Of Course

Last month I had a fantastic breakthrough!

I have loved running the series of workshops up and down the country for accountants in practice but have got to the stage that I have to take a break – because it is very difficult to market courses around the country in the post GDPR environment. 

I was getting quite discouraged until I had a chat with my good friend Alison. She is a business coach and has delivered quite a lot of training over the years. She suggested developing an on-line group of courses.

So I decided that’s what I am going to do. I will use the course material I have already developed, along with new quizzes and other fun learning aids. Furthermore, I will also develop a series of courses for business owners to help them master their finances.

Well, much of October was spent investigating on-line platforms and training tools – along with putting together the first 3 courses (hopefully the first of many).

It’s been hard work but a lot of fun!

What I have found exciting is that I have been able to make use of quite a lot of material that was in my back catelogue. Not only have I been able to make use of material I gathered for my books but, in the past, I have had some great opportunities to gather  material in other mediums that I can use now.

For example, I have been interviewed by Alan Philpott of Glastonbury FM for their Packed Lunch programme. Alan sent me all the interviews and I have been able to use extracts to liven up my courses.

Similarly, when I ran my first day workshop last September on How to Build a Management Accounting Business for CIMA members in practice, my great friend Angie Cussell videoed it for me. This turns out to have been a great decision. I have been able to use snippets of video in the courses to bring them alive.

As I mentioned, last month Alison got me started on the whole journey but other people have also helped me to develop the course concept.

David Ringsell put me in touch with Qintil which is the platform the courses will be hosted and Sam Easen got me started using the Easygenerator tool to create the courses.

Several people have been Beta testers and given me feedback on any changes I should make to ensure the courses are as good as I can make them – including hubby Jeff.

Trevor Lever and Andrew Stinchcomb have also helped me to crystalise how the whole venture might be promoted.

So it’s been a team effort, for which I am very grateful. In fact most of the best things that have happened in my business have been as a result of the great peeps I have around me – thank you all!!

 

 
Fiona 🙂

Collecting the cash

Piggy Bank

In these turbulent times it is more important than ever to be on top of cash collection. However, many small business owners find it a real challenge to chase customers who are late paying.

A phrase we hear often is, They’re a really good customer, so I don’t want to annoy them by chasing for payment”. Let’s just analyse that sentence for a minute. Why are these customers good for your business? Because they allow you to do lots of work for free? Surely, a good customer is one who appreciates your efforts and is happy to pay because they value you. If you have done the work you agreed with your customer, to the level they expected, why should they not pay the agreed price in the agreed time period?

So don’t be shy about collecting YOUR money.

Other problems we see regularly are:

              Not setting payment terms up front

If you have not agreed when the customer should pay BEFORE the work is done, you will struggle to collect the money in a reasonable time frame. Make sure your terms of engagement/purchase confirmation clearly state when you expect to be paid.

              Setting unnecessarily long payment terms

Don’t assume that you have to offer customers 30 or 60 day payment terms. Start from a position of offering zero payment terms and only offer extended terms if there is a commercial advantage in doing so. Bear in mind that even if you offer 30 day terms you will most probably be paid later than that. As you don’t know the financial position of all your customers the only safe money is the money in your bank account.

              Not sending invoices out promptly

If you do not send out your invoices as soon as the work is complete, you automatically build a lag before you receive payment. Invoicing is a chore, but regular invoicing is vital to achieving financial stability.

The most common reason small businesses fail is because they run out of cash.

The most common reason they run out of cash is because they do not collect the money they are owed quickly enough, or allow debts to go bad.

Make sure you business succeeds by being cash collection savvy.

🙂 Fiona

Minding your Ps and Qs


Running your own business can be the biggest thrill you will achieve in your working life, or the most stressful and demoralising experience you can imagine. On some days it is both!

However, I have come to realise from my own experience, from talking to business owners, and from gurus such as Ron Baker, Peter Thompson and Steven Covey, that running a successful business is all about minding your Ps and Qs.

Given the stresses involved in running your own business it is vital you are passionate about your product or service. Let’s face it, it is much easier to engage with potential customers if you can show passion for what you do.

Once you know what you want to do, you need to have a robust plan. We business owners are often knowledgeable about our product or service but avoid those business areas we struggle with – often marketing, sales or finance. The process of creating a business plan forces us to review ALL the areas of our business which are crucial to our future success.

We need to present ourselves to the market. If, like me you run a service lead business, one of the best ways to do this is to network. People buy from people they trust so you need to be out there meeting, and getting to know, local business owners.

Consulting professionals to help in areas you are not expert in is wise. Very few of us are instinctive business people and there will be one or two areas we struggle with. Interesting it is often more cost effective to get an expert in to do an efficient job than to try and do it ourselves.

To me a key element of a quality service is communication – this means listening and responding to clients’ concerns. Even if you sell a product there is a service element to what you do and this will be your contact with your customer.

