Innovation Is The Heart of Strategy. And Survival.

For Business Owners Only

I’ve been writing about television’s business landscape recently. A reader told me that Australia’s Channel10 is in “voluntary administration.” Death’s door, in other words.

At the same time, I’m teaching an entrepreneurship course at the University of Victoria. We’ve just finished discussing strategy, innovation, and industry life cycles. Sounds complicated, but it’s actually simple:

Strategy tells you three things:

  1. Be unique
  2. in a way that your customers will pay well
  3. so you can defend yourself from inevitable competition.

How do we know competition is inevitable? Because the industry life cycle tells us so:

  • An industry starts with a significant innovation that drives fast growth,
  • followed by more innovation and increasing competition,
  • followed by intense competition, shrinking profitability, and industry decline – including “voluntary administration” 🙁

Many CEOs and business profs discuss strategy and industry life cycles as if they were linear sequences. Which resigns them to the “inevitable” decline, and blinds them to the solution:

Innovation is at the heart of strategy.
Strategy ain’t linear.

Let’s rewrite bullet #1 above. Instead of “Be unique”, let’s say “Innovate”. And rather than a linear list of bullet points, let’s make it circular:

“Innovate
in a way that your customers will pay well
so you can defend yourself from inevitable competition.
Repeat.”

You see, not only does innovation get your business going, but it prolongs its longevity.

Apple is one of a few great examples. It’s had several major innovation cycles with each cycle driving its own growth curve. And each has combined to reinforce the strength of Apple’s other innovation cycles. Computers, iPod, iPhone, iPad. All great businesses by themselves, but they’ve combined to create the world’s most valuable company.

Are there lessons here for Channel10? I think so:

1. Forget about the past. It’s gone. Sunk cost. Can’t fix it or change it.

2. Embrace your voluntary administration process. It’s a gift that allows you to rethink, recast, reset yourself.

3. Place innovation at the heart of your strategy.

4. Examine these trends and aim for the future.

Come to think of it, these are good lessons for all of us. Including Apple!

Commoditization Kills

GUEST POST For Business Owners Only

Almost every business owner knows EXACTLY why her business is the best. But most have trouble communicating it briefly and powerfully.

Which means they don’t get the recognition or revenue they deserve.

They need Marc Stoiber. Heck, we ALL need Marc Stoiber.

Marc is a brand consultant, speaker, and writer. In this article he tells you EXACTLY how to communicate what you do best. Powerfully. So you stand out.

Best article you’ll read all week. You have my word.

Commoditization Kills – by Marc Stoiber

Our world has grown incredibly small.

Remember geographically putting a fence around your business? Gone. Now, if you want to set up shop, you can do it anywhere in the world. From your laptop.

Linda Kozlowski, head of operations for Etsy, pointed out there are only three things you need to go global from day 1 – even if your business is selling chickens in brassieres. (Yes, this is a real business, it’s on Etsy, and it’s global.)

What are the three things?

  1. Data – Where are all your potential customers, and what are they looking for?
  2. Technology – How do you build a platform to get your stuff to them? Like, a website?
  3. Payments – How can you get their money?

Data, a website, and a payment system. It’s that simple.

Of course, because it’s that simple, every other person who does what you do, anywhere in the world, can do it, too.

There is no such thing as ‘your territory’ anymore. The earth is your territory, but it’s theirs too.

Which makes it a bit hard to stand out.

You may be the best financial manager in your town, but are you the best in the world? And if you’re not the best, how is anyone going to remember you? People can only remember #1. If you’re second best, you don’t exist.

The good news is there’s a solution. A way for you to profile yourself as #1. It’s called a brand.

Today, I want to talk to you about how brands work. And I want to touch on three very important things you need to build that #1 brand. They are:

  1. Expertise
  2. Importance to your customer, and
  3. Communication

Finally, I want to show you how to wrap it all together with a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). A tool I use all the time to help my clients build brands that build business.

But first…

What are brands?

Most people think they’re logos, colours, or maybe a jingle on a radio ad.

Brands are much more than that. They’re a symbol of the promise I make to you. And the expectation you have of me.

HISTORY

Brands have been around thousands of years.

From the day we dropped from the trees and looked around our scary world, brands were there to make things simpler. They were like shorthand.

Even then, how we painted our face, what sort of bones or feathers we wore as jewellery, even actual burn marks or tattoos we branded ourselves with – they were promises to people around us – this is who I am, this is my tribe, this is how I behave. And they were expectations – from your tattoos, I know that you’re a friend, and you’ll share food.

