The first in a new series of guest posts, Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Planner Steven Carey discusses the key to taking your vocation or passion and making it work as a business.
It is a real problem when you are doing something you love isn’t it?
…somehow it’s not as rewarding as you’d thought it would be.
You set up your business because you are good at something, or you are passionate about it, or both, but you never seem to make progress. You are busy doing what you love, but somehow it’s not as rewarding as you’d thought it would be.
Very often, that is because you are working IN, and not ON your business.
What’s the difference?
If you are going to reap the rewards of your hard work, then you’ll need to balance these two aspects. Before you can do that, you need to understand what they are.
Working in the business
This is basically doing the stuff for clients/customers that the business was set up to do. For Owen, this is producing high quality design ideas, and implementing them as part of the branding strategy. It involves meeting with the clients, getting to understand both what the client does, and the ethos underpinning that work.
Similarly, we follow the same process of understanding the client and their objectives, whether we are preparing a succession plan and managing the process, preparing an Inheritance Tax planning report or discussing a business issue with a client as part of our PMI program (“The Numbers”).
Working on the business is different
This aspect makes the business, or more accurately its owner, the client. It may seem odd, but businesses are merely means to achieve the ends of their owners. If not, the owners become employees of their business, and will often earn more, with less stress, by finding employment with someone else!
Working ON the business involves taking a step away from the day-to-day tasks, and asking yourself strategic questions, like:
What things are important to me?
What does my life need to look like in five years’ time if I can count them a success?
What kind of work/clients do I want for my business?
What things do I need to change to get to those goals?
Working ON the business involves taking a step away from the day-to-day tasks
So, if it’s so important, why doesn’t it get done?
There are several reasons why not, and each requires a different remedy. Here’s a few ideas to get started (but contact Owen and give him your own ideas!)
1. The tyranny of the urgent.
So, you have a client deadline fast approaching, and it’s not going too well. The client is demanding a proposal/finished product/sample/presentation… and you’re running out of time. This happens to us all, but if you find it happens more than three times a year, ask yourself these questions.
• Am I overpromising?
Most clients will be relaxed about an extended deadline if they know about it early enough. Estimate a completion date, and then add an extra week/fortnight to give yourself time to do a quality job.
• Is this client worth busting a gut for?
If they are always hassling you, slow in responding, and unreasonable in demanding late changes to your brief, then the answer may well be “no”.
• Is the fee worthwhile?
Remember, a large fee is not always a good thing. Think about the time commitment, (including the initial marketing time) and work out an effective hourly rate. You may earn more by taking on two smaller jobs with a higher effective rate.
2. It can wait.
Of course, long term planning is exactly that, long term, but what will you say in five years’ time? Can it still wait? There’s an old Chinese proverb that states “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second best time is now.”
The problem is, every year you delay it puts you back another year in achieving your goals.
3. It’s not what I set up my business to do.
This goes back to my introduction. We get excited about the work the business does, and most of us do not run strategic planning businesses. Therefore, it doesn’t give us that same “buzz” as a well-executed project.
How to make it happen
1. Schedule your “blue sky” thinking time.
Studies have shown that scheduling a task makes it 20 times more likely to happen.
I have a fixed Friday morning appointment in my diary. This 3 hour slot is split between working ON my business, and doing a specific marketing task, such as recording a video for our YouTube channel, or writing a blog. (That doesn’t mean that I don’t do marketing at any other time of the week).
Studies have shown that scheduling a task makes it 20 times more likely to happen. It is much easier to say to a client that you have a commitment if it’s in your diary, than being caught unprepared when the phone rings.
2. Appoint a business coach or financially literate outsider to work with you.
In this way, you have an accountability partner, and you will make more effort to avoid letting them down. You are far more likely to get out of bed and go for that morning run if you are meeting a friend than if you plan to go alone.
A good business coach will earn you far more than their cost, by helping you achieve your goals.
3. Tell as many people as you can that you are going to do this.
While you are not as accountable under idea 2 above, it is very embarrassing to tell a lot of people that you haven’t done what you promised yourself you would do!
4. If you cannot afford a business coach, find a fellow business owner, (not a competitor), with whom you can share ideas, problems and your thoughts.
Again, scheduling a regular meeting will benefit both of you. You’ll be surprised how clearly you see solutions to problems that are not your own.
Working ON your business is crucial to achieving your goals, but it is not easy to create the sense of urgency or the time to do it. Finding people to help is almost as essential.
If you’d like further advice or ideas, or want Owen or I to help you achieve your goals, get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.
Steven is a passionate and innovative accountant and tax planner who loves to see his clients' lives made better.
He is the founder of Numbers UK Ltd., a dynamic and fast growing accountancy practice covering Devon and Cornwall. He is also a director of Plymouth Business Network and Plymouth Facilities Management.