Effective communication will allow you to qualify a potential client’s needs and what they particularly value. Having established value it should be fairly easy to give them a price.

To close, your business will not be measured by the outside world on what it is but on what people perceive it to be. So keep your ear to the ground and ensure peoples’ perception matches your reality.

Fiona 🙂

To Party or Not to Party? – that is the question?

This is a question many business owners have been asking themselves this Christmas. With the country in recession and business difficult, is it appropriate to have a staff Christmas party?

In my opinion the answer is a resounding YES!

In fact, the traditional Christmas party is more important than ever as a morale booster and a general ‘thank you’ to staff. When times are hard businesses find they have to cut back on increases in staff salaries and perks. This can leave staff feeling demoralised. A party – and I don’t mean an expensive, swanky one – can help staff look favourably on the company they work for. More than that, not having a party when you have always had one in the past, can leave staff feeling negative.

If money is tight don’t forgo the usual celebration – just look for a way of doing it cheaper. Staff are not generally interested in how much money you spend; they are more interested in the gesture. If you usually pay for everyone to have a meal and drinks in a restaurant, how about this year sharing the cost so staff pay for their food and you pay for the wine – or vice versa? Or you could cut out the middle man altogether and have a party at your house or business premises. Or how about getting them involved in how the budget is spent? Whatever you decide, explain the need for doing something less extravagant than usual and you will have your staff on your side.

Whatever you decide to do, DO SOMETHING and show your staff you are not using the recession as an excuse to play Scrooge.

For any Somerset business owner in the Wells area who works on their own don’t forget the Billy No Mates Christmas Bash. It’s great fun and gives you the opportunity to have a Christmas party even if you work on your own. To find out more or to book just click on the Eventbrite link below.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/billy-no-mates-christmas-bash-2017-tickets-38799276681?aff=eac2

Do you show business confidence?

A business’s confidence is key to its success.

A confident business does not have to apologise for its existence – it can just get on with providing a great product or service.

In an owner/managed business the level of business confidence conveyed is directly related to the confidence you as the owner have in yourself and your business proposition. Even a business which offers great service and is well respected by its customers can be undermined, if you continually doubt yourself.

So how do you keep your confidence levels boosted?

Firstly, make sure you have a great product/service, which you can easily describe to third parties. If you sell a service, productising elements of your service can make it easier for potential customers to understand what you do.

Talk to your customers so you are clear why they buy from you. Although this might be hard at first, it will enable you to talk confidently to prospective clients about the effectiveness of what you do.

Whilst you are talking to your customers, ask them for testimonials. Not only can you use them in your marketing, they will also boost your confidence.

If you know where you want your business to go, you can confidently decide what you need to do to get you there. So, have a robust, regularly updated business plan. Alongside this, try to build a great business skills base. There are many facets to even small businesses, so the more you know about each of them the more effective, and confident, you will be.

Be part of a strong business network. Business networks are a fundamental part of raising the profile of your business and finding support locally. Regular contact with other business owners, many of whom face similar problems to yours, will help make running your business less lonely too.

Finally, think about how you are presenting yourself. If you are well prepared, wear the right clothes for the right occasion, and think about your body language, you will be best able to express yourself confidently.

If you want a little more help with your business confidence download my free guide to confidence on my website
fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/tools

Which cat are you?

Some of you will have seen my post on LinkedIn talking about a great meeting I had with Trevor Lever of TLC.

Trevor has been a great supporter of my business over the years and is a terrific sales effectiveness coach. Although Trevor is now looking to take a bit of a back seat these days he has been kind enough to share his brilliance with me.

I am very pleased to say that he has given me care of his cats as he doesn’t have as much use for them as he did! I am sure he won’t mind me sharing them with you.

There are four sales cat types: trader cat, poacher cat, farmer cat and hunter cat. As business owners we will often have an affinity for one particular cat but need to be able to ‘play’ at being any cat.

Trader cats are the classic networkers who work hard to develop advocates they can trade referrals with. Reciprocation is the name of their game.

Farmer cats spend most of their time working with existing clients to increase the value of goods and services they can ‘sell’ to them – they concentrate on cultivation.

Poacher cats stalk businesses with the types of clients they want and their clients away. They will use differentiation to make themselves appealing to customers.

Hunter cats are excited by finding new opportunities and new customers who have never used their type of service before. Hunters use education to help new clients understand what they have to offer.

I have to say that of all these types of cat I myself have been least comfortable with being a hunter – and I expect most accountants would feel the same way.

However, I have had to become much more brave in approaching brand new customers since I have started my new venture providing workshops and mentoring for members in practice.

I have had to become more of a “hunter”. It really has not been enough to stay in my corner of the forest waiting for people to come to me!

Although it has been a challenge I am becoming braver by the day!

Fiona 🙂

It’s great to share

Over the years we build up layers of experience and learning in our chosen fields and this experience and learning helps us to be good at what we do.

Many of the skills we acquire we are barely conscious that we have, because they are so ingrained in who we have become. However, they are often the skills that our clients most value.

