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She's back!

After Pure Bookkeeping co-founder and E-Myth Bookkeeper co-author, Debbie Roberts did such a great job answering bookkeepers' questions in her previous appearance, she has returned to answer some more!

During this interview, you'll learn...

  • Her proven strategy to transition from a full-time job to running a bookkeeping business

  • The importance of having a powerful vision to power you through the hard times

  • Why being a part of a bookkeeping association is a wise investment

To ask Debbie questions in The Successful Bookkeeper Facebook group, join here.

To learn more about Pure Bookkeeping, visit this link.


Michael Palmer: 01:37 Welcome back to another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer and today we are doing another Q&A from the successful bookkeeper, Debbie Roberts, all the way from Melbourne, Australia. Debbie, of course, is the co-author of EMF bookkeeper. She is also the co-founder of Pure Bookkeeping and she is one of the most friendly bookkeepers on the planet. Welcome back to the podcast, Debbie.

Debbie Roberts: 01:55 Thank you, Michael. Thanks very much. Lovely being here.

MP: 02:05 Yes, and Deb, you have been bookkeeping for a long time. A long time, but you're only what, 27?

DR: 02:15 Oh yeah, something like that.

MP: 02:17 Absolutely. But why I mentioned that is you've been, you were 20 years as an employee, staff bookkeeper. You worked in all sorts of different industries, tons of experience, and then you decided to start your own business, uh, and then at ramp that up and faced all sorts of challenges and, and then figured out how to actually really the big turnaround for you is when you hired a business coach by the name of Peter Cook and read E-myth. 

MP: 02:50 Michael Gerber's work on building a system-dependent business. And so you are definitely an authority on the planet when it comes to building a successful bookkeeping business. And you are the, uh, really the character in the book I wrote the successful bookkeeper and a, that's the formula to building a six-figure business and beyond. And so today we've got more questions from our audience, from our listeners and we're going to ask you Q&A and riff about them and give incredible value as you always do.

DR: 03:22I'm looking forward to it.

MP: 03:25 Great. Well, let's get right into it. We have first off, Carrie Coleman from Texas and her question is, what clients are looking for from a bookkeeper? 

DR: 03:38 Mm. Yeah. I think I think firstly, clients want to be confident that you know what you're doing. When I was running my business in, in fact, in the first 12 months, I was astounded by the amount of mess that I had to clean up, often lift by inexperienced bookkeepers. So the people that just didn't know what they were doing and didn't try to find out what whether they were doing it the right way or not. And it's absolutely not true that anyone can just know how to do the bookkeeping because you were good at maths at school or you worked in a bank or something like that. You know, it's, it's not, bookkeeping is not intuitive. It is a learned skill and you just have to go back to school. In inverted commerce to grow a successful business, you need to be confident that you can deliver the service the client expects. So I think it sounds like you're starting out, Carrie, and I would recommend, firstly, you've got to be part of a community where you can get information and I would recommend joining one of the professional associations that are around the world. Obviously, you're in the US I think it's, um, is it the ICB in the US. 

MP: 04:53 ICB USA you got at Deb?

DR: 04:56 Yeah. Yeah. So in Australia, we've got it for any other listeners from around the world in Australia, we recommend the Australian bookkeepers network. That was the organization that I joined all those years ago, and that's where I got my information from. That's where I found out what I didn't know and the answers to that we were, they had a group, a forum there that you could post your questions being part of a community. The ICP is fantastic in Canada. I think it's the IPBC, is that right? 

MP: 05:24 That's right. Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada. 

DR: 05:28 Yep. Yep. Excellent. Great organizations. Really important. They find out from them. If you're not qualified, and I know in Australia you actually have to be qualified in order to be a bookkeeper, but I know that's not a requirement in other countries at this point in time, but I would still recommend it. It's good for you because it will give you confidence that you do know what you're doing. It's a great marketing strategy as well. When you are meeting with prospects, you'll be able to say, got this qualification on the member of this professional association. So it's, it's you being more professional and doing what you need to do that. And I think that's the start. That's a good place to start. I think also becoming a certified partner with your preferred software. So more learning required. Most of the online programs, to the best of my knowledge, I think Ciro and QBO, they offer free certifications as far as I'm aware, so, so check them out as well. 

DR: 06:25 You've, I think in this day and age, the role of the bookkeeper is what we do is bookkeeping, but the knowledge and the technology are just changing on a daily basis. And one of your jobs is to make sure you're ahead of the game. The client expects you to know the changes that have happened in the software. They expect you to know the changes that have happened in the, in the regulations, in the tax laws that affect the bookkeeping. They expect that from you. So that's that diet, just the basics. So you've got to keep ahead of the game. And being a member of a professional association, they will make sure that they give you the information that you need to make sure you're ahead of the game. 

