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I was mentoring a bookkeeper who has been in business for a couple of years. Her business has grown by word of mouth because she is a great bookkeeper with a bright personality. Now that her books are filling up and her time is limited she needed advice on how to use that precious resource more effectively. One of the problems was that her clients provided her the work when THEY were ready and it usually turned up in a shopping bag or shoe box. She was unable to plan her week and the work took longer than it should because of the way the client presented it to her.

On the one hand, being flexible and fitting the work around our lifestyle was one of the things that attracted us to bookkeeping. But as you start to fill up you need to be more professional with the way you run your business in order to be more efficient with your time. This becomes critical when you start to recruit other bookkeepers. It’s no longer just about you – it’s about your team and they are the lifeblood of your business.

Often we think that being professional means we need to be selfish, hard-nosed business people who completely disregard our client’s feelings and are only concerned about our own wellbeing and schedules. That’s not true of course but our mind-games can be pretty convincing!

Osmond Vitez from Demand Media says “Professionalism is often defined as the strict adherence to courtesy, honesty and responsibility when dealing with individuals or other companies in the business environment. This trait often includes a high level of excellence going above and beyond basic requirements”.

Being professional starts with respecting yourself, your business and your needs. Making sure you feel fulfilled and rewarded energises you to continue to give a “high level of excellence” to your clients and your team. If you feel you are being used and abused you will become resentful of your clients who are consumed by their own needs and disregard yours.

You may not even realise the client is doing that or feel you have any other choice until you decide to put on another bookkeeper and suddenly you see things in a whole new light and realise:

• If you allow the client to decide when they are ready for the work to be done that now affects your team
• If you allow your client to pay you when they choose, where are you going to find the cash to pay your team?
• If you allow your client to provide the work to you in a shoe box every month and it takes the new bookkeeper longer to do the processing because it’s more confusing and the client complains about the time, how are you going to justify the extra time to the client?

Often your clients expect bookkeepers to do what they want, when they want it because that’s what they’ve always done. But now we are Registered BAS Agents and the industry as a whole is becoming more professional, sometimes that means retraining your clients.

Do yourself a favour – if you are starting up, think about your practice like you already have a team and retrain your clients while you only have a few. Or if you have a team and you allow your clients to run your business I’ve got one question for you. How is that working for you?

Show respect for yourself by being professional about how you run your business. Don’t change your personality, just save that for your relationship with your client.