Putting Excellence Into Practice Audio

Feeling overwhelmed can lead to stress and anxiety which will eventually effect your health.

Chapter 5 of Shane Lukas’s book Putting Excellence Into Practice has mechanisms that will help you overcome this feeling and help you get much more done.


Listen to the except from the Audible version or read Chapter 5 here on screen now.

There are links to grab the full version of each.  I’m gifting paperback versions of my book, if you’d like that click the link below.

Chapter 5 – The Keys To Taking Fundamental Action.

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Chapter 5: The Keys to Taking Fundamental Action


At the beginning of this book I mentioned how the most successful people put mechanisms in place to overcome any tendency they may have to procrastinate.


While I’m not suggesting for a minute that the accountants I work with don’t work hard (indeed, most of them work too hard!), often they’ll describe themselves as procrastinators. By this, they’re referring to their failure to take specific action that will fundamentally change the way they run their business.


And please note, I deliberately use the term fundamental action to differentiate it from the type of action we’re all taking, all the time. After all, we’re busy people. It’s just that sometimes we don’t take the right type of action. In other words, the fundamental action that could prevent us from being so busy in the first place.


There are a number of factors that can prevent you from taking this fundamental action and I’ll start by giving you a brief understanding of each. Chances are, only some will resonate. It’s useful, however, to be aware of all of them as the content in this book can equally apply to the businesses that you work with.


Factor 1: Overwhelm

In today’s fast-paced world it’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by the constant emails, telephone calls, meetings – whether with clients, team members or suppliers – the necessary (and ongoing) CPD and the daily ad hoc questions from colleagues. And that’s before we even factor in actually doing the work we’re paid to produce.


In fact, by the time you’ve got to the end of each day, all you want to do is relax. Not that you ever really can. Your feet may be up, but I bet your mind is still churning away: running through your day, thinking about the unfinished jobs, worrying if clients will be chasing you, worrying about how you’re going to get the information you need from the clients who keep promising to drop it off, but don’t. And this is just the ongoing operational work in your business. In these circumstances, how can you ever be expected to find time to work on your business? The result of all this is a build-up in stress which can lead to anxiety, depression and – in the worst-case but all too frequent scenario – a breakdown or heart attack.


Factor 2: Confusion

Let’s say you do manage to find time to work on your business. What should you focus on first? What might offer the quick win which will remove your financial worries and free up more of your time so you can focus even more on improving your business?


When so many things don’t feel right, it’s difficult to know where to start.


Factor 3: Perfectionism

Accountants are by nature perfectionists. It’s understandable – and sometimes even necessary. But not always, and therein lies the problem.


I’ve seen too many instances when a project hasn’t got off the ground because it was never quite good enough. That’s why at AVN we offer a piece of software called ‘Time’s Up!’ We created its first iteration in 1998 to help accountants price without using time-based billing – hence the name. In fact, it was the world’s first value-pricing tool for accountants as not only does it help you to produce a fixed price, but a value-based one. Its development included pricing principles and psychology from many years of research.   


It’s a great tool, which is why it’s continued to serve accountants so successfully since then. Those who’ve used the software more or less ‘as is’ have seen immediate and incredible benefits, including both increased fees and conversion rates, as we have simple ways of customising it for each practice. Those, however, who wanted to tweak every single aspect, whether the pricing, the wording or the way in which we advised them to go through it with clients, either failed to see any results – since they never quite finished this tweaking – or failed to see the results their peers who used it ‘out of the box’ did.


While I’m not suggesting you should blindly use our products without gaining a good understanding first, trying to drill down into too much detail in the field of pricing psychology rather defeats the object of us using decades of experience to create a shortcut for you!



Factor 4: Fear

Sometimes fear can drive us to succeed. At other times it can prevent us from even starting.

It also comes in many forms. A few common ones, to give you a flavour, are:

  • Fear of failure: What if it goes wrong or I mess up? I’ll look bad and then how will I live with myself? Will others see me as a failure?
  • Fear of rejection: What if I offer a new service to a customer and they say no? Will they think I’ve been too ‘salesy?’
  • Fear of conflict: What if they get annoyed with me? Or complain, or ask a question I don’t know how to answer?
  • Fear of insecurity: What if things go wrong? Will my business fall apart? If so, how will I pay the bills and support myself and/or my family?


