance and the information that those financial statements will give them. Now, not everybody wants to get, they say they want the process, but not everybody wants to really buy into the process. So that's where we've kind of had to decide if we can't get you on process, then maybe you know, we're not the best fit for you, you know? So I agree with the concept that, you know, it has to be a good fit on both sides. They kind of have to buy into our philosophy and you know, we kind of meet them where they are and then bring them into a monthly routine that it will benefit them. So some more meeting in the middle.

MP: 07:16 Yeah, I mean it speaks to a couple of things. I think you're, you're setting a standard for the type of client that is going to work great with you and get the most value from working with you. But as well that you're going to get the most value and, and your, you have a way of thinking and a way of doing something that if you don't do it that way, well you're kind of working at yourself. Right. And I think it's a powerful place to be, to have gone and done that thinking and, and to know. And yet you have this opportunity to really help businesses and business owners with this systems mindset to help them improve, get away from the chaos. Now like you say, some people aren't interested in that. I'm curious how that, those conversations have gone. I'm curious on two angles. One, have they gone, what has happened when those conversations have gone really well and someone who's not system driven or system thinking have, have moved to your way of thinking and, and the, and the alternative way where they don't, they don't actually take it up or it's a struggle.

VL: 08:19 Well, I mean it took me a long time to get to where I could. I mean, cause you know, when you're first starting out and you're a one man show, like I was and I was, you know, raising kids and, and just trying to, um, build a little business that turned into something completely different than what I thought it would. But at first, you know, a lot of people just take whoever they can get. But after I grown, I really felt like, and especially when I hired a full-time staff accountant, I mean in the theme of growth, you know, we had to, and my business had to come first. I had asked myself, well, what do I want and what I want my staff accountant to have to put up with, you know, I wouldn't ask her to, to do some of the things that I had done in the, in the, in the past to keep the client happy.

VL: 09:13 So, um, but that was such a healthy thing for me to do was to really say, hey, you know, I've got to have some standards and values and here's the ideal client for us. So those conversations, sometimes they go, well, sometimes not so well, but each time that we've had them, and I mean we try to be as gracious as possible and you know, hopefully be able to recommend someone else to work with them. Not always the case, but um, it's a matter of, you know, we're intentional and we want to be the best fit and we want a client that's gonna be the best fit for us. So if there not receptive, then we just say, you know, it's not a good fit and, and I have to Kinda go find someone else. But it's, it's been empowering though. Cause and even then when I find, when we honor ourselves with those, with those boundaries, three people show up afterward that buy into our philosophy completely.

MP: 10:31 I'm not crazy how that works. I made it, it's like you do something that's totally unrelated but in a way related and yet it opens up, there's like an energy that gets released or something happens. But often, and I think listener would, would likely look for, if it were listening, was to look right. There'd be times in life where it's like, you know, you make a big decision and all of a sudden it opens doors.

VL: 10:55 Yes. Whose heart, it's hard to have those conversations and sometimes, you know, it's, I mean it's never easy, but I will say this, I, I've been at this long enough that I kind of can feel in my gut at this point if, you know, there are certain behaviors that happen. If there's boundaries being crossed from the beginning, then you know it's not a good fit. And so to be honest, I mean now I recognize if I'm saying yes when I really mean no, I have to reevaluate that you can't, you can't concede your boundaries. And I think, I think accountants and bookkeepers in general really have, we all have issues with that. I'm not sure if it's a perfectionist thing or a value thing, but we don't charge enough or we go the extra mile for clients because of the detail of the work that we do.

VL: 11:56 I say it's an intimate relationship that we have with our clients because it really is, and sometimes it's, it's discounted by the client. I think Michael Gerber described that as the bookkeeper or the accountant being invisible until something goes wrong. But those conversations are definitely something that I still have anxiety having them, but in the end of the day, when you honor what you feel is best for your business, good things will happen and that has happened every single time. Once you know, we've had that hard conversation and we've honored our principles and our values and the kind of client that we want and once we just say that it's not a good fit, then we get to three people that are a good fit.

MP: 12:46 Okay. It's, yeah, I think it's a great opportunity for anyone that's listening right now. If you haven't written out your values, what you stand for, this is a great opportunity to do it and the new things will open up as a result and don't make it a difficult thing. It's just simply write down what is it that you wish to have in your life and what you know, what does that look like? What does it sound like? What's that perfect client or ideal client look like? In terms of their character and their values and, and, and so what's one that's big for you with, as an example that I may be a few of our listeners can borrow from you? Uh, what's one of the values, like you say, you know, this is the type of person that I want to work with, their characteristic, if you will.

