Where accountants, bookkeepers, and business coaches get the latest strategies for growing their practice.

We deep dive into both the theory and the exact steps you need to grow your practice in the way youve always dreamed. You will learn marketing, sales, hiring, management, pricingwe cover it all! The one thing we dont talk about is accounting skills. You already have those. What we do is give you the business skills you need to run a wildly profitable practice that you love.

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Capacity Through Collaboration

Call me Pollyanna, but I like to look for the bright side in all things. And one of the best things about the current capacity issue in the accounting industry is that it’s encouraging us to collaborate with our fellow financial services professionals.

Buh-bye, competition

Maybe you’ve always been of the “there’s plenty of business for everyone” persuasion. But now more than ever before, it’s actually true.

There aren’t enough accounting professionals to serve the business owners who need us.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every accounting or bookkeeping firm will be successful. There are a variety of factors that can make or break a firm.

Right now, though, lack of work is not one of those factors. In fact, the opposite problem exists.

Too much work can spell death for a firm. And because it’s not in an accountant’s DNA to turn away prospects who need our help, many of us end up with too much work.

So how do we solve this problem?

Collaborate to increase capacity

There’s no such thing as a bad client, but there are clients who aren’t a great fit for your firm. When capacity is an issue, knowing who you serve and serving them well is crucial.

But what do we do about our prospects who aren’t a great fit?

What do we do about our existing clients who are no longer a great fit?

If you’ve read this far, you know my answer is going to be to collaborate with another professional, or several other professionals. This collaboration could be a traditional referral partnership, or you could collaborate with others to take a fractional approach where each of you has a portion of the client relationship.

Whichever method you choose, you want to make sure you are choosing the right collaborators. And that’s where Profit First Professionals comes in.

Community for collaboration

Profit First Professionals is a membership organization of elite accountants, bookkeepers, and other financial professionals. Here, you will find a community of forward-thinking firm owners who work together to make their businesses stronger by helping their clients make their businesses stronger.

I’m not such a Pollyanna that I’ll say there’s no competition among our ranks, but I will say the minimal competition that does exist is friendly and not based on scarcity. And our “no dicks allowed” immutable law means you don’t have to worry about your collaboration partner(s) “poaching” your clients.

If you want to offer a highly sought-after advisory service, learn from other firm owners who want nothing more than to celebrate your successes with you, and solve your firm’s capacity issue through collaborating with other elite accounting professionals, then apply to be a Profit First Professional.

Talent Shortage? Profit to the Rescue.

Are you tired of hearing about the “talent drought” in the accounting industry yet? I know I am. Are accountants retiring at a faster rate than before? Are there fewer young people graduating with accounting degrees? Yes, and yes.

Is this happening in nearly every other industry in the US? Also, yes.

Does this mean you are doomed to recruiting headaches and staff retention issues?

Nope! Absolutely not.

Is your group/mastermind/business coach filling you with wrong information?

Everyone has an opinion about why people no longer want to be accountants. And those same people have opinions about how to fix it.

They tell us to develop a Mission, a Vision, and a Plan.

To Find your Why.

Of course, the people saying this also want to sell you something. Namely, coaching services or membership into their mastermind program.

Call it your Why. Call it MVP. Call it whatever you want, if your mastermind group or business coach is telling you to find it or create it but NOT telling you how to fund it, they are selling you a pipe dream.

This is how you resolve the talent drought

People don’t want to work for a firm. They don’t want to work for a business. And – sorry – they don’t really care that much about your MVP or your “Why.”

They also don’t work only for the salary. Sure, they want a great paycheck, but if they’re miserable, they will never stay.

People want to be part of a culture. And culture comes with a price tag.

You must have a plan to fund a culture top-notch employees want to work in. Otherwise, your firm is going to be just as susceptible to the talent drought as the tax sweatshop down the street.

What you should be funding

True, salary is important, but that is only one very small part of the culture equation. Here’s what your coach or mastermind group should be teaching you:

  • How to design your pricing with your company culture in mind. If you don’t nail this, you’re setting yourself up to lie to your employees and prospects. Unintentionally, of course.
  • How to provide your staff with annual salary increases of 10%.
  • How to offer 8 weeks of paid vacation time to employees, every year.
  • How to have “summer hours” all year round.
  • How to create a plan to give to charity. Not just the ones you support, but the ones that matter to your team.
  • How to pay for FUN quarterly staff events.
  • How to gift services (house cleaning, pet sitting, lawncare, etc.) to employees experiencing a hardship.
  • How to fund the expansion of your business, be it technology upgrades, new hires to maintain a healthy work/life balance for your team, or something else.
  • How to have a FAMILY-FIRST environment…and really mean it.

Solving your talent shortage, once and for all

We teach our Profit First Professionals members how to fund all of the above, and more. This “how to” is included in all three of our membership levels.

Interested? Then click here to apply now.

Once you have dialed this in, you will never have a hard time recruiting or retaining top-notch talent again.

Unless you’re a jerk…and that’s not something we can help you with.

Don’t Join Profit First Professionals!

Friends, today I come to you with a plea.

Don’t join Profit First Professionals.

This elite membership organization for accountants, bookkeepers, and business coaches is not for everyone. I’d go so far as to say it’s probably not for you.

How do I know?

Your attributes

Forgive me for being so bold, but I kind of feel like I know you. Or, at least, I know some of your key attributes.

How? Because I, too, am a member of the accounting profession and have been for (mumble) years.

