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Are you struggling when it comes to recruiting or maintaining a terrific team?

You're not alone.

Pure Bookkeeping co-founder, Debbie Roberts has been there.

Over her 30 plus year bookkeeping career, she realized there were many moving parts when assembling her rockstar squad of great, talented and loyal bookkeeping staff.

She learned from her mistakes and is now passing on those words of wisdom to you.

During this fascinating interview, you'll learn...

  • How to engage your employees in your vision and mission

  • How to build loyalty with your staff

  • How to create systems that give great job satisfaction for your team

To find out more about Debbie, visit https://purebookkeeping.com/the-book-offer/.


Michael Palmer: 00:56 Hello and welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and again we have Debbie Roberts back with us. Debbie Roberts is the co-founder of pure bookkeeping. She is the co-author of the hugely successful book e-Myth bookkeeper, co-written with her business partner and business coach, Peter Cook, and as well the phenomenal Michael e Gerber, who was written e-myth originally over 25 years ago. And that book Debbie has sold, I think it's 5 million copies. So it's such a pleasure to have you back on the podcast. 

Debbie Roberts: 01:37 Thank you, Michael. I'm very excited to be here. 

MP: 01:39 Yes, indeed. And today, uh, we've decided to talk about employee or staff or contractor loyalty. This whole concept of having the people that start working with you stick around and do great work and, and be a part of the business that they add value and get value. Yes. So where should we start with this, Debbie? 

DR: 02:05 Well, I think one of the questions that I'm often asked by bookkeepers is, why would anyone want to work for me? Why wouldn't they all just be out there working for themselves? And there's a fairly simple answer to that really. And that is that not everyone wants to have their own business. They don't want to go out and find pawns, don't want to do any marketing. They don't want to do any sales. They don't want to invoice people and have and chase money. They want to be able to take some time off every now and again and not have to worry about it. That there are people that just want to basically come and work for you and go home and not have to think about it after that. So it's working for yourself as you well know is not for everyone. And you're looking for the book, the great bookkeepers who are good at what they do, but simply don't want to work on themselves, don't want to have that level of responsibility. 

MP: 03:03 Yeah, and, and it's, it's an interesting question as well because there's a little bit of curse of knowledge in there and the curse of knowledge is that we think that everybody knows and thinks like we do, but they don't. And so a person who even considers having their own business, they're thinking about such a different thought wave than most people. And it's, it's actually a minority. Uh, if you think of the population, it's such a minority of the people that would actually go in and take all the risk and run a business for themselves. There's this huge risk of running your own business. I mean, there's a, when you're working for yourself, there are no sick days. There are no benefits, there's no one to turn to and say, you know, what do I do now? I mean, it takes a unique individual to want to actually be in business for themselves. 

MP: 04:03 And I think Michael Gerber and his book calls it the entrepreneurial seizure that, you know, you're in a job in one day, you wake up going, I want to own my own business. So if you're in business for yourself, you're listening, you're in business for yourself, you've got to get that you're the minority. And that there's a lot of people out there that just want to work with other people in, in an, in an environment that they feel valued, where they feel like they're contributing and making a different difference and being supported and, and have a future, right? 

DR: 04:33 MMM. Yes, absolutely. One of thinking about building loyalty, some parts of that are difficult to define. Some parts of that are around to support creating a supportive environment, having them feel like they're being loved and cared. But I think the best place to start when you talk about how do I build loyalty in my team is to engage them in your vision and your mission and I think that that's really important and something that is often overlooked. One of the things that I always did with all my employees or contractors, whichever they were before they started working for me was I had an induction couple of hour size spent two hours with each person individually explaining what my vision was, what my mission statement is, what the core values are of the business, engaging them in the purpose of what we're doing. There's been a lot of research done by lots of other people about people want to feel part of something bigger than themselves, like what they are doing actually is really important and I am making a difference. 

DR: 05:50 And often when you think about okay things and people don't say, oh look, it's just bookkeeping. It's just number crunching. It's, it's not at all that bookkeeping is the tool that we use, the vehicle that we use, but it's about empowering clients. It's about what you do with that information. That is what is really what our mission is to empower clients around their finances. And when on the very first day that those staff members start working for you, you spend two hours or an hour or two hours with them. Sitting down and gauging them in your vision and mission I think is so important to set the foundations right, to start to build loyalty. 

