From XU Magazine, 
Issue 34

How to be the most valuable accountant

in a cost-of-living crisis

Successful accounting entrepreneur Cheryl Sharp puts into practice strategies to be a profitable and valuable accountant during a cost-of-living crisis.
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When a cost-of-living crisis hits, everyone readily gives you advice on how to scale down, save money and batten down the hatches. Far fewer give advice on how you can not only survive but grow and thrive as a business owner throughout this time.  

Although the news likes to remind us of all the businesses that fail during economic uncertainty, some of the strongest, long-running businesses around started in a recession.

GoProposal members went through an exclusive webinar series, ‘The Recession Sessions,’ to teach them practical tips on protecting their mindset and sailing their business through a storm to great success.

Through the sessions, James Ashford plus special guests discussed 4 things successful businesses do differently during turbulent times. But how does this advice really look in practice?  

We talked to GoProposal member and successful accounting entrepreneur Cheryl Sharp, founder of Pink Pig Financials about the reality of proving your value and growing your profits during a cost-of-living crisis.

Face storms head on

Whether it’s a recession, or a pandemic, storms will come. It’s the only guarantee you can get in business. While businesses that fail turn around and try to run away from the ‘storm’ and get blown by the wind, successful businesses know they cannot move backwards or stand still. They make progress by continuing to look forward, making incremental advances.

Cheryl has instilled this in all her team members, continuing to uphold their value of not doing discounts, while making positive, incremental goals and challenges...

“One of our big goals as a team last year was to stop giving things away for free and it was a really positive move – it means everyone holds each other accountable and pulls each other up. Nobody wants to be the only one who gives discounts. If someone in the office says ‘X has happened with Y client, should I charge them? Everyone jumps in and says ‘Yes!’”

Focus on your Psychology, NOT the economy

The effect of your mindset on your business can be a downward (or upward) spiral: if figures are down and your accounting

business isn’t performing, it can trigger you to believe the situation is bad. This makes you feel panic, and in a panic, your reaction is to restrict salaries, give client discounts, and generally cause bedlam in the business.  

The results from these actions confirm your initial belief.

But we can guard our minds and flip the spiral upside down, and that’s what successful entrepreneurs do...

They willingly to let go of their beliefs in order to try something new.

By instilling a positive mindset across the business, Cheryl finds she’s now in a position where her team come to her when they think prices should be raised, or when they want to try something new.  

“When a new situation occurs, they don’t come to me asking what to do, they come to me proposing what they think we should do. They just want the confidence from me of knowing that they’re on the right path. We’ve all worked really hard to get to this point.”

Raise your targets continually

Most businesses believe there are easy times and tough times but in reality, there are tough times and tougher times. If it isn’t tough, it’s because you aren’t doing enough.  

Cheryl’s set some high targets to increase profit turnover this year, but that’s not all. As an accountant, you’re in a unique position where you can set the example to your clients and encourage them to raise the bar too.  

“For so long I didn’t think I could achieve what I have, and now I’m able to be a cheerleader for my clients too. They know our stance on discounts, and I encourage them not to give their value away for free either.”

Thinking this sounds easier said than done, especially during a cost-of-living crisis? We asked Cheryl how she deals with prospects who ask for discounts and use external factors as a reason...

“We turn it around on them and ask if it was their business, what would they do? That’s when it twigs for them that they’re asking exactly what they hate people asking of them. That’s all we do; it only takes that one reframing question for people to get it.”  

Be realistically optimistic

Successful, longstanding business owners know that times of economic uncertainty come around like winter. We should be planting in the spring, protecting in the summer, harvesting in the autumn and preparing to do it all over again in the winter. And just like the best farmers, we must assume each winter is going to be longer than any other.

This means you can be optimistic knowing winter will end, but you must be realistic with what cards you have to play now. Consider which clients you can best serve. What clients are out there looking for a better accountant who is more proactive and positive?

Focussing on a niche client is an effective strategy and as Cheryl proves, a niche doesn’t have to be a particular industry.

“Our niche has broadened and evolved to families, in every sense of the word. We believe family is the world you build around you. We don’t have a niche in a specific industry, it’s more dependent on the type of person having similar values to us.”

If you challenge yourself to focus for the next 12-24 months on growth and contribution, you can come out of this in a very different situation. Change the concept of a recession into a procession. Your business will always be moving forward, just as we do in life through all weathers.

Why leave it there?

To find out how to strengthen your mindset, and learn more from Cheryl

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