We’re alike, you and me.

Here’s why Profit First Professionals is not a fit for your firm:

  1. You’re getting paid well for the value and impact you provide. You don’t want to earn – or keep – more money for the work you do. You don’t need to. Your retirement is fully funded, your kids’ college tuition is paid for, and you’ve made all the investments into property you care to make. Plus, you take numerous weeks of vacation each year, and so you’re not looking to earn more money while working fewer stressful hours.
  2. Your CLIENTS are doing just as well as you are. Not only are they doing well, but you have a plan in place to make sure each client is successful and consistently profitable. And your clients rave about you for it.
  3. You are the go-to authority on profitability in your niche. On top of that, you have a waiting list of top-tier businesses who are praying for an opening in your client roster.
  4. You get regular guidance from an expert who helps you increase your profitability. Again, not that you want, or need, it (see #1), but you have regular conversations with a coach who has your firm’s best interests in mind. Heck, they want you to succeed MORE than you want to!
  5. You’re not a fan of resources. Besides, you already have a full library of resources that help you set up processes, sell advisory services, and brand yourself in a way that makes you stand out from the competition. Plus, you know how to use them because that coach in #4 helps you brainstorm that, too.
  6. You have more than enough people to talk to about business “stuff.” And you sure don’t want to talk to other people who are doing what you aspire to and are willing to share their best practices with you.
  7. You’ve learned everything you ever wanted to learn. About business. About personal development. About profitability. Nah…you’re all good here, too.

Seriously, though…

Don’t click here to apply for Profit First Professionals membership. You don’t need it.

I know I didn’t need it to create what is now a second-generation bookkeeping firm. Nope…membership didn’t help me at all. 😉

Fix Your Firm, Fix the Industry

There’s no question that the accounting industry is facing greater challenges than ever before (and, yes, we do remember the Enron scandal). We are in the eye of a perfect storm composed of three “pressure systems”:

  • The increased push to implement client advisory services (CAS) in answer to the continued automation of compliance work
  • A record number of accountants retiring as fewer students are graduating with accounting degrees
  • Clients asking for price reductions, scaling back, or canceling engagements altogether as they tighten their belts to weather the tail end of the latest economic downturn.

Blame the industry?

It’s tempting – and easy – to throw up our hands and blame “the industry.” For decades – possibly forever – “the industry” has allowed itself to be undervalued, underpaid, have no boundaries with clients, and basically operate from a fear-based mentality.

Here’s the thing:

You are the industry.

Life lessons

What do you do when there’s a problem in your life that you have caused? Do you sit around, blame yourself, and wait for someone else to fix the problem?

Of course not! You get off the sofa and go to work to fix it!

If you need to fix your life, you fix the problems you’ve created.

And if you want to fix the industry that provides your livelihood – and the livelihoods of your staff – then you must start by fixing your firm.

Fixing your firm

So, how do you address the three “pressure systems” threatening to sink the industry? How can you find the time or energy to offer advisory services when you can barely keep your office staffed because the few qualified employees out there want more money than your clients are willing to pay for services?

Let’s chunk that down piece by piece:

  1. Offering advisory services. Spoiler alert: You already offer advisory services. If you meet with your clients regularly, you offer advisory services. If you tell your clients to open a savings account for taxes, you offer advisory services. If you make software suggestions, you offer advisory services.

    In short, “finding the time/energy to offer advisory services” is a non-existent problem. You already do it. And if you don’t believe me, download our Client Advisory Services Roadmap and take the quiz to get your CAS score.

  2. Keeping your office staffed. We’re not here to pretend there isn’t a talent drought in the accounting industry. There is.

    Wanna know a secret, though? There’s a talent drought in almost every single industry in the US.

    Baby boomers are retiring. Birth rates have been declining for decades. In short, there are fewer workers to do the work that needs to be done.

    AI doesn’t look like such a scary enemy now, does it?

    But AI can’t do everything. You’re still going to need people, especially for your client advisory services.

    Those people, though? They don’t need to have accounting degrees, and we’re not the only ones who think this.

    The few folks who are graduating with accounting degrees might want more money than you are currently willing to pay, and good for them for leveraging the laws of supply and demand. Focus on your client advisory services instead, and hire people with good communication skills. Then, use the revenue generated from your CAS offerings to hire that accounting grad or licensed CPA…if you still need them.

  3. Getting clients to pay for services. This is the hardest of the three pressure systems to overcome because it requires outstanding sales skills. Something our profession lacks.

    We couldn’t even type that with a straight face.

    Getting clients to pay for your services is NOT HARD, and it DOES NOT require you to be a sales ninja. You just have to help your clients see you as an investment instead of an expense.

    Do this now:

    1. Pick a client.
    2. Pull up that client’s P&L or Expenses By Vendor Summary or any other report that shows a detailed listing of their expenses.
    3. Highlight duplicated services, excessive office supply spending, and other waste. Spoiler alert: You’re probably going to find that 10-25% of this client’s expenses are not necessary.
    4. d. Add everything up, email the client, and ask them if they want to schedule a call with you to discuss how they can save $XXX (or possibly $X,XXX) per month.

    Boom. In less than 10 minutes, you’ve shown your client how to pay for your services.

    (By the way, we teach our Profit First Professionals how to leverage this technique along with an ROI calculation to get clients to say yes to high-value advisory services.)

Fixing the industry

When enough individual firms change, the industry will follow. It’s inevitable. As we said earlier, you are the industry.