MP: 06:29 Hmm. Absolutely. I like that Debbie, and share a little bit about, you know when you were in your own organization and your company, your vision that you had for your company and for what you shared with your staff. I think that's valuable too, to hear that. 

DR: 06:47 Yeah. My vision was to create a business that was independent of me that empowered our bookkeepers to work autonomously and pairing clients around their finances so that we could all fry. It was all about thriving and engaging. Uh, the bookkeepers in that vision, it was a very powerful thing. 

MP: 07:15 Yeah. I can see how that would be because you know, it starts the foundation of why you're there. You're there for, for the staff, uh, to, to make a meaningful place for them to work. But as well, the meaning is, and the purpose is to help businesses be more successful. And you know, I talk about that a lot around my own purpose and, and beliefs around small businesses that I believe that small businesses, it's the lifeblood of thriving communities. Without small businesses, we wouldn't have the job creation, we wouldn't have the innovation happening. That's really what builds a great community, is thriving small businesses. And so, you know, your business was all about making that happen. So you know, you're creating and bringing to light the real purpose, which is inspiring for people. It's like, you know, you're not just coming to do some work and shuffle some papers around. You're here to change lives because that's really what happens when you help those businesses be more empowered around their finances. They did better and then they could hire more people and they could give bonuses, they could pay more. And so that made a massive impact on those families that, that belong to, to the people who worked with those companies. That's the rare depth that you don't hear people thinking about that and talking about that in their businesses. And I think it gets overlooked and it's a missed opportunity for everyone. 

DR: 08:41 And it was certainly something that I, I had no concept of when I first started my business, I did, I was a bookkeeper. That's what I did. It was only when I started working with Peter Peter and he helped me realize what my value was and what I was really doing. How was Matt and it was all about how it made the client feel and not only made a difference to my purpose and, and, and got me excited in the morning. But as I said, it did engage my team, but also I had a, it gave me much more clarity about what my value proposition is, what I'm really on the back with. You can imagine when I go visit a prospect and I want to tell them about my business and what I do. The first thing I start off with apart from when I find out what their problems are, which is always the spend time doing that, but they not talk about, well, here's my vision and this is my mission and this is what we're going to do for you and this is how we're going to do it. 

DR: 09:45 That engages the prospect. I get excited about it because they realize that they finally found someone that actually values what they're trying to do and is really interested in their wellbeing and how they're going to now sleep at night because they don't have to worry about the finances. It's a huge thing that we as bookkeepers typically take for granted. We don't put any value on it and that in itself stops us from understanding what our true value is and therefore that then flows on to us. We don't charge enough because we don't understand that this is actually what we're doing for clients, not just 

DR: 10:25 number country. Yeah, it's fantastic. 

MP: 10:36 There's a couple of things around purpose that people, I hear people say, you know, I'm trying to find my purpose or you know, I don't know what my purpose is and purpose is invented and there's a, there's a great book out there right now called Grit, the power of passion and perseverance by Angela Duckworth. And what she talks about purpose as she said, the purpose is simply the intention to make a difference for others. And the purpose is super powerful, right? When you have a purpose, people get, you know, that's the source of peoples and when they get into a flow state and their happiness. So you had it from Peter Working with Peter, he had helped you discover and invent for yourself, your purpose inside your business. And then you shared that with your organization and which gave them purpose, which it's not surprising that you had, let's just talk about some of the incredible numb numbers of years that people worked with you dab. So share, share a little bit about that, that you had people working with you for a long time. 

DR: 11:39 Yes. One of my earliest bookkeepers was with me, tried to work it out now, but it was almost at the start. It was probably within a year, so she was with me for about 12 years. Wow. Um, and I actually had three bookkeepers that were with me between nine and 12 years. And until I saw my business, I stayed and went with the new owner as well. So, and many others stayed for four or five years, several other states for that amount of time, particularly once I'd worked at how to build the local d. I mean that all of that doesn't happen just overnight, obviously with the creation, which we spoke about in a, in a previous podcast about the HR system and recruiting the right person and doing all of that. That's, that was all part of me getting everything right so that I was able to be in a position to realize what my value proposition was, how to engage them, the bookkeepers and maintain loyalty, build loyalty over time. 