Nature was masterful at branding. With colours, shapes, and sounds, she provided plenty of promises.

Tiger = I promise to eat you.

Rabbit = I promise to taste good.

Fire = I promise to cook your rabbit, and burn your hand.

This was a big deal. It meant we didn’t have to walk up to tigers again and again, to see what they were all about. Very handy.

As our society developed, we developed ever more complex symbols to help make life simple, and clear. Roman eagles, Masonic icons, swastikas, Namaste icons, Persian lions. The list is infinite.

If the symbols worked, they stuck.

These symbols had incredible power.

Let’s take the crusader’s white tunic with a red cross. From 100 yards, without saying hello or even seeing his face, you knew what you could expect from him.

As time went on, brands became closely connected with business.

This violin is a Stradivarius. Today, it’s worth about $1.7 million. But even in 1700, when Antonio Stradivari made it, it was a big deal.

Want to know a dirty little brand secret?

Neither acoustic analysis, or blind listening tests have ever, ever determined a difference in the sound between Stradivarius and other high quality violins.

The value of a Stradivarius is brand value.

A lot has changed since the days of Stradivarius.

Mass production, for example.

Antonio Stradivari made 960 violins. Apple sells that many iPhones in 2 minutes.

But one thing is truer than ever. A successful brand doesn’t need to involve a better product.

Lucky Strike cigarettes toasted their tobacco. Every other cigarette toasted their tobacco. But Lucky Strike said so, and it became their brand.

Marlboro went one further. They didn’t even talk about a product difference. They just said cowboys smoked their brand. And rode that pony all the way to the bank.

Just a hunch, but I believe you probably would like to be more of a Stradivarius, less of a Marlboro. More of a finely crafted instrument, an expert brand.

So how do you become that?

THE COMPONENTS OF THE EXPERT BRAND

This is a heart surgeon. He’s a highly trained expert.

This is a financial advisor. He’s a highly trained expert.

Both provide a valuable service. But there are a few big differences. The heart surgeon doesn’t go looking for clients. The financial advisor does. The heart surgeon charges top dollar. The financial advisor doesn’t.

Why?

Three reasons:

  • First, chances are the surgeon has declared a very specific expertise. I am not a GP. I am a surgeon. Or even better, I am the only triple bypass surgeon in the Pacific Northwest. You want a triple bypass; I’m the only game in town.
  • Second, the surgeon surrounds himself with other, complementary experts. Brain surgeons, cancer specialists. People he learns from, people who learn from him. Being seen in this company elevates his standing in our eyes.
  • Finally, the surgeon publishes. Like a scientist, a surgeon does research. And to maintain his esteemed position, he stays in the public eye, keynoting at conferences, writing papers, being interviewed.

To the first point, how many of you have declared a very specific expertise?

It’s hard, isn’t it? Because the second you do it, you feel you’re excluding 99% of the potential clients out there. And that’s true. But think of it this way – if you get just 1%, and these folks really, really need you, and will pay top dollar to get you, is that better than getting 99% of the people who don’t really see any big benefit in you, fight every charge, and will leave you at the drop of a hat?

How many of you surround yourselves with other declared experts?

Think tanks? Organizations that are pushing the limits? This is not a networking group, where you’re all just trying to send each other referrals. It’s a brain trust, where you push one another. How many of you?

Finally, how many of you publish?

Again, I’m not talking about putting out passive aggressive sales pitches disguised as blog posts. How many of you put content into the world, on a regular basis, that actually makes the world better for people? It’s hard.

But that’s what experts do.

THE ART OF HYPER-SPECIALIZATION

OK, you’re saying. You got me. I want to be that hyper-specialized expert. I want to declare my expertise. But I’m a general financial planner. How do I do it?

Let me show you a neat trick, guaranteed to produce your expertise, right in front of your eyes.

I’m going to use the example of tires. Bear with me.

When cars were first invented, somebody was clever and figured out how to make tires. That person could perfectly, legitimately claim to make the best tires in the world. He made the only tires in the world.

Now we know that cars became a pretty successful thing. And naturally enough, our tire manufacturer made out like a bandit. So what happened?

Another guy started making tires.

Now let’s say the new guy, having studied our original tire manufacturer, incorporated some new technology. Now his tires were indisputably the best tires in the world.

