EP96: Louie Prosperi - How To Plan A Successful Bookkeeping Business

Starting a business is a risky journey.

There is more than one way to make mistakes that could hurt your long term success.

Our returning guest, Louie Prosperi, who is the CEO of ICB USA, shares a way to help you get a firm plan in place.

It's through The Proactive Business Model which is a program that ensures bookkeepers are consistently valuable to their clients and are running their businesses more efficiently.

During this interview, you'll also discover...

  • The importance of taking care of your clients and employees

  • The difference between working on and working in your business

  • How an ICB USA Certification can lead you to success

To learn more about ICB USA, visit here.

For ICB USA's Facebook page, click here.

For ICB USA's Facebook closed group, go here.

For Louie's Twitter, discover here.

For his previous Successful Bookkeeper podcast episode, listen here.


Michael Palmer: 01:32 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a great one. Our return guest is the CEO of, I see B u s a, which is a bookkeeping association that provides development of certifications, education, resources, and tools for its members so they can be the bookkeeper of the future. Louie Prosperi, Welcome back to the podcast.

Louie Prosperi: 01:59 Well Michael, I'm very happy to be back, so thank you so much and again, thank you for that great introduction. You just do me so much. So much justice on that one. I just really enjoy when you introduced me. So EMV, you put a smile on my face.

MP: 02:13 Do Louie, it's easy to do so we love having your back and I'd love for you to just really share a little bit about yourself. For those that haven't gone back, maybe to new listeners, don't know who you are. We'll start off with just sharing a little bit about yourself and then we're going to get into doing some planning for our listeners business and talking about the proactive business model. So let's start with a little bit about you and ICB USA.

LP: 02:41 Well, uh, my background is, has always been in a professional accounting and bookkeeping. Uh, I started getting, uh, my honors degree in accounting and then have been working in public practice as well as industry and then set up my own practices, uh, before going into the association world like we are now today. So I've always enjoyed, I think my passion has always been about helping people and helping businesses succeed. And now in my new role, I'm helping a professional bookkeepers succeed in their practice and their businesses. And it's, there's been wonderful in a, with the ICB USA is all about, it's about helping the professional bookkeeper through certification as well as providing that service to the customer, the end customer, making sure that the bookkeepers that come through our program are the best in the world to be quite honest.

MP: 03:35 So awesome. Well, you know what, an ICB USA is the world's largest association for bookkeepers. I think that's what makes it really powerful is that it's leveraging knowledge and resources from around the globe.

LP: 03:50 Yeah, ICB USA is part of the ICB global network, which is the largest in the world. So we have more than one association around the world. And that's the key, I think, uh, for ICB is that we take all of our knowledge base around the world and we utilize it for every association. So you get more than just your normal, what you have in your country. A good example, I know we're going off topic a bit, but money laundering legislation is becoming a very big thing right now in the world. And ICB is, is the, is the leader in, in making sure that the, uh, regulations and technology are, uh, incorporating the professional bookkeeper. We're doing that in, in the UK. We're doing that in Australia and so forth. So when it does start creeping into North America and requiring our professional bookkeepers to be integrated in that, we're already on the leading edge on that.

MP: 04:49 Beautiful. I love that. I love that the world is changing quickly and we're going to need leaders too to help give the information necessary in order to do the work efficiently and excellently for our customers, small business owners. Now before we get into planning, tell us a little bit about the proactive business model ICB USA is developing and then we're actually going to get in and, and I, I'd love for you to help our listeners do some of this work on their businesses.

LP: 05:20 Oh, that's great. Thanks. Thanks, Michael. Uh, the proactive business model is a continuation of what's happening out in the market today. I think, you know, into its doing firm of the future and so forth. And that's all about value pricing and value components. What the proactive business model is doing is taking that to the next step. It's, it's incorporating the value-centric ideas of value pricing and putting it through the entire, uh, from not just that, the, uh, acquiring into establishing value, but also making sure that the processes and systems are in place allow you, make sure you, you meet those expectations. And then the third component, and I'm going through this very quickly by the way, there's more detail and the third component is to have your organization always producing and preparing services that meet the customer's needs today and tomorrow. What that means is that you cannot develop a series of services and expect that to meet everybody's needs, uh, even your current customers, their needs will change and you have to have the proactive systems in place to allow you to constantly be on the forefront. And that's what the proactive business model's all about. When we did one Webinar with you, Michael, uh, with regards to processes and systems and how valuable that is. And, uh, that's just the start. We will be adding articles, we'll be adding more webinars and content and all three of these, uh, pillars that we just talked about.

