company meeting table

Three Lessons From Last Year

The end of the year is a time for reflection.

However, if you’re in the accounting profession, there’s little time to reflect at the actual end of the year, as January is our busiest month. So, the end of January becomes your default time for reflection.

As we approach the company’s six-year anniversary, it’s easy to look back on the things we’ve done over the last few years. From a family business operating over the kitchen table, with only a handful of clients, we’ve grown to a team of eleven full-time staff serving over 170 clients. We’ve met a lot of people and helped a lot of businesses but, more than what we’ve done, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve learned.

I could (and someday might) write a book about what I’ve learned through small business ownership, but today I wanted to talk about three lessons that have stood out to me from the past year.

Celebrate wins, but keep training in the offseason.

celebrating office workersFinishing a big project, landing a big account, or getting kudos from a client is a great high. It’s a time to recognize staff, and give yourself a pat on the back. But it isn’t the time to stop what you’ve been doing.

When things are going well, it’s easy to get complacent. But it’s effort that breeds success, and that can’t be taken for granted. If you stop putting forth the effort, that success can depart just as easily as it came.

We’re about to complete the month of January, which is “1099 season”. It’s a very stressful period and, once we get through it, we’ll do something special to recognize the team.

But, we’re also already discussing what we can do to improve the process next year. Which brings me to my next lesson.

Never stop improving, but don’t change for the sake of change.

office people with hands togetherOver time, we’ve identified better ways to do things within the company. However, we have found that there are times when you have to accept that perfection is unattainable.

One area we have found this is particularly true is in the realm of project management automation. We’ve been able to put certain templates and systems into place to help cut down on both administrative and client hours. However, we found that we could only take that automation so far if we wanted to continue to offer highly-customized service. There might be a better solution out there that we have not found yet, but we can only dedicate so many hours to researching a better option (unless we want to limit the number of new clients we accept). Which leads me to my final point…

Everyone matters.

puzzle piecesIt’s always exciting to land a “big” new client, but some of my most-cherished client relationships are with those small, one or two-person companies. We have many clients who just come to us for a bit of training or help with their start-ups, and I’m the go-to person in the office to work with those, because I enjoy them so much.

Ironically, though this was never the intention, some of those small clients have led to big business. For example, I helped a local interior designer with cleaning up and training on her QuickBooks account. She connected me with a friend of hers in Charlotte, for whom I did some remote training. Those relationships led to referrals to other interior designers, until, suddenly, we found ourselves working with half a dozen new interior designer clients, a few of whom are very large and for whom we’re providing extensive services. And this all stemmed from helping someone who many other companies would not have given time to. (This makes me think of our first ever blog post, Nice Guys Finish First.)

Our little company is not so little anymore (and certainly not as little as when that first post was written). But we’re still learning, and still have so much to learn. I’m excited about what new lessons 2019 will bring.