EP69: Debbie Roberts - How To Set Goals For A Profitable New Year

Are you THAT bookkeeper?

You know, the one that tells her clients to set business goals for the year, but she, herself, doesn't set any?Our guest, Pure Bookkeeping co-founder, Debbie Roberts has chatted with bookkeepers like that.

She's discovered that if you don't take the time to set goals, you'll wander aimlessly without achieving what you'd like.

Don't begin a fresh year like that.

Instead, listen to Debbie as she will help get you on track by discussing...

  • The importance of setting 12 month, 3 year and 5 year goals

  • Why KPI reports are crucial to tracking your success

  • Why you should have an accountability partner during your business journey

To learn more about Pure Bookkeeping, visit this link.

To view Deb's KPI report/spreadsheet template, go here.

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

To buy the E-Myth Bookkeeper, click this link.


Michael Palmer: 01:22 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer and boy do we have an exciting episode today. My guest is the co-author of the E-myth bookkeeper, why most bookkeeping practices don't work and what you can do about it. That book was written with the famous Michael Gerber, who has sold 6 million copies of E-myth revisited, which is the story of how to build system-dependent businesses. She's also the co-founder of Pure Bookkeeping and she is the former owner of Backs bookkeeping, which was a very successful bookkeeping in Melbourne, Australia. She's been on the show several times. I'm sure if you're a regular listener, you know her already. Welcome back to the podcast, Debbie Roberts. 

Debbie Roberts: 02:06 Oh, thank you, Michael. What a wonderful introduction. 

MP: 02:09 I love having you on the podcast, Deb, because all of our listeners just absolutely always come back and let me know about how much they're enjoying the episodes when you're on. So it's always a pleasure to have you back to share your wisdom and all the things that you're doing. I mean, what's cool is that you're working with literally thousands of bookkeepers all over the world, learning how, what's working, learning what's not working, sharing what has worked, where you've succeeded, where you failed. And I think that's why people love working with you, is that you just give it to everyone straight. You share what works, what doesn't, where you've been and where you're going. 

DR: 02:48 Yeah. And I really love being part of these podcasts and also helping as many bookkeepers across the globe as I possibly can. In the years that I was working, Peter Cook, when he was my business coach, I learned so much about what worked and especially what didn't. And I, I kind of feel I'm passionate about sharing that knowledge rather than just keeping it all to myself. I want, I want to help people avoid those mistakes that I made. So I love this opportunity. 

MP: 03:17 Yeah. It's such a, such a, such a wonderful thing. And I mean, you have an incredible heart and you know, when, when people have done something that's remarkable for themselves and then spend their time actually helping others get to where they, they were. I think it's, I mean it's always inspirational from my, my, my standpoint. So, so Deb, you know, we thought about having, because this is, we don't often date our podcast, but because it is the end of 2017 we're recording this at the end of 2017. We want it to have an episode that talked about setting people up powerfully for the next year, 2018 so we wanted to talk about goals. 

DR: 04:00 Yeah. It's something that I'm particularly passionate about. 

MP: 04:04 Absolutely. And I mean, knowing that you've just recently, um, purchased your, your Dream House really, uh, you know, listening to you share that story and how it came about. And, and really it's just a series of milestones that were created a long, long time ago where you, you set out to accomplish different things and it's not like you were attached to it actually happening, but when you put the right, when you sort of figure out where you're going and why you're going there and yep, you lay out all the goals and the milestones and you take massive action. It's, it's actually surprising, which is funny because you surprised when you get the results, but yet it's not that surprising. 

DR: 04:47 Yes. So interesting how that works. 

MP: 04:50 Yeah. Tell us your take on the whole concept of setting goals. 