Wanna move things along faster? Cool…here are a few action steps for you:

  1. Complete steps 1-3 above. Don’t wait for the end of busy season or to have a full day to work on it. Invest 30 minutes and do it now.
  2. Measure and let us know your results.
  3. Start telling your colleagues what you’ve done. Share your successes with them. Some of them will want to follow. You’ll create a snowball that will become an avalanche.
  4. Apply to become a Profit First Professional. Yeah, we’re biased, but we believe the power and simplicity of Profit First and a Profit First Professionals membership is a keystone to changing the face of the accounting industry and small business.

Be the change you want to see. Fix your firm. Fix the accounting industry.

Where Tax and CAS Meet

All the industry experts agree: implementing client advisory services (CAS) is critical to the ongoing growth and profitability of your firm. CAS not only adds revenue and profitability to your firm, but it is also a “sticky factor” that makes it difficult for your clients to compare you to your competition. Plus, with automation and AI becoming more prevalent by the day, higher-level CAS offerings differentiate you from the claims made by overly ambitious software companies.

It makes even more sense for tax-heavy firms with a high level of seasonality to offer CAS. This type of firm has historically relied on part-time or seasonal labor during the busy season, which can be difficult to count on year after year. Offering CAS can help you keep your top-tier seasonal team engaged year-round, reducing the risk of them not being available when you need them for the next busy season.

There’s an elephant in this room, though.

It’s easy enough to implement and deliver CAS during the “off season.” But what happens during the “busy season”? How do you manage your commitments to your CAS clients while processing tax returns for your compliance clients?

Do you have to choose to be a “CAS firm” vs. a “tax firm”? Should you put CAS on hold until after tax season?

Can you have the best of both worlds and finish the busy season with your sanity intact?

Reality check

As much as we might wish it to be different, tax-heavy accounting firms have a “busy” season and a “slow” season. Some firm owners embrace this seasonality and strategically design their firms so the revenue earned – and the hours worked – during the first few months of the year sustain them until the next busy season. There’s a certain allure to working all-out for four months and then having the rest of the year more or less “off.”

Not every firm owner wants this model or can sustain it long-term, though. Most firm owners supplement the busy season with other streams of revenue. Historically, bookkeeping services have helped these firms bridge the gap between busy seasons. But – unfair though it is – bookkeeping has faced increasing downward pressure in terms of pricing and perceived value by clients. Bookkeeping-centric firms have addressed this downward pressure by introducing CAS. And although tax-heavy accounting firms can – and should – consider offering CAS as well, these firms seem to be at a disadvantage.

The tax firm disadvantage?

Most bookkeeping services are not critically deadline-driven. Yes, you might have made a commitment to your client to deliver financial statements by the 15th of the month, and payroll is always on a schedule, but missed deadlines don’t typically result in exorbitant penalties that cannot be abated.

Tax services are different, though. With the exception of filing extensions – which, when used incorrectly, only extend the pain of the busy season – there isn’t much relief for the deadline-driven nature of a tax-centric firm. You must complete all the returns in a short period of time, or your client faces interest and penalties, which – chances are – your firm will have to cover.

So, while a bookkeeping-centric firm can easily manage deadlines while still fulfilling their commitments to their CAS clients, tax-focused firms are faced with the double-whammy dilemma of a high volume of work that must be completed in a short period of time. This can make it seem difficult – if not impossible – to offer CAS in your tax-heavy firm.

What’s the solution?

Do you put CAS on hold during tax season? That’s not fair to your CAS clients, and chances are they aren’t going to want to pay you for the months you aren’t working with them.

Do you stop offering tax services altogether and focus on CAS? You could, but that’s like throwing out the baby with the bathwater, especially if your firm is known for tax work.

Do you work more hours during tax season to serve both your tax clients and your CAS clients? I don’t know you, and I know nothing about your firm, and I can still tell you that’s not sustainable.

Do you hire more employees to serve everyone? Oh goodness, where do we even start with the pitfalls of this one?

So, how do you overcome the tax firm disadvantage? How can you offer CAS and still deliver tax services?

Both/and instead of either/or

The financial professional’s ability to see things in black and white is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that we can be confident that 1 + 1 will always equal 2, a bank account can always be reconciled, and we can bring certainty to our own little corner of the world.

It’s a curse in that it often blinds us to opportunities.

There’s an easy answer to the question of how to offer CAS in a tax-heavy firm, and it’s this:

Tax work is CAS work.

Now, I’m not saying that you can plug numbers into your tax software, print a return, and say you offer CAS. But what you can do – what you should do – is make CAS an integral part of your tax preparation process.

You accomplish this by remaining mindful of your clients’ needs, especially in the throes of tax season.

For example, you notice your client owes $12,000 in taxes. You take another look at their return and find $1,500 in credits (this is CAS). Then you run a quick calculation and see that they would have saved $1,000 had they made an S-corp election, so you make a note to schedule a call with the client to discuss this (also CAS). You notice they only have $7,000 in their bank account to pay the $10,500 tax liability, so you add a note to talk to them about a tax savings account (again, CAS…and, ahem, Profit First).

Notice that you haven’t added much work to your plate. Yes, you’ve taken another look at the return to find additional savings, and you’ve made some notes of things to talk to your client about, but these steps are part of your process, anyway. You’ve just become more mindful of your client.

And that’s CAS.

