clients, niching, people, CPAs, business, pricing, talking, problems, vertical, podcast, books, find, price, ipo, results, service, quickly, solutions, easy, direction
Alastair McDermott, Voiceover, Geraldine Carter
Geraldine Carter 00:00
Underpricing is I think the number one because what you we gravitate toward the things that we’re good at. And when we’re good at things, we enjoy doing it. And when we enjoy doing it, we learn more about it, we get better at it. And then it becomes easy for us. And when it becomes easy for us, we think monkeys could do what I do. It’s so simple. Doesn’t everybody know this? But the reality is that you’ve been studying it for 15 years, and you study it because you like it. So no, it’s not easy. Most people want to snap their pencils in half when they do their taxes. It’s not easy at all.
Welcome to The Recognized Authority, a podcast that helps specialised consultants and domain experts on your journey to become known as an authority in your field. So you can increase your reach, have more impact and work with great clients. Here’s your host, Alastair McDermott.
Alastair McDermott 00:47
Hey, folks, before we get into today’s episode, I just want to tell you about something that I’ve created for you. If you go to SpecializationPodcast.com, you can find an educational podcast that I’ve created, it’s on topic for what Geraldine talks about in this episode. So check that out at SpecializationPodcast.com, and that will be linked in the show notes. And now on to today’s episode. Today, my guest is Geraldine Carter. Geraldine is the founder of she thinks big coaching where she helps CPAs. To get out of the accounting rut her clients routinely double their margins in six months or less. While working fewer hours. Geraldine holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Cornell University. She’s the co-founder and CFO of a company where her cash flow forecasting models have resulted in millions of dollars for climate change efforts. Geraldine, you’re very welcome. I want to get straight in with a question about the connection between niching or niching. On pricing. Can you tell me a little bit about that, because you’re telling me in the pre-show about that connection? I’d love to hear more about that.
Geraldine Carter 01:49
Sure. Yeah. And thank you so much for having me. So the connection between niching and pricing really is that the more narrow you are, the more focused your position is in the marketplace, the easier it becomes for you to find, to understand how to add value to your clients, businesses. Because you start to when you focus only on a certain industry or vertical, you deeply understand where they get stuck, you start to see the patterns, you start to you have time now to ask the questions. What, what how do I solve this problem? What’s really going on underneath this problem? Why is it that six of my clients have the same problem? And how do I solve it. And because you, as a person who has focused on your niche have taken can take the time, to more deeply understand your verticals, problems, you’re able to provide more valuable solutions and more quickly and providing solutions faster is more valuable than providing solutions that take forever. So when you can do those two things together in tandem, your your value goes up and anytime your value goes up, your prices can immediately follow. So that’s the quick and dirty on the connection between the value of niching down and being able to raise your prices.
Alastair McDermott 03:01
Right. So So part of that is because you’re so familiar, that you can see those see problems that that other people wouldn’t, wouldn’t see. Because you know, you’ve got more data, you’ve got more experience. And then the the other part of that is the speed of delivery, because now you know how to you’ve delivered this solution previously. So you can do that over and over and over. And you get very fast to get you can optimise for that. That sounds a little bit to me like products or services. Is that Is that what you’re talking about there is that one of the kind of the the solutions?
Geraldine Carter 03:32
Sure, I mean, productize service can fall out of that, where you become so familiar with the nature of a certain problem for your industry, that you go, okay, I can take a section of this. And I can package it up, I can take these five pieces of the process and turn it into a discrete product, that somebody can start at point A, and they can move through all five steps and they will get out the other side. And they will have a solution that is predictable, it is repeatable. And it is optimised and you can sell it at a fixed rate, flat rate if you want. Or you can sell it at a value-based price if you want depending on the nature of the engagement, but certainly having but certainly having a niche and being able to understand the pattern and then being able to segment the solution, put it in a box with a bow on it enables you to have productize service.
Alastair McDermott 04:23
Right, right. And we just had Ron Baker on the show talking about value pricing. So if anybody’s listening is interested in that, he is like the godfather of value pricing would be good to go back and listen to that. Okay, so talking about niching down. And so one thing that I find is a lot of people who I’m talking to are really scared of the process of niching down because of the turning away of opportunity. Do you find that with the people that you’re talking to?