MP: 06:54 Yeah, absolutely. I had a ton of fun doing it and, and I think highly valuable for your members and as well for our listeners. And we'll have links to that of course, in the, in the show notes. So Louie, let's, let's get into doing some work on our listeners business today. We talk often about e myth, the work that Michael Gerber did 40 years ago, EMF, which is the entrepreneurial myth, why most small businesses don't work and what you can do about it. And one of the key factors in there is, is that you have to take time to work on your business and not just work in your business. Now, getting time to work on your business and pulling yourself from actually doing the work can be difficult. But I want to talk about how you can help our listeners do that and as well the benefits of doing it. So in terms of planning for the business, Louie, what's the first step that our listener should do in order to start thinking differently about the growth of their business?

LP: 07:55 So, uh, Michael, with regards to working on your business and working in your business, let's first define what that is because I do believe that that's a significant difference in a lot of sole proprietors or sole practitioners think that they're the same thing, right? And working in your business is actually taking care of your customers, taking care of your employees, uh, making sure the services are done, the quality control of, of what's coming out at the back end of your product, collecting receivables and payables and making sure that the company is running, but that's working in your business, working on your businesses, taking yourself up above that and looking at what is this business supposed to do for me? Like what, what are my goals and objectives for this business? Where are we going? How do we get to the next step? What are our customer base right now?

LP: 08:48 And so those are much different questions and answers and they require a different mindset and you need the capacity to do both. Now, uh, the things that I'd like to talk about, which I think we mentioned that at the last Webinar, Michael, was customer capacity and emotional capacity. Um, and those things are very important when you're running a business, particularly if you're a sole proprietor and you're basically the entire business. So customer capacity basically means how many customers can use successfully service without causing any strain. On your practice. Uh, people think 100% is probably the right number. And I would disagree with that. I think if as soon as you start to exceed 75 to 80% of capacity, you're already hitting the top or top end of your utilization. And why, why do I say that? Because you need at least 20% of capacity at the top end to allow for emergencies. LP: 09:53 When a customer comes in and says, look, I need this done tomorrow and they're an important customer, and if you already at 100% capacity, what's going to happen is either you won't be able to satisfy that customer, which is bad, or one of your other customers will be suffering and also will be a negative on you. So that 20% allows you to make sure that everybody is taken care of, they get the results that they're expecting and your branding does not get hurt. That's why you need at least 2020 5% and the other component is to deal with new customers that are coming in. So if a high value customer walks through the door, you want to be able to serve as him, not necessarily any customer, but a high value customer. Without that capacity, someone's going to have to get push back. Or you might have to say no to that.

LP: 10:44 And that's why 100% if anybody out there is at 100% capacity, they're already over the capacity limit. So how do we do that? How do we define customer capacity, I guess is the, is the next question, right? Like, like where, where do we go? Okay. So a good way to do that is to determine what is your minimum pricing. So for example, that's a hard question to answer, but I usually start at the top end, which is what is the amount of revenue that I want to make? So now I don't expect you to make silly remarks like I want to make a million and you're only making $30,000, right? What it is, is that I want to make $100,000 a year, let's say. Okay, so, so let's, let's use that as an example. And then let's, let's assume that you're a one person operation or bookkeeping accounting firm.

LP: 11:41 So now you take a look at your customer base and what's the smallest client customer that you have? And let's say it's $1,000 a year, right? So that, that if you took on all only these small customers, that means you would have to have $100,000 a year customers. So the first question is, can you handle a hundred customers properly? And if the answer is no, which I think it is, then that's minimum price is way too low because you can't have anybody at that price. What's your minimum price should be, is the number of customers that you can handle effectively based on the top revenue line that you want earn. So my price normally for $800,000 is about five to $6,000 per customer. What does that mean? That means I handled 20 customers a year and I know at 20 customers a year, I am very effective and I have enough capacity to deal with emergencies and growth and possibly going and developing new resources or new services.

