Category Archives: business management

Money and the Spiritual Path: Being a bridge

Abandoned_Railway_Cutting_in_OtleyFor many people who are committed to spiritual growth, a major question is how to combine spiritual path with generating an income.  This is often a tricky area because many people who seek to integrate path and income also seek to bring something new into the world. So, almost by definition, what we seek to bring into the world is not widely recognised as valuable or useful – otherwise it would already be in existence!

It’s easy to go into despair about money and our spiritual path – or go into anger and resentment.  These two common emotional responses keep us focused on money as a stumbling block.  But what if our struggles around money are trying to tell us about something else? Continue reading Money and the Spiritual Path: Being a bridge

The diary of Thomas Wood

My dad’s family, the Woods, come from a coal-mining village just outside of Birmingham – a little place called Baddesley Ensor. My great great grandad Thomas was born there in 1813, and grew up with his surviving sister and seven brothers (4 died as babies).  As was the way of things then, the boys went down the mine, and some stayed their whole lives.  But Thomas got out of the mine and set up as a butcher.

I’ve been fortunate recently to come across a diary Thomas kept from 1865 up to his death in 1884.

Continue reading The diary of Thomas Wood

Loving the financial reports

A good friend accuses me of reading bank old_account_ledgerstatements for pleasure.  It’s true!

Financial reports give us a unique picture of our activities.  As we go about our daily activities in business we are taken up with the immediacy of talking with customers, and with the focus on delivering our special products or services, and paying the bills, and dealing with the landlord, and … and … and attending to all the myriad details which are part of running a business.

Financial reports give us a totally different perspective on all that daily activity. Continue reading Loving the financial reports

Being a Good Debtor

debt burdenPart of being in business is that clients owe me money. And part of being an accountant is acting for clients when they owe money.  So I regularly get to play on both sides of the debt equation: being both Creditor (they owe me) and Debtor (I owe them).  This piece is about how to manage  things well as a debtor – how to be a Good Debtor.

For most people being in debt is incredibly stressful. Our culture sees debt as bad: we talk about the ‘debt burden’, and the ‘debt trap’. Having a mortgage is seen as a kind of moral negation: signing the mortgage is to “sign one’s life away”.  Understandably in this cultural context, not being able to pay your bills brings up feelings of shame, anxiety, embarrassment and fear.  These emotions can make it really hard to act simply with self-compassion and clear communication. Continue reading Being a Good Debtor

Tax coaching: how it works

Anwar-218x300My guiding theme with clients is empowerment: supporting the client to move beyond negative and even crippling stories about money, and come into a positive relationship with managing their money where they feel they are steering things from a place of confidence and pride.

Often people are prompted to come to an accountant for their tax.  But more and more of my clients don’t want me just to do it for them. Many people for whom their business is their spiritual path recognise that their growth requires them to address their difficulties with money.  One area which is often difficult for people is tax returns. Continue reading Tax coaching: how it works

On “Closing the Sale”

01-pushy-salesmanRecently I was on the receiving end of the sales technique known as “closing the sale”.  This is where a seller elicits several “yes” responses from you and then keeps narrowing the conversation to the point where you say “yes” to whatever they are selling.

Ironically, they were trying to sell a program of coaching around business development, marketing and – yes! – selling.  At the start of the conversation I was very open to their program and what they had to offer.  By the end I was fuming!

You might say this conversation was simply an example of a poor salesperson.  But what else is “closing the sale” than an attempt to shift a potential buyer from “maybe” to “yes”?  This is of course a quite legitimate shift to make – but one that needs to be made by the buyer and not the seller!

But more interestingly, is what the technique of “closing the sale” says about the seller’s attitude to their product and to their clients.  All or only some of these may be true side by side:

  • a deep ambivalence on the seller’s part about the value of what they are selling.  They believe that the value is not apparent, or perhaps not really there at all. Closing down the conversational space reduces the buyer’s scrutiny of  the product.
  • overriding anxiety about issues internal to their business: meeting sales targets, or keeping busy, or pleasing a supervisor, or simply paying the bills.  These things are not the buyer’s business.  They could be very real for the seller, and the seller could potentially share them simply as a human being – but not by smuggling them in to the buyer/seller conversation!
  • the seller views the potential buyer as not fully capable.  The seller often sees their role in the sales conversation of “assisting” the buyer to make the key shift to “yes”.  In other words the seller believes the buyer is not capable of making this shift unaided, not able to make a clear decision for themself – an incredibly insulting belief.
  • the seller views the potential buyer as an object.  The seller really has no interest at all in the buyer as a real person, and simply wants the buyer to comply with the seller’s agenda.