Fear is an incredibly powerful driving force and our reactions to it – fight or flight – are instinctive.


Factor 5: The Bright and Shiny

The ‘bright and shiny’ has distracted people for millennia. I imagine at some point we’ve all been guilty of taking our eyes off our main goal because of something that looks as if it’ll make our lives easier. Right now, amongst accountants it’s generally a new piece of software or the consultant who tells us that “with just a little tweak to our websites” we’ll have more enquiries than we can handle.


‘Bright and shiny’ can come in many forms, but in many cases it can distract us from achieving a better business.


Factor 6: Comfort Zones

Sometimes, in order to see the results we want, we need to do things we’re uncomfortable with. To stand on a stage and present to an audience, for example, or to part company with an employee who’s not performing or lowering morale within a team.


Putting off taking action simply means the problem persists and the results are deferred.


Factor 7: Not Enough Pain, Not Enough Gain

At a basic level, most of us are motivated to take action that will take us away from pain and/or toward gain. In chapter 1, I described how the capacity of most accountants has become over-consumed and the effects of this on their time, their income, their status and their home life. Did reading that open your eyes to this being the perfect description of your life? Or did you read it and think that it was simply a normal description of what running an accountancy practice is all about? If so, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t. It’s only become the norm because it’s happened so gradually.


The boiling frog fable offers a perfect analogy here. If you don’t know it, the fable explains how if you place a frog in hot water, it will immediately jump out to escape such a hostile environment. If, however, you place the frog in tepid water which you then gradually heat to boiling, the frog will fail to detect the change and either be boiled alive or only try to escape when it’s too late.


You’re probably facing plenty of pain: you’re working too many hours – but you’ve become  used to it; you’re not earning a fair or even a respectable income – but you’ve become used to it; your family relationships are at breaking point – but you’ve become used to it.


Once you’re in this position, it can be difficult to see what else you can do other than keep going and hope that one day you’ll have enough of a recurring fee from your client base to be able to sell your practice and retire. Sadly, old age can often arrive before the value of your business is enough to offer you this option.


I’m sure, like me, you’ve seen a picture of Dory, the fish from ‘Finding Nemo,’ on social media with the quote: “Just keep swimming!” Although it’s meant to inspire you to keep going if you want to get results, there’s another expression that I think is far more appropriate: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  Even that expression isn’t accurate by today’s standards, the world is changing too rapidly to expect to get what you’ve always got from doing the same thing.


From my personal research and experience, although other factors exist (after all, our brains are great at rationalising irrational thoughts, feelings and decisions) those I’ve just discussed are the seven most common inhibitors to progress.


So now let’s visit each of them in turn. That way I can share the mechanisms I’ve used to overcome them myself (or that I’ve found through research), which have been proved to work.


But, before we start, remember there’s no magic wand. You’ll need determination to succeed – just as you would with overcoming any obstacle, either physical or emotional.


Overcoming Factor 1: Overwhelm

There’s a huge difference between feeling overwhelmed and being overwhelmed. We all have lots to do, but it’s how we manage our workloads and, even more importantly, how we manage the distractions, that makes the difference. Below are some suggestions to help get you started.


Reduce the Distractions: When we set up a business, we first buy or rent our premises, then equip them with what seems a never-ending list of telephones, desks, chairs, computers, stationery and Internet access, right down to a kettle and tea and coffee. Ironically, while our intention was to create the most productive environment ever, in reality we’ve done the exact opposite!


That’s because, although we might believe that the moment we sit down to focus on a project – whether this is to produce a set of accounts or to create a business plan – our brains are fully engaged, in reality it isn’t true. In fact, our brains are more like a car that needs to accelerate through the gears if it’s to reach top speed. Research suggests that it takes an average of 11 minutes for our brains to achieve their equivalent of a top speed, which is quite a long time – particularly when you consider that an interruption of just 2.5 seconds is all it takes to have to start again. To return to my car analogy, think of it like hitting a set of traffic lights on red. Each time you have to go back to first gear and start again – until you hit the next set of lights, that is…


Just think about how many times you – or the members of your team – are interrupted each hour. The impact this has on the overall productivity of your practice is often what leads to the feeling of being overwhelmed.