LP: 12:50 If you don't have that number, then work, work around it and see what you can do. Now, let's say your business model doesn't allow you, let's say, well, I can't do that like my customers that I want. I only have one or two customers at 5,000 the rest are at three. Okay, fair enough. So now the next step is how do I manage those customers effectively? That means I'd probably have to hire somebody and then you have to factor the employee rate and making sure that when you hire someone and add additional costs, how much of the top line has to go up to satisfy that number? And the reason why you have to keep doing that is to make sure that you have enough return. If the return is not there, then then you have to do a different analysis. Meaning that, am I in the right business model? Am I attracting the right customer? Those are the things that you, that you can do. Now, by the way, we're going through this very, very quickly. I'm just trying to give you a very quick ways to just do a quick assessment of your customer capacity that should only take you a few hours or one day to do and now at least we'll give you a guidance of where you are and where you're heading.

LP: 14:05 Emotional capacities and other one what emotional capacity is, and that's a tough one because I don't know about any of you, but if you've had a very difficult customer and Michael, you can help me out on this one and you spent an hour on the, on the phone with a difficult customer, the rest of the day could be shot for you.

MP: 14:22 Absolutely. Absolutely. The energy that gets invested into, into that experience, it, it goes not only into your work day, but as well has a potential to leak into your personal life and affect your family and all sorts of things. I mean there the cost of just that one example is I think very often underestimated the cost of having a, an emotionally draining customer,

MP: 14:50 right? Imagine if you have that everyday. So the the amount of effort it takes you work with bookkeepers Louie, that's great.

LP: 14:59 My Day, every day is an awesome day.

LP 15:02 Well we knew both. I do enjoy my work too cause I do get to meet a lot of them as well. But for them and I've been in, in practice, customers can be very demanding. The interesting thing is that the emotional capacity, uh, I would start ranking are your customers and you would know them almost instantly when you look at your list of who's a high emotional capacity customer and who's a low one. The next thing I would do on that is, is put the amount of revenue that that person generates for you and it's interestingly enough, if you have a a, B, c, d clients, what I mean by ABCD clients, I mean that's the number, that's the amount of revenue and call it how much revenue you collect from them and how well they pay and so forth. That's an a client and it goes down the list.

LP: 15:47 Usually the high emotional capacity customers tend to be the C and d clients. There is a couple of ways, but in most cases that's, that's what happens. And I would strongly recommend to limit the high emotional capacity customers. Now if it's a high emotional capacity customer that makes you feel fantastic after the meeting, then keep that one. I'm not talking about those. Okay. I'm only talking about the ones that are draining for you and I would definitely review that component and eliminate as many of those as possible. I know that sounds scary, but if picking up the phone and talking to this customer causes you to have an anxiety attack, there's something wrong with that relationship. You're in a trusted relationship as a professional bookkeeper and there should be mutual respect and there should be mutual understanding and openness. If that customer is constantly in a negative format with you and you don't have that respect, technically you shouldn't be servicing that customer. It's just not the right mix. So any of those customers should automatically be on your, on your list to remove. And once you've improved your emotional capacity, your ability to work on your business and work more effectively goes up through the roof. And, and I think we all know that personally.

MP: 17:16 Yeah, absolutely. I mean it's a, it's a Hallelujah on the whole concept, right? But firing clients is, is in my experience, has been kind of a, a, a rite of passage, if you will, to, to a successful practice or business. And when you do it, it, it's, it's really, you've gotten yourself clear on what you're saying no to. And when you're clear on what you're saying no to, that means you're clear on what you're saying yes to. And if you can clearly differentiate around what of clients that are yeses, well, it's another decision factor that you can use when you're out in the marketplace. And I would take it, I would add another level to this Louie. And one of the things I've helped a lot of people do is clarifying who the customer, their ideal customer is and who they want to work with.