Geraldine Carter 04:48
Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. People are the going thinking you know, you’re frightened of niching down if you think to yourself, but I don’t want to have to say no, what if somebody outside my niche wants me And so as you mentioned at the top, most of my clients are CPAs, they’re in the space, they tend to work for themselves, they own their businesses, and they too tend to be hesitant to niche down because of this very same problem. I don’t want to turn away business. But what if the trick or the challenges is that you can’t see behind the closed door, you can’t see all the opportunity that’s in the room, once you go through the door of niching, down. And what happens when you begin the process of niching down is, number one, you begin to free up your time because your brain is not scattered in 1000 directions, trying to keep your clients straight with all their challenges, and everything they’ve got going on. So if you have a client in manufacturing, and then you have one who owns a pharmacy, and you have a school and a church, and a government, something, your head is all over the place trying to find solutions, once you start to niche down, say, Okay, I’m only going to work with service providers, for example, then suddenly, you don’t have to think about the problems associated with manufacturing, you don’t have to think about the problems associated with inventory, you can just think about the problems associated with service, you go through that door and you go, okay, there are all kinds of great clients in here to work with. And look, there are tonnes of them, and they still have expensive problems. So that’s now okay, now I like working with service providers. And then within service providers, you go okay, in here, there are lawyers, architects, bankers, financial people, creatives, ad agencies. Now, who do I want to narrow to, and the process is the same, you can’t see the opportunity on the other side of closed door, but you begin to trust the process that as soon as I go through that closed door, push it up and go through in the dark, someone’s going to flip on the light, and I’m going to see a tonne of opportunity. And it just keeps going like that, as you as you continue to narrow your position.
Alastair McDermott 06:48
And would you recommend I mean, is that the process you take people through, or you you niche down a little bit, and then you kind of look around, and then you niche down further? Is that the process you you take your clients through?
Geraldine Carter 07:00
Yeah, so we don’t go all the way to the like, super hyper niche at the at the very outset, because that’s, that’s, it’s too risky. So we do it by process, and I think of it like a funnel with rungs of a funnel, right, where you just go down, you just exclude the most obvious, like the third ring out, just exclude those for now. And we focus on, you know, what we have in common for the time being, and we sit with it for typically four to six months, we kind of experiment with it, we get to know it, and then it starts to become clear. Okay, now who’s the next obvious choice to exclude, you take that circle and you separate them out, and you just keep going down and down and down. You know, every six months, every four to six months, you’ll, if you’re committed to this process, which likely will be because you’ll start to see the benefit and the traction reasonably quickly. You’ll say to yourself, Okay, I’m getting the best results with the with this subset of my niche. So how about I head in that direction? And you just keep going and going and going? And
Alastair McDermott 08:05
How many sites
Geraldine Carter 08:06
Alastair McDermott 08:06
The people go through?
Geraldine Carter 08:07
Yeah, so I mean, it’s endless. Once you start, you just keep going and going. So for example, let me just make it real for your listeners, because I think the theoretical is like I get it, but how so I’ll give you an example of one of my clients, you know, most CPAs have businesses as their clients that are just all over the map, and started working with somebody recently. And typical client roster full of variety. And what we found was pretty quickly, you know, with actually within the first kickoff session, I do have for our kickoff session was that she has a number of physicians, physicians tend to have real estate as a side hustle, her physicians tended to be in the single million dollar range in private practice. But she also had a smattering of what we call vise clients, playfully. She had an exotic car lender, she had a guy in sports memorabilia, stuff like that, like kind of, sort of in that direction of unusual stuff. That’s, that’s hobbies for people with lots of people with disposable income. And but she couldn’t pick like, do I want this sort of we playfully like I said, call them vise clients, or do I want the practice physicians in in the single million-dollar range? So we said okay, well, let’s just start with both of these two and see what happens. So right now we’re in the space where she’s got the physicians, and the exotic car guy and sports memorabilia guy. And we’re just offering those people the best possible service and trying to get them the best possible results. And seeing which one she gravitates to Who Does she enjoy working with more, who does she get better results for? And in due time, it’ll become clear to her in working with those kinds of people which one she which direction she wants to go in, but we can’t make a sort of intellectual choice always at the office. Sometimes we just have to work with it be in a sandbox, get our hands dirty. And then we’ll, we’ll know from experience which direction we want to go in.
Alastair McDermott 10:09
Right. Can I ask you, how does that? How does that niching down present on the outside? Like, if I’m looking in from outside at that firm? What do I see? Like, do I see? Like on the website? Does it have language addressing one of those? Or how does it actually present in the real world?