Over the last month I have had the priviledge of spending some quality time with some great CIMA members in practice. I have been running a couple of one day skills workshops for them and it was a great experience.

It got me thinking about what made this group so great. The particularly important talents they have (which I hope I share with them) are not ones learned through doing the CIMA qualification, but are as a result of the journey that took them down the CIMA route in the first place and have continued since.

So what are these magic talents:

1. Curiosity. They want to know what makes their clients tick. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it certainly makes for a much more effective professional!

2. They (we) care. Curiosity leads us to get closer to our clients and their businesses, which means that we care deeply what happens to them. This means clients know they are in hands that will only do the best for them – even if tough love is sometimes required.

3. They (we) want to enlighten and share. We know that we are of best value to clients if they have a clarity and understanding of their business’s financial situation. Unlike some other accountants who think they weaken their own position with clients if they explain what the numbers mean.

Unsurprisingly most of the people in the workshop had not really noticed that they had these skills, nor recognised their value. Instead they concentrated on just their acccountancy skills when talking to prospects.

Hopefully the workshop helped them to see the full range of skills they have to offer.

Perhaps it’s worth taking time to think more about your own ‘hidden’ skills!

Fiona 🙂

Let’s get inspired!

It’s interesting how large sporting occasions can inspire us. How many of us runners find ourselves with more of a spring in our step having watched the World Athletics Championships or the Olympics? Just seeing world class athletes such as Mo Farah achieve fantastic results can leave an imprint on us.

And I think we can all do with inspiration. When times are tough it is very easy to start focussing on the negative and to get bogged down with what things are not going to plan.

A far more positive approach is to move past those obstacles and focus on what you can do to move forward. Concentrate on those things you can change rather than on those things you can’t.

At the end of the day we live in a pretty prosperous country and have terrific opportunities residents of the developing world could only dream of.

Someone I find really inspiring is the para-athlete Mark Ormrod. He spoke at the CIMA Members in Practice conference a couple of years ago and got a rare, but well deserved, standing ovation.

Despite losing 3 limbs in Afghanistan Mark has fought all adversity to build an exceptional life for himself and his family. In fact he has just competed in the Invictus games where he won four medals and got an exceptional performance award from Prince Harry.

People do extraordinary things. These people are usually extraordinary individuals but if we can take inspiration from their example we can become, if not extraordinary ourselves, certainly more positive and motivated.

Fiona 🙂

What’s the time?

Time management is something many people struggle with.

Part of the problem I think is with this concept of ‘time management’. We actually cannot manage time at all – it carries on regardless of anything we mere mortals do. We cannot ‘create’ time or make it stand still whilst we catch our breath. All we can do is allocate the tasks we have to the time available.

There are as many different techniques for doing this as there are exponents of ‘time management’ and some will work for some people and some will work for others. Some people just can’t get themselves organised no matter how many techniques they try.

Much of effectively allocating tasks to time is about your frame of mind. If, in fact, subconsciously you quite like being disorganised and see it as part of your personality, no time management technique in the world is going to be effective. For ‘time management’ to be effective you have to really want to be organised.

If you do want to be effective in your working environment the key is to try different methods and see which one works for you.

For a guide to different ‘time management’ you can download a free guide from my website http://www.fionabevanfinancialmanagement.co.uk/guides.php

Good luck

Fiona 🙂

I am still at it!

Unbelievably it was four years ago, September 2013, when I returned from the Entrepreneurs Convention in Birmingham buzzing with ideas.

Helen Lacey, Red Berry Recruitment, and I had a very bouyant discussion on the way home in the car, and I was all inspired to give producing a newsletter for my clients and contacts a try.

48 editions later and, hopefully, I am still producing something worth reading!

So you may well ask “Why?”.

There are various reasons why I find writing this newsletter a great discipline to do each month.

Firstly, despite the joke about creative accountants, I do not have much opportunity to be creative in the day job. Producing a monthly newsletter helps me to feel I am a bit more creative than I would otherwise be.

Secondly, being forced to come up with new material each month flexs my ‘writing muscle’. This has been particularly helpful when I have wanted to write new published material – whether it is the free guides on my website or the three books I now have for sale on Amazon.

Getting started is always the most difficult part of any project so having to ‘get started’ each month on my newsletter is certainly a help.

I have lots of people I would like to keep in touch with and sending the newsletter to these people is one of the tools that allows me to do that.

Finally, I love having the opportunity to feature businesses I have come across, and want to promote, and people I would like to thank publicly.

I have been asked on several occasions why I print the newsletter and send it via snail mail, rather than emailing it.

Nigel Botterill at the Convention pointed out that if you do what everyone else is doing, you will be lost in the noise. I get lots of emailed newsletters and never have time to read them all, so I don’t read any. But I get hardly any mail.

Hopefully you like receiving this newsletter in the post and are more likely to read it because you do.

Fiona 🙂