EP38: Tanis Young - How To Handle Isolation When Starting Your Bookkeeping Business

Your home office.

It's the location where many bookkeepers begin their business journey.

It's convenient, affordable and comfortable.

It can also be a lonely place.

Think of the days when you're so swamped with work that you don't even have time to go outside.

Before you know it, you're completely cut off from civilization.

You're essentially on your own little island.

Sound familiar?

Today's guest will help you get a little more balance in your life.

Tanis Young is an Alberta-based bookkeeping business owner who knows what it's like to feel isolated because she experienced it herself when she was starting out.

During this interview, you'll learn...

  • How to be intentionally social by actively engaging with your clients' accountants & seeking associations to join

  • Why having a mindset of collaboration can build strong bonds with fellow bookkeepers & clients

  • Why surrounding yourself with top achievers is a must

To find out more about Tanis, visit here.


Read transcription


Michael Palmer: 01:07 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today is going to be a terrific episode. Our guest is Tanis Young, who is the owner of Maven bookkeeping, Inc, and she's also a Pure Bookkeeping licensee. Welcome to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast, Tanis. 

Tanis Young: 01:27 Thank you very much, Michael. A pleasure to be here today. 

MP: 01:29 It's great to have you and I nearly messed up the title there, so it's great. So Tanis, tell us a little bit about yourself, your career journey leading up to where you are right now so our listeners can get to know you. 

TY: 01:45 Absolutely. I had a love for accounting at a very young age and I spent probably about the first 15 to 20 years of my career dabbling in a variety of different accounting departments. I spent a little bit of time into financial planning and then returned to my roots. I worked for a small accounting firm for a number of years and then decided that it was time to launch out on my own. So I started my bookkeeping practice in May 2011 so I just passed my six-year anniversary. 

MP: 02:19 Happy Anniversary. 

TY: 02:20 Yeah, thanks. It's been a roller coaster, but it's been worth absolutely every ounce of energy I've had to put into it. 

MP: 02:27 That's awesome. Well, I know we're probably going to get there some time at some point, but I know one of the things I know about you is you have an amazingly positive attitude and I think that's one of your, you may not know this, but I'm going to assert that that is one of your success secrets is that every time I've ever interacted with you, you're always upbeat. You're always moving forward. And it's always refreshing for me just being around you. So I imagine that's like that for your staff. I imagine it's like that for your customers. 

TY: 03:02 I hope so. I hope they're catching on to the energy and passion that I have for the industry and being able to do great things with them to see their business grow. So that's awesome. Thanks very much. 

MP: 03:13 You're welcome. And is it something that you've, have you always been that way or is it something that you've evolved over time? 

TY: 03:19 I think I've always been that way. I don't, I'm not, I'm one of these people that sees my glass half empty. I'm always a half full person looking for the positive and I will trust someone until they prove otherwise. So I think that's a pretty fair observation. 

MP: 03:36 Yeah. You know, and why I, I know this is one of your success secrets is that in a town very close to yours, I met a bookkeeper that was saying the economy's bad, businesses are suffering, there's no business and there's nothing I can do about it. And I was very concerned because I thought of you and I was, I hope tennis is okay. And we actually, I saw you, I was going to see you like a couple of weeks later at the, uh, Institute of professional bookkeepers annual conference in Vancouver. And I walked up to you and I said, Dennis, how's a business in [inaudible] do you remember that? 

TY: 04:15 I do. Vaguely, yes. 

MP: 04:17 And you said, and, and you said this, this is amazing. I'm, hi, I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm t, I, I can't, I can't handle it. Oh, I'm hiring people. And I was like, ah, yes, yes, yes. Just a couple of towns away. And it's, and it's because you don't look at the market like it's suffering. And, and the market was suffering. That's the part of the story. The oil industry was challenged, uh, in Alberta and there were definitely, businesses were suffering, but your businesses, your business was booming. 

TY: 04:48 It's booming and it just continues to grow weekly. It's blowing my mind on a regular basis that I'm extra thankful for having the opportunity to work with so many great business owners. So I don't know if our industry is quite recession-proof, that's what I keep telling people. But I think just having those relationships with your accountants and small business owners and just doing an exceptional job just means that that business just keeps pouring in. It's, it's still overwhelming. 

MP: 05:19 Yeah, no, for sure. For sure. And, and having a great attitude like yourself. So let's go back to the early days you got, you got started. What were some of the challenges you faced out of the gate? 