Geraldine Carter 10:25
Okay, so in my perfect world, the client would very quickly make updates to the website to reflect the kind of client that they want to attract. But in the real world, it takes time for the client to be comfortable actually saying it out loud, if you will, on the website and across their digital platforms. So typically, the the outward facing stuff has a lag in practice has a lag behind the decision making. But if the client wants to move more quickly, we can get them to make the updates to the website, on the digital platforms, LinkedIn, wherever else, so that you begin to attract the kind of clients who are in the niche that you’re working in, and get more of them. So that you can start working with more of them just like them and sort of accelerate the process. But in real reality, you know, humans are humans, and they don’t want to test things too soon, until they have a certain level of comfort. So there’s always a give and take in working with clients to, you know, the give and take is how much I want to push to accelerate. And the take is letting them do things kind of on their own timescale.
Alastair McDermott 11:36
Yeah. And so, um, because of the fear associated with this, like, I feel this resistance when I talk with people all the time, you know, even putting it up on their LinkedIn profile and things like that. There, there is that resistance to get over that hump? So, but I like the like the cycles approach that you take one thing that Jonathan Stark talks about, is thinking of it as a campaign as a test campaign. And and Philip Morgan talks about it, rather as a beachhead? Is that something you talk to your clients about, about this, like being testing a hypothesis of of specialisation, that you’re not, you know, you’re not committed to this on a face tattoo or something?
Geraldine Carter 12:21
So I haven’t yet talked about it as a face tattoo, but I might, but I do talk about it, and you’re not getting married to it, you know, you can I the way that I talk about it with my clients is that look, we’re going to try it for four to six months, you’re going to know inside six weeks, if you don’t like your chosen niche, because it’s going to feel like trying to put a cat in a dryer, for legs go out, the cannot get them in no matter how hard you push, right, you’re gonna feel that internally, I don’t put cats in dryers just fearless. But for anyone who’s tried to put a cat in the thing, it’s really hard, right? So you’re going to feel that internal resistance, you’re just you’re not going to like it. And you’re, you’re just going to be forcing yourself all the time. So when I tell my clients look, let’s just test it, just try it and pay attention to your internal dashboard. Because it will tell you, if all red lights start blinking, you’re going to know that’s your cue to back out and we’ll just back out, no big deal. Nobody is going to notice because we think that the world is paying attention to us and watching every step we make. But really, they’re not everybody’s got busy lives, they’re really not going to notice, if you go off on a rabbit trail tangent for six weeks and come back, they’re not going to notice. So when we position it like, look, you’re not getting face tattoo, we’ll just turn around and duck out the back door. And then we’ll pick a different direction. If this one isn’t suited for you takes the edge off of it. And they go, okay. Let me just see. And it takes the it takes the pressure off of this has to be the final decision.
Alastair McDermott 13:50
Yeah. And just as a side note, the only time you’re ever going to get a cut in the dryer is when you don’t want to get in the dryer.
Geraldine Carter 13:57
when there’s warm clothes in there that are clean and our covered and
Alastair McDermott 14:02
without working. So yeah, I know speaking from experience, so Okay, so So let’s see, one thing that I’ve experienced, and maybe this isn’t true for you, just because the nature of your clients, I’ve experienced where I’m talking to talking to somebody where they look at their client roster, and they say, I don’t really feel like any of these are anything I want to specialise in. Is there anywhere else I can go? What else can I do to look around? Have you found that?
Geraldine Carter 14:32
I have not found, let’s see, I’ve had one client who was working for somebody else. And she wanted to go out on her own, but she was really starting from scratch. Right? Yeah. But this will be the oh, this was this is a rare case, I would say and don’t really in their heads. They don’t quite know where to go. But really what’s going on to or what I find is that they have a sense internally they have an intuition about what they like and how who they’d really like to work with. But what they’ve done in their mind is decided that is somehow not possible. And so how that presents is I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what I want. But if we dig a little deeper, and we ask, you know, who do you like worth working with? If you could have anything you want? Who would that be? And they’ll and they’ll typically spit out? Well, I mean, if I could have anything, I would work with creatives, because they’re awesome. And I really like them. And I have my own creative background. But I ended up as an accountant. And I love working with creatives. But that’s not possible, because and then they’ll list a whole litany of limitations. So once we uncover that line of thinking, like, Oh, you’ve decided it’s not possible, tell me why. And then we go through the limitations and basically break each one and say, Okay, well, what if this what if that would have fat, suddenly, they go, Oh, maybe this is possible. And then we find the route through which it’s possible, and send them down the possible route, instead of having them they tend to get paralysed by their own fear. And, you know, deciding that it’s impossible as a convenient excuse, that seems really rational. But once we find the possible routes, then they go, okay, that’s, you know, if we can break this down into let’s just find three people to see if they need your services, then they go, Okay, now we can go have these conversations, and then suddenly, it does become possible and they start basically setting their confirmation bias to work in their favour. Looking for the open doors of possibility instead of where they tend to get stuck is when their confirmation bias is set. Looking at the reasons it’s not possible. So that’s how you kind of when somebody wants to, you know, back to your question when somebody wants to go in a whole brand new direction. The The trick is to make sure to train your mind to look for the open doors.