So did the first guy just pack up and go home? No. He took a look at what people needed. He saw that trucks had been invented. So he invented a truck tire. And voila, he could claim to make the best truck tire in the world.

Now let’s say the same thing happens again. This time, five other manufacturers start making truck tires. Give up? No way. Our genius decided to specialize even further.

He decided to make the longest wearing truck tire. Or the best off road truck tire. Or the safest truck tire. Or the luxury truck tire. Or the cheapest truck tire.  And when he’d picked his niche, he told the world.

Sure he wouldn’t capture the entire truck tire market. But he won a hardcore audience, who would buy his tires no matter what, because they knew they were custom designed for them.

No haggling. No chasing. No negotiations.

Can you do that? Can you start with financial advisor, and keep adding modifiers until you get to a place you can rightfully call your expert zone?

BUT IS YOUR SPECIALTY IMPORTANT TO ME?

There’s one final critical piece involved in creating your expert brand. Finding out if what you’re creating actually matters.

Today, thanks to the internet, brands are a full-fledged dialogue. Ads don’t get the message out. Consumer reviews do. Bloggers do. Customer service does. Where you rank on Google matters, and we the people determine where you rank.

This may sound scary, but it’s actually awesome.

Before, you didn’t really know if people liked what you were doing. You just lost sales. Today, you can track how long they’re on your site, how many of the right people read each one of your posts, what price point works best for your audience.

Of course, asking people what they want, is hard. It shows your vulnerability. Being vulnerable, and being open to change, stands out like a sore thumb in the business world.

To most of us, there is one thing worse than the fear of death. That’s the fear of looking stupid.

Most companies are so afraid of looking less dignified that they prefer to build a brand that looks proud, stiff, and inhuman, like a stuffed shirt.

So instead, we do anything to cover up any sort of weakness. That way we won’t stick out or get noticed.

In a pre-internet world, this just created brands that looked like Disneyland – perfect, in a kind of plastic way.

In a world of reviews, bloggers, internet transparency, trying to look perfect is a very, very dangerous strategy.

CREATE A USP FOR YOUR COMMODITY BRAND

So we’ve talked about becoming an expert brand. Declaring your expertise, surrounding yourself with experts, and publishing.

We’ve talked about how to get to that expertise. Starting with your profession, then adding modifiers until you arrive at a place where you are absolutely the only game in town.

We’ve talked about aligning your expertise with what people want.

Now what?

Now, you create a unique selling proposition. I’ll give you the broad strokes here.

A unique selling proposition is:

  • What you do best in the world
  • That’s important to your clients
  • That you can prove you’re best at.

Answer this question:

I am absolutely the best at ______________ because I offer ____________, ___________ and ______________, and this is super important to my clients because ____________.

Hard, isn’t it?

I’ll give you some examples.

EHarmony is the #1 dating site for folks aiming for serious relationships. That’s because they have a 29 point questionnaire that digs deeper into my real priorities. That’s important to me because hookup sites are just depressing, and I want to move forward!

Or…

Nike is the #1 choice for elite athletic shoes, because it’s worn by more sports stars than any other brand. That’s important to me, because I need the inspiration.

Or…

John Smith is the #1 knee surgeon in Victoria, because he does twice as many knee surgeries as any other doctor. That’s important to me because, well, it’s my knees!

MY EXPERT BRAND VOW

I teach marketing at university. And I know the difference between me standing up here talking and you nodding your heads, and real learning.

To really learn, you have to commit to doing it. Turning it into a habit. So I have a set of promises for you to make to yourself.

First, promise that you will think of yourself as an expert, not a supplier. You will not let yourself get into situations where you’re bidding against others, where the lowest price wins. You are a surgeon.

Second, promise that if you aren’t the expert you want to be…yet, you will make every effort to become that expert. You will attend every seminar, read every book, and speak with every acknowledged expert in the field until you become that expert. What’s more, you will publish – whether it’s blog posts or podcasts or speeches or books – ideas that clearly demonstrate your expertise. These will not be passive aggressive sales pieces. They will provide value!

Third, you are going to narrow your focus. You will not be a GP. You’ll be a heart surgeon.

Fourth, you are going to diagnose before you prescribe. You are going to listen to what people want, before you create any kind of solution. Dialogue, not monologue.

Fifth, you are not going to sell. You are an expert. Experts don’t sell, pitch, or do any of that nonsense.

Sixth, you will work hard to create, and keep creating your unique selling proposition, or USP. This never ends.

CONCLUSION

So there you have it. The tools, the USP, the vow that will take you from being a commodity brand to being an expert brand.