MP: 12:43 Hmm. Fantastic. You know, I remember seeing a documentary I believe and it was uh, it was talking about how in terms of job satisfaction, the highest job satisfaction or jobs out there that has the highest job site satisfaction are people who do demolition work. And so it was interesting as like, well demolition work. It's like why? Why is it that people who go and take down these buildings, why is it that they have the most satisfaction out? You know, people when, when I share this with people and talk about it, they want while they get to crush buildings and you know, you know, it's like fun to do. But what they found out, because it was a psychological study that they were doing is what they found out is that demolition has a very specific outcome. You go, there's a building standing and their job is very clear. 

MP: 13:41 Their job is to go and take that building down in the best possible way, the safest possible way, in the most efficient way. And they know when that job has been done to the t like it's, it's an, it's like clear as day when the job is done, the building's no longer there, the site's prepped and ready to go for whatever else is going to be coming. So this whole concept of knowing exactly what it is that you are a meant to be doing exactly. Knowing how to do it and knowing when you've done a good job of it are the components of job satisfaction, which I think, you know, and we've talked a little bit about it in the past on a past episode with you, is that, you know, that was part of what you, you had the, you had the purpose created, people believed in your purpose and it was a fantastic purpose. But then as well, like you really, you hired people and you really made it clear through the systems and things that you developed. You made it clear this is exactly what we want you to do. And the system's provided the framework and guidance to know exactly how they had to do it. And then exactly. They would know when they had done a good job of it. 

DR: 14:49 Yeah, exactly. Yeah, a really important point, Michael. Constructs that strongly enough that the number of people that I've spoken to who have worked for other bookkeeping companies and now they, they become a licensee and themselves and they would say, when I worked for that person, you'd walk into the office. Um, the business owner was screaming at everyone. Everyone was wandering around, not really without any purpose. They didn't know what they were supposed to be doing. There was no system. She had all this stuff in her head and she was trying, she was under so much stress. She was trying to supervise two or three staff and tell them all this information because she hadn't documented any of her systems and processes. And it was extremely frustrating for her. And she was, the people didn't start with who wants to be in that environment. You don't want to be in something like that. 

DR: 15:43 That is very stressful. Um, and okay, even in a, in a system systematized environment, I'm not suggesting that there's no more stress. Everyone has different levels of stress. And, and there are deadlines and things that you have to work through. But when you know what the system is and you methodically work through the process and you know that because of this document, I now know that this, this balances and I'd feel great about myself. And you know, that's when it all starts to come together. So it is absolutely critical that the systems are sufficient enough to have your staff feel confident about what they're doing and sure about what the end result is. 

MP: 16:26 Absolutely. 

DR: 16:33 I think, you know, one of the criticisms that people make of systems is that, oh, you know, there's no opportunity for creativity. What would you say to that? Oh, there's plenty of opportunity to creativity. What do you want to system at times are what I consider to be the non negotiables, the basic things that you want the bookkeepers to follow this process and to make sure that all the compliance to think is a right essentially. But outside of the actual bookkeeping, there's so many. There's engaging with the client and problem-solving in so many other areas and even giving feedback with some of the systems that you've created. You definitely, it doesn't stop creativity. You want to encourage that. That's, that's the other thing that creates loyalty is that it's an open-door policy and we welcome feedback. This is the system that I've got. 

DR: 17:28 This is the system I created, but hey, if it's not working for you or if you've got a question about it, please come to me. I welcome the feedback because it's only going to improve the system. If you get very defensive about your system and say, no, this is the way it's got to pay and you're not going to listen to anyone else's feedback, then people aren't going to want to stay with you because they do want to be creative. They do want to contribute to the systems that you've created. They want your business to improve. They want your business to be profitable because they working for you. If your business is profitable, bell staying at work, you'll give them a pay rise. It all goes. What goes around comes around. Do they want to contribute to that? 

MP: 18:11 Absolutely. I love that. I can add much more to that. I mean that's a, it's really creating the foundation for where the things that shouldn't need to be thought through are, are laid out and they're done consistently and it brings efficiencies, which then gives everybody the opportunity to work on the things that really matter most and, and you know, you can think more creatively about the people that you're working with and the businesses that you're working with. That really is the value of building a good system and it's not, it's not like it's, it's static, it's dynamic, it's always being approved upon. It's always in development because the world changes. There's nothing that you know, it's always going to be something new that's going to be coming out of business and the system has to be dynamic to change with that and evolve. 

DR: 19:01 Absolutely. Especially these days with the advancements of technology and all the online add-ons and software programs that's available now, there's just more potential for adding value to the clients because you can move into that space where you're advising them about the add ons and what other reports they can get and how they can streamline and create efficiencies as you mentioned before. 