MP: 07:09 I think it's brilliant, Deb, in terms of just the certification coming from, you're going to learn a whole bunch of stuff, but at the very, very core, it's your confidence as a bookkeeper. And what we know about a successful bookkeeper is that it's all about your mindset. The more you believe in yourself, the more you believe in what you do, the more you value yourself and value what you do, the more you can put that into your business and it will show up. So people look at these sorts of things as a cost, right? Oh, I've got to pay for my certification, I've gotta pay for my annual dues. And even if you didn't participate at all and you just got the certification and my belief, in my opinion, having that pays for itself and in a measurable amount from just the confidence. 

MP: 08:03 And I know when another episode with you, we talked about your conversion rates. When you, when your confidence grew in the, and you did a whole bunch of stuff. We were talking about your sales presentation and making sure that's all prepared, but this is one of those pieces as well that it will lead to your own confidence and when you have confidence, your conversions go up, you can charge more and that's what's that worth, right? You can pay for and one client acquisition you could pay for 10 years of the cost of certification.

DR: 08:41 Absolutely.

MP: 08:42 Yeah, so a great, great advice step. Yeah. 

MP: 08:44 Let's jump into another question. Let's go to Samantha Bruton from California. Wonderful California on the west coast. I Love California. Sakara. It's like Australia, not as beautiful as Australia, but very close. 

DR: 08:58 Yeah, we want to get there one day. 

MP: 09:00 Yes, yes, absolutely. And all the listeners will want to go to Australia because it's a beautiful, beautiful place. Client onboarding and retention and Samantha's fear are leaving a stable and secure job for self-employment. 

DR: 09:18 Yes. This was a big one for me. And I think typically again and using me as an example if you like most bookkeepers, a conservative I guess you'd say like as in not big risk-takers and let's face it, you've got to be able to pay the bills. So the way I managed the transition from my full-time work to, well actually it was more part-time. It was, it was school hours. I was working five days a week, but that was school hours. So, but for me, I then came home and did my second job, which was with my kids and all the after school activities. So the way I transitioned, I needed to maintain that. And also because I didn't have confidence, I didn't know if I'd actually be any good at running my business or even good at bookkeeping, let alone, I didn't even think about what it would take to run a business. 

DR: 10:13 But I was concerned that I didn't, I wasn't going to be good enough. I didn't have the necessary skills to transition from an employee to bookkeeping for small businesses. So that was a big concern. And I didn't because I wasn't a big risk-taker, I wasn't going to just jump and say, yes, goodbye everyone. I'm going to quit my job and then start getting clients. So what I did was told everyone, all told family, friends, everyone that I knew that I was open for business, that I was only available to work nights and weekends. So there was no one side client work, which typically would mean then that these were smaller clients. In a previous episode, I talked about the type of clients that are good to aim for, to look good to target when you're starting out. And I spoke about tradies and so carpenters, electricians, because typically they don't have an office and they are happy for you to work from home and I don't care what hours you work either they just want the job done and then they get it back and everything's all nice and tidy and everything's filed and launched. 

DR: 11:20 It needs to be done. So I took on those types of clients and service-based clients as well. Again, people that didn't have an office or they had a home office and they were happy for me to work from home and I worked nights and weekends and that was hard. I mean it was difficult to do with three children, school-aged children working basically of during the day caring for them and doing what mothers do at after school and before school. And then when they went to bed, I would do my work. So I would from seven till whenever I would be in my Home Office doing the work. So I was working nights and weekends I have and still, I l have a very supportive husband who was able to, you know, fill in the gaps whenever I wasn't available. Uh, but it was, it was not easy, but it was something that I really wanted to do. 

DR: 12:15 Uh, it was that I wanted to work for myself. I believe that that was a better future for me and my family and I was committed to it. I was 10 out of 10 committed to it. So that meant doing the hard work. There were no two ways about it. It was either that or quit my job and I wasn't prepared to take that risk and that was, that took about 1212 months, maybe a little bit more for me to replace the incomes. So that was my goal, to replace my income from my day job. And I did that because I was charging more of course than what I was getting paid as an employee. That took me about 12 months to accumulate enough clients where I could do that and, and I still remember to this day what an exhilarating feeling and how proud I was of myself of resigning when I'm putting my resignation, I'd actually achieved what I set out to do. 