It doesn’t have to be complicated to be impactful

Too often, we think we must put in hours of work in order to justify calling ourselves advisors. But the truth is, you can offer CAS to your clients, even during the busiest time of the year, with minimal impact to your workload.

Profit First is an excellent way to offer CAS in a way that is impactful without adding hours to your schedule. Profit First Professionals leverage a system that requires little time commitment on the part of the advisor, while helping the client achieve phenomenal results. And these results help you add revenue to your top line and profit to your bottom line.

Even though it’s the busy season, I hope you’ll apply now to start your Profit First Professionals journey. You could have CAS up and running in your tax-focused firm before the start of the filing season.

Lessons Learned while Playing Games

Have you ever played the game “Tap Away”? I recently started playing it on my iPad and it just struck me how much it reminded me of running a business.

Just stay with me for a moment.

The point of the game is to clear away blocks. Simple enough, right? Well, each block can only move in one direction and can only move when it can be cleared away (it can’t move just one place). In theory, running a business is also pretty simple, right? We simply need clients who will pay us money for our services or products.

The beginning of Tap Away is easy because there are many options to move the blocks. Same with our business when we first start out. We have a lot of ‘things’ to do so we see progress quickly. We don’t have to be as strategic. We can be a little more random in our actions. But soon, all of the easy blocks have been moved, and all of the easy tasks are completed.

One of the key strategies in the game is to keep rotating the board around to look at it from various angles. A block might look like it’s not able to be moved when looking from one perspective and it can look different from another perspective. Same with our business. There is a challenge that we think can’t be solved, until we shift our perspective and suddenly the option is clear.

As we continue to play Tap Away, the board keeps changing as we clear away blocks. Same with our business, we have to keep assessing where our opportunities are and what might be blocking our access.

I haven’t mentioned the leaderboard yet. As we clear away blocks, we keep moving up the leaderboard, then we level up. When we level up, we essentially start at the bottom of that level’s leaderboard. We do the same thing in our business. As we cross milestones (number of clients, MRR, Revenue) we keep leveling up our business.

The moment we set the game down, get comfortable, and maybe hit a level we are happy with, that is the moment we slide down the leaderboard. There will always be someone else playing the game. We often get comfortable in our business and settle in for a minute. Then we lose a client. And then we realize that because we haven’t been working our systems, we no longer have a steady stream of leads coming in. And the panic begins.

So, what’s the lesson here? We must keep working ON our business, not just IN our business.

Taking a break and a moment to celebrate is important, we know this. But strategically building time to change perspectives and see things from different sides is crucial to your overall success on our own leaderboard.

If you’re ready to level up your business, click here for an introduction to a Certified Profit First Professional. Or, if you’re an accountant, bookkeeper, or coach looking to get to the top of the leaderboard, click here to apply to become a Profit First Professional. See you on the playing field!

Cut Expenses. Keep Investments.

There’s a common misconception that Profit First emphasizes expense reduction to the point that businesses are forced to run on “leftovers.” Yes, an expense analysis is one of the first things a Profit First Professional will do when implementing the program with a new client. And, yes, we do put a large amount of emphasis on reducing unnecessary or redundant expenses.

But not all expenses are created equal. In fact, there are certain expenses that – if cut – can actually cost your business money.

When you approach expense reduction as a “slash and burn” endeavor, you run the risk of harming your business. Just as you should be cautious of a tax accountant who encourages you to “spend down your profit” to save money on taxes, you should be cautious of an accountant, bookkeeper, or coach who tells you to cut expenses to the bare minimum without going through the additional step of individually weighing the benefits and risks of cutting each expenditure.

So, how can you determine what expenses you should cut? It’s really pretty simple.

Cut Expenses. Keep Investments.

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Some “pure expenses” are essential to your business operations. Things like utilities, business licenses, and breakroom coffee (I said what I said) might not generate a direct return for your company, but you must maintain them in order to operate a business.

But aside from these “necessary evils,” the best way to determine whether to cut an expense is to ask yourself this question: Does this expense generate a return for my business?

If the answer is no, then you can – and should – eliminate it.

You see, even though they appear on the profit and loss statement instead of on the balance sheet (where “true” investments in the accounting sense of the word reside), some expenses are really investments in your business. These are the expenses that generate a return for your company. This return can be monetary, but it can also be in the form of efficiency.

You want to avoid eliminating investments. Eliminating an investment is the equivalent of approaching weight loss by removing muscle because it “weighs more” than fat.

A (Tricky) Example

It’s often easy to identify pure expenses. The subscription to the newsletter you intend to read “later” but rarely do. The Subscribe and Save order for rubber bands when your desk drawer is overflowing with them. That pesky $5/month for the app you keep but don’t use because the hassle of canceling hurts more than paying the $5.

But sometimes an investment can masquerade as an expense.

I was working with a professional services provider who needed to make some dramatic expense reductions (we had already addressed her pricing issues, which is a topic for a different article.) Like most business owners, she had reviewed her expenses and homed in on the largest one.

In this case, it was her virtual assistant.

“I have to cut her,” the business owner said. “If I cut out the amount I’m paying her, I’ll be more than 75% of the way to my expense reduction goal.”

“Okay, let’s discuss this. What does your VA do for you?” I asked.

Her answer? “Everything.” And she wasn’t exaggerating.

Basically, the VA handled the entire operations end of this professional services business, freeing the business owner to focus on the revenue-generating activities only she could do as a licensed professional. Without the VA, the business owner would more than double the amount of time she spent working, and by her own admission most of the essential tasks would either go undone or be done inadequately.