MP: 18:08 And so add in some other factors to that list, which is what industry are they in? And when you said the money that you're making from them, I always like to think of it really simply, who have you loved working with? Where have you made the biggest impacts? So where have you felt like, wow, I really made a big difference there. And then where have you made the most money? Right? So if we can have, hey, I love working with this person, I really make a big difference for them and that difference means a lot to me and I make a lot of money there. That's a, that's a, that's, those are some easy things to say. Whoa. Imagine if we had, as you say, Louis, we're at 80% capacity with those types of customers. I mean your emotional capacity, you're going to have a lot of a lot of real estate there to get through the day and take that energy to your family where it matters most. You know, Louie, this, this type of thinking, I think is so refreshing because so many, I mean, I think the pathway a bit small, but in small businesses, you know, you go into business and it's like, Hey, we've got some clients who, Ray, we're actually making money. But it's a risky journey because if you start picking up the wrong clients, it can lead you into failure.

LP: 19:20 Yes, and failures more than one way. By the way, it's not that you can have a thriving practice, meaning you have 30 40 50 customers, but here you're on the nerve of a nervous breakdown or, or, or you, you, you have all of these customers but they're not paying or you're have to reduce and you're almost in financial bankruptcy because the customer where the customer is pay, how they're paying you and what they're paying you compared to what resources you're using is putting you in a negative position. So you're absolutely right. Top, there are men more than one way to get in a trap that could hurt you longterm by looking at the short term success. And I agree with you, startup companies or startup individuals, they'll, they basically take any customer. And the reason why, one of the reasons why is it makes them feel good.

LP: 20:08 Because let's be honest, if someone says, yes, I want you as a bookkeeper, I want your service or whatever the, the product you're selling, it's like an immediate saying, yes, I'm accepted out there. But then when they come back and start and the price points isn't where you can survive or do well, you kind of ignore that. You Go, I'll, I'll work on that later. I'll build that later. I'm good. I just want to go out there and build my brand or get my experience or cut my teeth on this stuff. The funny thing is that's the pathway of a high risk pathway. And I, I don't say that you'll fail or you won't succeed, but it's a very difficult to succeed. People have succeeded, you know, they've learned and they've managed to, to adapt it and gotten out of that mess, but a lot don't.

LP: 20:55 And um, and I, I think the key is to start off and not worry about rejection. You know, if you have a price point that's too high, you think because you went out there and 15 people have said no to you. Okay, maybe that is true. Well let's take a look. Um, get a coach, get a mentor, talk to someone else in the business, but don't automatically assume that you have to lower your price. It might not be the price. It might be the exactly what you said, Michael. They're looking at the wrong customer. I'll give a bake example cause I just had a real, uh, an interesting discussion with a young entrepreneur where they're, they're baking, uh, they've just graduated and they've done, uh, and they're very skilled individuals and what they've done is, is now they want to set up a, the ability to bake cayenne cakes.

MP: 21:48 You know, the, like the, the event cakes, you know, like the big birthday cakes or the anniversary cakes and so forth. And what's happened is through their resources, they've been getting people that normally go to Fortinos to buy their cake, right? So what happens is people love their cake. So don't get me wrong. I mean, I, I, it's a fantastic cake. You're getting a lot more and the quality, it's all fresh ingredients, all homemade. But the, the person that's coming to you is expecting to pay 14 old prices, which I don't know. A 14. Oh, is a, this is, this is a grocery store. So I'm trying to think of another store. Walmart, you know, anywhere where they have cakes on the side.

LP: 22:32 Yeah. Like fries be like a fries down in, in the United States of fries or a, uh, um, I mean there's so many grocery stores, but it's a, it's a, it's a, it's not a low tier grocery store, but it's, it's sort of like a mid to high tier grocery store.

MP: 22:45 Right. And they have these specialty cakes that, you know, they'll write happy birthday on in store bakery.