DR: 13:11 It was such an amazing feeling. So that's, that's how I would recommend that you transition. You've got to be prepared to do the hard work though and work nights and weekends and do whatever it takes as quickly as possible so that you can replace that day job. The other piece of advice that I would give, if you're working full time, then you may be in a position to negotiate to reduce your hours with your employer. If you're working full time, perhaps you the day would be happy for you to drop to four days a week. That will give you some more space for that one day a week you can do your marketing. Um, maybe work on-site with, with a client, go to networking events. Uh, it would just, it would be easier for you if you can negotiate with them to drop a day a week. 

MP: 14:00 Yeah, I agree completely there. It's interesting, you were saying just the formula that you created in order to, to get it done right. There's, if, if one looks at their life today and they, there's no space for anything else. Like nobody has extra space, right? So it's, there has to be a formula created to make the space and make it work. And so it's going to be different for every single person. But in our last Q&A episode, Deb, we talked about vision and so it's that, you know, you had this vision, you, you created a goal. You, you really wanted it. You had a, you know, a big why as to why you wanted it. And it was real for you. And then you put together a formula to make it happen and you implemented on that formula. And so that all takes time and it takes preparation and, and then execute on it. 

MP: 14:54 But you're either going to have a formula for your success or you're gonna have a formula for no success, which is just the status quo. It's not like a bad thing. There's no bad thing here. However, that's the big question is what's going to be your, for the listeners, what's going to be your formula to make it work? Maybe it's less TV, maybe it's in the mornings, maybe it's in the evenings. Everybody has a different situation that they've got to deal with. But if you figure out the formula and you get committed to the formula, it will work. You will be able to do it. 

DR: 15:24 You make it work. And the reason it's so important to have a big enough vision is that when the going gets tough, so when you're tired, when things go wrong, which they will do when bad things happen, you'll, if you, if all you want is money. So if you just say, Oh yeah, I want, I want this to turn over $100,000 in the next 12 months. And if you don't attach an emotion to that, you know, why, why do you want to turn over $100,000? Why do you want to generate that income? What? It's not just about the money. What is that going to do for you and your family or your life and what is your life going to be like? Are you going to be able to send your children to, to the best schools in the area? Are you going to go on an overseas trip? 

DR: 16:13 Ah, in nine, my burning desire, uh, after my initial goal of replacing my income was I wanted to replace my husband's income. So that wasn't going to happen in 12 months. And it didn't happen in 12 months. That took another 10 years, I think for me to achieve that goal. But my burning desire, I wanted to replace his income because he was in a stressful job and didn't like what he was doing and that stress came home. And, and you know, I wanted a different life for us and I loved what I did. So, uh, I wasn't stressed with what I did. I loved bookkeeping. So I said, all right, I'll just do more of this. And then he can quit his job and it'll be all good. And when the going got tough, I kept remembering why I was doing what I was doing and the reason for that, and it wasn't just the money, it wasn't just a dollar. Cause if it's just a dollar, then when the going gets tough, you'll say, you know what? I don't really need the money. Uh, you know, I'm weird when doing all right. It's all I, we were fine because the money's just money. It's what you get with that money. What that what you'll be able to provide for your children, your family, how it will change your lifestyle. That's the emotion. That's what's really, that's the burning, that's what keeps you going. 

MP: 17:36 Beautiful. You know, I was literally just read a paragraph in the chapter of one or one of Paul Coelho's books. Are you familiar with Paul Coelho? He wrote, this one's the road to Santiago and he also wrote, I'm, I forget, I'm going to have to Google search it maybe while, while you were talking on the next question so we can come back to it. But we're, I'm almost, um, I should actually maybe not tell them the spoiler alert, spoiler alert, if you're reading the road to San Diego, please plug your ears, turn off the podcast. Fast forward. But he, the story is about him searching for his sword and the sword. It's a metaphor for you know, the answers to life, you know, the power of, of life. And, and so he's walking this road to San Diego to discover it. And it's like, it's all about finding the sort. 

MP: 18:26 I want to find my sort, I want to take it to the next level. I want to be more enlightened. I want transformation, I want, you know, uh, Shangri-la. Right? And that the point of, of finding the, you can't find this your sword until you realize that it's not about finding the sword that you will never find the sword unless you determine what the sword is for. And that's what you've said, Deb, is that it's not about the money. It's what's that money for? What's the business for? What's the outcome that if this is come to fruition, what will that be for? So is it to have a better life for your family? Is it to, to you know, be, be closer to your, your, your faith is it to be, uh, you know, making a difference for people in the world. That's where power exists in, all of our journeys. 

DR: 19:17 So I just love that you said that cause I literally got that to that point in the book. I'm like, ah, yeah, powerful.

