Looking back on the 15 years I ran a bookkeeping service, what stands out as the biggest achievement and success for me? It’s not an easy question.
There was the time when I was asked to provide a projection of a client’s likely financial position 18 months in advance. I looked at the history, which was reasonably stable, so it should have been pretty predictable. But the industry was prone to fluctuations, so I provided three options – one with the same trajectory, one with a 5% downturn, and one with a 5% increase. I was more than a little chuffed with myself when the time came, and my predictions were found to be within 3% of the middle option. That was a happy day. The validation that: yes, I know my stuff, and I am damn good at it.
I also remember the time when a client wound up the company. It wasn’t a bad thing – the company was formed to take on a specific project, so when the project was complete, there was no further reason to continue and the share-holders all chose to cash out. It was little old me who was entrusted with the responsibility of facilitating this wind up with the director, including calculating the final disbursement of funds, which included tracking down a shareholder that had gone AWOL, working with the accountant to lodge the final tax return, and then retaining all the records for the required 7 years post-windup. That reminds me – I should probably destroy those records now. That was a happy day, I appreciated the trust that was shown in me.
There were lots of other times of the general day-to-day operations, little moments here and there when I was able to give a client a very good financial report after a long spell of bad reports. Things were turning around. The times when I was training a staff member and I had the confidence in her to take that task and go with it – I no longer had to check her every entry and look for mistakes. Seeing her progress was very good.
I really really love working in my pyjamas. I’m an early morning person, and those hours before dawn are golden. There’s no interruptions or disturbances, I am fresh, and I can focus completely on sometimes very challenging mental tasks. Being able to work from home, no outside overheads, being entirely flexible in my working day meant that I was able to be mum to a succession of toddlers and pre-schoolers, who were mostly spaced out enough to have one child home at a time, except for the last 2, being only 2 years apart. By the time one started school the next one was on the way. Sure, it meant that I’ve had a young child underfoot for over 15 years, but perhaps that was just how I needed it to be. I look at my friends who have their 4 children within 5 years from oldest to youngest, and I don’t think I could have coped!
And so, that flexibility was one of the biggest challenges for me to let go of when it came time to put the bookkeeping business aside, and start coaching. In bookkeeping, I would start the week collecting the work that needed to be done, and then have it done by the end of the week. That could be a bit here and there, early morning, or while kids were at school, and all my other mum or wife or friend activities were able to co-exist around and through that. But with coaching, for all its advantages to my career, I’m now locked in. I have an appointment with a client, and they are depending on me. Yes, I know my stuff and I get great validation, yes, I am trusted, and I get to be a part of people turning things around, progressing and improving, all of those things that mean so much to me are still there. But not flexibility.
The funny thing is, this structure of having a disciplined work day is exactly what is required. I know how valuable and empowering a good framework is. I have seen it and lived it for years – my children always responded so well to good routines, and our family had a great structure of expectations and responsibilities.
Why was I resisting so much on letting go of this flexibility? Is it a bit of a subconscious tantrum? As free and easy as a flexible work day was, it wasn’t always great. The work still had to be done, right? So if I’d spent a day volunteering in the school canteen, that day’s work still had to be done. Late at night when my brain is fried? Super early, regardless of a child with an unsettled night? I didn’t enjoy those days. By having a more rigid and structured work day, I now have clear boundaries. I know when I can meet a friend for coffee or have a shopping outing or clean the house – after my work is finished.
The power I have gained from recognising this has been really significant for me – personally, and professionally. In everything we do, a change will shake things up and bring to the fore things that need to be addressed. If I had kept going, holding on to my flexible work day, my business would have suffered. Clients have schedules too, and they need to know with absolute certainty that I’ll be there for them. If I had established this structure in my bookkeeping business, there’s absolutely no doubt that I would have encountered less of the challenges that I did have.
This is a great time to reflect on your business. What stands out as highlights for you? What could you do better, and why are you holding on to the old ways? Many people fear change, it’s unknown, it could be unsafe, but I can assure you now that nothing will grow or improve without change. It’s a part of life and work that we can always depend on. Things will change. Embrace it and make it work for you!
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