LP: 22:52 Yeah, that's exactly right. So when you're talking to that and you, and you go to a professional bakery where they actually do wedding gigs and so forth, it's a totally different market. But what's happened is, is that they're having difficulty, they're getting a lot of high praise and their product is fantastic. But then when they put in the price points, they get a lot of resistance. And it's not because the people aren't except don't agree with the quality is that they're already coming in with expecting the inhouse bakery price point, which is mass produced and there's no way that you'll ever get them to go up to the level that you have. So they're doing great success. Uh, they're building their market. The only problem they're going to have is when they finally get to a point where they have to expand to a level of high production or value.

LP: 23:43 They have the wrong market, the wrong segment, and that's going to be hard to switch over. And that's what I've see in professional bookkeepers. They start off with, you know, the 200 or $300 a year client customer, and now they've got all of these two or $300. Now they want to go to the next level, they want to hire an employee and so forth. But the margins aren't there. And so they continue to acquire those, those customers and it doesn't work. So what you should do from the beginning is start at a very high level. I would say if you can only handle 15 or 20 customers, and that's your price point, and if you want to make $100,000 a year, that's where you should go. All you have to do now is develop the product that justifies that price point.

MP: 24:35 Beautiful. Do you know, I think there's a great movie. I talk about it often. I liked the movie anyways, others may not, but it's called a Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger. And in the movie, Jerry has this manifesto. He's working for this, you know, really the top agency where they, they charge a lot of money, but they have, they really deliver probably a lower service level. It's really just more about the, the money and their customers are numbers and he has this manifesto where he's going to change the way the business works to say, yeah, we're going to charge a lot of money, but we're going to offer incredible value to our customers and help them be more like partners. Right. And I think that what you're talking about Louis more that more of that philosophy where it's like let's have 15 clients where we find 15 clients who really are committed to growing their business and and if they don't, you know, are open to seeing the value of what a great bookkeeper can bring to the table in their business and that that part of the job, right as as a bookkeeper, a, you've got to be able to translate that value in and go in and sell yourself appropriately to a customer.

MP: 25:49 But let's get 15 clients like that and say, look for me, I'm going to deliver this value to the world and what I need a less why. I love this thinking that you're giving us to our listeners, I need this much money. This is what I need to do in the next one year. I want to be at this level of a business. Let's just say it's a a six figure business of $100,000. Well 50, like the math, you've given a formula to figure out the math and now those are the people that we're going to go and figure out. It's like, now we have this kind of like this, almost like this treasure map. It's like we don't, we haven't found the treasure yet, but we've got this map where there's this big acts on this gold little gold chest. Now there's a bunch of things to figure out, well, how do we go get those 15 clients?

MP: 26:32 And I think as a startup, as a, at any level, really a business, but as a startup for sure is to stop and do this kind of thinking and work is going to lead you to the end. I mean, the seven habits of highly effective people, one of the, the, uh, uh, really, uh, a Bible of personal development is a good book to read, some very simple philosophies, but the one of the seven is think with the end in mind. And so by doing this kind of work in this kind of thinking, you're going to end up more likely heading that x mark on the gold chest than if you just kind of go at it and say, well, you know, we'll just get a roll the dice here and hope to get some clients. And, and away we go. So I love this and I think it's a great exercise for, for anybody at any stage of their business to actually do and do this thinking.

LP: 27:26 Uh, you're, you're taking the words right out of my mouth, Michael, like I couldn't have said it better. I think you're absolutely right on, on this, uh, component where, where you have to [inaudible] the customer. Now, one of the things that people come back to me or that I hear honestly back to me, but I hear is that, well, you know, the market doesn't have that price point or this doesn't, you know, the market that this guy over here is charging 50 bucks and I can't charge more than 50. And I always ask my question is why can't you charge more than 50? You know, because, uh, professional bookkeeping services are not commodities. They're unique and each customer is unique. So the question is, it's not you that you always have to look at your competitors. Don't get me wrong, I, I'm not saying to ignore your competitors or what's going out in the market, but when you have to do is create the value.