Alastair McDermott 16:43
Right? Okay. Yeah. Now I’m a big fan of of saying people look, trust your gut when it comes to when it when it comes to those kinds of Inklings about who you you should or should not work with. And in particular, if you get a bad feeling about a project, don’t take it on. That’s when I have ignored to my peril in the past.
Geraldine Carter 17:02
Alastair McDermott 17:03
Okay, so I want to just talk briefly about the different type of niching down vertical and horizontal specialisation in particular, I don’t know if there’s any other types that are relevant for your clients. But we spoke briefly beforehand. I really feel that vertical specialisation is like the superpower. But what’s your experience with the different types of specialisation?
Geraldine Carter 17:25
So I think that vertical specialisation is a lot easier in a number of ways. But that doesn’t mean it has to be that you have to go for vertical specialisation. So the reason that I like vertical specialisation is because it makes your people really easy to find, right? They’ll have people in vertical specialisations hang out together. And they tend to have publications in all shapes and sizes and formats where they listen. So it makes it a lot easier to get in front of your audience. And just to be more specific, you know, if you specialise by vertical by an industry say it’s construction, for example, construction has conferences, it has magazines, it has you know, journals, it has podcasts, it has trainings, right you can get in front of that audience, so that from a marketing standpoint, it makes vertical specialisation easier to find your people. Whereas when you specialise horizontally in a skill set, your people are desperate. And that makes it harder to know where to go to find them. But this isn’t always the case. So for example, I have a client who specialised in stock option consulting for employees, high level employees inside tech startups that are about to IPO. Right. And people are going to about to land on top of a giant pile of cash in their tax implications. But the lay person has no idea what the tax implications are. So this is a horizontal specialisation. It means her people are in the startup industry, but they that doesn’t. You don’t know when somebody is going to IPO like people who IPO don’t get together to have a conference. So she needs to have she needs to know exactly where her people how to find her people right before there’s an IPO event. But she’s figured out she understands the journey, the process the timeline, if you will, that this happens on and so she knows where to have conversations like she knows where to keep her ears to the ground, so that when there’s an IPO coming, she’s got her signpost up that says stock option consulting this way. And she’s kind of she’s dialled it in so that she has now waitlist of people who want to work with her. So horizontal specialisation can work if you know where to put your signposts, right so and the third piece I would add, like the third dimension of positioning, so you’ve got vertical or horizontal and I’ve got the third dimension that is revenue range. This doesn’t get talked about a lot. But when you can, when you can narrow in on a revenue range, then it makes it easier to understand what you’re What problems your clients have at certain phases of their business? Because a restaurant owner, for example, that owns a mom and pop is at a different business phase than where they started, which was a taco truck, which is a different phase than three restaurants in the same town, which is a different phase than adding restaurants in towns around the state, which is a different phase and starting up a franchise, right? That’s all restaurant. But by revenue range, you have different problems of that industry at different growth phases. So consider the third dimension to and it’ll help you narrow hone in on what problems you’re trying to solve.
Alastair McDermott 20:39
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really good clarification. And I find that when people are niching, down, and picking specialisation, that it’s usually actually some sort of cross section, quite often of horizontal and vertical. So solving a particular problem for a particular vertical is one one other. And the reason I think that that vertical, is this kind of superpower, apart from finding it easy to access people, because they congregate, and they have publications is that you also get this network effect, that as you start to become known within that industry, people will start to refer you and you just you just get known. And because you’ve picked a vertical, you start to become the person for that, you know, I think that that is a huge benefit of picking a vertical. The other really sameness.
Geraldine Carter 21:30
Alastair McDermott 21:31
The other one is platform, and I don’t know how that would apply for CPAs. But maybe like if they, if they, you know, they they specialise in fresh books, or QuickBooks or whatever I or, you know, probably some other tool that is, is, you know, for a particular audience, but tools, tool base or platform, a specialisation has its downsides as well. Because usually at the start, if you get in at the start, that’s great, but it tends to, to commoditize over time. And, you know, you become one of many, so that, at least that’s what I found. I was one of very few people building WordPress websites in 2005. When I was building WordPress websites in 2015, there was a couple of million competitors, you know, for WordPress. So that’s, you know, that just happens over time.