You see, the math worked, but the physics didn’t. The easy answer – cut out the VA – would have been detrimental to the health of the business. In fact, the cut probably would have completely sunk the business.

Rather than cut the VA altogether, we dove deeper and identified things the VA was doing “just because they had always been done.” By eliminating those tasks, we were able to keep the VA but reduce the amount she was being paid.

What about the rest of the expense reductions? We found them in seemingly insignificant increments of $10 here and $25 there. Was it a quick process? Absolutely not. Was it fun? Also no. But we got there, and when we were done, the business was running more efficiently and more profitably than ever before. The business owner didn’t even feel the “loss” of the expenses we cut. And – even though she was being paid less – the VA was happier because she was able to focus more on essential business tasks than the minutia she was burdened with before our analysis.

Proceed With Caution

Of course, the opposite scenario can also occur. You might be able to look at every expense your business incurs and justify why it’s necessary.

This is why it’s paramount to work with someone who understands your business and will take the time to analyze and challenge your assumptions about what is necessary and what isn’t. And that’s exactly what our Profit First Professionals are taught to do.

If you’re interested in working with a professional who will turn your business into a lean, mean, profit-generating machine, click here. We’ll happily introduce you to a PFP who will guide you through the expense reduction process in a way that is – if not exactly fun – at least safe for your business’s health. Investing in the services of a Profit First Professional will yield returns well beyond what you pay for their expertise.

If you’re interested in helping businesses do this sort of expense reduction, I encourage you to apply to become a Profit First Professional. This investment in your firm will garner returns well beyond increased advisory revenue. Our team will share the details during your enrollment call.

Client Attraction: What’s Working Now

We got spoiled.

In 2020 and 2021, business owners were clamoring for help. Accountants, bookkeepers, and financial coaches were the beneficiaries, and for a moment in time, we basked in the glory of knowing business owners saw us as the trusted advisors we are.

Then the world opened back up, and things slowly returned to business as usual.

Now, with the economy still in a state of uncertainty, many business owners are cutting back on financial services. Just as we benefited from the surge in demand at the start of the pandemic, we now feel the discomfort of our prospects’ and clients’ decisions to tighten their belts. Sure, the dwindling number of accounting services professionals works in our favor to an extent, but many providers are finding it harder to retain existing clients in the high-value services we want to offer and to attract new high-paying clients.

But that doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up in defeat. In fact, there are four client attraction tactics that are bringing our Profit First Professionals members great success.

Wanna know what they are? Read on!

Tactic #1: List nurturing

Unless you started your business yesterday, you have the following lists:

  1. Prospects who didn’t become clients
  2. Former clients who departed on good terms
  3. Current clients who aren’t fully utilizing your services

That’s three groups of people you can market to. And the best thing about these lists? The hardest part of marketing to them is already done. You’ve already gotten their attention. Now you just need to nurture them.

How?

Provide them with valuable, actionable information that (1) they can use and that (2) highlights the ways you can help them.

Don’t worry about “giving away the farm”; you aren’t going to go into their numbers and solve their specific problems. Instead, you are going to give them just enough information – in the form of targeted emails, short videos, and simple resources – to show them what is possible if they work with you.

List nurturing takes time. Don’t expect to get a new or increased engagement with the first email. Build out a sequence of 12-16 emails you can “drip” on your lists over the course of several weeks, saving your “let’s schedule a time to discuss how I can help your business with this” call to action for some point during the second week of emails.

Once this sequence has run its course, put anyone who hasn’t responded or engaged on a “keep warm” list, and send out a monthly – or even biweekly – email to them to keep you at the top of their minds.

Tactic #2: In-person networking

Those of us who are a bit more on the introverted side of the scale have been more than happy to let in-person networking fall by the wayside these past few years. However, depending on which research you choose to believe, anywhere from 50-75% of the population is extroverted…and they really, really missed in-person networking.

Love it or hate it, in-person networking is one of the fastest ways to gain trust, which we all know is a financial professional’s most important asset. Our Profit First Professionals members who are engaged in in-person networking are finding they get results quicker…usually within three months of networking with a new group. (Email marketing is usually taking at least six months to produce results, and those are the exceptional cases.) In-person networkers are also signing higher-end engagements.

Tactic #3: Talk to low-revenue prospects

One of the biggest mistakes I see financial professionals make is to base their decision to speak with a prospective client on the business’s revenue. I could write an entire article about why this is a horrible idea, but for now, let’s focus on the solution:

Do some research before rejecting the prospect.

Is this a new business?

Is the business owner an employed professional or a retiree?

Does this prospect currently own another business, or have they owned a business in the past?

You can get most of this information from LinkedIn. A “yes” to any of these questions could be an indicator that the business owner has money to invest in the business, meaning they have money to invest with you.

So, talk to (almost) EVERYONE. Sure, you’ll kiss some frogs in the process… but you’ll also likely find a prince(ss) or two.

Tactic #4: Sell your prospect what they want… not what you think they need

Back in May, marketing consultant Robin Robbins spoke with our Mastery level PFPs. She shared tons of great examples, but one in particular has stuck with me:

A business owner calls an IT company because their Wi-Fi is out. The IT company launches into a sales pitch for their managed services program. The business owner isn’t interested in managed services… they just want their Wi-Fi fixed. The IT company doesn’t do break/fix work, so they send the business owner to another provider who does. A few months later, the first IT company discovers the business owner who called them is now on a managed services program with the other provider.