DR: 04:56 Again, I learned this from pate when I started working with him as my business coach. I didn't like doing it. I didn't particularly like setting goals because I was afraid that what if I don't hit the mark? What if I don't reach that goal? But I learned how important it was from Pete and our whole business coaching was actually structured around the goal setting. So every session that we had was about, okay, how are we going on the goals that we set in the last month, in the last quarter? How, how has that extrapolate that out to the future? Are we on track for the goals for the next three months, six months, and even 12 months based on what has happened in the last month, the last two months, the last three months? So we will constantly, it was this like this moving like fish swimming in the ocean if you like, as the metaphor I'm thinking of where you, you're going back, you're looking back towards what actually happened and extrapolating that out towards the future so that you were able to make timely decisions if you needed to tweak something. So if you needed to change your marketing strategies or it was a time to recruit, all of this was linked to the goals that we set at the beginning of each year. 

MP: 06:18 So you said you, you actually resisted it or you didn't, you didn't enjoy it. What, what was it about it that you didn't enjoy? 

DR: 06:26 Pete and I would have a full day planning session in the first week of January every year to plan that year, but also to plan the next three to five years now 12 months I felt reasonably comfortable and theirs was always a little bit nerve-wracking. When you're saying, oh I want to add on an extra $100,000 to my business. Cause as bookkeepers, what we do typically when you say that you go, how am I going to do that? So we go down into the detail of the technician. Whereas goal setting is the leader's role to set the goals so that it's the leader with the vision that says, okay this is what I'm going to do. So goal setting is a leadership role and then once you've got the vision set, then the manager works out how they're going to get there. 

DR: 07:20 What systems do you need to put in place, what staff will you need to put on what marketing strategy. So they work out the middle ground picture of what's going to happen and then the technician actually makes that happen. So then if you don't have that vision at the start, the manager's wandering around saying, oh well, you know, what's a good day today? And, and Oh, we've got, we've got some work done and we've built out a few things but there's no, there's no direction to go to. So I was able to kind of manage the first 12 months, but looking at two, three to five years I really, really struggled with because it's kind of crystal ball gazing. And when it came down to it, what I was afraid of is that I would fail and that, which is a very common thing I've learned since talking to, as you said, hundreds of bookkeepers over the past, um, seven years or so. 

DR: 08:12 And the reason is that we fear failure. We think that if we actually put down on paper that we are going to aim for this goal by this date and we don't achieve it, then with we have failures. And that's actually not true. It's got nothing to do with being right or wrong or fail or success or anything like that in, in some respects. What I learned was to play it a bit like a game, and I know in the seriousness of running a business that can kind of seem like a contradiction in a way. But what I learned was to don't get so attached to the goals where you're to absolutely stress out had, have your vision five years down the track, but don't be so attached to it that you're going to have a nervous breakdown. If you don't get it, go hard, go hard at it. But if you don't achieve it, then that's all right. You gave it, you will know, you'll be able to look back and say, well actually I gave it my best shot and so I'm going to reset my, my goals now for the next, the next three to five years. And you keep doing that. But it's, it's mainly the fear of failure that we, we, there's the reason why we don't do it. 

MP: 09:32 Yeah. And I think fear having the fear there, you also made a bold move and hiring a coach like Peter who's a, a master business coach to hold you to doing the goal setting and a number of other things. But I think that's kind of this dilemma that, that is there for anybody that works on their own is, you know, you should be doing goals but there's, or, or a bunch of things in your business. But there's fear there or it's uncomfortable or unknown and without someone there to both mentor, Guide and hold accountable, nothing happens. 

DR: 10:16 Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that's partly due to the nature of the bookkeeping industry. Most bookkeepers go into bookkeeping, you know, they might've been working in a full-time position in accounts payable or some, some accounting kind of role. And they start to have children and they want to keep their skills going, but they don't want to work full time. And so they, they say, I'll, I'll, I'll do bookkeeping and I'll work from home. And because there's kind of, they want flexibility so they can do it around their children. They treated a little bit as a hobby so it's, Oh yeah, I'll do a couple of hours here and then I'll hang the washing out and I'll cook dinner and things like that. And there's nothing wrong with that. And that's certainly the reason why I went into bookkeeping because it was flexible around my children and I took them to school and pick them up and took them to after school programs. 