Geraldine Carter 22:20
And I think what you’re alluding to there just quickly is being an expert, right. And when you’re early, you’re an expert, and experts command high fees. But when you’re middle or late, you’re like you say one of many, and then there’s downward price pressure, because you’ve become a commodity. So always go in the direction of expert, whether you know, regardless of what it is,
Alastair McDermott 22:40
Yeah, yeah. Another thing I want to ask you about is about developing new service lines or building new services. You mentioned to me that a lot of your clients are just charging a fixed hourly rate. And they’re doing a lot of strategy and not really capturing that value. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Geraldine Carter 22:59
Yeah. So how it works in the industry that I’m in for CPAs is that because there’s such entrenched belief around billing hourly that like the way that most people still do it, there is there are shifts to fixed pricing. But a lot of work still gets done by the hour and CPAs have their brains stuffed full of valuable knowledge that they can recall with a snap of a finger. Anytime a client emails about, hey, I’m about to sell this property, can you help me understand the capital gains implications of the sale? And should I sell it, you know, before the end of the year? Or should I wait until 2020? And when you have your brain stuffed full of knowledge, and you know what questions to ask, you can come up with an answer pretty quickly. So because of hourly billing, and all the ways that it’s completely tragic, the CPA ends up, you know, catching up on email on a Saturday, and they’re just flying through their emails, and going, okay, capital gains sale on real estate, you know, here’s what you need to think about. And if the, you know, four Plex that you’re selling is half a million dollars, you know, you’re looking at $100,000 and making up numbers. So okay, right, you’ve just given out something that could be worth, you know, $25,000 worth of advice, and you’ve just given it away for free, because you’ve answered it in six minutes, and you’re not going to bill for six minutes. So that’s what that looks like. And the CPA is going, you know, just banging their head against the desk going like, what did I just do? And why did I give that away for free, but I have no idea how to not give it away for free. So what we need to do is figure out how to work with clients in a way that you separate out the advice giving as its own thing, and then you either keep it separate or you bundle your services. So that advice giving is now included at a certain service level, but it’s not included at the basic level. So what this looks like typically for my clients is like look if you want me to do your taxes, and I stripped the The advice part out of it because it’s such a knee jerk, you know, people CPAs want to be helpful is what they say, I just wanna be helpful. So but what we need, what we need to do is say, okay, at the base level, like, I will do your tax return, but it does not include advice, planning, or strategy. I’m just doing your return. And make that crystal clear. If you want advice. That’s this middle package. And that is, you know, $5,000 a year, and I’ll do your return. And you can call me any time with random questions. And without worrying that the metre is running, if you want to do planning and strategy, that’s $12,000 a year we’ll also make, we’ll do your books, we’ll make sure they’re squeaky clean, so that your taxes are really easy to do a tax time. And we’ll meet quarterly to make sure that we’re staying on top of all recent developments, you can keep me updated on your life, if you’re buying, selling a house, a car, whatever, if you’re moving, and we’ll make sure that you’re maximising your retirement, you know, HSA, FSA, whatever, like all these three letter acronyms, about making sure that your retirement situation is optimised your tax plan is all accounted for. And we’ll do that intentionally. And I’ll make sure that you get it done. And that’s, you know, two and a half times more than the middle package. And same deal. You can call me any time, at the Gold level, you get end of day response time. And at the silver level, I’ll get back to you within two days. But at the basic level, if you want advice, it’s you know, 500 bucks to me for it’s 500 bucks to me something like that, I mean, not exactly those numbers, but just taking what’s traditionally a you know, I’ll just work by the hour and turning it into discrete packages and offerings. So that the so that the planning and the strategy, which is so valuable, gets compensated for,
Alastair McDermott 26:38
Yeah, I was that person, I wasn’t CPA, but I was the person bang their head against the desk, because I’ve done that I’ve given that that, you know, incredibly valuable advice, not only to pay clients, but but even in sales meetings, where somebody didn’t then go ahead with the with the project. And so I didn’t get any compensation whatsoever. But I know that the information I’ve given them us was hugely valuable. So I think it is, you know, part of that is just, you know, cost of sale, and kind of given them a taste of what it’s like to work with you. But I really like what you’re talking about here about, you know, packaging this up and having the, you know, the three package options, you know, giving people three choices makes it much more likely they’re going to work with you. Because at that point, then instead of it’s either work with you or don’t work with you, they have don’t work with you or pick one of these other three, three options. So, yeah, it’s maximising revenue. So what are people like? What are the pitfalls when when people are setting up these different packages? What are the kind of the pitfalls that that that they can run into when they’re setting that up?
