4 Stages of QuickBooks Consulting Businesses
During the years I offered QuickBooks® consulting and bookkeeping to my clients, I found that my business went through several stages. Now that I have that hindsight, and as I work with QuickBooks consultants to grow their businesses, I find that those stages are now well-defined for me, but they certainly weren’t when I was going through the actual experience of running my business.
In this article, I’d like to share the business stages, so that you can see which one you’re in, if you want to. I’ll also share where I got stuck, with the hope of helping anyone who might be in the same situations I was in years ago.
Stage #1: Getting Off the Ground
I worked in accounting and IT departments of Fortune 500 companies for 12 years before being laid off in 1992. I plunged myself into volunteer work instead of building my business, and it took me a year or two longer than it should have to simply get going. I had lots of excuses – family issues and a divorce – but the bottom line was that I procrastinated due to fear. I was petrified of the whole concept of marketing.
Today, I see hundreds of qualified people who want to become QuickBooks consultants and/or start their own accounting firm, but are terrified to do so. What I’ve learned is that the first step is the hardest. If you need to, find a coach, mentor or a supportive group outside your family, hold your breath and take the first step.
Stage #2: The Successful Contractor
A QuickBooks consultant in the contractor phase has multiple clients they serve, much like a part-time employee would. They may visit one client every Wednesday and Friday, for example, to do their work.
When I was in this phase, I took every client I could. I drove to every one of them, and everyone needed something different: payroll, adjusting entries or the works. I even took a Mac client and clients that had IT problems instead of bookkeeping needs. I spent countless hours learning more and more software packages.
Most small and even some mid-sized accounting firms are in this phase. It’s a comfortable, busy place with adequate income, but there’s more. And for many years, I didn’t know that.
Stage #3: The Budding Entrepreneur
This phase is where you begin to develop business functions, such as customer service, invoicing and collections, work processes and shortcuts, and project management and quality control. I hired a part-time person, and then had to develop HR functions.
I had a pretty decent marketing department, even back then, with a website, major partners such as the AICPA and a busy speaking calendar. But, for a long time, my selling function was simply picking up the phone. I left a lot of money on the table when I was in this stage.
The most important part of the Budding Entrepreneur stage is that you start to spend more time working on your business instead of in your business. The challenge is to do things in a particular order of business development or you run the risk of chaos or cash-flow problems. Luckily, training is available in the accounting industry to help you through this step.
Stage #4: A Saleable Business
Many small business owners dream of selling their business and living off the proceeds for retirement, but not all businesses are saleable. In 2007, I had a successful business with hundreds of clients; I wanted to sell part of it and go in another direction. However, I was not able to sell it because I was the main “talent” in the business and there were no structures in place to replicate that talent without me.
In our industry, accounting firms merge all the time. In many cases, firms are simply buying a client base or a revenue base, but sometimes, employees and processes come with it. When your business can truly operate without you, then you have a saleable business.
How Mature Is Your Business?
Where does your business fit? It’s interesting that, until recently, I never asked myself that question because I didn’t know to ask the question. I just knew I felt stuck, but didn’t know how to proceed. Perhaps this article will provide you with a very broad roadmap of each stage of QuickBooks consulting business success.
Having your own business is a major accomplishment that should be celebrated (at least once a day). Now, you can better decide where you want to take it and how far you want to go.
See you on the road to success!