VL: 13:33 Well, I mean we value like authenticity and integrity because that's sort of what we put out in this office. And I think, I mean, we desire for them to be successful. So I think we convey that this in a relationship that we have with them is as really symbiotic. You know, their success is also tied to ours. So I feel like we want people that will see us as a part of their business. And because we are, I mean, we're very involved in helping, you know, those financials, we'll help them make really good decisions and we convey that by, you know, we've worked into our monthly packages, depending on what level they are, they get either a monthly or quarterly meeting. They have that opportunity to come in. So I guess I really feel like that's a lot of intention and proactivity. That's what we want and that's what we strive to do ourselves, is to be very intentional, very proactive. So those are the kinds of clients that I find that are the best fit.

MP: 14:41 I love that. Thank you for sharing that. That you know, that that's the type of clarity that I'm sure those conversations when you're talking people who are prospective to working with you or current clients that are working with you, this is, this is some of the language that you're using and you're going to come across as a person that wants to be a partner in their organization and be a part of it and help them, help them grow their business. I mean, and that, that's essentially what they're buying. I mean, when you get to the real sores, it's, you know, it's not the bookkeeping they want or the accounting that they want. They want to be successful. They want to have peace of mind. They want to feel like someone else has their back. Uh, so I love that and I think it likely will show up in your website and your language and if you're not clear about those things and there's no way that it can show up.

MP: 15:32 So it does take a little bit of thinking and time put into the business, which has a question come up for you is, we've talked a lot about e-myth bookkeeper and one of the concepts in the world of EMF and for the listener, we talk a lot about the EMF, but if you're not familiar with that it Michael Gerber's EMF, the myth, bookkeepers, a great book for you to pick up and read. But this concept of working on your business versus in your business. So how did you find the time to work on your business when you were getting started?

VL: 16:05 Well, in 2014 I moved my business out of my house, out of my Home Office and into kind of a cohabitation, me and a friend of mine from BNI and she was also in a profit club group with me. We went in together on office space and then another BNI friend of ours came to us, had a bunch of books and we kind of picked one and we started a little accountability group and we picked the, the email to start with. And so twice a month we would get together and go through that workbook and keep each other accountable. And one of the things that I took away from that, which I just, I absolutely loved that book and it spoke so much to me. I saw a lot of myself and Sara that being intentional, writing things down or saying things out loud, there's so much power in that.

VL: 17:07 So I wanted to make sure that I had a vision cause I don't think I'd had one really before then. You know, you just, we were just working and getting five. But I really had a passion for small business and I wanted to channel that and I wanted to make sure that I was building a business that was going to convey the things that I wanted for other small businesses and project that out there. So it started with my staff accountant said, you realize every time you give a talk that you talk about bottomline, peace of mind. I said, I did not realize that. She said you say it all the time. So yeah, we looked at the different websites available, you know, the domain names and stuff. And so I came up with bottom line accounting and then I have a lucky bamboo on my desk. So the bamboo and our logo stands for health, wealth and longevity because that's what we want for our clients and ourselves. Um, I picked the colors of the logo specifically. The blue is dependability and trust and stability. And then a green is also growth in wealth and health. So I was very intentional when I rebranded. There's a lot of intention behind that or Hashtag is bottom line piece of mind.

VL: 18:33 So I mean we've really, and we have bamboo all over this office. So I feel like there's so much power and I am so indebted to my accountability partners, Cheryl and Tommy for that period of time that we spent reading books and keeping each other accountable and how we're going to change and grow our businesses and all of us have done that. It's been really, really amazing.

MP: 19:07 I love that. Thank you for sharing that. There's a lot of messages in there and a lot of inspiration. Really any one of us can do anything that we want to in our life and it, and it really, the key to getting there is you gotta be clear about what is that anything look like and yeah, you got really clear about what you wanted to create in your business and what you wanted it to be about and who you wanted to serve and how you wanted to serve them and that so inspiring to see that now that's leading lots of decisions in your business and I'm excited for your current and future clients because like bottom line, peace of mind. That's it. That's what's on tap over here folks, and look, you deliver that. That's, that goes, I mean it sends ripples into the business that businesses that you work with work with and into their, into the lives of the people that work in those businesses. And I mean we could talk about the, the ripple effect that that goes out. I mean your, your, your making such a big difference in your community in a small way that leads to such a big, big way. And it started with you and that in that group.

VL: 20:19 Yes.

