The importance of connecting & collaborating with your competition

Last month, I attended yet another Quickbooks Connect conference in San Jose. I was all over the place. Last time I went to this conference I hit every possible booth, event, and session I could to learn as much as I could in three days. Seriously, we only had 3 days!!

This year was different.

I was involved in so many things and events this year that I could barely visit any booths. To make up for it though, I found myself doing a lot more talking. I’d chat with friends, acquaintances, and everyone in between as the days went on.

When I got back home, I realized that I finally spent this year’s conference doing exactly what it was meant for: connecting.

I think our field needs more connection. We spend so much of our time cramped in offices, on the phone, and sometimes alone. The value of these relationships is too often overlooked.

Here’s how some social time can help your business, your clients, and yourself, just in time for the holiday season!

1. Growth

When I first started out, I had a lot of help growing my client base. I’ve talked about this a lot, but without my aunt and some very special clients, Totally Booked probably wouldn’t be what it is today.

I’m not exaggerating.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was. Not everyone has a family member or close friend in the industry, not everyone has a few clients to jump start their business. This is what makes connecting, and specifically networking, so important for accountants and bookkeepers just starting out.

Not everyone has a family member or close friend in the industry, not everyone has a few clients to jump start their business. This is what makes connecting, and specifically networking, so important for accountants and bookkeepers just starting out.

But, it also helps with growth down the road. Even today, I get messages from friends around the country who have been contacted by a client they can’t service, while recommending they work with me.

These are potential clients I might’ve never heard of if not for my connections.

2. Leads, and consulting

Scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.

Once I garnered the client base and clout to have people and businesses approaching me themselves, I found myself in the same position as my connections: I just couldn’t help everyone.

There are a ton of reasons why I might not be able to work with a potential client. Maybe they aren’t in New York, or their business isn’t something mine can handle, or maybe I’m just not their biggest fan. Whatever the reason, I’m not going to just leave them out in the cold with nothing.

By networking and giving clients that I can’t even work with a place to go, I become a resource for businesses and individuals that need accounting and/or bookkeeping services.=

So, any potential lead that I don’t think is right for me, I can easily hand off to someone that I trust, and know will take care of them. This accomplishes two things for me: the client gets the services they need (nice) and I’m able to sell myself, and my business, in a semi-consulting manner (nicer).

Basically, by networking and giving clients that I can’t even work with a place to go, I become a resource for businesses and individuals that need accounting and/or bookkeeping services.

Not only is that a great asset for your business, but helps you continue to grow your network.

3. Decompress

We all know the drill. Someone screwed with their numbers, tried to implement an app or software that isn’t compatible, or didn’t even use the app I set up for them to make their life easier.

I’m calm. I’m calm.

Our jobs are fantastic, rewarding, and so, so frustrating all at the same time.

The internet is great, but having a face-to-face conversation with someone that has been there and can give you some advice that’s worked for them is absolutely priceless.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta let it out.

As relieving as screaming into the wilderness that is your empty office can be, it’s important (and life affirming) to be able to complain and scream with another person.

It’s one thing to talk to your significant other, your family, or your friends. It’s another to talk to someone about something they understand, and can relate to. And, believe it or not, this can also help your business, not just your mental state.

Having a safe place to vent and voice issues to someone (or a group of people) that could have some answers for your issues is underrated. The internet is great, but having a face-to-face conversation with someone that has been there and can give you some advice that’s worked for them is absolutely priceless.

And, I mean, some drinks and food here and there don’t hurt either. Though I’ve had both drinks, food and coffee with some of my connections via Zoom.

4. Education, collaboration

Meeting up with and talking with fellow accountants and bookkeepers doesn’t have to be all venting, and screaming and crying, though.

I alluded to this before, but while you’re talking out your problems with your network, you’re also learning. You’re learning how to cope better, what to do if the issue comes up again, and maybe even some growth strategies. These collaborations are part of the reason why you’re reading this article right now.

Since partnering with Veem, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of collaborative work with them, and they with me. The results have been great, but we never could’ve made it happen without some good old fashioned networking and connection. I never would’ve thought I’d be doing this type of work, let alone with one of the apps my clients and I use for international payments.

Another great collaborative effort for me personally has been “Not the Only One Roundtable.” My friend and colleague Richard Roppa leads a casual but structured group conversation between 10-12 ProAdvisors, bookkeepers and accountants on a routine schedule. We talk about how to grow your firm and business, issues we’re having, and more. We also get to know one another and with that know what each of us specialize in.

While you’re talking out your problems with your network, you’re also learning. You’re learning how to cope better, what to do if the issue comes up again, and maybe even some growth strategies.

It’s like group therapy for Quickbooks ProAdvisors.

These are the types of things connections are great for. Finding hidden treasures you never would’ve seen or knew existed unless you put yourself out there. Sure, it can be hard, scary, and time consuming. As a business owner, I know what it’s like to manage your time. But this is something, in my opinion, accountants and bookkeepers need to make time for.

It’s the holiday season. While you’re hanging out with family or trying not to lose it, think about the importance of connecting with people you care about, it can help you grow as a business, and as an individual.

It might sound too good to be true, but you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with a simple email, phone call, or conference ticket.

Happy Holidays!

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