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I was mentoring a licensee about a client she has who is running their business into the ground. They incurred a large debt to start the business because they had insufficient capital and they haven’t been able to get on top of that. They are not looking at any reports she provides to help them understand what the figures mean and when there is money in the bank they are taking “wages” out that their business can’t afford. She is worried about their financial position and losing sleep over it while the client carries on regardless!

One of the admirable traits of a great bookkeeper is empathy. Wikipedia describes empathy as “the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another.” Bookkeeping is not just about number crunching, it’s about how that makes the client feel. However, we can go too far by taking on the burden of your client’s business and that’s not your job. You’re not their parent.

When you have children you teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. It can be challenging as parents as we learn to let go and allow them to make their own decisions and sometimes see them suffer the consequences. We do whatever we can to guide them and we’re there to pick up the pieces when things don’t work out.

Be clear about what your role is in your client’s business. You are not their parent! You don’t and can’t take responsibility for them. That doesn’t mean that you don’t care though.

My advice to her was that the client needs a metaphorical “slap in the face” by having a meeting with their accountant to wake them up to the reality of their situation and to start behaving like business owners and taking responsibility for their actions.