EP18: Patricia Sawatzky - Break Out Of Your Comfort Zone To Have The Success You Deserve!

Are you afraid to take risks?

Many people are.

It's fear that paralyzes them from catapulting their businesses to higher levels of profitability.Patricia Sawatzky was like you.

She was scared to get out of her comfort zone.

An admitted introverted bookkeeper, who operates her business, TAP Bookkeeping, out of small town Campbell River, British Columbia, was hesitant about making any big leaps.

But once she recognized the value in taking a risk, her business and world would change forever.

Today, the clients are rolling in and now she's become an inspiration to bookkeepers across Canada.

During this interview, you'll learn...

  • The tools that can help you feel more at ease when making scary decisions about your business

  • Why it's important to take advantage of organizations like the IPBC to get you comfortable in social environments

  • Why professional growth only happens with personal growth

To find out more about Patricia and to download the resource mentioned in this episode, visit http://www.thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com/.

This episode was voted as one of the Top 10 Recommended Interviews to Inspire You to Build Systems into your Bookkeeping Business


Michael Palmer: 00:50 Welcome.

MP: 00:56 back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's guest is Patricia Sawatzky. She runs a bookkeeping firm in Campbell River, British Columbia. She was one of the very first members of pure bookkeeping in North America. She actually helped us translate the sage 50 bookkeeping business process manuals for Canada and as well. I consider her a good friend. Welcome to the podcast, Patricia.

Patricia Sawatzky: 01:30 Thank you so much, Michael. It is a pleasure to be here and to join you all today.

MP: 01:40 Yes, absolutely. And you know, Patricia, I wanted you on the show because you've, you know, I've known you for a long time, I've seen your business grow, you've got an incredible story of your Business Journey and I think a lot of our listeners can learn from your business journeys. I'm happy to have you on IQ. It has been quite a journey. 

PS: 01:51 Yeah. One that I never ever thought I would take. If you had asked me six years ago, I wouldn't have thought I would be on a Bookkeeping Business Journey, but here I am and being quite successful. Yes. And let's say that tees up the very first question I have, which you know, let's hear about the early days. How did you end up getting to be a person that was in business for yourself as a bookkeeper? Well, it actually happened quite by accident. I had worked in the bookkeeping industry for small and large size businesses, sometimes doing the full cycle, sometimes only doing accounts payable or payroll, those types of things. And I ended up in this small community and did some temporary work and finally got worked with a fellow that wanted a reception and a bookkeeper. And that involved being there from nine until three, five days a week. 

PS: 02:46 But once I got his three years of bookkeeping caught up, after the first nine months, I was bored and I started looking for other work and the business owner came to me and said, well, you're a really good bookkeeper, so why don't you just take on clients, you can do them here. And so I took that as an opportunity. So I started to put some feelers out and before I knew it, that business owner brought me, my first client. And after that, as I started to grow and learn, I found it very difficult to say no. And it's interesting because around that time I had been having some, some dental health issues and was told that I needed to come up with $45,000 for this dental work within the next 24 months that I had to have done. And I was amazed to see how as I took on clients and I built the business every time I had to go in and pay another dental bill for another procedure, and these are, you know, we're talking 10 and $12,000 at a shot. 

PS: 03:48 The money was there. So I may not have been taking on a wage, but it was paying for things that I desperately needed to have done. And it wasn't until I got really busy that I started to think that, what am I gonna do? I can't do this by myself. I was working six days a week, 16 hours a day. So then I thought about hiring somebody and I did. I hired a girl, but of course, I had no idea what I was getting into. That in itself is an interesting story because I met this Gal at our toastmaster's club and she had been taking an accounting course. She was Chinese, in China, and was here in Canada working towards finishing off her CGA. And it was the Easter weekend. I remembered it really clearly. It was Friday, Easter Friday, and I was so tired and burnt out and I had all this work to do and I phoned her and I said, would you be willing to come to work for me? 

PS: 04:54 She said, yes, when and I said, now this is good. Friday at 11 o'clock she said, yes, she wanted to work so bad. So she came and I didn't even realize that number one, I didn't know if she could read English. I didn't know her understanding of accounting or bookkeeping. I didn't know what she knew at all. And yet I hired her and it, it, it worked to a point because I used her very strongly, strictly for data entry and then I went in and checked it. But after a few months of that and then having to go in and realize that I was having to correct a lot of things, I let this individual go and that's where I really started to realize that if I wanted to do a business that was a very, very different model or where I was heading for the direction was totally different than where I had been. 

