We are members of a number of business focused forums. These forums are supportive groups providing guidance to business owners on a myriad of different questions across different aspects of owning/running a business. If you spend enough time in these types of groups you start to see recurring themes. The themes that pop out to us are probably coloured by our own background and expertise and can be broadly categorised as:

  • Business owners that feel they are not making any money and are at a crossroads as to whether to push on or quit and get a job
  • Partners of business owners who do a lot of work in their partner’s business for little or no pay
  • Feelings of a lack of service from advisors or fees that are too high
  • How to get clients/customers to pay on time


Business owners that feel they are not making any money and are at a crossroads as to whether to push on or quit and get a job

Many economists are predicting that we are heading for a recession. Prices are rising, interest rates are rising and it is an employees market so wages are rising. This is a combination that can provide difficult trading conditions for many small business owners. Without a solid business plan, many business owners may just be planning to fail. If you are already at a crossroads of whether to proceed with your business, now is the time to call in the experts. A business mentor of mine will often say that if your business isn’t providing you with the same wage you could earn if you worked for someone else, then what are you in it for? There are valid responses to this such as the need for flexibility running a business can provide. However, your business still needs to be able to provide you with an appropriate wage. If it is not there are a few things you can do:

  • Make sure you have a business plan. Are you aimlessly hoping the business will work or do you have a plan for who is your ideal customer, what sort of prices do you need to charge, how will you find your customers, who is in charge of various aspects of your business etc.
  • Engage an accountant/bookkeeper/coach to complete a business review and provide recommendations on how to improve your businesses bottom line.
  • Consider:
    • Are you pricing for profit?
    • Do you have a budget?
    • Do you have a cash flow forecast?
  • Complete a review of your books to determine where you may be overspending or under charging. I once found a client spending a huge % of their revenue on taking their staff to the pub each week and stationary. Easy things to cut back on and improve your own return.
  • Sit down with your business partner or spouse and make a plan for how much you need to earn and how you are going to make the business generate sufficient profit to earn that
  • Start paying a wage! Sometimes this is a simple thing business owners don’t do ‘while the business gets up and running’ but it can also turn into a habit of not paying a wage. Starting paying one, however small, to start the habit of actually paying yourself.


Partners of business owners who do a lot of work in their partner’s business for little or no pay

There are many business types where spouses assist with “admin”, but this is probably most common in the trades. The first step here is to recognise what your partner is contributing to the business. If it was that ‘easy’ or takes ‘no time’ then why can’t you do it yourself? In many cases the spouse is providing in valuable back-office support that allows you to be out on ‘the tools’ and spending time with your clients and thus earning more revenue. 

Make sure you pay your spouse for their work in your business. Nothing breeds resentment like feeling unappreciated. If you are having your spouse help because you can’t afford to pay anyone, then I would argue you can’t afford to have your spouse assist either. If you have sufficient work that you are full time on the tools (whether your tools are a hammer or a computer) then your pricing needs to factor in the cost of admin help.


Feelings of a lack of service from advisors or fees that are too high

I will admit that accountants are often (although not always) the target of this one. Like any industry there are good and bad accountants and fees across a large spectrum. So common is the question that Sarah Eifermann and I actually did a podcast on how to pick a good accountant. While I don’t have the space here to repeat the conversation some of the key points are:

  • If you are not comfortable speaking with your advisor or don’t understand their explanations, they are the wrong one for you. Just because your best mate loves them, doesn’t mean you have to.
  • It is ok to want an advisor of the same gender, background, language as you; if that is what makes you most comfortable and allows you to communicate at your best.
  • Pricing is a value proposition. Yes you can just about always find someone to do it cheaper, but will they provide the same level of service/experience/support? If you are happy with your service provider then just maybe those higher fees are worth it!
  • Yes we do want you to tell us if you are not happy with our fees or service. We can’t always do something about it, but certainly can’t if we are unaware.


How to get clients/customers to pay on time

This is one that seems to be coming up more often of recent times. There are probably plenty of great articles just on this topic. For us it starts with clear expectations – a quote of pricing and of what the customer is going to receive. No one likes surprises so any changes to pricing scope need to be clearly communicated as early as possible. It is also easier to take debt recovery action if you have a clear agreement on what work was to be performed and the pricing. Terms of payment agreed up front – whether that be a staged approach, fee up front or fee at end, as well as the number of days from payment of invoice. Once an invoice is issued, don’t then forget about it til it’s a month overdue – send reminders or statements, make a phone call once it’s overdue. No one likes chasing debts – but good chance the person receiving the phone call is hating it more than you! At the right time call in letters of demand or debt collectors. The longer you leave a debt, the harder it will be to get it paid.

So are the forums worth it?

Remember that while the experience and support of other business owners is immeasurably important to your own business, they may not be experts in your particular question or the answer may differ dependant on your particular facts. We enjoy being participants in these forums, and recommend finding the right one for your and your own business – just also know when it is time to call in the experts to assist with your business questions.