Respecting your Clients and Learning from them

Art

One of the great things about serving a variety of customers is that you get to learn about each new business and industry from the inside. Our sweet spot has, and always will be, the small enterprise. Many of these enterprises start out because driven and talented people often need to be their own boss. They need the creative freedom of the non-corporate environment to flourish and innovate. Many of these individuals are involved in “fringe” industries that many practices shy away from, such as:

  • Tattoo parlours
  • Massage establishments
  • Adult shops, and the industry
  • Night Clubs

Our stance is that as long as it’s legal, everyone deserves a Great accountant. We respect each of our client’s and cater to their individual requirements including:

  • Odd schedules
  • Privacy
  • Location etiquette

The reward is that we often learn more from the client than we teach them. Keeping an open mind and overlaying the business element has made for some great success stories.

History has shown that once our clients embrace the documentation and process controls needed to measure and run their businesses, they feel confident enough to undertake growing their business rather than just working in it.

Till next time…

 

Rick

 

 

Why I’m pulling the plug on Social Media advertising

Referrals

 

Like any other business I have to balance the need for attracting new clients with our ability to service existing ones. I don’t like to overextend my resources to sacrifice service to long-standing clients. During the past year I actively pursued adding 2-3 more clients and possibly adding staff to handle them. You may ask yourself only 2 or 3? The reason for such a conservative goal is that each client is different and can  eat up a lot of support time either on the phone or in person. I like to over deliver and under promise to keep satisfaction levels high. Besides tax season, the past 10 years has seen a new client added about every 18 months, and I’m ok with that. Most of these add-ons were from tax work that progressed into part-time accounts and some even full-time.

Fast forward to 2015. I started advertising on Twitter, Bing, and Google with a modest yet effective budget designed to deliver new leads. What I experienced from SEO, Display and Search ads was a lot of noise and window shopping.  The new clients that I did add were from the QuickBooks Partner program which is free and another referral which was from some previous tax work done in the past. So taking my own example and data into consideration, I’ve decided to end my experiment. All the time and effort I put into designing ads, managing different platforms, choosing keywords and ad text, can now be spent on my current clientele. I’ll probably wind up spending more time with my family and get  more referrals as a result.

Bottom line is don’t believe the hype. Be your own judge and make sure the cost/benefit is in your favour, not Google’s, Instagram’s, Twitter’s or Facebook’s.

Likes are not sales nor leads.

‘Till next time

Rick

 

 

Small Business Excellence: Confidence

Self-Confidence

First and foremost I would like to apologize for not posting more frequently. I have recently been involved with getting a new client up to date with their record keeping and it’s taken most of my free time. I always personally handle new clients so that I understand their business before I hand it off to junior staff. If you’ve read my prior posts I lament about getting an accountant early on and getting things in order instead of catching up.

I digress.

Many of you already know this, but to start and have your own business takes guts and a lot of B***s. I’ll substitute B***s with the word Confidence going forward. Taking that leap and putting your money in harm’s way on a daily basis is not for the faint of heart. Normally individuals with this kind of appetite for risk have an abundance of confidence in their abilities and desire to follow through on their business plans.

This is an absolutely essential quality to have and must be in place to facilitate sales, cash flow, and operations. These 3 key areas will need guidance, coaching and vision to sustain the initial business and see it through its inaugural year.  Most small business owners and entrepreneurs can sustain their optimism through this start-up phase, but when things start to get serious (either in a good way or bad) is when you need that confidence to stick around even more.  Having the ability to stick it out through growth spurts, cash crunches and competition means turning that confidence into persistence. Your staff, partners and bankers will all look to you to see them through these challenges.

No one said you had to do it alone. Confidence and indeed persistence, can come from many sources. Knowing you have help and options when these challenges arise feeds your confidence and enables you to push through roadblocks to come out the other side. That’s why choosing your partners and advisors wisely can help you formulate options you thought you never had. Knowledge is Power.  Power is Confidence.

‘Till next time.

Rick

 

 

 

 

What are the signs you need a new Accountant?

shutterstock_263094542

Accountants like other professionals are subject to regulations and ethical behaviour when practicing. But what separates “average accountants” from “Great Accountants”? Surprisingly it’s not the level of their education or which firm they work for, but it’s how they relate to you, their client.

A Great Accountant will bring the following elements to the table:

  1. Trust (without it there is nothing else!)
  2. Establish Goals and Timelines
  3. Straightforward advice
  4. Timely and on-going communication
  5. Progress reviews and client feedback
  6. Updates on pending changes to the Tax Act or Legislation
  7. Market trends
  8. Competitive research
  9. Proactive opportunities for growth or expansion
  10. Estate or Succession planning

If your not getting what you bargained for then it maybe time to start looking for another firm or person that can offer you more than just “doing the books”.

 

‘Till Next Time

Rick Barbosa

Small Business Excellence: Profits over Sales

shutterstock_180962612 PvS

Growing a business can be difficult, especially if your business is price sensitive. Many a competitor will try to undercut prices and take a loss in the hopes of winning customers. This “loss leader” strategy works against them in the future as they try to re-coup losses by raising prices anyway. Consumers and clients who play this never ending game are not ones that you want to attract and do business with.

Focusing your attention on maximizing profits based on sustainable relationships is key to enabling moderate and realistic growth well into the future. Top line sales numbers grab attention, but it is profitability that pays the bills and provides cash flow to sustain your operation. I often ask owners and managers what would they rather have, 5 clients and good profitability or 500 clients and breaking even?