Let’s see if you can relate to this hypothetical scenario, for example. You have a major task to complete, so have shut yourself in your office to allow yourself to focus. As you start work, your brain gradually begins to move through the gears toward maximum concentration and speed – and remember, this process typically takes around 11 minutes.


Five minutes later, however, there’s a knock on your door and a colleague pops their head in to ask if you’d like a cuppa. Boom! Even as you reply, “Oh, that would be lovely! Thank you. Tea with two sugars, please,” your brain has gone right back to the beginning. Then, five minutes later, just as you’ve got back down to work, there’s another knock: “Here’s your tea.”


You’re now ten minutes in, but I bet you won’t have appreciated the effect of those two interruptions. As far as you’re concerned, each has just been a few seconds and then you’ve cracked straight back on.


Another five minutes, and the phone rings. Not the phone in your office, the one outside but, probably without even being aware, you listen to hear if it’s for you or not. Nope, it isn’t. Great! You can carry on.


Ding! I bet you recognise the horrible noise your computer makes every time an email arrives? Sometimes (depending on your settings, and to really rub it in), it even shows a little preview in the corner of your screen. You see that little preview, notice it’s an email from an important customer and think, “I’ll just see what they want.” Phew, it’s okay, it’s not anything you need to deal with now. You can carry on with what you were doing.


Brrr Brrr, Brrr, Brrr! This time it is your phone as your receptionist has a customer on the line who wants to speak to you. You ask her to say you’re in a meeting and will call them back in an hour. “Yes, no problem.” Then it’s back to work again.


Another knock on the door, from a different colleague: “Sorry to disturb you, have you got a minute?” “Yes, of course, but could we talk in about an hour or so?” “Yes, no problem. See you then.”


A few minutes later, ding! Another email; junk this time. Then, just as you’ve settled down again, there’s another knock at the door: “Have you done with your cuppa? I know you’re busy, so I’ll wash it for you.”


I’ve just taken you through a 45-minute period, during which you’ve had no less than eight interruptions. And if you think I’m exaggerating, then I challenge you to create a record of your own. Research shows that on average we’re interrupted 36 times per hour by email, 14 times per hour by people (in an office with four members of staff) and 21 times per hour by people (in an office with eight members of staff).


Not only that, but most of us try to respond to emails as quickly as possible for fear of complaint if we don’t and, when the phone rings, we feel we have to drop everything to talk to clients.


Is it any wonder then that our to-do lists get longer instead of shorter?


So what’s the solution? My recommendation is to set aside some quiet time each day – or at the very least each week – and make sure your team does the same. This quiet time will not only enable your brains to reach maximum productivity and allow you to nail the actions you need to take, it will also reduce your feeling of being overwhelmed.


I’d also advise you to:

  • Stop email notifications making a noise or displaying a preview
  • Batch-process emails and phone calls
  • Allocate one or two slots per day to read and respond to emails and only open your email programme at these times. In between, set up an auto-response to inform senders when they can expect a reply. That way they won’t worry their email has been lost or that you’re ignoring them. (In fact, if you explain your reasons, it may even inspire them to take similar action – after all, I’m sure they face exactly the same challenge!)
  • Similarly, set aside one or two time slots each day to return phone calls – and get people used to the idea that you won’t take phone calls outside those times.


Although, as I wrote that last point, I could already hear some of you shrieking, “WHAT?” If you’re someone who believes that taking a call from a client or prospect is of the utmost importance, let me put it to you this way. If you were in the middle of a meeting with one client, would you accept a call and then have an in-depth conversation with another in front of them? I’d like to think you wouldn’t! Instead, you’d ask the caller to be informed you’re in a meeting, but will call them back at a certain time.