DR: 11:10 I was an important part of keeping a work-life balance for me. But at some point in time if you are going to, if you have a big vision, you have to get a little bit more professional about your business and part of that is being accountable and, and I think there's a little bit of resistance around that as well that when we set as selves and a little hobby business up and we don't mind, we'll go and have a coffee or we'll meet a girlfriend as well because we can and we'll work at eight o'clock at night or something like that to make it up. We kind of want one to protect that as well, that I want to have a little bit of flexibility and I want to do some personal things. I want to have the scope for that. That, as I said, at some point, if you had the vision to grow a black belt business, and we've talked about the belts before, we might bring it up again, Michael, if you think it's appropriate. But if you, if you want to turn over $500,000, you've got to get serious about the hobby business and start to set goals, set appropriate goals, and have some form of accountability in place to keep you accountable for achieving those goals. Instead of just saying, oh no, look, it'll, it'll be right. I don't actually, I don't really know really attached to that. It'll matter if I don't achieve that. I want to just not work that hard or something. 

MP: 12:38 You know, it's a, it's, it's, there's a lot there that you've said and, and what's really interesting is, is how many bookkeepers come into this business from, and what I see, and I think you'll agree with me, is that many in this industry don't even get how big the opportunity is. And, and not to say that you know, everybody needs to go and build a, what's considered a black belt business in the bookkeeping industry, which would be five, 600,000 plus. But it is what whatever they have, and this goes for any human being, right? It's the setpoint, the set view, what your worldview is, what you believe, what you think is possible as you grow through life into, you know, most people in a bookkeeping business, let's say at least 30 years old, right? Uh, 30, 40, 50 years old. I mean, you've spent 30, 40 years identifying what's possible and what is impossible. 

MP: 13:41 And, and there's, and many times it's so far off from the truth, but yet that's a person's view. So they can't see the possibility that potential without somebody intervening. And I think that's what's really successful in some of the mentoring groups that we run, is that it's like, oh, you know, when you see somebody else that's, you know, even doing $100,000 a year, but yet they're working half the time it's like, wait for a second, what I want, I, I'm working as hard as you, but you're making twice as much as me. So part of setting goals is being in an environment and a conversation that disrupts what's already existing.

DR: 14:25 Yeah, absolutely. And one of the things, I mean for our licensees, as you mentioned, we've got mastermind meetings that happen every month where licensees get together to discuss business building things and the implementation of the system and what issues and people having and setting goals and making each other accountable. That's one of the core features of these masterminds is to, is to make people accountable. And even if you don't have access to something like that, what I would recommend that the listeners do is buddy up with someone, someone who will make you accountable. Now that doesn't necessarily, that doesn't have to be another bookkeeper. That could be your partner, it might be a family member, it could be a mentor that you, that you have, uh, who you respect. Someone that is going to be able to sit down with you, helps you crystallize your goals, and then you have a monthly meeting with that person and say, okay, how did you go in that month? You need to have someone that is prepared to make you feel a little bit uncomfortable as well. That's all, that's a whole thing about growing, growing your business. It's, it's about the accountability really in, in, in most cases makes us feel a little bit uncomfortable because we know we've got to do something rather than just cruising through. But that's the whole, that, that's how you're going to achieve your goals is by putting yourself under that kind of scrutiny. 

MP: 15:56 Absolutely. And I, and I will say, you know, it's, you know, because it's the industry bookkeeping industry, the clients that everyone has are business owners. And, and many times business owners will try to do their own books and at that goes a certain way. And so if you're listening right now and you're thinking, Hey, what's, what's the best way that I can go about taking my business from a to B? You may want to go and say, well, wait for a second, what's the equivalent? And I will tell you what the equivalent is. It's, you know, not you trying to figure this out on your own, but going and finding somebody or some in a program that's proven predictable, that helps people go from a to B and hire them to get you to a, to B because you're going to get there a lot faster. You're going to end up not in the message, just like your clients get end up getting in when they tried to do their own books. 