MP: 19:25 Um, excellent. I've got to find those. He's written the book he wrote these famous for, I will remember and we'll come back to it. I think that it's worth mentioning, Deb, that the whole concept and why you created pure bookkeeping was to provide bookkeepers with the same tools and process that you spend all those years developing and building so that they wouldn't have to figure out that, but instead figure out how to just implement it in their own. It's not even figuring out its implementation versus invention. And so I love the story of one of our clients, Mira Salter, I had a conversation and you know, we, when she became a Pure bookkeeping licensee, we had a conversation. She said, you know, I want to grow this, you know, I want a six-figure business. 

MP: 20:10 And, and she told me where she was at. We had a 30-minute call and every licensee is our kickoff call. And we do a bit of coaching and figure out really what's it for, where you're trying to get to and create a big why and, and make sure that the, their mindset's in the right place in a way they go. And, and so she, we sent, simply talked about two things. Number one was the rates that she was charging. She was not charging enough. And I know we've tackled that and other episodes, the other was, you know, I'm a niche. What area in what area would she want to, to go out and do? She didn't know what it was at the time. Well, about eight months later, I saw her at a, at an association event. It was the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada in Vancouver. 

MP: 20:57 And I said, Mira, how's it going? She's like, it's great. It's like, yeah, how are things great. Okay, a big hug and how, how's everything going? Oh, great. And she was about to say, okay, well we'll see her see around, you know, and I'm like, well, but a mirror, like, how are things going? You know, I want to know, you know, um, it was the first time I'd ever met, met her because she's from the middle of Canada, you know, 2000 kilometers away and in, uh, in Manitoba and a little town outside of Winnipeg population 3,500. So she's one of these people that are, is in a small community. And she said, I said, [inaudible], she's just great. I just hit 75,000 in revenue. So that's great. Wow, that's really, really good. And I said, remind me where you were when you started again. She goes, I was a start-up, I was, I had done $2,500 in revenue. 

MP: 21:46 So in lesson eight months or nine months, somewhere around there, she did say, just over 70,000 in revenue. I said, how did you do it? She said, you know what, I put my prices and I niched. I only work with nonprofits and parishes, parishes or like churches and um, or if they're not like churches, they are churches. Um, and that's it. She just, she went out, she network, she door knocked, she got to know all the people and she, you know, specialized in that and then just went all over the land that was close to her and told the world that that's what she did. And her business just flourished. And so, you know, when we're talking about, yeah, when we're talking about time management and when we're talking about leaving a stable and secure job, right. And the formula for, I think that really is the formula. One of the big formulas of Pure bookkeeping is just simply being able to implement and do it. 

DR: 22:45 Absolutely. And she would have done a lot of, you know, it's one thing to have a system, but you've still got to have the courage to use it and, and she would have the marketing and cause we talk about bookkeepers not, not liking to do, not wanting to do the marketing and things like that, but when you've got a big enough vision, you'll go out and do that. You'll go out and speak to people because you know that this is what you need to do. This is one of the hard things that you need to do. She would have done a lot of that. 

MP: 23:14 Absolutely. She had a clear vision. She knew where she wanted to go. She had a big why and you know what it Rez, she was re-radiating with, with at the, at the conference, she just, she was a person that was proud of what she did. She was passionate about what she did. She was serious about being successful. And it's just so wonderful to see people going off and building their businesses and living their dreams. Yeah. Fantastic. 

MP: 23:48 I think we have time for one more question. And this question is from Anne. She is from North Carolina and her question is around value pricing if not already discussed is what she said here. And marketing door knocking is one of her biggest concerns.

DR: 24:06 Yes. Yes. The door-knocking one old start off with the value pricing is a huge subject and we will, I'll explain the principles of it, but the door knocking is one of the most terrifying things that a bookkeeper could. In fact, most people don't like the whole idea of door knocking and it's because we associate it when people come to us trying to sell things, what do we call them? Uh, their, um, when they [inaudible] shops. Yeah. Those sorts of things. When they knock on doors and they're trying to sell lollies or salespeople sales pitch, we don't like that. It's something that the bookkeepers, in particular, don't like, but there is an easier way. I'm going to explain an easier way for you to do that. So if you've got some onsite clients or wherever your clients are located, uh, and if you go there and visit them and do the work, what I recommend is that you visit two or three businesses each time you go there, visit two or three businesses around that client. 