What the heck happened?

It’s pretty easy to see from this side of the example: The second provider sold the prospect what they wanted – working Wi-Fi – and then used that as a steppingstone to sell additional services.

Now, think about the prospects who come to you for bookkeeping work, or a tax return, or bookkeeping work so they can file their tax return. Or maybe they just want a budget or a cash flow projection. You launch into an explanation of your packages and advisory offerings and…

The prospect just stopped listening. In fact, they’re Googling the phone number of the next financial professional on their list.

Yes, you want to protect your workflow. You definitely don’t want to go back to the “checkbook and a pulse” qualifier for a client. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. If a prospective client wants to pay you to fix the problem they know they have, and you can fix that problem, fix it. Sell them what they want. Once you’re through the door, so to speak, then you can make suggestions about how you can continue working together. That’s when you can sell them what you know they need.

Bonus Tactic: Collaborate with other professionals

Remember Tactic #2? Yeah, the one you skimmed past because you really don’t like in-person networking (I see you, fellow introvert). Here’s a secret to networking that will pour rocket fuel on your client attraction efforts.

Profit First Professionals who are leveraging in-person networking aren’t only – or even primarily – networking for new clients. Instead, they are networking for and with complementary service professionals with whom they can share business. These connections are broadening their sphere of influence, providing them with referral partners who understand the sorts of clients they want to work with, and shortening the sales cycle when the introduction is made.

Suggestion #1 (good): Find a networking group – like your local chamber of commerce, or your bank’s lunch and learn series – where you can find attorneys, insurance brokers, bankers, and HR and IT professionals. Start attending this group regularly. Make connections. Build trust. Pay it forward by referring your clients who need these services.

Suggestion #2 (better): Become a Profit First Professional. Here you will find a ready-made community of complementary service providers – accountants, bookkeepers, business coaches, financial advisors, fractional CFOs – who are constantly looking for collaborative partners to help them help their clients become more profitable. Click here to make your fully-refundable deposit and schedule your enrollment call.

Profit First Isn’t Necessary

“Profit First isn’t necessary.”

This is one of the objections we hear most often from accountants and bookkeepers. And, as much as it pains us to say it, they are correct.

Profit First isn’t necessary… if you’re already wired to think like a financial professional. Which most business owners are not.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say many financial professionals aren’t wired to think like financial professionals. Instead, they have trained themselves to look at the world through a certain lens. This training takes years of dedicated focus and a narrowing of perspective.

This is something most business owners won’t do. In fact, it would likely be to the detriment of their business if they did.

Profit First democratizes the visibility of a business’s financial information so any business owner – regardless of how they’re “wired” – can consume and act on it.

Not everyone thinks like you.

A shortcoming of the financial services profession is the mistaken belief that everyone thinks the way we do.

Scratch that. A shortcoming of the entire human race is the mistaken belief that everyone thinks the way we do.

Because we tend to see the world from a certain perspective, and because this perspective makes sense to us, it can be hard to remember there are countless other perspectives out there. What makes perfect sense to us can be the equivalent of an alien language to the person sitting on the other end of the Zoom call.

We financial services professionals think business owners “should” learn to budget and read their financial statements and analyze and act on their KPIs because that’s what we have learned to do. In some cases, we learned to do that because the skills came naturally to us.

Pro-tip: Check yourself every time you find yourself using the word “should.”

Don’t should on your clients

The problem with the word “should” is that it implies some sort of shortcoming. There are numerous studies and articles decrying the use of the word “should.”

It’s demotivating.

It implies an obligation to do something you might not want to do.

It’s inherently negative and leads to feelings of inadequacy.

When financial services professionals say, “Profit First isn’t necessary,” what they really mean is “Profit First shouldn’t be necessary from my perspective.”

But the few who embrace Profit First and become Profit First Professionals add on to that: “but it is necessary for the business owners I serve, and so I am going to help them use this tool to run the best business they can run.”

Profit First: The Great Equalizer

I thought I’d heard all the arguments, both for and against Profit First, until a recent webinar we co-hosted with our banking partner, Relay. At the end of the webinar, one of the participants shared the following:

I haven’t seen this feedback anywhere, but this visibility set up is incredibly “safe” for neurodivergents like me. I’m AUDHD and having the immediate knowledge of where everything is makes me breathe easy. Where DEI Is a huge initiative right now, Profit First is hitting the mark by being an inclusive system.

Wow.

Not only will most business owners not train themselves to think like financial professionals, but some literally cannot train themselves to think this way.

Profit First can be structured to bring the exact level of clarity a business owner – any business owner – needs to run their business effectively. Whether it’s with three, five, or twenty bank accounts, a Profit First Professional can help their clients see their businesses through the lens that works best for the “eyes” they have.

If you’re interested in becoming a Profit First Professional and helping your clients see their businesses through the right lens for them, click here to schedule an enrollment call.