DR: 16:48 Yeah. And I bet also this whole thing about goal setting, the number of times I've spoken to bookkeepers who when I ask them, so what are your goals for the next 12 months? And they say, oh no, I'm not really sure. I haven't really given that much thought. And yet they admit that they tell their clients that they need to set goals for their business. And when I point that out to them, they realize, yeah, why is it that I am telling my clients that they need to set goals and they need to get a business coach or they need to be accountable for that and let's have this monthly meeting so we can have a look at what your finances are and see if you've achieved your goals and things like that. But they're not prepared to actually do that in their own business.

MP: 17:32 Yeah, it's an interesting, interesting observation. 

DR: 17:36 Yeah. And I think it comes back to the same fears that you had where people come from in this, in this industry is that sometimes it's daunting to ask for help. You know, it's like, don't want to look, don't want to look like you're, you're getting it all wrong. And, and sometimes that's, that's your approach. I mean, Eh, I've, I've coached many, many, many, many bookkeepers and you know, many of them have said, you know, it took me a long time to get the courage to, to have a conversation with the unit. I'd always used to shock me and surprise me because I'm like, that's what I do. I ask questions. I, I love hearing about where somebody is having their problems, you know, because a, I've, I've been there, I understand it. I bet you know, I'm not judging, I'm not gonna judge anybody. That's my job. 

DR: 18:23 My profession is to, to be open and, and helpful. But yet that's what I know. And so it's again, comes back to that worldview, not knowing what it is or what it looks like to be any different. It sometimes is daunting and scary. So for the listener, it's, you know, if you've thought of working with a coach or you know, you're, you're nervous that someone might say, Oh, gee, you really don't know what you're doing. Do you? Here's what many don't. And it's okay. And the best way to get on the right track is to just accept it. And say, I am where I am and I know it's not where I want to be and I need to find some help.

MP: 18:55 And I know Deb, that was really a pivotal point when you came to that realization early in your bookkeeping careers, you, you the big, big Aha moment for you was like, wait for a second, I don't have all the answers. 

DR: 19:14 Yes. Oh absolutely. And that's when I realized I, I probably needed a business coach even though at the time I didn't know exactly what business coaches did, but yes, it's one of those things and, and if you haven't actually read my book, Amy's bookkeeper, please do that because you will see in that book that I have freely admitted the mistakes that I made. I'm very open about that. And as I mentioned, just starting off, the reason I am quite okay with that is that I want you to learn from my mistakes and tried to avoid doing them yourself. I've never had a, yeah, any issues with saying, oops, I stuffed up. In fact, my mantra, I guess whenever something went wrong, I would say, ah, okay, what system do I need to create in order for that not to happen again? And it was always about the systems and that's, that's how the pure bookkeeping system came about and was developed over all those years. 

DR: 20:16 Um, it was when mistakes were made or things were lost or things were forgotten, all those, that, those kinds of things that, that are kept adding to the system kept creating more systems. Um, but we're diverting a little bit too to goals. I think one of the things our stories I want to share is once I started working with Pete, my biggest goal was that my husband would retire, that I would be able to replace his income. So Neil, my husband and the goal that I said. So I started working with paid in 2001 one two kinds of thing. And, or the goal that I'd set was by 2010 that I had replaced Neil's income and 2010 came and I couldn't replace his income and he didn't retire. And at that point, you could have said, ah, you failed Deb. That's, look, it's not going to happen. 

DR: 21:15 Um, and, and you'd be right. Well, you'd be half right. I did fail. I didn't get my reach, my goal in 2010 but in 2012 neo was able to work part time and in 2014 he retired. Remarkable. So yes, I missed my goal, but if I didn't have that goal back in 2001 I wouldn't have even been on my radar. I wouldn't have been, I wouldn't have been looking for that and I wouldn't have been taking the necessary actions to make that happen. So all of that has got a million, as you can probably imagine, and it's got a million actions underneath that in order for us to achieve that. But I didn't go there in 2001 I didn't say, well, how am I going to do that? I had no idea how I was going to do that and in 2001 but I just knew that that's what I wanted to do. And so our whole focus was getting to that point and yes, we missed it, but, uh, only by a few years. And is he worried? No, we're in 2017 now and he's been retired for three years and I'm living, living the life 

MP: 22:33 So it's remarkable. And now back in the beginning, when you made that goal, I mean, that would have been for you a crazy go crazy 

MP: 22:44 crazy. And that was one of those, okay. 