MP: 19:28 Yeah. So what else do we need to cover in terms of loyalty? I mean you've, you've got, you've had some great successes with it and it's worked for you. What, what are some of your other thoughts around what makes this work for you? 

DR: 19:42 I think this amount of critical things, actions I think, and when you look at your client base, if you are about to recruit or even if you have staff and begin, if you've got some clients who are not, um, ideal for you and I, when I'm talking about an ideal client, I mean, you, they refuse to follow your systems. They're always like tying by never have the work ready for you when, uh, when you expected, when you've arranged and essentially by done value the work that you're doing or they've done even probably value you that much. If you, uh, thinking of recruiting and you had got clients like that, it's one thing, uh, that you tolerate that to be treated like that, but you need to be thinking about putting someone else in with those clients and would you expect them to treat, be treated like that? 

DR: 20:37 Because remember with employees or, or contractors, they are coming and expecting to do a job. They trust you that you've got all the systems in place, you are going to assign them to a client and I will go ahead and do that job and empower that client around their finances. If that client is just constant pain, then you need to think about that before you start to recruit, start the recruitment process. What do I need to do with my current list of clients who are the ones that are causing me grief, um, that I really need to either get in line or get rid of because it's just going to create a world of pain for you? You won't build loyalty. You can imagine if you arranged, and it's certainly happened to me in the early days. I had pumped in a client and this happened often to go onsite at a particular time and I would turn up to the client's premises daylighted or two days later and they'd actually forgotten that I would use turning up in the place was locked and they wanted anyway. 

DR: 21:39 And I had to, that was an hour return trip for half an hour there and a half now bag. Oh, my wasted time. And that was frustrating in itself. But what do you do when you've got a staff member and do you pay them for that time? Or if it's a contractor, they're not going to be particularly loyal to you if they can't trust you. It's all about trust. And if you were, if you've got these clients who don't value you and don't follow the systems and don't turn up or the lighting getting you the information, then you need to get your house in order before you start recruiting because you don't want to give those clients could be a concept going to change just because they've got a new bookkeeper. They're just going to keep doing the same thing and then you've got an unhappy bookkeeper and an unhappy client. 

DR: 22:25 So it, that's not going to build loyalty. So I think that's the first thing is look at what your client estates and think about those clients that are valuing your service and doing everything that you the way you want and you're happy. Basically, you feel good about your clients, those that you don't feel good about. Really look deeply into those and think about, can I actually retrain this point? What conversation do I need to have with them around that, around what they're doing and how that's impacting on you all. Really, lots of people get up in a change. So maybe just suggest that they find another bookkeeper who can better serve their needs. 

MP: 23:14 You know, that's, it's really, um, respect, um, is what comes up for me when you're, when you were speaking, it's, it's respecting your, your staff and respecting yourself and, and making sure that the, your clients show that respect as well. And if they're not going to, I mean, don't put that onto you, your staff that's, that's coming and work with you. You've got to, to get rid of that client because they're disrespecting you and your company. And if you show that that's leadership, if you show that, you know, people will see that, they'll notice that and respect you for doing it. 

DR: 23:52 Yes. And that, that feels lone to they, they, they look at your staff will look up to you. You do need to be in, you mentioned leadership. It is, it's a, um, and new skill, but you will need to, or new muscle if you like, that you'll need to strengthen. When you start recruiting, it's having leadership and making, sometimes talk to decisions, not just for your benefit, but now you've got a, you've got a tribe, you've got to a little community of people that are working for you and you want to protect that community. And I had several clients who would not do the right thing by us. And that's the other elements of this. And the next space is that when you've got your clients or sorted and you're happy with that and you put them, you assign a client to a bookkeeper, theirs may still come, um, situations where the client isn't happy for whatever reason, it may actually have nothing to do with the bookkeeper, but sometimes, and it's happened in my case and I hear, hear this anecdotally often that the client speaks disrespectfully to one of my staff and that's not okay. 