Geraldine Carter 27:44
Under pricing is by far the number one when I work with my clients when they tell me what they think they’re going to charge for a certain thing. It’s typically under by half. So, okay, yeah, I mean, easily, oftentimes, sometimes three. So and I’ll tell you story a second, but underpricing is I think the number one because what you we gravitate toward the things that we’re good at. And when we’re good at things, we enjoy doing it. And when we enjoy doing it, we learn more about it, we get better at it. And then it becomes easy for us. And when it becomes easy for us, we think monkeys could do what I do. It’s so simple. Doesn’t everybody know this? But the reality is that you’ve been studying it for 15 years, and you study it because you like it. So no, it’s not easy. Most people want to snap their pencils in half when they do their taxes. It’s not easy at all. And yet when you’re good at it, it’s the tendency, like I said, is to think that it’s easy, and so you undervalue it, and when you undervalue it, you underprice it? Yeah. So by way of example, somebody I was working with recently, she, you know, she was working with a client in the ways that I was just talked about, or she was putting out a proposal in the way that I just talked about, and she said, I think I would, I said, What do you think you want to price this? And she said, $12,000. And I said, 16, at a minimum? And she’s like, Oh, I don’t know. And I said, All right, let’s just price it at 12. Because that’s the most money you can get out of your mouth without turning beet red and breaking into a sweat. So we’ll start there, but I prompt but tell this person that this is a what you can do. When you know your underpricing is say, we’ll go with this price to the end of the year or six months from now. And then we can reassess and see if we want to change things up. Right? This is pilot pricing pilot service if you’re new to doing it this way. So I said okay, $12,000. So she goes, so she goes out. Before she goes out, she shows it to a friend of hers who also happens to be a client, but it’s something of a colleague and appear and the friend says, Oh my gosh, can I have this? And she goes okay, so she’s now sends it off to the the original prospect. Prospect comes back. And as she sends it out to the prospect, right before she does, she slaps me and she says, As as I’m sending this out, I’m realising that this is underpriced, but it’s going out the door. So okay, it goes out the door. The prospect of course says yes, because it’s super valuable. And the next one goes out the door. Version two goes out the door at 16,000.
Alastair McDermott 30:03
Geraldine Carter 30:04
But this is a process and we have to be willing, I would rather have my client underprice the first one by a factor, you know, by half, or three quarter or whatever. I’d rather have them underprice the first one and get a yes. Because still, even for her for this client, they’re still pricing it four times more than they would have had they charged by the hour. So either way, it’s a win, they get the confidence, they get the experience. And now, you know, we’ll just price up from there. And they’re not committed to years and years of 12,000. They’re just committed for six months, no big deal. We left money on the table. But we need to leave some money on the table in order to get started.
Alastair McDermott 30:40
Right. Yeah, yeah. And I’ve, you know, fought against that internal resistance as well of raising prices, I think is one of the most important things that you can do. Because if you raise your prices, then you can afford to take some time away from client work and work on building other things like assets, informational assets, all this other kind of, you know, write the book that you intended to write, or start the podcasts you wanted to start, you know, things like that.
Geraldine Carter 31:07
Yeah. And get your systems in order so that you stop replicating work and being really inefficient.
Alastair McDermott 31:13
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Okay, so we talked about the importance of specialisation of niching down, and what that looks like. And I really like your approach of having these kind of cycles of, you know, stage one, stage two, stage three, where you go through and you’re kind of narrowing the narrowing the target as you go. And, you know, and also has specialisation can help you to increase your prices. You know, I think that’s really, really important. Let’s just talk about the first steps. So somebody, somebody is listening to this podcast, and they’re thinking, Okay, I’m, I’m, I’m convinced that I should move past this fear. And I should take some, some action steps. Can you can you just give me what you think the first step somebody should listen to this should take, if they wanted to go go through with this specialisation?
