Finding a niche for your professional services
Accredited Reckon partner, Stephanie Crawford, discovered she had a knack for business coaching while working as a bookkeeper. And now, as a coach, her main clientele are fellow bookkeepers looking for strategic business advice.
“I’m a huge advocate for businesses having a bookkeeper as part of their team—they are generally more successful as a result,” she shares. “Coaching bookkeepers has become my sweet spot.”
Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Stephanie started working in banking straight out of school, then held a string of accounting and payroll roles both in New Zealand and in Seattle, USA, where she lived for a time in her early 20s.
We sat down with Stephanie to hear about her journey from bookkeeper to business coach.
How did you first get into the bookkeeping profession?
When I started my bookkeeping business in 2007, I’d moved out of accountancy roles and into a sales representative role. My children were still young and my youngest was 6 months away from starting school. He’d been in daycare since he was two and I wanted to spend a bit more time with him before then, so I quit my job to do that.
My husband (at the time) didn’t work Mondays, so I started working as a bookkeeper one day a week. I just had one client. In that same year, my husband and I separated, and I became a single parent 50% of the time.
Fifteen years ago, bookkeeping (as an outsourced role for businesses), was relatively new, and there weren’t that many of us doing it back then. Whilst I had an accounts background, it wasn’t until I met others, one of whom is my cousin Di Crawford-Errington, running their own bookkeeping businesses that prompted the idea that this was something I could do too.
Making the decision to truly build a business and my company’s brand (not just create a job for myself) was pivotal. You make different decisions from that headspace and my business grew from there.
What were the factors that led you to move into business consultancy?
After about 8 years, I sold my bookkeeping business so that I could move into business coaching. By that point, I’d lost some of the passion for the business, and I felt that the business would benefit from someone with fresh energy.
Additionally, I had (almost by accident) started coaching some of my bookkeeping clients. I was finding I had a knack for it—and I loved it enough to want to start a new business from it.
Around 2015, I met Geoff Knox, an established business coach, who had created a training program for accountants and bookkeepers who wanted to move into business advisory. I became a member of the program which offered me invaluable support and ongoing education.
How did you carve your niche as a renowned coach to fellow bookkeepers?
Initially, I was coaching all types of businesses. I enjoyed the variety much like I enjoyed the variety of bookkeeping. (As bookkeepers, we get to look “under the hood” of many different businesses and see what’s working and what’s not.)
At the time, bookkeepers were coming to me for coaching too. I’d already built and sold a bookkeeping business and so it made sense that I was a good choice for bookkeepers who were looking for strategic direction and advice.
And I just couldn’t stay away from the industry. What’s happening within our industry is fascinating. The advancements with accounting software and business systems and technology are extraordinary and have created so many opportunities for small businesses—myself included.
I still keep my hand in accounting software consulting and training now and again, mostly because I enjoy it, but also because it keeps me current with the software and with what’s happening in our industry.
In your experience, what makes a great business coach?
I have been told that I ask great questions and I think that is definitely a great asset to have as a business coach. It’s also about highlighting blind spots, challenging limiting beliefs, or offering a different perspective.
Being a business coach is often not so much about telling people what to do and how to do it… it’s about helping your clients to articulate the answers themselves, (which are often in their heads already) but need help seeing the light of day.
Whilst we’re not telling clients what to do, we do often have practical experience that is invaluable, and we can suggest things to do that we have seen working in other businesses.
What are your tips for bookkeepers to transform their businesses?
To move from technician to business owner requires a mindset shift and a change in self-identity to a degree, and it’s helpful to have the knowledge of someone who understands business, and who can offer some practical skills and helpful resources to make that transition.
Honing your business mindset is ongoing work, in the sense that things like imposter syndrome crop up all the time and stop us in our tracks. So, it’s useful to get some help with that or to work on your mindset while doing this.
You also needed to look at how you’re spending your time. Are you being efficient? Are you giving away time? Is what you’re doing the best use of your time?
Stephanie’s coaching programs, The Business of Bookkeeping™ and From Bookkeeper to Business Owner™ are for bookkeepers looking to build successful businesses so they can create a business and a life that they love.