Have you ever said to yourself, “I used to love what I do?” I have said that multiple times in the years of running an accounting and tax firm. When you start your business, you love helping clients and seeing their wins in their business. You love seeing how they value your work and feel like you are making a difference in their lives. You love figuring things out and learning new things.
This is all great until you start losing yourself in your business. What do I mean? How do I know this?
It happened to me. I used to love what I do but when you have the stress of trying to balance the many client demands with your own firm demands it can take over your life. For me, I used to work, for many years, in retail management and that was demanding! I worked long hours and my family always revolved around my crazy retail hours especially during Christmas holidays.
After some personal events, I decided to go back to school to get my accounting degree and CPA license. After years of working on that, I took over my mom's bookkeeping business. This is when it became even crazier than retail management. I NEVER thought it could be worse than retail, but it was!
Do you need to unravel a firm that has:
- The wrong clients (you took any client that walked in the door)
- Too many clients at the wrong price (you were just trying to get work with the mentality it only takes 15 minutes)
- Wrong services (as accountants we feel like we should be able to help clients with EVERYTHING - even if we have never done it before and we must completely figure it out)
- Services you do not even like to do
- Wrong team members
- Very little technology
- No processes or systems
- Scope creep (MAJOR ISSUE - often because conversations are TOO HARD)
- Cash flow issues
- Profit issues
- And many more
This is a very difficult and daunting list. You start with great ideas of how you want to change the firm, but with cash flow and profit issues it can be very difficult. You get stuck in survival mode. You struggle to make payroll and start dreading payroll week. You have no idea where to start and you just start losing what you used to love to do. You used to love working with clients and giving them advice on their business. But how can you give them advice on their business when you feel like you are sinking yourself?
I have spoken with so many accountants, bookkeepers and tax professionals that are exactly where I was. Especially with all the “exciting” things the government is doing, it has just made it worse. Clients are expecting you to know all this new information and give it away for FREE!
Why do they expect this for FREE? Because we have trained them to think and expect it this way.
You are truly losing what you love to do, which is help your clients. You are losing yourself in your own business. I have seen firsthand what stress and working long hours can do to your body. I finally had to draw a line in the sand and finally figure out how to either change my business or get out of it. That was a hard decision to make. Physically and emotionally, I could not do this anymore. I had to start eating healthier and exercising more frequently. I had to remove the stress from my life, or it was going to kill me! I just did not have the time to pay attention to my own wellbeing when I was working all the time!
And I saw my team going down the same path. I knew I had to change for all of us. After all, I am the captain of this ship and NOT a servant of it.
How did I do this?
- Analyzed each client to see if they were profitable or not.
- Analyzed how much revenue was generated by each client.
- Determined much work did we did for each client.
- Determined when we received money from each client.
- Analyzed every expense and cut each expense we could cut.
- Analyzed every piece of technology to see how much value we were getting from it.
- Analyzed whether the clients were dictating our work or were we.
- Analyzed each client to see how quickly work was turned in.
- Stopped accepting new clients until we had capacity in the firm.
- Analyzed exactly how much revenue I needed to cover expenses.
- Accepted new clients ONLY when they were completely in line with my vision for my business.
- STOPPED SCOPE CREEP - This was the most impactful one!!!
What was the process like?
This process was EXTREMELY difficult and painful. But I truly hated my business and I had to fix what was broken. I cannot tell you how many clients that I had to terminate. You must do this very strategically and it takes time. I started with the tax returns that were priced way too low. It has taken several years to juggle this, but I knew I had to start somewhere.
After going through this, I am starting to love my business again. I have always loved helping my clients but what I now know is that I had to help myself first. Once I helped myself, I have seen the impact I have made on my business, my team, and my client’s businesses. I am creative and get to do what I love to do!
I reflect on what my days used to look like almost 7 years ago and it amazes me how much my business has changed. Now I take unplugged vacations, go to the gym during the day and work less than 30 hours per week. I have time to plan my meals and workout. I now have time to spend with my kids (which was almost too late since they are 18 and 22 now).
My point is this:
Don’t wait until it is too late to make changes. I missed so much of my kids' lives because I was at work and not fully present even when I was “present”.
I am thankful that I have a business partner that has helped me through this. I know many people are not that fortunate. My advice is to find a mentor or accountability partner to help you work through this. Having gone through this and seeing the difference it has made, is why I am passionate about helping other accountants, bookkeepers, and tax professionals do the same thing. It is hard to change your business especially when you feel alone! You need to find someone that can help you get past getting STUCK!