Although most people AVN work with find the above relatively easy to implement, the difficulty comes when they’re working on a business-related project of their own. That’s when it’s important for them to remind themselves (or be reminded) that actually their own business is their number-1 client. So what does this mean in practice?


If you have a receptionist, and a call comes through while you’re working on a project to develop your own business, ask them – just as you would if you were with a ‘real’ client – to say you’re currently unavailable and to schedule a time for you to call back. (If you don’t have a receptionist, then I highly recommend tapping in to a virtual one. By taking messages and arranging calls at times that suit you, they’ll enhance your professionalism. But, as part of your due diligence, do ensure they meet the level of professionalism you expect).


I promise you’ll be amazed at how much more you can achieve by following the above. And, if you have a team of people, imagine how much more productive your whole practice could become!


A Trusted System for Actions: Another reason we might feel overwhelmed is because we’re failing to transfer everything from our heads into a trusted system. This can be a major obstacle to getting a good night’s sleep because stuff like “Must remember to do this” or “Oops, I forgot to do that” keeps popping into our heads.


Sadly, if we say we’ll do something, but don’t write it down, our minds don’t work like a computer. They don’t remind us at 6.15pm to call for groceries on the way home, they remind us when we’re already there and are just opening the cupboard door to make tea. Likewise, when we’re in the office they don’t remind us about that one last (but vital) item on our to-do list, they remind us as we’re about to fall asleep that night.


The only way to be certain that we won’t forget something is to have a trusted system in place. The exact form this takes is up to you, but to get you started I can share my system which – even if you choose not to replicate it exactly – will give you some useful pointers to help you create your own.


Remember, while keeping a to-do list is good, if it’s only accessible from one place then it starts to fall down. That’s why I use TrelloÔ. (It’s such a great online tool that I still can’t quite fathom why it’s free!) I record all of my tasks on it and each of my days is allocated to a certain type of activity. Monday is ‘Leadership,’ Tuesday is ‘On (rather than in) My Business.’ Wednesday is ‘Prospect Conversations,’ Thursday is ‘Customer Retention,’ and Friday is ‘Marketing.’


As each of my to-do items will fall under one of these headings, it’s relatively simply to assign them. I also guesstimate how long each is likely to take and label it accordingly. I spend my mornings on larger projects but – and this is key – in the afternoon I stop so that they don’t consume my entire day and (within reason) only resume the next time my day is allocated to that project type. I then work on medium-sized projects from lunch until about 3.30pm, before finishing up with the smallest projects.


As the day progresses this means I’m able to tick off more and more items, while also making sure I work on the large important projects that can get neglected if you allow the small stuff to consume your day.


But what if I’m driving home and suddenly remember something I need to do? No problem! I simply say: “Hey, Siri! Remind me tomorrow at 9am to call X.” (Assuming that was my thought, that is!) I know Siri will remember to remind me at 9am the next day and I can add it to Trello then. Or if I’m out running or cycling – or even swimming – I can do exactly the same using my Apple watch.


To summarise, I can make a note, or request a reminder, that ensures I’m able to add stuff to my Trello at any time. Admittedly, saying “Hey, Siri!” in the middle of the night might not be popular with my wife, but, at the same time, it’s important to get the thought out of my mind if I want to get to sleep! That’s when a good old-fashioned pen and notepad comes into its own – particularly as taking my phone out would activate parts of my brain that prevent good quality sleep anyway.


It’s important then to design your trusted system so that it offers multiple ways of capturing the thoughts from your head – and in such a way that they all end up in the right place where they can’t be forgotten. 


But what if you keep forgetting to look at this right place?


To guard against this, my Trello has two additional boards labelled ‘DOING’ and ‘COMPLETED.’ In the spirit of Kanban (A Japanese manufacturing system that uses visual cards to organise projects and determine progress), each morning I identify the actions I need to carry out that day and drag them to the DOING board. Then, as I complete each one, I drag it to the COMPLETED board. If I don’t complete an item, I state its progress in the comments section before dragging it back to where it came from.


At the end of each day and week, being able to see everything I’ve completed gives me a great sense of achievement. And then I’ll archive those items.


We all have lots to do but – and this is my key point – if we manage our to-do list properly, we won’t feel overwhelmed.


