"Music to my ears" - The tale of two start-ups.
Are you an entrepreneur? Are you highly driven? I bet you think starting your own business is full of fun, excitement and freedom to finally do things your way. Right? It can be. Promise me though, you will save yourself a huge amount of time, stress and money by seeking help from the professionals to start up the right way from the beginning.
Alright so here it is, I will give you two scenarios (both of which are very real and did occur). Two of my past clients have been sole practitioners starting up law firms. Both are Solicitors and both intelligent, hardworking, highly motivated individuals.
Both individuals approached me for advice and I got the immediate impression that one was highly likely to succeed within the next three years and the other was doomed to fail.
So how could they be any different and how did I come to this conclusion?
More than 52% of businesses fail in the first three years. We’ve all heard the catch phrase, “fail to plan, plan to fail” but what exactly does this mean? Running a successful and profitable business does not happen because you’re good at what you do. It’s because you focus on what you do. Business advisors have studied degrees to know how to run a business because it’s so complex. We don’t know how to represent a client in court or fix a tap or hard wire an oven or produce eggs…we leave that to people who have studied those fields. Likewise, people need to leave business to the business advisors.
So, as an Accountant, Business Advisor & Educator who has successfully built a 100% Xero Accounting firm in 6 years to over 6 figures, I know what it takes. I’ve experienced the ups and downs, the pain and the glory and the sleepless nights worrying about cashflow, just like you will but know we are here to guide you through, onwards and upwards.
Enough about me… are you ready to hear more about them?
The first client is a woman we will call “Susan.” It was evident that Susan knew her stuff. She’s a good lawyer and can represent you well in court. Susan decided for various reasons to start her own practice. Good on her. Starting a new venture takes courage and conviction. Susan was referred to us, KPI Business Advisory, for help with setting up her software systems which were Xero and Actionstep. She also wanted assistance with her bookkeeping, trust accounting and all other ATO registrations & lodgements. Fantastic, I could not wait to meet Susan at her new office in the city to congratulate her. So, here’s where it gets interesting! Allow me to paint you a picture of what occurred when I turned up at her office…
1. I can’t find the office. It’s hard to find a park and Google maps says it’s here somewhere. 2. It’s upstairs in an office block but there’s no signage. 3. She’s late and I’m waiting…free of charge in our initial meeting. 4. The dog meets me at the door before she does. 5. She warmly greets me complaining about how nothing works in the new office and can’t find the key to her room. She’s on the phone trying to get hold of someone to let us in and the aircon isn’t working. More complaining from Susan. I wonder if this is how she greets all her new clients. 6. Now Susan is trying to log in to her computer and she’s having trouble with the Microsoft Office Suite so I immediately send a introduction email to an IT guru we recommend. Let’s not waste time with Office, it’s unproductive to try and do it yourself. Leave it to the IT people and be up and running asap. Definitely outsource your IT to a recommended local business. 7. Susan comments that her initial opinion of our working relationship will be fantastic because I’m organised and ‘look like a perfectionist’. Okay, I’d like to say the same. 8. I persevere as I know sometimes some days just don’t go to plan so I ask her a series of questions so we can get started, see what she needs immediately, where she is up to and how to go forward on her budget. Susan has two staff and neither are being paid just yet. One is a family member that Susan is “assisting by giving her an opportunity.” The other is a qualified lawyer and partner of some form in the business. Both have contributed unequal amounts of funds and do not have a legal agreement as to the partnership or method and amount of drawings. 9. Meanwhile the phone has rung multiple times and it’s staff, her staff’s mother and various others that she impatiently speaks to. The dog is escaping down the hallway and the attendees are arriving for the Christmas show but the staff member is stuck the other side of town and hasn’t picked up the wine. I kid you not. 10. I make a time with Susan to come back. She apologises. It is fine, these things happen. The next appointment we discuss workflow and how she needs it represented in the job management system. Susan rapidly scrawls a rough drawing on a piece of paper and expects me to go away create it. 11. After a couple of meetings with Susan, I decided she was not willing to accept help and would be a waste of our resources. I wished her all the best. Funnily enough, I received a call from a respected colleague recently who asked me if I had come across her. Apparently, Susan has engaged multiple consultants who have all let her go or been let go.
Now, our second client, Kathy, decided to start a family Law business. She reached out for help right from the start. It didn’t matter that Kathy was in another state. It didn’t make any difference to her or us with the technology that’s available (we used Zoom).
So, let’s paint the next scenario…
1. Kathy calls to say she had another consultant setup her Xero and Actionstep, however something wasn’t right with her Xero file or the trust account integration. Okay, no problem. Let’s have a chat, all I needed was to be invited into the files and we can have a look for you. 2. I ask Kathy a series of questions to see how we can help. I explained our business model, our specialisations as Accountants, Bookkeepers, Xero trainers and integrators. Kathy says ‘perfect’, exactly what she needs and so we begin. 3. Kathy let’s me know she has not launched her business yet. She’s still setting up all the systems and activating her marketing material. I say this is fantastic. Create structure, processes, policies, marketing material, legalities and compliance regulations before you launch. Be ready so you are not stressed like Susan. 4 Kathy also lets me know she has one other staff member and she would like to pay both herself and the staff member that day but she doesn’t know what to do. No problem. Kathy already has the tax file declaration form, employment agreement and superannuation choice form for both of them and uploads them to the secure box link I send her. While on the phone chatting about business, I enter the payroll details and ask who will be processing payroll going forward as she needs to activate Single Touch Payroll. Kathy delightfully asks if we can take that off her plate. No problem. With STP setup, I explain to Kathy that her account manager will be Amy (one of my staff) and will be her contact for everything she needs. 5. Kathy also mentions her trust is incorrect and says she is very grateful that Amy will be fixing this for her as well. 6. Kathy then says to me “I’m so relieved to have been introduced to you and your team as I can now focus on what I do best and not worry about any of this.” 7. Kathy knows all about client engagement letters as she already has hers and asks for us to send one through so we can engage on a long-term relationship. Music to my ears. 8. I explain to Kathy that to begin with we charge per hour and our engagement letter contains the services and per hour amount. After that, once we get into a routine, automate and streamline as many processes as possible for her, we then suggest a fixed fee. It’s a win win for both client and contractor as predictable cashflow for the contractor and no nasty surprises for the client. 9. Kathy is keen to engage us with monthly business strategy and financial analysis sessions. Her accountability to herself is fantastic and she’s looking for us to make her accountable in the growth. 10. Kathy’s business has a clear target market, specialisation, branding, vision and mission. She knows what she needs to do everyday and her clients know what they can expect from her.
Kathy outsourced right from the beginning. It didn’t cost her much for a few hours help. Business is a complicated and strategic skill made up of many different areas. If you are a startup, thinking of going out on your own, I highly recommend you seek free initial chats with the industry specialists, engage the ones you resonate with and get back to focusing on what you do best.
In the areas of IT, automated and integrated systems, HR, legal, accounting and marketing it’s best to outsource. Your capacity to build you business will suffer if you don’t. Let’s all be Kathy.
If you need business structure advice, ATO registrations, Xero accounting and app software setup, business planning, marketing strategy, bookkeeping or tax help, please feel free to contact us if you would like a no obligation chat with us.