LP: 28:19 So when you look at that person and what they're, what they're getting for $50, two things, you have to find out, are they really, is, is that $50 true in the sense that are they getting everything that, that the person is promising or is there going to be a big let down after they sign up with that person? Like if there's a high failure rate on that. Secondly, is it, is it what you're offering or are you offering a lot more? Uh, and you should always make your product or service unique. So when you set up your minimum price, build, what's in it? Um, couple of things that you should automatically build into your pricing is a money back guarantee and all that scares a lot of bookkeepers. But what does money-back guarantee offer Michael at? One. Number one is that it shows your confidence in your expertise because if you, if the customer is not happy with what you've delivered, you'll give them all their money back, right?

LP: 29:22 So that alone is unique too, is also access. If, if they want unlimited access to you, you can price that in now. And people get nervous about unlimited access because that means they'll be constantly contacting you. But the reality is that's not necessarily true because a lot of, uh, technology companies give you what they call, uh, maintenance contracts, right? Unlimited maintenance contract. And they price it in cause they know only a small percentage of people will be using it. And the turnaround and the value in there is much higher. So when you give certain things, uh, payment terms, if you're going to provide someone with payment terms, that's an added value. So these are little things you can add to, to your, to your, uh, service mix that aren't even related to the service but are related to the customer experience. That should make things different than what you had then when the other person wouldn't be dealing with.

LP: 30:21 So now when it comes to money back guarantees, uh, one note that I would do is I'd put a time limit on it. So if they, if you've delivered the product, uh, uh, when, when I talk product, uh, book keeps on talking service. If you deliver the service 90 days after the service, the a money back guarantee expires. So, uh, you don't want a year later they go, well, I want my money back. That's ridiculous. They should have within the first 90 days of after whatever service you delivered, if they're not happy, they should communicate that with you. So always make that, always have a time limit on that.

MP: 30:55 Yeah, and I, I really love what you're, what you're saying, uh, with these differentiators. And I would say, you know, it's very fresh, very fresh, very cutting edge thinking, uh, for the industry because very few out there are doing this. And this is a really great way to differentiate yourself. And just to add onto what you're saying around the guarantees is yeah, the have, make sure that it's very clear as to what you expect from the customer and what they can expect for you. And if those things all happen, then that's when guarantees kick in. And, and if we jumped back a bit, all three of the things that you said that suggestions with the, uh, payment plans, uh, the guarantee unlimited service. I mean, if you think about it, if we've got 15 customers that are our ideal customer, low emotional cost, right? They are, we love working with them, we make big impacts with them and they value what we do.

MP: 31:53 None of those people are gonna want a guarantee because they're not those types of people. Likely you're going to do great work. And if you did, likely the guarantee it's going to be a real one where it's like, yeah, you need to stand behind your product and solve the problem. You know things like, well your money back or it's like I'll fix it until it's, you know, I'll work until it's fixed. Like you don't have to, it's like removing the risk for making decisions. Same thing with support. I mean if you're working with great people, great people. I know because the bookkeepers that we work with and Pure Bookkeeping, I mean they're all wonderful people. They're ambitious, they're there, they're bright, they're working on and they know that their time is valuable. They don't call with a problem. That's not a valuable problem to solve cause they know their times.

MP: 32:33 They don't want to jump on a call with me or, or any of our team unless it's like something that they really need help with. And that's, that's what ends up happening when you put together our customer base of people that are really serious about growing their business, they're not going to burn up their time. And if you do have people that are burning it up, well again, you got to look at it. Is it worth having that relationship, that business relationship and your business? Uh, so just love though that thinking around different, just that one little bit around differentiating yourself. I think it has gold Louie.

LP: 33:04 And by the way, these are, we've had people be much, much more creative. And what's interesting is once you start being creative in your business and working on your business, you'll find out that you'll be able to add these unique services and content and you'll be able to fine tune it per customer. That there is no way that your customer will be able to somehow look at your service or what you provide and try to compare it to your customer because it's too unique. It's not, it's not capable of of comparison. And that's where you want to be at the end of the day. You only want your customer to compare you amongst your options that you provide. Not about the competitive with the competitors do. And I always use the telephone companies, their cell phone companies, they have so many different options when you, when you buy a phone and all the different options and have like a, B, c, d, e, f.