TY: 05:32 Probably my biggest challenge right off the beginning was feeling like an island. So here I was going from the corporate world where you were always surrounded by management and other colleagues that you could download ideas off and, and then you moved to work from a Home Office where it's you and then you realize how alone you are in your venture. Now, I didn't doubt the decision I had made, so that was very, very clear to me. But I realized that I was going to have to be very proactive in building a network around me of trusted advisors. So even though I was putting myself out as a bookkeeping expert, I still needed other professionals around me, other groups of people to interact with and share frustrations with and share my highs and lows with. And so that was kind of where it started was that feeling of complete isolation. And then as things grew and more clients came on board and I made more connections with accountants, that started to flip. So no longer did I feel like I had to have all the answers. I knew that there was a network of people around me that I was starting to build that was going to be a big part of my success. 

MP: 06:48 That's fantastic. So in the, in the early days, because I'm sure that others listening have experienced isolation, how did you, when you didn't have that network set up, how did you deal with it? 

TY: 07:02 I made sure I was intentionally social, so it didn't take long for me to join an IPBC and reach out to a local, uh, just to other bookkeepers and start to figure out who was doing the same thing I was in my area. So that was one of the first things I did early on. And then I started being more intentional about interacting with my client's accountants. So every time I got a new referral I had a new accountant and then I started using them as a sounding board for confirming what I was doing. Was this the right process? Was I understanding this the right way? Here's this, you know, a certain situation. I'm not sure if I've handled it properly. So I started to be more proactive, reaching out for help and not, and realizing that I didn't have all the answers and I would never have all the answers. And then a little bit further onto that, I got into pure bookkeeping and I forget. I think it's just, I'm just coming up to my two year anniversary on that now. So it was kind of a progression. As you start your network, I started interacting with more professionals, start asking more questions, I joining IPBC and then eventually joining Pure Bookkeeping. 

MP: 08:11 Yeah, for sure. Now I love that you went out to first the marketplace you talked to and met with competitors, essentially competitors, some people look at them as competitors. How did you approach it? 

TY: 08:25 I'm a big fan of collaboration and I love sharing things that I've figured out, so why should someone else have to reinvent the wheel over and over again? So I kind of use that mentality where if I'm generous with my experiences and my time and my processes, even with my clients, that's going to come back to me. And if it doesn't, then maybe I've just picked the wrong industry, but it really proved to be valuable because of the more I gave of my time to my clients, to my accountants, to people that I met in my network, the more they were able to come back and ask me advice so we would have an opportunity to collaborate on these ideas and no one was stealing business from anybody. We just both went away feeling like we had accomplished something. But there's so much reward for giving back. 

MP: 09:12 Absolutely. 

MP: 09:20 And I think themes so far generating here is just being out of your office, out into the world where people are actually transacting. Doing business is where you want to be when you're just getting started and when you're, wherever you are on that journey. But the very first stage is to get out there and meet people and be amongst others in the industry 

MP: 09:41 and be amongst the excellent in your industry. There are so many people out there that have just done an exceptional job of growing their business and developing expertise in their area and don't be afraid to ask questions. And ask them how they got there and how it worked and what didn't work because we learned, I've learned so much from the mistakes that I've made along the way. So now I can confidently train my team and say this scenario presented itself before. Here's how we're going to handle it differently this time. Because I had told her that the hard way, 

MP: 10:13 you know, and I would add on to that in terms of the excellence is people with an attitude like yours, people of a feather flock together and uh, misery loves company. 

TY: 10:29 Totally. 

MP: 10:29 So a couple of cliches there, which I was in a communication workshop last week and they told me not to do that, but I just loved them. And it's so, it's so perfect for this, but the misery loves company. People that want to go, oh boy, the economy is not going well. You know, the whole conversation could be about that. I'm guessing your conversations are a lot different. The people you surround yourself, it's a lot different. You're more likely to be talking about, hey wow, things are going great. What, what great new things are you going to do today to grow your business? That's the kind of place you want to go hang out with. 

TY: 11:01 Absolutely. It's really easy, I think for some people to get caught up in that conversation of, especially in Alberta, the economy's bad, people are losing their jobs, companies are laying off. Uh, someone takes, you know, six months to find a new job. And if we can flip it on the other side and realize that it's an opportunity to kind of reinvent yourself. Is there something that's not working in your practice? Is there something that you've been doing the same way for so long and it no longer has a fresh approach and you no longer had the energy to prevent it with? So I think these are learning opportunities and training successes in the middle of all of it. 

MP: 11:38 Yeah. And there's, there's definitely secrets in, in your journey and your success journey, um, being amongst great, excellent people, positive attitudes as well. You spoke about counts, so you build relationships with accountants, which for you has been very powerful and now be Pure Bookkeeping. When you became a pure bookkeeping licensee, why, what were you dealing with that made this be something that would be valuable to you? 