Of course “closing the sale” works fine when you are just selling widgets, or a one-off experience – like a fairground sideshow for example.  You take the buyer’s money, they get the goods, and you never have to see each other again.  The value of what is sold is only momentary anyway, and who cares if the transaction is interpersonally messy?

“closing the sale” is closing off the path to real connection, and thus shutting down an opportunity

But I am selling an intimate service.  Although accounting is not generally seen as intimate, in practice it involves the client disclosing things that sometimes they don’t even tell their spouse, and on occasion have never told anyone.

As with lawyers, doctors, and the sacred professions*, my service works best when the client feels safe to be entirely authentic.  This safety is generated partly by me being appropriately open and boundaried in the interaction myself, and partly by according the client the respect that they are fully capable, that their process of living is fully legitimate as it is, and that their decisions are entirely right for them in the moment.

Of course I don’t always measure up in practice to this standard I set for myself – I, like everyone, am on the path of growth.  But it is my intention to move towards appropriateness and respect with clients at all times.  It would be impossible for me to commence working with a client on anything less than that basis.

“Closing the sale” is the antithesis of what works in my business. Were I to pursue it I would feel obliged to continue my distant, disrespectful or inappropriate stance with my client, because that is what they signed up for.  Or I would need to put a lot of effort into cleaning up the mess left by ‘closing the sale’ – apologizing, and establishing a new basis to proceed. Either path involves an enormous amount of energy which needn’t be spent if one simply doesn’t use the “closing the sale” technique.

What DOES work is simply having a chat.  In that conversation it becomes clear what is the quality of connection between me and the potential client. And then if the connection supports it, we sort out what we can go forward with, and how to do that.

In contrast, “closing the sale” is closing off the path to real connection, and thus shutting down an opportunity for me to help empower others around money and thus to contribute to my community’s social capital.

* The Sacred Professions are “… professions in which the value delivered is something
intangible.  Musicians, artists, prostitutes, healers, counselors, and teachers…” Charles Eisenstein, Sacred Economics, p203

“Doing everything yourself” vs. “Ensuring everything gets done”

There’s so many different aspects of a business – sales, marketing, admin, the technical ability or skill to deliver the core service, finance, design, and so on.  Some of these areas require exactly the opposite skills required for other areas – for instance sales requires empathy and people skills while finance requires a logical mind and abstract skills.  Its a very rare person who can bridge all the areas required.

But all these aspects of a business have to be attended to.  As a result, many business owners put huge pressure on ourselves about the areas we are not good at: we can see that things need doing but we struggle to do them. So we feel guilty about not doing them, or worry about them and do nothing, or beat ourselves up because we “should” be able to do it, or blame others for the poor performance, or get frustrated or angry that the stuff has to be done at all, or any number of other responses.

None of these responses really help, of course.  They’re just perfectly natural responses to feeling jammed into an impossible situation where something needs doing, you’re responsible for it, and yet you lack the resources to do it.  Awful!

To help my clients with the tensions around all this, I often find myself drawing attention to the business owner’s role as director of operations.  The shift here is to acknowledge that, yes, the owner is of course responsible for everything – but that responsibility is more specifically to ensure everything gets done.  This is NOT the same as “doing everything yourself”.

“Doing everything yourself” is like a rod for your own back.  “Doing everything yourself” is part of the stoic old-style grit-your-teeth model of masculinity – which carries over into the world of small business no matter what your gender is. It assumes that we are all isolated units, each entirely self-sufficient, and that we are judged by how capable we are of living up to this unrealistic and even cruel ideal.  In this world, responsibility is a massive burden that can kill.

“Ensuring everything gets done”, on the other hand, is a softer more humble approach yet it also implies the power to take action.  It assumes that we are limited creatures, who have strengths in some areas and are weak in others.  It’s part of the new spiritually-oriented or values-driven entrepreneurship which holds that we all have a unique contribution to offer, and that business is a collaborative effort which is a vehicle for each of our unique contributions.  In this world responsibility is empowerment to create the world of our dreams.

Ensuring everything gets done means getting other people to fill in the gaps where you’re not good at stuff.  This usually costs you money – though not always:  all sorts of creative arrangements are possible.  But whatever the exchange is, the pay-off can more than offset it – which is the whole point of synergy through collaboration.  If you get other people who, in supplying that service, are also pursuing their own unique contribution, there’s 3 returns:

  •  Bottom line: Every aspect of your business functions as it should.
  • Personal affirmation:  You get the space to pursue your unique contribution as well as the satisfaction of seeing you are a good business director.
  • Community celebration: Your own values, and the values of everyone involved, are affirmed and celebrated.

Its so easy, of course, to fall into “doing everything yourself”.  Thank goodness, these days there’s more and more support  for “ensuring everything gets done”!