Hear the advice from the experts on the interview panel at the Waxtie 10 Year Business Hat-stand celebration
This is the last of our ask the experts articles from the recent event that we ran in York, where we were asking the question: “What plans have you to move forward in business”? Here are the answers that some other 10 year plus veterans.
Martin: Thinking about what our plans are with moving forward and what’s our next step in our businesses or what we’re aiming towards, for you, Cheryl, where are you taking the WHY! Foundation?
CHERYL: What an interesting question. We’ve got several WHY! members in the audience that are asking, “yeah, where are we going?” Well, I had a realization myself this year: I can’t do it all on my own. Which is interesting, because that’s our slogan. Hashtag, “Do what you teach.”
We’re now training new trainers. We could’ve gone big and gone into big hotels, big venues, with lots of clients, but we’re kind of going against the market. So, we do events at my home. It’s about personal development. It’s about finding your ‘why’. It’s about using that gut instinct that you talk about, or the intuition.
I want to be able to see the whites of our clients’ eyes, really. I don’t want to see just a mass of people. I can do that standing on a stage to share the message initially. So, what we’re doing is training new people, training new counsellors so that they can then replicate that in their areas of the country, the world, etc. It’s a big plan. It’s probably a 10-year plan, to be fair.
But we’re at the beginning of that journey. So now we know we’ve got a strategy, a solution, I’ve got to work out what the unicorn does. I’m not sure if I can package that up, but we can teach people, other people, to have fun. That’s the main thing. So that was about being able to make it into a business that is franchisable or licensed.
And then really, what I’m going to do is – not on the scale of what you’re doing, but I just want to be on stage and speak and share a message to help other people, because I don’t want people to wait to be 48, 50 like I was before realizing that actually, you do have a choice and you can be happy. But ultimately it does start with you, so you must want to do that.
So, it’s kind of two ways. I’m going to do what I really, really love, which gives me what I call my “Ready Brek” glow, but at the same time, we’ll still continue the business. But we’ll stand back and maybe have a celebrity guest for one day of the program or something like that.
MARTIN: Excellent. We’re all excited to see how it develops going forward. Obviously, we wish you all the best of luck, and we’ll be around on that journey. That’s good.
John, I’m going to change the question slightly just because being with you for the last 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of the change that you’ve been through in your business anyway. I think it’d be probably good to reflect as well as reflect forward and think, over the last 10 years, what have been some of the key moments when you’ve known things needed to change, and the results of those changes? And think about how it is moving forward.
JOHN: I think the first big change was when I first started at the firm in the year 2000. Everything was going brilliantly for the first year or so, and then I gradually started falling out with clients. It was always their fault, you see. They’d done something. They didn’t understand or they had false expectations or whatever.
I just gradually came to understand that there was a common theme to all these fallouts, and it was me. I think it was 2003 I did a personal coaching program, and I went to see this lady and I said, “Look, I’m falling out with clients continuously. In fact, I’ve fallen out with everybody.”
So, the biggest change for me was that journey of self-awareness. I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits, and it completely changed my life overnight. That was a really big change. That’s when I learned about self-awareness and I learned about the power of books as well. A lot of people turn their noses up at business books and that kind of thing, but it’s nuts to go out and reinvent the wheel.
People have been making the same mistakes that we make in business for decades and decades, so learn from that. Don’t make the same mistakes yourself. You don’t have to. That was the biggest change for me.
I guess I’ve had some difficulties – I had a near-fatal car crash in 2004, and I was off work for about two years, and then back part-time for a couple of years. I got back to work in December 2007, so then a few months later the world went into recession. I had a lot of clients in construction, recruitment, and bars, so that was fab! 48% of the client base went to liquidation over the next two years. All credit to you, my friend, that you’re still here.
I think the next real big thing for me was having the confidence to get the right team. Don’t employ an accounting technician on £20k when you really need a qualified chartered tax practitioner on £35K. You may not have the money, but you’ve got to look at it as an investment.
I think aside from that self-awareness and operating above the line, surround yourself with the best people. Never shortchange your business. I see it in so many – it’s a disease in some businesses, especially the hospitality industry. I’ve got clients that have owned magnificent bars and restaurants, and they’ll drop a quarter of a million pounds on the bar, and then it comes down to the chef and they’re like “Just get someone from catering college at 18 grand a year,” and they wonder why nobody comes back.
You’ve got to surround yourself with the very best people. Don’t go for the cheapest accountant. Don’t go for the cheapest lawyer. Don’t get the cheapest web designer. Don’t do any of that. Make sure you invest properly because you will get a good return. It’s about having the right people in the right seats, on the right bus, as someone famously said. I think that was the second biggest thing in terms of success, was realizing that I would just employ the very best people that I could.
Then from I guess an external perspective that hit us – you very rarely use accounts and a revolution in the same sentence, but what happened with the technology around about 2010 completely changed things for us as business advisors, because you were given a budget in the past to look after your client; that might be a couple of grand or whatever – some of you guys will be in business and you’ll have accountants – and that money was spent purely just on doing the compliance work – the VAT, the PAYE the corporation tax, all that sort of stuff.
When the cloud accounting revolution happened, it’s allowed us to focus a lot more on doing what we’re qualified to deal with, which is to help people grow their businesses and make them a success. That’s been an enormous change, and it will continue to change. When automated banking comes in in the next year or so, that’s going to continue that revolution that’s happened.