TY: 12:05 I hit a kind of point in my business so two years ago, so it would've been 2015 I was four years in and realized that I was kind of past the island stage, but business had grown so quickly that I felt like I was losing control. The EMS bookkeeper book that I'm sure many of our listeners have read as well, talked about the entrepreneurial frenzy and I still have cycles of going through that now. But that really spoke to me about the franticness I had. So I was desperately seeking process and structure to help me fill some of the gaps that I didn't know were there. Cause you don't know what you don't know. So that was what started me looking into what else I needed to add, another layer that I needed to add to my practice. This was no longer just a test project. 

TY: 12:56 Would this work, I realized that it was going to work and it had amazing potential to really reach so many small businesses in my community and the Calgary area. So I figured that if I didn't get on board with some kind of process and structure that I was going to get left in the dust and I would create just a mess of everything that I had started to build. So that's kind of what piqued my interest. I saw the posting for pure bookkeeping. I'm not sure if it was an email that came in or if it was on the IPB VC website, one of those two. But it piqued my interest enough to go and then that was kind of the starting point of the next phase of building my business. 

MP: 13:35 Right. And you came along to the, The Seven Secrets of Growing Your Bookkeeping Business. Right? At that what have been neither the IPBC or an email. And so I do remember meeting you and again noticed your positive attitude and I really saw the business acumen. You had that right? So, so what's happened since then? What have you taken on and how have you been able to grow your business? 

TY: 14:00 I've been a lot more methodical about the bigger picture. So instead of just getting stuck in what am I accomplishing today, it's what am I looking at over the next three months, the next half year, the next year? And in so many years, do I want to have staff working for me or do I prefer to work on my own? Do I want to establish a storefront office? Do I want a home-based office? Do I want my territory to just be in my community or do I want to expand more from a national level because I've chosen QBO is my platform? So that does allow a little bit more flexibility of working. So those kinds of ideas now started popping into my head because pure bookkeeping started to challenge me about getting away from just looking at the day to day and being able to step back and work on my business instead of in my business. Now it's a daily challenge because I still, you know, gravitate back towards wanting to get caught up in just making everything move forward. But it's helped me and empowered me to let go of the day to day transactions with my client files and being confident to pass them on to my team because I know I can train them and I'm confident in their abilities. So that's kind of the transition that I've gone through in the last couple of years. 

MP: 15:15 And that's fantastic. And in terms of your experience of business and how your business runs today, what would you say about the experience you have now? 

TY: 15:24 It, it shifted my appreciation for small business owners because now that I've been added on my own per six years, I have a much more, I have a much better understanding of really what they've had to go through to get their business to the point when I meet them. And sometimes I meet them right when they open their doors. Sometimes I meet them a year in or a couple of years in, but I have a much better sensitivity to the struggles that they face. On a daily basis and I can see some of their entrepreneurial frenzies and I can relate to their passion for their business. So I feel like I'm coming alongside them and I'm not just providing just another service. It's not like they've just hired someone to do it, work for them or hired someone to clean their office. I see it as being a relationship, uh, getting involved in their business life, but also their personal life and helping them sell it, celebrate all those successes and help them work through those challenges. 

MP: 16:31 You know, it's, it's interesting it has me asking and wanting to ask this question, which is I want you to think of a customer that you know and like, and tell me what that customer would say about how it is to work with you as a bookkeeper. 

TY: 16:49 Hmm. I should've gotten some testimonials together, but I had a recent client actually that I took on last fall and when I first met them, you could just tell that they were stressed. Everything about their faith, their staff, they were struggling so much with their accounting software and they had just spent I think six years, not six years, six, sorry, six months where they had moved from doing their own bookkeeping to the hiring of an external bookkeeper and the personality just didn't work. And I got a referral through our local intuit account manager out here in Alberta and we made the connection. And I think it comes down to a lot of personalities. And when you find that personality that you click with and you can give them the confidence that you have the skills and abilities to help them solve their problems, you could just see the stress just go away. 

TY: 17:45 And he said to me last month, he said, if you ever need a testimonial, your website, I am the first guy in, they've got one lady in the office that was working on the accounting program and she was so stressed and she just has her, her face lights up when I see her. And my clients commented on the change of her demeanor as well. So I see that as a huge success that when I can take away some of the fear and the unknown of their accounting records, then it's, it's a win for everybody. And they went from not being able to rely on their data for many years because everything was done. So historically or so delayed to moving up to something current where I'm not just going to come in and assist. I do all the work, but it's, it's teaching them to fish essentially. So I've worked with one of their staff members to train her on the program and help her understand what it is that she's doing and now she's the one that's saying, hey, I found this and I fix this and we can change this process. And that's just a huge, huge sense of accomplishment for me. 