In the interests of avoiding overwhelm, why not take a break and grab a cuppa! I know this has been a fairly sizeable section. Although, if I’m honest, I’ve barely touched the surface of the importance of improving productivity. It’s a subject I’m passionate about because I firmly believe that 21st century technology – technology that is meant to improve our ability to be more productive – is in many instances having the reverse effect. In fact, look out soon for the book on productivity I’ve been procrastinating over writing!


Overcoming Factor 2: Confusion

In the previous section I explained the importance of assigning your actions/tasks/projects to a trusted system. I also explained the process I use to ensure that I’m working on similar items on any given day since this enables me to better switch from one project to another.


Although such a system undoubtedly helps, confusion can still arise if (or when) you have so many tasks in your system that it’s difficult to determine the order in which to focus on them. There’s also a huge difference between actions and projects on your to-do list.


There are two main areas involved here.

1: Prioritisation

The best way to prioritise is by using the four quadrants that Stephen Covey developed in his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:’

1.     Important and urgent








2.     Important not urgent
3.     Not important but urgent







4.     Not urgent or important


Quadrant 1 – important and urgent – is otherwise known as firefighting.

Quadrant 2 – important not urgent – contains the tasks you keep meaning to do (because they’ll help you to grow your business) but which you never get around to because of the firefighting in Quadrant 1.

Quadrant 3 – not important but urgent – are the tasks you respond to because of pressure from someone to do so. Taking just a few minutes to ascertain the importance of your to-do items will help you realise when something falls into this category. That way, you can then decide whether or not you need to do it or whether you can delegate. (I would always suggest that if it’s not important, delegate).

Anything that falls within Quadrant 4 – not urgent or important – bin! (The fact that this can sometimes be difficult to work out, particularly when you’re feeling swamped, shows the importance of this exercise in helping you realise what, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t really need doing).


I find it helps if I label all my Trello items with one of these quadrants. Otherwise it’s easy to spend all your time on firefighting when actually taking a day, a half-day, or even just an hour each week to focus on Quadrant 2 stuff will soon begin to eliminate the causes of those fires.


2: Actions vs Projects

Sometimes we look at an item on our to-do list and simply don’t know what to do. Typically, that’s because it’s a project rather than an action. In other words, you need to start by breaking it down into its constituent actions.


To clarify, an action is something simple such as ‘call restaurant to book a meal for 10 people for 7pm.’ There’s no ambiguity; it’s straightforward.


However, an item on your to-do list that says ‘organise a meal for the entire family’ leads to more questions than actions. Questions regarding when, where, who, cost, formal or informal… you get the idea!


Next time you look at your to-do list, decide whether an item is a project or an action. If it’s a project, then you need to break it down into actions so that you can carry these out one at a time and check them off. Only then will you be able to ascertain the progress of the overall project.


This will help overcome the confusion that you may experience when you look at a to-do item and are not sure where to start.


Overcoming Factor 3: Perfectionism

It’s natural – particularly for accountants – to want to get things right. We want to feel comfortable, even proud, of our work.


But at what point is something good enough?


There’s a simple way to find out that will also help you overcome perfectionism: Set a tight deadline that you can’t get out of!


To prove it, below is a perfect example of its success.


A while ago Mike, an accountant based on the south coast, made the decision to join AVN and, by becoming a member, gain access to our training, coaching and tools. That’s why, the next time he had a prospective client meeting, he decided he would use our ‘Time’s Up!’ software.


During that meeting, Mike followed our process to the letter: asking the right questions, setting the correct parameters to match his prospective client’s business, going through the service levels starting with the top (level one) and then selecting this to display the fee. At this point, Mike told me he was shocked to see the price that came up. He’d been expecting something a lot less. Never in a million years would he have quoted at that level.


Of course, this fee wasn’t based purely on producing compliance accounts. The top-level service offers a packaged solution that we’ve created which includes many of the products and services you probably often do, but don’t charge for. This time, by using ‘Time’s Up!’ and following our process, Mike had talked the prospect through all of these before displaying the fee on the screen.