LP: 33:57 And what ends up happening is when you try to compare it to a competitor, they're never exactly the same. So you're never really comparing apples to apples. You're always either apples or oranges and sometimes you get so confused. All you end up doing is comparing options of the provider that you're already using. And before you even bother, you call them up and say, look, I'm about to leave you. I don't know how many of you have done this. And then they go, well, well, well we'll send you to our customer something. You go there and automatically they give you a bunch of discounts and then you stay there. And that's, that's a really good technique. And, and, uh, but you want to do is, is create that vision for your customer, with your services and your options so that what they're going to do is because of the relationship and how the comfort level and the quality that you're producing is, they're always going to come back to you first and say, look, this is what I'm doing.

LP: 34:49 And, uh, you go, well, great. These are the options you have available to you. So, and you can only do this if you first of all, develop the capacity in your business to be creative. And secondly, focus on exactly what Michael says. Build the customer base that suits what you want just to provide. Because if you're providing the services that you want to provide, that means you're having a great time doing it. And if you're having a great time, everybody around you knows that and the experience just emulates from you. And it just, it's just a, it just grows on itself. If you're having a lousy time producing these services, I'll tell you, your customers are going to nail it and they're not gonna. And if you're miserable and they start feeling it, there the are, they're probably going to leave you. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, but that probably says you got the wrong man.

MP: 35:47 Louie, it's just gold, gold, gold. Love it, love it, love it. I think the listener is going to be, I feel the excitement already out there around being more creative in their business and saying, yes, I'm going to have a client base that I love working with so I can be creative and I can have the business that I love. I just love it. Louie, tell us about how the ICB USA can help our listener get to success faster because I know there's a lot of different options in the marketplace around certification and training and uh, all sorts of different things that, that happen in the marketplace. But I really love the power of associations and what something like the ICB USA can do for helping around mindset skill levels and just really giving people the confidence to go out and do the things that we're talking about on this podcast.

LP: 36:46 That's so true, Michael. Um, there, there are a lot of associations and, and there are a lot of good ones out there. I mean it's not, um, I'm going to be biased. Uh, I'll tell you right up front with the ICB USA and the ICB network, I don't know if you noticed that, but I do work for them and uh, I committed myself here. I moved to the ICB purposely because of their global perspective and their passion to the profession. So let me start it off with the difference between certification that you get from a course or a program or school and what a professional body certification means because they're both good. There's nothing wrong with either one, but they're different in what they represent. The certification that you get from a course or program, and it could say you've been certified as a professional bookkeeper from universal or Ben Robinson or college university.

LP: 37:45 What they've done basically is they've tested you on the theory and the knowledge base related to being able to do the services or understanding the concepts. It's related in that profession or in that a study. And that's always useful because you do need that. Now in bookkeeping, a lot of people have learned, what do I call, hands on training or through mentoring. So there's other ways to learn the same knowledge. I'm not saying that it's only the lane one, one one way, but it is a good, very useful way of doing it. So I definitely rec, I always recommend some formal training as a possibility. If you're starting out or you've been in the industry for less than three or four years, the chances are formal training will not hurt you and only benefit you are professional. And I can only talk about ours because I, I cannot talk about other associations and what they do in the bookkeeping realm.

LP: 38:43 But I do know what we do and what our professional certification talks about is about, is about your future after you've been certified or your future in the profession. What we do is we test you on your professional knowledge, on your ability to apply your knowledge in an actual work environment. Um, and our exam is a general exam which covers a lot of different areas where you should have a certain level of expertise, some very high expertise, some general knowledge and some basic knowledge. So that way when you get certified by the ICB, the customer knows that you've achieved a very high level standard at professional bookkeeping. And what we do on top of that, it's not just the certification that matters because once you pass our professional exam, then you have to keep that certification. You have to have a certain amount of continuing education requirements.

LP: 39:37 And for us it's 40 hours a year. A 20 hours have to be verifiable, meaning you have to somehow show us evidence that you've gotten to a specific course or program, uh, on an annual basis. And the other 20 is self-taught. They, whatever you use to continuously to keep up and, and we want, we don't ask you to be very specific as of yet. We are developing it to be in different categories, but right now we've allowed it to be very general. And the reason why we picked general is because a professional bookkeeper needs more than just understanding one component of a business cycle. Nowadays they have to know a lot more about the business cycle for their customer. Uh, technology, uh, inputs, outputs, audit trails, you know, uh, cash flows. And so for them just naming a few things that professional bookkeepers provide nowadays as a small business owner.