MP: 20:20 Yeah. And I'm, I'm so grateful and, and I think all of us just started with that, that point that, I mean when you sit down and think about how you put yourself out in the world and what you, it's not really even about like money. It's about like what do I want to give, what do I want this business to be? Cause when you give, I think you're saying to the universe, I have enough. But then in response to that, you know, abundance comes in different ways, whether it's meeting people or money or you know, Opportunity that you really probably wouldn't have had otherwise. You know, it all kind of goes together and what you ask for you get. So that's why you have to be very intentional about what you want and also be careful of how you say things. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. I'm just making it more of something you don't want. If you talk about what you don't want all the time.

MP: 21:22 I have a very, I won't name this person because you know, he's very good friend, mentor, uh, all sorts of stuff, but said that the first five years of life with, with new children is like living through a meat grinder. And, and I often, because I have young children, I often think about, you know, I tell people yeah, first five years of like a meat grinder and it's like, you know what's probably not a good way for me to be expressing the way that it is? Because guess what, it, it sometimes occurs as though it is like living through a meat grinder and, and yet who's creating that? Right. It's just, it's what I've said. It's what I've created through this conversation. Started as a joke, but literally the words that we use matter they do. And so getting clear, being clear about what we want, love it.

MP: 22:14 And also watching our language and uh, and how we're asking for things to happen in our life. This is what, this is what shows up now have some other questions for you. You know, a lot actually. Um, but I probably won't be Alaska Ball, but this, this one, you know, just sort of popped into my head as we were talking because we're talking about, hey, you're creating your business. You know, there's this, this can do attitude and you know, there, there are people out there now and I've met them and worked with them where it's like, you know what, they, it's not working for them. They're not able to. It's like, why can you have things working while others are not? So when we talk about, you know, you're starting your business, getting clients, how did you get your clients?

VL: 22:57 Okay, truly it was really just word of mouth, referral, every bit of it.

MP: 23:03 So how, tell, tell share, how did that, like did you all of a sudden just some people started calling you out of the blue?

VL: 23:12 Like how I want to, someone that we knew, they worked in an accounting office or a tax office, I believe it was. And they had somebody who'd done some bookkeeping first and people and that, and they moved away and they still had those clients. They were kind, they were associated with the tax office, but they really can service them anymore. So they asked if I was doing the books for my husband's chimney cleaning business and they asked if I'd be interested in taking, you know, these, these five clients on. How did they know you? She was a, a fire department wife. She, her husband worked with my husband.

MP: 23:50 Got It. So the is the people. So we in, in, uh, in, in The Successful Bookkeeper of resources, we have this little complimentary training program, right? And the first one is the seven by five, seven strategies to grow your, your bookkeeping business. And the first one is people, you know, right. So the first clients that you're going to get are from the people that you know are in your network, but they have to know who you are and know that now know something about, you know, like that there's like those, they have to know that you're good at it. They have to know a bunch of stuff. So how did you get that out into the world while that was a, that's a direct, you know combine a direct path, right? It's like they know who you are. They know that there was a business they and they knew that you were doing these books. How, how else did you find business?

VL: 24:41 Well, I think that for the longest time I got referrals from other clients, from the clients that I had. And then, of course, my husband, we sold the chimney cleaning business five years after we started it and he became a real estate agent. So, I mean I think just getting to know people in the community street port Bosure we're where we live and I'm not sure this is still a true statistic, but two years ago it was the number one place in the United States to be an entrepreneur. So there's a lot of small business here, so it's just sort of getting out and getting to know people. The game changer for me though, what took me to the next level was joining a networking group.

MP: 25:28 You mentioned BNI. That was one of my questions actually. So it's one of the, one of the strategies is, is networking. Tell us about that journey.

VL: 25:37 Well, I joined a small networking group. It wasn't BNI but it was still pretty powerful and it was the same premise, but it didn't have the structure that being, I did and I like structure. We had a business coach that came to our networking group and he and I kind of hit it off and he invited me to visit his BNI group and I loved it. I just felt at home with the structure of it. And you know, the whole givers gain philosophy. That's sort of my life philosophy. You know, if you give, you know, then you will, you know, receive good things when you give with a joyful heart. So I love that. And so I ended up switching and I also did a couple of classes with this business coach. She had a group class called profit club that we did. So just getting to know people in the business community was extremely helpful for me and has frilly.

VL: 26:43 Like I said, it was a game-changer. Plus, I mean I didn't get a ton of referrals, you know, when I first started doing the networking. But I found that it made me accountable to my business, you know, standing up thinking about what I was gonna say and how, what I was going to mark it. And it kind of helps form the direction of things, how you want to go. And like again, we get back to the power of what you ask for or you see you're standing up and asking for certain kinds of referrals every week. And the first couple of months that my staff accountant ray and she and my husband are in the same BNI group and she got up and was so excited and I was like, we help people in chaos. Well you know what, we got a lot of chaos.

