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Know your terms, back yourself, and value your clients

Updated: May 30, 2023

Today, allow me to share with you the massive power around knowing your terms, backing yourself, and then valuing the heck out of your VIP clients. This is like one of those 5% activities that will make 95% DIFFERENCE to not only your business, but also your life.

I am so passionate about this, and I really, really encourage you to tune in so I can help you do better in your business through this powerful subject.

So, do you ever feel like you want to share something, and you're right inside your square? Because I feel like this journey of knowing my terms is a journey that I have been on for so long. It's something that I got pretty right, pretty early on, and then I was able to improve on the whole idea of knowing your TERMS, which I want to talk about today, and backing yourself.

Look, I have long been a very confident person, but confidence even for me, for anyone, I love to say, confidence does not fall ass first out of the sky, right? It is like anything. It takes work and commitment and effort, and it does take confidence to back yourself.

And valuing the heck out of your VIP clients, well,

when you know your terms,

the terms upon which you uniquely want to work,

and you back yourself, then you set yourself up to be able to

VALUE your clients a lot more than you ever could have.

And so to start, I'm going to tell you a story. I'm going to set us up with a story, and stay with me, and I'll make sense of it all. So I'm going to change the names for privacy. So Josh and Amanda had been clients that joined me in the very early days of my practice, so that's about 12 or so, 13 years ago. Their business was hit particularly hard by COVID-19, the pandemic, but they got through it. So we all got through it. In the early days of the pandemic, just like all of our VIP clients, they saw us give and give and give, until it literally hurt. We really gave back to our clients during that time. During the pandemic, I say we closed ranks, and I closed ranks and I took care of my VIP clients like a she-wolf protecting her cubs.

Internally, our mantra was that when a client said, "I need help," I said to the team, "Just say yes. Don't worry about what they need. We'll figure that out later." If somebody says, "I need help," say, "Yep, I can help you." And it was great. It was a really nice time to show the clients how much we valued them, because I already valued the heck out of them, and I was always going to be there for them through thick and thin, but you don't always have the opportunities to show them that, right? And COVID gave us that opportunity. So a few years after COVID hit, so not too long ago, Josh and Samantha were still trying to cord their way out of what had been a really difficult time, because they were in the entertainment industry, and it hit them really hard.

Until one day they contacted me and they said, "You know what, we think we are going to actually have to cancel the bookkeeping. We are so stressed out, we don't feel like we can afford it. We actually think we might have to shut up shop completely and get jobs". Now, most small business owners are mums and dads, and so are Josh and Samantha. They've got three beautiful children. And so I said to them, "Right, no problem. We would like to continue your bookkeeping, with your permission, at no cost for the next two months, and also give you a suite of complimentary strategy services, so that we can investigate the numbers with you and help you navigate this difficult time at no cost."

So what I guess I wanted to do was just take the pressure off immediately, but I didn't want to leave them in the lurch. These are wonderful VIP clients who had genuinely come to me in trouble. And so I just wanted to say, "Do you know what? Don't worry about it. We'll just keep taking care of the bookkeeping for a couple of months while you figure out what the heck is going on, but let us figure out that with you." So they hadn't opted into succession services yet, and I said, "Look, can I just give you some complimentary? Can we just help you?" Okay?

Now of course they were grateful because it just allowed them to take a breath, and then we swung into action. So what happened was that within a couple of months, and through investigating the numbers, we were able to help them see a path forward and also their revenue and profit improved by the end of the two months that we'd agreed to give them complimentary services. The business looked like it was getting back on track and that they would be able to move forward. But we got to the end of that couple of months, and I didn't want to put them under pressure to make a decision.

So I said to them, "Just letting you know, I'd really like to give you the third month complimentary." It was at the beginning of the third month. I needed just for them to make a decision as to whether they'd like us to continue with the bookkeeping, and I'd love to talk to them about continuing to investigate the numbers with succession services. And I suggested that they keep working with us during that third month investigating the numbers so we could actually help them make that decision, okay? Because the figures don't lie.

I don't have any problem in talking to a client about those, having the difficult conversations around the viability of their business. So basically, allow us to be in there with you looking at the numbers, while you make the decision.

And Samantha got back to me and she said that they had got to a point where they realized that they would be able to continue the business in a way that it was viable, and thank you so much. And they would love to continue with the bookkeeping, and they would love to also just get a proposal to take up the succession services around the investigation of the numbers, and also look at a few other things as well.

So the moral of that story, there's lots of morals to that story. One, it's really nice to help people, but valuing the heck out of your VIP clients is... It is so first and foremost what we need to do in the sales and marketing space. It's the first thing we need to do, not to go out and razzle-dazzle and hustle, and find new clients. The first thing we need to do is

make sure that we understand the value of a VIP client,

and make sure we know how to take care of them.