Let’s Talk about Debt, Baby
(Part 2)

In part one of this two-part series on the “D” word, we defined the two uses of business debt. As a recap, you can either
  1. Leverage debt to strategically improve your business’s profitability (this is the “good” debt), or
  2. Use a debt bridge to cover expenses that exceed your business’s income (this is the “bad” debt, especially through the lens of Profit First).
But how can you protect your business from having too much of a “good” thing? How do you make sure your intended debt leverage doesn’t become a shaky debt bridge? That’s exactly what we’re going to cover in this article. But first…
Important disclaimer
Although we’ve identified “good” debt and “bad” debt here, as a business owner you alone are responsible for making decisions about how to use debt in your business. In other words, don’t take our word for it; speak to your own trusted advisor before making decisions that will impact your business’s financial health.
A process to properly – and profitably – leverage debt
From a Profit First perspective, there is a proper method to approach debt leverage, and that is through the following six-step process:
  1. Conduct a 12-month lookback Profit Assessment on your business and make note of your current dollar amounts and Current Allocation Percentages (CAPs). Use the most current numbers you have available. This doesn’t have to be 100% accurate; close enough is good enough.
  2. Add the debt you plan to incur to the Operating Expenses on the assessment you conducted above.
    1. If you are taking out a loan that will be repaid over a number of years, add the annual repayment amount including interest to this field.
    2. If you are planning to add an expense that won’t require a loan, add the annual amount of the expense to this field instead.
  3. Calculate your new CAPs and make a note of the difference between the CAP for the assessment you conducted in step 1 and the one you conducted in step 2.
  4. Now we’re going to do some reverse engineering of your Top Line Revenue.
    1. First, determine what your Top Line Revenue needs to be to bring your CAP from Step 3 back to what it was in Step 1.
    2. Now, determine what your Top Line Revenue needs to be to hit your TARGET Allocation Percentage (TAP) for Profit.
  5. The difference between your current Top Line Revenue (from step 1) and the Top Line Revenue you calculated in step 4a is the minimum amount of revenue this investment needs to generate to “break even” on your investment. And the difference between your Top Line Revenue from step 1 and that from step 4b is the amount the investment needs to generate to give you an ROI.
  6. Set benchmarks for revenue increases and targets for hitting them. This is the most important step of the whole process. Without benchmarks for realizing a return on the debt incurred and targets for hitting them, your debt leverage will become a debt bridge. This step puts a plan into place for “pulling the plug” on the debt if it’s not generating the return you expected.

As you move through this process, it’s possible the calculations will show you moving into a new Real Revenue tier, which will lead to a change in your Target Allocation Percentages. This math can get a little tricky, but Profit First Professionals have access to a tool that will streamline the calculations.

Business growth without debt

As mentioned at the beginning of the series, many people believe that Profit First = Debt Bad. And although we’ve talked about how to properly leverage debt in this article, it’s important to note that the Profit First methodology does not advocate incurring debt…even the “good” kind.

Using debt leverage can speed up your profitability goals and help you take advantage of opportunities that might disappear if you don’t act quickly. For normal, sustainable business growth, though, your best bet is to open a Business Growth and Development account and allocate to that account regularly. You will then use the funds in this account to “finance” your own business growth sustainably and without the risk of over-leveraging your business.

Keeping it all in balance

Monitoring your business’s financial health is every bit as important as monitoring your personal, physical health. Without regular checkups, your financial health can slowly deteriorate without you noticing it.

If you’re concerned about your business’s financial health, then click here to connect with a Certified Profit First Professional. And if you are an accountant, bookkeeper, or business coach who would like to help your clients monitor their financial health more closely, click here to learn more about becoming a member of Profit First Professionals.

Let’s Talk about Debt, Baby
(Part 1)

Debt. It’s the four-letter word everyone wants to avoid, and yet we can’t stop talking about it. Whether it’s personal debt levels or the government debt ceiling, everywhere we look there is a discussion happening about debt.

There’s a common misconception that through the lens of Profit First, debt is always bad. But debt can sometimes be a useful tool to help you reach new levels of business growth and profitability.

So, let’s lay it all out on the table. Let’s talk about debt, baby. (Gen X, you’re welcome for the Salt-N-Pepa earworm.)

This article is part one of a two-part series on the “D” word. In this piece, we’ll define the two uses of debt. In part two, we’ll share a process to help you make sure you are using debt the “right” way.

Not all debt is created equal

The first thing we need to understand is that not all debt is created equal. And, no, I’m not talking about negotiating favorable interest rates, although that’s important, too.

There are essentially two ways to use debt. And, like the two types of cholesterol, one is “good,” the other is “bad,” but too much of either one can spell bad news for your business’s health.

What are the two ways to use debt in your business?

Debt leverage vs. debt bridge

Debt leverage is the “good” debt. When you use debt leverage, you have a planned, strategic use for the borrowed funds – to generate more profitability in your business.

For example, let’s say you need to increase your business’s production capacity to reach your next profitability goal. To do that, you need to acquire a new asset (this can be a machine, software, or an employee.) But you don’t currently have the cash on hand to acquire this asset outright, or – in the case of an employee – there will be a period when the cost of the asset is higher than the revenue generated.

This can be a good time to consider debt leverage. The debt you incur to finance the machine or the new hire’s payroll has a specific, strategic purpose, and you can make a reasonable assumption that the debt will pay off in the long run.

A debt bridge, on the other hand, is the “bad” debt. In the most basic terms, using a debt bridge means your normal, ongoing expenses exceed your normal, ongoing income. Your business is essentially living on credit cards (or a line of credit, or possibly even investments from your own personal savings.)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of relying on a debt bridge. Maybe your business experiences what you think is a short-term decrease in revenue, and you decide to “ride it out” by using debt until things improve…but that improvement doesn’t happen as quickly as you expect.