By now, Mike was dying inside. All he could focus on was the price.


But, when he finally plucked up the courage to look at his prospect, they simply nodded and began to enquire about some of the optional extras also presented on the screen.


The prospective client had been blown away by Mike’s professionalism and by his run-through of everything the client could expect within the package he was being offered. This so far exceeded the explanation given by most accountants that when he saw the price, he felt it was right.


Mike came away with a new client and at a fee level significantly more profitable than that of any of his existing clients. A profit level that truly reflects his worth.


Now, to return to perfectionism: Imagine if Mike hadn’t set himself a tight deadline to use our software – in his case the following morning. If he’d had more time, he might well have spent longer going through it, or decided that the pricing either simply wouldn’t work in his area, or for the types of clients he sees. He might have gone through everything making judgements about how receptive prospective clients would be to the packaged solutions. As a result, he might have reduced the fees, or changed the language we use, thereby transforming a value-pricing tool that helps accountants offer high-level packaged solutions, into a piece of software that gives a ‘competitive’ (i.e. low) price for a mediocre set of services. In other words, into something that simply wouldn’t have the same appeal for prospective clients.


There are other reasons why it’s important to commit yourself to a tight deadline. Whenever I need to create a new presentation, for example, I know I can be too much of a perfectionist. As I don’t like to use bullet points, I need to create slides that visually complement my points. This means it could easily take me days just to create a slide deck. However, if I don’t start work on a presentation until two days before I need it, I know I’ll work flat out, but only make it as good as it can be within that timescale. In my experience, it’s always been more than good enough, whereas if I had three or even four days, I’d easily use them up by continuing to tweak my slides right up to the very last moment – for little or no benefit in the grand scheme of things.


To give another example, in the 1990s, when Microsoft were in their heyday, you probably remember how they would release new versions of Windows even though they still contained bugs. That’s because Microsoft knew that it was better to get their software out than to wait until it was perfect, as by that time their customers might have moved to the latest release from a competitor. They’d also have been seen as less innovative and, as a result, lose market share and consumers’ confidence.


Overcoming Factor 4: Fear

Did you notice that every bullet point in the section on fear began ‘What if?’ That’s because fear comes from our brain’s ability to run through every worst outcome possible before we act. I don’t know who originally created the acronym for F.E.A.R., but ‘False Evidence Appearing Real’ is spot on.


To be fair, our brains coming up with all the potential pitfalls ahead of doing something rash has, I’m sure, often proved a good survival mechanism. But we should never allow ourselves to become so afraid that we fail to act at all. Instead, we should log every possible negative outcome and focus on how we’ll prevent it happening or what we’ll do if it does.


A few years ago, for example, I made a solo parachute jump for my 40th birthday which involved two days of training. This was a lot of training, particularly as before the jump the trainers would help us on with our gear and ensure it was safe, functional and working.


So why did we need all that training? Why didn’t they simply let us turn up, don the gear and jump out of the plane?


The answer is: What if…?


Of the two days, around ten minutes was spent on learning how to land correctly, and perhaps a further 20 on how to sit on the edge of the plane cabin and push yourself out. The rest was all about the ‘what ifs.’


What if the chute didn’t open? What if it got tangled? What if the pull cord kept you attached to the plane?


We spent those two days carrying out role-play after role-play. Inside the training room, hanging from special frames, we were shown picture after picture of different scenarios and practiced what to do again and again.


When the day of my jump finally came, I sat in the plane as it ascended high into the sky and the instructor signalled for me to sit on the edge of the open doorway (tethered, of course, to both the pull cord and to an additional one to prevent me falling out of the plane prematurely!).


As we reached the correct height and I had the nod from my instructor, I threw myself off, counted “1000, 2000, 3000, 4000,” as I’d been taught, and looked up at my chute to ensure it had opened correctly. It hadn’t!


But seeing that it was twisted didn’t fill me with dread. Instead, I simply reacted in the way I’d practiced over and over again. I pulled the twisted cords apart, kicked my legs to spin my body around to untwist them and, voilà! The chute opened and I enjoyed a gentle descent before landing flawlessly – even if I do say so myself!