Geraldine Carter 32:04
Yeah. So go to your list of clients and start with the top 20%. Or depending on how many clients you have, you want to have enough that you can look for patterns, but not so many that you take 14 hours to do this process. Because really, what you want to do is do it in 20 minutes. So if you can have a sample size of 1020 clients of your best clients, and jot them down either on a piece of paper in a spreadsheet, whatever you want, but then two columns next to it one by sort of large scale industry and then sort of sub industry if you will, so that and you go through the columns, and you just list out what industry they’re in. And the one the reason that I do two columns is so that just for example, in if you have clients, I’ll just give you an example. If you have, say you have somebody in construction, say you have somebody in an electrician, a plumber, a drywall or in a painter, those are going to look like five different industries. But the commonality is trades. Right. So if you do two columns, it allows you to see those sort of granular and then if you take a step back, you can do the higher level and that’ll help you sort of, it’ll help the the pattern, lift off the page, and then add another column for revenue range, and add another column for problems. And just go through and list out high level what the revenue ranges and the problems that they have. And look for, like I said, the pattern that begins to lift off the page. And when you start to see the pattern, okay, I think I want to head in this. Let me follow this pattern and see where that leads me. And commit to trying it for four to six months, and see what kind of see where you’re getting traction, and then follow the traction. And for six months, that’s enough to get you started. It’s enough to know if it’s viable or not. If you’re not getting traction, after six months, it’s something’s not right. But you’ve got to give it you’ve got to give it four months before you are going to start to see the results and you need to commit, you can’t go have these here. You’ve got to commit to this is what I’m thinking about. This is what I’m talking about. I’m talking to my friends about it. I’m telling people, this is what I’m doing. And that’s how you will start to you put out the magnetic force so that you start to receive that people start to come to you.
Alastair McDermott 34:15
Yeah, and when you say you got to commit to it. I mean, you’ve got to dive into the swimming pool, you got to dive into the water, you’ve got to be committed to testing the specialisation. So talking to people in that industry, and you know, going all in on it.
Geraldine Carter 34:29
Yeah, you can’t. It’s like trying on clothes. You can stick your face up against the glass from the outside of the store. But you’re never going to know if your shirt is too tight in the shoulders until you walk into the store and go in the dressing room and put it on. And if it feels like you just can’t like you know, when you put on clothes, they feel wrong. And you know, when you put on clothes, they feel right, but you’ve got to go in the dressing room to try it on. There’s no other way around
Alastair McDermott 34:51
- Yeah, very cool. Okay, so one question I like to ask people is just about business failures that they’ve experienced. Is there any business failure that you’ve experienced in the past you You could tell us about maybe what you learned from
Geraldine Carter 35:03
So many business failures, right? And I just think that failure I mean, trying and messing up is the path, right? Because that’s how you find out what works. Yep. It’s the only way. So, I mean, there’s so many. But the one that I’ve learned the hard way twice is that it doesn’t, it matters what you want. But it has to overlap with what the marketplace needs. And just because you think it’s the coolest idea on the planet, if the marketplace doesn’t want to buy it, it doesn’t matter how cool it is. And from a business standpoint, you’ve got to find you’ve got to listen to your marketplace, and be able to on occasion, set aside or be objective about your idea, and its viability, Visa via the marketplace, what it wants and what it’s willing to give you cold hard dollars for. Because if you just obsess about your idea, and try and force it and convince the marketplace, you will belly flop and it will hurt.
Alastair McDermott 35:59
Can I just dig into the the actual story behind that a little bit? Can you tell us what, what happened? Because I’m sure you’ve intrigued people.
Geraldine Carter 36:07
Yeah, so in both cases, the first business that I co founded with a friend, which was around events, raising money for sustainability efforts, I really wanted in the original idea. And where we started was large events with hundreds and hundreds, if not 1000s of people. And we were heading in that direction, and it was working. And that’s what I really wanted was large events. But what the marketplace wanted was multiple small events, you know, something more intimate, something more like 20 people in different locations. And I was really resistant to that because my heart didn’t want to create that. But that was what the marketplace wanted. So that was really tough to swallow that, oh, the marketplace wants this thing that I don’t really want to create. So in the second instance, when I came into what I’m doing now, what I really wanted was mindset, mindfulness coaching, that was what I wanted to do. But that is so hard to market, everybody needs it. But it’s so hard to market it because people don’t, you know, really want to buy a mirror, they just want the solutions. So what what I had to do was find out, okay, what are the problems that people want solved? And how can I incorporate how we think about our problems and our challenges? And what’s our mental framework? Like? What thoughts are we thinking on purpose, in order to get the results that we want in our businesses, so I had to, you know, face reality that it was very difficult for me to lift a business off the ground in that space in that way, and come at it from a different angle. Once I did, things got so much easier, so much more quickly. Yeah. So those are my, those are my two examples of my own belly flopping.
Alastair McDermott 37:47
Cool. And, you know, I talked to my former business partner, we had a business that flopped as well, in the eLearning space. And, you know, we talk about mindset sometimes, because I think mindset is actually at the core of so many business problems, you know, and, but it’s not something that people, it’s like, I don’t want to deal with mindset, I want to get on with, you know, getting more clients. You know, it’s like, nobody, nobody wants to deal with it. Yeah. So nobody wants the mirror.