PS: 05:52 I was really fortunate because I went to the IPBC conference that year and I was searching for answers on how to build my business. And it was at that conference that I was first introduced to pure bookkeeping and I kept going back to their table and the trade show and looking at the manuals and I'd go up to my room at night and I would Google pure bookkeeping and where is it? Where's it coming from? How does it work? I would be back downstairs the next day asking questions. Somehow. Instinctively, I knew that this was going to give me the tools to build my business, to take me from being just a bookkeeper to being a business person and a leader in my field. So that's how I actually got to know about Pure Bookkeeping and the IPBC.

MP: 06:48 For our listeners around the world, the, Ah, it's the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. It's an amazing organization and Association for bookkeepers. And you know, I think every country has one or your local. You definitely want to look into belonging to two, one of those, because what I loved about your story, Patricia, is that you did this in a time in your business in life where it going, even going to that conference was an incredible investment of your time and of your money. 

PS: 07:21 Yes, it definitely was. I believe it was only the second IPBC conference that I had been to and I'm like most bookkeepers are somewhat of an introvert. I'm not really out there socially. So going to a conference was out of my comfort zone. But when I went to the first conference, I did manage to connect with some other bookkeepers and so that made it easier for me to go back and to continue to build those relationships. But yes, as bookkeepers, we really have to step out of our comfort zones to do things that require social interaction. And for me, that was the IPBC conference. 

MP: 07:59 Yeah. And by taking risks as much as risks are difficult, they're necessary to any growth in any area of our lives specifically and most importantly in business. And that was a risk. It was a risk for investment and going out to that conference, which was right across the country and would have taken a lot. But you've, you've had a lot of rewards and we're going to get into that, which I, uh, I think are really cool to share. But you also said something in your story leading up to starting with Pure Bookkeeping was this hiring story that you had.

PS: 08:35 And I was working with, uh, another bookkeeper this morning who was, she's going through the process of hiring somebody and it, she was telling you the story of how this person called her and was looking for work and, and she had asked a bunch of questions and the 

PS: 08:56 way that the person responded were all reasons why she shouldn't hire that person and what it, what I realized was that when people are hiring people into their business in an early stage, they're usually doing it from a place of, of weakness. And that, like, you, you really needed the help. You would have hired anybody if they would've said, you know, common co you're gonna help me, please come in, you're hired. And what's happening is that you're listening for the cues that this person will actually be able to rescue you. It's like a drowning person, a person's drowning, and they're not like wondering, well, should I let this person save me from drowning? Are they the right person to save me from drowning? No. It's like any person that's saving you from drowning is the right person to save you from Johnny. And that's a lot. 

PS: 09:48 What I see a lot of bookkeepers happening for them is that they're swamped. They're pulling their hair out and they're reaching for anyone to help them. And so it's really what I realized is that one of the key things that a person needs to do is to realize that what you're looking for are the flags. More so for the flags that make this person not the right person to work in your business. Yes, and I, I just have to sit here and chuckled because yes, my first hire was just, please come help me rescue me. I didn't even know the questions to ask. I didn't know what to look for. I had never hired an employee. I had been an employee many times, but I had never hired. So for me, I didn't even know the questions to ask. I didn't know what to look for. 

PS: 10:35 I just thought if somebody said they knew Accounting, they knew Bookkeeping, they could come in and do the job. And many times they overstate their qualifications. And so for me, that was the first part of the pure bookkeeping system that I implemented was the, was the HR department or the HR. And part of that was because it allowed me to spend more time helping translate a pure bookkeeping system to get it here to Canada. So for me, it was a learning curve in many ways, but it also assisted me right from day one and helping me to, to search out the right employees and to build my business in a way that it could become sustainable, both for me financial and for physically as well.

MP: 11:05 Yeah, you got at an early stage, maybe it was by happenstance, but you understood the power of having business systems in your business. 

MP: 11:26 And so for the listeners, what's your take on what is a business system and why is it important to have?