Now, the trick is in execution.

I have a workbook that can help you. It’s called the BrandDIY.

But even that won’t take you to the finish line. For that, you need to depend on yourself.

Getting it right is all about getting to work, and making this a practice, not just a neat thing to do.

Sure it takes a bit of effort. But it beats being a commodity any day.

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… and then helps them tell the world.

What IS a business plan?

For Business Owners ONLY

This week we’ve been discussing business plan tools and the questions they answer. Lots of great information, for sure, but what’s the SIMPLE answer to “What is a business plan?”

Simply, a business plan is a forward-looking document that helps our business achieve its medium- and long-term goals.

A full business plan should answer all 4 questions that we’ve covered this week:

• How will we make money?

• How will we continue to protect our ability to make money?

• What must we do to achieve our goals?

• How will we afford to make it all happen?

The contents of the business plan depend on how it will be used, and this depends on the intended audience:

A lender wants to know that we can repay their loan with interest. The numbers – the cash flow statement – is key to them. They also want to understand the assumptions that created the cash flow. They want to read our story – the narrative – behind the numbers.

An investor is usually interested in growth and exit because they want a VERY healthy return on their investment. Can we quickly grow our venture? Can we then sell it in three or five years? The business model helps them make investment decisions very quickly: does our business have high margins that are scaleable? How will we reach our intended market and convince them to buy?

Staff want to know what they need to do and by when. So project plans are super helpful. But staff also respond very well to the strategic stuff. What is our long-term direction? What are the key over-arching things I should keep in mind as I do my job?

Management (you and me) are interested in all of it. We probably won’t create very formal documents unless we’re speaking with a lender or investor. But going through the process, and creating some kind of documentation is important. Helps us think. Helps us share our thinking. And helps us manage.

In their simplest forms, each of the four questions can be reduced to a single page: a business model canvas is a great overview. A strategy map tells a very clear story about our company’s medium-term focus. A Gantt chart breaks things down into projects and tasks, deadlines and responsibilities. And a six-month monthly cash flow projection avoids nasty surprises. These are the arrows in our management quiver…

…which are only useful if we use them. They must be referred to regularly – weekly – to check our progress. Hold the team accountable. Adjust, as necessary. And then, every three months, revisit and update to ensure that they reflect our new reality.

This review, this updating, this accountability: THIS is management and it is THE most important part of the business planning process.

I hope this has been helpful…

…and if you’d like to learn more, including seeing live examples of some great planning tools, please join me in one of my live, online sessions on January 19.

LEARN MORE ABOUT PLANNING!
Join me on January 19 for a free 60 minute live training on business planning.
Woo hoo! 🙂
Two times to choose from:

How to Use Your 10/10/10 Business Plan to Make Decisions [HINT: FREE ONLINE WORKSHEET]

For Business Owners Only

We’ve been exploring the 10/10/10 Business Plan which I created for those who hate or mistrust business planning. In just 10 minutes a day for three days we’ve explored our company’s aspirations, threats and opportunities, and strengths and weaknesses.

If you’ve reached this point, congratulations! You’ve thought through your business, and you should have already realized some good insights.

But I think there’s more we could do, don’t you?

The problem with writing things on paper is that it’s tough to really dig into the information. Paper notes don’t help us do deeper analysis, and they certainly don’t help us do it quickly.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could instantly answer the following critical questions using information we’ve just recorded?

  1. What things could we do quickly and inexpensively?
  2. What things are potential game changers?
  3. What items carry the greatest risk?
  4. What items don’t support our aspirations?
  5. What could we get done fastest?
  6. What could we get done cheapest?
  7. Which items have been assigned to Sam?
  8. Which high risk items have been assigned to Pat?

Awesome? It would be AMAZING!

I’ve created a terrific online worksheet that is free for you to use. Simply plug in the information you wrote down, and you can instantly answer all of the above questions, and more.

Go here to see a short video demonstration, get the complete workbook, and get your copy of the 10/10/10 Business Planning Worksheet. All with my compliments.

So that next time somebody asks you about business planning, you can tell them that you LOVE doing it!

CLICK HERE to get all the 101010 Business Planning resources.

Who You Are: Business Owner Survey Results

For Business Owners Only

For me, the highlight of any day is speaking with a business owner. It’s always interesting. It’s always motivating. And I always learn something new about people, business, or another corner of the world.