Remember: We can either use fear to help us prepare for situations so we’re able to face them head on, or we can allow it to prevent us from taking action at all (action that might take us on to experience amazing things).


Even the trembling you might feel prior to giving a presentation is simply adrenaline pumping through your veins, preparing you to be at your best. Rather than see it as trembling with fear, try seeing it as trembling with enthusiasm.


 So stick your chin up, take a deep breath, and crack on!


Overcoming Factor 5: The Bright and Shiny

In most cases, people are drawn to the bright and shiny because they’re looking for a quick fix to a problem, or to avoid facing one. A clear strategy, however, will keep you on the straight and narrow.


The seven principles I’ll be sharing in this book will help you to form that strategy. Only by focusing on enhancing these seven principles, in the order I share them, and then maintaining and refining them, will you be able to build the practice of your dreams.


No matter what the marketers of innumerable bright and shiny objects would have you believe, there’s no magic shortcut.


Overcoming Factor 6: Comfort Zones

Stepping out of your comfort zone is closely linked to coping with fear. Sometimes though, no amount of role-play can help. Some things – parting company with an employee, for example – are never pleasant, but they have to be done. The support of others who understand your situation can help, of course. They can share coping mechanisms and approaches. Sometimes though – and I speak from personal experience here – you just have to disconnect yourself and make it happen.


Overcoming Factor 7: Not Enough Pain, Not Enough Gain

As I’ve said, I strongly believe accountancy is a noble profession that can make a profound difference. If you agree, who do you want to make that difference to?


A good place to start might be with yourself. After all, you’ve trained incredibly hard and have spent years building up your experience. Surely you now deserve some choice over the number of hours you work, your role, your income, and the difference you’re able to make?


If, at this point, you’re thinking, “But I do have a choice in all of those”, my question would be: “If you were to halve the amount of hours you work right now, would your practice continue to earn you the same income and function in the same way?”


If you suddenly had to go into hospital, would your practice continue to support you and your family or would it deteriorate?


In fact, this is probably a good moment for you to make a cup of tea and spend a few minutes taking stock of your situation. In terms of profitability and enjoyment, for example, is your practice where you hoped (or expected) it would be by this point?


How many hours per week do you work? (Even if you’re a workaholic, there’s a difference between wanting to and having to work). Similarly, how many holidays can you take each year? And, of those, how often are you able to fully relax, with no phone calls, emails or texts that you need to respond to while you’re away? Then there’s the impact of all this on your family and friends. When you spend time with them is your mind still on work? (That handful of questions should help you consider where you are right now. If you’d like a more in-depth analysis, you can go to: www.takethetest.today).


If your answers to the above have helped you to realise you don’t actually have the level of choice you’d like, that’s great. But what about the opposite end of the spectrum, the gain? How could things be?


Often it’s difficult to imagine a better practice, or we fall into the trap of plotting the future based on our past. If, for example, over the past six years your turnover has undergone a steady increase of 5%, you may forecast that it will continue to increase by this same amount. You may even set targets to ensure that it does.


But what if you were to decide you want to triple your turnover in the next 36 months, with a 30% profit margin after your salary has been taken out? And what if, on top of that, you decide you want to work half – or even a quarter – of your current hours?


How differently would you have to plan? How would achieving it make you feel? Imagine the holidays you and your family could take if you could leave your business for longer, but it continued to thrive in your absence! And imagine the impact it could have on others, such as helping your team in their career development, or your clients to grow better businesses.


Whether any of the above resonates with you or not, finding what drives you is incredibly important. Discovering my own purpose was like switching from pulling upstream on the oars of a rowing boat to driving a speedboat. What had previously seemed an effort became effortless.


If you don’t yet know what motivates you, I suggest you grab a sheet of paper (or your digital device of choice!) and note down what you’re not happy with in your practice, and in your life, too, for that matter. Next, describe your ideal scenario and decide when you want to achieve it by. Don’t worry about being realistic, in fact be as ambitious as you like! If you could wave a magic wand, for example, what would your dream accountancy business look, feel and even sound like? How would your clients describe it to others? That should help to focus your mind.