Geraldine Carter 38:19
Yeah. Okay, so we can just click on that. I mean, because it’s so I mean, what you said is so onpoint. And you, so you can think about you don’t have to pick up the mirror. But what we think on purpose, what we think by accident, we think our thoughts just like come to our brain, and they’re just there, and we accept them. And we’re like, Oh, ha, okay, that’s interesting that I think about it this way. But what we can do is pay attention to the thoughts that we’re thinking. And if they’re not getting us the results that we want, then it’s really simple to change to pick different thoughts, and simply choose to think thoughts that are going to get you the results that you want. And if you know that it’s working, if you’re getting the results that you actually want instead of the results that are kind of okay, but not quite what you wanted. But really, it all starts with noticing what you’re thinking because what you are thinking on autopilot by accident, unintentionally is going to show up in your results. So it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or California Whoo. But just swim upstream to the headwaters of what you’re thinking and start your day with the thoughts that you want to be thinking that are going to get you the end results that you’re looking for.
Alastair McDermott 39:28
Cool. This is all topic for another for another podcast episode. So maybe we’ll come back to this again sometime in the future. I do want to ask you two very quick final questions. Just book related. Is there anything that you’ve read or listened to business wise that that has inspired you or you think is a great resource people should check out?
Geraldine Carter 39:46
Well, we’re both fans of Jonathan Stark. I love both of his podcasts. I have binge the back catalogue, so I of course would recommend that one. I also love out Alan Weiss his books. He writes wonderful books on pricing on proposals on consulting. He has I mean, he’s he has a pantheon of excellent business books that are enjoyable to read. So yeah, those are my two favourites.
Alastair McDermott 40:10
I think I have. Well, I was gonna say I think of all of Alan Weiss books. Like, I can’t say that because he has so many. Yeah, there’s
Geraldine Carter 40:16
More than 60 You’d have.
Alastair McDermott 40:18
Yeah. I have at least 10 within eyesight. Yeah, you know, I used to use his consulting proposal format. And that really good as a as a format, a document format to use, I switched over to using Blair Enns, pricing creativity. And then I switched to, to productize service. So like fixed fixed pricing, which is slightly different again, but both of those are really great kind of proposal formats.
Geraldine Carter 40:47
So yeah, and speaking of pricing, two great books are by Rafi Mohammed “The 1% Windfall” and “The Art of Pricing” are really nice entry level books on improving your pricing, because that is the single fastest way to increase your profitability starting tomorrow.
Alastair McDermott 41:01
Okay, I love it. I love it. What about fiction? We talked in before the show, you know, a big fiction reader.
Geraldine Carter 41:09
Yeah, so I’m not a huge fiction reader. I love business books. I also love historical fiction and travel writing. If you need me to cough up a fiction book, it would be “All the Light We Cannot See” about the story of the young girl and say my low and then we end up going to say my low and seeing cat roo Val Burrell. I love that one. And I also recently read “Unbroken” about the man who falls into the Pacific and gets captured and is a prisoner of war for a number of years before finally coming back to the US. And that I mean, that is a story. So anytime I’m feeling sorry for myself, I really quickly adjust my perspective.
Alastair McDermott 41:45
Yeah, yeah. Okay, cool. We will list everything that you’ve mentioned in the show notes. Julie, where can listeners go to find you? Can you tell us about your podcast and a bit about your website?
Geraldine Carter 41:54
Sure. Yeah. So I have a podcast for CPAs. We talk about business strategy. So it’s smart strategy for CPAs. And a smart strategy for CPAs comm is where listeners can find it if they want to know more. And if they want to look for my website and know more about the work I do, it’s that she thinks big coaching.com.
Alastair McDermott 42:13
Cool. I know that there’s a lot of people who are not CPAs, who are more like consultants listening to this, but I know from from looking at your podcast, episode listing, just there’s a lot of crossover stuff there that will be useful for four people. So recommend you go check it out. Just see if there’s something that interests you yesterday, and don’t talk about.
Geraldine Carter 42:30
We don’t talk about tax, so don’t worry. Okay,
Alastair McDermott 42:33
Cool. Well, generally, I really appreciate you coming on. Thank you for giving us your time, and some really great insights.
Geraldine Carter 42:41
Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure to be with you.
Alastair McDermott 42:45
Hey, folks, I just want to let you know that it’s really motivating and energising when I see people sharing the podcast on their social networks. So if you want to support the podcast in any way, if you like what we’re doing, then please share the podcast either on your social networks or directly with anybody who you think it might be useful for. That really helps with motivation, and that really encouraged me to invest more time and money into producing the podcast. Thanks for your support, and thanks for listening.