We’ve all heard that we should be moving toward being seen as a ‘trusted advisor’ to our clients. But how can a bookkeeper make that kind of a change?
That’s what I discussed with Donna Leyens of Provendus Group at a recent conference we both attended. Donna is a coach and passionate about the value bookkeepers can bring to small business owners for a real win-win result. Here’s Donna’s story about how she made the move from a financial career, to entrepreneurship, and finally to coaching… and why this is her life’s work.
While this is not the typical TFB Spotlight interview, it is a chance to take a look at the new path that lay before us in these changing times. I’d love to know what you think about bookkeepers learning coaching skills and if you think it is something we “should” be pursuing… or not. Please say what you think in the comments below.
Would you rather listen on the go? Right Click Here to Download the Audio (51 mins)
Donna Leyens started as a Wall Street executive, but always dreamed of being a business owner. She achieved that dream in 2002, and then eventually turned to professional coaching to follow her true passion – helping entrepreneurs grow, thrive, and have the opportunity to create their own destiny. Donna is currently the President of Provendus Group which provides business tools, programs, strategies and support for small business owners.
From the client’s standpoint, when we are ‘just keeping the books’ we become a commodity and can only compete on price. Adding value to what we do by adding additional coaching services makes us stand out and worth more to our clients.
Coaches face the same issues bookkeepers do who charge by the hour when it comes to pricing your services, so building packages makes sense for coaching services too. Think in terms of how you can give advice to clients that will affect their bottom line, and they will be glad to pay for it. Pricing is part of your branding and marketing strategy.
Surprising fact: Introverts happen to have natural skills for being good advisors. Most bookkeepers and accountants are introverts. Effective coaching is about asking the right questions and being a good listener. (By the way, what Donna shared on this point is right in line with one of my favorite books, Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston)
You don’t need to have all the answers to be an effective advisor and coach to your clients. Just ask questions and listen.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. You need to learn how to get your client’s participation, and that can take time.
You can start learning coaching skills by helping clients make small changes that will benefit their business. This helps you to learn how to talk to the client in a non-confrontational way, and reduce their resistance to change, and instead become a valuable partner with them.
We also discussed about balancing the perceived risk and liability of providing coaching services (but we are not lawyers – consult your attorney for your specific situation) . Bottom line, it is considered normal business risk, as long as you truly have an understanding of the topics on which you provide advice. (We gave examples in our discussion). We also discussed the language you should include in engagement letters.
The greatest reward for Donna as a coach, is making a real impact in the lives of her clients, even beyond the financial rewards. This is work with a purpose. Bookkeepers can do the same thing!
Donna’s advice: Start with your own knowledge of how your clients could get better results with little things. She shares how we can broach the subject with clients to start the transition from just a compliance to a more coaching type relationship.
You can get more tips from Donna for growing your business by signing up for her newsletter here.
Do you think bookkeeping services and coaching should be combined for the bookkeeper of the future?