PS: 11:35 It's important to because then you know what you're doing. You have a way of doing things that has always the same. It's like every time you save a file if you don't have a file extension name or layout so that you're saving the same way all the time, we're in the same place all the time. You end up looking all over and in this day and age, and I struggle with this a little bit, I've got some files in Dropbox, I've got some files on my computer and I have some files up in my cloud server. And sometimes it's a struggle too, okay, where did I put that? So that's one area from the administration perspective that I still have to work on is, is getting all of that in place because then we work more efficiently with systems and processes. 

PS: 12:20 And I have found that with my staff as well, if I'm going in to review their work at the end of the month before I file the GSTs and PSTs, I can spot right away, okay. And look right away and determine whether things have been done correctly or not. And according to the way I need them to be done so that we're all on the same page and it makes reviewing the work, looking at the work much easier as well because I know what I'm looking for. I'm looking at the systems that have been integral, uh, in everything I do. The more the bigger I grow the business, the more I see the need for the systems. And the other thing I wanted to say, you had touched on personal growth and in the last two years, three years, one of the biggest things that have struck me as I set for professional growth to happen, personal growth has to happen. 

PS: 13:19 The two seem to go hand in hand. So really if you want to build your business, it's going to involve risks and it's going to involve personal growth and there are going to be bumps along the road. But from where I'm sitting today, every one of those bumps has been worth it. Even now as I set out our goals and where we're going in 2017 I've worked on it through most of December. I'm taking a risk, I'm hiring. Again, I don't necessarily have all the work for that individual, but I want to make sure that we get these manuals, our client manuals up to date and operational for every client that we have. I haven't for a few of them and that's fantastic. So my push now is to make sure that we have a client manual for every client and that all of the things are there. All the pieces are there. So when a new bookkeeper comes in, they can take a look at the pure bookkeeping system, they can move into that client manual and they know exactly what is expected of them in doing that client work. So for me, it's going to be an exciting year. I am so excited to have found someone that can come in and work with me on this as well as the bookkeeping. So 2017 is going to actually be an amazing year. 

MP: 14:43 I'm excited for you Patricia, and it's really interesting where you're at. You're at the stage now where you're hiring people to help you implement more of standardized operating procedures and that's the pure bookkeeping system into your business. And let's jump back and look at a few of the stages that you've gone through. When we met, you were actually helping us translate sage 50 into the Canadian marketplace and that was, you know, hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of pages, pages of standard operating procedures. What was your first take of that when you started getting into the systems? Because you went from literally your own systems, everything in your head to wow, here's a new system. What were some of your early reactions to that? 

PS: 15:28 At first I was overwhelmed, but that was more in terms of the translation that had to happen. But as I began to work with that and see how everything tied in together and started to make sense, I started implementing things immediately because I could see the value in it. And so it made it very easy for me to work with pure bookkeeping to see the value and the efficiencies that come from intimately implementing standards and procedures. 

MP: 16:02 Yeah. So that's, that's a key one that people don't realize is that you had a, and let's talk about that. You had improved efficiency as a solo bookkeeper, you are able to do more work in less time. So what was that like? 

PS: 16:20 That was incredibly freeing at some level because it continued to allow me to take on more clients. 

MP: 16:28 So you are able to take on more clients, which then you were able to grow your revenues through client acquisition. So you're actually getting more work done in less time and able to build more. So that's, that's interesting. And that was at a stage of getting systems into your business, becoming more efficient as a solo bookkeeper. But then you also, you had, you were, you were charging all, you know, not a lot of money when we first started working together and that was a big uncomfortable process. Tell us a little bit about your journey with pricing. 

PS: 17:05 Well, that was a very uncomfortable process for bookkeepers and everywhere. I think it's a struggle. We've heard about it through the IPBC to pure bookkeeping, understanding the value that we add to a business. We're not just doing data entry, we are actually adding value and it's until we get our heads wrapped around that, then we can start charging more. And sometimes for me, I had to start charging more before I fully embraced that concept. But I did. I started to raise my rates today my rates are a more than double what they were then and I'm quite content where I'm at in terms of my rates because of them that I live in, I am slowly moving to flat-rate. There's all this talk about hourly versus flat rate versus value building and that is a real learning curve as well. It's, it's much simpler to stay hourly because you can see your profit margins and your costs based on what you're paying out hourly. 