LP: 40:33 So that, that's another part that professional certification brings you that, that a certification from a school does not. The next one is we provide a code of conduct. So our certification is tied into our code of conduct. You have to perform based on our code. If you do not, then you put your certification, uh, in jeopardy. So you have a code of conduct, continuing education, and professional certification. Those are the three things that are very specific to a, an association and professional based certification compared to a school-based. The other thing that we do, and I'm not sure about the other associations, is that once you have our certification, once you've been certified by us as a professional bookkeeper, what we do is the exam kits constantly updated and modified to meet net, uh, the future needs of the, of the customer, your customers or of the profession.

LP: 41:29 So that every two or three years there'll be a brand new exam. So what happens is that people that are being certified behind you are always going to be at the top level. The exam doesn't get stale dated. And that is very important. And the reason why we have the opportunity as a profession is our goal is to make sure that we're the leaders. So we're constantly looking at what are the needs of the customer based on our profession for next year and the year after. And that means that we have to make sure our exam modifies and is up to that date. So I would say that in two or three or four years down the road, the certification requirements to become a professional bookkeeper at the ICB will change. It will not be the same as it is today. I can guarantee you that you'll probably have more requirements or more issues, or I might have more different types of components of the exam. So that's why when people ask me, what's the difference, that's the big difference. And then being part of the associations, being part of the community, this is where a bookkeepers don't have the same access as a lot of, uh, accounting bodies do. I know bookkeepers on islands and being part of the ICB brings you all in. And it also brings in the global component. You're not just part of the USA network. You're, you're part of the world network of ICB.

MP: 42:51 It's wonderful Lou, and so many, you know, it's just, you, just, everything you were saying just opens up, you know, you can, you, you stop and you go, whoa. I think a listener needs to go, whoa. You know what? I do a lot of stuff that's pretty awesome. And there's a lot as well. It's probably daunting to think. Yeah, there's a lot that, I don't know. There's a lot that's going to be coming at me that I'm not prepared for. So, so many, so many benefits to belonging to an association like this. And you know, as Louie mentioned, there's lots of great ones out there and I know Louie and the ICB USA is a fantastic organization that will support you and your journey of being the bookkeeper of the future. So it's so great to have you, Louie. I know we're going to have your back and I want to just keep on downloading your, your, your brilliance and the things that you've learned throughout your career and you know, you're just so committed to helping bookkeepers in the world be successful and build businesses that they love. And that's why you're a big friend of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast.

LP: 43:49 Well, I want to thank you for this opportunity. I always enjoy coming on and by all means, anytime you'd like me to come on and let me know what, what I can contribute with. It'll be my pleasure.

MP: 44:00 Beautiful. Now. Louis, is there anything like if someone was really interested in looking at the ICB USA as an option for them, what's the best direct route that they can do that?

LP: 44:11 Well, thank you, Michael. A way to find out more about us. Go to the ICB usa.org and you'll be able to get more information. If that's not enough, please contact our members services email address and we have quite a few staff members that will address any questions or queries or how to sign up.

MP: 44:30 Beautiful. I love it. I recommend anybody that is listening that wants to take their profession right to a new level. Take that action, go do it you, your life will change. Your mindset will change in your business. We'll see a result, amazing investment that you can make in your business. Louis, this has been great. I know we're going to have you back again, but I just want to thank you on behalf of all of our listeners. Thank you.

LP: 44:55 Thank you, Michael. It was a pleasure.

MP: 45:01 Absolutely. Now everybody listening right now, I want you to look up and I want you to hold your head high because just after listening to this podcast episode, how can you not think that you are doing one of the greatest things you can do in the business world, which is helping small business owners be more successful in their business? The work you do is honorable. Keep doing it, keep working hard to do it better, and I wish you all the best until we talk. Again, this has been a lot of fun and that will wrap up another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guests, get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com until next time, goodbye.