MP: 22:48 And yet if you, if you would have backed down and said, oh, well let's minimize this, let's, let's, you know, that's, you know, that's all possible, then you would have achieved something that was less desirable and not what you really wanted. And that's, I think a really important message too, is to be clear about what you want. 

DR: 23:10 Yes. Yeah. And I'm pretty sure intellectually the listeners would know that one of the first ones that have had podcasts about goal setting there is, you know, you look it up, Google it, and there'll be, you know, there's so much information on there about goal setting. So I think intellectually the listeners will know that. But I think on, um, a really deeper level, that's when you've got to kind of get at those Aha moments where you go, what I want to achieve in the next five years, whether that be a black belt business or your retiring or you being able to support the family in some way or go overseas on a holiday. Um, whatever it is. If you don't, if you don't set that goal, as I said earlier about you just kind of wander through the year. And one of the metaphors I make or use is, it's a bit like when you decide you're going on a family vacation and they pack everything up, you've got everything in the car, all the suitcases are packed, the kids are in the back, you start the car and you start driving. 

DR: 24:20 But you actually haven't planned your destination. So you are just driving round from here to there. And sometimes it's good to be spontaneous and just drive from here to there and get out and have a look at that. But at the end of the day, you're going to get to the end of the day and you're not going to have any way to sleep and you don't even know if you should be going north or south, east or west. So when you think about that, that's what goal setting is all about. It's having a destination and it's having a, it's another metaphor I love using is a helicopter view. So when you're, when you're creating your vision, when you're setting your goals, it's a bit like getting in a helicopter and going up high and looking out to the horizon. And as the higher you get up, the less detail you see. So, but the further you can see out, so if you, if you get stuck into the detail, cause as technicians I spoke keepers, we go, but how are they going to happen? 

DR: 25:15 How can that, well I've got a, what will that mean? I'll need to forget that this when you are setting goals, your job or for that day when you are planning your vision and setting your goals, is to get the big-picture view of what you would love to achieve within 12 months, three years and five years. And you get up in your helicopter and you look out onto the rise and about where it is that you want to be. And then you come down and then the manager steps in and says, okay, how are we going to actually do this? 

MP: 25:47 You know, it's a, it's fantastic stuff. And a, and you mentioned something that we all, we all know about goals and every listener would have heard about goals and why it's so important and what I repeatedly see and hear from people that have gone through some of the goal-setting exercises that we do is that they don't take the time to actually do it. And I think that was one of the other key messages, right? You, you hired Pete, he held the space for you. You did every year a full day of planning where you devoted that entire day, one day a year. So one of three 65 to sit down for a whole day of planning your goals. And I think for, that's the big, big one that while we know to do goals, but do we all spend in divvy out the time to actually put ourselves in an environment where we can have enough creative space and mind share to actually go, hey, what is it that I am, do really want, you know, in five or two years, whatever it is that you decide you want to look at and then start to map it back and figure it out. 

DR: 26:56 MMM, absolutely. And I think the other really important thing is once you've got those goals, it's tracking your progress. You can't just have a five-year goal out there and then forget about it. It's gotta be, it's always front of mind that this is where we're heading and what have I done this month? What have I done in the last three months? Have a look at your, uh, your turnover, how many clients you put on, how many, what your marketing strategies, uh, you've put in place, how many accountants you've met with ha because it's all your marketing strategies are the ultimately what's going to generate the extra income that you're going to, you bring in. And if you're not doing any marketing, then you may reach your goals, but you certainly won't reach your goals in the timeframe that you're expecting if you are just wanting it to grow by word of mouth. 

