Fear, anxiety, dread.
My clients face these emotions (along with any others you can name, and a few you can’t). Dealing with finances can be daunting and emotionally charged. As accounting professionals, we love what we do. But we’re all too aware that our clients—business owners themselves—often view their books as a necessary evil.
As an accounting professional, bookkeeper, or advisor, you’re going to face clients who are stuck in mental quicksand or detoured by mental roadblocks. You’ll definitely step on some landmines and hit some triggers. However you describe it, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. In these cases, your job is about more than just crunching numbers: It’s also about being a good listener, communicator, cheerleader, and maybe even a therapist.
This is part one of two articles. In this article, I’m going to cover three of the most common mental roadblocks clients face when dealing with their books. Kinda a “This is what it looks like,” so you’ll know it when you see it. In part two, I’ll dig deeper into how to deal with, and help your clients overcome, each roadblock.
Mental roadblock 1: Thinking it will just disappear
If I don’t think about it, it will go away, right?
Despite knowing that ignoring a problem doesn’t make it disappear, one of the most common mental roadblocks I see in my clients is that they try to just not think about their books. Or maybe they think about their books when things are going well and are bringing in plenty of revenue, but hide their head when things get too complicated.
Knowledge is power, so it’s important for clients to be in the loop about their financial situation, even if it’s not the best picture. How can they address issues and make improvements if they don’t know what they’re facing? That’s why this is the first, and most important, mental roadblock to address. Because your clients can’t take action unless they first acknowledge the current financial state of their business.
Mental roadblock 2: Fear of looking dumb
If your clients are accounting professionals themselves, then you are in a minutely small fraction of all bookkeeping and accounting professionals. You can skip this section. For everyone else, your clients aren’t bookkeeping whizzes, and probably why they’ve reached out to work with you.
Still, people are human, and no one wants to look stupid. The fear of not understanding the nuances of their books can keep many clients from wanting to dive into them with you. And it’s understandable! Bookkeeping and accounting have their own languages. If your clients are business owners with expertise in fields completely unrelated to finance, they can feel daunted by the learning curve of business bookkeeping jargon.
Mental roadblock 3: Too overwhelmed to start
Once a client overcomes the fear of facing their books and enlists your professional help, they’re often faced with a new roadblock: analysis paralysis. This fear and overwhelming feeling can be made even worse in cases where you tell your client that only they can do the work or answer the questions necessary to get their books in order.
I try to lighten my clients’ loads as much as possible, but we can all think of situations when your client or one of their employees is truly the only person with an answer. It doesn’t help anyone if they’re too stuck to start the work of finding the answer.
These roadblocks don’t have to be red lights
Each of these roadblocks is common, and definitely causes challenges and frustrations. But they don’t have to be absolute red lights for you or your clients. With the right mindset and a bit of know how, you can be the business guide your clients need and help them work through their challenges to get to a better place. In fact, this is an opportunity to take you from a state of the person your client requires to get their financials ready to file taxes to the desired person they want to spend time with to identify ways to grow their business. In other words, from “Required to Desired,” which just happens to be the name of my new Roundtable starting up soon at Roundtable Labs!
In part two of this blog, I’ll share my experiences to help your clients clear these roadblocks from their path. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a supportive group of other professionals who want to transform their accounting services from a necessary evil to a highly-desired partnership, we hope to see you there at Roundtable Labs and our newest Roundtable, Required to Desired.