Which is why my annual survey is such a treat for me: I hear from hundreds of business owners everywhere (62 countries this year!) Thank you to everyone who contributed: I am profoundly grateful.

As you can see in the map above, entrepreneurs span the globe. If your country isn’t represented (I’m talking to you, Iceland and Greenland) then watch for my survey next year.

Here’s a quick summary of the survey responses.

You’re mostly owners with some advisors and corporate-types mixed in for fun. The average size of your business is 4.96 people and the average age is just over 3 years.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 5.27.26 PM

The percentage of smaller firms reporting they’re profitable is lower than larger firms. No surprise to anyone, I’m sure. Smaller firms are either reinvesting their cash or they’re taking it home or they’re simply making less money.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 5.39.05 PM

Older firms tell us that they’re more profitable than younger firms. Again, no surprise here. But look at the jump in the percentage of profitable businesses from 3rd to 4th year! If your business makes it past the deadly first year, things get steadily better.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 5.45.32 PM

And now we get to my bias…

I believe that planning is critical to preparedness and success in business (or, indeed, any journey that has a specific destination). My survey suggests that larger and more profitable businesses do more planning. That said, does planning lead to profit or does profit lead to planning? The survey doesn’t answer that.

However, it does highlight that business owners who don’t plan have more concerns. In particular, a significantly higher percentage of non-planners worry about money than planners.

Also, non-planners are apparently less confident. They wish they had more guidance, know-how, clarity and inspiration.

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 6.20.21 PM

None of this should be news to anyone. Planning doesn’t magically generate cash. But it does create insight and awareness. It highlights potential problems earlier. It helps owners deal with issues proactively. Along the way they learn and get better and more experienced. And more confident!

I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurship in all its forms and I’m glad that it is now celebrated so widely. However, the promotion of business ownership has also brought a debate that questions the importance of business planning. Astounding, really, because no other complex field, whether architecture, engineering or airlines, ever questions the value of planning.

Whoops! I better stop here and get back to the survey…  🙂

Along with these general concerns, you shared hundreds of other very specific issues with me. I have read all of them and they are influencing my thinking and planning as we speak. I look forward to sharing these details with you after the summer break.

In the meantime, I feel privileged to be included in your journey. I look forward to working even closer with you this year to help you achieve your business and personal goals.

Bold, Strong, Unique: Muhammad Ali

The Entrepreneur's Stone

I was working on a new marketing campaign when I heard that Muhammad Ali had died. The campaign, which will honour business owners around the world, has the three words “Bold. Strong. Unique.” at its center.

That was Muhammad Ali.

Bold and brash and fierce – almost obnoxiously so – he spoke his mind as he felt, when he felt, and how he felt. He spoke loudly because he had to. Had to, to be heard over those who would pigeon-hole him; had to, to be seen by those who ignored him, ignored his identity, ignored his wishes. Had to, to bring attention to the grave social injustices of his day. And ours.

And he was strong. Not only in the ring where he dominated uncounted opponents in the world’s fiercest, toughest, most brutal sport. But outside the ring, too, where he lived his conscience in the public eye, regardless of the personal, reputational or financial cost.

One of a kind. Beautiful, graceful, coordinated, powerful, intelligent, thoughtful, moral, outspoken, colorful, courageous, flawed, human.

Muhammad Ali. One of my heroes.

Letter From A Fallen Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur's Stone

Business owners are relentlessly optimistic despite the risks, the long hours, the stress and the sacrifice. I hear from a lot of them, and there’s always hope.

Until there isn’t.

A courageous entrepreneur sent me an email last week, which I’ve reprinted below. I’ve removed his name, but feel free to send a message to him in the comments section below. He’ll be glad to get them.

Dear Alex (he wrote),

First of all, congratulations for the book and all the excellent articles you keep releasing to help entrepreneurs around the world.

But in spite of a lot of reading and trying hard, I regret to say that my attempt to launch my restaurant did not succeed.

It is true that the current economic and political situation in Brazil is historically the worst and is not helping any segment of the economy. Even more experienced and traditional businesses are also shutting the doors around the country.

EnBA-ad-01The first reaction from people who are afraid of losing their jobs is to stop going out and so try to keep their precious money. The restaurant sector is feeling it hard.

But I also have a huge share of responsibility and will need to bear the consequences.

First, I invested all my life savings in this business; I shouldn’t have done it, because now I am with no money and no business.