DR: 25:02 I'm doing this. When, when it comes to that, that is not negotiable. Um, regardless of the situation, it's you said, Marco, it's all about respect. If you've got a problem and let's talk about it, let's not be rude and disrespectful. So that's, that's a non-negotiable. And building loyalty. What I did it, when it happened in with my team is that I, I got on the phone to the client and said, what's going on? That was inappropriate the way you spoke to my bookkeeper. She's very upset about it. What actually happened and let's work it out. And if it, if they, if they were just being nasty and didn't get that they need to be respectful, I would second in fact, um, this big kind sanction issue for me. But I emailed engagement late on my engagement letter when I first started bookkeeping was just two pages. 

DR: 26:01 It was basically a relationship agreement. And in that, I had listed down all the things that bothered me about what clients did that either made it difficult for me to do my job. I wasn't able to feel on my mission for them cause my mission was empowering business owners around the finances and they did stuff to make to stop me from doing that. Like not getting me the paperwork on time, not answering my emails or questions, things like that. I'm sure the listeners, there'll be lots of people nodding their heads here. This became so important in my end guide light up, I had three pages that were like gold for me. These were the, I didn't care really all there were other things about the scope of work and terms and things like that. But these two things, pages had about a dozen points each. And on one page was my promise to the client. 

DR: 26:59 And I would say things like, um, you'll, I'll return your calls within 24 hours. I will treat your clients, your suppliers, your staff with respect at all times. Uh, we will follow the compliance obligations and get everything launched on time, those types of things. And the other side was the client's commitment to us. And the very first point I made was that you will treat my bookkeepers, uh, with respect at all times. And I actually made that as a point and then had a number of the things you will follow, the systems that are, I've set up to bother me that the petty work of a great time. You'll make sure there's your, they're in the office at the time, the grade you provide a printer and a computer cause I turn up to the office and the printer wasn't working or the computer wasn't working and there were another two hours wasted. 

DR: 27:52 So there were all these things that bothered me that I wanted to make sure that the clients understood in the first moment that I was signing them up. That these are non negotiables. Hmm. And, and, and at the end of them, and I needed to sign that. So if I had a problem, I'd come back to this promise. If I let them down, I'd say, look, I'm sorry. I do apologize. I hope not to let you down. I didn't answer the call in 24 hours as I originally promised, but if they let me down and I wasn't able to get my work done or the bookkeeper's time was wasted, I would come back to this and say, you were great to this in the first meeting. Um, what, what has happened that's changed. That's what happened to cause this to go offline because we need to get it back on track. And it was so important for me that I made the agreement in the very first meeting and, and then I stood firm with that. And if something went wrong, I would defend my bookkeepers. I find out what the situation was and uh, I would just talk to the clients and say, this is actually how this, how it goes down and I would protect and defend my book. That's another thing that builds loyalty. 

MP: 29:04 Wow. Really, I can get a sense of the culture that you created in your, in your organization, Deb. One where they felt respected, where they felt like you had their back and a, and your crate created a great environment that had a purpose, uh, for them to, to live in the future that they could live in. So it's absolutely phenomenal. And I'm sure we could probably go on for a lot longer talking about this, but I think we're going to have to save it for another episode in the future and, and have you back, I'm just talking about, yeah. You know, there's, uh, there's some, you know, really interesting things around the mindset of being an owner and it's, you're not, you're an owner. And there's, with that comes a whole new level of, of requirements, uh, as an individual to, you know, this is what has to get created inside of your business. 

MP: 29:54 And I know you talk a lot about it in your book, The e-Myth Bookkeeper and you know, we really haven't done a lot of talking about that book in these, uh, the Times that we've had you on. But we will be for sure having you back to talk about e-myth bookkeeper and really how it unpacks, you know, your mindset and the things that you went through. And, and it's a fantastic book. So again, I, you know, I recommend anybody listening. That's an absolute must-read if you're wanting to build a successful bookkeeping business. It's the EMF bookkeeper and a DAB is, is a coauthor. But we'll have you back and we'll talk more about it. And I just really want to thank you for your, your time and graciously you've been giving it to us for this podcast, so much depth, so thank you. 

DR: 30:38 You're welcome Michael.

MP: 30: 45 Yeah, so thanks, everyone. Thank you to the listener for listening in. We'd love for you to give us some honest feedback on iTunes. Please go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com/reviews there's instructions on how you can leave us a review on iTunes and as well if you have questions and want us to address any kind of challenges or topics in future shows, go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com/questions and right there you can just record a question online there very easily and hopefully we'll be able to use it in one of our upcoming shows. Thank you again and until we catch you next time on another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper, we'll say goodbye. 

DR: 31:23 Thank you. Bye Bye. Bye.