A group of people playing dominoes.

Success in bookkeeping is like playing dominoes: You need to know where to start

Running a bookkeeping business is challenging, especially if you want that business to grow. There are a million things that need to be done. The question is, which of those things are most important? Moreover, which is the one thing that will make the most impact? 

I like to think of it like playing dominoes. You’ve got a winding, intricate pattern laid out, each domino a task or benchmark for your business. The goal is to hit the one domino that will trigger a cascade reaction and knock out all the rest. The problem is, if you start in the wrong spot, you’ll only knock over a few and then have to try again. So, how do you know if you’re starting in the right place?

Your last domino dictates the first

Let’s consider the last domino. This one’s pretty simple. It’s your end goal. You could have many goals, but it’s important to prioritize (more on that later). Our goal at Legacy Advantage is to double our sales. Now, I can list off plenty of things that are needed to make this happen – cranking up marketing, retaining more clients, improving client satisfaction, improving file quality, etc. 

Making this list is vital, and let me tell you, when I wrote down all of the “dominoes” that came ahead of our end goal, it was overwhelming. But then I took a step back and asked myself, “What is the MOST important domino?”

To determine this, there was one big question I had to answer. Was there a domino – a task – that, if not properly executed, would directly contradict our end goal of doubling sales? 

Let’s think about that in the context of the small business bookkeeping services that Legacy Advantage offers. As a service-based business, we increase sales by increasing our client base. Therefore, in order to achieve our end goal our most important task would be to deal with anything that was impeding our ability to retain clients or take on new ones.

For us, that was onboarding. By onboarding I mean the clean up and catch up of a client’s bookkeeping and the set-up of new apps and systems for them. 

Why was this, above all else, so important? 

If the first domino doesn’t fall, the last won’t either

Clients don’t switch bookkeeping services for no reason. They switch because there’s a problem. Unfortunately, cleaning up the problem is extremely time consuming and a major drain on our resources (we’ve hired a full-time person to do this role and it’s still a bottleneck). 

As a result, if we don’t onboard efficiently, we have less time to invest in our current clients (reducing customer satisfaction) and less time to source and work with new clients (preventing business growth). Onboarding is also highly emotional for clients, who are facing both the volume of catch up work and the need to adapt to new apps and processes. If we’re not attentive, we can lose their business. 

In extremely simple terms, this impacts our end goal because:

  • Loss of clients = a decrease in sales
  • Inability to take on new clients = a loss of potential sales

Now that’s the risk associated with poor onboarding. Let’s flip it around and look at possible rewards of quality onboarding. The intensity of the onboarding process presents a great opportunity to differentiate ourselves and to provide outstanding customer service and support. High onboarding satisfaction translates to better retention, greater client cooperation, and increased word of mouth (AKA lead generation).

Realizing this, we knew that we needed to onboard new clients in the right way, and that we needed to increase our onboarding capacity. After all, it wouldn’t matter how many leads we got if we weren’t able to take them on. All this is to say that in order for us to double our sales, the domino that needed to be in the right place, the first to fall so-to-speak, was onboarding.

At this point, you might rightly ask, “Aren’t there other things more important to doubling sales than onboarding?” Absolutely, but it depends on where you’re starting from.

Group and order your dominoes wisely

Let’s not think of our dominoes as being arranged in a straight line. That’s too rigid. Businesses need to be flexible and agile, so let’s think of our dominoes as being laid out in interconnected lines, shapes and patterns.

Earlier I stated that you need to prioritize your goals. Doubling sales certainly wasn’t our goal right out of the gate. In our first year of business our main goal was simply to build a client base. That meant getting more leads, and we invested a great deal of time in networking and building up our professional contacts. You could consider that the first line of dominoes we knocked over. 

In our second year, it became clear that digital marketing was imperative, both for generating new leads and providing information to leads won through our networking activities. This led to a focus on Search Engine Optimization and organic search rankings. 

Each of these constitutes a separate and distinct piece of the larger domino pattern, lines feeding into a greater arc. The lead generation driven by these two activities has enabled us to develop a sizable client base that is now pushing our need for improved onboarding. In turn, improved onboarding will enable us to meet the continuing growth of client demand from these lead-generating activities, ultimately bringing us closer to our sales goal.

If you write out a complete list of your short- and long-term goals, along with the challenges you face and tasks that must be undertaken to address these, it’ll become pretty obvious that certain tasks are related and can be grouped together. 

Consider these groups – these projects (ideally no more than seven) – as separate lines or patterns and decide how to arrange them. Take a look at how the lines connect and determine which group of dominoes needs to fall first. Trace that back to the very first domino in line and that’s your starting point. Once you’ve set the domino board, you’re ready to start knocking ‘em over.

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