Second, I tried an inexperienced franchising with a company that does not have the right structure to support a new franchise store. It was a very bad combination. I lost the capacity to invest in the business and, Thanks God, found another job to keep things going.

However, this compounded the situation because, not being there to manage the day to day, created another high risk and, as you can imagine, I had a huge loss because of bad management by the person I put in front of the business.

Letter From A Fallen Entrepreneur
Share on Twitter

All in all, the situation is very bad, and I am throwing in the towel… It is a hard and painful decision, but I feel I need to take this direction. I am trying to take this decision while not plunging into bank loans, skyrocketing interest rates, and so on.

It appears to me, at the present scenario, that the best way forward is to keep my current job, close the business and try to deal with the financial impact. As we tried all we could to launch and the current burden is at the cash flow level, I think this is the best option.

Am I right?

Thanks and best regards,

A.M. in Brazil

WANT TO SEND a message to our friend? You can leave a comment to him below.

EnBA 101 enrollment deadline is this Friday, May 20.
Yikes – it’s only $33/wk! You can’t afford NOT to join. Click to learn more.

How A Bookkeeper Reduces Your Stress and Increases Your Productivity

The Entrepreneur's Stone

What do bookkeepers have to do with your success? If you’re a business owner, a LOT.

Not using a bookkeeper creates nasty problems that cause major stress. Here are ten examples:

  1. Government and payroll filings get done late, incorrectly, or *shudder* not at all.
  2. Invoices don’t get created and sent to customers on time.
  3. Outstanding invoices don’t get tracked and followed up on.
  4. Bills are paid late, incurring late fees and ill-will among suppliers.
  5. Cash and inventory goes missing.
  6. Messy internal processes hamper growth.
  7. The lack of current or accurate financial information makes it tough to make sound decisions.
  8. It’s stressful not knowing how much cash is available.
  9. It’s SUPER stressful if cash is tight.
  10. Doing the books yourself eats into family time and may cause friction (and more stress).

All of this takes away your time, energy and peace of mind, not to mention the significant financial impact on the business. Most important, it keeps you from your REAL job which is to maximize your business’s value for you and your family.

Five Bookkeeper Benefits
If you have a good bookkeeper then you’re already experiencing these amazing benefits:

  1. Your time and mind have been freed up so you can focus on customers and gross margin.
  2. You’re getting important information when you need it so you can make better decisions.
  3. Your cashflow is being properly managed; invoices are going out, money is coming in, and bills are being paid.
  4. Your business has proper systems and processes in place to support cash management and prevent cash “shrinkage”.
  5. You are well prepared for growth.

Pretty magical, right?

Five Reasons NOT To Have A Bookkeeper
If you DON’T have a bookkeeper, you probably have a good reason. Here are the five most common I’ve heard from entrepreneurs. Is yours on the list?

  1. You think you should do the books yourself because you want to be close to your cashflow. Absolutely the right motivation but absolutely the wrong thing to do. Business owners should be READING financial statements and the Accounts Receivable report, not PREPARING them. Your time and skills are too valuable to be doing work that others can do, and probably do better.
  2. You feel uncomfortable sharing confidential information like this with others. This is VERY natural and it’s something you must overcome to be a successful business owner. You simply can’t maximize the value in your business without a small team of trusted advisors. This team starts with a good bookkeeper, a good accountant and a good lawyer, all of whom will keep your secrets safe.
  3. You think they’re expensive. Actually, a good bookkeeper won’t need much time each month and their hourly rates are reasonable. I tell every starting business owner that the first $200 they spend every month should be for a bookkeeper.
  4. You don’t know how to find a good one. This IS a problem especially because anybody can call themselves a bookkeeper. So how do you find a good one? Start by visiting the website of a national bookkeeping association. A good association ensures its members are properly trained, provides them with accreditation so you know there’s a minimum standard, and they’ll help you find a bookkeeper with the skills you need. My friend, Louie Prosperi of Canada’s IPBC for example, takes this stuff VERY seriously.
  5. Your current situation is embarrassingly out of control. I blush because I really understand this one! But now’s a perfect time to remember the old saying, “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” Bookkeepers are used to walking into messes. You’ll probably be astounded at how fast they can clean up yours!

All told, a good bookkeeper is one of the best investments you can make in yourself and your business.

BTW, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to get an email from a bookkeeper in Woolloomooloo, Australia. Can you guess why? If you’re the first to personally introduce me to one, I’ll send you a signed copy of my book Customer Dreams.

What’s your favourite bookkeeper story? You can leave a comment below.