You were the year that I propelled in my business and I want to personally thank you.
I set out in a crazy January (as always with a million and one tax returns on my desk) and I did not stop – Once! I had plans for you 2017 and I was determined to pull them ALL off.
I’d been promising my sister Chevaunne that she could come and work with me as soon as my nephew started school for the last 2 years or so and the countdown was on. I had 8 months to be financially secure and all set up to accommodate her.
Time was ticking, and I’ll be honest I felt like running scared. I took a step back to evaluate the situation and I soon realised I needed at least 100 clients to be able to pay a wage and I was only at 62. I had built my business up to 62 clients over 5 years – There was no way I’d be able to find the additional 38 in a short space of 8 months.
Oh how was I wrong? I set myself some goals and targets, my intentions were clear, and I was focused. And by the 2nd July 2017 – Just 6 months in, I had all 100 clients on my client list that I needed.
Let me tell you – That was the easy part! I’m still not 100% how I pulled it off, but I did.
Unfortunately, by this time taking on new clients was the least of my priorities and I had to close my books and turn work away, something I never envisaged I would ever have to do.
In a short space of 5-6 weeks between the end of April and beginning of June I received over 40 sets of accounts that I needed to complete – single handed, around my monthly bookkeeping, VAT and payroll! My already not the best of offices (We’ll come to that in a minute) was now a storage room piled high with records and client files and I didn’t have the workspace to get going. Time was limited also as I was spending so much time on the road out at client meetings and picking up (even more) work. I was in a tunnel and I couldn’t even see the light at the end of it.
This was one of my all-time lows during my 5 years of self-employment. I took on an extra pair of hands by way of Jackie my amazing admin assistant and also Mary who came in to help me with the bookkeeping workload.
I worked around the clock for months on end and at times I felt like I was fighting a losing battle – For every one set of final accounts I sent out to clients for approval I seemed to get another two sets in to start from scratch.
August was here before I knew it, the first half of the year was almost a giant blur. David, bless him started his new job role on the 1st August which was the end of his shift work. This left me in a bit of a pickle in that I had my business to run, maybe 20 or so sets of accounts still to start and I now had to juggle everything around Declan and Isla who were at home due to the summer holidays.
Let’s just say there were lots of tears in my house that month (mainly my own). I set up a make shift office from my kitchen table and worked as hard as I possibly could. Late nights, early mornings. Who needs sleep anyway?
My office at the time was affordable, it served its purpose but was in no means what I wanted. One of my goals at the beginning of the year was to decorate my office and replace all of the old, mismatched, grubby furniture that I had inherited when I took on the lease. As months passed, the urge to move was increasing, the area wasn’t the nicest of places and each day there seemed to be a gathering of alcoholics who would cause nuisance outside.
August, I suppose (despite being tough) was a relief to get away from that everyday scenario and I only managed to nip by the office 3 days during that month.
This was the moment I decided to finally move. I was fortunate and the first office I enquired about was available and just about in my price range. I snapped it up and was due to move in the 1st October.
My very first day back in the office when the kids had gone back to school was eventful. I handed in my notice with my landlord and there was a bit of a dispute with timings, he finally came around to my way of thinking, but it meant I only had 2 weeks to pack up and leave. This left me in a bit of an office limbo for the last 2 weeks of September and panic kicked in. Mary was there this day and I’m sure she will vouch for me just how manic it was.
Carina the loveliest receptionist to grace this world at my new office premises was my guardian angel that day and she said I was ok to move everything over and hold in storage until I officially moved in. I spent the next week frantically packing and moving everything between offices. (Never again).
During my office limbo we had a family holiday – I packed up my laptop and even dedicated family time to work time. Crazy I know and to be honest, it wasn’t really much of a holiday for me. I was hit with food poisoning and a jelly fish sting as well as a few days rain. Typical!
All my clients were well aware of the situation and of my limited available during September, so when I had a complaint it hurt me so much. This was when I realised you can’t please everyone and from this day on I’ve approached every day life with a new way of thinking. I work my arse off, I gave up my summer holidays to work, I work late nights, early mornings and I even worked in not so sunny Ibiza – There isn’t anything else I could have physically done. I eventually lost the client and for a few days I was in a bit of a bubble but then the realisation hit me again. This year I had send out so many professional clearance letters to other accountants, other accountants were losing their clients, but I had only lost 1. In fact, I’ve only ever lost 2 clients to other accountants and with a client list of way over 100 now spanning nearly 6 years that is pretty much a 100% retention rate – That is something I’ve achieved by myself and is something to be proud of.
I finally settled down in my new office. It is in a beautiful park location with a reception service and on-site tea rooms. The room is freshly decorated, and my dad sourced me brand new shiny white Bisley office furniture. Everything is so crisp and clean.
I surprised myself further when I attended the Bizmums conference and presented an award and made a speech in front of 120 other mums in business.
I also took my sister on as an Apprentice towards the end of October. Being an employer came with its own new stresses and panics but just like always – I juggled on through.
The client increase, office move, and full-time member of staff paid off for me and the business and in November I had the most productive month to date. I was handpicked to be featured in a book and I have a range of business collaborations lined up for the future.
We finally welcomed Christmas in with style and popped up a tree, hung a festive bow and make a batch of slow cooker hot chocolate for everyone in the office building to share before closing the doors for the week to recoup and reflect.
Starting 2017 just as I and ending it with Jackie, Chevaunne and myself is a HUGE achievement.
2017 you’ve have been a rollercoaster of the year. If you ever doubted me, you were wrong. For all those who saw error in my ways, I wish you huge business success and for all those who supported me on my journey – Thank you so much <3 <3 Lots of love, Iona xx