Now, you might be thinking, "I can't afford to do free bookkeeping," and I don't advocate for doing free bookkeeping. I wouldn't consider what we did free bookkeeping. This is a client that's been with us for about 13 years. I would consider what we did manners, and I love to use the phrase manners marketing.

I just think this is the diamonds at your feet. The diamonds at your feet that you may not be seeing, okay? So taking care of your existing VIP clients by talking to them, and seeking to understand them, and offering them succession services, and valuing them, and understanding the value that they have to your business.

The longer a client is with you, the more loyal they have been, and the higher the value that they are to your business.

Work out how long have you had a client times X that they spend with you, that is the value that they've had in money terms. Add on that they've told people in the market that you're great, they're also your PR. So look, I could go on and on about this. I think the key takeaway here is the diamonds at your feet, and valuing the heck out of your VIP clients as a sales and marketing tool, as just a general good values and ethics thing as well.

But if we are talking about building a thriving practice, it is such a hidden diamonds at your feet, sales and marketing tool. Circling back to know your terms and back yourself, because I said I would start with the story and then I'll connect the dots...

Knowing my terms and backing myself has absolutely been key to building a thriving practice with delighted, raving fan clients, and having that lifestyle business, which is my dream on my terms. Many of you will know that I'm the mum of a special needs child, or as I like to say, he's not ordinary, he's extraordinary. But no matter how I paint that picture, my dream on my terms has been very important in terms of me, and my journey as a mother, and what I have needed to keep stress levels low. Now when I say know your terms, absolutely know your general terms of trade, okay? So that's really general stuff. So how you'll get paid, all of those kind of things. But when I say know your terms, I actually am more referring to design the business, the productized services, design the way that you are going to trade, to suit you as an individual, and the life that you lead. There are absolutely some rules of the game when it comes to how we operate as bookkeepers in practice, and how we work with our clients, and communicate with our clients.

But, there are lots of stuff that is choice and individual. The simplest example, and there are many more things other than this, but the simplest example is the choice to offer onsite work or not to offer onsite work. And the simplest example of not knowing and setting your terms, or not setting your terms, is saying yes to onsite work when you really don't want to do it. And if you don't want to do onsite work, it actually doesn't matter why. The point is that we are just... With that one as an example, we're at a time in our industry where you don't have to do onsite work to run a thriving practice.

Now, some people love onsite work because they enjoy the variety, they enjoy going onsite. I know really amazing, successful bookkeepers who do a lot of onsite work, onsite training, and they thrive on it.

I hate it. I don't do it, and I won't do it, but there was a time eons ago where I did do it and I really enjoyed it. So things can be a moving target as well. The ideology shift and the mindset shift that I want you to make here and understand, the key to how I built my thriving practice in terms of my terms, is that there is not a one size fits all approach, and it is about architecting the way that you want to trade that fits you first, not your clients. You will not do your clients a disservice just by working out what suits you.

Another example, that you want to work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and you don't want to work Monday, Friday. As long as you get the outcomes that you need for your ideal clients, and you're not trying to please all the people all the time, you don't want to work with everyone, you want to work with your people. As long as you get the outcomes that you need, then that's what matters. And I met a bookkeeper years ago, fabulous, great bookkeeper, and I remember she said when she takes on new clients, they have to change their payroll calendar or their payday to suit her. And some bookkeepers would think, "Oh my goodness, you can't dictate terms like that." Yes, she can. It suited her.

There is a no one size fits all approach. There are rules of the game, and some basic, obvious things that we all need to do, but there is lots of things that you can do to choose your own adventure, choose how you want to trade.

Another thing I decided early on is that whenever I spoke to a prospective client, my process would be that I did the needs analysis, I went away and I had time to digest that. I worked out what kind of product or service they needed, and then I created a proposal with all of that in it, including my trading terms, and then I had an opportunity to walk them through it.

So if I had a prospective client that said, "I want to know your rate," and I would say, "Actually, well, here's the way I work. So I find out what you need. And then I digest that and I put that into a proposal." Now, if somebody said, "I don't like that," or they said, "I don't like that you want to get paid in front, I don't want to do that,"...

I simply didn't do business with them.

So I worked out the terms upon which I wanted to trade, and then I backed myself.

So that's where I segue into backing yourself. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I hear a lot of bookkeepers complain about cost focused clients that don't value them, or clients that they're working with that just aren't their kind of people.

I would suggest that you don't know your terms and you're not backing yourself. And knowing your terms and backing yourself, going, "You know what? These are my rules and I'm not going to break them. I've created these rules to create a safe space for me and my family, for my health, for my mental, spiritual, and physical health. I've created these rules. I've created a fence, and I'm going to stay inside that fence, and I'm not going to let anyone dictate to me that I have to create new rules."

When you back yourself like that,

it allows you to have this foundation, to build this thriving practice,

but also to delight your clients because you end up by default

working with the right kind of people.