We must remember why we got into business in the first place, to make money. If you are working like a dog just to turn a small profit, then your time would be better spent on investing the capital you have in your business.  A good rule of thumb is 7-10% profit before tax. The rate of inflation is roughly 2% and the market historically returns 5-7% per year. If you are not making more than the market + inflation then you need to consider changing your focus or staying in business altogether.

The Discipline of Profit needs to be engrained in every relationship and in every process that is present in your operation. Without that discipline, that focus, you are just turning money over and not improving your life and the lives of those that depend on you and your company.

Till next time

 

Rick Barbosa

 

 

 

Small Business Excellence: Find your Focus

Focus

  1. Why are you in Business?
  2. What sets you apart from the competition?
  3. How do you plan on growing your business or even staying in business in the future?

These 3 questions should make every business owner pause and reflect on how to answer them. Many times small businesses start out with the premise that they can do things cheaper than the competition. This business model or value proposition (consulting lingo) is the most common way to attract new customers or win contracts. Unfortunately, it can also commoditize your business. When business paint themselves into a corner as the lowest bidder or “cheapest” vendor they often limit themselves on exploring better avenues to separate themselves from the pack.

Here in Canada we’ve always relied on the currency cushion to make our products and services more attractive. When Stephen Poloz continued his race to the bottom with our dollar, he artificially propped up an aging manufacturing sector that has a diminished influence on GDP and is not productive enough to compete globally. How did this happen?

There are many examples of how the “Good Times” lead to a lack of focus on key areas that sustain a business. This laziness on the part of management to continually review, analyze, and invest in their businesses when times are good can mean loss of market share and potential business failure. Getting caught off guard is the product of an attitude that can grip even the best business. Here are some examples of what I’ve heard over the years:

  • “We do alright”
  • “We’ve being doing it this way for the last 10 years, why change now”
  • “My customers are loyal and wouldn’t go anywhere else”

To fight complacency we must learn to focus like a sniper on key areas of our businesses.

3 Key Areas that every business needs to focus on

  1. Innovation
  2. Quality (Product or Service)
  3. Employee Development

Change is constant and in an online and global economy we must learn to focus like never before if we want to compete either on a local or international stage.

Till next time.

 

Rick Barbosa

5 Things Owners should never say at work

shutterstock_131560028

Today’s business owners have it tough. Increased competition, controlling costs, and finding new customers has never been harder. How do you keep it together?

Most successful business owners know that hiring, keeping and motivating good staff is the key element to ensure your businesses prosperity and theirs. This sense of contribution is vital to the workplace. If employees feel they are not a part of the company then they become complicit in their work and attitudes. This complacency spreads like a virus and affects morale and productivity, and eventually profitability.

After being around many family and owner managed businesses, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing some of the most dreadful phrases uttered in the workplace. These phrases drive employees to complacency and eventually out the door. If you ever get the urge to say these, take a step back and remember that you can’t do it alone and that you need good people around you.

5 Things Owners should never say in the Workplace

  1. This is my Company, if you don’t like it you know where the door is
  2. Remember who signs your Pay Cheque
  3. You should be happy to even have a job
  4. I don’t pay you to think
  5. I can find a replacement for you next week

‘Till next time

Rick Barbosa

Small Business Excellence: Manage vs. Micromanage

Manage v Micro2

From Wikipedia
In business management, micromanagement is a management style whereby a manager closely observes or controls the work of subordinates or employees. Micromanagement generally has a negative connotation.

Having worked with a number of small businesses over my career, it’s easy to spot the ones that will flourish and the ones that will hobble along and stagnate. One of the key elements that distinguishes between the two is the management style employed by the owners or senior staff.  Managers or owners have, and should have, a vested interest in the performance of the company, especially if it’s theirs. Because the performance of the enterprise is so closely linked to their or their families livelihood it can lead to protectionist tendencies. This often morphs into micromanagement.

When employees feel the overarching strings of management and are held back from exploring new and better ways to do their jobs, or are afraid to fail, then they become trapped. They relinquish ambitions to improve their surroundings and their natural tendencies to better themselves through their work.  Good employees want to do a better job. Like in Nature, the most common need is to survive and thrive in one’s own environment.

It is up to management to hire the best people for the job and steer them in the general direction of company goals. When bright and talented people are given a wide berth for exploration and ownership in the organization, great things happen.  Mistakes will happen too, but it is crucial that managers see these mistakes as learning points and use them to keep top performers on course. We must mot be afraid to fail, as failure like so many have said before me is the greatest teacher.

Be like the Shepherd, not the Warden.

Rick Barbosa

 

 

 

 

Why kicking the can down the road is never a solution.

Kickthecan

If you’ve ever owned a dog, or even raised a child, you know the best way to teach someone is through consequences. If someone is allowed to keep doing something harmful but never has to answer for their actions, what incentive is there to change behavior? None. So why are we still hearing about a sluggish economy or Greece, Portugal, Spain etc… It’s because know one has made them answer for their actions. We keep trying to avoid the inevitable by only making the inevitable worse. We need to take cues from nature. The strong must be allowed to survive. Keeping the week dangling only hurts the herd as a whole. The “Herd” in this case is our economy. We need to recognize that it’s the well managed companies who have always had to fend for themselves that lead us out of recessions. Instead of allowing them to reap the rewards for doing the right things, in comes the government and big labour to save the day. They artificially prop up losers for their own personal benefit, not societies. By allowing companies, governments and people to fail we are doing them a better service. By making them face the consequences of bad decisions we ensure they will never make them again.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

Rick Barbosa