1000s of small businesses need our services to become MTD compliant, no wonder so many of us are expanding our practices

I have the pleasure and the privilege of travelling up and down the country visiting you all in the Branch Meetings; I find it so interesting to hear about what you are all doing and how you are building your practices. In the discussions that I have had, I am finding a couple of common themes shining through.

Firstly, most of the bookkeepers I meet are sole practitioners and many are already reaching a point of being fully committed. This is only likely to continue; with the implementation of MTD, thousands of small businesses who do not keep records digitally will need our services to become compliant. So, a fundamental question is raised; what is it you would like to achieve in your practice?

For some of you, staying as a sole practitioner is your preferred choice, but for others the opportunity of bringing people into your practice to enable growth is a step you want to take. Each of these routes comes with its own challenges and opportunities and ICB is committed to supporting you in the practice you choose to build.

I have chosen to build a practice and bring others into it; my journey has been interesting but, after two and a half years of blood sweat and tears, I’m beginning to achieve the practice I envisioned. I run a team of four bookkeepers and a part time administrator who tries (and almost manages) to keep me stable! I can honestly say that the biggest step I had to take was to start working on the business and not in the business.

So, what does that mean? Well, it means that you stop thinking that work is doing the bookkeeping and start understanding that, to build a practice, work means a whole host of other activities; networking, team building, troubleshooting, problem solving and being a visionary.  For me, these have been the skills I’ve enjoyed exploring the most. And from my chats with you at the Branch Meetings, there are many of you that would like to take the same journey. Never forget that we are all on a life long journey of learning and I welcome the challenge of continuing to develop both myself and my business.

So how do you start this journey? 

  1. Visualise your goals
    Firstly, look at where you are now and where you want to be, say, in 5 years time. This will give you a road map of what you want to achieve and how to do it. Goal setting is a vital part of developing both you and your business.

  2. Organise your business
    Start writing procedures for absolutely everything that you do in your business; what’s the process for taking a new client on, or a new team member? What about a month and year end procedure for your clients; and finally, what policies do you need to write or can download from the ICB site such as AML or GDPR. Two great things happen when you do this, firstly, it will enable you to really think through how you do things and this helps to set your cultural values. Secondly, it makes it possible to hand over tasks to team members; I have found this invaluable as I have grown my business as everybody knows what is expected and how to do the various tasks.

  3. Surround yourself with positive influencers
    Put people around you who will help you achieve your goals. Mentors, role models and close friends & family who will support you. I have a mixture of people I can turn to whether I need business advice or just an ear to bend. Don’t listen to the negative comments either; yes we all need people who will be honest with us and objective observations can save the day but negative comments only sway us from the goals we are aiming at.

For those of you who would like to build your practice and “take that next step” please be encouraged. I would highly recommend that you attend the Inspire Tour so that you are aware of all that is going on in our profession, and to get the inspiration and support you need from ICB and fellow members. The 2017 Business Builder tour was an incredible success and I know motivated those who attended; this initiative will continue, with further workshops and resources being planned for 2018. 

There are a number of challenges that bookkeepers are going to face in the first part of this year; however, I also believe that there are more opportunities than ever for professional bookkeepers to grow their business into what they want it to be; remember, you are not a bookkeeper, you are an ICB bookkeeper.