PS: 18:08 But my business model is a little different than that. But pricing and asking for money is one of the complex things I'm currently working with. One rescue job that you know, you just want to keep doing the work, do the work, do the work. Cause you're either groove, you figured it out, you've got the, you know, you've got the flow happening and yet if the money stops coming in, you have to stop the work. And that's very difficult as a bookkeeper to do that. But I'm managing, it's not always easy, but when you have so many other clients also that, that have deadlines and requirements, then you just flip over and keep working on them. So, but yes, asking for more money is difficult and also keeping your clients current. Most of my clients pay within 30 days. I do not carry them. I will get to the point where I am using automatic debit on a monthly basis that will becoming in the future. 

MP: 19:11 Yeah, absolutely. That's great. Well, what I love about your story and it gives some color to your community. Campbell river located on the west coast of Canada. It's a quite a large island, probably the size of Manhattan, and you are in a small community which has tourism, fishing, forestry, and you had to Paul to pulp mills or two paper mills and one Palton, one paper, one pulp, one paper, both closed down. 

PS: 19:42 Yes. In the last 10 years, both have closed, both closed.

PS: 19:45 You've had a lot of challenges with the fishing industry, the farm fishing industry, forestry, as we all know here in Canada is up and down and probably not a booming industry. So your community wouldn't be, people wouldn't say, wow, that's out booming economic center. And when we started to work together, that was one of your biggest concerns. It's like, how will I be able to charge more in a community that's not economically booming? 

PS: 20:15 Okay. It's not economically booming, but there are still things happening here. And the other interesting thing is is when the, when the mills closed and one of them, some of those jobs work on, people became very creative in how they were going to support themselves and their families. So what did happen was there were a lot of smaller businesses, medium-size businesses that have come out of that as you know, people that had been used to working for somebody else that chose to stay in this community to earn their living started businesses. And so there has been a great demand for bookkeeping services partially because of that and as the community rebounds and it has quite well already. We are seeing more hospitality and more tourism within the community. So we've got some new hotels, we've got some new resorts, those types of things happening. So it is still a happening community. We still have a lot of things going on here. I believe in this community that I live in and we will just keep going. 

MP: 21:29 Absolutely. You'll keep going and it's got great potential. It is probably one of the jewels of the planet in terms of its beauty and Spec. I mean there's just, the resources are abundant, so by no means is this is as meant to be a slag against Campbell reverence. Amazing there. What it is, the message share, put your shot on everyone to get is that you could have said, things are tough. I'm going to not go out. I'm not going to grow my business. I'm not going to invest in my business. I'm just going to maybe go get a job or whatever the case may be. And the reason why there's an abundant business for you its because you grew your business. You went out, you talked to people, you built relationships with accountants, you've built relationships with bankers, you found great networking groups, and that's why your business grew. 

MP: 22:16 And I have, I literally have worked with so many different bookkeepers around the world and I can I, I've got this great story of a woman that I was working with. There were economic challenges, really big economic challenges. It was all in the paper for months, if even years, how massive economic downturn, recession in the province. And she's like, I can't grow my business. There's no business out there. I said, oh Geez, you know, I get it right. I'm buying into a bit of the story. And so I met another client that lives in the exact same town and called her up, said, hey, you know, how are things going in your business? She said they're booming. I'm hiring three new people. Like what? And the reason is, is that one person was believing all of the stories about the economy that are written in the paper and staying home in their Home Office and not doing anything about it. And the other one was out there building relationships and growing their business. And I think that's what you did, Patricia. You said I'm gonna grow this business, come hell or high water. And you did. And that's what the message is. 

PS: 23:22 Yes. For the first two years, I was very content just to be self-employed. But once I got that vision, once I got a case of what could be and have the help that that systems and pure bookkeeping could give me to get there, then I bought into that and I started really moving. And yes, I joined a BNI group. I built a really good with their accountant, started building relationships with other accountants and accounting firms, and that's where the best referrals come is from accounting firms. So they're very key. If you can build relationships with other accountants and accounting firms, sure some of them have their own bookkeepers and bookkeeping departments, but there's so much work out there that I think was the biggest surprise for me even when I was self-employed was that people would keep calling and saying, are you taking on new clients? While sure we need a bookkeeper. I was, I had no idea of the demand that there was for good bookkeepers, bookkeepers who really understand what they're doing and can add value to that business. It was a real surprise for me and I still, I look around and there's still so much work here and I, I just want to keep hiring and keep growing. 