This leads to a better foundation for a profitable practice, which leads to the ability, the time, the space, the money, to actually value the heck out of your VIP clients.

So when you are a bit more flexible on your terms, when you're not, "Oh, I don't really don't know what my terms are, I think my clients tell me they need this, I don't know, just say yes, aren't they in charge?" No. Right? When you do that, when you don't back yourself, what happens is you get busy with the wrong kind of clients. You get terrible profit leakage because you're working with the wrong kind of clients. You get distressed and stressed. Your mental, physical, and spiritual health suffers because of all the stuff going on, and your wonderful VIP clients actually suffer. You don't have the time, the money, the energy, to value them and take care of them.

So now let's talk taking action. Firstly, I hope I've conveyed the synergy, okay? So starting with that story, around my ability to value the heck out of that wonderful VIP client – I didn't know if she was going to trade out of it. I didn't know if she was going to stay with us. The point is, I had set myself up to be able to value the heck out of her, which is, it gives me so much joy.

And your bookkeeping practice should give you joy. If it's not bringing you joy, pause.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So first off, I'm really hoping you can see the synergy that when you do the work, in order to know your terms, the terms upon which you as an individual want and need to trade to put yourself first, and then you back yourself. So when someone tries to shake your cage and get you to relent, and we've all been there, and we've all made that mistake, but when someone tries to shake your cage, you say, actually, even if you only say it in your head, "Actually, these are the terms upon which I trade, and I've learnt from experience. If I break my own rules, things don't go so well, and it's a domino effect, and everybody gets hurt if we break the rules."

So if you back yourself, actually, you will set yourself up to value the heck out of your VIP clients. So that part will come easily, because you will free up the time, the money, and just the space, the mental space, the mental, physical, and spiritual space, actually. So that's the first thing. The second thing in terms of taking action is I really do suggest that you sit down, and it might be over a period of weeks, and you just do that work, that personal growth around, "Okay, what do I need? So what do I ultimately want in the future?"

"Where am I now, and where do I want to be?"

Let's say right now you're working Monday to Friday and you really want to take Fridays off, work out what your 10 out of 10 look like, I like to say.

So you know, score your bookkeeping practice in your life right now. You might say, "Oh, if I was to score my practice, now I'm a six, or I'm a five, or I'm a four, or whatever." Then say, "What does 10 out of 10 look like?" And you say, "Well, 10 out of 10, I'm working four days a week. I'm working three days a week. I'm working four hours a week." You can absolutely scale into that lifestyle practice, but definitely as that action item, sit down and work out your terms and know that there's not really a major wrong or right. Like I said, there's the obvious things that we have to do.

But beyond that, like I said, for example about onsite work versus offsite work, and there's lots of other things like that. You work out how you want to turn, how you want to trade. What days do you want to work? What hours do you want to work? Are you okay taking after hours phone calls? Do you know what? I actually don't mind hearing from my clients after hours or on weekends. I've had great convos on a Sunday. I connect deeply with my clients, but that doesn't mean somebody else should. And if I had a boundary where I didn't take a call from a client after hours or on a weekend, they wouldn't mind. It's about me setting my terms. I do it because I actually love it. I really enjoy it. From the outset, I remember texting a client back and forth at 10 o'clock at night over a payroll.

That's me. I love it. My terms. My dream, my terms.

Your dream, your terms.

Your trading terms. Please sit down and work them out. I promise this is the 5% activity that will make 95% of the difference. Once you've got that in place, some of it will need to go in writing, and some of it will be just something in your heart and your head. And so the second step is to back yourself. So then practice. Practice makes perfect, okay? And it's a mistake the first time, and a choice the second. I've said that one before. Now, I'm the first to say, "I've made lots of bad choices then," right?

It's okay to fall over a few times. Remember, it's either a win or a learn.

So if you don't win, you learn. When I've broken my own rules before and then it bites me in the ass, I say, "Well, Jeannie, you broke your own rule. What did you expect to happen? Next time back yourself, Jeannie." So sit down, even if it takes you a matter of weeks. And remember, this is a moving target. When something in your life changes, when anything that you want changes, when you change, change your terms. As long as you're working with the right people for you, and you're getting the outcomes that they want, it is all good.

So they are your action items. Work out those terms, and then practice backing yourself. Practice standing your ground, and then watch the beautiful mental, spiritual, and physical space that it frees up, that gives you the time to actually take your breath and value the heck out of your VIP clients, and give back, and talk to them, and jump in and read my book, because that helps – educating yourself helps your clients. And some of the bookkeepers out there, they will tell me, "I'm too busy. I'm too busy all the time." Well, too busy is usually a product of something, and too busy doesn't usually mean too successful. In fact, the ability to free up time often means more successful.

So when you are able to breathe and you've got more time because you've done these things, you'll be able to do activities that bring more wonderful things to your clients, even if that's just getting yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically healthier. Because

when we're better for ourselves, we're better for everyone.


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