Or maybe you justify additional expenses in your business by convincing yourself they are strategic expenses, but you don’t put the proper tracking mechanisms in place to ensure you are getting a return on the expenses.

Or – and this is the worst scenario of all – you’re just so busy running your business, you lose track of how quickly your operating expenses are outpacing your revenue. Before you know it, you’re barely able to make the minimum payments on your debt, and you wonder how on earth things got to this point.

Important disclaimer

Although we’ve identified “good” debt and “bad” debt here, as a business owner you alone are responsible for making decisions about how to use debt in your business. In other words, don’t take our word for it; speak to your own trusted advisor before making decisions that will impact your business’s financial health.

Using debt profitably

Now that you know the two ways to use debt in your business, you might be wondering about the “right” way to use the “good” debt. How can you make sure your planned, solid leverage doesn’t become a rickety bridge that will throw your business into a raging river of “bad” debt? In part two of this series, we’ll share a six-step process to help you make sure you are truly leveraging debt to improve your business’s profitability.

Relay is now an official banking platform of Profit First

You may have already heard by now, but we’re thrilled to announce that Relay is an official banking platform for Profit First Professionals. Many of our members already know and love Relay. But in case you don’t know them, Relay is a business banking and money management platform that is thoughtfully designed to help you and your clients put Profit First into action.

Why we’re partnering with Relay

We know how challenging it is for PFPs to find a banking solution that works both for them and their clients. It takes convincing, negotiating, and adapting to do Profit First banking. This costs time and forces you and your clients to make difficult tradeoffs. We’re putting a stop to that. We’ve been on the hunt for solutions that truly embrace the Profit First method—not the other way around—so you can focus your time on your clients’ success. We also wanted a partner that is as invested in both the Profit First method and the success of our PFP family as we are. Finding the right partner has taken several years. But it was worth it. We’ve found that partner in Relay.

Building better business banking

Relay knows accounting, bookkeeping and client advisory. The company was founded in 2018 by co-founders Yoseph West and Paul Klicnik, who have a long track record of working in payments (previously Wave and Hubdoc), with small businesses, and with small business advisors. But there’s an even deeper alignment between Profit First and Relay: a shared belief that business advisors—accountants, bookkeepers and coaches—play a critical role in the lives of business owners. At Relay, this belief is reflected in their banking platform, which is built to meet the needs of advisors as much as business owners. It can be seen in their content, through series like Gearing Up, aimed at uncovering the tools and strategies that help accountants and bookkeepers thrive. And of course, it’s something that we believe here at Profit First Professionals. Because of these shared communities and commitment to business owners, we’re so excited to come together to make it easier for businesses to be profitable. We know the impact that Profit First has in building permanently profitable businesses, but we often hear from business owners that they don’t have time to go to the bank and set it up. With Relay, not only does their product truly enable Profit First banking, but it can be set up for free in just 10 minutes. With this partnership, Relay has built dedicated Profit First features, such as auto-transfer rules, to make implementing the system easier than ever before.

The gold standard for Profit First banking

Here’s why we’re making Relay an official banking partner of Profit First and giving them the Profit First Professionals stamp of approval:
    • Sign-up online, from the comfort of your own home, in just 10 minutes.
    • Forget about fees. You and your clients can bank with Relay with no monthly fees, no minimum balance requirements, and no overdraft fees.
    • Open up to 20 individual business checking accounts (i.e., real accounts — not just virtual envelopes) per business entity. And each account can have its own unique nickname, like “Profit – 5%”.
    • Allocate your money by your Profit First percentages. Transfer money from your Income account to your other accounts all at once and have the math done for you.
    • Create automatic transfer rules based on account balances, so your Profit First transfers will get done no matter what.
Reliable bank feeds that don’t break, skip or duplicate. Relay integrates directly with Quickbooks Online and Xero so you can reconcile accounts faster.
  • Streamline accounts payable with Relay Pro to automate bill approval rules for your team and unlock faster, same-day ACH and free wires.
  • Get secure, role-based access to your client’s Relay account to review expenses, strategize, and keep you accountable.
  • A partner portal to manage all of your clients who bank with Relay, so you can advise them and keep them accountable from one login.
  • Get hands-on support from the Relay team that’s here to help you every step of the way.
 

A Profit First Certified banking partner

Relay is building a banking platform that gives you total clarity and control over your cash flow because they know how critical it is to entrepreneurial success. Most of all, Relay believes in the impact that our two matching tools—Profit First and Relay—can create for business owners. The team gets it. As part of their commitment to Profit First, Relay has become a Profit First Certified firm, with members of their team—Deanna Zubrickas and Olivia Cummings—completing the PFP training. Having invested the time in becoming PFPs, they know deeply the pain points that PFPs face and are committed to building features that are a perfect fit for your practice.

Tailored onboarding for current and aspiring PFPs

Profit First Professionals new to Relay can get a personalized demo, including how to get the most out of Relay’s newly-launched auto-transfer rules. You can book a 1:1 onboarding session with Relay’s Certified Profit First Professional Deanna here. In it, you’ll get a personalized session where you’ll learn:
  • How to get started with Relay
  • How to set up your Profit First accounts
  • How to set up automatic transfer rules
  • Tips for moving clients to Relay

Helping businesses become permanently profitable

We’re excited to join forces with Relay to provide Profit First Professionals with the tools they need to gain total cash flow clarity and help their clients build successful, profitable and long-lasting businesses.

Sign up for Relay

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