For us as a business, the compliance work has become a minimal aspect of what we do, and the future of my business as accountants and business advisors is one of the continuous orbits through automation. If you’ve got your technology on the cloud, you’re got integration with other programs, you’re going to get automation. You get rid of the amount of human involvement in it, and you’re typically saving 60-70% of your time.
You’ll have dynamic information. Bank information going straight into your software. Supplier invoices going straight into your software, not being posted by a bookkeeper. Therefore, you’ll have this dynamic, real-time information like a continuous orbit. Your year-end accounts will be irrelevant because the information you have on your dashboard will be just as accurate as this set of accounts that your accountant gives you at the end of the year.
But people are always going to need good tax advice, so we’ve got Mark, as you know, who heads up that department. If they’ve got any troubleshooting, you’ve got someone like me that’s got a few scars on my back. I’m the guy that you want in the trenches when the shit hits the fan. I’ll do the s-word. [laughter]
And you need good strategic advice, and that’s where our new partner, Andrew comes in. So, that’s the future for “Ascentis”. The compliance work will go – it’s what accountants always did. Its why accountants are always associated with being so bloody boring. But technology has changed all of that, and only 30% of firms are doing it now. But eventually, they all will. I’ll just pass it on to the next generation coming through. If I could be in your position in 5 years’ time, then I’d be a very happy man.
MARTIN: So, we’re expecting you to turn up in an Aston Martin in 5 years. I like the aspiration there. Excellent.
JOHN: We’ll see.
MARTIN: It’s interesting when you look at that journey and where you’ve gone and where you’re going to go. Technology has obviously featured quite heavily in that path over the last 20 years. Thinking about that, obviously with yourself, Simon, you’ve got this great innovation drive. You’ve taken that technology view.
Cheryl, what do you think about technology from a Find Your Why perspective? What kind of ideas can we use to help propel your business forward?
CHERYL: I think for us, we decided that one of the ways we’d grow the business is through the membership – the basic membership that allows people who don’t have a lot of money to still get some help. That really is the automating part. We’ve just recently invested in a new click funnel type of process where we’ll sell on the back of buying. So, when someone will come along, get a free program, then they’ll be able to go to the membership because we’re going to give them value there. They’ll trial it for 14 days, and then if they like it, they’ll stay, kind of like the gym membership – except we hope that they will get some benefit rather than dabbling and not turning up at the events.
We’re still very small, so we can see when people don’t do it. We’ll send them little reminders. I’d rather say to somebody, use this or cancel it. I don’t need your £9.99 pounds. I want to help you to change your life. The £9.99 pounds can come after. So, there’s automation there.
Again, online programs – people just don’t look at the videos. Yes, I’m looking at you. You haven’t looked at the videos. I know. I know you’re in the audience. But that’s okay because you’ve come to a live event, so that’s all right.
So that’s where technology will come through. I don’t know; maybe one day I’ll get a – what’s it called where you don’t have to turn up? A hologram. I should get told off for swearing. I was a bit worried because you did the f-word, you did the s-word, and I’m thinking, what am I left with? But I have got my nephew in the audience, so we’re not going there, are we?
Yeah, so technology in that way, so we can help more people. It’s a low cost, a high number at the beginning, which means that we can then concentrate on the people one-to-one. I think that’s probably as much as I know at this stage of where we are.
MARTIN: That’s fine. I think, again, it’s nice to hear you’ve got that very people-centric view to it, anyway. I think that’s a theme that’s coming through from all the conversations: keeping the person you’re trying to serve in mind and what they’re looking for, while at the same time trying to keep your business going. I do like that theme through what you’re saying.
CHERYL: I’ve got another thing there; which is don’t have customers that you don’t like. At the beginning of any business, there’s a danger that you say, “I’ll just take that business because it’s the money,” and that’s all you’re looking for. The money comes afterwards. It doesn’t come first.
Really love what you do, love your clients, really want to help them, really want to serve them. Do what you love. Do what puts a smile on your face – and if it doesn’t, then shut the f%^)(g business and go elsewhere. Sorry, I’m off now, you see. You gave me a license, didn’t you? [laughter]
That’s my philosophy, because life’s too short, isn’t it, really? And mine’s not an Aston Martin; mine’s just another pair of expensive shoes. But quite frankly, that’ll do.
SIMON: Costs as much.
CHERYL: Yeah, they cost as much. But whatever it is, I agree, reward yourself. Reward your clients when you can. They are friends, ultimately, at the end of the day. And the same with your team.
John Oddy – John has created, developed and sold several businesses. Most sold for a healthy profit, yet he has some tales to tell about the others. Today he is Managing Partner of Ascentis LLP as well as Finance Director of Premier Cru Fine Wine Ltd, Meridien Homes, LED Switch Solutions Ltd. Owner J2MPO Micro VC.
Simon Hudson – If your idea of an IT fix it to turn it off and on again, listen to Simon. Director at Cloud2 his specialities are IT Services, business development and strategy, digital media, application of technology and working without paper.
Cheryl Chapman – Here’s an awesome speaker who’s on a mission. A no-nonsense a funny Yorkshire lass she wants to guide 10 million people to STOP asking “why me?” And START saying “why not me!”. She’s an international multi-award winning motivational speaker and mentor and the founder and CEO at Find Your Why.