MP: 18:51 I think that there's so much gold inside of that answer, which is just the amount of empathy you have for a business. And I think for the listener right now is to be thinking about that and many, many likely do. If you're listening to this podcast, you're really interested in being successful and being great at what you do. And so this is probably an area that you've done or been involved in, but you can never hear or think about it enough, which is thinking about where your customers are coming from and what situation they're in and giving them empathy. It builds incredible trust and empathy and relationship and rapport with your customers, which leads to all sorts of magic that can happen inside that relationship. 

TY: 19:39 Absolutely, and I think part of the challenge as entrepreneurs is that we want to take credit for absolutely everything. We want everybody to look at us and say, Hey, look how awesome you are. Look at how successful you are. But I think if we take a step back and stay kind of a bit in the shadow of that, our clients appreciate us more. We celebrate them, we cheer them on, we help them become empowered over their finances. And that's, that's such, I think probably one of the core values that I hold in my business is it's not about me, it's about them. And if I can make their existence in their business more positive, then both of us win. 

MP: 20:16 It's gold.

MP: 20:18 And I've been listening for quite a while now to a podcast called StoryBrand by Donald Miller. And his whole business is, is about just that, which is you are telling your brand story to your customers, prospects, suspects, whatever the case may be. But you're telling it from a story that you're the guide and your customer is the hero. 

TY: 20:43 Interesting. I love it. 

MP: 20:45 Yeah. And I think Tanis that may, one of the reasons why your business is just growing so rapidly is that you, you, you are naturally that way.

MP: 21:00 And he uses the example of Star Wars. George Lucas created this masterpiece, which tells the hero's journey, which is, you know, there's this, this character that has this challenge that, uh, meets this guide, uh, who was both Yoda, and I'm probably telling the wrong story here on this podcast, but I'm sure there are a few star wars fans in the, in the, in the audience, right? But a Yoda and, um, uh, OBU Obi-wan Kenobi. And so these are the guides, right? And everybody loves the guides and they help the hero. And so your, the Yoda, your the Obi-wan of the bookkeeping business right there, camping industry for your customers. 

TY: 21:40 Totally. That's awesome. 

MP: 21:41 Yeah. But what it enables is it enables them to not be able to live without you, enables them to also have their ego intact, fully intact and strong and know that they've got obi wan or Yoda to help back them up wherever they're going. So you're really on the right track with that. And I think the more you bring that out in your messaging for your business, the better off you're going to be. 

TY: 22:02 Absolutely. Yeah. That's awesome. I love it. 

MP: 22:04 Yeah, it's pretty cool. Great podcast as well. Donald Miller is excellent and the, the type of people he has on that show is just absolutely phenomenal. Check it out.

TY: 22:12 Yeah, for sure.

MP: 22:15 So yeah, lots of cool things that you're doing. What's next for you? What's next?

TY: 22:20 Yeah, I kind of looking ahead to the next five years and where I am kind of setting my sites, I am in a transition phase of developing the team of ladies that I've hired a probably need to hire another one. And I'm looking at adding an admin person to my staff part-time. So that's a big deal for me because now I'm going to have to let go of the kind of another piece of my business in a certain way. So teaching someone again how to think like me and how to tackle different challenges and projects that come our way. So I'm looking at adding an admin and probably another bookkeeper and then looking at developing the team of ladies that I have hired a Christie's been with me for a little over four years and then I hired three more last fall. 

TY: 23:12 So that was a big leap of faith and I wouldn't recommend that you hire people right before your busy season starts, but we'll call that a learning opportunity. Uh, so my challenge right now is just to continue to train them on files and with the ultimate goal in mind that I want to get away from the day today. I don't want to be involved in managing the data, getting it into the program. I want to step in. At the point when my staff comes to me and says, Hey, this month all the banks are reconciled. Here are a few questions I had and then I can turn around, generate those statements, reach out to my clients, have those meaningful conversations. Look at your margins, look at your bottom line. How much money have you taken out as the shareholder? Do we need to up your corporate tax installments? Those are the big-picture conversations that I am so excited to start adding to my practice. So as soon as I can get them further trained, the more I can get onto what I call the fun stuff. 

MP: 24:08 Beautiful. 

MP: 24:16 You know, you go to a lot of IPPC events, which for the, for the listener that's not in Canada, that's the institute of professional bookkeepers of Canada. But you can find your own association wherever you are listening to the world. Find your own association because this is the type of person that's there and this is the type of person that you want to surround yourself with. Are you going out to the IPBC EN Ontario this year? 

