Bookkeepers and Coaching: TFB Spotlight on Donna Leyens

tfb-star-spotlightWe'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)

Guest Bio:

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.

Interview Highlights

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? 




Freelance bookkeeper, trainer and consultant who works with internet savvy business owners and bookkeeping professionals to maximize cash flow and build true win-win relationships.

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6 Responses to “Bookkeepers and Coaching: TFB Spotlight on Donna Leyens”

  • Charlene Tessier on November 17, 2016

    Watch your video very much appreciated all the topic discuss. I have been a bookkeeper working for companies for over 35 + years small independent to large firms but now Freelance Bookkeeping into my semi retirement years is what I am interested. I know for a fact that small businesses starting of they consume so much paper work that they really never know where to start. So the first thing I do is sort out all there slips they have put them in some kind of order on spreadsheets then make a Income and Expense statement.

    • Gabrielle Fontaine on November 20, 2016

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Charlene. Totally agree that small business owners need our help.

  • Allison Oleson on December 12, 2016

    Hi Donna, Sorry I just discovered your website. It’s terrific. I became a believer in the Radical Honesty approach in life. The books are terrific, but one must be kind in the use of the communication model the books teach. From the RA, that led me to Rob Kanzer, a coach of RA in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I eventually went to Toronto for 3-days intensive Business Coach Training. I found many therapists attended the personal coach life skills as a way to continue with their therapy clients after the shortened time paid for by mental health benefits in their medical plans. Teaching life skills was accepted by employers as well as the employee. It was looked at as a value, opposed to receiving mental health services. But business coaches were mostly from the business world of consultants, advisors. It is for me, and them, more of a skill to be used with clients, than a stand-alone ‘service’. To be a “trusted advisor” as well as a “basic bookkeeper”, one needs to stand in the truth of the circumstances. Usually we have to deliver bad news, but it should be delivered as our advice to improve and enhance the life of the business and the owner. Bookkeepers feel the occupational title to be limiting, esp with todays technology that requires we spend a great deal of time keeping up to date.

  • Donna Leyens on December 12, 2016

    Hi Allison, Thanks for sharing your experience! I agree, that if you are in a consulting role, coaching becomes a skill that you can use to effectively create change with your clients. There’s definitely a difference between having knowledge and information to deliver, and having the skill to deliver that information in a way that it will be well received and acted upon by the client.

  • Baxter Harrison on December 31, 2016

    Then on the other side of things you’ve got to have any decisions that are going to be taken on finance somehow so the other area as I say is corporate finance and that looks at all the different ways that you can finance projects for instance.

    • Gabrielle on December 31, 2016

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Baxter

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