DR: 25:19 Uh, so you're not, you're not saying I'm going to do door knocking today what you, and then you go out and go around to businesses and to people that you don't know. What you're doing is when your visiting, doing the work for your clients. You go and visit two or three other businesses and when you knock on their doors, you introduce yourself and you say, hi, I'm doing the bookkeeping for so and so just down the road. And I was wondering who was looking after your bookkeeping for you? And that's, that's all you do. It's actually not that hard and much more palatable I think for bookkeepers. The other thing is, you know, we're at one of the seminars that we did, we had a bookkeeper contacted me afterward and say she put this into practice. She was having coffee at a coffee shop and this is a coffee shop that she often went to have a morning coffee. 

DR: 26:15 And she was thinking, oh right, I need to, I need to be brave. I've got to go up to that person. I know, I know his name and you know, we say a low and but t was to ask him about his bookkeeping. Debbie said, I need to do this, so I'm going to do it. I'm going to be brave and I'll do it. And so when she was paying for a coffee, she said, I'll look, by the way, Bob, uh, I, you may not be aware, but I'm a bookkeeper and I was just wondering who looks after your bookkeeping for you? You're happy, happy about that. Is that working for you? And he basically said, thank God you're here. And wrapped his arms around her and said, you know, no, it's not going okay. I really need some help with that. And what was amazing about this story is that this is in a shop, you know, block, there was a bunch of shops on either side of him, is that there were about three doors down or in the same block of shops, was a bookkeeper who had a shop front with bookkeeper all over it and had an, and that was her business and he didn't even know she was there. 

DR: 27:18 And that bookkeeper had never gone in to sit to him to say, Oh Bob on, on just a couple of doors down, who's looking after your bookkeeping? So it was quite an incredible thing that she got this business when this bookkeeper who had a shopfront didn't even go in to see him. So it doesn't have to be that hard. Think of simple ways of doing it, doing the door knocking. That doesn't mean you're cold calling if you like. 

MP: 27:47 I love it, Deb. And I think as human beings, a lot of the times we, we fall into the routine of life and we sort of just think that everything is the way that it is. And we've got our head down and we're just plowing through things. There is a, a wonderful show. When I was growing up it was called the friendly giant. And I think in North America, all north Americans hopefully would have seen it might be, I think I'm actually might have been a Canadian show. So go. Yeah, but there was a saying in the show and it said, and it would open up in a go look up look worse. 

MP: 28:24 And I think the idea of it is like lift up your head and look around. The whole world is there for us. You know, if we only just looked up and like that story of someone just down the hall, like literally everything we want in life is literally just look up and it's just out there right there. If only you go and ask and see and you know, turn over the, a couple of rocks for it. Deb, as you were speaking, I, I did say I would go and search the author Paul Quello and, and so I searched it real quickly cause I wanted to get the title of that book. And I butchered the name of the book I'm reading. It's the, it's actually the pilgrimage and a, but it is the story of the road to San Diego. This, this a character is walking along with it. 

MP: 29:08 But I'm going to read a couple of quotes because as you were saying, something you said debrief and right there on the page, uh, if you Google Paul Qualo, it's three quotes come up and I just think it's the universe conspiring here for us to give us some wonderful, inspirational, inspirational quotes to go alongside this Q&A session. And the quote is, Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience. And this is a quote by Paul Kuala and then the other two quotes. When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it is, which is very apropos to what we're talking about in this with this question. And the third quote that comes up, which is even more right on, on, on the mark, tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself and no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream. 

DR: 30:10 MMM. Beautiful have like Mark Cuello coming for all the way from Brazil. Yeah. 

MP: 30:18 Um, his message, and his energy are a wonderful author and he's made such a difference for millions of people around the world. His number one book is called the Alchemist, uh, written in 1988. If you haven't read it, it's, it's a beautiful book about life and life's journey and the magic and wonder of, of life. And that's, uh, some nice quotes to maybe cap off our Q&A session on this episode 

DR: 30:42 and I'll, uh, that gave me goosebumps, by the way, Michael, when you, when you said those quotes are absolutely very powerful.

MP: 30:50 I, I completely, um, uh, I think I'll put them in my blog post. I think, uh, I'm sure I'll be able to blog something about that. That was fabulous. We did mention value pricing, but they may not be enough time to cover that in this episode. So watch out for the next one. I'll cover it there. Oh, cliffhanger. You gotta come back for another one cause it's a big topic. So we'll say that right 

MP: 31:15 one for the next episode. Deb, it's been wonderful. Again, having you, I know you're super busy. You're helping bookkeepers all over the world and it's true. It makes a difference for us to have you on the show and to share all of your experiences and things that you've done and it does make a big difference for us.

DR: 31:33 Thank you, Michael. I'm thrilled to be here.

MP: 31:37 Yes. Well, that wraps another episode of the successful bookkeeper podcast. And to learn more about today's wonderful guests, please go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com 

MP: 31:48 and until next time, goodbye.