TY: 24:42 I am, yes. I've committed to going to that conference every year and I noticed a shift from the first year to the second year that I went. The first year was more about product knowledge because I think was more than the space that I was in. And then the next conference became more about relationships and a little bit about the product. So every conference has its own unintentional focus. So maybe it's re-establishing relationships with other people across the country. Maybe it's learning a little bit more about the product or a lot about the product. But it's, it's a great place to connect. I come back from that conference, charged up about my business ready to hit my busy season, uh, basically pants on fire. And the other thing I've added to my docket for this year, and I'm not sure if it'll be an annual thing, but I'm going to try it as I'm going to QBO connect in San Jose in November. So that's a huge conference and it's just going to be a completely different perspective as well. So educating and interacting outside of your community, uh, from uh, uh, Canada wide perspective, even from more of an international I think is just going to add huge value. 

MP: 25:50 Absolutely. So for you, listener sitting in your car, listening to this or wherever you're listening to this, go and register for whatever association that you want to attend to that's local to you. Call them up, register, tell them Tanis sent you from The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. This is the type of person that goes to these types of events. And if you want to grow your business, it's just a, it's a, it's a must-do activity to surround yourself with like minds like this and inspire yourself to grow your business the way Tanis has. And I just love that you're going into the international one and in, in the US to QBO connect, which is a new name, I think, or they've just rebranded to have all of those events with intuit be called the same thing, which is, uh, which is cool. Wow. Well, I, I, uh, you have me inspired. Um, I may have to come down there as well. I've got to take a look at that. But um, absolutely. Yeah. So, uh, Tanis, What other tips can you offer to the listener on how they can run a profitable bookkeeping business? 

TY: 27:03 We need to be patient with ourselves while we're learning because we don't walk into these kinds of environments knowing absolutely everything. You know, you're gonna make mistakes, but just make sure you've got your safety net set up, whether it's insurance, whether it's that network of people that can help you walk through those tough times. And the most recent thing that I've been extremely challenged with is making time in my schedule for my family and my friends and myself. When a business grows so rapidly, it tends to take over my schedule. I always say there are little gremlins in my calendar that keep adding appointments and I look at the day ahead and I think, good grief, how am I going to get through all of this? But we need to be very intentional about stopping and recharging. So I've been working at booking time away from where I physically leave my house. Having a home-based office makes it hard to leave work behind because I live here and I work here. So taking that weekend off, taking that morning off, taking that week off is part of adding value to your practice. 

MP: 28:10 Beautiful. You know, it's been such a pleasure having you on the episode today and it's such a pleasure to work with you. You always brighten my day whenever I interact with you, which is, which is a, which is for me, it's just a big thank you back to you for being here, being who you are and where can people find out more about you, your business, and how can they interact with you? 

TY: 28:36 Right now I have some presence on LinkedIn. I've, uh, I've started tweeting, not very aggressively, but I'm starting to learn that as well. And I think one of the things on my project list is working on my brand in the next few months. I'm working with a designer to create a logo now that I've named my business. And after that's ready, then I will be working on my website. So that's one of the things that's Kinda gotten left in the dust and that's very rapid growth is my website. So I'm challenged with that too, to make that a priority now. 

MP: 29:10 So go and they can connect with you though. Probably your best is on LinkedIn.

TY: 29:20 Correct.

MP: 29:21 And we'll have the link in our show notes so that they can go and connect with you. And I mean you don't have a website and your business is exploding. I mean, it's a, it, it's ridiculous, but it's not uncommon for those that have a great brand locally. And you obviously have a great brand. You're known for being great at what you do. And that's, that's you know, 90% of the game is to have a great brand with the people that you actually work with. So good for you for doing that. And then a website will only help you and I really do encourage you to watch and listen to StoryBrand. There's some good stuff there around building your website and philosophies and sorts of things. Just bring out and that website you'll do fantastically. 

TY: 30:03 Excellent. Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it. 

MP: 30:05 Yeah, that's great. Well, thank you for being on the podcast and I'm sure many are going to want to connect with you at the IPBC this year in QBO connect as well. 

TY: 30:15 Absolutely. Track me down.  

MP: 30:17 I'd love to, yeah, share your stories as well. Beautiful. 

TY: 30:19 Thanks so much for your time today, Michael. Appreciate it. 

MP: 30:21 It's my pleasure. That wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast and I just really enjoyed that one. Tanis is just so great to learn more about today's guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources. You can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com

MP: 30:37 Until next time, goodbye.