DR: 27:51 But I think that what the other thing that Pete and I did was we had what I call, well I didn't call, we call it a KPI report, so key performance indicator, that's another very common terminology. But we chose what was our key performance indicators so that the things that we could measure and I had to complete that KPI spreadsheet every month before our meeting if I didn't do that. It really impacted on the quality, if you like, of the information that we are able to share and, and, and are planning for that session. So if I said I didn't have time to do the KPI report, people would go, well, how can we have a conversation about where are you at? Are you on track? What do we need to change? All of that if that KPI report isn't completed. So it's absolutely critical to have some kind of mechanism, some kind of report spreadsheet to be able to track your progress towards your goals. 

MP: 28:50 Yeah and as well the accountability of someone holding you to it because life gets in the way. These things are not urgent, they're not urgent. And there's always something more urgent in life, whether it's personal or business that will, it's like, yeah, should I be sitting down here and looking at what I did accomplish where I'm at? Or put out the fire over there. 

DR: 29:12 Yes. 

MP: 29:13 But having, having Pete holding that and, and holding you to it, ensure that it got done. 

DR: 29:19 Yes. Yeah. So that's really important. So that whoever that buddy is that you're going to buddy up with, whether it be your partner, family member, mentor of some kind, then that's you have a monthly meeting with that person to look specifically at your finances and the growth and, and the marketing strategies that you've put in place and basically generate your own KPIs that, uh, you can report on every month and say what worked and what didn't in the last month. And then what am I going to do in the next month? One of the key actions, which are either going to get me back on track or you will tweak, tweak the goals a little bit one way or the other. Sometimes the growth is so phenomenal. You think, wow, I've, I haven't set the bar high enough. I need to raise that bar, that 12-month goal to this level because I'm going to smash that. 

MP: 30:10 No, I love it. That's beautiful. And it really is a really, is the case all sorts of information now as possible or it's coming to you that makes new things possible, new decisions, new ideas. And that's, that's the beauty of that setting the line in the sand or drawing the line in the sand and then monitoring. How are we doing, how, where's it going? What's happened? 

DR: 30:29 Yes. Yeah, it definitely must do. That's a critical step in the goal-setting process. 

MP: 30:43 Now, Debbie, you have talked about this before and you have done a webinar where you've talked about the KPIs, the key performance indicators and how you've tracked things. Can you tell us a little bit about that and how our listener can get access to that? 

DR: 30:58 Yes, yes. I'm very excited too to let the listeners know that we are making available the KPI report that I used in my business and which you can obviously customize. It's a spreadsheet which you can customize for your business and I also created a Webinar for our licensees so that they would understand why I was tracking certain KPIs and it's quite as with everything, I opened up my heart and I don't hold anything back and I explained the reason. Even the first KPI on there is I completed the KPI report by the first week of the month because what happens is as you said, Michael, when the, it's not, it's not urgent that I complete that I've got clients to worry about and spot fires to put out and things like that and it's only my business anyway, so if I don't get that done, who's going to growl on the boss? 

DR: 31:55 No one's going to grow up me, so what if I don't get it done? It's that was that kind of attitude that I had and then when I started working with Pete, I needed to change that attitude and I needed to say, actually this is more important than anything else that I have this KPI report completed before our meeting each month and so that became my number one KPI had done I get that completed? And there are other important things obviously around income and the billable hours and nonbillable hours and all that sort of thing that we, that we had to track was very important to track all those. 

MP: 32:29 Beautiful, well you know what? I can just see that this is, this is an excellent opportunity. So we are going to have a link in the show notes. So if you're listening right now on your, your iPhone or your android or your listening on the computer down below, there are all the notes about the show and there will be a link that you can go and get access to both that Webinar as well as the KPI, which will help you to start to set up your 2018 or if it's maybe you're listening to this and it's 2021 next year, who knows, but you'll be able to start planning and preparing yourself to have just an incredible year. Yeah, Debbie, this is, this has been fantastic as always. It's just a really big thank you from our listener for your generosity and your time to come and share not only what's worked for you, but as well reveal what hasn't worked with you, where you failed. Yeah, and I, it's just so valuable and again, I thank you on behalf of all of our listeners.

DR: 33:35 My absolute pleasure, Michael.

MP: 33:37 Excellent. Well, that wraps another episode of the successful bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's wonderful Gaston to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com

MP: 33:48 Until next time, goodbye.