VL: 27:35 So we plan, we actually talk about our 60 seconds with each other and talk about the things that, that we, that we want. I mean the chaos, the chaos stuff was a very big learning experience. You know, like it's really be careful what you asked for, but it's also a lot of power and being able to market yourself. A lot of people go into BNI and they, they can't, they're very nervous, they don't want to talk in public. And I've seen people be able to like transform how they present themselves through getting up every week, doing a 60 seconds.

MP: 28:15 It's changed a lot of lives. I've got to say, you know, I've spoken to hundreds of bookkeepers and many of them I've come across will say B and i's one of those experiences that changed your life, you know, got them into speaking. Got Them added to their confidence and it really shaped like you have said, to shape the direction of their business. It's a fantastic organization. It's definitely a winner if you find the right group and you invest the time and energy and cost and all that good stuff, but it's a long-run game that will really help your business. Yes. So thank you for sharing that. Now you have talked a little bit with me about pricing and the challenges that you faced pricing your business. Can you share a little bit about that?

VL: 29:02 Okay. Well in accounting we kind of, there's a two tiered thing going on. Number one that you get with the call on the client side if, especially if they are in chaos and they're coming in with a year's worth of bookkeeping or three, you know, and I mean you want to see them get how there's, I always get torn with wanting to see them get healthy and less like, let's get all that done and get them caught up, but we have to charge for our time. And, um, so that kind of his projects have been, well I think everyone makes mistakes when they priced the projects. Now we get a retainer up front for a certain amount of hours. You know, until we get more, when we finish that if we, when we get the other retainer we'll, we'll start working cause you know, we want to dive in and get them all caught up.

VL: 29:49 And so that it does become a big issue for people. And I know plenty of accountants that have taken losses on big projects like that. You know, so the monthly packages, what we strive to get them to, we kind of just did like a startup package and then a next step package, which should you call the essential package and then the growth package and then the profitable package. And I mean we make it customizable to the client. I have been all over the Internet looking for like a formula for value pricing. And you know, sometimes it's hard to get clients to see the value in what you do is they're not lucky their financial statements. So, I mean it, it really, we have to stress to the client that this is what you're getting. You know, they look at, it's a bunch of paper and it's not like a thing that they can do anything with.

VL: 30:48 They're paying for our time and expertise. So I think there's two, the two tier thing that has to go on is you have to have the confidence in yourself and your abilities and experiences and accountant or bookkeeper and make sure that the IR charging a price that's reflective of your experience in and the time. But I do think that, you know, people do better with monthly packages cause it's like a bill. They can budget for it. So that's sort of where we strive with the packages. We want them to be able to budget for the tasks that need to, that are going to be taken over by us. And then we also want to build in a little meeting time in there because the financial statements are going to do them any good if they're not looking at them. Growth won't happen if they aren't aware of where the money's going, how much they're bringing in, what's more bang for their buck, you know, what services can these streamlined some services, what's, what is costing them money versus what is making them money. Because really it is all about the bottom line. So we want them to look at the financials.

MP: 32:02 Yeah. And you, you've mentioned to me about you have a process that determines whether a client is looking at the reports that you're putting together.

VL: 32:12 Yes. If our clients that schedule regular quarterly, monthly meetings that's available in their package, they schedule those meetings. We know they're looking because if they're not, you know, those clients, they'll want to come in when there's an emergency for them. Right. I something doesn't look right and I'm trying to get this loan. Oh, okay. Cause it's important for us to make sure we have that feedback. And I feel sometimes we have to really push for them because we need their feedback. It's a collaborative relationship whether they're working in QuickBooks online with us or whether we have them on desktop and, but it is a very collaborative thing and those financial statements, you know it's kind of like us holding up a mirror to them cause they reflect everything that's going on in the business.

MP: 33:11 It's fantastic. I love it. You know, I'm sure we could have a very long conversation and I, I know we're going to have you back to, to ask cause I have more questions as we're talking. More questions come up but this has been fantastic. I would love for you to share if there's our, our listener wants to learn more about you or connect with you, what's the best way that they can do that?

VL: 33:35 They can certainly look me up on leads in and on Facebook. We have bottom-line accounting pros page on Facebook but we also have a website and that bottom line, pros.net and then anyone can email me at like he was an I v I C K I at bottom line, pros.net.

MP: 33:55 Excellent. That's wonderful. Vicky, on behalf of all of our listeners, I want to thank you so much for generously giving us your wisdom and learnings and some really, really great ideas for growing and being successful in their bookkeeping businesses. This has been great.

VL: 34:15 Oh, thank you, Michael. I was really honored to be on.

MP: 34:18 Beautiful, and with that, we wrap another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guest and get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com. Until next time, goodbye.