MP: 24:41 That's fantastic. I love it, I love it. And so the stage now that you're at is you're hiring people to implement the systems. You've got other staff that is working on growing your business. What do you see for 2017 what are your big priorities? 

PS: 24:56 My big priority for 2017 as I mentioned earlier, is all of my clients. To have a comprehensive client manual that is going to be key so that every time I hire another employee, uh, having them come on board and getting on stream quickly and efficiently, that will improve so that helps the bottom line right there. I have one four days a week right now and one three days a week employees that are doing the bookkeeping and that strictly what they do is bookkeeping, but in the building of the client manuals, I will involve them as well and get some input from them. It's going to be an interesting year. I also have a new marketing plan in place for 2017 I'm going to start doing a lot of things locally. I want to make sure that our name and our branding is out there, that people are aware of us. 

PS: 25:51 Sometimes. It amazes me to think that I've lived in Campbell river for 10 years. I've been in business for five. There are still thousands of people that have never heard the tap bookkeeping name so that just tells me how much potential there is here to build my business as we reach out and continue to build the brand. Now I'm taking away from being so much the business being about me, Patricia, I'm taking my picture out of a lot of the advertising and I'm starting to brand the business in preparation for five to seven years down the road. What my goal is is to be able to sell it and retire and go wherever I want to go and enjoy life. 

MP: 26:33 Beautiful. While you're well on your way, Patricia, and you're, you're a person who's willing to take risks, you're willing to get comfortable being uncomfortable and a, you don't always like it. You're just like everybody else and we don't often, we'd like comfort, but you're willing to do the things that need to get done to grow your business. So my hats off to you. 

PS: 26:53 Yes, I had that. That was my mantra for quite a while after first meeting you, Michael. I got comfortable with being uncomfortable because that's where the growth is. That's where you will really start to do the things that you want to do is by, you know, you've got that flutter in your stomach or you've got that apprehension, but as you set out and do it, it's like what I went to Brent, a commercial office. I had no idea what I was looking at. Do I have to pay a triple net? Do I have to do this too, I have to do that. So I actually went to a realtor and talked to a realtor and, and figured it out and it took me about six months to find the office space that I'm in, but it's one of the most ideal locations that I could have asked for. So I took my time and it's in the asking and in the doing that we learn and start becoming comfortable and then we just keep adding to it. Let's keep asking, let's keep doing. And as we keep taking every step, every step's going to be uncomfortable. It's never gotten comfortable for me yet. But every time I stepped out, I gained more confidence and I start to learn. I learned. You learn by doing. If you're waiting for it to come to you, it won't happen. 

MP: 28:05 That's great. Great Advice. Patricia, any other advice that you would give to the listeners that are listening right now and hearing your story, uh, that you'd like to add to that? I think that kept it nicely but any, I don't want to end it there. I think it's a, it's great. 

PS: 28:22 Well when it comes down to it, if you really want to do it, the tools are available to do it. Pure bookkeeping is one of them. IPBC is another personal coaching is another professional coach and there are so many ways to actually move your business forward if you choose to do so, but it won't be comfortable. You will have to take risks. But man, is it ever worth it. 

MP: 28:50 Beautiful. Patricia, this has been great. I am. I'm really excited about putting out this podcast. I think it's going to be inspirational. It's one of the things that we want to do is inspire bookkeepers to, to have the courage to go out there and take those risks and I think this episode is definitely one of those and as well I'm going to put up, one of the things that we talked about was hiring. I will in the resources for, for those of you listening, you can get some of the questions that we recommend you ask when there are people that are interested in working for you. I'll post those, uh, in the resource section. If you go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com, you can sign up for free resources and there'll be in the section where this episode is hosted. Patricia, thank you so much for being on the show. 

PS: 29:38 Thank you, Michael. It's been a pleasure and I just that some other bookkeeper that's out there that's hearing this, that's been afraid to take that step will actually take that step because it is possible. 

MP: 29:51 Yes, absolutely. You're so generous. Good luck to you and we'll be chatting soon.

PS: 30:00 Thank you, Michael. That wraps another episode of the successful bookkeeper podcast. Thank you so much for listening. If you'd like to learn more about our guest today or anything about the show, the show notes, and some of the resources that we've talked about, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com 

MP: 30:16 and as well. Please subscribe to us on iTunes. Leave us a review, let us know how we're doing. We'd love to hear from you. Until next time, goodbye.